See the Eclipse: Support Science & Global Warming

See the Eclipse: Support Science & Global Warming

Odd. No one is in denial of America’s Aug 21 total solar eclipse. Like Climate Change, methods & tools of science predict it. These words were tweeted by Neil deGrasse Tyson, one of America’s foremost scientists whose name is synonymous with anything related to science.  

At least for this one day, August 21, 2017, Americans are in the grip of science and eager to learn about it, see it, experience it. I say BRAVO!
The widow of Carl Sagan, an American astronomer known for popularizing the study of science through books and television shows who died in 1996, said this about the coming eclipse:
“Think of it. We’re born in this kind of cosmic quarantine with no knowledge of what’s going on in the solar system, let alone the universe. And every now and then there’s an eclipse or every once in a while a comet appears in our skies. This is a kind of inducement to figure out what’s going on.
 
I’m glad we have [eclipses] because it reminds us of that sudden chill–the motion of the birds, the way that the rest of life reacts to the blocking out of the sun. It has that kind of mythic, biblical power to it. And it should.”

Neil deGrasse Tyson, like Sagan, is an American astrophysicist and author who communicates with eagerness and a smile about anything you might want to know about science, the heavens, the eclipse, research regarding the solar system and yes, global warming. Since 1996, he has been the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City.

That center is part of the American Museum of Natural History, where Tyson founded the Department of Astrophysics in 1997 and has been a research associate in the department since 2003. He is joyful about his work and whenever you see him in public, he is wearing a tie that pictures the solar system, the planets and shouts out: I’m an astrophysicist!!

See the Eclipse: Support Science & Global Warming

Neil deGrasse Tyson

Tyson states: There is no science in this world like physics. Nothing comes close to the precision with which physics enables you to understand the world around you. It’s the laws of physics that allow us to say exactly what time the sun is going to rise. What time the eclipse is going to begin. What time the eclipse is going to end. Monday is the day, but if you don’t have protective glasses read this piece in the Washington Post: Can’t find the protective glasses to watch the solar eclipse? Go old school.    

Science can help us use electricity efficiently, teach us about the planet we live on, help us cure diseases, reach for the stars…and on and on. Science can help us save our planet. Enjoy the eclipse in whatever form that takes for you. And do yourself a favor: read up on global warming. Help save this beautiful planet. Read and treasure the words of Carl Sagan:

Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam…It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”

Photos: Seattle Met; Pinterest;

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Alternative Religion: Is There Such a Thing?

Alternative Religion: Is There Such a Thing?

The little boats saved the troops at Dunkirk.

I’ve had enough of alternative facts. I’ve had enough of powerful people either in our government or operating as talking heads, obscuring the real tenants of religion. Whether you are part of a church or not–I hope you will agree with me that some of the basic principles used to found “this shining city on the hill” have been kidnapped by powerful people who do not care about their fellow man or woman–not in the least little bit. They could give a damn about loving their neighbor, unless that neighbor can grease their palm and make that first or second yacht a possibility. But if the neighbor is asking for legal help, looking for work, asking for good medical care, wanting her child to get a good PUBLIC education–FORGET ABOUT IT.

NO NAMES 

You might already have stopped reading, but in the hope that you will continue to hear me out, I will not use real names. But I will state my case.

In our country today and maybe across the globe, there now rises an alternative religion. It preaches through various voices that hating another man’s religion is okay. Much of this comes from ignorance. Yes, there are members of a certain faith who have twisted its basic tenants to support killing anyone who does not agree with them. THAT IS WRONG. But there was a period in past centuries when Christians armed and ready, took to their horses and in the name of Christ killed many. This was called the Crusades. Click on the word and read about it. The Crusaders USED religion to gain power. Wow, not a new concept. It’s going on in our country right now.

LIVING BY EXAMPLE 

I found the following sentence while thinking about writing this post. I don’t know who said it: You push people down and you have two choices. RAISE THEM BACK UP or arm yourselves. There is much truth in these words. But also a problem. With there being two sides we want to believe that one side is right. That one side is moral.

OKAY: One side is working to live, feed their families, and practice their religion. The other side is filled with hate, doesn’t want these people to live, take care of their families and practice their religion. (I started to write this post on Friday, having NO IDEA that #Charlottesvillle would occur. But it has.)

PREACHERS ARE HUMAN & COME IN ALL STRIPES

To be a preacher, sometimes all you need is a great voice, a few great lines and a Bible. You have to have a Bible. People come. People listen and they pay you. You are on your way. You can say outrageous things in the name of God. (In my day, there was that preacher couple. Millions flocked to them. She wore all that mascara. He went to jail.)

Here’s my question today. I’m a Catholic. But I don’t pretend to have read every page of the Bible. In college, I studied with teachers who used what is called EXEGESIS: an explanation or critical interpretation of a text. What this process does is get a person away from literal word interpretation. Like: if you sin with you hand, cut it off. The Bible as a holy book has been used to enslave and hurt human beings.

Jesus spoke in parables and this is my favorite. In fact, I wonder if modern preachers like that mascara lady just ripped that page right out of the holy book.

Luke 18:9-14 Two men went up to the temple to pray,one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

PUBLIC SERVANTS

Wow, my head kind of zinged when I typed that very familiar phrase. Servants? But the point I want to make is if you are a preacher of any religion or a senator, representative, mayor, the president–you are a public servant. You work for THE PEOPLE. ALL THE PEOPLE. Supposedly you work for peace; you work to prevent wars that kill people, not start them. You work for your citizens, your military, your diplomats. You work for me, for all of us. And burning in your heart, should be the desire to think: the people first, not my bank account.

MORE PUBLIC SERVANTS: DUNKIRK  

To wind this up, let’s remember DUNKIRK. My husband and I saw the film this week. Generations of Americans have no idea what Dunkirk was. Not a clue. But you could say the story of Dunkirk is a kind of religion, if you are using the definition A SYSTEM OF FAITH. The men in the little boats believed in their country and their countrymen. They were willing to give their lives for that faith.

Pressed to the edge of the sea by the Germans, thousands of British soldiers and other Allied Troops were evacuated from the beach at Dunkirk between the 27th of May to the 4th of June. Wiki Says: British press later exploited the successful evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940, and particularly the role of the “Dunkirk little ships”. Many of them were private vessels such as fishing boats and pleasure cruisers, but commercial vessels such as ferries also contributed to the force…The term “Dunkirk Spirit” refers to the solidarity of the British people in times of adversity.[49]

I feel a thrill that is hard to describe every time I watch the clip below. Yes, it’s an old movie, but maybe in a small way watching these PUBLIC SERVANTS risking their lives connects me to the small things I have done: helping one of my students whose parents had no time for education; holding the hand of one of my patients who was losing her baby and had no one to cry with her.

I’m against using religion to fill your bank account. If you want to be religious, fill your heart and soul–take care of others, consider others. It’s A FACT — it will fill you up. PS: See the new film, though the clip below is great, part of the film MRS. MINIVER. 

http://www.tcm.com/mediaroom/video/1111863/Mrs-Miniver-Movie-Clip-Your-Destination-Is-Dunkirk.html

Photo Credit Taylor Homes

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The Health of Our Families? A Global Concern

 The Health of Our Families? A Global Concern

In 2009 when the H1N1 flu began to spread there was PANIC.

The outbreak began the weekend of April 24th when groups of students at a high school in Queens in New York became ill—all at once. Overtime, the spread of H1N1 became a global concern.

Then in 2014, a person from Africa brought Ebola to our country and there was even more panic. Ebola: a virus that is not air-borne, that is passed from direct contact with a symptomatic person’s body fluids—vomit, blood, watery feces. Healthcare workers became infected because they were working directly with very sick patients who were passing copious amounts of infected body fluids. But hospitals isolated them, cared for them and they all survived. 

WHAT IS PANIC: a sudden uncontrollable fear or anxiety, often causing wildly unthinking behavior. Repeat: wildly UNTHINKING behavior. Do you even remember what happened in 2009? Probably not.

BIRD FLU H7N9  But now an even bigger global pandemic looms and there is no fear, no panic. Basically because people are not aware of it and the government is ignoring it.

The problem is a bird flu, H7N9, that mostly infects poultry. However, it has started jumping from chickens to humans more easily, which is very bad news. The virus is a killer. People can easily get pneumonia from this flu, end up in intensive care with severe respiratory problems and die.

Right now H7N9 CANNOT easily spread from person to person like other flus. But the longer it stays in humans, the better chance it will mutate to become more contagious.

When that happens it’s just a matter of time before it hops on a plane out of China, lands on foreign soil, and there spreads like wildfire. Scientists want you to know that this is real, not some script for a horror movie. It is a highly plausible nightmare scenario that should be keeping the American President and other world leaders up at night.

WHAT ARE WE DOING ABOUT IT? 

  • The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ranks H7N9 as the flu strain with the greatest pandemic potential, one that can go global. It is seen to be so deadly that it could kill tens of millions.
  • Bill Gates, World Health Org. Director Margaret Chan, former CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden all warn that we are scarily exposed, not doing near enough to even consider how to fight this.
  • To help, The Gates Foundation alone is giving 100 million dollars over the next five years to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) which might get us to a vaccine and also invest in next generation technologies that can counter future threats.
  • The Trump Administration is blind to this: key government positions remain unfilled, including a new director for the CDC. (as of May 2017). They have proposed slashes to funding for Health and Human Services (HHS) and also cuts to National Institutes of Health (NIH)–which underwrites serious infectious-disease research.
  • The budget for the State Department foreign aid which supports efforts to stop the spread of diseases that can come to the U.S. has also been cut by 28%. Some of the cuts have been blocked, but what is obvious is that the VISION of this government does not include the possibility of a pandemic. They don’t seem to care.

The 1918 flu pandemic killed 50 million people–more than the combined total casualties of World Wars I and II. And we are even more vulnerable now. Why?

  • There are more of us and we live in more densely populated areas.
  • We travel; 4 billion trips were taken last year by airplane and diseases go with them even if a disease starts in a remote place on this earth.
  • It’s extremely expensive to deal with these global outbreaks. SARS in 2003 killed only 800 people, but cost the global economy 54 billion dollars.
  • The World Bank estimates that a severe flu pandemic would cost 4 trillion dollars.

SOME GOOD NEWS and BAD NEWS

There is an ambitious program called PREDICT that might be able to respond to emerging pathogens. It was launched in 2009 and is funded by the U.S. Agency for International  Development (USAID) and has helped discover nearly 1,000 new viruses in animals and in humans. “Outbreaks are like fires,” says Dr. Eddy Rubin who partners with PREDICT. “If you’re able to understand where there is a greater likelihood of their occurring and detect them early, you can shift the impact.”

There is also the Global Virome Project, a strategy to identify, characterize and sequence a half-million viruses in animals that have the potential to spill over and cause human deaths. But cuts to USAID’s budget would greatly compromise this work.

There are many concerns voiced by folks who work in science and medicine. There is not enough current funding and were we to suddenly have to deal with an outbreak, not enough hospital beds to help people. “In a situation like the 1918 pandemic, the expectation is that the resources are not going to be there for everyone,” says Melissa Harvey, who head the division of national health care preparedness programs at Health and Human Services (HHS). The United States right this moment needs sustained funding for pandemic preparedness that extends out for years!! We need research and development to create vaccines. That’s the only way to deal with a pandemic–line people up to be vaccinated. Otherwise, it’s the panic on the Titanic–who gets a lifeboat that is, a hospital bed.

TRUMP’S PLANS & PUBLIC CONFIDENCE

During the last election campaign, the Republican candidate stated over and over that his goal was to keep Americans safe. His multi-billion dollar wall CANNOT stop a pandemic. Cutting aid to programs that help fight diseases overseas is like cutting our CIA and military budget in time of war. We must have funds to prepare for a pandemic.

“The emerging climate of fake news and alternate facts leaves us worse off than ever before,” says Arthur Caplan, a bioethicist.”I’m very worried, because I am certain there will be an outbreak.”

YES. What if Trump tweeted that the pandemic vaccine wouldn’t save lives but cause Autism (a fake notion he leans to.) What I just wrote MAKES NO SENSE, but in a panic situation, people will listen and react. They won’t get inoculated and the disease will spread. Please read more about HERD IMMUNITY here.

And please remember: PUBLIC CONFIDENCE IN GOVERNMENT IS CRITICAL TO PUBLIC SAFETY. Educate yourselves. Talk to your doctors and caregivers. Bill Gates reflects: “when I was a kid, the disaster we worried about most was a nuclear war. But today, if anything kills over 10 million people in the next few decades, it is likely to be a highly infectious virus, rather than a war. Not missiles, but microbes.”

Tell your Congress Person to: FUND and SUPPORT THE CDC, HHS, and the National Institutes of Health and to work with the World Health Organization. The lives of your family may depend on it.

Photo: The Royal Society Interface and thanks to TIME MAGAZINE, May 15,2017

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What Are the Chances that Folks Will Remember You?

What Are the Chances that Folks Will Remember You?

Maybe you’re not in the mood for this, but I’ll try to make it upbeat.

We all want to be remembered. For something. And though today, right this moment, we might consider how vast our place in FOREVER might be, it’s not that vast. I’ll use ME as an example. Who will remember me?

My family: my children and grandchildren. After that it’s a guess.

My friends. Yes I have many, my husband has many. But like Wendy, Michael, John and Peter Pan, we might ascend to the heavens all at the same time, or around the same time. Because remember, we are all of the same generation.

THINGS YOU CAN DO TO BE REMEMBERED

Be kind, be as generous as you can be and take photos! From the beginning of our life together, my husband took photos–of our vacations and family events: baptisms and weddings, holidays and birthdays. We have a cabinet full of photo albums and now many of those precious memories have been digitized so that we won’t lose them. You cannot walk through a room in our home without seeing a framed photograph of family. It’s necessary–because two of our children live a distance away and life gets crazy and we want to think of them and see their faces. It’s a form of connection. I also have a photo of the women’s group I was a part of when I lived in Iowa. I look at it frequently–I miss them.

Communicate: we have phones, snail mail and email. Though hearing a friend or a family member’s voice is the best, it’s not always possible to connect that way. A voice mail starts the process and so does an email–it’s like a friendly knock on the door of the person you want to chat with. It’s saying: here I am. I have news. Or I want to tell you I care about you.  Or I don’t want to forget you and I don’t want you to forget me.

Don’t Move. Stay in one place. This is hard to do. We live in a society of movement and change. In our years of marriage, my husband and I have moved twice–once with our children (though one was in college, one in grade school and another already working) it changes the center of the family, the HOMESTEAD. When we moved the second time, it was just the two of us. Now one daughter is near us, one in Boston and our son in Chicago–which is our starting place, our HOMETOWN. Chicago is where we were born and lived for many years–and thus there are people in Chicago who do not forget us. They are the Golden Oldies and if you’ve moved from your Hometown, you know that and you need that.

But regardless, you must call or write, visit and embrace. That’s how you will be remembered. We had many wonderful years in our second Midwest home, and I knock on doors with email whenever I can, people visit when they travel here, and yet I fear over time those friendships could be lost. Of course, now in our new home, we make new friends. Will they last? Will they remember me?

Become a Member of Ancestry.com or a similar organization. Talk about memories!! My husband has become the official family historian–and if you can become part of someone’s history, why yes, you will be remembered. He has unearthed photos and news clippings about my deceased father and mother and his family. He is building a family tree that grows bigger and bigger with births and with finding those that lived before us. No one is ever deleted. They live in our memories. What will be necessary is for someone to continue this endeavor. Not everyone finds history fascinating. But here’s something else to consider:

Someday you will be history, but only if there’s a living person keeping track. So encourage record keeping of some sort. You know what they used to say: if your house catches on fire, grab your photo albums and run. Now you need to have a flash drive or backup system you can grab and run with.   

And I guess, finally, make a name for yourself. Or in other words, get your name out there. Still with becoming so-called FAMOUS, there are no guarantees. You have to be truly truly famous to go down through the ages. I would love to publish my novels. Then, hopefully, someone would have a copy when I’m gone. But over time who is remembered? Shakespeare. Homer. Jane Austen. Dickens. Writers of literature in languages I am unable to read. Tyrants, kings, presidents, politicians, saints and sinners.

Caesar’s Last Breath: Decoding the Secrets of the Air Around Us 

Yes, this is a real thing, a book by scientist Sam Kean. He is fascinated with all things science and finds connections for us–between the LIVING and the DEAD. An excerpt: Even more startling, our breaths entangle us with the historical past. Some of the molecules in your next breath might well be emissaries from 9/11 or the fall of the Berlin Wall, witnesses to World War I or the star-spangled banner of Fort McHenry. If we extend our imagination far enough into space and time, we can conjure up some fascinating scenarios. For instance, is it possible, that your next breath–this one right here–might include some of the same air that Julie Caesar exhaled when he died? …Across all that distance of time and space, a few of the molecules that danced inside his lungs are dancing inside yours right now.   

Kean’s theories certainly connect all humans to one another. And we will be remembered as the species that occupied the planet Earth for thousands of years. But will some other species know that we were also the creation that destroyed it?

ONE FINAL THOUGHT

In order for humans, those that are famous, those that our infamous, those that will be forgotten over time–the earth must survive. It becomes questionable that we should strive to advance and change, only to allow some naysayers to condemn the planet to it’s final death. Yes, there is controversy, but if your painting or photo, your poem or organization, the building, the business you built with your name up in lights or glorified on a skyscraper–if any of that is to have meaning, the human race must survive on this planet. Or we can say goodbye to Shakespeare, Austin, Caesar and the rest–then, Oblivion. So we must strive to keep the earth healthy, for our DNA to continue on in some form. And to make that happen? We all need to fall in love with Mother Earth and protect her.

P.S. To preserve memories, you can interview family members and write down their memories. Or keep a diary. More about how to do that here.

Photo: Pixabay

 

Daddy’s Penny Box

Daddy's Penny Box

small cardboard box, plain white, probably once covered with the dark green Marshall Field cover.

It’s sometimes hard to hold on to a dream, or make a plan work out. The very definition of “life” includes disappointment. But humanity has dealt with this by educating people that can help us: doctors, counselors, lawyers etc. They study so that they can supply us with help and care when our dreams, our bodies are failing. Today, you can search the net for advice if you want to be a photographer, writer, artist—the list is endless. Our endeavors are endless. And complicated.

But notice, I have yet to mention the first person each of us encounters who begins the process: comforts us when we have pain; praises us when we do the right thing and scolds and should explain why, when do the wrong thing. Parents. Parent. Guardian. The one who is there when we need to be fed and our diapers changed. The beginning.

Growing up I had one parent. I lost my father when I was three. (Many of you already know this.) But my two brothers and I had this amazing woman for a mother. A loving, complicated, intelligent woman (Jinni) who probably never sought out a grief counselor when left with three children to raise—ages: 3 months, 3 and 6 years. How the hell did she do it?

Jinni had her own family behind her (mother, father, brother and two single sisters), people used to working for a purpose, people whose first reaction to a sad and complicated situation was kindness and how can I help.

But no person suddenly bereft of the one they counted on, bereft of the vision they had of their future finds this a happy fact. Jinni certainly had her moments of doubt and fear. But then she went on. There are so many examples of this in my personal story. Can you think of one in yours? If so, it’s good to be grateful.

Jinni’s three kids are older now, and though she lived into her late nineties, she shines bright and vigorous in our minds and always will.

But I’m going to take you back to our house in Chicago, to our dining room that had built-in cabinets with glass doors above and yet a cabinet below that was child accessible. In this cabinet was a small cardboard box, plain white, probably once covered with the dark green Marshall Field & Co. cover. But it was open and into it Jinni tossed pennies—change from her trips to the store. She called it Daddy’s Penny Box, because she started it after he died, and probably because when going through his top dresser drawer, she found a bunch of pennies.

In our Southside neighborhood, there was a deli that we could walk to in under five minutes. It had a counter with candy displayed in a glass case. We called it Mary’s Candy Store, and many times we would interrupt Jinni, who might be typing insurance policies in the corner of our dining room to pay the bills, to ask if we could go to Mary’s. In my memory, 99% of the time she said yes. And we knew what to do. Grab a few pennies from the box and go. Keary Moran, who lived on our street, once relayed to the neighborhood that we were rich! Of course we weren’t, but he was a kid. He’d seen all those pennies in the box.

But here’s the thing. We were rich. We had Jinni. When she sold our house years later, after my brothers had moved out of state, after I was married and teaching high school, there were still pennies in that box! Lots of them. Jinni believed in us and in our lives and our dreams. Daddy’s Penny Box was a symbol of that belief and promise. It could never become empty because her counsel, her care, her belief in our dreams and goals would never falter. Maybe we should have renamed it, Jinni’s Penny Box. But she would have said no.

My mother was given a major disappointment, one she had not expected. She accepted the help of family, friends, doctors (many who knew my father) and a lawyer friend. But that was early on. Once she got her stride, Jinni instinctively knew what to do. The Penny Box was part of that. She gave love and attention to her three kids. She fulfilled a dream–that she could succeed on her own, and in doing that, she helped fulfill ours.

My older brother is John C. Pfordresher, professor of English at Georgetown University in Washington D.C. His book THE SECRET HISTORY OF JANE EYRE has just been published by Norton. You can read more about it here. 

Daddy's Penny Box

No small accomplishment. Dad would be proud.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My younger brother is William F. Pfordresher (Bill) who went to LA in the early 70s to make it in the music business. HE DID. Read about him here.

And me, I have an amazing husband and family I hold dear. And though I’m  enjoying the process of writing a novel, I still have some dreams to fulfill.

Photo credit: Ebay, Amazon

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Do You Like To Vacuum ? Applauding Manual Labor

Do You Like To Vacuum ? Applauding Manual Labor

There seems a human instinct to want to do physical work.

Do you like to vacuum? Weed in a garden? Plant vegetables? Wash your car? Maybe you enjoy grilling out when the weather is good or taking on a small chore like painting the porch floor or sanding a piece of furniture out in the yard. I’ve done all of these things and more, because I enjoy some physical labor. There are benefits for sure. Physical labor can: burn calories; increase pride of accomplishment; satisfy the urge to be creative.

The Decline of Manual Labor Jobs

Victor David Hanson writes about our changing society in his article AS PHYSICAL JOBS DECLINE, SOMETHING IS LOST. He asks if the reader thinks that the decline of physical jobs in our new culture is to our advantage. “…life superficially appears to get better. Cheap cellphones, video games, the Internet, social media and labor-saving appliances all make things easier and suggest that even more and better benefits are on the horizon.”

But is this a good thing? Hanson talked to academics, lawyers and CEOs, to find that most of them made sure that they biked or ran or lifted weights. So if obesity rates are higher in the class of people doing manual labor, why is this. One possible answer I found: these men and women started out being active and their diet consisted of many calories to support that activity. But as they aged and their metabolism slowed, their eating habits did not change. And possibly they rose up in their jobs and were foremen, more than laborers. Thus age meant packing on the pounds and not burning the calories. Of course not all are overweight. Many are quite fit due to their active work and healthy eating.

But Hanson And I Have A Question For You

What did you do in your past life that you would love to brag about? Or what did you watch or experience that really got your juices going? Hanson claims that the greater percentage of answers would include physical work–the expending of exhausting energy. Like climbing a mountain, conquering a sport for the first time, building something–and to that effect watching someone else expend that physical power. Hanson writes: THERE SEEMS A HUMAN INSTINCT TO WANT TO DO PHYSICAL WORK.

Does TV Have the Answer?

Think about how content on television has changed. While we go to the pantry to get more chips or some caloric snack, we might watch reality TV where people do energy expending stuff. Hanson writes: “In a society that supposedly despises menial jobs, the television ratings..suggest that lots of Americans enjoy watching people of action who work with their hands.”

WHY IS THIS? Because despite our advances, physical labor is the platform, the basis for our success. Men and women have to build cars, pump oil. No app can do that. Hanson writes: “The high-tech, post-modern society still depends on low-tech, pre-modern labor.” That could be you working to prepare a meal for your family, or the mechanic trying to discover why the computer on your car is reading an error. Someone has to get down and dirty to make things happen.

Those I Depended On

When my husband worked in his white collar job, I tended the household. There were many physical things that I could do to keep our home running smoothly. Some of them I mentioned above. But when the basement began to seep water, when termites were found behind a wall, when the roof leaked–I needed the American worker. Without them, house and home would crumble around us. Though to be fair, right this moment my husband is repairing a drawer in our kitchen, one with an odd working angle, not a fun project. He’s found the necessary part and powered up the drill. I will allow a brag or more when he gets the job done.

More of Us Need to Do Physical Stuff

There are many upsides to taking up a chore. As Hanson writes doing what my husband is doing saves money and increases independence. It also helps we humans identity and find common ground with men and women who work.

Philosophical Benefits of Manual Labor

Hanson also mentions something we might forget when shut up in our air conditioned houses and cars, or eager to always dine at a restaurant where we don’t see the slime of meat or the detritus of vegetables. That kind of life hides reality. Some things that we encounter in day to day living must remind us of the struggles of human kind. Maybe they are not our immediate struggles, but someone’s. Hanson writes: “Working outdoors, often alone, with one’s hands, encourages a tragic acceptance of nature and its limitations.” He goes on to say that people who work 20 hours or more in minimum wage jobs know reality more than he did teaching in college.

Final Thought 

Hanson ends his piece by quoting Euripides, the ancient Athenian playwright: “The hopes of countless men are infinite in number. Some make men rich; some come to nothing. So I consider that man (or woman) blessed who lives a happy existence day by day.”

Thanks for reading. I’m going to do some chores now.

PS The Bureau of Labor Statistics States: Among workers age 25 and over, those with an advanced degree were more likely to work at home than were persons with lower levels of educational attainment—43 percent of those with an advanced degree performed some work at home on days worked, compared with 12 percent of those with a high school diploma. (But work at home means sitting at a computer, not building a highway or putting out fires.)

Photo Credit: The New York Times. Take a Labor Day Tour of Blue Color Art.

 

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From My Inbox To Yours

From My Inbox To Yours

Dear Readers,    Life asks a lot of us. Sometimes getting another email that reads: BOOMER HIGHWAY has a new post, it’s like (cuss word), again!? Too busy, done with that. I understand. Life can get crazy: emails, phone calls, your phone reminding you of appointments. I remember the days of phone calls when the phone was attached to a wall. You’d answer. Some lasted a minute or two, some much longer. And if you had a schedule to follow, you might try to hook the phone under your chin and finish something as you talked, something that was in the space where the cord would stretch. Or you might just sit and give up your schedule, relax with the call. Now with cell phones, it ‘s just different. It’s more constant and connections more various and numerous. So the desire to shut off the phone or stay away from email, at least for some periods of time,  makes a lot of sense.

FINDING CONTROL

The word that comes to mind is control. I get to say. I get to decide. The phone, my computer do not control me, though there are studies that show when your phone dings you are most often unable to resist going to it. We have become Pavlov’s Dog. You can read more about that study here.

That’s why it’s a good thing to take breaks from your phone during the day, allow yourself to circle back to a simpler time. I don’t use my phone when:

  • I work in the garden. Heat is not good for the phone in the first place; gardening allows me to listen, but not to someone talking, but to the birds, the wind in the trees, or infrequently eavesdrop on my neighbors. Once in a while I do have earphones, but that’s to listen to music.
  • I take a 2.5 mile walk. If something untoward happens, my husband has his, but he gets calls. I don’t want to get calls. Again walking is for walking and during part of the time we talk.
  • After six o’clock pm. It’s near me, but I am not picking it up all the time. I’m basically ignoring it: during dinner, watching the news, and later when I am reading or enjoying a film with my husband. My family comes first, so of course if one of them calls, I answer. But it is not my prime concern.

DISCONNECTING

I actually enjoy all these times when I am disconnected. I know some of you meditate and that’s a profound way to calm your mind and find yourself at the edge of a sea or high on a mountaintop, not embroiled constantly with the minute to minute sorrows and anxieties of modern living.

It will be fascinating in the years to come, when scientists know more about computer and cell phone use and how it is affecting us. I know my posts lately have all been on heavy topics (minus Mother’s Day.) And I apologize.

WHAT I WRITE ABOUT

I wrote those posts as my way of being heard at a time when we all need to speak out, share our views, help one another. Others of you are in the trenches: volunteering for the homeless, fighting anti-immigration tactics, teaching, working in medicine or simply listening to someone who needs to talk, to cry, to say WHY IS THIS HAPPENING TO ME–please help!!

WE ARE PHYSICAL AND SPIRITUAL BEINGS

Moving to the spiritual side of our lives at these times (meditation, prayer) takes us on a journey free of cell phones, television, blatant opinion. We can construct our own thinking and find in our own depths HOW TO COPE.

And speaking of coping, no matter what is happening in the wide world or in the immediate circle that I live in, I lean on: my husband, my children, my brothers and sisters-in-law, my friends. And all of you.

I LOVE CONNECTION

No man or woman is an island. So though I try to space out my cell phone, computer, internet activity during any given day–I love connecting with all of you.

When we moved to Southern California, I left behind many people I love and though living here is good, I have not been able to replace them, to replace you. So thanks My Dear Readers. The connections I have made through My Readers, each of you, through two online groups, Midlife Boulevard and Women’s Fiction Writers Association, have filled up my days and my heart.

Soon, I will be back in my hometown–CHICAGO. I will be seeing my son and his dear girlfriend, oodles of family, staying with old and dear friends, eating pizza and attending a writer’s conference. So your inbox will be empty for a few weeks. Wow–did I hear some heavy sighs of relief?? Even some cheering?

HAPPY FATHER’S DAY to all the fathers in your lives. I will always miss mine. And HAPPY SUMMER to all. I hope you have some plans that allow you to drop off, chill out and reach out. The clasp of a loving hand warms the heart, often becomes a full-on hug. SO MUCH BETTER THAN A CELL PHONE.

PHOTO: thanks to pexels.com

Jobs Stop Bullets

Jobs Stop Bullets

“Gang violence is about a lethal absence of hope,” Father Boyle has said. “Nobody has ever met a hopeful kid who joined a gang.”

Last week in my post I said I would write more about that topic which was the importance of good education for everyone. A few of you wrote “bring it on.” So here goes–one solution that is working for some kids. It’s only one, but it’s tossing a stone into the pool–it’s making some ripples.

Have you ever heard of the Homeboy Program? I had. But I didn’t know very much about it, until a friend from Chicago who worked with a volunteer group helping others,The Ignatian Volunteer Core, sent me an article which talked out it.

THE PERSONAL CONNECTION

While reading the piece, I immediately found a personal connection–this caused me to read every word. IT STARTED: …One of Saint Margaret of Scotland’s graduates, where I am an IVC volunteer, was gunned down and killed last year. He was only a Sophomore. ”What is the answer?” I asked the priest I was working with.

St. Margaret’s! The church I walked by every day when I attended The Academy of Our Lady High School, better known as Longwood on the southside of Chicago. Knowing that the story was about a place that I could claim as mine, made me more invested.

Our lives go on, some places in our lives feel static–but they are moving and changing just as we are. (In fact that’s a primary concept in the novel I am writing. PLACE defines us, digs in our hearts, brings up memories, but nothing is static. For better or for worse, we humans change and everything around us does also.)

I cherish the old house I was raised in and drive by it when I am back in Chicago. I often drive the roadways that took me to familiar places. I reminisce. So here is more of the story.

The priest admitted right off that the question as to why young men and women are dying on Chicago streets is complex. He stated clearly that such a problem cannot be solved with only surveillance cameras or even gun laws. He said: “That does not get to the root problem.”

That’s when he mentioned Father Greg Boyle who started Homeboy Industries.

THE FOUNDER OF HOMEBOY

Rev. Gregory J. Boyle, S.J. founded Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles, the largest gang intervention, rehabilitation and re-entry program in the world.

A Catholic prises and Jesuit, he has a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and English from Gonzaga University, a master’s degree in English from Loyola Marymount University, a Master of Divinity degree from the Weston School of Theology, and a Master of Sacred Theology degree from the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley.

He spent a year living and working with Christian base communities in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Then in 1986, he was appointed pastor of Dolores Mission Church in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of East LA, the poorest Catholic parish in the city, located between two large public housing projects with the highest concentration of gang activity in Los Angeles.

He witnessed the devastating impact of gang violence on his community during what he has called “the decade of death” that began in the late 1980’s. He witnessed suppression and mass incarceration as the means to end gang violence. (Which is what the current administration wants to do again.)

So Father Boyle and parish and community members adopted what was a radical approach at the time: treating gang members as human beings. 

“Gang violence is about a lethal absence of hope,” Father Boyle has said.  “Nobody has ever met a hopeful kid who joined a gang.”

In the wake of the 1992 Los Angeles riots, Jobs for a Future, a community-organizing project begun at Dolores Mission, launched their first social enterprise business in an abandoned bakery that Hollywood producer Ray Stark helped them purchase. They called it Homeboy Bakery. If you ever fly into LAX, you just might find yourself purchasing something at one of their kiosks.

Today, Homeboy Industries employs and trains former gang members in a range of social enterprises, as well as provides critical services to 15,000 men and women who walk through its doors every year seeking a better life.

  • Father Boyle is the author of the New York Times-bestseller Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion, which was named one of the Best Books of 2010 by Publishers Weekly and received the PEN Center USA 2011 Creative Nonfiction Award. 
  • The book received that title because: Father Greg was talking to one of his Homeboys and he said something very profound. He said that ‘jobs stop bullets’.  When the Homeboy heard that he responded ‘Damn G , I think I will tattoo that on my heart.’  Think about it. Jobs help attack poverty and idleness at the same time.”
  • Father Boyle is the subject of Academy Award winner Freida Lee Mock’s 2012 documentary, G-Dog.  He has received the California Peace Prize and been inducted into the California Hall of Fame.  In 2014, the White House named Father Boyle a Champion of Change.  He received the 2016 Humanitarian of the Year Award from the James Beard Foundation, the national culinary-arts organization.

The Things We Already Know Are Truly Right in Front of Our Eyes

My friend Tom, who sent me the article about Homeboy, recalled that his mother would say: ‘Idleness is the devil’s workshop.’  He decided that was why she always gave him lots of chores. My brothers and I can say the very same about our mother. Give kids a  job and they feel pride. THEY FEEL HUMAN.

Another member of the Ignatian Volunteer Core probably said it best. “I think the key to making it work is what Father Boyle calls “exquisite mutuality”. There is no “them” and “us”; there is only “us”.”

Think about the pride you felt when you brought home your first paycheck. You were entering the adult world, taking on the mantel of responsibility, growing up!! Helping your family.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every small town, city and village across our country could see it that way?

PRIDE in WORK.

SUMMER JOBS or JOBS THROUGH THE YEAR: cleaning vacant lots; repairing run-down properties. A wonderful suggestion: statewide and national programs to begin to rebuild our infrastructure. With the right program, we could millions of jobs for our kids. Give them a good start for their lives.

Someone has suggested that doing this would be like starting a revolution. JOBS STOP BULLETS. We as citizens going about our daily jobs of parenting, grand-parenting, having talks with friends and co-workers can spread this message of ONLY US and JOBS STOP BULLETS.

So I just wanted to share this idea with you. Who knows? In conversation with someone looking for summer help or someone looking to help a community, there are ideas to consider, to expand on. Maybe on a small scale the revolution can start with each one of us.

My husband works with the Conejo Valley Youth Employment Services, helping homeless people and high school students find jobs. He talks with them, discovers their interests, what their skill set might be or is tending to. One person at a time he is making a difference. And so is my friend Tom, who sent me this article and has given freely of his medical expertise to people who need it.

One day at a time. One person at a time. One kid at a time–you can tattoo something wonderful on some kid’s heart.

For more about HOMEBOY INDUSTRIES go to http://www.homeboyindustries.org.

Thanks to Tom Essig. And of course, John.

 

Work Against a Divided America: Support Good Schools For ALL Our Kids

 Work Against a Divided America: Support Good Schools For All Our Kids

Consider the following words: gangs, drug use, pregnant teens, petty crime, unsafe neighborhoods, poor schools, being homeless, children without parents, reckless driving, suicide, mental health issues. Every word listed could be expanded into reams of writing: how this is a problem, how this problem is growing, how we cannot seem to make a dent in this problem and how every problem listed is a drag on the economy.

WANT TO SOLVE THESE PROBLEMS? Good Public Education For EVERY CHILD Is the Key

Because YES, one problem infects another and each problem affects local, state and national governments and uses tax dollars that could be used to make America the shining city on the hill (Reagan) or whatever metaphor you care to choose.

Because the little kids you see crowded into a poor daycare center today can become the troubled teenagers that might mess up your neighborhood tomorrow or fill up the court systems after that. It has to stop.

Please consider this, taken from an article in the LA TIMES: The current administration wants to impose the biggest cuts to federal education funding in memory and slash support to poor children and families by cutting Medicaid, food stamps and other programs while cutting taxes for the rich. (DO YOU SEE THE GAP GETTING SO WIDE THAT IT CAN NEVER BE HEALED?? my words) It is an agenda that betrays millions of families seeking a better life, and one at odds with what this country stands for. Public schools are a fundamental engine of opportunity in this country. We will (we must) stand together to defend them. ( to read more go here.)

Tax Dollars Need to Be Spent In ALL Neighborhoods

Each problem that I have listed could be ameliorated, helped, reduced, maybe even eliminated if one thing was offered and utilized by each of our citizens: excellent public education that leads to JOBS!!!

The current administration talks a great deal about jobs. But you can’t GET A JOB if you don’t quality, if no one will hire you. There are jobs in this country that American citizens cannot fill so employers go abroad to find workers. Google it. You will find articles like these: America’s Persistent Problem: Unskilled Workers; America Has Near Record 5.6 Million Job Openings. And there is this:

Companies can’t find enough skilled workers. Manufacturing jobs have become more technical, but workers haven’t kept up. That’s left companies with a glut of low-skilled workers and a shortage of applicants who can really do the job. 

There is a solution. There has always been a solution. The United States needs to educate its citizens. ALL ITS CITIZENS. And do a damn good job of it.

A Divided Country Cannot Stand

My argument, and you are welcome to poke holes in it, is that we must eliminate every problem I have listed. We cannot continue on the path we are on which actually is creating two Americas: one where the super-wealthy and the moderately wealthy live and work; the other where the poor and those getting by live and work.

Education Can Make a Difference 

  • Gangs: involving young children in MEANINGFUL education that communicates  self-worth helps them see a future for themselves that is not the streets but a job.
  • Drug use: keep kids involved in the school day with sports and extra curricular activities, honor their self-worth and they won’t need drugs to feel good about themselves.
  • Pregnant teens: I worked with a program called RISING STAR. We helped girls that had already had one child go back to school, alter their goals to include getting a job and thus a feeling of self-worth that comes from earning an income. This also helped them PROVIDE for the child they already had. Today, offering health education in schools and providing healthcare for young girls will help prevent unwanted pregnancies.
  • Petty crime and unsafe neighborhoods go hand in hand, occuring when growing men and women cannot find a purpose for their lives and do not receive respect from teachers, parents and people who have “power” over them.
  • Reckless driving, suicide and mental health issues occur in the lives of young people who are lost and cannot see a future for themselves. They feel rejected by society and harbor a death wish. Education builds self-respect, creates a pathway to a good and fulfilling life.
  • Being homeless or not having a parent often springs from the generation above that did not have a good education and thus a job. Responsibility to the child they brought into the world is key, but some have no hope.

I know I have drawn this picture with some broad strokes, so next week I will offer a few solutions. Thanks for reading. I’ll end with a few more thoughts from the LA TIMES article.

Research, common sense and our collective experiences working with children, families and schools tell us that we must invest in, not cut back, public education. That means providing high-quality preschool for kids, and the social health and mental health services they need. It means making sure students are reading at grade level by the end of the third grade, that they have powerful learning opportunities, including career and technical training that can prepare them for college and work. 

Photo: www.Simply-magical.net

America’s Backyard, Part 2

America's Backyard, Part 2

This is Sentinel Dome Rock. I climbed it!

Often writers, myself included, go on and on about things they believe in, but don’t take a step further to support that belief. This week I am admiring of a reporter, Ben Jacobs, who had the tenacity to go after a question and when the person he was questioning attacked him instead of answering his question, Ben continued to report the event, “You broke my glasses etc.etc” (I’m sure you have all read about or seen this event.)

“WHY I BLOG…”

There is much in our world today to support and believe in. There is much in our country today to fight for. I try to enlarge upon issues that I feel need to be constantly in view:

1.healthcare for our citizens; 2. public education for our children, not charter schools; 3. the right of free speech and a good life for US citizens;  4. support for education through National Endowment for the Arts or NEA; 5. belief in global warming and the protection of our planet; 6. women’s rights, healthcare for women; 7. the rights of all citizens, including those new to our country.

I am grateful to all of your who read my posts and often comment. THANK YOU!!!

“SUPPORTING WHAT I BELIEVE IN” 

One of my most recent posts and possibly a favorite, was this one: Saving Our Country’s Backyard. I couldn’t bear the thought that the new administration was intent on rescinding the protection of acres of American land that you and I use for adventure, travel, education, recreation, nature exploring and in some cases even hunting.

Just thinking about Glacier National Park being purchased by some cooperation and renamed THE STAPLES PARK or something, made me nauseous. To underline how  important our national park system is and WHAT A GIFT IT IS, my husband and family decided to take a trip. AND WE DID.

We live in Southern California. So what is in our backyard? Yosemite National Park. It’s a six hour drive on well paved roads and so we packed up two cars and headed out. What did we experience?

  • crashing waterfalls off granite cliffs from snowmelt;
  • vistas of rock formations;
  • open vivid green meadows filled with wild flowers of ever hue and deer, birds, rabbits, squirrels and other wildlife;
  • trees that tower over walkways, climb up cliffs and created dappled sunlight patterns everywhere you walk;
  • the roaring Merced River that flows through the park, tumbling over huge rocks and bringing cool air and fascinating water sounds as you hike.

This is health; this is freedom; this is wandering; this is hiking and camping and visiting and singing. This is America’s Backyard. AND WE MUST VISIT IT AND PRESERVE IT.

America's Backyard, Part 2

Warming on a friendly rock.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“YOU CAN DO THIS TOO”

I don’t have the space on this post, to list all the national parks for you–indicating which one is only a drive from your state to another state or is actually within your state. But there is a list for you to study and pursue and you can access it here !!

CAR TRIP THIS SUMMER? ENJOY.

All photos, my personal photographer, JOHN HAVEY, thanks!

America's Backyard, Part 2

Meadows to explore.

America's Backyard, Part 2

America, it’s breath-taking. God bless it.