Stay Healthy in 2017

 

Stay Healthy in 2017

Winter is the season for respiratory flu. People are inside without fresh air, allowing viruses to be easily passed from person to person. I’ve talked to four people in the last week who have either a bad cold or because of a fever are bed-ridden. Flu shots help and though the immunity will not kick in on day one, there is a lot of winter left. So get a flu shot. Stay healthy in 2017.

The Doonesbury cartoon is referring to a new study that revealed that women doctors often have better communication skills and that their patients have better results. You can read more about it here.  

But regardless of the sex of your doctor, the important thing is that you have one–that you have healthcare and are going to take care of yourself in this new year. Here’s a list to help you do just that.

  1. Even if you are feeling good today, make sure that you schedule a yearly physical. On the day of your appointment and especially if this doctor you are seeing is new and won’t have access to your health records, prepare one. List your medications, surgeries, any chronic illnesses and know what your family health history is for your parents, grandparents and siblings.
  2. This is a critical year for anyone covered by THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT. Make your appointments now. Schedule tests and needed surgery now. Example: a colonoscopy. Don’t procrastinate. Even if you are over 50 and have no symptoms, you risk a colon cancer diagnosis–and people can die. Need costly treatments? Schedule them now.
  3. If you or your daughter or your friend’s daughter etc has been thinking of having a baby take advantage of the ACA’s pregnancy and infant care benefits. These can keep the cost of your delivery around $1,500. Before the ACA, almost 90 % of individual health plans excluded maternity coverage altogether. Need contraception–birth control pills, an IUD–make an appointment now at your physician’s office or Planned Parenthood.
  4. You can still sign up for Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act. It provides you with the best affordable health plan–with federal subsidies or without. NOTE: despite talk about soaring premiums and deductibles, around 75% of enrollees still will only pay around $100.00 a month for an ACA plan in 2017, complete with its 10 essential health benefits. Open enrollment ends on TUESDAY, January 31, 2017.

Are you concerned about your health this very moment? Here are questions to consider when seeing your doctor. Thanks, Dr. John Ely.

  1. Where is your pain (if that’s your complaint) and where does it radiate i.e. move;
    this symptom: lasts how long? occurs how often? is getting worse? is getting better?
  2. Describe what you were doing when this pain first occurred.
  3. Do you have other symptoms associated with this symptom, with this pain? Describe them.
  4. Using an example, describe the quality of your symptom i.e. pain is like the stabbing of an ice pick or burns like fire.
  5. Now describe the quantity of this symptom i.e. on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the worst what is it?
  6. What makes your symptom worse? if your were dizzy is it worse when you roll over in bed?
  7. What improves the symptom? Heat, cold, sleep, eating, movement etc.

Also consider your sex and what annual exams you might need to insure your health. For females: mammography, bone density scanning (also called dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA), Pap smear and the usual blood pressure and blood work.

For SPECIFIC information for women, go here–info is from the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

For SPECIFIC information for men, go here 

Considering that you probably make sure that you do yearly maintenance on your car–do the same for your body. Your health is a gift. Make sure you do everything you can to take care of it, especially in these uncertain times. You need to stay healthy in 2017 and beyond.

Thanks to Frank Lalli in Parade and thanks to Garry Trudeau

 

Secrets and Lies Make a Story, Not a Life

Secrets and Lies Make a Story

I’ve been working on a novel for a long time, a story about a secret which becomes a major lie and profoundly affects a family. In literature, the engine of the story is often something negative–a problem that the protagonist must overcome, a hurt that must be healed.

Think of your favorite stories, the conflicts that the hero or heroine had to solve, or the worry and fear that often drive them to pursue a goal. Even in the comedic world, there is always a struggle. It might make you laugh, but it does make you root for someone. That’s what it means to turn the page.

In my novel, a child goes missing and finds comfort in a murder of crows that have descended on the city where she is living with her abductor. Thus the art above. Being a child she is wary of lies. She knows that she is now in the wrong place. She hungers for her parents and for the normal life she once led.

Wow. Look what I just wrote–normal life, wary of lies, in the wrong place. After a weekend where an argument over numbers became so important that a phrase was coined–ALTERNATIVE FACTS--I thought of fiction. I love fiction. I love story. But I also, like my little Sarah in my novel–I am wary of lies. Don’t lie to me. Don’t take me for a fool. Okay? Because somewhere, away from the secrets and lies, is TRUTH. And I am not afraid to seek it out, to know it, to look it in the face. Don’t mess with me.

John Keats wrote: Beauty is truth, truth beauty, – that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know. 

What did this amazing poet mean? Oh well–readers, writers, teachers and scholars have been arguing that for years, since the ink dried on his parchment.

Keats wanted to condense his ideas in few words. Isn’t that what poetry is? Things in nature fell into his personal definition of beauty. His works captured the Beauty of life and made it a truth for all the ages. His own individual logic told him that things of this earth that are beautiful are truthful–a spiritual association.

But Keats didn’t just write about walking through fields of flowers. He saw the sorrow and sadness in life. He acknowledged ALL of life in his work. So did Walk Whitman. Think of the poem, I Hear America Singing. 

America, our country. It’s so amazing. So awesome. And I say this from my heart, grateful for the roof over my head (laugh out loud, we just had to repair it during rains we here in California desperately need). Grateful for my health insurance–but so worried about millions losing coverage because of the possibility of losing the Affordable Care Act–Obamacare. Some people have actually said we should get rid of Obamacare, but keep the Affordable Care Act. OKAY!! Where are they getting their information? What lies are they believing?

Each of us has a story to tell. And those stories will never become novels. They are our personal stories. But we must hold them to the truth. When we raise our children–truth. When we pledge love to a spouse–truth. When we work at our jobs–truth.

Mark Twain was so damn smart. He said: “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” And you don’t have to make up “alternative facts.”

Writing a novel is hard work but so much fun. You create your own world, make up your own story, create characters you want to hug and those you don’t want to be in the same room with. But creating lies to boldly hide secrets does not work. They will come back and ruin things. Make a pledge today to look for the truth, honor it and fight for it. At the end of the day, you can lose yourself in a STORY (TV NOVEL FILM) and yet feel safe that America is still protecting and caring for you the way a country should.

PS As a registered nurse, I support healthcare for everyone. I support OBAMACARE.  

Our DEMOCRACY: Past and Future

Our DEMOCRACY: Past and Future

Let’s look at some ideas about democracy and see how it has been woven into our lives from the very beginning, from the birth of the United States of America–until the present, where today, we take for granted such freedoms. Democracy, government by the people, for the people, must always be an integral part of our lives.  

If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent, we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter. George Washington

The system of government which shall keep us afloat amidst the wreck of the world, will be immortalized in history. Thomas Jefferson

The end of democracy and the defeat of the American Revolution will occur when government falls into the hands of lending institutions and moneyed incorporations. Thomas Jefferson 

Real liberty is neither found in despotism or the extremes of democracy, but in moderate governments. Alexander Hamilton

As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no democracy. Abraham Lincoln

Nowhere in the world is presented a government of so much liberty and equality. To the humblest and poorest amongst us are held out the highest privileges and positions. The present moment finds me at the White House, yet there is as good a chance for your children as there was for my father’s. Abraham Lincoln

Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education. Franklin D. Roosevelt

Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country. Franklin D. Roosevelt

Democracy is a superior form of government, because it is based on a respect for man as a reasonable being. John F. Kennedy

The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all. Life in freedom is not easy and democracy is not perfect. John F. Kennedy

Freedom has many difficulties and democracy is not perfect, but we have never had to put up a wall to keep our people in. John F. Kennedy 

The whole world must see that Israel must exist and has the right to exist, and is one of the great outposts of democracy in the world. Martin Luther King

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Martin Luther King 

The United States was born in revolution and nurtured by struggle. Throughout our history, the American people have befriended and supported all those who seek independence and a better way of life. Robert F. Kennedy 

Democracy is worth dying for, because it’s the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man. Ronald Reagan

We must never remain silent in the face of bigotry. We must condemn those who seek to divide us. In all quarters and at all times, we must teach tolerance and denounce racism, anti-Semitism and all ethnic or religious bigotry wherever they exist as unacceptable evils. We have no place for haters in America — none, whatsoever. Ronald Reagan 

You cannot put democracy and freedom back into a box. George W. Bush

It is an idea for which I hope to live and to see realized, but, my Lord, if it needs be, it is an idea for which I am prepared to die. Nelson Mandela

The real legacy of the Founding Fathers is a political process: a system of disagreement, debate, and compromise that has kept democracy vibrant in the United States for more than two hundred years. Unknown, BUT SO IMPORTANT 

The worst thing that can happen in a democracy – as well as in an individual’s life – is to become cynical about the future and lose hope. Hillary Clinton

Democracy works–but we gotta want it–not just during an election year, but all the days in between. Barack Obama 

The strongest democracies flourish from frequent and lively debate, but they endure when people of every background and belief find a way to set aside smaller differences in service of a greater purpose. Barack Obama

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our Democracy; Tonight is your answer. Barack Obama

Democracy cannot be imposed on any nation from the outside. Each society must search for its own path, and no path is perfect. Barack Obama

One of the key problems today is that politics is such a disgrace, good people don’t go into government. Donald Trump

On the occasion of losing our current president to a new one, I pledge myself to believing in our freedoms: freedom of speech and word, freedom to dissent, to argue and thus to continue to claim the freedoms that the fourth estate has always possessed–freedoms given to us by our founding fathers. Concerned? Subscribe to a newspaper or magazine; watch a variety of televised news shows. Keep up to date on what is happening. Don’t become complacent. Ever. Politics is not a disgrace and there are many good people working for us. We must cling to the good that our founders saw in our democracy.

As F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote in THE GREAT GATSBY: So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

Our DEMOCRACY: Past and Future

Challenges in the New Year: All Efforts Count

Challenges in the New Year: All Efforts Count

Walking is so good for you–try to get outside and walk even in winter.

“Each beginning is the end of a waiting. We are each given exactly one chance to
be. Each of us is both impossible and inevitable. Every replete tree was first a seed that waited.” ― Hope Jahren, Lab Girl

I love this quote of scientist Hope Jahren. She is so correct. Each day is precious.  Each day is an extension of our BEING, so know that all efforts count. If each of us is inevitable, we should renew and reexamine our destinations and how we are affecting others as we go on our journey. That journey is certainly ours alone, but we bring children and family along with us, so we must be gentle and aware of how our lives are affecting theirs.

In this new year, are you eager to discover new things, work new ideas, make decisions that benefit you and those you love?

Working in the hospital teaches you that there are only two kinds of people in the world: the sick and the not sick. If you are not sick, shut up and help.”
― Hope Jahren, Lab Girl

LOVE THIS. In many ways, when we are out in the world talking to people, being kind to people we are spreading help. Wouldn’t it be great if we left some kindness, however brief, with each person we encountered during the day. The world would feel more open and generous.

Yet here is another thought. “Science has taught me that everything is more complicated than we first assume, and that being able to derive happiness from discovery is a recipe for a beautiful life.”
― Hope Jahren, Lab Girl

Hope Jahren has a great handle on things. Discovery changes us. So what can we discover each day, you might ask.

Here are some suggestions.

  1. Discover your feet. Walk daily for 30 minutes, with a friend to forge a relationship or by yourself to meditate, work out a problem, listen to music. NO PHONE CALLS PLEASE. This is mental conditioning and also aerobic conditioning. Walking gets your heart to pump oxygen and nutrients to your brain. If you are with a friend, a conversation will further strengthen neural circuits. But avoid the phone call routine–it once again ties you to a device. Break-away when you can.
  2. Discover plants. In what way? First, eat more of them! Consume all kinds of lettuces. Learn how to make potatoes, onions and green vegetables the center of your main meal. Bring carrots, cucumber slices and radishes to enhance your lunch. Remember that colorful fruits and vegetables provide lycopene, folate, Vitamin A, phytonutrients lutein and zeaxanthin which protect your vision, cancer fighters flavonoids, ellagic acid and anthocyanins. For more details go here.  
  3. Second, start a garden. It could be in a window box, pots along the window ledge or any size garden in any part of your yard. Choosing what to plant, working the soil, watching the growth of your garden and harvesting produce–all contribute to your health i.e. good food, sunshine and fresh air.
  4. Discover sleep. Eating, relaxing and then going to bed at a regular time each night or most nights contributes to better health. Irregular schedules are a major source of stress on your body. If you work nights, try to maintain as normal a schedule as possible when you do come home–and include in that schedule 6-8 hours of sleep.
  5. Discover something new. Your brain and your human need for interaction with others love new activities. They can stimulate you physically, mentally and socially. They provide a challenge that increases feelings of well being. Whether you take up something in the arts, sports or sign up for a class where you read books and listen to lectures or work on a computer–you are challenging yourself. Go for it.
  6. Discover that being with people at least part of the day is better than being alone. We are social beings and require the stimulus of personal interaction to “get our juices” flowing. Volunteer. Attend lectures. Go to museums and libraries were talks are presented and you can interact with people who have interests similar to yours.
  7. Discover the ONE STEP AT A TIME RULE. You can’t start a garden, sign up for a six week class and totally change your diet on a dime. Go slowly. Make careful choices and enjoy educating yourself as you go: like reading gardening catalogues, or checking out what adult ed classes will be available to you next semester or going to the library to study cook books until you find one that you want to own and use–so if you slop tomato sauce on it–no big deal. And of course the internet can always provide you with many of the answers you would find in books. CLUE: getting out to the library requires movement, walking maybe, meeting other people–ie you are discovering that personal interaction that staying at home often cannot provide.
  8. Discover that after a while you won’t need the following: cigarettes; feeling lonely; ignoring bodily symptoms; taking daily painkillers; not exercising; being angry and worried and stressed more often than being happy.

Wishing you healthy change in 2017. And this from poet, Mary Oliver, from her collection of essays UPSTREAM:

In the beginning I was so young and such a stranger to myself I hardly existed. I had to go out into the world and see it and hear it and react to it, before I knew at all who I was, what I was and what I wanted to be.   I submit this is true at any age. Go out there and discover more about the world and about yourself. Happy New Year.

Thanks to: AARP.ORG Bulletin

Humming a Tune, Summing Up a Year, Piling up Some Books

Humming a Tune, Summing Up a Year, Piling up Some Books

Music can often get a person through some down times. There’s a famous Rogers and Hammerstein song from THE KING AND I, a musical comedy, called, Whistle a Happy Tune. Check it out here. The lyrics relate that whenever you feel afraid, whistling (or in my life singing) can block out your fear or sorrow or disgust and help you believe that things are okay or soon will be.

Music’s Easy Access

With our many devices and the ability to access music anywhere, we could walk around with headphones on and indulge in music, blocking everything else out. I think that’s called escaping. Which is okay, as long as it doesn’t prevent us from doing necessary tasks like childcare and work. But as this year of 2016 ends and we stand on the brink of a new one, having music to cheer us and guide us would be a good thing. Any suggestions for what we should be listening to? Here are a few: Beyonce, LEMONADE; Leonard Cohen, YOU WANT IT DARKER; Diana Krall, WALLFLOWER; HAMILTON, the original Broadway cast and SIMON RATTLE IN NEW YORK, which includes works by Wagner and Mahler.(I confess these are mostly serious choices. You have some lighter ones? Please share.)

Print? Even Better

But the activity that provides me with escape and yet also fuels my brain is one I do on a nightly basis–reading. What have you read this year? Or what are you planning to read besides editorials or columns about the 2016 election and that THE WORLD IS ENDING. Last I noticed, we are still here and while my heart has stopped a few times as cabinet members are chosen and tweets fill the air, I still believe in my country. And I believe more than ever in the power of the written word.

If You Tweet, Read to Back Up What You Say

And to define written word, I’m not talking about 140 characters, which in the wrong hands might help take down years and years of detente and hard work. No, I’m talking about our personal relationship with words, language and story. And I’m also talking about EMPATHY. We are going to need a lot of it in 2017.

“The greatest gift you can give anyone is to take the time to talk with someone about a book you’ve shared.” Will Schwalbe 

So I was delighted when I came across an article that appeared in the WALL STREET JOURNAL and was written by editor and writer, Will Schwalbe, the author of THE END OF YOUR LIFE BOOK CLUB. The idea for this successful book came about when his mother was undergoing chemotherapy. They were both constantly reading, so they decided to read the same books which would provide a basis for conversation while they spent time in the hospital waiting room. The article relates: “The ones they choose range from classic to popular, from fantastic to spiritual, and we hear their passion for reading and their love for each other in their intimate and searching discussions.” What better way to become even closer to someone you love as their life is drawing to a close.

But from this adventure in reading, the author learned a truth. He writes: “I used to say that the greatest gift you could ever give anyone is a book. But I don’t say that anymore because I no longer think it’s true. I now say that a book is the second greatest gift. I’ve come to believe that the greatest gift you can give anyone is to take the time to talk with someone about a book you’ve shared.” Just as you often want to introduce someone you love to someone else that you love, the same applies to a book.

Did you love STEWART LITTLE as a child? Or DAVID COPPERFIELD or SONG OF SOLOMON as you grew in your book choices? Schwalbe did and shares his reactions. So I encourage you to read the complete article here.

And please share the titles that you either enjoyed in 2016 or are eager to read in 2017. I’ll do the same with Schwalbe’s words humming in my head:

Books remain one of the strongest bulwarks we have against tyranny–but only as long as people are free to read all different kinds of books, and only as long as they actually do so. The right to read whatever you want is one of the fundamental rights that helps preserve all the other rights. It’s a right we need to guard with unwavering diligence. But it’s also a right we can guard with pleasure. Reading isn’t just a strike against narrowness, mind control, and domination: It’s one of the world’s great joys.

May I also suggest my collection of stories about motherhood: A MOTHER’s TIME CAPSULE. You’ll find more info here.

Thanks to: WSJ & Will Schwalbe for his road to sanity. http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-need-to-read-1480083086

Photo Credit: ILLUSTRATION: BRIAN STAUFFER which appeared in WSJ

 

The Gift of Winter Winds: Surprise and Memories

The Gift of Winter Winds: Surprise and Memories

Of course I would believe my younger daughter Christie and my husband if they were all about my choosing the proper outfit to wear to a fundraiser last Saturday night. John and I were to arrive at my daughter’s home at 5:00pm to enjoy some time with our grandchildren and then leave around six for this event. The Los Angeles area was experiencing strong winter-like winds and because it’s the holiday season, the notorious 405 freeway was even more notorious. We finally ditched that plan and took side roads to our daughter’s house. Bottom line: WE WERE LATE. But I had no clue. The fundraiser would have to wait.

At the front door, my Harry Potter loving granddaughter had, unbeknownst to me, covered a party dress with her Hogwarts cape, eager to show me one magic trick before we left. I was told to close my eyes as she led me into the family room. When I opened them? The magic was a tent attached to the house and strung with sparkling Italian lights that shed glow on the faces before me. HAVE YOU EVER BEEN GIFTED WITH A SURPRISE PARTY? This is my blessed third. It’s a stunning experience.

I was blown away with the winds of surprise. Why was my older daughter Carrie and her husband here? We had just texted earlier that day. She was in Boston. And my son Andrew was in Chicago with his girlfriend Amy. They weren’t arriving for Christmas until the following Thursday evening.

NOT! Here they all were and my brother and his wife and my grandchildren and son-in-law and my niece and her boyfriend. Here they all were smiling and shouting Happy Birthday, though that date is a few months away. But all agreed with my younger daughter–people would be gathering for Christmas, let’s celebrate MOM now.

And so they did, with an elegant meal and flowers on the table and glasses of champagne and fancy hats. Because this was my Jubilee and was celebrated as if we were all attending an English garden party to celebrate my “quiet” aging.

But mothers who are dearly loved don’t get away with perfection. The banner expertly and lovingly prepared by my older daughter became a list of mom-isms. I could tell that everyone contributed:

GRAMMAR POLICE           BRITISH HISTORY FAN        BOO-BOO FIXER

JAMES TAYLOR FAN          DAD’S BEST AUDIENCE      GREEN THUMB

CHICKEN SQURES CONNIOSSEUR     KEEPER OF MEMORIES

WHITE TORNADO (I love to clean)          BEAUTIFUL SINGER (some exaggeration)

LOVING WIFE     BEST NOTES IN LUNCH BOX           BEST SMILE

AMAZING WRITER            BETHIE           WONDERFUL MOM

They also presented me with a book of memories that include precious letters from everyone there AND notes from friends from everywhere. My younger daughter Christie contacted people and they wrote back or emailed. She typed up those who emailed! Lots of work and yet so precious. She also added photos that people sent. Something to cherish, her labor of love beyond words.

Though the winds have died down in southern California, winter is here and so are the holidays of the season. I wish all of you celebrations and precious memories as you gather with those you love, Beth.

The Gift of Winter Winds: Surprise and Memories

Feeling like a queen.

The Gift of Winter Winds: Surprise and Memories

My grandmother’s china on the table, a wonderful reminder of connection

 

 

Books that Speak to the Heart of the Soul

Books that Speak to the Heart of the Soul

Christmas and the holiday season is a time of gift-giving in many families. And over the years mine has realized that often one special gift can replace all the “noise” of the advertised “newest” gadget or toy or even object that is supposed to “fill you up.” Because days after the holidays are over, there is often a feeling of loss or sadness. The mad dash is over and we are back in the day to day of real living. In many places it is cold and we are challenged to get to work, school, buying food etc by fighting ice and snow.

So this year, why not purchase something that doesn’t require a battery or juice (unless you use a Kindle), cannot be consumed in a short period of time and yet fires up the coldness of winter with thought and remains with you for a long time.

Buy your family members a book. 

Children love stories. WE ALL LOVE STORIES. Younger children will want to hear over and over the whimsical tales of WINNIE THE POOH. And though I recommend the original there is also the Disney version that might lead to the real thing.

You cannot go wrong with a book by PATRICK McDONNELL, like THE GIFT OF NOTHING. Mooch the cat desperately wants to find a gift for his friend – Earl the dog. He wonders what he can buy the dog who has everything and decides that the answer, of course, is nothing. Browse all of McDonnell’s work. You will find many treasures.

Middle Grade and Up–the choices are  numerous. But I will recommend two older favorites that my children loved: The Boxcar Children (mysteries solved by some orphaned kids who truly have the spirit to care for one another and to survive), and Anne of Green Gables. When Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert of Green Gables, Prince Edward Island, send for a boy orphan to help them out at the farm, they are in no way prepared for the error that will change their lives in the shape of Anne Shirley, a redheaded 11-year-old girl who can talk anyone under the table.

For adults I have two suggestions in this post. First is LAB GIRL, a memoir/bio written by HOPE JAHREN. She’s a scientist–but not only of the geophysical world, but of living and finding your way. Below are a few quotes, a taste of the world that Jahren will open to you.

A seed is alive while it waits. Every acorn on the ground is just as alive as the three-hundred-year-old oak tree that towers over it. Neither the seed nor the old oak is growing; they are both just waiting. Their waiting differs, however, in that the seed is waiting to flourish while the tree is only waiting to die.

Science has taught me that everything is more complicated than we first assume, and that being able to derive happiness from discovery is a recipe for a beautiful life.

Working in the hospital teaches you that there are only two kinds of people in the world: the sick and the not sick. If you are not sick, shut up and help.

For those of you who have loved the poetry of MARY OLIVER, this season you can purchase for yourself or a dear friend UPSTREAM, selected essays. Here is a taste:

In the beginning I was so young and such a stranger to myself I hardly existed. I had to go out into the world and see it and hear it and react to it, before I knew at all who I was, what I was and what I wanted to be. Wordsworth studied himself and found the subject astonishing. Actually what he studied was his relationship to the harmonies and also the discords of the natural world. That’s what created the excitement. 

Both books are journeys away from the chaos of modern life into the thought-provoking journey of making choices. If you are waking up each morning WONDERING where we are headed, I promise, these books will stimulate your love for taking a walk, or just existing in the world. After all, despite some changes, it’s still there. Let’s enjoy it.

FINALLY, I am sharing some thoughts that I feel support reading and emersion into other worlds. Open your heart and your soul to the other. Think of statements like “Love one another” or “Do unto others as you would have them do for you.” Thanks for reading.

Empathy is work. Being caring takes work. Being kind takes work. Wanting to help people, it’s work. There are some people who wake up and are like, it’s all I want to do! But for other people, it’s work. I want to put that message out ― that it’s worth putting the work into. It’s going to be annoying and it’s going to be uncomfortable and you’re probably not going to want to do it. But please, please find a way to do it. Okieriete Onaodowan On The Need For Empathy Today

I have to learn to love my neighbor with my crooked heart. The real fight, that. All the more so because the present feels like an unstable, constantly shifting ground where the future, which is always uncertain, feels all the more so, but with a strain of capriciousness thrown in. “Somebody chose their pain,” Auden once lamented about disastrous choices. “What needn’t have happened did.”

This is home; I have to fight for it; I have to do so out of love, with love: Of these things I’m certain. Much else lies shrouded in uncertainty. As Auden pointed out:

But the stars burn on overhead,
Unconscious of final ends,
As I walk home to bed,
Asking what judgment waits
My person, all my friends,
And these United States.   Garnette Cadogan 

Art: -womeninamericanhistory19.blogspot.com

Child Healthcare Should be a Right, Not a Fairytale

Child Healthcare Should be a Right, Not a Fairytale

Really sick kids are not just in commercials on TV. They exist. They suffer. Sometimes they die and sometimes because of poor or nonexistent healthcare, their health is forever compromised. Children should always be one of the first things a government remembers to protect and take care of. Children deserve good healthcare. They are our future. And parents, grandparents reading this post–you might know more about these issues than I do, but bottom line: a sick child changes your day or your week. A chronically sick child changes your life.

The Beginning of the Story–The Symptom

During the time when Andrew had developed the symptom, the first thing I thought about when I awoke each day was the results of the blood test. If a neighbor called, I could barely concentrate on the conversation. I wanted the answer. I kept creating the conversation in my head. The blood test would be normal. His symptom would be normal. Our lives would be normal again.

“How long has he had this pain in his feet?” the doctor casually asked. Thank God we had a general practitioner who saw Andrew for high temperatures, immunizations, a checkup after a broken arm–you name it. Now this.

“I don’t know. He’s growing. I can’t keep him in shoes. He’s going to be tall.”

“How long,” the doctor asked again. I looked at my notes. This doctor was a step up. a podiatrist, a specialist. “A month, longer.”

She nodded. She was continually prodding, pressing, massaging Andrew’s feet, appraising his reactions. She picked up the X-rays she had ordered and looked them over again. “In order to be sure, I’m going to have to do blood work. Or we really could just wait and see.”

“What are we waiting for?” I asked. She had let go of Andrew’s feet. He was pulling on his socks. What twelve-year-old boy likes all this fuss and about feet, no less.

“To see if he has rheumatoid arthritis. It can develop at this age and the pain he is describing is symptomatic.”

“Or his feet are growing,” I said with emphasis. I was fighting back with my own logic. I didn’t want her forcing me down this path of chronic illness, but the purpose of my story is to relate how fortunate I was as a parent to avoid delay, to see a doctor. I had access to healthcare. I could take care of my child no matter what the answer would be.

Remembering Sleeping Beauty

In the fairy tale Sleeping Beauty–a christening party is planned after a princess is born. When the King realizes that he has only twelve golden plates to serve 13 fairies, he invites only 12. But during the party, the 13th fairy arrives. Angered by the slight, her gift is a curse: the princess will later prick her finger on a spinning wheel and die. But the youngest fairy, who has hidden behind a curtain so that she can give her gift last, is able to alter the old fairy’s wish. She promises that the princess will only fall asleep and that after 100 years a king’s son will find her and awaken her. This was early healthcare–the best she could do.

And Now the Conclusion to the “Andrew’s Feet” Story 

After a long five days, the podiatrist finally called me. The blood work was normal. No signs of rheumatoid arthritis. My son was growing rapidly and I needed to make sure that he always had proper footwear to support his bones and tissues. I thanked the doctor more than once. A few years later when I needed a podiatrist, she became my doctor.

Healthcare Should be a Gift from Birth

So what’s the connection to the fairy tale? Every child born in our country is a gift. And regardless of their pedigree and financial abilities–they should be given the gift of good healthcare–from the start. Each child born in the U.S. should not need a fairy hiding behind a curtain–they should be able to grow and develop into a healthy adult. We are not a third world country. Everyone of us deserves the proper immunizations and periodic checkups. Every child should be assured the gift of health at his or her birth.

Changing the Ending

In our creative world today, television shows and some books allow the reader or viewer to change the ending. So let’s do that now. Let’s assume that I could not afford a general practitioner to see Andrew. Or let’s assume that he saw a medical person who was not particularly skilled at figuring out what might go wrong with a 13-year-old’s feet! And then let’s assume that Andrew did have rheumatoid arthritis. Check out basic info from the Mayo Clinic: the most common signs and symptoms of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis:

Pain. While your child might not complain of joint pain, you may notice that he or she limps — especially first thing in the morning or after a nap.
Swelling. Joint swelling is common but is often first noticed in larger joints like the knee.
Stiffness. You might notice that your child appears clumsier than usual, particularly in the morning or after naps.
Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis can affect one joint or many. In some cases, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis affects the entire body — causing swollen lymph nodes, rashes and fever. Like other forms of arthritis, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is characterized by times when symptoms flare up and times when symptoms disappear.

If Andrew had developed juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, his life would have radically changed, but he also would have had healthcare. My message today: not everyone in the U.S. is as fortunate as Andrew. So…help those who need the following information.

TAKE ADVANTAGE OF HEALTHCARE FOR YOUR CHILDREN NOW Click on this link to learn more. There’s a video on the site to explain the relationship between the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) and CHIP, Children’s Health Insurance Program. On the site you will read: Don’t Wait to Enroll in the Children’s Health Insurance Program
Under ObamaCare kids, there is no reason to wait to make sure kids are covered. Millions of children qualify for CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program) 365 days a year. The CHIP program provides free or low cost coverage to kids and other family members, even kids whose parents make too much money for Medicaid coverage can qualify for CHIP. Over the past 15 years, CHIP has done an excellent job in reducing the number of children without health insurance and under the Affordable Care Act even more kids are covered.

Even states that didn’t expand Medicaid still tend to provide good CHIP coverage. In many non-expansion states, parents who wouldn’t normally qualify for Medicaid can qualify if children qualify for CHIP. Medicaid and CHIP cover:

  • Children and teens up to age 19
  • Young people up to 21 may be covered under Medicaid
  • Youth who have “aged out” of foster care can be covered under Medicaid until they reach age 26

More information here. Health Insurance for Children and Young Adults Under 26. healthcare.gov

Every mother or father who has ever drawn breath worries about one thing and one thing alone–the inability to help their sick child. I no longer believe in fairies, but I do believe in government taking care of its citizens. Stay informed. Reach out and give those who need the information provided here. Seeing the photo of a cute kid on television can lead one to believe that everything is all right with the world of children. It is not. But this would not be the United States of America if we fail ONE CHILD–let alone the over eight million that are currently taken care of by (Children’s Health Insurance Program) CHIP.

PHOTOS: US NEWS HEALTH, PINTEREST

Child Healthcare Should be a Right, Not a Fairytale

 

Why We Need Symbols

Why We Need Symbols

In 2005, I was given the opportunity to help write a book that I thought would be way beyond my interests. I was wrong. I said “yes” and with my friend, James Wagenvoord, we wrote and edited MIAMI INK: Marked for Greatness. The book echoed the television show that explored not only the lives of the artists, but more importantly those of the customers who came into their shop in South Beach Miami. Each person wanted a tattoo for a particular reason: remembering. When they looked at the tattoo and proudly wore it, they were remembering a loved one, a choice, an event. The tattoo was a symbol. Sonya, the mother of a child who had died, asked Kat Von De to create a tattoo of her daughter holding a pet alligator. One man wanted his wife’s face and name on his back, because “she has my back.”

KNIVES AND INK: I WANT TO REMEMBER WHERE I CAME FROM

Isaac Fitzgerald, who got his first tattoo when an encouraging teacher offered it as a reward, has published “Knives and Ink”–knives, because the people in his book are chefs. I’ve noticed that many chefs boast tattoos, and his book focuses on the narrative or story behind each of those tattoos. For Chef Soliel Ho, who has a paddy crab on her chest, the crab is the food that sustained rice farmers in Viet Nam where she was born and raised. She states: “It’s important to me to remember where I came from and the humble food that still sustains and satisfies people everywhere.”

SYMBOLS ALL AROUND US

Of course a basic symbol many of us wear is a ring–engagement, wedding, promised–or one we purchased ourselves to remember a place we visited or because it reminds us of someone we love. The symbol can be very tangential, “My mother had a stone like this. It’s gone, but now this ring with the same stone will remind me of her.”

Symbols have been with humans forever. They communicate important aspects of our lives: the country we live in and the religion we follow. We communicate that through clothing, flags, medals, headwear. Adornments on our bodies offer symbols of our place in society, our wealth or education, position or life work. Various peoples throughout the centuries have chosen to wear their hair or adorn their skin to communicate place or station, power or caste and definitely heritage.

SUN AND YOUR SKIN 

Skin color and all its shades have made we humans colorful and various–melanin is the reason. Melanin is a dark brown to black pigment that occurs in the hair, skin, and iris of the eye in people and animals. It is responsible for causing skin to tan or darken when exposed to sunlight. The closer people on earth live to the equator, the darker their skin. Melanin protects skin from burning and wrinkling and often from skin cancers.

In past centuries, women living in more northern areas chose to stay out of the sun. Tanned skin indicated a lower station, a person who worked in the fields or walked long roadways to get to their place of employment. Many decades later tanned skin came into vogue and was viewed as a sign of health. Self-tanning products and tanning beds were all the rage. We now know that tanning beds and unprotected skin can lead to burns and skin cancer. Thus for most skin types it’s better to purchase sunblock and a sun hat. Let’s face it, we humans are changeable, but in the last analysis we would be much better off if we saw skin color as symbolic only of the fascinating and numerous peoples who live on our earth.

SYMBOLIC CONSCIOUSNESS

Symbols are quick and easy. From drawings on cave walls to emojis, we humans are eager to communicate how we feel, where we live, how we live, where we are headed. In a recent article, Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee defines symbolic consciousness: a way of working with symbols that allows their meaning and energy into our consciousness. It is like a key that is needed to unlock the real potential, the energy of a symbol. He sees the Internet as a symbol with very positive potential.For example, if we are attentive to the symbolic dimension of the Internet, we will find that it conveys a promise of a new model of global consciousness, an interconnectedness whose organic nature reflects the organic nature of life.

That’s a positive view, one that might arise if we could all find interconnectedness in our goals, if we could all set aside fears and make plans to walk together into the future. The economic needs of people never seem to even out. Some have much more money than others and often those that do simply crave more. So when various people in the United States look at the American Flag or the Statue of Liberty, what they see and what they feel and what that symbol communicates can be vastly different.

IS THERE COMFORT IN NEGATIVE SYMBOLS?

When people are afraid, they often hide behind the shield of a symbol. During the stress and nastiness of this past presidential election, the focus was often on making one candidate or the other a SYMBOL of something, something evil or bade. NASTY WOMAN. BASKET OF DEPLORABLES.

Both candidates were guilty. But one candidate did a deserve to himself as a man and to all women: he ran against a woman trying to uphold male dominance, to make women a symbol of inferior brains, lack of proper behavior, lack of strength and character, and who are not capable of making their own healthcare choices. He also applied that to handicapped people, people of color and people not like him.

I’ll end with the words of Rebecca Solnit, taken from her article in the Guardian: Don’t Call Clinton a Weak Candidate, It Took Decades of Scheming to Beat Her:

I know that if Clinton had been elected there would not be terrified and weeping people of color all over the country, small children too afraid to go to school, a shocking spike in hate crimes, high-school students with smashed dreams marching in cities across the country. I deplore some of Hillary Clinton’s past actions and alignments and disagreed with plenty of her 2016 positions. I hoped to be fighting her for the next four years. But I recognize the profound differences between her and Trump on race, gender, immigration and climate, and her extraordinary strength, tenacity and courage in facing and nearly overcoming an astonishing array of obstacles to win the popular vote. Which reminds us that Trump has no mandate and sets before us some of the forces arrayed against us. Rebecca Soling          

Women are and will always be Symbols of Strength. 

Thanks to THE WRITES OF WOMEN for compiling amazing essays.

Photo: 3D Tattoo Design

She Said: THAT’S NOT HIM–But Is It Us?

She Said: THAT'S NOT HIM--But Is It Us?

There’s a new show that I have been eagerly watching. It was hailed as a series to replace or at least echo PARENTHOOD and so far yes–it definitely pulls us into a family. There’s a couple, pregnant with triplets, but when the 3rd to be delivered dies, they adopt a child abandoned that night and brought into the hospital’s nursery. (That baby’s mother had died; the father felt unable to raise the child.) The child is black, later named Randall. The young parents go home with a son and daughter and this adopted son. Later Randall’s father resurfaces. Oh, but there’s so much more to this complicated tale.

The show is called THIS IS US. Nice title. The highlighted US, in the logo above, might be saying something about the US–United States.

But let me tell you another story, briefly. Three months ago, I was at a party. And a woman sitting across from me brought up the man that was running for president. She was praising this guy and I had to say, “But what about his rallies. He mocks people with disabilities. He mocks minorities. He has people thrown out and then folks in the crowd beat up on other folks.”

She smiled at me across the table as if I were her child. “Oh that’s not him,” she said. It echoed in my head for days:  THAT’S NOT HIM. THAT’S NOT HIM.

So we have: THIS IS US–a family blazing a new trail of love and inclusion. They are all actors telling a story, a story I want to believe in.

And we have: THAT’S NOT HIM, a kinda-actor, who now takes on the role of president of the United States. Was everything I saw during his rallies an act?  Cause I feel as if I’m awakening from a bad dream and would like to turn the channel and keep watching THIS IS US instead. I want to believe in THAT creation. The other, those rallies–to me they are the stuff of nightmares. And I’ve read plenty of books and watched enough pre WWII films to know that presenting yourself as ONE person and then reversing and trying to be someone else is scary stuff. YES, the female candidate yelled and berated him occasionally–she was defending herself, drawn into this entire pre-election period that became its own SWAMP. WE ARE BETTER THAN THIS. I want to believe that all the negatives of the election was NOT US.

So I’m confused and saddened. That’s all I will say. Others have weighed in with their feelings. And I am open to that. One friend quoted RUMI, the 13th century Persian poet:

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right doing there is a field. I will meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about.

The world is too full–words cannot describe what we have on this planet–the grass, the love between two people, the splendor of birth that occurs between humans and all creatures–birds in the air, seed pods falling from the trees, whales leaping through oceans.

If I had to prize and hold dear something RIGHT NOW that I could say THIS IS US –it would be my family, who shares my love of peace and diversity, who believes in kindness and the power of talk before shouting and belittling. I would also prize my eyes and my brain, because I can read and read some more. I can fill my mind and my soul with the beauty of ideas that is inclusive and free from hate. (there is so much hate and anger on the internet–and yet goodness too).

Here is the poet, Mary Oliver from an essay in her new book UPSTREAM:

I read my books with diligence, and mounting skill, and gathering certainty, I read the way a person might swim, to save his or her life…You must not, ever, give anyone else the responsibility for your life.   

Here is a father, Aaron Sorkin, writing to his daughter. I think he is saying THIS IS US.

We get involved. We do what we can to fight injustice anywhere we see it—whether it’s writing a check or rolling up our sleeves. …we fight for the families that aren’t (insulated from this fear). We fight for a woman to keep her right to choose. We fight for the First Amendment and we fight mostly for equality—not for a guarantee of equal outcomes but for equal opportunities. We stand up.

The battle isn’t over, it’s just begun. (YOUR) Grandpa fought in World War II and when he came home this country handed him an opportunity to make a great life for his family. I will not hand his granddaughter a country shaped by hateful and stupid men. Your tears last night woke me up, and I’ll never go to sleep on you again.

When each and everyone of us gathers at Thanksgiving, we can pledge that we want all Americans to continue to form the fabric that this immigrant nation wove. THIS IS US, ALL OF US. We don’t want families torn apart or their future being that knock at the door. We can volunteer–one hour a week, one day a week or run an errand for the family we know with two working parents and a hectic schedule or a disabled grandparent.

AND READ. I’ll have more about that to come.

But today I am sharing Andrea Dunlap’s  reading list. SEE BELOW.

She is a writer and these works follow the old saying: Live in someone else’s shoes. LEARN EMPATHY. Maybe that’s what was missing when the woman across the table at the party said to me: THAT’S NOT HIM. Sorry. You cannot be a human being and watch what went down at those rallies and applaud. It was or is at least a part of him with a big lack of empathy and understanding for another’s soul, another’s life. Of course, you can believe anything you want to believe.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
I’m Judging You by Luvvie Ajayi
Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
You Can’t Touch My Hair by Phoebe Robinson
Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward
The Sellout by Paul Beatty
Known and Strange Things by Teju Cole
White Girls by Hilton Als
An Untamed State by Roxane Gay

Thanks to Andrea Dunlap; Thanks to the Huffington Post. Read more here.