Books That Pave the Way for Life’s Journey

Books That Pave the Way for Life's Journey

Books can take us on many journeys and I love to get lost in fiction. But ever so often a book can inform, change an attitude, a choice, maybe even a life. Having the ideas of thinkers and researchers at our side when we have a question, a problem or a new idea can make the difference between informed choice and blowing in the wind. The net makes it even easier, as you can type in a term: education, marriage, parenting, employment, health, exercise, travel, science, politics–and voila, your choices are numerous. I’ve picked a few today to get your thinking about nonfiction. Some of these choices have been in print for years. Some are hot off the press. We all want to embrace the next decades with knowledge and understanding–so happy searching and reading.

I highly recommend Dr. Bernie Siegel’s Love, Medicine and Miracles that relates, through his personal experience, how death is truly part of life and acceptance of a loved one’s death makes a passage easier on the one leaving and the one staying. When he was asked to recommend a list of self-help books, he responded: “Every book ever written is a self-help book. What’s the Bible? What about Buddha? Each generation thinks somebody new is starting the process, but we keep repeating the wisdom of the sages and the ages.”

Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient was written by Norman Cousins, a longtime editor at the Saturday Review. The book relates how Cousins laughed his way out of a crippling disease by watching the Marx Brothers and thus “jump-started the whole mind-body connection.”

Man’s Search for Meaning is the memoir of Victor Frankl MD PhD, who survived Auschwitz. He argues that we cannot avoid suffering, but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose. Frankl’s theory-known as logotherapy, states that our primary drive in life is not pleasure, but the discovery and then the pursuit of what we find meaningful..

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi This is one I have not read, but it is definitely on my list. If you have read Atul Gawande and Anne Lamott, readers state you should read this inspiring, exquisitely observed memoir that finds hope and beauty in the face of insurmountable odds. It is written by an idealistic young neurosurgeon as he attempts to answer the question What makes a life worth living? He died within two years of his diagnosis.

Blindsided by Richard M. Cohen, a Journalist and husband to Meredith Vieira. In this memoir, Cohen relates his battle with MS, startling the reader with his grace and wisdom.

An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Mood and Madness by Kay Redfield Jamison This professor of psychiatry shares her personal struggle with manic depression. She is also the author of Touched with Fire: Manic-depressive illness and the Artistic Temperament.  

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion A personal favorite, this 2005 National Book Award winner recounts how Joan could continue to live after her husband’s sudden death and then was faced with their only child lapsing into a coma. (Read Blue Nights for the end of that part of Didion’s story.)

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie I received this book for one of those “life-changing” birthdays. It’s amazing. The author shines a light not only on blatant discrimination, but also the more insidious, institutional behaviors that marginalize women around the world. You will better understand the often masked realities of sexual politics.

The Book of Joy authors, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama Despite the hardships—or, as they would say, because of them—these two men are the most joyful people on the planet.

If you have suggestions, please mention them in your comments. Wishing you good health and good reading. We are all in this together.

Parts of this post appeared in 2011 in a different form.

Photo credit: janeaustenrunsmylife

Have Kids Lost the “Huck Finn” Gene?

Have Kids Lost the "Huck Finn" Gene?

Picture this: Jeannie and I have two forts: one is a pile of fallen tree logs in the corner of her backyard. The other is a lean-to-shed next to her parents’ garage. It has no window, but they let us paint it bright yellow with blue trim. There’s also a weedy rock garden (her mom has no time for gardening with seven children and more to come) and though if I were to transport myself to that rock garden today, it would be small–but to Jeannie and me in the lower grades, it was big–and in our imaginations the perfect place to push imaginary evil doers. Hot oil anyone? We might not yet have read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer or The Adventures of Huckleberry Finnbut we were swimming in their gene pool as “adventure” and “creating our own worlds” flowed in our blood.

OUR PRESENT NEIGHBORHOOD? RIPE FOR FORTS

Now where I live in Southern California, my husband and I take frequent walks. We see open space between rows of houses that is lined with trees on either side and filled with piles of leaves and even inviting dead branches in every size you can imagine. But no forts, in a tree or on the ground.

If it rains, the dry creek behind our house fills up with water. The trails we can easily walk to take us up low hills where you can look out over your neighborhood, pick wild flowers and challenge each other to see who can make the rise first.

WHAT DO WE NOT SEE? WHAT DO WE NOT HEAR? Children. Their shouts, their bikes streaming by, their arms loaded with an old quilt or a cardboard box to add to some fort that is gradually taking shape in their minds or behind their houses. Do kids even know what a fort is anymore?

WHERE ARE THE CHILDREN?

Where are the children and what are they doing? When the few children that live near us come out to throw a ball around or rollerblade, we are thrilled. We hear their voices on the evening breeze and are immediately taken back to our old neighborhood, where in summer the sweetest sounds were children’s voices: freeze tag, hide and seek, hopscotch, baseball in the street, tree climbing, bike riding and of course fort-building.

When we were raising our three children–how joyful. In the first suburban Chicago house there was a shed, and because it was filled with lawn equipment, the area BEHIND THE SHED became the fort for our two daughters, complete with dishes and bricks for a table. Our children knew how to make this work. The second house had a huge side yard with play equipment and my son was out there constantly, always joined by his friend who lived–you guessed it–across the fence.

Then in Iowa, we had a tree fort, built right around one of the huge oaks in our backyard. But once again the space behind the garage often attracted friends like Charlie, who could get to our garage roof from the higher ground back there. Why not? That’s what boys do!

BROKEN ARMS OR UNDREAMED DREAMS

So what keeps kids inside and away from the fun? Maybe weather. Okay. Global warming sucks, and one reason, if you lived in the Midwest this past winter, they didn’t even have enough snow to make outdoor play fun. My son would race out of the house during a good Iowa snowfall–because the street one block away provided a magnificent sledding hill. Yes, there were cars, but they were extremely careful going down that hill in a rollicking Iowa snow storm.

Fear. A younger parent reading this will think about broken arms and head trauma. Okay, I get that. So buy your kid a bike helmet and make him wear it. When I was a kid, my old friend Bing broke his arm falling off the railing of our back porch–the distance could not have been more than a 3 foot drop. But it was an accident, it was the angle of the fall. Why stay inside to prevent that. My son broke his arm sliding in a wading pool. I kid you not. Charlie climbed our roof–he was fine. I fell off a bike with a quick turn on the grass after coming down our steep hill–I was no young chicken but I was fine. You can’t stay inside because of what MIGHT happen.

I say give kids some guidelines and then let them go. They have to feel that life is an adventure. You cannot lock them up with a television or a computer, please.

SOME STATISTICS. 

Almost all (96%) of the 1,001 parents with children aged between four and 14 quizzed for the National Trust thought it was important their children had a connection with nature and thought playing outdoors was important for their development. The research found, on average, children were playing outside for just over four hours a week, compared to 8.2 hours a week when the adults questioned were children. To read more go here. 

I HAVE THE VELCRO STORY FOR YOU: I’M SURE YOU HAVE MORE

Tom Sawyer knew how to attract his friends, even if the attraction involved a little bit of work. Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) was so damn smart. He wrote: Tom had discovered a great law of human action, without knowing it – namely, that in order to make a man or a boy covet a thing, it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to attain. 

Let’s pledge to get our children and grandchildren to covet the outdoors, adventure, and creativity. Sure, some young people are making millions bent over their computers and creating apps. But there is still room for roaming that stimulates the brain in a different way. Take, velcro.

George de Mestral invented his first touch fastener when, in 1941, he went for a walk in the woods and wondered if the burrs that clung to his trousers — and dog — could be turned into something useful. See! What if de Mestral had stayed indoors that day. He patented it in 1955 and subsequently refined and developed its practical manufacture until its commercial introduction in the late 1950s. He gave his invention the name Velcro, creating it from the French word velours or velvet and crochet or hook. The rest is history, as they say.

FORTS, SPORTS, BIKE ADVENTURES & MORE

Parents reading this might claim that there children get enough of the outdoors through sports. Yes and no Sports today are usually organized with adults there. Sports today are not the backyard lot when you created your own rules and learned how to WORK THINGS OUT with the kids down the block. That’s SO important. Children need to grow up slowly, yes, but as they do, day to day they learn skills that they will never lose. Jeannie and I had to negotiate when selecting the color of our fort or even deciding it would be in HER backyard. Getting out of the house and away from the eyes and ears of parents is part of growing up. STILL WORRIED? Well today, someone in the group that is roaming the hills or building that fort will have a cell phone, connection to Mom or Dad. So let them go out into the world. And don’t call or text them. Give them a deadline and hope that they wander into the world of imagination without an app or a screen to guide them.

Thanks to: DiviantArt

Open Up Your Heart To The Other

Open Up Your Heart To The Other

Who is your other? On the extreme it is the man in the grainy photo in the newspaper–the man being pummeled by another another man, or dragged from a car. Or it’s a woman in a mug shot who is being charged for drug-dealing. This “other” is so easy to look away from. Because is there a connection between these two people and you or me? Remember I said extreme because the majority reading this post do not get involved in crime on the streets or get arrested. But regardless, there is a connection–these are faces of human beings. Their DNA may be different from ours, but we all go WAY BACK, we all have the same beginnings. Again, human beings. Can you open your heart to that concept? It can be really hard.

HELPING THE OTHER

I recently read an article about a man who everyday goes into the streets of LA (and this without belonging to any organization) and works with the homeless. He might spend hours with the one person he finds who is ill or dying. That day he does what he can to help that particular individual. He is answering the call to open his heart to humanity and he is doing it with the other–the extreme other–the total stranger.

My husband volunteers with the Conejo Valley Youth Employment Service helping teens and the homeless find jobs. He does have an office where he can sit and meet with people. But when dealing with the homeless, he often deals with people who don’t keep to a schedule, who say they’ll return with a resume and don’t. It can also be frustrating with the youth who one day are all about getting a job and the next forget they even had an appointment to work on a resume, interview skills, an elevator speech. Still my husband keeps at it, opening his heart to the other, to people he has never met, knows nothing about and for some have been living on the street.

VARIETY IS TRULY THE SPICE OF LIVING 

James Baldwin, author of THE FIRE NEXT TIME and other works, wrote: Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them. Baldwin makes a valid point. Our ability to turn away from others, to avoid the other, to look down on the other–that often begins in the home. But I posit that it can be changed around through living and realizing the human connection. Through education and being out in the world, we all can learn that fearing the other closes us off from the splendid variety of life, of people and their ideas, of music and culture, art and writing.

WHO IS THE OTHER? TO SOMEONE–IT COULD BE ME 

Yes, it could be. Because when I walk the streets of a busy city where no one truly knows me, I become THE OTHER to someone. Maybe I’m the other because I’m not the same age as the person looking at me or because I’m a female or because I’m white. But I surely know that if I suddenly became a human being in need–if I suddenly fell to the sidewalk with a heart attack or a stroke, I would hope that someone around me would not see me as THE OTHER and walk away, but would come to my aid.

THE BASIC CONCEPT IS TRYING

James Baldwin also wrote: There are too many things we do not wish to know about ourselves. So true. But when you first read that sentence, test yourself: do you immediately think of the selfish and hidden things about yourself that you try to disguise or lie about or ignore?           OR: did you immediately think about all the wonderful possibilities in your makeup that you just haven’t tapped into yet?

How great if it is and always will be the latter. If we are always opening to the possibility of our changing, of our personal growth and development–of our truly SEEING OTHER PEOPLE. That would be amazing. 

OPEN UP YOUR HEART 

My brother Bill Pfordresher is a song writer and one of his songs urges a lover to:

Open up your heart and let it go,

That’s the way it starts,

This I know-Open up your heart to me. 

And later on the lyric is: Watching one’s life slip by day after day…

For a lover or for the love of living, don’t let time get away.

ACT NOW

On Friday, my husband and I took the train to Union Station in downtown Los Angeles. We went to a concert and then walked back to the station through an area of LA that is full of government buildings, the Catholic Church of the diocese of LA and places for many homeless people to walk or sit or sleep under the shade of a tree. A march had occurred that morning and there were crowds of people leaving the march and lots of police on motorcycles and bikes patrolling the area. What did we do? We walked. We smiled at folks on the street, stopped to ask one policeman a question and would have purchased something from a vendor but we had already eaten. We opened our hearts to LA and everything it had to offer that Friday afternoon. Call me Pollyanna if you want to. I’m no saint. But I believe that more and more we have to fight some dictum that tells us to turn away from folks because they are not JUST LIKE ME. You can volunteer or write a check, make a phone call or reach out to someone you know (maybe a stranger but more likely someone who needs a friend.) Do it today. Don’t be a person who is Watching one’s life slip by day after day…

Photo: Zocalo Public Square

Will You Become Nostalgic for Weather?

Will You Become Nostalgic for Weather?

Living in Southern California provides many positives: a major one, weather. The Golden State truly provides days and days of sunshine which can lift the spirits and certainly makes nature-deficit disorder a rarity. (Coined by Richard Louv, nature-deficit disorder refers to people of all ages who are disconnected from nature, spending inordinate amounts of time indoors.) But in most climates, we are lured outdoors to walk or participate in sports. Even in cold climates nature provides ice skating and skiing, snowshoeing and sledding.

SEASONAL AFFECT DISORDER or SAD

Variety is the spice of life and that is also true for weather. People begin to feel depressed if the sun doesn’t shine for days at a time. I’ve written about that too–in a post about Seasonal Affect Disorder. Those of you living in temperate climates are familiar with this condition: SAD is diagnosed when a patient experiences depression and other symptoms for at least two consecutive years during the same season; and it generally applies to people dealing with long winters where sunlight is rare and the body begins to suffer–not only from outdoor activities being curbed but also from the physical affect that light has on the body. Because there is a definite relationship between light sources to the body and the production of serotonin which affects our moods.

FOUR SEASONS ARE THE BEST!

But though sunlight can lift the spirits, a person’s memory bank of weather also plays a part–we love rainy days and snow days and autumn days. A temperate climate allows for FOUR SEASONS that have definite borders. When autumn approaches, leaves change color and drop from the trees, grass begins to form deep roots instead of height, the air gets cooler and the days shorter. Fall requires different clothing and there is nothing better than a brisk walk in brisk fall air. It has its own perfume, its own way of touching the skin.

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA DOES NOT HAVE FOUR SEASONS. IS THAT GOOD?

In Southern California the shift into fall is often imperceptible. Yes, the days get shorter, some of the trees drop their leaves, but much of the vegetation keeps on flowering so that there is not a definitive change. I miss that. Then suddenly it is Christmas and folks, like those in the midwest where I lived most of my life, are driving cars with an evergreen tied to the top. But it takes some adjusting to drape Italian lights in foliage that is still bursting with greenery. Winter here is our rainy season. The nights do get colder and the rose bushes and hydrangeas get cut back. But there’s no snow. You can travel to northern parts of California to ski, but last year our snow depth in the mountains was very low. This year it is greatly improved.

WOW, SPRING IS COMING AND I ENVY YOU IN TEMPERATE CLIMATES!

Here’s my point: many of you are about to or just now experiencing the beginning of spring. I envy you. The air begins to warm and you shed your jacket by 11:00 am. The trees begin to flower–redbuds, forsythia, then magnolia and fruit trees. Tulips and daffodils push up from the earth and the days get longer. You find yourself pulled from your home where people’s voices once again blend with birdsong and the buzz of tires on the street. It’s truly a rebirth and often produces a smile from a stranger. Because we all feel it–new life, green grass, bluer skies.

WOULD YOU WANT TO LOSE YOUR FOUR SEASONS???

Nostalgia for weather accentuates how grateful I am for nature and all that it provides us. So when spring begins and like a wave of blessing speeds across our country warming the winds and pulling people outside–consider: we need to protect the seasons, make sure that we don’t lose them, honor all the memories we have of spring, summer, winter and fall.

PLEASE FIGHT FOR THE EPA! FIGHT FOR YOUR SEASONS

So forgive me for this final thought, but if the Evironmental Protection Agency is defunded the way the current government is talking about–the entire country might eventually have the desert-like climate that is Southern California. No more leaf-peepers in New England; no more skiing in Colorado; no more ice-fishing in Minnesota. This is no joke. We must fight for the four season. Fight for clean air. AND ESPECIALLY, fight for clean water. No human being can survive without water–lots of it. To learn more go here. (Five Reasons to Like the Environmental Protection Agency)

I love talking about the seasons and how in some climates they are SO different. Which season is your favorite? Whichever you choose, I hope you don’t lose it. Help protect our earth. Help save our seasons or you might become nostalgic for weather you will never see again. Help fight for the EPA.

Photo source: Pinterest

Will You Become Nostalgic for Weather?

Will You Become Nostalgic for Weather?

Living in Southern California provides many positives: a major one, weather. The Golden State truly provides days and days of sunshine which can lift the spirits and certainly makes nature-deficit disorder a rarity. (Coined by Richard Louv, nature-deficit disorder refers to people of all ages who are disconnected from nature, spending inordinate amounts of time indoors.) But in most climates, we are lured outdoors to walk or participate in sports. Even in cold climates nature provides ice skating and skiing, snowshoeing and sledding.

SEASONAL AFFECT DISORDER or SAD

Variety is the spice of life and that is also true for weather. People begin to feel depressed if the sun doesn’t shine for days at a time. I’ve written about that too–in a post about Seasonal Affect Disorder. Those of you living in temperate climates are familiar with this condition: SAD is diagnosed when a patient experiences depression and other symptoms for at least two consecutive years during the same season; and it generally applies to people dealing with long winters where sunlight is rare and the body begins to suffer–not only from outdoor activities being curbed but also from the physical affect that light has on the body. Because there is a definite relationship between light sources to the body and the production of serotonin which affects our moods.

FOUR SEASONS ARE THE BEST!

But though sunlight can lift the spirits, a person’s memory bank of weather also plays a part–we love rainy days and snow days and autumn days. A temperate climate allows for FOUR SEASONS that have definite borders. When autumn approaches, leaves change color and drop from the trees, grass begins to form deep roots instead of height, the air gets cooler and the days shorter. Fall requires different clothing and there is nothing better than a brisk walk in brisk fall air. It has its own perfume, its own way of touching the skin.

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA DOES NOT HAVE FOUR SEASONS. IS THAT GOOD?

In Southern California the shift into fall is often imperceptible. Yes, the days get shorter, some of the trees drop their leaves, but much of the vegetation keeps on flowering so that there is not a definitive change. I miss that. Then suddenly it is Christmas and folks, like those in the midwest where I lived most of my life, are driving cars with an evergreen tied to the top. But it takes some adjusting to drape Italian lights in foliage that is still bursting with greenery. Winter here is our rainy season. The nights do get colder and the rose bushes and hydrangeas get cut back. But there’s no snow. You can travel to northern parts of California to ski, but last year our snow depth in the mountains was very low. This year it is greatly improved.

WOW, SPRING IS COMING AND I ENVY YOU IN TEMPERATE CLIMATES!

Here’s my point: many of you are about to or just now experiencing the beginning of spring. I envy you. The air begins to warm and you shed your jacket by 11:00 am. The trees begin to flower–redbuds, forsythia, then magnolia and fruit trees. Tulips and daffodils push up from the earth and the days get longer. You find yourself pulled from your home where people’s voices once again blend with birdsong and the buzz of tires on the street. It’s truly a rebirth and often produces a smile from a stranger. Because we all feel it–new life, green grass, bluer skies.

WOULD YOU WANT TO LOSE YOUR FOUR SEASONS???

Nostalgia for weather accentuates how grateful I am for nature and all that it provides us. So when spring begins and like a wave of blessing speeds across our country warming the winds and pulling people outside–consider: we need to protect the seasons, make sure that we don’t lose them, honor all the memories we have of spring, summer, winter and fall.

PLEASE FIGHT FOR THE EPA! FIGHT FOR YOUR SEASONS

So forgive me for this final thought, but if the Evironmental Protection Agency is defunded the way the current government is talking about–the entire country might eventually have the desert-like climate that is Southern California. No more leaf-peepers in New England; no more skiing in Colorado; no more ice-fishing in Minnesota. This is no joke. We must fight for the four season. Fight for clean air. AND ESPECIALLY, fight for clean water. No human being can survive without water–lots of it. To learn more go here. (Five Reasons to Like the Environmental Protection Agency)

I love talking about the seasons and how in some climates they are SO different. Which season is your favorite? Whichever you choose, I hope you don’t lose it. Help protect our earth. Help save our seasons or you might become nostalgic for weather you will never see again. Help fight for the EPA.

 Photo source: Pinterest

What American Kids Need: Love, Education and Public Schools

What American Kids Need: Love, Education and Public Schools

We all know what education is and we know its purpose. I would not be writing this piece if I had not had some form of education. But I also feel compelled to support with great emotion–public education.

MY PERSONAL INVESTMENT IN PUBLIC EDUCATION 

I minored in education in college and spent five years teaching at the secondary level in a public high school. This school in the far Chicago suburbs pulled together a very diverse group of students, but wow, it was amazing. I loved teaching. It was hard work. I not only had to be facile with my subject matter, but also be able to help students work through physical, social and demographic challenges. They often struggled and so did I. After all, I was so young! Right out of college. But by the time I left teaching, my reputation was a good one and I had some serious “how to deal with unrest and problems” chops. I gave everything I could to those young people.

PLEASE TOLERATE A FEW DEFINITIONS 

But for this subsequent discussion, a definition. These are taken from the website: Center for Public Education:

  • Public education means a tuition-free, publicly funded system that must provide an education to each child in a neighborhood school within a publicly governed school system. The academic standards, the teachers and administrators, the values and methods of operation employed in these schools are all subject to oversight and direction by public policy-making bodies. The rights of students and parents are legally defined and are enforceable by the courts. 
  • Public education means that a wide range of decision making resides at the community level through the operation of locally elected school boards and through other avenues of direct citizen participation in the schools.
  • Public education also means a system in which parents and the general public can obtain detailed information about their schools and be involved in school activities.

The website then goes on to ask a few very important questions.

  • What would education and society in America be like if these principles weren’t at the core of what is meant by public education?
  • What if education were turned over to publicly funded schools that did not have to adhere to these principles?
  • Which of these principles would be eliminated ?
  • Which children would be left behind?

It is so wrong and totally unfortunate when the needs of children are abandoned because of an ideologue’s vision of the future that does not encompass what is good for EVERY child.

SO LET’S TALK ABOUT RELIGION  

Would you believe that I attended private schools (Catholic) from grade school through college, but will always advocate for public education? Why? Many reasons. First because private education should be a personal choice–a family willing to PAY FOR the opportunity to send their child to a religious-based school. Or to get a scholarship to a private school that specializes in some facet of education. PRIVATE schools should not be given funds that are to be appropriated through our tax base to public schools.

Our country was founded on a basis that does not honor one religion over another. There have been times in our history when that principle was seriously challenged–and still is. But when we come together with a variety of beliefs into the PUBLIC FORUM, we should agree to educate American children and not skew educational content to one religion or another. (Note: my grandchildren attend a public school in California. If their parents wish them to participate in any kind of religious education–then they attend AFTER school hours.)

THE CHARTER SCHOOL PROBLEM

The fact that in our history individual citizens have tried to keep their children from attending integrated schools, schools in certain neighborhoods, schools that are housed in older facilities–have contributed to what we are experiencing now: the charter school.

Here is a clear explanation of why charter schools have twisted the law to allow them to utilize public funds. It was written by Barbara Miner a reporter who lives in Milwaukee. She writes: For more than a quarter-century, I have reported on the voucher program in Milwaukee: the country’s first contemporary voucher initiative and a model for other cities and state programs, from Cleveland to New Orleans, Florida to Indiana.

Milwaukee’s program began in 1990, when the state Legislature passed a bill allowing 300 students in seven nonsectarian private schools to receive taxpayer-funded tuition vouchers. It was billed as a small, low-cost experiment to help poor black children, and had a five-year sunset clause.

That was the bait. The first “switch” came a few weeks later, when the Republican governor eliminated the sunset clause. Ever since, vouchers have been a divisive yet permanent fixture in Wisconsin.

So by eliminating the sunset clause of five years, the program continued and expanded. The program WAS NEVER put to a public vote in the state of Wisconsin.

HERE ARE THE RESULTS: Today, some 33,000 students in 212 schools receive publicly funded vouchers, not just in Milwaukee but throughout Wisconsin. If it were its own school district, the voucher program would be the state’s second largest. The overwhelming majority of the schools are religious.

Miner goes on to explain just what that means: Even if every single student at a school receives a publicly funded voucher, as is the case in 22 of Milwaukee’s schools, that school is still defined as private. Because they are defined as “private,” voucher schools operate by separate rules, with minimal public oversight or transparency.

Miner lists some of the ways these schools can get around laws that normally govern publicly funded schools.

  1. They can sidestep basic constitutional protections such as freedom of speech.
  2. They do not have to provide the same level of second-language or special-education services.
  3. They can suspend or expel students without legal due process.
  4. They can ignore the state’s requirements for open meetings and records.
  5. They can disregard state law prohibiting discrimination against students on grounds of sex, pregnancy, sexual orientation, or marital or parental status.

You pay taxes for the public schools in the area where you live. If you are good to go with the above–fine. I AM NOT! Violating the above principles that are so deeply a part of public education is not giving children LOVE and SUPPORT. Milner’s article attracted my attention, BECAUSE LIKE ME, she attended Catholic schools. But she writes: I believe that this country’s long-standing defense of religious liberty is a hallmark of our democracy. But the voucher program has distorted this all-important concept of religious freedom. 

The voucher program allows private schools to use PUBLIC DOLLARS to:  proselytize and teach church doctrine that is at odds with public policy;

  1. that women must be submissive to men
  2. that homosexuality is evil
  3. that birth control is a sin
  4. that creationism is scientifically sound.

Privatizing our public schools while forcing taxpayers to pay and not giving then A VOICE, WEAKENS OUR DEMOCRACY. And this is not a small amount of public money that is being funneled into these charter schools. Miner states that this year alone, the tab for the private and religious schools in Wisconsin is 248 million. That’s a chunk of change being taken from the public school system and weakening the education given to many children in that state.

I know you have your own opinions on this topic. But please consider: though it has had deep-seated problems PUBLIC EDUCATION PROVIDES THE BEDROCK FOR PROGRESS IN OUR COUNTRY and is needed to EDUCATE GOOD CITIZENS.

The solution is to fix our public schools–not abandon them. Our public schools are the only institutions with the commitment, the capacity, and the legal obligation to teach all children. With Betsy DeVos’ confirmation, the entire country now must answer this question: If public education is an essential bedrock of our democracy, why are we  undermining it? Why are we thinking of abandoning it?

Want to fight back–attend the school board meetings at your local high school. Get involved. After all, WE THE PEOPLE still have a say.

Photo Credit: onelineathens.com  

Three Ways to Save on Your Meds

Three Ways to Save on Your Meds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Modern medicine supports our health in ways far beyond what generations before us experienced. Research and development of new medications is ongoing, but the cost of these “wonder” drugs might take your breath away. For seniors, that’s where Medicare Part D comes in–providing you access to medications that keep you healthy while helping your budget too.

I have been asked to participate in the #PartDAtWalgreens campaign, sponsored by Walgreens. But please know, though I have been compensated, all opinions are my own.

My husband and I use Medicare Part D. Each fall we review our list of prescription medications to see if they are covered by insurance, taking into account the benefit of using an insurance plan’s preferred pharmacy, which saves us money. We know that even if you didn’t alter your Medicare coverage plan during open enrollment, some changes may have been made that can raise or lower your prescription drug costs. In order to get the most from your benefit under Medicare’s Part D coverage, talk to a pharmacist at your local Walgreens pharmacy and check out the three steps below that could provide you with potential savings on your 2017 prescriptions.

  • Check to see if your plan utilizes preferred pharmacies.
  • Check whether a less expensive prescription drug brand or generic is an option available to you.
  • And when you fill your prescriptions, consider a 90-day refill. This may not only save you money, it provides you with the convenience of eliminating trips to the pharmacy.

Depending on the design of your plan, your coverage and your prescription drugs, you can pay higher copays at one pharmacy in comparison to another if your pharmacy is not in your plan’s preferred network. That’s why it’s important to make sure your pharmacy of choice is in your plan’s preferred network.

The Walgreen’s pharmacist will work with you, talk to you and guide you to prescription savings. For more information, go HERE.

What’s a Copay and How Walgreens Saves You Money

Your Walgreens pharmacist will provide detailed information about your copay– your out-of-pocket payment that you make for your medication, supplementing what your insurer has already allowed for a particular drug. You want to make sure that your copays are as low as possible. Walgreens can help you save with lower copays, because they are a PREFERRED PHARMACY with many Part D prescription plans nationwide. For some of these plans Walgreens offers copays as low as $0 on certain generic drugs.

Talk to a Walgreens pharmacist about the cost of each of the drugs you will be using in 2017. Different pharmacies can charge different copays for the same drug. But because Walgreens is a preferred pharmacy, they have an agreement with many Part D plans to offer you lower copays, costing you less. And certainly you want to get the best benefit. So if you are a Medicare beneficiary seeking help navigating prescription drug costs, you can find additional resources HERE.

Information Can Help Your Health and Your Wallet

Sometimes life can get in the way and prevent the necessary research that leads to a better decision. In a RECENT WALGREENS SURVEY of prescription users, 34 percent admitted that they weren’t taking the time to review their prescription drug plan prior to renewing it.

Almost one-in-five (19%) admitted they did not have a good understanding of their plan. To break this down: 22% admitted that they look at just one component of their plan, checking, for example, to see if the meds they need are covered, yet not looking at other important considerations. One in five interviewed, or 21%, falsely believed that all pharmacies charge the exact same copay.

And…33% did not know that they could switch pharmacies outside of the enrollment period–in other words, any time of year.

OKAY–the above affect your wallet, but as a nurse, I’m concerned with the following statistic: to manage their budget, 12% of the people interviewed stated that they delayed filling a current prescription and 9% stated that they skipped doses to stretch the medication supply and thus save money. Your health comes first. Your doctor prescribes a dose and administration of that dose for a reason–to get you well or keep you well or treat a chronic condition. Bottom line: make that phone call or talk to your Walgreens pharmacist. Your health depends on it.

Balance® Rewards Program

Another reason for choosing Walgreens is their Balance® Rewards loyalty program. Consumers can earn points at Walgreens for items they are already buying and for services they are already using at Walgreens like film processing**. The program also awards points for filling prescriptions in store (except in AR, NJ or NY). It’s a double win—Med D customers don’t just get copays that are as low as $0 on certain generic drugs on select plans—they also get points. It works like this: the more points you earn; the more rewards you’ll get. A no-brainer.

Examples of points through Balance® Rewards: For filling a 30-day prescription you get 100 points. For filling a 90-day prescription** you get 300 points. For being immunized at Walgreens—a flu shot, shingles vaccine, pneumonia etc.–you get 100 points. And for shopping items, you’ll get 10 points per $1 on almost everything—every day and bonus points on featured products each week.

Help for Caregivers

Are you a caregiver, unable to find time to visit a pharmacy, but greatly in need of advice on the use of a medication, cost, duration of administration etc.? Talk to a Walgreens pharmacist on the phone or utilize WALGREENS ONLINE TOOLS to manage prescriptions. After signing in with a password, you can hold a confidential and secure chat with a member of Walgreens pharmacy team. When I talked to Mireille Philiposian, the pharmacist at my local Walgreens, she stressed that you can get FREE expert advice day or night online or with the Walgreens mobile app. You will also be able to print or receive an email chat transcript for reference—very helpful when you are in a stressful situation.

There are many different ways you can switch to Walgreens:

  • Visit Walgreens.com and transfer online.
  • Download the Walgreens mobile app and follow instructions for transferring
  • Call and transfer over the phone.
  • Stop at your neighborhood Walgreens and talk to a pharmacist.

Your Health Is a Gift

I blog about health on Boomer Highway. I’m a huge advocate of prevention. But I know that sometimes folks are just not comfortable ASKING for help. Don’t be. Healthcare professionals want to help. Your pharmacist might be busy, but he or she can provide answers, put an end to worry. He or she can advise you if you are having a reaction to a drug and need to stop taking that drug and try a substitute. Prevention also means a flu shot or other immunizations. Stop at the counter. ASK. Stay healthy and enjoy the gift of health.

**Prescription points limited to 50,000 points per calendar year and cannot be earned in AR, NJ or NY or on prescriptions transferred to a participating store located in AL, MS, OR or PR. Due to state and federal laws, points cannot be earned or redeemed on some items. Other restrictions apply. Complete details at Walgreens.com/Balance

#PartDAtWalgreens

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Walgreens. The opinions and text are all mine.

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