See the Eclipse: Support Science & Global Warming

See the Eclipse: Support Science & Global Warming

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

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

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

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

See the Eclipse: Support Science & Global Warming

Neil deGrasse Tyson

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

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

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

Photos: Seattle Met; Pinterest;

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Alternative Religion: Is There Such a Thing?

Alternative Religion: Is There Such a Thing?

The little boats saved the troops at Dunkirk.

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

NO NAMES 

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

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

LIVING BY EXAMPLE 

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

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

PREACHERS ARE HUMAN & COME IN ALL STRIPES

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

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

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

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

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

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

PUBLIC SERVANTS

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

MORE PUBLIC SERVANTS: DUNKIRK  

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit Taylor Homes

SaveSave

SaveSave

The Health of Our Families? A Global Concern

 The Health of Our Families? A Global Concern

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHAT ARE WE DOING ABOUT IT? 

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

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

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

SOME GOOD NEWS and BAD NEWS

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

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

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

TRUMP’S PLANS & PUBLIC CONFIDENCE

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

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

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

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

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

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

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Do You Like To Vacuum ? Applauding Manual Labor

Do You Like To Vacuum ? Applauding Manual Labor

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

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

The Decline of Manual Labor Jobs

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

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

But Hanson And I Have A Question For You

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

Does TV Have the Answer?

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

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

Those I Depended On

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

More of Us Need to Do Physical Stuff

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

Philosophical Benefits of Manual Labor

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

Final Thought 

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

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

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

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

 

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

From My Inbox To Yours

From My Inbox To Yours

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

FINDING CONTROL

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

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

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

DISCONNECTING

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

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

WHAT I WRITE ABOUT

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

WE ARE PHYSICAL AND SPIRITUAL BEINGS

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

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

I LOVE CONNECTION

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

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

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

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

PHOTO: thanks to pexels.com

America’s Backyard, Part 2

America's Backyard, Part 2

This is Sentinel Dome Rock. I climbed it!

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

“WHY I BLOG…”

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

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

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

“SUPPORTING WHAT I BELIEVE IN” 

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

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

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

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

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

America's Backyard, Part 2

Warming on a friendly rock.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“YOU CAN DO THIS TOO”

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

CAR TRIP THIS SUMMER? ENJOY.

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

America's Backyard, Part 2

Meadows to explore.

America's Backyard, Part 2

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

Making America Sick Again? But It’s National Nurses Week!

Making America Sick Again? But It's National Nurses Week!

MASA: Making America Sick Again or as one Congressman from Idaho argued: “Nobody dies because they don’t have access to health care.” Well, as a good RN would, let me EXAMINE THAT.

CAN A STORY HAVE A HAPPY ENDING? SOMETIMES… 

Once upon a time there was a kind leader who examined the number of people in his country who were sick with chronic illnesses or whose children had birth defects or whose parents could no longer work and pay the bills because of health concerns. And he worked and read, consulted and studied and called in the experts to fix the problem. And with their help, he did. Healthcare became a thing. People who could never afford to see a doctor on a regular basis were now able to. It was amazing. It was called the Affordable Care Act. 

Because consider: a friend of mine who does landscape work for a living had what is termed catastrophic insurance. It meant that before his policy paid anything on a claim, he had to pay 10,000 dollars out of pocket.

Another kind of insurance that is not user friendly involved limited networks. If you happened to be traveling and became ill or were injured, there was no guarantee you would be near a hospital or med center that accepted your insurance. Other types of health insurance products that did not qualify as major medical health insurance include: Short-Term Health Insurance and Gap Insurance (Accident, Critical Illness, Telemedicine, etc).

My friend who is a landscaper was thrilled when he could get The ACA, the Affordable Care ACT. Bye, bye catastrophic insurance.

NOW THE UPDATE ON THAT AMAZING STORY

But then a group of mostly men looked around and decided to change things. They did not take their time, they threw something together and then voted YES on it. They were all so happy to be taking the ACA away from my landscape worker friend and millions of others.

And when some of the people who also loved the ACA argued, ONE MAN IN PARTICULAR stood up and said: NO ONE DIES BECAUSE THEY DON’T HAVE HEALTHCARE. No one dies. No one dies. (This is the guy I mentioned above, the one from Idaho. But I won’t hold that against Idaho. They’ll get rid of him. As they say, he’s toast.) Sorry, as a nurse I should not sound mean. But I am angry.

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STORY

I don’t know what kind of life this Idaho guy lives or who he knows and how his heart beats when he’s by himself in the dark. But hasn’t every one of us at some time in our lives said: LIFE IS GOOD IF YOU HAVE YOUR HEALTH.

Here are some voices from friends and family:

  • I had breast cancer and I had to have surgery and chemotherapy and radiation and now I get up each day and life is good because I have my health.
  • My child was born with a heart defect and every moment of my life from his birth on was concerned with the surgeries, all the testing, how the defect would hurt his normal growth. Now all the lives in my family are good because he is doing so well.
  • My husband has a chronic form of leukemia and he has fought this battle for years and now with amazing medical research he is taking a new medication and his blood work is great, he feels good. Wow. Life is good when you have your health.

We all have a story to add to these three. Right?? I’m not being a Twinkle Fairy here. You can live a clean, perfect life where you eat well, exercise, get a lot of sleep, practice safe sex, give to charity–I mean illness, cancer, accidents, birth defects–this is vicarious stuff. You do not call it upon yourself.

DON’T BUY THE GUILT TRIP FROM OUR LAWMAKERS  

But there is this cynical current of thought running under that statement: Nobody dies because they don’t have access to health care. No One Dies : because it’s your fault!

Just look at me, I’m healthy and it’s because I made that happen. Oh yes, some congressmen would like to slap that on each American citizen. YOU ARE TOTALLY RESPONSIBLE for your health. So don’t ask us to help you. Healthcare is not a right. It’s your fault if you get sick .

Want to talk turkey about that?

  • water quality (government) Think Flint, Michigan.
  • air quality (government)  Think the Environmental Protection Act and how that is being harmed.
  • access to healthy fresh fruits and vegetables (income inequality works against this. How about raising the minimum wage??)
  • access to safe neighborhoods (racism affects this; how about getting rid of the NRA or at least put in some laws that control the sale of guns. My God mentally ill people can buy a gun now. ARE YOU EVEN KIDDING ME???))
  • ability to know what foods to eat, how to exercise — (poverty works against this)

So go ahead and rebuke my ideas. Comment. I’m waiting.

  • If you have your health you can go to school, get an education. (well, Betsy would disagree, but so far we still have public schools.)
  • If you have your health your chances of getting work and getting a paycheck are greatly improved.
  • If you have your health you can feed yourself and hopefully your family. If you have one.
  • People without good health often do not have a companion and they do not reproduce. They are lonely and depressed. GOOD HEALTH IS LIFE-GIVING.
  • AND THAT’S THE WHOLE POINT.

If you don’t have good health, your entire life is affected. There might be twenty or more things YOU have to be concerned about before you can get a job. Before you can even get out the door to that job. Before people will hire you.

Ask someone who is handicapped. Has a chronic illness. Has hearing loss or is blind, lost a limb, was born with a birth defect.

NO ONE DIES BECAUSE THEY DON’T HAVE HEALTHCARE. Are you (lots of swear words here) kidding me? PEOPLE DIE EVERY DAY because they did not get treatment for cancer or a chronic disease.

NO ONE DIES BECAUSE THEY DON’T HAVE HEALTHCARE. WRONG!!! So Keep calm but then get angry. Call your Congressman or Congresswoman, your State Senators. Or write to them. Maybe the White House? Hmm. Not sure they know where the mailbox is. But keep calm and resist. Your health matters and the health of those you love.

 

Conversation Versus Confrontation Affects Our Children

Conversation Versus Confrontation Affects Our Children

When I was right smack in the middle of raising my daughters, five o’clock pm could be an awesome and a crazy time. Awesome, because my mother and I were always in conversation at that time, talking about her day and my day. Crazy because my daughters were doing their homework and they interrupted us. Which on the face of it was fine. My mother would wait, loved them like crazy. But often the topic SHE was relating to me was her passion–the news. What was happening: children starving in Africa, Inda. Or something going down in D.C.

Now I’m near to being in my mother’s place–drawn into the issues, the tension, the worry of what is going on in our country and in the world. But when I am with my children, I see the importance of pulling away from those topics and immersing myself in what concerns them: child-rearing and their jobs. Of course often they cross over–one affects the other. Believe me, I see the importance of both and wrote this in my work-in-progress novel: (Ella is the mother of a child who has gone missing)

It was not unlike when Ella had defended certain aspects of current culture to her mother Cecile, something she had done often. Cecile ripped apart the changing mores of society. But Ella defended change, because the result was Ella’s society, Ella’s culture. She lived in it and dealt with it and so she had defended it. She couldn’t condemn what was a part of her, what she had embraced and brought her child into. If she had condemned culture and society, then she would be condemning herself.

THOSE WHO POWER UP SOCIETY OFTEN MUST APPROVE OF IT. And then again, not always.

Let’s consider conversation versus confrontation. I like to think that when my mother and I spoke about our lives it was a conversation. And In fact right now–governments are forgetting conversation. They need to be reminded that diplomacy is all about airing one’s opinions but not in a bullying fashion. It’s not confrontation so that you make THE OTHER want to scream back at you–or drop a bomb on your country. It’s conversation, a sharing. The very word comes from Middle English and means living among, familiarity, intimacy; 

Krista Tippett is the host of a radio program ON BEING. She interviews movers, shakers, thinkers and her podcast has reached a global audience of 1.5 million listeners a month. On Being was listed in the iTunes top ten podcasts of 2014. Tippett was recently interviewed in TIME MAGAZINE.

TIME: (when discussing conversation versus confrontation) Are there limits to listening?

Krista: Listening is not just about being quiet while the other person talks, it is about being present and willing to be surprised and curious. That is muscle memory we have to build up.

TIME: What are you mulling over to explore next in your podcast?

Krista: This matter of what a conversation is, as opposed to a debate or confrontation. We don’t even know right now how to get the people we disagree with in the room with us, unless you set up a formal debate, and it is my ideas against your ideas. Public life is so unsettled, it creates this opening in which we can start to weave whatever common life is going to look like in the 21st century. Can we figure out what questions we have in common if we don’t have answers, and let those be the tools with which we think about how we create the world we want our children to inhabit?

Just think about that. If we continue to fight one another, we are leaving more chaos and confusion for the next generation. We need to listen to the millennials and those behind them. We need to balance their bright and fervent ideas with the history that we might carry with us–whatever age we are.

SO BACK TO MY MOTHER: I needed to understand (and I think I did) the passion she had for helping others as she aged, because she wanted to leave this world a better place. And she in turn had to understand THE CHANGES that I had already embraced with the very act of bringing children to live in this culture.

It’s an ongoing process–it’s a give and take. Conversation must continue. That intimacy. When Krista Tippett interviewed Richard Rohr, one of my favorite thinkers, he said something related to where my mother was and where I am right now:

To be a contemplative is to learn to trust deep time and to learn how to rest there and not be wrapped up in chronological time. Because what you’ve learned, especially by my age, is that all of it passes away. The things that you’re so impassioned about when you’re 22 or 42 don’t even mean anything anymore, and yet, you got so angry about it or so invested in it. So, this word “contemplation,” it’s a different form of consciousness. It’s a different form of time.

“It’s a different form of time” or a different way of feeling time, of living it.

When TIME Magazine also asked Tippett what she was reading, she answered: WHEN THINGS FALL APART by Pema Chodron. I was not familiar with that book, but it definitely relates to the chasm in conversation that we are now experiencing in the U.S.

About Chodron’s Book: How can we live our lives when everything seems to fall apart—when we are continually overcome by fear, anxiety, and pain? The answer, Pema Chödrön suggests, might be just the opposite of what you expect. Here, in her most beloved and acclaimed work, Pema shows that moving toward painful situations and becoming intimate with them can open up our hearts in ways we never before imagined. Drawing from traditional Buddhist wisdom, she offers life-changing tools for transforming suffering and negative patterns into habitual ease and boundless joy. 

Tippett then comments: ...things are always falling apart. That would be a thing for everyone in this country to remember–that actually the ground was never all that stable under our feet. Understanding is the nature of waking up…Tippett then says: 

In the 24/7 news environment, people are bombarded with the same story of what is catastrophic and corrupt and failing 25 times before lunch. They start to internalize that not as news but as the norm…(We must work against that.)

There are actually so many beautiful generative things happening in the world, and to end this discussion, I would like to mention that this is NATIONAL POETRY month. Maybe each of us could select a book of poetry and read at least one poem a day. Let me know what book you chose and if that helps THE CONVERSATION. Here is mine:

From New and Selected Poems by Mary Oliver: Have You Ever Tried to Enter the Long Black Branches …

No wonder we hear, in your mournful voice, the complaint that something is missing from your life!

Who can open the door who does not reach for the latch? Who can travel the miles who does not put one foot in front of the other, all attentive to what presents itself continually?

Who will behold the inner chamber who has not observed with admiration, even with rapture, the outer stone?

Well, there is time left–fields everywhere invite you into them.

And who will care, who will chide you if you wander away from where you are, to look for your soul?

Art: CONVERSATION OF A FRIDAY: Gallery 13 North in Lambertville recently signed international artist, Lourdes Ral from Barcelona, Spain.

Parenthood and Sesame Street

Parenthood and Sesame Street

Parenthood and Sesame Street

When I was raising my three children ( we have two daughters and a son), we were a nuclear family, not an extended family–no aunt or uncle or grandparent lived with us. For the time period we were pretty typical–I stayed home with the children and my husband commuted to his work in Chicago five days a week. I loved parenting, I thrived on it. That’s why as the girls got older, I convinced my husband to have another child and our son was born when I was in my forties. I believe having children keeps you young–but today I simply want to talk about and thank Sesame Street.

If I needed an extended hand of some sort to help me while raising my children–take a shower, finish a chore or have a few moments to myself–it was Sesame Street, offered by The Children’s Television Network, broadcast in those days on PBS Channel Eleven in Chicago. For years and even up to the present, all of my children can quote Ernie and Bert, Elmo and The Count or remember various film clips that taught them things–one of their favorite being “there goes another lobster trap.” Don’t ask me why–it was probably the accent of the speaker, but that’s what Sesame Street was–this world that came into our home and became a familiar friend, teaching and entertaining–often better than some babysitters.

Yes, Sesame Street taught ABCs and numbers, but it also taught how to write a story with a beginning middle and end, helped children travel to places they might never see–in our case from the plains of the Midwest to the Atlantic Ocean (lobster traps), mountains, the Arctic and more. The world came into our family room in the form of music of different cultures and dance forms (Savion Glover tapped away on Sesame Street while rhyming.My son was enthralled.

As a bonus, Sesame Street consistently created humor for any parent or guardian watching. There were jokes and puns that children might not get right away, but over the years when they themselves were parenting–that aha moment would come, making the experience joyful all over again. (Why are the two pals called Ernie and Bert? Maybe because of the two pals in the famous film It’s A Wonderful Life!)

Recently a documentary about Sesame Street was released: Muppet Guy Talking–Secrets Behind the Show the Whole World Watched. It provides an intimate view of Jim Henson, the brains and genius behind the Muppets. Though it wasn’t his goal, Henson got into puppeteering on a local television show while in college. Enamored of the skill, he finished college, studying art and theater design and then producing Sam and Friends (a puppet show) for six years. Assisting him was a fellow student named Jane Nebel, whom he married in 1959.

For thousands of years people have created various types of puppets–but Henson’s was the new kid on the block. At that time, most hand puppets had solid heads (think Kukla and Ollie) but Kermit’s face was made to be malleable so he could move his mouth in synchronization with his speech. He could also draw the viewer in because his arms were attached to rods that moved more like those of a marionette. Henson once said that in order for a puppet to work on television, it had to have “life and sensitivity.” Thus was born the Muppets.

Henson made period appearances with these puppets on the Today Show, until he was invited to work with creator Joan Ganz Cooney on Sesame Street. He hesitated, not certain that he wanted to become a children’s entertainer. But Bert, Ernie, Big Bird, Grover and all the other Sesame Street puppets became the core of the show. Children LOVED them. I loved them.

In the documentary, Frank Oz talks about Henson’s genius–and reminds us not to call them children’s shows. “I’m going to ask you a question, what is a children’s film versus an adult’s film? I maintain that kids can handle more than people think. I don’t know how to perform for kids. In my opinion what happens when one performs for kids is one talks down to kids. And kids, anybody, they want to reach up. So we just do what we as adults think is fun and it will come through!”

After Henson joined Sesame Street, few would disagree that it was primarily Bert and Ernie, Big Bird, Grover and the rest who made Sesame Street so captivating. Joan Ganz Cooney once remarked that the group involved had a collective genius but that Henson was the individual genius. “He was our era’s Charlie Chaplin, Mae West, W.C. Fields and Marx Brothers, and indeed he drew from all of them to create a new art form that influenced popular culture around the world.”

Fran Brill, a puppeteer in the documentary, talked about the joys of working with a Muppet. “…it’s easier in a way to become a completely different character when you have a puppet on your arm. I would never get cast in a lot of things, as a three-year-old princess or a lot of the characters we came up with. Which was the fun of it. You’re more flexible as a puppeteer, but I still think a lot of the best puppeteers are good actors.”

The premiere of the film and the interviews with Oz, Brill and others took place a few days before the proposed federal budget was announced that would slash funding to the arts and public broadcasting. I am sure Jim Henson would be devastated. The core values that Sesame Street taught my children and millions of others are necessary for creating good citizens of our country–kindness, empathy and understanding. Try teaching or controlling ten, twenty, hundreds, thousands of human beings who don’t have ANY or few of those qualities. CHAOS. And in our world today when many families must have both parents work, Sesame Street can be that extension, that helper for growing children.

Jim Henson’s death at an early age was a great loss for all children and for adults as well. A TIME article about his life states: Henson was a kind, infinitely patient man. Those who worked for him say he literally never raised his voice. Frank Oz, the puppeteer behind Bert, Miss Piggy and many others, was Henson’s partner for 27 years. “Jim was not perfect, but I’ll tell you something–he was as close to how you’re supposed to behave toward other people as anyone I’ve ever known.” In 1990, at age 53, Henson died very suddenly after contracting an aggressive form of pneumonia.

Jim Henson and all the Muppets and their puppeteers gave my family hours of laughter, education and just profound good feelings. Children soak up what they are exposed to–the quality and gifts of Sesame Street have helped form good friends, students, lovers and parents. The lessons taught on Sesame Street were potent and unforgettable. Quoting TIME again: Henson may influence the next century as much as this one, as his viewers grow up carrying his vision.

Thanks to TIME MAGAZINE, Jim Henson: The TV Creator

Photo Credits: Muppet Wiki, Good Housekeeping

Michelle Obama with Elmo and can anyone help me with the name of the other Muppet??

Parenthood and Sesame Street

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