Daddy’s Penny Box

Daddy's Penny Box

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daddy's Penny Box

No small accomplishment. Dad would be proud.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

Photo credit: Ebay, Amazon

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Do You Like To Vacuum ? Applauding Manual Labor

Do You Like To Vacuum ? Applauding Manual Labor

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

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

The Decline of Manual Labor Jobs

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

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

But Hanson And I Have A Question For You

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

Does TV Have the Answer?

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

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

Those I Depended On

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

More of Us Need to Do Physical Stuff

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

Philosophical Benefits of Manual Labor

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

Final Thought 

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

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

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

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

 

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From My Inbox To Yours

From My Inbox To Yours

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

FINDING CONTROL

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

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

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

DISCONNECTING

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

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

WHAT I WRITE ABOUT

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

WE ARE PHYSICAL AND SPIRITUAL BEINGS

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

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

I LOVE CONNECTION

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

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

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

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

PHOTO: thanks to pexels.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tax Dollars Need to Be Spent In ALL Neighborhoods

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

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

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

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

A Divided Country Cannot Stand

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

Education Can Make a Difference 

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

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

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

Photo: www.Simply-magical.net

America’s Backyard, Part 2

America's Backyard, Part 2

This is Sentinel Dome Rock. I climbed it!

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

“WHY I BLOG…”

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

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

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

“SUPPORTING WHAT I BELIEVE IN” 

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

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

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

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

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

America's Backyard, Part 2

Warming on a friendly rock.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“YOU CAN DO THIS TOO”

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

CAR TRIP THIS SUMMER? ENJOY.

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

America's Backyard, Part 2

Meadows to explore.

America's Backyard, Part 2

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

Creative Power: A Mother’s Actions & Words

Creative Power: A Mother's Actions & Words

My husband bought me flowers for Mother’s Day. He often jokes that Mother’s Day and Father’s Day were created by Hallmark. So I looked it up. The American incarnation of Mother’s Day was created by Anna Jarvis in 1908 and became an official U.S. holiday in 1914. Jarvis would later denounce the holiday’s commercialization and spent the latter part of her life trying to remove it from the calendar. She did not succeed. I love Mother’s Day, a time to think more intensely about my own mother and a day when I am guaranteed phone calls and gifts from my own three children. It’s wonderful.

Birth: An Ongoing Process

Once a mother gives birth, she day to day continues that birthing process, determining what we will become, the person we will be because of her physical love, guidance and nurturing. The words a mother says and the choices she makes in her raising, profoundly affects the person each of us becomes.

Introducing the Outside World 

The womb is great. It’s the time the mother has total control over her child, literally takes the kid with her everywhere–controls the environment. After birth??? Is that person supporting the head? Does my aging aunt have a good grip on the bottle? “Oh that’s okay, I’ll change his diaper, his skin is well… ”  You don’t want to say he’ll get a diaper rash if I don’t do this. We’ve all been there and it gets worse, because we often see the control we have as very fragile and tenuous. But is there a lucky charm?

When Tess’s daughter Sara almost loses her sight in a dumb accident, she has to release her mother-fears and at the same time release her daughter into the real world.

“It is one month after the accident. Sara no longer has to wear an eye patch so Tess takes the children to the pool. Summer is ending and pool is quiet…The child has a large inner tube that she twirls in the water, throwing her head back and laughing as she goes around and around. Tess feels a rush of contentment and leans back to look up at the solid blue sky…”  Later that night, after she tucks her two children in bed and they profess their love and that they will see her in the morning, she has a final thought about the future and the love they share. “Tess stops. She listens, the words falling on her with their weight of wonder. And welcoming all of it, she holds them, keeps them like a charm her two have hung gently around her neck.”

Then Comes the Birds and the Bees

Consider Cara, in the seventh grade, moving closer to body changes that will eventually make her a woman. But right now, she’s beginning to bump into that adult world, and one night tells her mother: “Tom Brody said I was a sexpot. But I’m not fat, Mom, and I don’t look anything like a pot. I don’t get it.”

Divorced and struggling with her own sex life, Cara’s mother goes to bed that night, realizing that the words and ideas she will share with her daughter are crucial.

“Cara’s question about sexpot comes back to me; half asleep, the fatigue of the day taking over, I pretend I am her age, wrestling with the word myself, struggling to visualize it. All that forms in my mind is something round and soft. Sexpot. Maybe my own mother, her belly, when as a kid I needed comfort and plunged my head into her warm, apron-covered lap. Yes, that’s it. I fall asleep.”

Raising a Child is Always about Looking Forward and Looking Back 

Rachel has just been divorced from her husband and charged with the deft process of raising her daughter Heather–who of course is suffering because of the divorce. But not all ties will ever be cut. Rachel has spent the better part of her day taking her mother-in-law to the dentist. Now home, she tries to organize her thoughts with the reality of this situation that is her LIFE.

“At the kitchen sink Rachel turned on the water. She stood waiting for it to get warm. Though she could hear Heather’s chatter in the next room and feel the light and space around her, she was still looking down, still seeing her mother-in-law’s face and remembering what a doctor once told her at a cocktail party. ‘You wouldn’t believe the number of children women are capable of having. Why even after they’re dead, you can cut open an ovary and there they are–all those seeds.’ Rachel bent to the water, cupping her hands. In a moment she would hold her face in the towel for as long as she needed to.”

No Matter Your Life Choice, There’s a Mother In It–Your Own

When my mother was slowing dying, fighting dementia, living in the Memory Unit of a Senior Facility, I had to write about how I felt–lost, useless, angry, confused. All of it. There was no ONE MESSAGE anyone could give me to soothe my state of mind. And if it happens to you, forgive yourself. Because there is NO ONE MESSAGE for this time in your life–the point of not wanting to hear the last line in the excerpt below.

“Ruth was awake, not wanting to be, but awake. Dan was softly snoring next to her, their upper arms touching, so that his sonorous noises almost vibrated through her. But her thoughts went immediately to her mother–the ninety-six-year-old probably having her breakfast, sitting in her wheelchair, her hair flat against the bones of her head, her hand trembling, raising the lukewarm cup of coffee. No aid had called during the night–no Kathy, Betty Mary. This the pattern of her nights and days, ups and downs: how was mom or how mom was. When to plan–anything; or how to plan anything. But you’re so fortunate to still have her.”

Thanks for reading and sharing these moments with me.

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY. Every day the role of being a mother and having a mother is one to hold close, to consider and to most often cherish.

Tess, Cara and her mother, Rachel and Ruth continue to live in my collection of short stories, A Mother’s Time Capsule. I had the privilege of talking to M Eileen Williams about A Mother’s Time Capsule on her podcast on blogtalkradio.com Thanks again, Eileen. http://www.blogtalkradio.com/feisty-side-of-fifty/2017/05/04/elizabeth-havey-a-mothers-time-capsule     M Eileen Williams and Feisty Side of Fifty.

Artwork: XiPan Gallery Painting

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.

 

Saving Our Country’s Backyard

Saving Our Country's Backyard

Scenario ONE:

You have worked for over five years to make your backyard a place of enjoyment for your family. You have planted trees, shrubs and flowers, raked and weeded, spent money to fight disease in one of your trees and installed hardscape for more enjoyment of this outdoor space. Then one day a person from the government comes to your door and drops off a sign. Your backyard is now government property and has actually been purchased by a large corporation. The sign with their name will now hang on your fence and the use of your backyard is open to change.

Scenario TWO:

You live in an apartment, condo or public housing and in order to enjoy the outdoors you walk to a public park, a lakeshore or some open space. And wherever you live, when planning a vacation you consider a national park like Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon or Glacier National Park. But now you learn that the government has changed the use of public lands. Oil drilling will now be taking place at Yosemite National Park and off the ocean shore by Santa Barbara, California.

THIS IS NOT ALL SOME HORROR MOVIE

A crazy movie-maker’s nightmare? The first scenario maybe. The second–a distinct possibility under this new administration. AND I wrote the first scenario to underline that our national parks truly ARE the playgrounds and backyards of the citizens of these United States.

FAMILY FUN IN AMERICA  

Not all families can fly to Europe or some exotic island. But they can climb into the family car and drive to a national park or fly to a central location, rent a car and again drive, drive, drive. That’s what we did in 1988. What did we see with our two daughters? The Continental Divide; Mesa Verde; the north rim of the Grand Canyon; The Four Corners; Monument Valley and Brice, Zion and Arches National Parks. My husband is one amazing planner.

When we lived in Iowa, we drove west through the Badlands to Mount Rushmore, the Crazy Horse Monument and then on to Mammouth National Park. But all of these amazing preserved lands that make America the land of free space for families to enjoy are now in jeopardy. Why?

WHAT IS THE FUTURE FOR SUCH TRIPS??

When our current president was campaigning, he promised to “streamline the permitting process for all energy projects.” That could mean ignoring environmental protection laws or changing them to “encourage the production of [fossil fuel] resources by opening onshore and offshore leasing on federal lands and waters.” That means “open season” for oil and gas drilling on public lands.

A recent article in NEWSWEEK reported that Americans see our National Parks as a gift of high value. A report from Harvard’s Kennedy School this year found that 80% of Americans would agree to pay higher taxes to keep the National Parks—and attacking them directly would be politically unwise for any government rep seeking a future term.

Saving Our Country's Backyard

WHO MIGHT FIGHT FOR OUR NATIONAL PARKS??

Who is currently in charge? Who could you write to? Republican Congressman Ryan Zinke of Whitefish, Montana is now serving as the 52nd Secretary of the Interior. He has said that no president in his lifetime has been “more for us” than the current one. WE WILL SEE. Click here for their website.

So what does this guy do? The Secretary of the Interior is in charge of overseeing the National Park Service, as well as overseeing all federal lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, and presiding over the U.S. Geological Survey, a massive scientific research agency which studies America’s natural resources and anything that threatens them—like climate change, which you know who says is a hoax perpetrated by “the Chinese.” Read more here.

THE ANTIQUITIES ACT: REMEMBER THEODORE ROOSEVELT?

We also need to worry about the future of the Antiquities Act of 1906, which permits presidents to create national monuments on federal lands, so that they must be preserved indefinitely. President Obama used the Antiquities Act during his tenure to create 23 new national monuments, including a massive marine monument off the coast of Hawaii, and an expanse of wild land in north-central Maine. Republican presidents almost never use the Act. And under this president, things could get worse.

There is some good news. Dwight Pitcaithley, the former chief historian to the National Park Service says: “For every action there’s a reaction. This president doesn’t have carte blanche. I think if he goes too far, there will be a pushback by the public, and that will be felt in the next election.” Still, Pitcaithley sees no wins for the environment anytime soon. And he is worried.

Saving Our Country's Backyard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WRITE YOUR SENATORS, FIGHT FOR OUR BACKYARDS

Stay alert these next few years. Plan your vacations to our national parks. (We are going to Yosemite in a few weeks.) Enjoy the beauty and bounty of this land. If you do and you want to fight for it, use the web, write to your congressman and congresswomen. Make sure your voice is heard. And thanks for reading.

Saving Our Country's Backyard

The sun was low in the sky at Arches

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photos courtesy of John Havey

More Like This….

More Like This....

We all make choices about what we will read, what television presentations or films we watch. In today’s world of “fake news”–almost anyone with an opinion can throw us a curve ball. FACT-CHECKING helps. If you come across something you think might be false, you can go to various sources to confirm it’s truth factor. (I’m thinking news stories–better to have a few different sources before you think Pizzagate really occurred.)

Currently, I think we need to do that a lot. When reading non-fiction that lands on the best-seller list, we are at the mercy of the author. His or her book could still be a vehicle of lies and BS. Sad but true. An Index at the back of the book often helps confirm that the author did research and what and who the author’s sources were. (Think childhood immunizations cause autism. It took a long time for those lies to be correctly challenged and disproved.) Because if the author is known for a certain stance on that subject. then you probably know what you’re getting–unless the book is a complete turnaround or includes new research.

Rebecca Skloot had credentials when she started working on the book that became THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS. She attended Portland Community College to become a Veterinary Technician and then received a BS in biological sciences from Colorado State University, and an MFA in creative nonfiction. Her education prepared her for the ten years it took her to write the book which was on the NYT Best Seller list for two years and recently made into a film that appeared on HBO this past weekend.

Oprah Winfrey played the part of Deborah Lacks, Henrietta’s daughter, whose life was shadowed by the death of her mother. Henrietta died in 1951 at the age of 31 from cervical cancer. She had five children whose lives suffered after her death. And unbeknownst to this black family, a doctor at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, removed cancer cells from her cervix and these cells were able to reproduce outside the body in petri dishes at an astonishing rate. Called HeLa cells, they enabled researchers to make medical breakthroughs, one being Dr. Jonas Salk who is credited with the polio vaccine.

But there is a downside to this story–how it affected Deborah Lacks and her family. When you tell a person who is not a scientist that her mother’s cells are alive in a lab in Baltimore–complications occur. The Smithsonian writes: A postdoc called Henrietta’s husband one day…The way he understood the phone call was: “We’ve got your wife. She’s alive in a laboratory. We’ve been doing research on her for the last 25 years. And now we have to test your kids to see if they have cancer.” Which wasn’t what the researcher said at all. The scientists didn’t know that the family didn’t understand. From that point on, though, the family got sucked into this world of research they didn’t understand, and the cells, in a sense, took over their lives. Skloot in many ways was a gift to the Lacks family, explaining things as she learned them, comforting Deborah who helped Skloot with her investigation. Read the book! Watch the HBO presentation. We need more like this.

Now consider a work of fiction. Fiction, you make stuff up, right? But when an author takes on a topic that has complicated ramifications, is a topic that she does not feel she can speak to WITHOUT RESEARCH, then I applaud her for letting us know. Jodi Picoult, the author of 23 novels, did just that with her latest novel, SMALL GOOD THINGS.

The novel is about a black maternity nurse who is accused by a white supremacist for contributing to the death of his newborn son.

Picoult writes at the end of the novel: I expect pushback from this book… Believe me, I didn’t write this novel because I thought it would be fun or easy. I wrote it because I believed it was the right thing to do, and because the things that make us most uncomfortable are the things that teach us what we all need to know. In her review of SMALL GOOD THINGS Roxane Gay writes: ‘A writer is like a tuning fork: we respond when we’re struck by something…If we’re lucky we’ll transmit a strong pure note, one that isn’t ours, but which passes through us.’ To the Black people reading SMALL GREAT THINGS – I hope I listened well enough to those in your community who opened their hearts to me to be able to represent your experiences with accuracy. And to the white people reading SMALL GREAT THINGS – we are all works in progress. Personally, I don’t have the answers and I am still evolving daily.

I thought the book was well done. It was a page turner and though it tied up things a little too neatly at the end, I did trust Picoult’s research. In the back of the book, she delineates exactly who she talked to on both sides of the situation.

Roxane Gay also writes in her review: And therein lies the true challenge of writing across difference, or of writing a political novel — if the politics overcomes the prose, then it becomes something other than a novel. (Maybe that’s one way to reach an audience that needs to be reached)

Picoult writes: There is a fire raging and we have two choices: we can turn our backs, or we can try to fight it. Yes, talking about racism is hard to do, and yes, we stumble over the words—but we who are white need to have this discussion amongst ourselves. Because then, even more of us will overhear and then, I hope, the conversation will spread. (Picoult even provides her reader with a list of things you can do to get invovled.

Roxane Gay concludes: It is, in the end, the author’s note that leaves me feeling generous toward “Small Great Things” despite its shortcomings. Picoult wanted to write about race in contemporary America, and she does. The novel is messy, but so is our racial climate. I give Picoult a lot of credit for trying, and for supporting her attempt with rigorous research, good intentions and an awareness of her fallibility.

YES, again We need MORE LIKE THIS…

photo: The New York Times

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.