Women, Men and Birth Control

Women, Men and Birth Control

There is a definite positive economic component to birth control.

Sometimes I read something and I just know that the man writing the letter either hates women or sees all women as a threat. What else could be operating–if not bold ignorance.

So this in the Letters to the Editor, LA Times. ...taking birth control is a choice made by women who do not want to become pregnant. That is their prerogative, but it should not be the financial responsibility of taxpayers or employers. In those rare cases where pregnancy can be life-threatening, private or employer insurance, or even Medicaid, should of course cover it.

Some say that birth control for women and treatments for erectile dysfunction in men should be looked at equally. Not so. One is a medical condition, and the other is a choice. Bob, Laguna, CA.

To pick apart some of this:

  • instead of stating that women simply do not want to become pregnant (and I could write for hours about men who are totally unable to understand our sex’s physical and psychic responsibility as well as physical vulnerability that many men will never understand) the writer should instead realize that birth control is a means for women to POSTPONE pregnancy–for whatever reason they deem necessary;
  • practicing birth control negates his next line about financial responsibility to employers. The woman who plans for a child by taking birth control does so precisely to become economically and socially able to give birth and care for a child. Employers of women should encourage birth control that can aid the woman in learning her job–thus being able to prepare her employer and fellow workers for the time when she will be on maternity leave (if in fact that is offered to her, which it should be.)
  • Then the guy writes: in those rare cases where pregnancy can be life-threatening...I know this was a letter to an editor and thus brief. But he has no idea what he is talking about. If your only knowledge of a pregnancy is a wife, friend or co-worker and you really aren’t interested, then you can’t begin to understand all the conditions that can make a pregnancy life-threatening NOT ONLY FOR THE WOMAN BUT FOR HER CHILD. Thus: Maternal morbidity includes physical and psychologic conditions that result from or are aggravated by pregnancy and have an adverse effect on a woman’s health. The most severe complications of pregnancy, generally referred to as severe maternal morbidity (SMM), affect more than 50,000 women in the United States every year. Based on recent trends, this burden has been steadily increasing.

I’ll take a breath for a moment. I am a big advocate of birth control. I see it as a gift to women who can now control their ability to have children–can now plan for a family that they are able to support and care for. Regardless, life isn’t perfect. Some women discover they are unable to get pregnant after using birth control. Is there a relationship: “With a few notable exceptions, immediately after you stop using birth control, your fertility will go right back to what it was destined to be,” says Paul Blumenthal, M.D., professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Johns Hopkins. There are exceptions.

Some women, me included, find it takes months to get pregnant. And for others, this is definitely not the case. Today, some women who postpone motherhood are freezing their eggs to ward off changes that might affect their individual fertility.

Maybe the writer sees birth control as a means of having sex without responsibility. But as a nurse, I can attest that their is always responsibility connected to HAVING SEX. There is the possibility of social diseases that currently are on an increase. Condoms as a form of birth control help fight the passage of some venereal disease but certainly NOT ALL. And there’s the psychological responsibility of sex–sadness, abandonment, guilt to name a few. Contraception cannot address those issues, but it certainly can provide a time period of adjustment before an infant is introduced into the mix.

Then this guy writes:

  • Some say that birth control for women and treatments for erectile dysfunction in men should be looked at equally. Not so. One is a medical condition, and the other is a choice.

DAMN!! WRONG WRONG WRONG. First off, here is a link to the many medical conditions that doctors treat by prescribing birth control pills. (This editorial letter writer never uses the word PILL, but basically he must be referring to either the pill or the IUD. The pill can be costly and requires a monthly script. Some women cannot take the pill. Though a diaphragm is relatively inexpensive, in real life use it is only 88% effective. IUDS can be very expensive, but are said to be 99% effective.)

ERECTILE DISFUNCTION VS BIRTH CONTROL

The letter writer says ED is a medical condition. He’s right. It is.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, as many as 52 percent of men experience erectile dysfunction, with it affecting 40 percent of men age 40, and 70 percent of men age 70. Men who have heart disease, diabetes and are taking certain medications have higher risks of experiencing erectile dysfunction. (Jun 11, 2013)

But the real kicker? He says that birth control is a choice. No. Birth control is often needed to address issues related to feminine health. Once again, here are a few: Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, Endometriosis, Amenorrhea, Menstrual Cramps, PMS, and Primary Ovarian Insufficiency. If a woman has other medical conditions that indicate becoming pregnant would be adverse to her overall health, birth control could save her life. You can read about post-partum contraception here.

FINAL THOUGHTS 

Maybe the writer of this editorial letter had just had it with women–after all we are making news and we should be!! I do hope this guy doesn’t have a daughter who needs birth control. Ignorance can often be the beginning of a mistake that spirals out of control and hurts a young life. Women and girls deserve the right to plan their lives and their families. Birth control has allowed that. It helps women stay solvent economically and can prevent abortion — if the birth control works and if in fact that was something the writer didn’t want to mention. I just saw a government ad that said contraception leads to abortion. LIES.

Information is power, but only if it is the right information. And hey that means evidence-based and research-based–words I will continue to use freely despite what anyone says.

PS If we’re talking the cost of Birth Control, consider this: eight to nine thousand for a vaginal delivery and a C-section is higher.

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In 2018, What Will Concern You, Affect Your Happiness?

In 2018, What Will Concern You, Affect Your Happiness?

As we enter a new year, it’s always wonderful to see it as a clean slate where we set out certain goals and eagerly work to attain them. But I will digress, remembering instead a year that was not about finishing a writing project, celebrating a wedding or a graduation or even as basic as painting a room or cleaning the basement. It was a year of CHANGE.

QUESTIONS AND PLANS 

It was 2013 where the mundane LIST above was eclipsed by life itself. The first concern was my mother. Diagnosed with dementia, in her upper 90s and living in a senior home in the memory unit, we wondered if she would live through the year.

Second, and in my mind the concern of my entire life, was my husband, newly entered in a clinical trial for a chronic form of leukemia that had wrecked havoc on his blood counts so that he was in grave danger.

And third was our plan to put our house on the market and move closer to one of our children–because John had retired but was fighting this cancer and because it has always been our modus operandi to make things simpler when complications are on the horizon.

And though we could not see the future, our end goal was to be happy. But not before we complicated our lives. Yet in the process, found many blessings.

HOW IT ALL WENT 

My mother died that spring. We had already put our house on the market, planning for a waiting and real estate bargaining period of six months. WRONG. The first family that went through wanted the house. That’s called: it sold in one day–just before Mom died. Then we realized we had to find a place to live, pack and move on. In the end, we accomplished it all.

It was a time when our country was humming along. We read the paper, kept up with the news, but our brains had space to grieve (Mom’s funeral) heal (John’s body responding to the clinical trial drug) and plan (we flew to California and after many days of looking, found a home we liked and could afford.)

AMERICA CHANGES OVER NIGHT

Now as I publish this, it’s almost 2018. Yes, we got through 2017, but only because in our own personal lives it was not 2013, we were not in transition. Transition in a PHYSICAL, MENTAL SENSE. (You know that losing a parent and moving are two of the most stressful life events. And I might have lost my husband! No wonder my  hair thinned!)

But many folks are now losing their hair, seeking medical advice both physical and psychological (I asked my internist and she said yes, has never been busier, never seen so many SICK clients) because of the climate we are now living in. How your country treats you matters. Will 2018 be better?

If you’ve stopped reading, that’s okay. My musings on this blog HAVE to include how life affects others. Yes, I am able to carry happiness with me, but I also FEEL for others–on a daily basis. I feel for my country. I want healthcare for its citizens–and jobs, and good housing and education for all children and much more.

IF I WERE RICH, WOULD I FEEL DIFFERENT? 

Well I am rich in so many ways: family, friends, health, a lovely place to live, my 2001 Dodge that still runs. But recent research indicates that if I were economically RICH, I might feel differently about people like me or people who have much less than I have.

BOTTOM LINE: The rich experience happiness in ways different from me.

The research reveals that instead of “feeling positive emotions that involved connections with other people, their (the rich) happiness is more likely to be expressed as feelings that focus on themselves.”  

This finding was published this month in the journal EMOTION and according to the psychologists that conducted it, their findings seemed to fit a larger pattern. They wrote: People with money are more insulated from social and environmental threats. That gives them the luxury of being able to focus on their own ‘internal states and goals’ instead of having to worry about other people.

The report goes on to say: Those who inhabit the lower classes…often find themselves at the mercy of others. They may be more vulnerable to crime, or may be forced to send their children to underfunded schools. 

And for those who struggle to pay all their bills, here’s a fascinating result to their condition. In order to accomplish what they need to accomplish: the best coping strategy is to muddle through together. That requires them to focus on other people instead of themselves.  

RESEARCH and FINDINGS 

Researchers surveyed data from 1, 519 Americans, questioning them about their household income and their emotional state. The participants were from all 50 states and represented a mircrocosm of the entire country.

The survey probed people’s happiness, asking about 7 distinct positive emotions: amusement, awe, compassion, contentment, enthusiasm, love and pride. Each emotion was described in a concise statement and survey-takers used a 7 point scale to show how much they agreed or disagreed with the statement.

  • People from higher social classes were more likely to agree with the statement indicating that they felt pride: It feels good to know that people look up to me. But people with less money were more likely to agree with statements that indicated compassion: Nurturing others gives me a warm feeling inside. I develop strong emotions toward people I can rely on.
  • These associations held up even when the study authors controlled for factors including age, gender, political ideology and religious beliefs.

The conclusions that the researchers reached were stated thusly: …wealth predisposes you to different kinds of happiness. While wealthier individuals may find greater positivity in their accomplishments, status and individual achievements, less wealthy seem to find more positivity and happiness in their relationships, their ability to care for and connect with others.”  Read more here.

DIFFERENT OPINIONS 

Of course the above is a limited study. There have to be exceptions to this rule and/or after a person achieves a high level of success and they begin to realize that HELPING OTHERS and SHARING what they have made, is more meaningful than anything they could do. i.e. Bill Gates.

But it’s not true of many who think only of their own bank accounts and security.

As we begin 2018, the needs of many Americans have become more apparent. How can we help? At the granular level: a small donation; helping a neighbor; turning back to a relative that we’ve ignored, joining a group like Meals-On-Wheels (is it still funded?) or offering to visit the elderly in a nursing home. My husband meets with people who are homeless and/or jobless and helps them construct a resume and the “elevator speech.” Then he helps them search for a position.

At the heart of every man and woman is the desire to work and care for themselves. Let’s make 2018 a year of believing that and helping to make it so–in whatever way you possibly can.

Photo: Thanks to Napoleon Hill and Brainy Quotes

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Losing and Gaining…

Losing and Gaining...

The California fires as seen from space…

Last Monday, my husband had jury duty 15-20 miles away from our home in Ventura County, CA. We actually live RIGHT ON THE BORDER between LA County and Ventura County. He was at the Ventura Court House all day, but was not called to duty and was released from his obligation late Monday afternoon. Hours later, the Thomas Fire began in Ventura Country.

SANTA ANA WINDS

This is all new to us. We have been in California for only four years and yes, there have been fires. But California is a huge state–they were never near us. Now they were in our county and because of the Santa Ana winds–the fire was spreading. By Wednesday, the weather service was predicting winds up to 80 miles per hour. Okay, can a fire travel that many miles and threaten our home? Not likely. (It depends on the wind’s direction and the wind did ultimately shift, moving the fire toward Ojai and the ocean.) But more fires were starting in other areas. No matter how you evaluated the winds, the dry conditions, many  Californians were in danger.

PRESENT STATUS

We are fine–though the Thomas Fire has burned 173,000 acres, is only 15% contained and is now in Santa Barbara County. Evacuations are still being ordered. We gained, many lost. A video of a man jumping from his truck to save a wild rabbit went viral. Twenty-nine horses died in Ojai and many more endangered in fires near San Diego.

We did pack up our car, though we never got an evacuation order. Seasoned neighbors chuckled. Our family members in other areas did not–once an evacuation order is given you have little time. Then the roads are jammed. We could have been on the road immediately.

SOME BOTTOM LINES

Much of life is about losing and gaining–weight, health, money, jobs, prestige–and most important, belief in self versus giving up.

We all need cheer leaders, people who believe in our choices and admire how we plan and pursue our lives. That’s the role of parents. Successful people often credit their parents and/or spouses for their success, someone who believe in them. And on the contrary, some very successful people had little to no parental support and made the decision to “show” their beginnings that they could “make it” despite the hard-to-overcome negatives.

Even as an adult, recently I find myself looking for support, for people who believe in what I believe in, people who struggle but don’t give up, because I won’t and cannot. Laugh if you want to because I packed up my computer, but I was ready to save my writings, double protected by flash drives and some work on the mysterious CLOUD. I was ready to bring with me physical reminders of my life. You know what THEY SAY, bring your photographs, because everything else can be replaced. That’s true and not true.

Material things are just STUFF, but they matter to us–we cannot say they don’t. Of course if forced to stand by a burned building with your life–yes–it’s only stuff.

MORE BOTTOM LINES

So what have I gained from this past week, from being fortunate to sit here at my computer and write to you today–everything intact?

  • gratitude
  • relaxation–why go crazy with chores, Beth. Enjoy moments of your life.
  • Careful choosing..I did go through my house Wednesday afternoon as the winds roared outside, picking out things to take–the quilt my grandmother made when we were married; an album my mother made for me–of report cards and drawings from my childhood; my father’s lavaliere, his ring, and my Winnie the Pooh Books from my childhood. I also have picture frames of my three children–the photo that is showing being fairly current. But behind that photo are all the ones taken in the lower grades and high school. You can lay them out–watch my children change and grow…

FINAL THOUGHTS on LOSING and GAINING

Some people who lost their homes had to run, had to abandon and leave behind the material things in their lives. Other people have to run from the very life they are living. They take a huge risk to find the life they deserve. Take Michael Oatman, for example. Remarkable statements from THIS I BELIEVE, as to how he changed his life.

I still wonder what happened to that happy-go-lucky semi-thug who used to hang out with drug dealers on dimly-lit street corners. Well, I’m in the library parsing a Jane Austen novel looking for dramatic irony, while many of my old friends are dead or in jail.

I was lucky…When I was on the streets, I never felt I was good at anything, but I wrote this poem about a girl who didn’t care about me, and it got published. I knew nothing about grammar or syntax, so I went back to school to learn that stuff, and one thing led to another.

It’s odd to educate oneself away from one’s past. As an African-American male, I now find myself in a foreign world. Like steam off of a concrete sidewalk, my street cred is evaporating away, but I don’t fight it anymore. Letting go of the survival tools I needed on the street was a necessary transaction for admittance to a better life…I’ve learned the benefit of research and reading, of debate and listening. My new battlefields are affirmative action, illegal immigration and institutional racism.

I believe I am the living embodiment of the power of education to change a man. One day soon, a crop of fresh-faced college students will call me professor. I may even be the only black face in the room, the only representative of the underclass. I may feel the slight sting of isolation, but I’ll fight it off because I believe in the changes that my education has allowed me to make. (Thanks to THIS I BELIEVE.)

Photo Credit:  Marwa Eltagouri in the Washington Post.

Me, Amy Tan & Millions of Others: Children of Immigrants

Me, Amy Tan & Millions of Others: Children of Immigrants

Amy Tan and Her Brother

Melting pot. Founded by immigrants. Liberty and justice for all. Sometimes words lose their meaning when repeated over and over again. Hymns, songs become rote. We hardly know what we’re saying or singing IF we grew up hearing those words. It’s the proverbial TAKING SOMETHING FOR GRANTED. Not so for recent immigrants who still might cry hearing the National Anthem or when they finally attend the ceremony to become an American citizen.

I attended one once–as the godmother of a child adopted from Ecuador. Every new citizen there was emotional. Had I taken my citizenship for granted? Yes.  Whether it’s our ability to speak English or rely on our last name or the color of our skin–many of us who have assumed our PLACE in the USA often have little thought as to how WE have been so blessed. TIME TO CHANGE THAT!!

WAKING UP…FAMILY HISTORY, KNOW HOW GOVERNMENT WORKS 

My husband researches family history on Ancestry.com. I admire how he reads articles and finds past relatives, connects with others who share a tangential relationship so that slowly his family history and mine have grown and many questions about WHY WE ARE HERE answered.

But I’ll also settle for a few basic explanations:

  • I’m a U.S. citizen because three generations back, my great-grandparents from both my mother and my father’s side, traveled on some crowded ship with their few possessions to claim a place here in the U.S.
  • I appreciate and understand how fortunate I am, because as a sophomore in college I took a GOVERNMENT class, a requisite taught by my professor Ann B. Matasar PhD. The class woke me up to my good fortune. Homework included studying Supreme Court decisions like BROWN VERSUS THE BOARD OF EDUCATION.
  • We also had to read a daily newspaper–the Chicago Tribune. Dr. Matasar was vehement and rightly so: “If you are going to live in this country, then you have to take up a from of citizenship and know what is going on–what your rights are and if they are being trampled on.”
  • YES. BRAVO. You cannot live in a country like the United States and not understand how it acts and works day to day. I never lost the habit.

AMY TAN: NOVELIST (The Good Luck Club), AMERICAN CITIZEN

A first generation Chinese American, writer Amy Tan grew up in Northern California. Her father was a Baptist minister, guided by the principles of his Christian faith. Her mother was guided by the old ways, by the vicariousness of curses and luck. Thus Tan states in her latest publication, a memoir, Where the Past Begins, that she is a product of the contradictions in her upbringing. Both her father and brother died when Tan was in her teens.

Tan: Who we become has so much to do with the experiences we had, and how we survived. My strong need to find a purpose in life probably comes from my father. It was not a question of who he was, but who am I? What are the qualities that he had, that he provided for me, and what didn’t he provide? What am I still looking for? What am I still rebelling against?

When your father dies when you are fifteen, the “you” who you were at that age is still there. I wanted to think about how I saw my father from those rebel teen years until now, as someone who is well beyond the years he lived.

AMY TAN ASKS WHY AMERICANS VOTED AS THEY DID 

My father was, to me, a model of great values: an honest person, a kind person. We grew up not knowing that my parents had an immigrant status. I just remember them getting their citizenship and crying in jubilation. It was a moment of great relief: the danger of them losing their life here was over. 

“You don’t know how lucky you are to be here, what we had to do so you could be here” — that was always my father’s message, and I didn’t know what it was based on. There were illusions to great sacrifices made on our behalf. I didn’t know what kind of life they’d had in China or why they left.

THEN THE ELECTION HAPPENED…

But everything about the election called into question everything for me. I was so disillusioned that it was essential to look at everything and say: How could this have been? Who were the kind of people who would’ve voted for this person? 

What if my father were alive — is this the man he would have voted for, and why? It was not to demonize voters so much as I simply couldn’t understand how this attitude could have become the defining one for our country for the next four years — one I considered before the election, and which has borne out post-election, to be a very racist, white supremacist agenda.

In a recent interview, Tan states unequivocally that she now looks at community differently. She wants to find commonality with people.

I’m more grateful when I find [those] people — I don’t even have to ask them what their politics are, you can just tell by the kind of things they care about. If they are concerned for poor people, and immigrants, and people with uncertain status, you know where they stand.

WHAT ABOUT THE WORD LIBERAL?

“Liberal” is not a nasty word. I wish “liberal” could be changed to “compassionate,” meaning we share responsibility; we share pain; we share in our flaws; we share in the ways we’re destroying the environment but want to make amends. It has more to do with recognition of a lot of the good things in people, and appreciating that those qualities are there — in more people than not.

THOUGHTS FROM TAN ON IMMIGRATION

In a way, I think it’s good my parents didn’t tell us kids that our life here was in jeopardy. We were born here, so we were American citizens, but if our parents were forced to leave, we of course would have had to go with them. I see this today in people I know who are undocumented—I asked a good friend of ours the other day, “What does your six-year-old child know?” She said, “He doesn’t know. He’ll say, ‘Why can Uncle So-and-so go to Mexico and we can’t?’” And she says, “We can’t for now, but maybe later.” Meanwhile, they’re hoping they don’t get deported. If they were, what a shock that would be to that child.

ANOTHER WAY TO SAY IT

We are an immigrant nation. Yet there are many in this country who forget their origins, who gin up on the fact that their ancestry stretches farther back than others. Possibly they have forgotten the true meaning of the Declaration of Independence or they have never read the Constitution. Their idea of owning property and contributing to the national welfare only applies to certain people.

Researching their roots like my husband does just might help. Knowing what others endured to provide us a PLACE HERE is profound. So are the words of our founding fathers. It’s a sad fact that recent immigrants to our country know more about the rule of law, the Constitution and the true meaning of the words in the Pledge of Allegiance than those who hunger to kick them out, take their citizenship from them.

Can you trace your ancestry back to a country, a year, a place? Whether you can or not, each one of us must honor fellow citizens. It’s trite but true, we are all in this together. 

Thanks to AMY TAN and NPR for the Photo of Amy and her brother.

I’m Thankful for the Adults in the Room

I'm Thankful for the Adults in the Room

It’s Thanksgiving Week and I’m giving thanks. Grateful more than I can say for my husband and every member of my extended family, the roof over my head and the food on my table.

Grateful for reading–books, newspapers, articles, essays. Reading is a gift that I indulge in every day. (Thanks, Mom, for taking good care of my eyes when I was a kid.) And this week I’ve read some amazing ideas from THE ADULTS IN THE ROOM. What room, you ask? Wide-spread, global, you name it.

WHAT IS AN ADULT? 

The basic definition: fully developed and mature.  That doesn’t do it for me. It doesn’t get at the heart of my message. When I examined the origins of the word from Latin, French, well–this is more like it: to become mature, grow up, to nurse, feed nourish.

NOURISH, YES. The adult in the room should be someone who GIVES US SOMETHING POSITIVE, something we feel grateful for, something that FEEDS US, whether in words or in deeds.

This past week I decided to be on the lookout for “adults in the room,” people who could speak to me through their writing, their words. People who could give me a message that filled me up. I found a few.

THE FIRST from Kevin Kelly.

I have been reading excerpts from THIS I BELIEVE and when I read Kevin Kelly’s, it touched me deeply. The words reproduced here are adapted from a Christmas card he sent to family and friends in 2007I urge you to go to the link above and read the entire letter.

One year I rode my bicycle across America. In the evenings I’d scout houses for a likely yard to camp in. I’d ring the bell and say, “I’d like to pitch my tent tonight where I have permission. I’ve just eaten dinner, and I’ll be gone first thing in the morning.” I was never turned away, and there was always more, like an invitation into their home. My job at that moment was clear: I was to relate my adventure, and in the retelling of what happened so far, they would get to vicariously ride a bicycle across America — In exchange I would get a place to camp and a dish of ice cream.

When the miracle flows, it flows both ways. With each gift the threads of benevolence are knotted, snaring both giver and recipient. I’ve only slowly come to realize that good givers are those who learn to receive with grace as well. They radiate a sense of being indebted and a state of being thankful. As a matter of fact, we are all at the receiving end of a huge gift simply by being alive. Yet, most of us are no good at being helpless, humble or indebted.    No matter how bad the weather, soiled the past, broken the heart, hellish the war, I believe…the universe is conspiring to help us — if we will humble ourselves enough to let it.

What a gift to be thankful for. That the universe is conspiring to help us. Something to ponder when we want to FEAR the universe instead.

THE SECOND from David Litt. He was in his twenties when he signed up to be a speech writer for the Obama White House. He takes a radical yet positive viewpoint on adults:

But here, beyond a shadow of a doubt, is the single most valuable lesson I learned in my 20s: There are no grown-ups, at least not in the way we imagined as kids. There’s no room full of all-knowing elders in charge.

True, people often referred to POTUS as “the adult in the room.” But it took me years before I fully understood what that meant. As much as I admire and respect him, President Obama wasn’t perfect… What made Obama the adult in the room was the way he defined his priorities. Children strive only for pleasure; adults strive for fulfillment. Children demand adoration; adults earn respect. Children find worth in what they acquire; adults find worth in the responsibilities they bear…And while it turns out the world has no all-powerful grown-ups, it has an overwhelming number of children. They come in all ages, from every walk of life and every corner of the political map…but we will have to be our own grown-ups. We will have to save ourselves. That’s the idea at the heart of democracy. None of us is the best of We, the People. But we are all we’ve got — and if each of us does their part, we’re good enough.

THE THIRD from Michael Eric Dyson. A Professor of Sociology at Georgetown University, this is taken from his recent book: TEARS WE CANNOT STOP.

Beloved, your participation in protests, rallies, local community meetings, and the like makes a huge difference. When we gather to express grief, outrage, and dissent, your presence sends the signal that this is not “just a black thing.” It is, instead, an American thing. …Your presence also puts your bodies and reputations on the line by identifying you with folk you are not supposed to have much in common with. Your presence adds great moral weight to the gathering. It shouldn’t have to be that way, but for now, it is.

THE FOURTH from Marilynne Robinson, author. This taken from her first novel, Housekeeping. If you had time to read it at your Thanksgiving table, that would be something.

“There is so little to remember of anyone – an anecdote, a conversation at a table. But every memory is turned over and over again, every word, however chance, written in the heart in the hope that memory will fulfill itself, and become flesh, and that the wanderers will find a way home, and the perished, whose lack we always feel, will step through the door finally and stroke our hair with dreaming habitual fondness not having meant to keep us waiting long.”

A BLESSED THANKSGIVING to EVERYONE, Beth 

Thanks to Jade Keller for this amazing image.

Feelin’ Groovy–You Can Too!

http://www.designerspics.com/,

They are just for you.

Slow down, you move too fast
You got to make the morning last
Just kicking down the cobblestones
Looking for fun and feelin’ groovy
Ba da da da da da da, feelin’ groovy.

This is POETRY, MAN…(and woman)  So lift me up, make me feel good and groovy.

Today, during these times that we are living, more than ever, I need groovy. I need Paul Simon’s song and lyrics, or to be immersed in a Bach fuge or Bill Evans’ endless piano trills. Call it escape if you want to, but sometimes we just need to be SAVED from gathering darkness, fear, illness, lies, hurts, you name it.

HELP FROM SOME POETS 

  • Jill Bialosky has written the book POETRY WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE. So which poem saved her: Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken.
  • “I read my own story in (that poem). There are two roads one might travel: The road where families are whole and not broken, and fathers don’t die young, and mothers are happy…and the road I travel, which is crooked and not quite right, with bumps along the way. I know it is important I choose the right course.”
  • The poem helped Bialosky realize that what she was experiencing did not have to mark the rest of her life. For her, poetry made her see: “…I’m included. I belong. My imagination has given me a coping skill.”
  • Then today, I stumbled upon this line: “Don’t Fear Poetry”…an interview with poet Matthew Zapruder and his book Why PoetryHe wants you to read poetry and feel comfortable. 
  • He sees a poem as a kind of individual portal: “Poetry comes to be, each time, in the mind of each half-dreaming reader.” Poetry is not a puzzle, a code or riddle to solve. Rather when things are hard to talk about, poetry works. Poetry relates complex ideas in the “simplest way possible.”
  • Zapruder says that when he was reading poetry, he would get mysterious feelings about life, things hard to talk about, but things so precious to him. Thus he became a poet and a lover of poetry BECAUSE that’s what he wanted from his life!
  • Zapruder says: In a poem, language remains itself–yet is also made to feel different, even sacred, like a spell. I love that. You can fall under the spell of poetry. 

BUT POETRY TODAY, REALLY?

Yes. You are in the doctor’s office; you are on your lunch break; you are in a car waiting to pick up your child. What are you doing? Where before we had to search for print media–a newspaper, a magazine, a book (I still try to always have a book in my bag)–today, as Zapruder says, “I just pull out my phone.”

But then he questions himself.  What happened to all those moments? What happened to all that time? 

And he makes a very good point. “I think that poems remind me of what that time was like before everything was so harnessed to usefulness. …the old technology of the book. It starts giving you a little bit of your time back.

WHAT DOES HE MEAN? He means that we all can be poets, that with a notebook app or a pen and paper, we can recreate what life once was for us, the life we noticed.

  • jot down how the sky looks; the sun on the grass;
  • describe the smile and laughter of our child this past morning;
  • briefly defend with language a point of view;
  • capsule feelings about a friend, enemy, bit of news, the world you are seeing right now;

But the final point that Zapruder makes is the most important one.

  • Don’t SHARE what you write.
  • This is just for you.

I confess writing is an intricate part of my day–almost every day. I keep a notepad by my bed and I jot stuff over articles and on ads–where paper and pen are handy. Sometimes even my phone. And I look them over. Some I discard. Some I keep. WHY, because they’re good, I can use them in future blogs or in my novel. Because, basically, they’re GROOVY.

GOT A FAVORITE POEM???  Which one. This you can share. 

Photo: DesignersPics.com  free download

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Memories of Celebrating Labor Day & Considering It’s Purpose

Memories of Celebrating Labor Day & Considering It's Purpose

On Labor day, many people do not work. Instead, we are to celebrate those forces in society that create and supply us with goods and services.

A quick definition: Labor Day is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It’s a tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

PERSONAL LABOR DAY MEMORIES  

I do love the definition and the purpose of the day. But let’s go back a bit.

When I was a kid, there was always a late afternoon picnic, and we could have orange or grape “pop” and eat hamburgers. But that celebration was lacking–it was not as exciting as the summer’s 4th of July, with its fireworks and red, white and blue decorations.

Labor Day was always too intwined with the heaviness of the next day, the Tuesday coming after–the first DAY OF SCHOOL.

  • As a kid, that meant no more jeans and bikes or swimming in the iron bathtub next door which was painted blue and fondly known as our neighborhood swimming pool. It meant wearing a uniform every day and doing homework.
  • As a teenager, Labor Day meant a pile of textbooks and next day meeting a bunch of new teachers. Would they like me? Could I pass my math classes? Would I make new friends? And the uniform thing again.
  • As a college student, Labor Day usually meant a planned break-up with my boyfriend, John. I think we did this for two years, but by Thanksgiving we were always back together. The purpose was to date other people. We’ve been married now for 47 years. The planned break-up didn’t work!!
  • As a young adult, Labor Day also meant school–but this time I was nervous, would be meeting five classes of young people and hoping they would like me. I taught high school. It meant homework and grading papers. It meant I could no longer read a new novel “just for fun.” Instead, I would be grading papers every weekend and rereading or reading for the first time literature that I would be teaching.
  • When a parent, the “going back to school” thing again applied. Did my children have all their notebooks and pencils, books and a backpack? Were they happy? Often they were both excited and scared. New teachers, new things to learn and people to meet. Some children thrive on the unknown, others back away. I raised both.
  • Later, when I worked in Labor and Delivery as a nurse, the entire weekend of Labor Day became a hassle for the staff: patients crowded the unit with false labor. So strange but factual. The very mention of the word brought them in and if there was a full moon, it was even worse. RN’s like their holidays off–but if you are trading with someone to get say New Year’s Eve off, don’t trade for Labor Day. It’s worse.

Quotes: Work, Zealots, Purpose

I no longer work in L&D or teach. I write. And my children are grown and school now starts, in most cases, BEFORE Labor Day. I do enjoy remembering. And there will be hamburgers tonight, but today I’d like to emphasize the importance of yes, the holiday and celebrating what true, honest labor does to keep the United States moving and flourishing. But more than that, could we discuss the purpose of labor, of work?

Being able to get a job, have a place of employment, pursue a career gives meaning to life.

  • Let the beauty of what you love be what you do. Rumi 
  •  Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life. Confucius
  • In every community, there is work to be done. In every nation, there are wounds to heal. In every heart, there is the power to do it. Marianne Williamson

Today it would be amazing if people wanted a job–not just for the economic benefit, but for the benefit of furthering their own knowledge of people and of the world. Take medicine for example. Men and women who spend years in school to become proficient in healthcare: doctor, nurses, physical therapists, first responders–statistically they not only take their work seriously, but they give of their hearts also. In many cases dealing with the public and everything “that comes through the door” you have to.

But there are downsides. The nurse in Germany now in prison for using his healthcare powers to kill patients. Wacko? Evil? Who knows. Or the policeman who joins the force because he or she wants power over a minority. Again, wacko, evil or carrying a belief so far that preventing crime devolves into creating a crime.

The following could be said of the Arizona sheriff. Quotes listed under zealotry:

  • You have to quit confusing a madness with a mission. Flannery O’Connor
  • “Zealots: Wild eyed persons afflicted with incurable certainty about the workings of the world, a certainty that can lead to violence when the world doesn’t fit.” Jonathan Stroud

These days the world doesn’t always fit and yet if we think through the origin of our task, to always keep it in mind: to heal, to teach, to protect, to produce–then maybe the CLEAR PURPOSE of our WORK will stick with us. We won’t wander off, use our talents to debase others, cripple their dreams or even end their lives.

On this day when we honor labor, let’s hope for good work, meaningful work for all Americans. So much can be achieved with labor that provides a positive and beneficial end for all citizens.

  • We are and always will be a nation of immigrants. We were strangers once, too. Barack Obama
  • Loyalty to the Nation all the time, loyalty to the Government when it deserves it. Mark Twain
  • Unemployment insurance, abolishing child labor, the 40-hour work week, collective bargaining, strong banking regulations, deposit insurance, and job programs that put millions of people to work were all described, in one way or another, as ‘socialist.’ Yet, these programs have become the fabric of our nation and the foundation of the middle class. Bernie Sanders

Whatever work you and your family members engage in, I hope it is purposeful and brings you peace and satisfaction. Work can and should bring you to the top of Maslow’s Pyramid.

PHOTO: the Pyramid: Psychologist Abraham Maslow researched human motivation and action. His work lead to the Hierarchy of Needs, often shown as a pyramid.

Thanks to Pinterest

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Writing, Creating with Compassion

Writing, Creating with Compassion

Being a writer in today’s contentious climate can change your vision. It can make you either hop on the current bandwagon of anger and hurt, or make you want to think only happy thoughts, create a new world as you go, or simply focus on topics that have escaped contention. We need both.

WHAT TOPIC TO CHOOSE

I follow the blogs of other writers. I tend to be more serious while some fellow writers can knock out a light-hearted piece over and over. We need those. It’s like watching a great comedy where laughter is a gift. Because reading a newspaper every day and listening to news can really drag you down. Writers must create with variety. But also with compassion.

INSIGHT FROM DONALD MAASS 

I follow a blog for writers that is blessed occasionally with a piece by New York literary agent and author for writers, Donald Maass. He offers incredible insights into the writing process, but he also lives in the real world and in answer to another writer’s post recently wrote: (Note: I have altered his response slightly)

Stories do not require a consensus.They do not legislate.Their purpose is to persuade. But persuade us of what? And how? 

In a novel, (or screen play, script that becomes a film) to prove others wrong, it is first necessary to acknowledge that they may be right. So…

  • create characters who represent divergent ways of thinking and doing–actually opposing ideas are represented by opposing characters. (Brilliant and basic. Every television drama presents tension–because people with differing points of view are interacting.)
  • But to be strong, each character must face their weaknesses. (As writers,  our characters face what we are afraid of). As readers and viewers we will not be moved unless we see humanity first. The character must fail. And then to persuade us to change, the character must change because of the failure. They see the light, in other words. 

Maass states: 

  • Writers must create antagonists whose case is excellent and heroes who are flawed. 
  • But in order to truly be a hero, those characters must learn and then change. 
  • Thus the power of storytelling to change us (the reader) lies in the courage writers summon to see things as others do. It depends on creating heroes who are flawed and must learn. Most of all, it requires that authors humble themselves, writing not out of resentment but out of twined compassion and conviction about what is right.

Maass asks: What is the bell you will ring in your writing today? What clear and simple truth does it sound? Words are strong when you know their purpose. Stories speak loudest when the storyteller first listens.

I AM LISTENING

Writers speak through their characters. They use their so-flawed-ideas and their closer-to-perfect ideas. Both are on the page. My novel-in-progress. presents a crack in the foundation of a marriage: one of the partners decides to forget an initial pledge to be compassionate in life and help others. He is turning away. She is not. But that doesn’t make her an angel. Maybe she is overboard and thus wrong in her belief that she can change people through empathy and compassion. It helps me day to day to grapple with my own fears and insecurities while getting into the skin of my characters.

FINDING COMPASSION THROUGH SELF-TENSION 

This week Erin Aubry Kaplan published a piece in the LA TIMES, entitled A New Reckoning for Whiteness. And I found a connection between the hero of any novel or story wrestling with his or her flawed-ness, before becoming a hero-again. And myself wrestling with my own lived life. Kaplan writes that our current president’s “both-sides” problem just might make some citizens grapple with a crucial question: What does it mean to be white? Or, what does it really mean?

For me, it was a hard piece to read. But necessary–that’s why I am sharing it. Kaplan asks: “It (the question) requires individual answers to intimate questions: How do I feel as a white person? What advantages do I take for granted based on my skin color? How do I see nonwhites? Or do I see them at all?”

Kaplan writes that if white people struggle with these questions, she has struggled with similar ones all her life: “What sort of black person are you? Middle class or ghetto, articulate or down-home, educated or irrational, bourgeoisie or radical?”

She writes that currently, “no one can indulge in the illusion of togetherness. He’s (POTUS 45) disrupting a surface that needs to be disrupted, for good.”

She’s saying that in order to write the best American story, each of us “characters” has to look and acknowledge our flaws before we can go back to believing in the “prefect union” we so desire and thus become the heroes of our story. Please read the entire article to see the whole of her argument. It might be disruptive — but then we are becoming used to that EVERY SINGLE DAY.

In conclusion, I have been examining my whiteness. Yes, I benefited from living in a middle class Chicago neighborhood and attending private schools. I knew few black people growing up. My high school was integrated, but barely. Did I make an attempt to befriend my fellow black students? No. Maybe I felt myself absolved by the literature I was reading and getting A’s analyzing. CRY THE BELOVED COUNTRY. Big deal. In college, Martin Luther King was assassinated and the black students printed a piece in our newspaper with a photo of them gathered. They called themselves the “worms in our apple.” By the time I was teaching high school in an integrated school that pulled from neighborhoods of poor whites, middleclass whites and poor blacks–I was more awake than ever. And I fought to stay awake. But even now, I wouldn’t give myself an A plus, that’s for sure.

SO WHAT’S THE END OF THE STORY?

I want to be open to the world and all its colors and brightness, all it’s variety and hopes, dreams and pains. I want that to flow through my fiction and encourage you to comment on this post. We are family–all of us. Time to work on our flaws and become the best people we can be. Compassion, anyone?

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See the Eclipse: Support Science & Global Warming

See the Eclipse: Support Science & Global Warming

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

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

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

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

See the Eclipse: Support Science & Global Warming

Neil deGrasse Tyson

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

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

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

Photos: Seattle Met; Pinterest;

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Alternative Religion: Is There Such a Thing?

Alternative Religion: Is There Such a Thing?

The little boats saved the troops at Dunkirk.

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

NO NAMES 

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

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

LIVING BY EXAMPLE 

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

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

PREACHERS ARE HUMAN & COME IN ALL STRIPES

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

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

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

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

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

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

PUBLIC SERVANTS

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

MORE PUBLIC SERVANTS: DUNKIRK  

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit Taylor Homes

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