Will You Become Nostalgic for Weather?

Will You Become Nostalgic for Weather?

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

SEASONAL AFFECT DISORDER or SAD

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

FOUR SEASONS ARE THE BEST!

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

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

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

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

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

WOULD YOU WANT TO LOSE YOUR FOUR SEASONS???

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

PLEASE FIGHT FOR THE EPA! FIGHT FOR YOUR SEASONS

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

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

Photo source: Pinterest

Hey Government, Behind Your Decisions Are REAL PEOPLE

Hey Government, Behind Your Decisions Are REAL PEOPLE

Sometimes we are so involved in the argument that we don’t realize that the argument involves REAL PEOPLE. It’s one thing to sit around with a glass of wine or a shot of something stronger and argue about The Affordable Care Act, immunizations, the cost of various medications, or getting rid of various government departments because there is too much government. But remember, behind many of these arguments to eliminate stuff are PEOPLE–people’s lives, their health, education and general welfare!

YOU AND YOUR FAMILY’S HEALTH 

Take a situation that occurred recently at an elementary school in California. A teacher there died of bacterial meningitis. What do you know about meningitis. Here are the symptoms in people older than the age of 2: Sudden high fever. Stiff neck. Severe headache that seems different than normal. Headache with nausea or vomiting. Confusion or difficulty concentrating. Sleepiness and light sensitivity. When the disease is full blown: seizures.

Is it contagious? Yes, very. It can spread through coughing, sneezing or direct contact such as food sharing. The treatment, if disease is acute, intravenous antibiotics and, more recently, corticosteroids. This helps to ensure recovery and reduce the risk of complications, such as brain swelling and seizures. The antibiotic or combination of antibiotics depends on the type of bacteria causing the infection, so a broad-spectrum antibiotic is ordered until the doctor determines the exact cause of the meningitis. (there is also a viral meningitis which is treated with bed rest, fluids and and fever reducers.)

The Los Angeles County Public Health Department sent out representatives to discover who had come in contact with the teacher. They then provided preventative antibiotics and information about the disease to calm parents’ fears. THIS IS WHAT GOVERNMENT CAN DO ON THE PLUS SIDE.

Why do we have health departments in our towns and cities? Just for this reason. Any epidemic or health scare that arises is immediately dealt with because of in-place protocols used by your local health department. Knowledgable people jump in and help. Because let’s be frank, even with the internet, we don’t have all the answers and panic blocks clear thinking. But also consider this: you have some symptom and you go to the health department and discover you need surgery. Congress has eliminated the ACA. You don’t have health insurance through your job. You are in trouble.

YOU AND YOUR FAMILY’S ENVIRONMENT  

Another argument that truly makes me crazy is that global warming or climate change is a myth. Really? And to prove that our senate appointed an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head who doesn’t believe in the EPA and would like to dismantle it. He would probably use the line, “I’m not a scientist.” But let’s complete that: “I’m not a scientist, but I really hate science because it interferes with me and my buddies making lots of money. And after all, I owe them.” No, you owe the American people who voted for you.

The truth hurts. (And by the way, I’ll wager my six-year-old grandson knows more about science than any current member of the senate who is voting against climate change.)

But I would like to ask one of these guys in Congress and the EPA head: “Have you ever looked out your car window at folks walking the streets and wondered about their lives?” Because my God, don’t you climate deniers have parents, grandchildren, some sort of family. And why do I ask??

Because new research reveals that exposure to high levels of fine air pollutants increases dementia and its classic behavioral signs: disorientation and memory loss. (Gee, Mr. Senator, you might have to hire a full-time health worker to take care of your parent with dementia. But hey, keep that person signed on because you might need her to take care of you. Maybe you need her right now!)

Scientists have found that exposure to air pollution creates amyloid beta protein clumps in the brain and the die-off of cells in the brain’s hippocampus–a key center for memory function. But Mr. Senator or Mr. EPA Head, you might not give a care–you know, scientists can use some confusing language. Unfamiliar words. They make you WORK a bit.

But you will give a care if it hits you where it hurts, YOUR PEOPLE. I mean your decisions aren’t just a piece of paper–they follow a chain of command that hurts US citizens, THE REAL PEOPLE. The ones that voted for you.

So excuse me a moment, but I’m going to look at the SCIENCE.

“The US EPA found significant differences when looking at people who breathed clean air and those exposed to unsafe pollution levels.” OF COURSE. A study found that before the EPA set new air pollution standards in 2012, some 21% of new cases of dementia and of accelerated cognitive decline could have been attributed to air pollution. So thanks, EPA, for caring about people. Someone has to. But wait. Isn’t government decision-making often based on MONEY???

Let’s ask Dr. Jiu-Chiuan Chen, an environmental health specialist. “If people in the current administration are trying to reduce the cost of treating diseases, including dementia, then they should know that relaxing Clean Air Act regulations will do the opposite.”

Oh and by the way, many women carry a gene that gives them a predispostion to developing Alzheimer’s disease, because this gene makes them more sensitive to air pollutions’ effects. But these older guys in the senate don’t have time to read this information. They aren’t scientists, after all.

Every person in power could become educated about these matters if they cared to. They could contact the EPA, ask to spend 15 minutes on the phone with someone who could give them facts and stats about the condition of our air and why clean air laws are truly necessary. Think of all the people they would help.

When we first moved to California, we were looking for a house in Pasadena. Many people know that place because of the Beach Boys song, The Little Old Lady from Pasadena. One of my cousins who had lived in the LA area was shocked. “You don’t want to live there. Too much smog.” Well, he was right, there had been lots of smog in Pasadena, but with new laws that made it imperative that every vehicle be checked under strict emissions guidelines, the smog is gone. Thanks, California, and the EPA.

We are at a time when major changes like dismantling the EPA and denying climate change will have a major impact on our country and the future of our children and their children. Yes, some of the guys in Congress will be dead. But right this moment, this very day, they need to care about REAL PEOPLE, the ones living now and those that will come after. Let’s vote them out, if they don’t.

P.S. I am proud to say that as an RN, I worked at the Polk County Health Department in Des Moines, Iowa from 2009-2013. I helped educate people during the 2009 H1N1 flu epidemic. I created and wrote an education program to help folks with Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes. And I witnessed how health departments screen children for lead poisoning, provide immunizations for children and adults and help those with sexually transmitted diseases. Health departments also go through drills in the case of nuclear attack, wide spread pandemics and other disasters. We need our local health departments. THEY ARE BEHIND REAL PEOPLE.

Photo Credit: ARTWORK

Instead of Fear: Positive Things We Can Do to Help Immigrants

Instead of Fear: Positive Things We Can Do to Help Immigrants

When I answered my phone earlier today, a voice that sounded like Darth Vader told me that they were from the IRS and that I would soon be visited by police–I HUNG UP. I didn’t bother to listen to their bullshit reason. I know the IRS will never call me. I read stuff. I educate myself. But many folks do not. This is another lie, another gimmick, another ruse to get someone to fork over money or leave their house unattended or whatever. FEAR FEAR. Ramp it up. It’s everywhere. And it makes me very angry.

We seem to be living in an era where it’s okay to use fear to make money, sell something, get elected. (It’s been done before, but as FDR said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” which translated means–don’t sit around thinking about all the things you fear or you will become paralyzed.)

SECURITY COMPANIES INSTILL FEAR

There was a time when people in the security business advertised their services by listing what you could get if you signed up: a sign in your front yard, wiring for so many rooms. Now they skip that. Now they use video of robbers at your front door or slogans like: it’s the holidays so robbers will be after your new computer and the gifts you have purchased. Then there’s the gun issue. I will not live in any state that allows open carry. I pay my taxes. I have the gift of a phone that can go with me everywhere. I can always dial 911.

NEIGHBORS INSTILL FEAR 

In the area where I live there was a big effort to prevent moving special education children from one school in one neighborhood to another school in another neighborhood. And the letters I read in the paper linked it to an influx of fear–if those kids were moved, the neighborhood would change. Really? Where is the human consideration for caring for one’s fellow man? It’s gone. Lock your doors. But remember, everything you do your children see and take to heart. Are you raising fearful children?

Fear almost always involves THE OTHER. It was the Jewish people in Nazi Germany. And as indoctrination took over, most people turned away and allowed their neighbors or doctors or teachers to be taken away. FEAR.

OUR GOVERNMENT INSTILLS FEAR

In our country today some people in power are making immigrants THE OTHER. A recent travel ban and a lie about a massacre that did not exist or illegal voting that cannot be proved strives to CONTROL US with fear. “There are bad people out there and they are going to take over.” So don’t question. Give up your own principles that you grew up with. Buy into the fear program. Join us.

AN IMMIGRANT SPEAKS

No. Absolutely not. A recent article by Lev Golinkin in the LA Times stressed once again that we are a country of immigrants. He was nine when his family fled the Soviet Ukraine. They were refugees in Austria and then made it to America. He assimilated quickly because he was young. But even at that age he discovered that immigrants are not always welcome.

I am third generation German descent. On my mother’s side my people were farmers and when they settled in the outskirts of Chicago, they opened a florist business, actually grew flowers in a large field right next to their home. My maternal grandmother had some education beyond high school. My maternal grandfather did not.

English was spoken in their households. Golinkin writes that native-born Americans enjoy a tremendous advantage over someone who cannot speak English. He writes that not knowing the language of the country one has immigrated to is greater than a barrier: When you don’t speak English, it’s as if you’ve suffered a debilitating stroke, except instead of being rushed to the hospital, you have to look for a job. What you value about yourself–your smarts, humor, honesty, eloquence–requires language. But it’s gone. You could be a poet in Arabic; in English, you’re an idiot. Worse, when you can’t communicate your thoughts to those around you, they assume you don’t have any in the first place. You disappear; you’re a non-person.

Golinkin provides some things you can do to help immigrants that you might encounter during your day:

  1. You see someone verbally attacking an immigrant who struggles with the language. Enter the equation and ask if you can help. Imbalance vanishes. Now the immigrant has a voice and the tormentor will either help with the stopped transaction or walk away.
  2. Don’t criticize an immigrant who doesn’t immediately call the police. Americans are taught from birth to assert their rights, but refugees and immigrants are wired to do the opposite. They don’t want to raise their voices or to be noticed. Golinkin relates that even though his father is an engineer and his mother a security guard for two decades in the US, they still are terrified of even the most innocuous encounters with police. I get that. My heart rate goes crazy if I’m ever pulled over by police and I’m white and native born.
  3. Finally, Golinkin asks that you not be offended if you don’t get a thank you after you have helped an immigrant. He remembers people who helped him when he first arrived in the US. Not only was he struggling with language, but he also was sick of being a charity case. BUT, he didn’t forget anyone who helped him. The bad experiences have faded, but those who helped him shine like stars.

I can still see their faces from the brief interactions that enabled me and my family to materialize out the ghostly existence of statelessness and feel human. You don’t forget the good ones.

If each one of us could strive to aid another. If each one of us could teach our children to be tolerant. If each one of us could reject what we hear daily about FEAR FEAR FEAR–we  can definitely make a difference. David Brooks writes in the New York Times:

We can argue about immigration and trade and foreign policy, but nothing will be right until we restore and revive the meaning of America. Are we still the purpose-driven experiment Lincoln described and Emma Lazarus wrote about: assigned by providence to spread democracy and prosperity; to welcome the stranger; to be brother and sister to the whole human race; and to look after one another because we are all important in this common project? Or are we just another nation, hunkered down in a fearful world?

What do you think?

Photo Credit: Vox.com

Secrets and Lies Make a Story, Not a Life

Secrets and Lies Make a Story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our DEMOCRACY: Past and Future

Our DEMOCRACY: Past and Future

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our DEMOCRACY: Past and Future

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

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

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

Music’s Easy Access

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

Print? Even Better

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

If You Tweet, Read to Back Up What You Say

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: ILLUSTRATION: BRIAN STAUFFER which appeared in WSJ

 

Books that Speak to the Heart of the Soul

Books that Speak to the Heart of the Soul

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

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

Buy your family members a book. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Art: -womeninamericanhistory19.blogspot.com

Child Healthcare Should be a Right, Not a Fairytale

Child Healthcare Should be a Right, Not a Fairytale

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

The Beginning of the Story–The Symptom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remembering Sleeping Beauty

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

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

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

Healthcare Should be a Gift from Birth

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

Changing the Ending

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PHOTOS: US NEWS HEALTH, PINTEREST

Child Healthcare Should be a Right, Not a Fairytale

 

Why We Need Symbols

Why We Need Symbols

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

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

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

SYMBOLS ALL AROUND US

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

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

SUN AND YOUR SKIN 

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

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

SYMBOLIC CONSCIOUSNESS

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

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

IS THERE COMFORT IN NEGATIVE SYMBOLS?

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

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

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

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

Women are and will always be Symbols of Strength. 

Thanks to THE WRITES OF WOMEN for compiling amazing essays.

Photo: 3D Tattoo Design

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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