THE MOVE…

THE MOVE...

the garden…

The sense of it, the experience of it started with “A Haunted House” by Virginia Woolf. Parts of it read: 

But they had found it in the drawing room. Not that one could ever see them. The window panes reflected apples, reflected roses; all the leaves were green in the glass. If they moved in the drawing room, the apple only turned its yellow side. Yet, the moment after, if the door was opened, spread about the floor, hung upon

the walls, pendant from the ceiling—what? My hands were empty. The shadow of a thrush crossed the carpet; from the deepest well of silence the wood pigeon drew its bubble of sound. “Safe, safe, safe,” the pulse of the house beat softly.

A moment later the light had faded. Out in the garden then? But the trees spun darkness for a wandering beam of sun. The wind falls, the rain slides silver down the glass.

Wild beams of moonlight cross both floor and wall, and, meeting, stain the faces bent…

AND I FOUND MYSELF…going to that place whenever I read A Haunted House, or thought about those roses and apples. That was the first lighting of my vision.

FROM VIRGINIA WOOLF TO…

The second was so opposite in its source! Yet I cannot remember the exact magazine, but it was either Country Home or Better Homes and Gardens. For when you fall in love with your own rooms, with your roses and apples, the sunlight on your carpet, the soft beating of safety when the sun departs and the moon glows in your window—a-ha, there are others who feel the same way about their homes. And they were reading the same magazines.

And so, this woman had a house in California. I do wish I’d saved the photographs. But in a major living area with tables and candles, with chairs and tea cups, she could open large doors of glass and smell the roses growing just beyond, in jardinières or window boxes, I don’t remember. And she was gracious and giddy about the bees that hummed just there, beyond the openness of her home’s windows and doors.

And I thought that lovely. I thought that so like Virginia Woolf, the image of crossing from the wooden floor planks of a house into the stones of the garden—the roses and sunlight bending inward, the bees behaving, possibly humming with the music that wafted outwards from a radio, a stereo.

Did I have that vision in my mind when, my patient husband, my patient brother and the real estate agent, took me from one place to another. Until. Until—there it was.

The day was cloudy, and the rooms smaller, but there was a large glass window and a door that opened to the garden, to the roses I would plant, the bees that I would summon, and the sunshine of southern California. And Virginia Woolf, the woman in the magazine, they would have approved.

But the trees did spin darkness for a wandering beam of sun. Though “Safe, safe, safe,” the pulse of the house beat gladly. “The Treasure yours.” And again, the wind falls, the rain slides silver down the glass. Wild beams of moonlight cross both floor and wall.

There were moon beams and sun beams to warm the floor, the home, this harbor, this home. There was laughter and weeping, kisses and warm embraces—and music, downstairs and flowing up the stairs, all throughout and lingering. What remains of us—only worn and warmed places and those spirits, and all those words, so many words that weave us together.  

DEPARTURE, SWEET SORROW….

But now we depart California, bid this home goodbye, we eager to love another, a treasure of solid walls lightened by sunlight, brightened by roses, by flowers that bend to us in summer, and blessed by all those who have ever sheltered there and now will shelter us.

Leaving has its pain, but—as Joan Didion, who was born in California but now lives in New York City, wrote: A place belongs forever to whoever claims it hardest…remembers it most obsessively, loves it so radically that it remakes his image…

Goodbye California, I will miss you, always. Hello, Chicago. We return to the neighborhood where we were both born and raised. We will greet our son and future daughter-in-law who now live just a few Chicago blocks from us. And the photo above—this is my new garden, and there is that door that opens to it, that pulls the inside out and the sunshine in. And there is some sunny window where I will sit and write…

P.S. So now we wait for the machinations of business, for things like escrow. What a funny word! And for a while we will be staying in Nevada with family. I hope to keep posting every Sunday, as living is change and change can make for interesting writing. Be “safe, safe, safe”—– Beth

Goodbye…

KEEP READING—READING IS A GIFT

KEEP READING—READING IS A GIFT

Dear Reader,

The illustration above caught my eye, the awakening and vivid colors: she’s on a train (I like reading on trains, on airplanes, even if I’m a passenger in a long car ride) and the word LIFE on the magazine or book she’s reading. Like the apple on her tray, the cup of water—reading is life-giving, reading should always accompany us on our life’s journey. And notice the colorful stamps on her luggage, stamps people once used to reveal, to celebrate where they had been.

A bookcase full of books or a Kindle jammed with titles, does the same thing, celebrates where you have been. Because reading is always about taking a journey, about opening your mind and emotions to someone’s ideas.

DAILY NEWS SOURCES—NEWSPAPERS, THE NET, MAGAZINES, TELEVISION

 In today’s society, newspapers are struggling, but if you happen to subscribe to the magazine THE WEEK (I do) you will find major newspapers and magazines are still very important in pinning down stories that profoundly affect the bottom lines of our lives.

True, that many people now get the news online—or rely only on television news. But that doesn’t always provide you with an analysis, an interpretation to guide you through the pitfalls of opinion. When you READ, you can pause and evaluate a situation, you can compare the writer’s point of view to what You already know, what You have already read or an opinion You have maintained for a long time. Reading helps you grow, because it often challenges an idea or opinion you have held for a long time.

When you engage with a different point of view—that’s a good thing. Yes, we bring personal experience to almost every idea we encounter. But staying lock-step without looking around to investigate, might lead us to a dark place—or the wrong place.

And getting the NEWS isn’t always politics. News can be about an advancement in medicine, the pros and cons of self-driving cars or CBD oils, the latest advances in tech—anything you are currently interested in, anything that might change the society, the environment we share.

POETRY, ESSAY, NOVEL, NON-FICTION, QUIRKY

To stimulate your appetite for READING, I pulled some books off my shelves.

POETRY: Billy Collins, our poet laureate from 2001-2003; verses from ONLY CHILD (he wishes he had a sibling)

I would gaze into her green eyes

and see my parents, my mother looking out

of Mary’s right eye and my father staring out of her left.

which would remind me of what an odd duck

I was as a child, a little prince, a loner,

…and maybe we would have another espresso and a pastry

And I would always pay the bill and walk her home.

ESSAY: Marilynne Robinson, from WHAT ARE WE DOING HERE? 

The U.S is in many ways a grand experiment. Let us take Iowa as an example. What would early 19th century settles on the open prairie do first? Well…they found a university, which is now about 170 years old. Agriculture became, as it remains, the basis of the state economy. How did the university develop in response to this small, agrarian population? It became…a thriving and innovative center for the arts–theater, music, painting and, of course, creative writing. ..the arts are the signature of the place and have been for generations.

NOVEL: Alice McDermott, from CHILD OF MY HEART

...all their interest and enthusiasm was reserved for the places they had left. Like exiles, their delight was not in where they now found themselves, but in whatever they could remember about the place, and the time, they had abandoned. 

NONFICTION: Margaret Robinson Rutherford, PhD from PERFECTLY HIDDEN DEPRESSION

As I’ve stressed before, the characteristics of perfectly hidden depression, in moderation, can be helpful. But when they begin to govern every aspect of your being, they can become a huge problem. It becomes self-destructive when your perfectionist critical voice is screaming at you nonstop in the background. 

QUIRKY: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie  WE SHOULD ALL BE FEMINISTS (quirky, because this little book of 48 pages could change the world.)

Culture does not make people. People make culture. If it is true that the full humanity of women is not our culture, then we can and must make it our culture… My own definition of a feminist is a man or woman who says, “Yes, there’s a problem with gender as it is today and we must fix it, we must do better.”

HAPPY READING, Beth

P.S. Thanks to amreading.com for the photo. 

Autumn: Enjoy the Weather; Get Your Flu Shot

Autumn: Enjoy the Weather; Get Your Flu Shot

Autumn: Enjoy the Weather; Get Your Flu Shot

When parents refuse to vaccinate their children, they not only put their children in jeopardy–they put you in jeopardy also. That’s because our society depends and runs on herd immunity. When most of us are vaccinated against diseases, we provide herd immunity; we provide protection from transmitting many diseases to others–especially babies who are too young to be vaccinated, older people who are too sick to be vaccinated and people of all ages whose immune systems are weakened by a chronic condition.

When young families refuse to vaccinate their children, claiming their kids: “Are just fine. They never get sick,”–they are ACTUALLY RELYING ON THE IMMUNITY OF THE OLDER GENERATIONS WHO ARE IMMUNIZED. Because those of us who either got chicken pox, measles, mumps and rubella, and/or vaccinated our children against those diseases are now providing HERD IMMUNITY to those claiming they don’t need the shots. But when we get sick or die off, that herd will be depleted. We might be looking at future pregnant women with rubella who are giving birth to children who are deaf and blind. Or a flu season like none other, because of depleted immune systems that cannot fight off the virus.

MORE STATISTICS 

Consider this: 30% of adults who were surveyed did not know whether they needed a pneumonia shot. Did you know that one in five adults who are hospitalized for pneumonia end up in an intensive care unit?

TETANUS

If you did get your childhood vaccinations, you probably received shots that protected you from whooping cough, tetanus and diphtheria, though they often had to be repeated. The Tdap (Tetanus, Diphtheria and Pertussis or whooping cough) which was introduced in 2005, is now given to all children. But there’s a chance you have not received it.

Are you a serious gardener who could be prone to cuts from a rusty fence or gardening tool? The CDC now recommends that you get a Tdap or Td every 10 years to boost your immunity. Whooping cough is not a thing of the past and if you work with unvaccinated children, you could be at risk.

SHINGLES 

If you are over fifty and have not been vaccinated in the past five years, you need the shingles vaccine. This blistery rash is the result of the chicken pox virus which remains in your body. Though the rash may clear up in a few weeks, it can leave lingering nerve pain that lasts much longer. And check out a new vaccine called Shingrix that is given after age 50. 

MMR 

If you were born in 1957 or later you may need the MMR. It protects against measles, mumps and rubella. And if you plan to travel internationally you should be covered by two doses before you go. There was also a version between 1963 and 1967 that was ineffective. You can get a blood test to check your immunity.

PNEUMONIA 

If you are over 65 and or suffering from certain chronic medical conditions, you need a pneumonia shot. Currently, the CDC recommends the version PPSV23 for all adults who are 65 or older. People with weakened immune systems might also need PCV13. Your doctor will advise you. 

FLU

Everyone should get a flu shot every year. The strains change and thus the immunity you gained from past years will not protect you. The numbers of people who die every year from the flu (an estimated 36,400 to 61,200) indicates how serious flu is in older adults. 

PLEASE KNOW: you cannot catch the flu from the shot, though some people experience symptoms after the injection like muscle aches, headache and fever–that is normal. It means your immune system is working. 

EDUCATE YOURSELF

In a world where information is often right at your fingertips, there is no excuse not to at least have an opinion about flu shots and other vaccinations. Educate yourself. Read. Ask your doctor.

And yes, enjoy the weather. Autumn is a beautiful time to get outside and breathe fresh air, take a walk, open your arms to sunlight. You might even walk over to your neighborhood pharmacy and talk to them about getting this year’s flu shot–and any other vaccines you might need to protect yourself and to invest in herd immunity.

Thanks to Sara Vigneri  PHOTO: Thanks to Picfair

Where I Should Be: A Writer’s Sense of Place

Where I Should Be: A Writer's Sense of Place

Titles can’t be copyrighted, so I am using most of one created by Native American writer, Louise Erdrich. The piece is from The New York Times Book Review of July, 1985. It is wrinkled and worn. That’s okay. The words are what matter.

Yes, it’s the words. Ten days ago my computer died. All I could think about was THE WORDS. All my notes, the newest version of my novel, other pieces and novels stored on my hard drive. I’ve been a fortunate person, only losing personal items in a major flood years ago: scrapbooks of clippings about Queen Elizabeth II; form letters from Buckingham Palace, the White House. And books, so many soggy books. But when you think you might have lost hours of words—but my data was saved. Thanks Geek Squad.

So I am back in my place, writing about my place, allowing the scenery and the sounds of my life that are part of me to fall onto the page.

WRITING IS ALWAYS ABOUT PLACE

Erdrich writers: In a tribal view of the world, where one place has been inhabited for generations, the landscape becomes enlivened by a sense of group and family history. …a traditional storyteller fixes listeners in an unchanging landscape combined of myth and reality. People and place are inseparable. 

When I read these words, I realize they are welded to my novel which takes place in a northside neighborhood of Chicago, that could be Rogers Park, near where I went to college. I say, could be, because novel writing allows imagination to alter things. When my novel begins with the main character (MC) not wanting to move from that neighborhood, I can relate to the twenty years I lived on a tree-lined street south of Chicago, where hop scotch squares filled the sidewalk and your bike was really the pony that took you round and round a few Chicago blocks. And in the first few pages of my novel, I strive to take you to that place in my memory that might carry you to something similar. Because PEOPLE AND PLACE ARE INSEPARABLE.

She pushed on, feet slapping on sidewalks, one cement square worn, another fractured—prickly weeds breaking through—the familiar straight-on Chicago blocks of her Near North Side neighborhood. Step on a crack? Break your mother’s back…Change was endemic to living, and it was happening here, block after block, street after street, yet the place still familiar, like lines on her palms: the brick house whose roof collapsed, needing a year for repair; its frame neighbor whose garage burned down, never rebuilt; the row houses on Lawn Avenue, most in need of paint, all ornamented with containers of scarlet geraniums, planters of white petunias. After all, it was past Mother’s Day, planting time. And the house on the corner of Lawn and Lunt, a warped “Welcome” sign on the door of its disintegrating summer porch—screens never washed or repaired, rips increasing to be penetrated by bees and mosquitoes as well as slanting sleet.

I can sit at my computer in Southern California and unite myself once again with the sounds, smells and experience of a great part of my life. As Erdrich writers: Our suburbs and suburban life may be more sustaining and representative monuments than Mount Rushmore. 

DO YOU THINK ABOUT PLACE WHEN CHOOSING A BOOK?

Many readers follow patterns in their reading choices. They read everything by authors who write about the Outer Banks or New Orleans, New York City, New England, Great Britain, Nazi Germany, Russia. Eudora Welty writes about PLACE in fiction, begging for some permanence to sustain that fiction: It is only too easy to conceive that a bomb that could destroy all traces of places as we know them, in life and through books, could also destroy all feelings as recognition, memory, history, valor, love, all the instincts of poetry and praise, worship and endeavor, are bound up in place.

The ability to read a poem, watch a film, or even see a film clip of a news event means more to us, stays with us–if there is recognition of PLACE–either that specific place, or in fiction, one that haunts, brings back memories, places you on the sidewalk where the screens of a porch require repair. Or pulls you in so that for the time you are reading you say: Here I am, and where I want to be. Erdrich insists that a writer must have a place to love and to be irritated with. She writes: Through the study of a place, its crops, products, paranoias, dialects and failures, we come closer to our own reality. It is difficult to impose a story and a plot on a place. But truly knowing a place provides the link between details and meaning. LOCATION, whether it is to abandon it or draw it sharply, is where we start.

Yes, we all start someplace and often we take that place into our hearts when we move or leave our beginnings. But they stay with us. In airplanes we can escape gravity, but when we look down, we cannot escape the need to identify with some place on the earth–a place either big or small that rises up to hold us so that we call it home.

Reading a work of fiction can pull you into another world, but that story will not resonate, will not hold you if there isn’t something within the tale that you have already felt or experienced. There must be a touchstone to your reality or experience to keep you reading: the Chicago sidewalk, the New York skyline, the openness of the hero, the strength of the heroine, the sorrow or joy that ends the tale. So please, keep reading. Writers depend on you.

Photo Credit: I don’t know. Probably my brother John or one of my “always-taking-photos” beloved Aunts.

Signs, Tragedies and Why We Tell Jokes

CHANGE: It Can Be for the GOOD!!

THIS SIGN NO LONGER EXISTS.

What went through your mind when you first looked at the above photo. If you have lived in California for many years, you might be familiar with this signage. I was not. THIS WAS A FIRST FOR ME.

Today in the LA TIMES it was reported that this last “immigrant crossing” sign next to the 5 Freeway near the Mexican/California border has become obsolete and thus has been taken down–by someone. They don’t know who. I believe that’s okay. The article stated that fences had been erected over the years to protect people from being hit if they decided to run across the freeway–another reason the signs were no longer needed. Also, the number of people crossing the border illegally has dropped dramatically in the 21st century, a 83% drop.

History Behind the Sign 

The sign has always been a source of controversy. That makes sense to me.

Many see it as an offensive caricature of people from Mexico fleeing to the US. Justin Akers Chacon, a professor of Chicano Studies at San Diego City College related that critics of the signage felt that the imagery dehumanized immigrants, likening them to animals. I agree.

Historically, the signs warning drivers had no image. Drivers had to quickly read: Caution watch for people crossing road. Then artist John Hood was asked to add the drawing. HIs take on what he created: “It doesn’t mean they are running across the freeway. It means they are running FROM something else as well. I think it’s a struggle for a lot of things–for opportunities, for freedom.” Thus even the artist who created the sign has a more open position on the immigration argument.

Different Views  

Everard Meade, director of the Trans Border Institute States: “The thing with these symbols is that the response is 50-50. Some people see that sign and think, ‘My god, this is a sign that represents how our immigration policy has failed, and we put people in vulnerable position such that we have to have a road sign so people don’t run them over on the highway.”

Pedro Rios, director of the U.S. Mexico Border Program for the American Friends Service Committee advocates for migrant rights. He pointed out that Operation Gatekeeper pushed would-be-immigrants routes east over the mountains and through deserts. “Ironically, this pushed migrants into less-populated areas…it means that fewer migrants died crossing in the San Diego region, but more were in peril in the less-visible treacherous crossing routes.” Obviously, the arguments pertaining to border crossing continue.

My First Encounter

Being new to California and not living near the San Diego border, I had never seen one of these signs until today, in the newspaper. But when contemplating what to write about today–it communicated to me HOW OUR REACTION TO THINGS CHANGE. And often for the good.

Growing up in Chicago in the sixties there were a series of horrible murders--3 women at Starved Rock National Park, a teenage female found in Montrose Harbor and two sisters also found dead and frozen during the winter months. Jokes were actually told about these incidents. I won’t recount them, but they were gruesome. And people laughed. But comics often go to the scene of the crime, so to speak, to soften the horror and thus DEAL with the harsh realities of other peoples’ lives.

What did drivers say when they saw those signs along the Freeway? Maybe they were more alert to not hitting a human being, but maybe after a while the sign meant NEXT TO NOTHING, DID NOT TOUCH THEIR LIVES, just like the horrible jokes I remember DID NOT TOUCH MY LIFE. Maybe the signs even created some jokes. We use humor to push the tragic away.

So Why Do We Tell Sick Jokes About Tragedies? 

Psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos worries that sick humour’s popularity is symptomatic of an unhealthy culture which has been desensitised to the suffering of others.

“One of the reasons we laugh at tragedy is that it makes the enormity of the issue easier to deal with,” she states. “But we do live in a society where tragedy has become something that we’ve become conditioned to laugh at.”

Sigmund Freud addressed this in his essay HUMOR. He argued that sick jokes were the mechanism by which the ego “insists that it cannot be affected by the traumas of the external world”.  

Comedian and writer Erma Bombeck once said: “There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt.”

Psychologist Peter Mcgraw in an article tried to uncover the reasons as to why sometimes tragedy can result in laughter. The core of the theory? That the amount of time that elapses since the tragedy and how closely the tragedy hits home, and how severe it is affects the aspect of humor.

  • distance can be measured in both time and space so that small tragedies, or mishaps (what the authors call benign violations), are more likely to generate humor if they happened to you or to a close friend.
  • but large misfortunes are funnier when they are inflicted on other people–and not you.

Fences and Walls  

Maybe the sign in the photo above was looked upon by most drivers in the San Diego area as a necessity of that time period. Maybe some drivers were angered and upset by the image and touched by the humanity of the situation. Maybe the sign instigated joke-telling as people made their way north on the freeway without a care in the world. “Did you hear about the …etc etc. (I actually don’t know any of those jokes and if I did I would not print them.) And I am horrified that in my youth I laughed about someone’s misfortune. I’m glad the signs are gone and I hope we now think or people fleeing other countries as not that far from our own immigrant ancestors who came to this country for a better life. I’m sure once they got here there were jokes to tell: maybe jokes about sinking ships and nasty workers on Ellis Island. But then–they were here, they were free, they could begin a new life.

Found this Ellis Island Joke:

Yehudah Tzvi Windweher arrived at Ellis Island and asked his friend “What would be a good American name for me? I want it to be Jewish, but more American.”

His friend replied, “Sam Cohen, that’s a good American Jewish name.”

Yehudah Tzvi began his long walk up a massive flight of steps leading to the immigration office. With each step he said, “Sam Cohen, Sam Cohen,” in an earnest effort to learn his new name. When he finished carrying his luggage to the top of the flight, he was winded and tired.

A large immigration officer caught Yehuda Tzvi off guard when he said, “NAME?” in a booming voice. A flustered Yehudah Tzvi replied “Shoyn fargesin” (“I already forgot” in Yiddish).

The immigration officer replied “Sean Ferguson, welcome the United States of America!”

America’s Backyard, Part 2

America's Backyard, Part 2

This is Sentinel Dome Rock. I climbed it!

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

“WHY I BLOG…”

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

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

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

“SUPPORTING WHAT I BELIEVE IN” 

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

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

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

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

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

America's Backyard, Part 2

Warming on a friendly rock.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“YOU CAN DO THIS TOO”

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

CAR TRIP THIS SUMMER? ENJOY.

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

America's Backyard, Part 2

Meadows to explore.

America's Backyard, Part 2

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

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

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

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

CAN A STORY HAVE A HAPPY ENDING? SOMETIMES… 

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

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

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

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

NOW THE UPDATE ON THAT AMAZING STORY

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

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

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STORY

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

Here are some voices from friends and family:

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

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

DON’T BUY THE GUILT TRIP FROM OUR LAWMAKERS  

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

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

Want to talk turkey about that?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Parenthood and Sesame Street

Parenthood and Sesame Street

Parenthood and Sesame Street

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks to TIME MAGAZINE, Jim Henson: The TV Creator

Photo Credits: Muppet Wiki, Good Housekeeping

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

Parenthood and Sesame Street

How To Unstick Those File Drawers of Memory

How To Unstick Those File Drawers of Memory

When traveling to certain places, we move forward with our bodies and backwards in our memories. In other words, we advance into the past. These are the words of essayist Andres Neuman. Sometimes when I am reading, a sentence like this will strike me and I just want to explore it. Haven’t you found that going to a place, eating a certain food, encountering an old piece of clothing sparks and charges your memory? Suddenly you are in a place, looking at the past from where you stand in the present. It has to be the place, food, clothing etc that quickly opens the file drawer where your memory was stored.

Today John and I took a very familiar walk to the duck pond near our home. Maybe because I was thinking about this post, I was suddenly transported back to the ducks swimming on Dolphin Lake in Homewood, Illinois. The visit that stands out was one my husband captured in photographs–our two daughters feeding the ducks. Did that help store the memory? I think so.

Profound feelings of satisfaction filled me during that duck pond visit long ago. The sun was disappearing in the west, the water changing colors because of time of day and the ripples the ducks created in their excitement–food!  As parents we knew we were doing something ordinary, but the faces of our children told us that these were moments they would remember.

(I need to mention at this point that memory is a double-edged sword. I’m very aware of that. Recent research reveals that post-traumatic-stress-disorder,  PTSD, is all about memory–a very negative experience of being dragged back to a place a person does not want to be. It’s powerful and hard to cure. The file drawers of bad memory easily open and there are reasons for that.)

But today, let’s focus on the positive things we can all do to improve memory. Again, the brain is a powerful file cabinet that stores all of our experience. Often being in a new environment can get our synapses to spark even more–so that the storage of memory is enhanced. The drawer opens quickly and the memory is spread out before us–like my vision of our daughters feeding the ducks.

According to Carolyn Gregoire who writes for the Huffington Post, there are other things we can do to keep those file drawers from sticking (takes time for the memory to come) or from opening all together (we totally forget).

  • if you are a visual learner, take advantage of that; visualize the FOUR BEATLES if you have to be somewhere at 4:00 o’clock; I don’t have a photographic memory, but when studying in nursing school I could often remember details of a disease process, let’s say, by remembering where that list was on the printed page.
  • brain games like Lumosity, Suduko and crossword puzzles are credited with their ability to make memory more supple and fine tuned.
  • the Method of Loci or the “memory palace” was Cicero’s tool for enhancing memory. In this technique, you memorize the layout of some building or geographical entity and then assign to each place a memory. (if it were a street of shops, each shop holds one memory) Retrieval of items is achieved by ‘walking’ through the places you have established. Visualizing those places will activate what you need to remember.
  • Baker-Baker. Remembering a person’s name won’t work as well as remembering what he or she does for a living. The test case was used with the name, BAKER. People associated images of baking like pans and measuring cups–more things to help remember the name. A med student applied this principle using the story of Lance Armstrong to remember complex and detailed information about chemotherapy; Armstrong was the “hook” that helped him retrieve the medical details. When trying to remember paragraphs of information, create a “hook” that will act as a strong association to bring up the information more clearly.
  • take a nap; after storing information, resting the brain boosts storage and memory.
  • eat omega-3s that heighten working memory and fight against the risk of Alzheimer’s.
  • label people. FDR was able to remember the names of all of his staff, because he literately pictured their names printed on their foreheads. Another researcher suggests assigning a color to that name makes it even easier.
  • and the last one goes without saying and needs little research to back it up: pay attention and avoid distraction. You cannot remember complicated information for an exam if you are also listening to music or watching You-Tube.

At the end of each day, I always run through a list that I created years ago to organize tasks that I need to complete–maybe not every day, but certainly over time. This helps me keep things lined up and I can then have a working schedule of the next day’s tasks or events in my mind. It works. What do you do, Readers, to keep those file drawers sliding open in a flash??  Happy memory.

Thanks to: gailgilette.com; visualspatial.org

How To Unstick Those File Drawers of Memory

Safe Travel Helps Your Wanderlust

Safe Travel Helps Your Wanderlust

Ah the wanderlust of travel. It creeps upon us and we throw up our hands and say YES, YES, let’s explore this amazing earth.

But before you head out the door, if you are planning on International Travel, you need to think about health and illness prevention. Being ill when you are miles away from home and familiar doctors does not fulfill any part of the desire for wanderlust.

On the Plane 

If you are flying to far off places, your flight will most probably be long. Some airlines serve food and others will sell you boxes of snacks. Either way, find out if you can request meals and snacks that are healthy—think low in salt and sugar. If it’s possible to bring a snack bag of low-fat, low cholesterol and low salt foods on board, do so. You probably have to purchase these snacks after going through security.

During a long flight it’s best to avoid alcohol and caffeine as both of these can hasten dehydration. Some folks even experience head congestion, caused by poor air circulation as well as alcohol consumption. Drinking a glass of water or fruit juice per hour will keep you hydrated and make you get up and use the bathroom—which is good for you and fights against the effects of prolonged sitting. And if you are prone to swelling in the feet and legs, compression socks or hose should be part of your travel outfit.

Get Your Shots

Immunization is the other key to travel—you have to prepare your body as it doesn’t want to deal with viruses and bacteria it is not familiar with and won’t be able to handle.

Think of immunizations as part of your prep for travel. Maybe even more important than your suitcase, immunizations are something you carry with you to protect you from very serious illnesses.

Contact your local health department and ask to speak to an RN about your travel plans. Health departments have charts which indicate what immunizations you will need depending on the country you are traveling to.

For example: if you are going to India, the following immunizations fall under the category Recommended/Required: Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B, and Typhoid. The following fall under recommended: Japanese encephalitis, polio and rabies. And Yellow Fever is required!

While researching immunizations, I was extremely impressed by the following website Passport Health USA. Not only does it cover immunizations but weather, the locations of U.S. Embassies, safety and security tips and if you do need medical attention, what processes to follow. Travel agents often have access to similar information, but if you do all of your reservations online, a site like this one is extremely valuable. To find a Passport Health near you check out this link.

Plan Ahead for Immunizations

Don’t wait until a few weeks before your departure to check on immunizations. Some require a few weeks within your body to be effective and some health departments might not be able to take you stat! So call ahead and talk to someone who knows what immunizations you will need and can set up an appointment that will work with your schedule.

More Travel Tips Below are some more ways to stay healthy while traveling.

  • Frequently clean your hands with a gel cleanser kept in your purse or pocket; remember to buy a size less than 3 oz. that can go through security.
  • Use the hand sanitizer often, especially after trips to washrooms.
  • If on an airplane, turn off the overhead vent; you don’t need the draft and you don’t know what the air contains that it blowing on you.
  • Swab a small amount of an antibiotic cream like Bactroban inside your nostrils before leaving home; the cream will help fight viruses that want to make a home in your nose.
  • If you are immunocompromised from a chronic illness, purchase a N-95 mask to wear on a plane or train, especially if the people around you are coughing or sneezing;
  • Clean the seatbelt, tray table and arms of your plane seat with sanitary wipes;
    you might think to swab your suitcase handle when you pull it off the belt on arrival.
  • Try not to touch your face as you travel and if someone sneezes, close your eyes. Viruses love to enter through our eyes, mouth and nose.
  • Some travelers flush their noses with saline solution once they arrive at the hotel etc. You can try NeilMed Sinus Rinse that is available at drug stores.
  • Always have plenty of tissue with you.
  • Finally, wearing ear plugs protects you from sinus pressure as you take-off and land on airplanes and can provide a quieter environment if you happen to be around noisy passengers.

So BON  VOYAGE!!!!!!! With these travel tips you will stay healthy, arrive feeling good, and avoid getting some disease that is endemic to the place you are visiting. You’ll be ready to have fun and fulfill those longings for wanderlust.

Thanks to Barbara Barzoloski-O’Connor MSN RN CIC in nurse.com

Photo: Pro Profs Quiz Maker