Travel, Food, and Slices of Life


Being Prepared

Graham and I just came back from a short vacation in Puerto Vallarta. Close friends  from our time living in West Virginia have a timeshare there and have been going annually for twenty years.  They’ve invited us before but since Graham was teaching daily then and the timing never meshed with his spring break from Marshall University, we never could schedule it, until now.

Graham is currently teaching one forensic chemistry course for the fall, winter and spring quarters at Western Oregon University. He teaches Wednesday evenings so last week after class we headed to Portland and spent one night in a motel close to the airport. They offer free parking and provide an airport shuttle. That cost us about $20 more than parking in the long term lot and saved us from having to leave home at 4am to catch our southbound flight.  We returned the next Tuesday and so, he will not miss teaching any classes.

It was a short but sweet vacation, valued highly because of time spent with friends who live in Kentucky. We appreciate the ease of communication Facebook and cell phones permit, but nothing is better than to give hugs in person.

Based on my Facebook postings it looks like all we did was eat…and drink. LOL

But I also went prepared with two prescriptions from my allergist. He said he writes them all the time for both Mexico (you must present them in person) and Canada (you can handle the transaction by mail).

I want to explain the reason I travelled with the hopes of purchasing two medicines and then tell you about the experience.

When we first moved to Oregon, my health insurance was part of Graham’s retirement package. It moved me from PEIA (if you have been following the news recently you know West Virginia teachers went on strike to win a 5% raise and no change in their health insurance rate from PEIA. The state had offered a 1% salary raise which was more than negated by a higher increase in the employee share in the health insurance premium. I am so pleased that it took teachers in all 55 counties to stand strong to win this concession from the state legislature but the issue is still not over…more wrestling ahead…but this blog is not about that fight. Just suffice it to say that West Virginia schools are severely underfunded while people in power issue themselves plenty of perks. Seems to be the culture these days throughout the country.)

Okay, back to my story. My health insurance was with a national company and worked fine. It cost me about $500 a month.  Then the ACA passed its Supreme Court test for the mandate that EVERYONE must buy health insurance and I switched over. My insurance premium cost me $550.  That was based on the prior year’s income and of course, Graham had retired and our income was significantly reduced. I appealed for a reduced premium and in their infinite wisdom I was moved to Oregon’s Medicaid expansion, the Oregon Health Plan.

I was initially concerned because I assumed that the healthcare I received would be of lesser quality but with the exception of only one questionable doctor visit,  I was very pleased. The clinic was prompt, the staff was very friendly, and the doctor usually spent at least 30 minutes with me, or longer if needed.

I rolled through that system for 18 months but at the next renewal the questions changed and I got bumped out. Back to the ACA. My new premium was $462 a month BUT it would not start coverage until January 1st. My OHP plan ended September 30th.  That left me three months without any insurance.

I pleaded with each organization to let me stay longer or to pick me up sooner but was told no. I have found out since them I should have called the state insurance commission and it would have continued the OHP the three months. Remember that if it ever happens to you.

What it meant to me was I needed to pay cash for my prescriptions. The blood pressure medication was not bad ($60) but my two prescriptions that help me breathe were close to $1000. Per month.  Simply, we could not afford that.

I picked up my medications the first work day in January and went to the allergist (after I got a referral) about 3 weeks later. My lung function was measured at 37%.

Two months later, back on daily meds, it was up in the high 70s.  In other words, I need this medicine to live.  Each time Congress plays around with dismantling the ACA I know I can expect to die.  I understand I am not alone. I do not generally join in with conspiracy theories, but it is easy to believe “they” want “us” to die.

So flash forward to my friends’ invitation to join them in Puerto Vallarta and our pre-trip discussion about what we want to do etc.  She mentioned that the farmacias there have medicines at much lower prices than here. Hence, the request and issuance of those prescriptions for my breathing.

They had one of the medicines I needed at the pharmacy we visited the last evening we were there. (Yes, I should have started this part earlier but……) I was able to purchase the medicine that helps my lung function, Symbicort. IMG_3171

The cash cost for the Symbicort here is between $400-$450, even with discounts. The cash cost for the same amount of medicine in Mexico was $80. IMG_3172

The packaging is different, but sometimes when I get my prescriptions refilled here the new bottle has a sticker telling me the pill may look different from what I have been issued before but it is the same.  So, the issue is not uncommon.

This is a first person example of how we pay so much more for our medicine than other countries.  You’ve probably seen charts before like this one.oxycontin_0

Some people argue that we are paying for the pharmaceutical companies to do their research. But recently some of those corporations have announced they will no longer do research for medications to help with  AIDS, Parkinson’s disease and more.

Some people argue that we are paying higher prices to subsidize the rest of the world.  Really?  Not true. Other countries have negotiated prices with drug companies for their health insurance programs.

I believe we are charged what they think we will pay. Simple as that.  And so, many people are either not taking the medications they need to be in good health or they are finding other ways to cope.

The problem is, many of us can not afford jacked up prices, like insulin that increased 197% from 2002 and 2013. Or how the cost of an epi pen went up from  $100 in 2009 to $600 in 2016 (400%)and the CEO of that company is well known for his smirk.  Thank goodness there are generic alternatives. 160826143616-mylan-epipen-exlarge-169

Bottom line: there is a lot wrong with our healthcare system and what we pay for it. Our premiums increase annually, our service plans decrease and the insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies are experiencing record profits.

Why is health care not considered a public service industry similar to water, sewage treatment, electric/gas/whatever you use for heating and cooking?

Until we fix our issues here in the United States, Mexico and Canada will continue to reap the benefits of attracting savvy  medical shoppers.



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It’s Past Time for Self Control

When I was in first and second grades my teacher, Mrs. Hibbard, helped establish a wonderful foundation for the love of learning.  One year, for example, we built a list from encyclopedias and other little kid references for each day of the month of February. We all know February 2 is Groundhog Day but did you know that February 1 is Victor Hugo’s birthday?  Imagine knowing at age 7 who he was and what he did!

candy heartsShe had a bowl of those tiny hearts with sayings on them that are sold around Valentine’s Day. They were a treat, a carrot so to speak, for achieving something good. Most typically they were for behavior not scholastic performance, so achievable to everyone equally. With those small bits of sugar she taught us self control.

A little less than a decade later my mom often criticized the hippie concept of “do your own thing” as a problem. I guess, Mom, you may have hit part of the reason we’re so messed up now on that philosophical rebellion against the establishment. If only we were satisfied to stay in the proscribed roles, our society would have been “great” all these years. And yet, there was and continues to be good reason to make noise about some of what the people in power have foisted on us.unique do your own thing

To put it mildly, this movement to break through conventional gender roles, color barriers and more upset the Establishment.   Those of us who are old enough to remember the late 60s and early  70s also remember how divided this nation was. There were those who supported the way of life that had been good enough for generations and the fact that those conventional mores restricted equal protection and application of the law was not recognized by people who perhaps felt threatened by others being given “equality”.   And the fight continues.

As we’ve moved away from back fence discussions with neighbors we know to the faceless aspect of Facebook, these discussions often become rude and completely worthless as an exchange of concepts.  Part of the population never quite understood that “political correctness” just meant being polite to all people and  most of the population never learned how to hold a persuasive argument. If  a person has no way to frame their position like a salesman, gently showing the benefit to the “prospect”,  that person has no recourse but to say the same thing again and again and then, in frustration, turn to denigration.

I have a good number of friends that I have made in places I have lived. While we never really talked about politics until recently, I had commonalities with them that nurtured our friendship. Some of them have disowned me; others continue to today and are able to present their viewpoints and respond to mine. What’s the difference in broad terms between these two groups of people?  Generally, it is their own self confidence in the life choices they have made and their self control in the way they live and speak.

I have other friends on Facebook, people I have never met face to face. They became friends because of some commonality.  The farm-to-table movement attracts people who are concerned about how the food we eat affects our health, and politically, we are all over the spectrum.  It amuses me that one of the people who “likes” almost every food warning I post on Facebook is unable to write out her own feelings on the political issues that shake us, and relies on some of her Facebook friends to engage with me.facebook icons

It doesn’t bother me to have discussions with people who hold opinions different from mine. How can we ever find our commonalities and perhaps solutions to these issues without sharing our concerns?

But there are many people who degrade rapidly or eventually. It’s as if they just can’t handle the points I raise. Perhaps they start to agree but their longer held position pulls them back and scared a bit, they lash out. Perhaps they just can’t imagine that anyone who holds a different viewpoint is worth their time, a classic example of cognitive dissonance.


source: T Nation

It doesn’t matter if they are smart or average. It doesn’t seem to matter what their financial status is.  It DOES seem to reflect on their love learning or lack thereof.

And I want to stress here that this kind of childish behavior is displayed by people throughout the political spectrum, not just one side or the other.

So, if you, like me, wants to see us avoid another civil war, I urge you to get a handle on your self control. candy you'll do



What does “pink slime” have to do with whether beef broth “gels”?

I’m so fortunate that I know so many wonderful farmers who do what I can not do: grow food. And so many of them, like Chrissie Zaerpoor of Kookoolan Farms of Yamhill, Oregon,  have a very high goal to make sure the food they produce for themselves and the public is healthy and free from additives. Chrissie wrote this blog about pink slime after she got a lot of questions why her beef broth had a gelatinous state when cold.
chicken stock2

The ideal stock is made from a combination of meaty bones for flavor, connective tissue (tendons, cartilage, heads, feet, etc) for gelatin and texture, and hard bones for minerals (primarily calcium but others as well). A well-balanced stock made from good quality ingredients should always “gel” at refrigerator temperatures.

Many of you already know that I came to beef quite late in life: I was a near-vegetarian for my first 40 years with maybe five lifetime total servings of red meat. When I was diagnosed as profoundly anemic, and several years of iron pills and green vegetables did not bring my iron levels up, I was finally ready to take the plunge for eating red meat. But the more I read about commodity red meat, the less willing I was to eat it. This finally erupted in the famous temper tantrum that launched Kookoolan Farms: “if I want to eat grassfed beef, I’m just going to have to learn to do it myself.” I’ve been reading about the commodity meat industry for more than 15 years, and every year I think I’ve finally learned all its dirty secrets, but every year I learn a little more and am saddened to discover that it really is just a little worse than I thought it was. This week an off comment in a news story in “The Week” magazine got us off on a research tangent, and I learned more about “pink slime” than I had previously known – including a key “a-ha” moment with the answer to the question so many of you have asked me over the years: “Why doesn’t premade broth or stock gel? It always gels up with no problem when I make it from Kookoolan Farms bones. What’s the difference?” Now I know…. read on. (for the full details you can easily pull up the Wikipedia article about pink slime).

For starters, the formal name for “pink slime” is Lean Finely Textured Beef, or LFTB. It’s interesting to note off the bat that this highly processed beef derivative is “approved for limited human consumption” in the U.S., but is completely banned both in the European Union and in Canada. In March 2012 (interestingly, the latest date for which I could find data) more than 70% of all ground beef sold in the U.S. contained the additive. Also interesting: ground beef can contain up to 15% LFTB with no labelling required to announce its presence. In fact, the only way to avoid LFTB in grocery store ground beef is to buy USDA certified organic, in which LFTB is disallowed.

wiki pink slime

Lean Finely-Textured Beef, AKA “pink slime,” photo from Wikipedia. 95% lean. All indications are that there are no food safety issues associated with this highly-processed “salvage” product, which means _it’s never labelled as an ingredient_ on any products you buy.

So what is LFTB? It’s the very last scraps of meat and connective tissue still clinging to the bones and hides after a skilled butcher has already removed all of the usable meat with a knife. Some of these source areas are considered to be the areas most likely to be contaminated by pathogenic bacteria. These “source materials” are then warmed to about body temperature in order to soften fats and connective tissues. Originally the bones were scraped and rubbed to remove the last bits of clinging muscle, but the resultant product was up to 20% calcium and therefore “not nutritionally equivalent to beef.” At that point the method changed, and now most LFTB is produced by centrifuging. The centrifuging also separates the fat from the lean in exactly the same way that centrifuging separates, say, heavy cream from skim milk. So the resultant product is around 95% lean (i.e. 5% fat). Having been processed at body temperature, the presence of pathogenic bacteria is now considered a given, so the product is exposed to ammonia gas to weaken the cell walls, and then the product is rolled out thinly and flash frozen under high pressure, crushing all the pathogen cells. This crushing both kills any bacteria and also results in very little structural integrity for the muscle cells, hence the “finely textured” nature of the product. The product is then extruded as a pale pink paste through slender tubes, frozen, and shipped to meat processors as an additive. The ammonia-gas-and-crush process is so effective at killing bacteria that in 2007 the USDA declared that the process would be “exempt from routine testing of meat used in hamburger and sold to the general public.”

Why do meat processors produce and use LFTB? In a word, profit. This is a way to squeeze literally every last gram of flesh off the bones. Also, because it is so lean, LFTB is used as an additive in ground beef to raise the lean percentage: consumers are willing to pay a premium for leaner ground beef, and using 97% lean LFTB in a mix allows the less expensive fatty ground beef, mixed with the extremely lean and extremely cheap LFBT, to then be sold as higher-priced lean ground beef. Up to 15% LFTB is allowed, and there is no labelling requirement.

You’ll also find LFBT in beef hotdogs, beef pepperoni, meatballs, summer sausages, and superthin beef lunch meats and bologna, where LFBT may comprise up to 25% of the total product — but it will never be labelled as such.

You’ve likely read the staggering claim that one patty of ground beef may contain the DNA of more than a thousand cattle from more than 10 different countries. THIS is how that happens. And when you read about recalls of millions of pounds of ground beef, it’s because one animal’s scraps get spread so widely into the food net.

beef hotdogs

Hot dogs may taste good, but did you ever think about what it means that they are “highly processed”?

Interestingly, one of the USDA’s senior food safety inspectors dissented on the USDA’s ruling that LFTB can still be called “meat.” He argued vigorously that LFTB is not “meat” because it also contains connective tissues such as tendons and cartilage, and further stated in reports that it is “not meat,” but actually “salvage,” and should not be allowed for human consumption. The USDA never tested independently for food safety, but the largest corporate producer of LFTB, BPI Corporation, commissioned a study from Iowa State University that found no safety concerns. Because the entity most benefitting from this result also paid for the study, one can doubt whether it’s a truly independent research.

Does it matter that commodity ground beef almost certainly contains LFBT? Maybe not. Associated Press food editor and cookbook author J.M. Hirsh compared the taste of two burgers: one with LFTB and one without. He described the LFTB-containing burgers as smelling the same, but being less juicy and with less flavor. To my knowledge no food safety incident has ever occurred due to the presence of pink slime, but you just can’t be sure whether the recalls have been ultimately caused by LFTB because it’s not tested, and it’s not labelled.

Ammonia is present in many other processed foods, as the BPI (Beef Products Incorporated) web site defensively points out: the finished ground beef contains 200 ppm ammonia, compared to 440 ppm for the bun and 813 ppm for the cheese. In other words, these chemicals are already in lots of other processed foods, and are assumed safe, and therefore are not required to be labelled because “you don’t need to know.” That, my friend, is just one of many similar decisions made every day on your behalf and without your input. Here is the USDA’s fact sheet on LFTB.

stock pots on the stove

Beef bones from Kookoolan Farms have “stuff” still on them, never cleaned by centrifuge. Those bits of tendon, cartilage, and other connective tissues give you the silky, velvety, gelatinous texture you expect from homemade beef stock.

Meanwhile, bringing this back around to stocks and broths, the “gelling” process that occurs when you make stocks and broths is due to the presence of scraps of connective tissues and collagen still clinging to the bones. When you buy pre-made stocks and broths in a can or box or in the frozen aisle, one assumes that these are generally made from the cheapest available ingredients. The lowest common denominator of commodity beef bones, even those from grassfed beef, would generally speaking now be so clean (thanks to centrifuging) that there is no connective tissue left on the bones. Thus purchased stock does not gel. Maybe that’s why they add so much salt, too: store-bought just doesn’t have as much flavor as homemade. Last week I observed organic grassfed beef stock in the freezer section for Fred Meyer for a shocking $12/quart. Are people actually buying that rather than making their own higher-quality stock FOR FREE?

Kookoolan Farms beeves are hand-processed using only skilled butchers and knives, no high-tech centrifuging machines, no bleach, no ammonia gas, no LFTB, no strange gasses in the packages to preserve color, nothing but beef. The meat in your share all comes from identically one animal. And your soup bones are hand-cleaned with a knife, leaving plenty of good “stuff” on the bones to give you a rich, gelatinous, natural stock. As always, you may get bones, fat, and organ meats with your beef share at your option, and at no extra charge. Those grass-fed beef bones sell for $3.50/lb and more in the grocery store, but you’ll never pay extra for them from Kookoolan Farms.


Almost Normal

Almost normal! It’s been about 5.5 weeks since my total knee replacement December 4 and I will see the surgeon on Monday for a post-op appointment. I have some expectations and hopes for that visit. The primary issue is will I get permission to get back into our hot tub?

We purchased an inflatable hot tub almost 2 years ago. We discovered how helpful sitting in the hot tub could be back in 2007 when Graham was on sabbatical in Pueblo, Colorado and the apartment complex had a hot tub next to the pool. We learned that the heat eased sore muscles and joints and improved nighttime relaxation and better sleeping  Although we were in Colorado from January 1 through June 30, the hot tub was available, even in the winter when the pool was closed. It was about 200 yards from our apartment door. We’d get into our bathing suits, put on our terry cloth bathrobes and some slippers and walk over. Chilly, but bearable. Getting out and back into the warm apartment after the soak was more of a challenge. I discovered that there seemed to be an envelope of warm air around my body for a very short time when I exited the hot tub. Getting the bathrobe on during that time was mandatory! Then put the cover back on the hot tub and high tail it back inside.

hot tub

Our apartment was in the building on the right side, so not too far, except when it was 5 degrees.

hot tub in WV

The photo viewpoint is from the kitchen door, so you see how much shorter the after-tub commute became.

We agreed if we ever should be lucky enough to have a hot tub it would be right by the door to the house. And so, about a year later, we found ourselves building an enclosed screen porch on the back of our house in West Virginia. The tub sat on a concrete pad on the ground and the floor of the porch was built around the tub. We stepped down into the spa and Graham installed a handicap pull bar to help any of us to climb back up and out. The walk to the kitchen door was maybe 10 feet, very easy even in the winter.

But then we moved to Oregon where we are renting a house. I was missing the evening soak time. My joints ached more and so, a friend suggested an inflatable. We bought a Coleman hot tub for about $450 the first year but after they replaced one filter/motor, when that failed within a few months, they would not replace it. We searched but could not purchase a new filter alone. So we bought another inflatable for about $250. Watch for sales!!IMG_1953

The inflatable works for us. It runs on 110 household current so we did not have to install a new 220 line into the house. That saved us some money but the lower wattage means the temperature control goes through a cycle which runs about 48 hours and then turns off. We need to check and restart sometimes before the shutdown happens so we can maintain the temperature. The other issue is that it will not run the heat if the jets are operating. Not a biggie for me; I don’t use the jets.

So, the last time I was in the hot tub was the morning before my knee surgery. After that I was restricted from “swimming, hot tubs, saunas” and a few other wet activities. One concern is infection through the suture site. That is well healed now, so should no  longer be a factor.

But, and this is a big issue, I need to be able to get myself out of the hot tub safely. First, I need to be able to swing my leg over the height of the wall. It is an inflatable so not rigid, and if I touch it, it will bend. Graham built me a contraption with 2 posts and a rope so I had something the proper height for practice.  That was not difficult to gain the movement I needed.

Image result for block and tackle to lift heavyHowever, I need to get up off my butt. The inflatable hot tub does not have the molded seats a regular fiberglass hot tub offers; we sit on the padded bottom. So, I need to be able to stand up without the need for a block and tackle.  Simple, eh?  Well, no. As my knee issue got worse and started involving my pelvis and hips last summer, Graham installed a handicapped handrail on the post holding the roof over the tub. (You thought we sit in the hot water with the cold winter rain falling on us????? Come on!)  That rail helped me, but I was able to get on my knees before the surgery. Now, not a comfortable position.  So, after thinking and thinking about it, I tried a few times at home.

Now, in order to do a task that is difficult, the easiest way to figure out how to manage the move is to figure out the physics of it to maximize the strength while minimizing effort. I didn’t take physics in high school and until now, I figured the computer science class I took instead was an excellent substitute.  But now,  more than 45 years after that class decision in high school,  I was trying to figure how to fulcrum me up and out…..hmmmmm

Physical therapists are special people. Maybe a tad masochistic as they push their patients through pain to improvement, generally they are upbeat, optimistic and very much enjoy challenges like this. So this morning at Physical Therapy I sat on the floor next to a table that had been lowered to the height I needed and it only took two times to conquer the move. I know I can get up now! No block and tackle needs to be ordered. LOL

On Monday I will go to the surgeon’s appointment prepared to show him I have the safety issue covered. And if I need to wait, I will wait……but I am betting on hot tub Monday evening!!!




The Magic of Having Cheerleaders

On Monday, December 4, 2017 my right knee went missing.  It had provided 63 years of walking, hiking, skiing, whatevering and it was not functioning as it should because of damage caused by a fall and by illness. The knee was replaced with a modern medical miracle, one that has become so hohum that you probably know at least five people who have had knee replacements.

It really helped to talk to all those people prior to my surgery, to hear their advice and learn of tricks they used. The one thing I heard over and over and over was “do the exercises”.  One other comment, made quietly, also was handy, “You will not always get to the bathroom on time.”

When I’ve gone through SOMETHING, whether it is a physical activity like this surgery, or an emotional voyage, like a divorce, it can be very helpful to hear first person experiences. It has let me know that what I was feeling was pretty typical….or not.

It was during one of those discussions with a friend that the idea of an allergy to the implant hit me! I can’t wear pierced earrings of any kind. Sterling silver, 24k gold, surgical steel, platinum, titanium, even plastic coated, all have caused my ears to start itching and I end up removing the earrings within 15 minutes.  So, I read and then I talked to the surgeon at the pre-op appointment and I am wearing low-nickel metal with ceramic and plastic pieces. All fingers and toes crossed.

The first few days after the surgery was spent discovering that the pain meds and I do not get along. This experience made it very clear to me just how different our body chemistries are. I was nauseated and just felt overall horrible.  I had none of the “highs” users addicted to oxycontin enjoy. They obviously do not experience all the “yuks” I had or they would move on to some other drug of choice.  (This lightbulb moment made me realize that “addiction” is a horrible thing and we need a multi-prong attack to help people get off the drugs but also help them learn coping mechanisms for the issues in life that have made them (all of us to some extent) reach for help after a hard day.)

Once we moved me down a notch in the pain medical pharmacopeia, my overall body feelings were healthier and I could get on with the business of healing.

One thing that has made this experience easier is the time people have taken to drive me to my appointments (Graham can’t drive because he is legally blind), take him to the grocery store, run to the drug store for the replacement pain medicine, and just those who stop in for a few minutes with a smile to help distract me from focusing on the knee which is yelling “OW” most of the time.

And then, there is the physical therapist. Most knee patients have love-hate relationships with the love coming much later in the time table. Mine earned it on Day One when he exclaimed enthusiastically how well I was doing. He was so effusive that I started tearing up.  “No,” he said, “It’s good, really!”

So, I explained. Anyone who knows me knows “body perfect” is not now nor has ever been a goal of mine. I try to eat healthy food and not overindulge with the “fun” things but taking the time others do to firm up and have their body parts move better has not been my thing.

Here I am, 63-years-old, and this is the SECOND time in my life where I experienced BODY PRIDE. The first was after my first baby was born and I was able to nurse him. The idea that this body had produced that miracle and could sustain it nutritionally. Amazingly powerful feeling.

And now, in pain and hobbling, I am ahead of benchmarks. Me….the “couch potato” (well, maybe desk sitter is more like it). knee day 6

Altogether, the friends giving their time and sharing their good wishes and this professional who sees a lot of people like me are my cheerleaders. They have assumed the role to help me get better. And while their time investment may only 30 minutes or a couple of hours a week, they are a component in my healing that will no doubt get me to the finish line easier.

So, thank you, each of you, who send a joke, a funny picture, a phone call, a visit, a drive in the car. To all of you who are my cheerleaders, I salute you.



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The Moral Majority Has Failed the Test

In 1979 Jerry Falwell, with thousands of followers, started a new political party in the hopes of presenting candidates with good Christian morals.  The issues that attracted followers: anti gay, anti abortion, anti school segregation, anti science teaching among others. The Moral Majority prided themselves as being pro Family and yet, many of the leadership were found to be having affairs or liaisons. So, despite strong evangelical Christian support, the party dissolved late in the 1980s. The people who supported Falwell waited silently for their next hero.

Perhaps they never really got silent but their more recent activities begins to beg the question about the basis of their Christianity.

Look, you know I’m Jewish but I would bet you that I pay more attention at church than cradle Christians whose memorized responses do not require any brain involvement. My Christian husband asked me to attend with him 10 years ago and I said I would as long as I was respected.  My introduction began at Ascension Episcopal Church in Pueblo where I marvelled at the similarities; of course! this was a denomination not far off the Catholic shoot and that church was derived from Judaism. Funny how the symbolism, while morphed a bit, still exists.  In West Virginia we attended St. John’s Episcopal Church in Huntington and once again, not only were people respectful, they sought me out at times asking if I would join a study group because they knew my viewpoint, being different, would spark more interesting discussion.  And now in Oregon we attend the McMinnville Cooperative Ministries, a combined church of Lutheran and Methodist congregations.

I listen. I study. I ask questions. And you know what?  The teaching of Christ in the churches where I have worshipped seems to be very different from what I see proclaimed by the evangelical Christians who walk a very different pathway.

  • They say they are pro-life but they have no tolerance for children who are hungry or homeless.
  • They proclaim their great patriotism but their pride in our veterans seems to appear only on two days of the year and there is little concern about the number of veterans committing suicide or those that are homeless.
  • They fight against bathrooms being used by people who identify themselves by their chosen gender, not their birth gender, and yet, we have a President who has happily walked in on young women in stages of undress during “his” beauty contest.
  • They argue against homosexulaity and then we find that some of the loudest voices have been arrested for inappropriate behavior in a public place.

Now we have this judge, twice removed from the Alabama Supreme Court who is running to fill the Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions when he was named Attorney General in this administration.  Roy Moore has been accused by several adult women that he inappropriately touched them sexually when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s. One girl was 14-years-old. And this morning, another woman has come forward who has announced she, also, was 14-years-old when this man took her innocence. Image result for supporting sexual abuse

I’ve read a number of essays that this is not uncommon with evangelical Christian men. They want to have relationship(s) with women that they can mold, women who will not be mature enough to know that a healthy marriage is one based on mutual respect.

While this is also very common in other societies with fundamentalist religions, few more educated communities expect women to be subservient like this.  Few educated societies permit children to become married. Fewer still think sex is an appropriate activity for budding adolescents.

As much as this angers me,  what bothers me more than the men and women who believe this is a good way of life are the many people who say they will still vote for Roy Moore despite the behavior they don’t like. They will vote for him because he is a Republican. That voting for a Democrat is worse.Image result for unthinking followers

Now, before any Democrat starts feeling superior, the same is true in that camp. Here locally we have a woman beginning her campaign for a state house district. Personally, I can’t vote for her because I do not live in her district, but I have gotten to know her and I know she would have my vote if I could. Even though she is a Republican.

There is not much difference between the warring factions in the Middle East killing people because they do not agree on who was Mohammed’s heir and people who are so fixated on the NAME of their political party that they never put any effort into thinking about the person running for office. Or effort working for that party to help make sure it runs honest candidates who WILL represent the common people.

Look at the issues, yes. You don’t like abortion, I understand. But the clinics do more than that…..don’t shut your eyes to the good that is done.  Don’t be so narrow in your outlook that your hate encompasses good.

Look at the experience the candidate has had to help you understand if they know the important aspects to do the job fairly.  It is very clear that Trump meant it when he said he plans to shut several federal departments; his appointments for their secretaries were selected carefully so the most damage could be done. While many people like the concept of “small government” few people like the idea of letting corporate interests destroy public lands for private enterprise.

Look at their ethics and decide if they are like yours.  You don’t rape little girls? Then don’t vote for someone who prefers his meat tender and juicy and well below the age of consent. And yes, “meat” is rude but surely you don’t think what Moore was doing was a meaningful relationship and one you would enjoy?  He did NOT mentor these children; he raped them.

If you vote for someone who admits sexual predation like Trump, you have something missing in your thinking process…..or you also believe women are playthings.  If you think the idea of children and unconsenting young women being sexual objects is not healthy, then you need to speak up when an abuser proclaims they want to represent you.

Image result for fake christiansSo, simply, I’m holding my “from the outside looking in” card and tell you that these people are not learning the teachings of Christ. Being an imperfect human being I can understand. I can understand that just about all of us have done things that have been unwise. But being proud of reprehensible behavior I can not understand nor support. And anyone supporting it blindly will only continue the deterioration of the American culture.

Yes, that will. Not the immigrants, legal or illegal. Not the LGBTQ community, not the NFL players who kneel to add their silent voices to the protest that not people of color do not have the same equal access to the law that is promised.

Nope, those are all part and parcel of this great land with its wonderful Constitution. But the society will continue to circle the drain if all citizens don’t start thinking about how their actions affect everyone.  Or lack of action. The time for Monday morning quarterbacking is over.  Your choice to act or stay silent is your legacy to this American culture.

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Fear or Stubborness?

It has been easy, since the campaign season, to compare statements and actions by Donald Trump with Adolf Hitler.  Image result for compare trump and hitlerAlso comparable is  the excited reaction of support by a significant minority of the population.  Additionally, what can also be compared is the silence of a larger minority of the populations, providing tacit approval.  These two groups provide a majority base for power.

So, using Nazi Germany in the 1930s and early 1940s as an example, why do “good”  people stay silent when witnessing discrimination of others? Later on, it can easily be understood that they were frightened that they too would become a target for internment or death. But at the beginning of the growth of power, why the silence?Image result for Germans quiet about Hitler

All  the insight I have is based on discussion with people I know who supported Trump during his candidacy. I was told “He doesn’t mean that” many times. When asked how they knew that, the discussion faltered, but the tenacity to that one statement was evident, “I know.”

Each of us is indoctrinated to think certain ways. It may be the way you were raised, or it may be completely opposite the parental viewpoint, but our upbringing-the ethics displayed in our households, the education we had (meaning how we learned to learn, not just how we did on tests), and the people in our close circle all influence the way we think and act.

I, for one, was taught early and often about World War II. My grandparents were immigrants in the early 20th Century and we lost family members in the Holocaust. It was personal and there was no doubt about it but I was taught to hate Germany.  As young as 3-years-old I watched the documentaries showing newsreels of US Army liberating the death camps. I know what slow starvation looks like. I also know what determination to survive despite the odds looks like.

When I had the opportunity to travel for work to Germany to spend six months there on a project working with the US Army, I was uncharacteristically slow jumping at the chance for free travel. I understood why and I tried hard to face that prejudice, learned as a baby, and overcome it logically. And I accepted the assignment.

Waiting at the Frankfurt airport for another part of the team to arrive from the States, I had plenty of time to people watch and came to an obvious but, to me, important understanding: they look just like me. And when our coworkers arrived, we got on a train to head to Kaiserslautern, and I thought, oh yeah, here I am, a Jew, on a train in Germany.   The next morning, reporting to the military office, I noticed the swastikas that were part of the architecture. The base had been built in the 1930s. The spector was all around me. Despite my best intentions, a certain low level anxiety showed I had carried much of my baggage with me.

So why did “good” Germans and others in occupied Europe, for the most part, stay quiet about the actions being taken against the Jews, the Communists, the homosexuals, the gypsies, the handicapped?  Was it mostly fear that they might be next?

Or was it that they really agreed that these groups of people were inferior and the nation, the world, would be better off without them?

We see denial of similar issues here and now in our own nation. For example, we hear lots of white people complaining about the silent and nonviolent kneeling protest  during the national anthem at professional football games. They believe, because it is the information being presented by news sources they trust, that the protestors are not being respectful of the flag and thereby the veterans who fought to protect our rights. They will not recognize the actual purpose of the protest. They believe that people have trouble with the police because they are bad people, but 100% stop talking about the  issue when I asked what a 12-year-old sitting on a playground swing holding a toy gun did so bad that he was shot dead within seconds of the police arriving on the scene.

This lack of facing facts is a clear sign of cognitive dissonance, the stubborn and willful choice to not consider information that is not aligned with their convictions.  And all of us have some level of this infliction.Image result for cognitive dissonance

It is so very easy to think that what I believe is THE RIGHT WAY TO THINK and that everyone else is crazy or stupid. But that way of thinking is also cognitive dissonance.

This morning there are statements by various high level Republicans who have an opinion about Roy Moore’s alleged sexual behavior affecting the upcoming election for Senator from Alabama to fill Jeff Sessions’ seat.  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has stated that if the allegations are true, Moore should step out of the race. But other Republican leadership are once again blaming the women (why did they wait so long?) and are supporting Moore fully.Image result for sexual assault by men in power

With the recent #MeToo social media campaign I remembered and told my kids about one incident in my life where my boss tried to inappropriately insinuate himself into my life (I was 24 at the time and he was 49). Recently I read there is a new social media campaign gaining ground  to “Name the Pig.” Instead of telling how we were assaulted, we are encouraged to name the person who behaved illegally and unethically.  So, I think about that former boss of mine.  He would be 88-years-old now, if he is still alive. What good would it be to “out” him?  None, I believe. (I dealt with that boss directly, facing him and telling his he had been inappropriate and it had to stop. He listened and complied…..at least with me. )  But I also support every woman, from Anita Hill to the women who named Bill Cosby to the ones in the Moore situation, for speaking out when we are dealing with a man who has been a role model or could become politically powerful.

Meanwhile, we continue to have at the head of our government a man whose code of ethics seems to be best described as “ME FIRST.” The die hard supporters still believe in what the rest of us know are empty promises (I’ll get your coal jobs back, I will make sure everyone has affordable health care coverage….and more, so many more).  One supporter, in the course of a calm and reasonable conversation stated, “I think Trump is the savior of this nation.”  I knew that the ground had tilted and there was no middle place to find a commonality there.

So why are these people this way? Simply, they are not hearing nor reading what the rest of us are learning.  They typically rely on media that comes from the same viewpoint and never cross check with other news sources to see another aspect of the same issue.  Before condemning him or the countless others, think first. Do you? Do you cross-check issues that are getting your blood pressure up? Or do you just confirm with other sources that are in the same camp?

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Most of us react emotionally first and often speak next. Few recognize that if the information just received appeals to your sense of greed or outrage it MUST be verified by cross-checking across the media, liberal and conservative.  I urge everyone to take the few minutes it takes to do that search and read before climbing aboard some bandwagon that you might not like to own later.

Remember, the “good” people of Germany allowed things to take place that eroded their prior sense of right and wrong because it was not directly affecting them…until it it did, and then, it was too late for most to take a stand.

Image result for bill of rightsWe live in a nation that has an amazing set of laws backed by the Constitution that provides protections for all people here to speak their mind, gather in public, practice their faith, purchase weapons for home protection and hunting, keep from illegal search and seizure, protection from having soldiers living inside your home, certain rights of prisoners and people arrested, and other rights kept by the people and by the individual states. The NRA has massaged the fear of firearms being confiscated to drum up massive purchasing by frightened people.  The fact that some news agencies report on the inept leadership currently in Washington does not mean they are fake news; it means the people responsible want to distract you by blaming the messenger.

Don’t ignore the message.