goingplaceslivinglife

Travel, Food, and Slices of Life


Leave a comment

Give Me A Magic Pill?

There is an ad that runs sometimes between the games on my iPhone. It is a magic pill to reduce fat. Presented on Shark Tank, it raises so much excitement! Promises no side effects and will drop as much as 30 pounds in just a couple of weeks. No side effects. (Yes, I’m repeating myself.) And no diet or exercise needed. This is pure magic and the kind all of us who have struggled with our weight dream about.

The magic pill? - RISE Macclesfield

And I am sorry, but I don’t believe it. I certainly do NOT believe the “no side effects”.

Why? Because I was intrigued by an FDA-approved drug that offered to help me lose weight. I needed to eat a nonfat diet and this medicine would get rid of all the fat in my body. No one in the doctors office and nowhere on the literature (yes, I read the small print stuff on medication I am going to put into my body-don’t you?) indicated that there would be THESE side effects.

I took those pills for 2 weeks and it took my body 6 months to stop….leaking. I was better prepared than a man would be to capture the oil essence leaving my nether regions, thank goodness for panty liners.

So, now that you have been possibly grossed out, let me inform you that the FDA did remove approval for that medication. But the product presented at Shark Tank does not fall under ANY scrutiny. There is no protocol in place to review supplements for content (yup-you may not be getting what is on the label) or safety.

I’m not advocating for FDA control of supplements, although there is an effort going on to put that in place. What I am trying to say is that while the FDA has a required regimen for approval, they do sometimes go too quickly to approve something that people want. Recently, the approval for a medication for Alzheimer’s is raising concerns by the medical and scientific community. This needs to be watched carefully.

FDA Logo Policy | FDA

I had exposure to the FDA system to approve medications early in my life. My father worked for ER Squibb & Sons all his working life. After his service in World War II (Pacific and European theaters) he attended City College in New York. It was free in those days, and the GI Bill helped with books and other expenses. He started working for Squibb at their original Brooklyn plant and then moved to New Brunswick, New Jersey in 1948.

The plant made a lot of medicine, and we knew whenever they were preparing penicillin. (My husband Graham talks about the aroma of a regional bread bakery in Dallas, Texas. No question, a more enjoyable smell.) Dad worked on a number of projects but I best remember when he worked on flavorings for children’s medicines. He’d bring stuff home to taste (spit it out, don’t swallow it) but it never was chocolate. I tried to persuade him and it wasn’t until I was a parent, that I appreciated that kids were not tempted to overdose on any med just because it was a favorite flavor.

My father spoke with the highest respect for the FDA’s process. And, trusting his experience and judgement, I held that view until the time of the magic weight loss medicine. At the same time, I was working for a respected ophthalmologist in Nashville and he was asked to be on the FDA panel to review all eye medications and surgical procedures being introduced. He never shared details but it was clear to me that there was a lot of arm wrestling between the medical and the pharmaceutical people on the committee sometimes.

So, yes, it became apparent to me that there was some agenda going on. No idea specifically what, but we know that governmental decisions sometimes deal with patronage and not as much with facts.

As the vaccine was being developed to address the COVID-19 infection, it was fascinating to hear how work had started on methods to address the specialized coronavirus formation. As SARS and other coronavirus infections started spreading early in the first decade of this century, work started. This article presents why and how the research started over 10 years ago. Still, even with this head start, it has been amazing to see how so many organizations, research facilities, and pharmaceuticals worked together to try to solve this problem. We had a global threat and competition was set aside for cooperation.

There have been so many technological advances that have happened during my life and my high school science helps me understand just some. With a willingness to read hard words and use other sources to explain things I don’t know, I can get a glimmer of comprehension. I am so appreciative for the people who have additional 8 to 12 years of specialized education and then decades of research and applied science to help determine things beyond my understanding and capability.

Which path to decision making do you take?

To assume I can make my own decision regarding how the virus or the vaccine will affect me, I have to be willing to trust sources I have read. When I read published studies that comply with the scientific process that has worked safely for us for decades, I look to see that the studies are independent. In other words, if the same researcher’s names show up on all my research, I have not researched correctly. I am skeptical enough that one or two or even the same ten people are not enough if they all are saying the same thing. In order to make an informed decision as a lay person without this specialized training, reading must include all viewpoints.

This scientific process may be flawed in part, but without it, studies are merely stories. Anyone presenting advice based only on 10 or 100 patients in a few medical practices is not providing information that is well tested and reasonable for a life-affecting decision.

I understand that there may be other treatments for any number of illnesses that may not be approved by the FDA that are effective. I enjoy the benefits of some unregulated supplements. But you can be very sure that if someone says something is good and the science behind it indicates it is a kind of bleach, I need to know a lot more before I jump into that line. And if the doctors suggesting this concoction was not done in a study by researchers because he is only a clinician, people should really slow down in jumping on this. Everyone really should read what he said after he said the thing they enjoy hearing.

And, final word here: if you eat junk food or if you buy prepared foods at the supermarket without reading the labels, you are showing you are someone’s puppet spouting you don’t know what is in the vaccine so you will not take it. If you truly are concerned about keeping your body healthy, there is a lot of behavior that needs to be considered. Like quitting smoking.


2 Comments

Time to Do-Over

We are all guilty. Right now it is so easy for me to look at YOUR behavior, your opinions, and know how you need to change your ways. I suspect you have the same thoughts about me.

I read articles bashing Trump and the people who followed him. And the ones who STILL are supporting him. There are two things here.

Can I get there safely?

NUMBER ONE: I know I was not the only person who had observed Trump’s behavior as a real estate developer and reported he is a flawed business person very early in the 2016 campaign process. If one reason people were going to support him was that he flashed a lot of gold and said he was successful, lots of other people pointed out the bankruptcies and sleazy practices of not paying subcontractors, causing small businesses to fail. The choices made during site selections in his business gave a view to how he feels unconcerned about people and how his actions affect them. We knew Trump without even studying him deeply. We warned you. You had already stopped listening…and analyzing. You made excuses. They didn’t make sense then (My favorite is “They were business bankruptcies, not personal ones.”) You chose this. You own it. You now are dealing with it in ways I can’t even imagine.

NUMBER TWO: As long as we see that arrested white demonstrators and rioters are treated significantly differently from demonstrators in BLM actions last summer, we understand there is a long road ahead of us. We are beginning to hear words of apology and something else. I don’t know, it may be my ears as well as their words, but the message is just not contrition. Claiming to have been conned will, at best, provide the grounds to recognize these people are not capable of analytical thought and should be removed from ANY and ALL leadership positions. Special educational sessions, call them civics, call them therapy, seem to be needed.

In other places and times, including now and here on Earth, there are camps that have been set up to “retrain” people who “need” retraining. These are prisons. Not what I am talking about.

Something ahead….start analyzing.

We have lost our sense of community. I hate saying Mom may have been right when she moaned in the 1970s “This ‘Do Your Own Thing’ movement is going to bite us someday” but Mom, I’m ready to concede that one to you. We broke some of the social conventions in the 1960s and we still have many more to free, but what has resulted is a cacophony to many.

Instead of hearing all the beautiful individual voices of any given group, many hear the overstimulation of too much choice. Their longing for the “good old days” simply means that recognition of so much new stuff to learn is hard and they are being stubborn. (Sorry. Just think back to how many hours kids would be able to play if they did not fight the concept of getting homework done first and you’ll get the point.)

Apply logic.

Back in the days when I was walking grocery store aisles, it was often fun to see someone staring at the shelves, trying to decide which of the many options was the exact right one to provide that perfect taste note for them. My wicked side usually would offer a wide arm sweep as a suggestion, but choice, as delightful as it can be, is really really hard for some people. Just the act of CHOSING results in stress.

So, to make that one choice, many people lock down hard. And refuse to go back to the grocery store to try another brand when they find a sour taste in their mouth. Oh, they often forget to read the label, too, to check for ingredients that may not sit well in their gut.

Since the political turmoil ratcheted up during Obama’s tenure as President, I have often wondered how we would function if all political parties were disbanded. All of our voter registrations become “unaffiliated”. Campaigning is limited to a period of time of 6 weeks before each election day. Primaries are coordinated to be held one day nationally. Campaign spending is limited to $10,000 for localities, $50,000 for state races and $5 million for national races. That’s it. Chose your marketing carefully.

Find your pathway, apart from the crowd but select the right speed for proper management.

Let them tell us who they are in 6 weeks. Clearly. Answering questions until those questions stop because people feel they finally heard what they needed to. Include fact-checkers that have been accepted by all BEFORE it all begins. If someone is found to be lying, they get a warning. The second time, they lose 10 percentage points in the voting. Hahaha, I doubt that can happen, but it will be what hurts them, isn’t it? What do you think? Convince me: yes or no?

We are seeing posturing in Congress to protect re-election options. Those people are not serving their constituents. They are serving themselves. I have mixed feelings about term limits because some serving do seem capable of staying on their message long-term. Bernie is one example. West Virginia loved their Byrd. Understanding that there are certain benefits to congressional reps building relationships with other people across the country or, ever hopefully, across the aisle, we need to permit them some bit of time more than the minimum of two years. Why not a two-term limit for each house? Convince me: yes or no?

We can do better. We must.

The promise just does not happen without including everyone
.


Leave a comment

On My Mind Today

I’m having trouble writing in a calm tone today…there are just so many things going on that are hollering for something better.

The son of a friend, a chef in his 30s with a young son and loving wife, in good health, died suddenly at home this week.

The niece of a friend, together with 2 other high school friends, went for a ride together and all are now dead, thrown from the vehicle despite seatbelts.

The President is taken to Walter Reed Hospital because of a positive COVID infection and now, a few days later, says he is feeling better and planning to return to the White House. No one has said he is testing negative, of course. Everyone understands that this is way too early in the illness for him to be “better” but no one is adult enough to contradict him and order him back to bed. It’s gotten to a point that nothing that is announced from the White House can be considered truthful and reliable.

The desire for making a personal choice the highest rule of the land seems to stop people from noticing the strong correlation between unmasked events and infection outbreaks. Can you say Spring Break? How about Sturgis? And one recent superspreader event, the Rose Garden announcement? Can you notice people not thinking?

Image
source: US Today

A candidate in a local election against an incumbent who has provided good service has been identified as an enforcer for compliance with rules of the Church of Scientology. Can she even serve equitably when so few are in agreement with her church policies? What is her real reason for running?

Another candidate for public office campaigned really hard to fight for a DEQ air quality sensor here in our city because perhaps someday there might be a reason to expand to automobile emission testing. So, during our wildfire season we have no way to know our local air quality, but must extrapolate the data from sensors 25-40 miles away. This man is proud of the way he “protected” us from maybe fees in the future and sees no reason why anyone needs to know if the air is unsafe.

Some people on various Facebook pages dedicated to food processing don’t even read any recipes when they start putting food into jars. The questions indicate a complete lack of any understanding about the food safety requirements.

A lot of people on freeze-drying Facebook group pages are thrilled about the candy they are processing, saying they eat it as fast as they preserve it because it tastes so good.

Residents still resist recycling – The San Francisco Examiner

I can’t help but notice on trash day that my neighbors have a lot of take-out boxes and piles of plastic overflowing their large bin. I wish I could help them reduce their monthly bill to Recology by teaching them how to sort their trash at the very least and then to refuse all the single-use plastic next.

Recent surveys of the US population reveal that about a third of people are tuned into Qanon and hoping that yes, we will be rescued by aliens and all will be announced in October, no, wait, now the big reveal is in March. Stay tuned, obviously.

Other surveys of the American population disclose that about half are now drinking or drugging daily. As personal ownership of weapons rises, most new gunowners are not taking any safety instructions, and assaults at home are rising.

Gun-Rights Advocates Claim Owning a Gun Makes a Woman Safer. The Research  Says They're Wrong.

~~~

Meanwhile, I’m wondering why we are even trying to maintain a “normal” educational curriculum right now. This is the time to introduce Life 101 to include lessons on growing food, cooking and preserving; on sewing and ironing and doing laundry; on car maintenance; on household maintenance; on general small electrical repairs; on art and music and dance. This is the time for those of us close to the coast to teach about tides and sealife, including time for beach cleanup and plastic trash collection. Others can do to nearby rivers and streams and learn about the difference in those ecosystems. This is the time for matching older teenagers with adults who are working in a field that the youngster has expressed interest.

This is also the time for a huge survey of homes here in our town to identify which are not fully occupied. Those homes occupied by one or two elderly people who no longer can easily do the maintenance required may benefit from a match with a younger person or couple who can rent a room and provide some younger energy for daily life. Those homes that are sitting vacant may be able to be added to a housing program for people who currently can not afford to pay for indoor housing.

This is also the time for neighbors to join together to plan their 2021 gardens, so participating families can grow different foods to share with all in their circle. This is the time to arrange for seeds and jars and lids before the seasonal requirements run the stores empty.

~~~

We can’t sit in the doldrums. We have too much good work to do to help raise everyone.


Leave a comment

Aim for Information NOT Confirmation Bias

Seven years ago, about a year before we planned to move from West Virginia to Oregon,  I got deeply involved in helping establish The Wild Ramp, an indoor year-round local food market. Among other things, I visited the farms and other food producers basically to get their stories to tell consumers, but also to verify that they were raising or producing the yummies they brought to sell at the store.

For a person who grew up in the paved part of the Garden State and one who earned a degree in urban planning, finding myself knee deep in mud was one of my earliest experiences and I immediately bought muck boots for later farm visits. I am a quick learner…at least in some issues. 2014-10-07 10.48.42

I believe the first farmer’s patience with me and my questions helped establish my process: I spent an hour asking questions sitting usually at the kitchen table, and only then did we walk the farm and I got to see and take photos.

Because I knew next to NOTHING about farming (other than going with my grandpa into his chicken coop when I was 3-years-old was a terrifying experience which he sure could have made easier!) I asked tons of questions. I may not know a lot but I am curious.

“What’s the issue about corn fed versus grass fed” was a question. “What kind of cows are these?” was another. (The answer to that was also enlightening: “Well, ” the farmer slowly answered, “they’re black.  Angus are black, so I guess we can say they are Angus.” And my response: “So ARE they Angus, or are you riding a marketing message?” was answered with a smile.

So I learned something there and I later learned that perhaps it is not always just the breed but also the diet that helps make some meat tastier than others.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The point is, I was not afraid to appear that I did not “KNOW”. In other words, it was okay for them to figure I was ignorant and it was their job to teach me. And almost all of the 70 farmers and food producers I visited were happy to give me the two precious hours of their work day. The later sales jump after the blog was written and read by the consumers was worth the work interruption.

So last night I again watched the debates. And I will watch the 2nd debate with the rest of the Democratic candidates tonight. WHY?

Because I am not going to rely on what news organizations chose to tell me. I am not going to read my Facebook friends’ comments as a basis for my own decision-making. I do find comments by people I know and even people I have no idea what their background basis is for their comment. This is our reality: people have various levels of evaluation tools and their decision making may or may not be similar to mine.

When I read restaurant reviews when I am searching for a place to eat in a location I have not fully explored, I have no idea if those reviewers’ taste buds are similar to mine. I have no idea if they value food without additives, as I do.  Same kind of issue when I hear how people love or pan a movie. How can I know if any person making a comment is aligned with my values on what entertains me?

Even more important is the much more rigorous and important evaluation for the next President of the United States.  A crummy meal or movie may, at worse, provide a wasted couple of hours or a tummy ache, but typically not more than that. Playing passive on the evaluation of candidates can provide for poor leadership that will affect me…and you…and the world.

So, it’s all theater. I made a comment on Facebook as the debate started that the narrator sounded like he was introducing a sport event. But this is NOT the time we chose one winner and all the rest are losers.

Image result for political theater

Source: Apple Podcasts

Each person standing on that podium last night had something that was important to be heard. Each one.  How would you know if you don’t put your own mind to work?

Do I think they are all equivalently experienced for the job of President. Hell no! But they have their viewpoint and it may overlap someone else’s, including your own.

Let’s be careful not to throw support to one candidate so early that we don’t listen. Let’s be careful to listen and evaluate how we feel about the various solutions to issues posed.

And let’s remember that the way the government is working now will not change much without some huge changes that are, unfortunately, needed to be made by the people who currently would not want them changed.  For example, we have clearly seen the damage to the election process that the Supreme Court decision about Citizens United caused.  By permitting money to be equivalent to free speech, and corporations defined as “people”, we have seen that our government is now being controlled by megawealthy corporations and people. Very few people. And the rest of us, working (or not) to make the changes have a tough uphill battle. How can that be changed to give the governing of this nation back to the people? Listen to how the candidates suggest changes and see if they align with you.

Image result for decision making process

Source: UMass Dartmouth

Above all, quit sitting back and only using your voice to armchair quarterback. Get out there. Locally, you can have some huge influence in the way your city or county runs.  On the national level, if you like a candidate, get involved. Give an hour a week…..that certainly is not too much of a drain when you think of what gets decided that will affect you.

Image result for get involved in your community

Source: Waupaca Rotary Club

 

 


1 Comment

Learning Along The Pathway

When I was growing up my Dad would often drive into town and pick up the Sunday New York Times. As I got older I enjoyed reading not only the magazine but I started perusing the classified, looking for my “someday” job and apartment. Oh, the dreams I had of what could be……and then life took another pathway.

I’ve had a checkered past. I earned a degree in geography and urban planning, but  my first job out of college was for the Tennessee Supreme Court in the court administrator’s office. They were starting a judicial PLANNING division and so, since I had a degree in urban PLANNING, I was hired. It was fun but as I realized I was getting further from my education, I looked for and moved to the planning job.  For three and a half years I actually worked for a planning and engineering company and really enjoyed it. But again……life took another pathway.

There was a death in my husband’s family. His mother asked us to move to Connecticut to take care of the estate issues. We lived in the house rent free and would until it was sold. One of my tasks was to determine the market value of the property and in doing so, we listed it for sale and boom! we needed to move within a couple of months. I was looking for work as a planner but we were in the middle of a recession then and jobs were scarce. So… life took another pathway.

I started working as an real estate agent for the broker who had listed the house. While I did well, I didn’t particularly enjoy it. Showing houses was a challenge because I did not know the area well and there were no apps with a talking GPS (hey, no cell phones at all)  in those days so I had to rely on paper maps, all the time portraying an image of competence to the buyers.  That was stressful enough but the part that made me more uncomfortable was listening to a homeowner extol the cost of the renovations he had made when it looked like a piece of incompetent amateur construction.  And then Baby #1 was born and I no longer wanted to put in the long hours needed in that kind of sales position.  Once again…. life took another pathway.

 

When I told the broker I was going to let my sales license go he persuaded me to start an appraisal division of his company. I built the reputation and business started coming in nicely and then I needed to hire some staff. The broker told me he was moving to California and was selling the real estate business, including the appraisal division. I said no way, it may be your name but it was my blood, sweat and tears. He very much understood and so, I soon owned it. I got a partner who had the bookkeeping kind of background and so we went on, growing during the 1980s real estate boom to 12 employees. (Although I planned longer, I only was able to take off one week when Baby #2 was born.) And then there was another blip in the financial market and property values started to decline. Where there is no room for a second mortgage or a current home value did not support getting the mortgage refinanced, there are no appraisals. We closed the business and…… life took another pathway.

By this time I had had baby #3 and no income. My husband got laid off. We ended up moving from Connecticut to Tennessee where I stayed home with the baby. Then my husband was diagnosed with brain cancer and after surgery, radiation and chemo I got a job at Vanderbilt Medical Center, working for one of my husband’s eye doctors. I had looked for a managerial position at Vanderbilt and when HR asked me what salary I wanted I thought about what I had made in the good years in Connecticut and then made a “cost of living” adjustment and said $30,000. They laughed…too high apparently. Anything lower would not help the family so I changed my resume to administration instead and ended up taking that first position as an AA for $18,000. I figured if I was not going to earn enough money I might as well not be in charge of anything. And so….. life took another pathway.Image result for vanderbilt university medical center

After five years of learning eye health jargon, things changed when the doctor in charge left. My position was eliminated but I was not, so HR moved me to another place in the hospital. The boss was, to put it nicely, a challenged individual. I left and move over to the university side of Vanderbilt to the Department of French & Italian. More new things to learn and master. And then my husband died and there I was a widow with a young child. Graham entered my life and I sure made him work to woo both of us. And there I was again….my life took another pathway.

My kiddo and I joined Graham when he went on sabbatical to Colorado for six months. I thought a start together in a neutral location would be good. We made friends and when it looked like he might be offered a job there I started looking for work. I had a sweet sweet double interview with the statewide blood bank and they offered me a position for a beautiful salary. I came home from that interview to be told we were moving back to West Virginia.  Ha ha…guess what….. my life took another pathway.

Looking for work in the Rust Belt was a challenge. I finally was hired as a practice manager for a financial adviser. Since it was a start-up I accepted a lower than desired salary with the promise of bonuses that would boost it to the sky (dream on, eh?). That never happened. After three years of building that business into something sustainable, I asked for a $10,000 raise and he basically countered with 50 cents an hour. I resigned. This time, definitely my choice…..my life took another pathway.

I started to build up my book selling business that I had been running on a small scale for about 12 years to provide additional income. I was able to match that prior salary for the next two years while having the time to also get involved in the farm-to-table movement and helping build The Wild Ramp. All the time, we were planning for my husband to retire when my kiddo left for college and so……my life took another pathway.

We moved to Oregon just about four years ago. I applied to about 50 jobs, making sure each cover letter and each resume was custom tailored to each specific job. I never heard from 46 place, but had four interviews. One had the grace to tell me I was overqualified and they were sure I would be bored and quit. I countered with an comment (I had nothing to lose)  that at this age I would love a job I could do with one hand behind my back. But no job was offered. (Ageism is one more hurdle to getting a job that needs to be fixed.  Date of birth information can no longer be asked, but they can and do asked for education information, including year of graduation. I think you agree, most of us complete high school at age 18, so extrapolation is easy.) So feeling ready to do anything….. life took another pathway.

I took a summer job as a farm hand. Yes, me. I never ate so much ibuprofen in my life but I did it and learned a lot more. In all my effort with The Wild Ramp I had probably visited 100 farms and had heard their stories. Now I got to get a (very small) taste of the life farmers live.  And the experience confirmed something I already suspected: I am not a farmer. But I need my farmers (we all do) and respect them highly. And so, taking a plunge……my life took another pathway.

I started up the commercial food processing business, Can-Do Real Food, to support local farmers by preserving their surplus produce by canning and dehydrating. (This gives the farmer another income, provides consumers a way to have a taste of the local summer harvest any time during the year, and reduces food waste.)  When we moved to Oregon I learned to can, so I had one year of canning at home. Other people have forgotten more than I have learned but it has been a pretty amazing experience. You can read more about it at the Can-Do Real Food blog. 

In the past year I had been dealing with a knee that has been injured but there is nothing surgical that can be done to fix it. It forces me to walk a bit wonky which has now affected my hip joint on the other side. I am in a new world of hurt and so…..I suspect my life is about to take another pathway again.

Through all these years (63 and counting) I have received continual education. The first part is one we all are fed K through  12. The next was the narrowing down of a field of study (college). And since then, through work and seminars and conferences and self teaching, the learning has continued and increased.  I urge everyone I love to never stop exploring, never be afraid of change.

I know jargon related to the legal profession, the medical profession, the academic profession, and now food processing (and government regulation thereof).  I wonder what’s next!  Whatever it is, I strongly doubt I will ever live in New York City!

 

 


2 Comments

Basic Knowledge

If you’re lucky, you had a least a handful of teachers who significantly and positively affected your learning. They stand out among all your teachers as being special and teaching you more than just the subject matter assigned. They taught how to understand the “WHY” of what you needed to learn and if you were REALLY lucky, they taught you how to continue to learn on your own without needing someone giving you assignments.

Mrs. Umholtz was one of those special teachers in my life. I learned a lot in that 7th grade class. I learned about the stock market by pooling my dollar in a classroom investment.  She taught us poetry and made us memorize some classics like The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere (I know my friend Liz can still recite it!) and High Flight. More, I bet, but that’s all I can remember after 50 years.   I learned state capitals. I learned the changes in Africa as nations there were gaining their independence from colonial powers.  I learned how to research and write reports that included complete sentences and coherent presentations that the reader could understand.

I learned what many other kids and many adults never have: I learned how our government worked. We discussed each branch of government extensively. We had to memorize (oh yes, she was big on that) the names of LBJ’s Cabinet and learn  the responsibilities of the various Executive Branch departments.   We learned about how Congress enacts a bill and visited our statehouse in Trenton, getting an insider’s tour since one of my classmates’ dads was a Representative. We learned about how the Supreme Court, as the highest court in an extensive judicial system,  gets presented with appeals and goes through a selection process to only hear the ones that actually are about points of law.  branches-of-gov

Our world is spinning seemingly out of control right now. Arguments and fighting seem to be the way it goes now. Unsupported boasting is believed and causes distraction while changes are being enacted quietly in the self interest of the people who hold power, ignoring they are our representatives and we voted for them.

It seems in the past year my writing here on this blog has turned more and more to commenting about the social and political aspects of life here in the US and how disturbing issues are. Not only the causes but the fact that no fix is presented.  It seems we have become us versus them. It is hard to engage in any dialogue with anyone who does not hold a similar viewpoint.

Let’s start with some basics. Why not a system in our communities to educate all residents how the system works. What the community does to take care of the needs of all of us. But the basic understand must happen before we start arguing.

Can we do that?

And can we learn to present our opinion in a way that permits others to listen?

And please test yourself…..how much do YOU know about the basic issues of our nation?  This is the basic knowledge you should know.

 


6 Comments

A Better Role Model

Several years ago I was caring for a 10-year-old while her mother worked and found she was way behind in her school work. So, instead of letting her vegetate in front of the TV, I spent at least an hour a day working with manipulatives, listening to songs and other tools to help her learn the times table. I had her help me in the kitchen baking so we could talk about fractions. She complained to mom that I never played with her. I was no fun.

In the car one day with both of them, I pointed to a traffic sign and asked the girl why it was yellow. She didn’t know. I helped her work it through by using the example of a traffic light.  The mom yelled at me “Not everything has to be a teaching opportunity!”

I disagree. Strongly.

Childhood not only is the time when most learning happens, it is easiest then. It also is a time that sets up patterns for life.

We wonder why there are so many lazy people. So many people who drink and dope. So many people who can’t keep a job because they don’t have even the skill to report on time and be responsible.  Children learn from the adults around them. 

So, yes, every moment is most certainly a teaching opportunity with children, even when we are passive. They are watching.

We want a better society…..it starts at home. You are amazed how bad kids behave today…..it starts at home. You think the clerk at the store is rude….it starts at home. Be the example you want to see.

 


2 Comments

Where are YOU in the Dumbing down of America?

“Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose,” I may say, except it wouldn’t do much good, as very few Americans would understand me.

Some facts about the dumbing down of America:

18% of Americans still believe that the sun revolves around the earth, according to a Gallup poll.geocentric_model-_of_the_Universe-300x298

The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs commissioned a civic education poll among public school students. A surprising 77% didn’t know that George Washington was the first President; couldn’t name Thomas Jefferson as the author of the Declaration of Independence; and only 2.8% of the students actually passed the citizenship test. Along similar lines, the Goldwater Institute of Phoenix did the same survey and only 3.5% of students passed the civics test.  Try to pass a typical citizenship test to see how YOUR knowledge rates.

The American Association of State Colleges and Universities report on education shows that the U.S. ranks second among all nations in the proportion of the population aged 35-64 with a college degree, but 19th in the percentage of those aged 25-34 with an associate or high school diploma, which means that for the first time, the educational attainment of young people will be lower than their parents. And while the lack of a college education limits earning potential for most people, the escalating costs and increasing debt load of young people make the cost of a college education difficult to value. Meanwhile, the US is falling further behind other western nations.

According to the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress, 68% of public school children in the U.S. do not read proficiently by the time they finish third grade. And the U.S. News & World reported that barely 50% of students are ready for college level reading when they graduate. Few people read for pleasure and even more, many people do not seem to have the ability to do basic research skills so they accept what they read at face value.  How many books have YOU read so far this year?

Gallup released a poll indicating 42 percent of Americans still believe God created human beings in their present form less than 10,000 years ago. This has a lot to say about science education and the lack of interest by almost half of the population to know basic physical facts about the world around them. 

A 2008 University of Texas study found that 25 percent of public school biology teachers believe that humans and dinosaurs inhabited the earth simultaneously and there is a museum in Cincinnati that shows this so it must be true.dinosaur and person

In American schools, the culture exalts the athlete and good-looking cheerleader. Well-educated and intellectual students are commonly referred to in public schools and the media as “nerds,” “dweebs,” “dorks,” and “geeks,” and are relentlessly harassed and even assaulted by the more popular “jocks” for openly displaying any intellect.  These anti-intellectual attitudes are not reflected in students in most European or Asian countries, whose educational levels have now equaled and and will surpass that of the U.S. Again, just one more way we have fallen behind. When more people are interested in Kanye and little about their current representative to Congress, there is a serious problem. 

And the list goes on…..

So the question is what are you doing to keep learning?tellign the truth


6 Comments

Momisms

MOM-izm. (noun) A statement presented as a grand truth by your mother, so it must be considered to be reliable and accurate.

I don’t know about you, but I wised up to some of my mother’s momisms pretty early. They just had an otherworldly basis, as if there was no place for them in the reality of the world I lived in. So, it became a bit of a test for me to see if I could knock them down.

A GIRL SHOULD NOT GET MARRIED WHILE SHE IS IN COLLEGE AS SHE WILL NOT FINISH!  My mom worked at a nurse at the local university’s student health center and met a number of young women. Some she “adopted” and I soon had a number of “sisters”. That was cool…the more to love the merrier. But R met A and he was in the Navy heading to JAG school and then to assignment somewhere. Mom was sure R would not graduate, especially when she got pregnant, but sure enough, she walked with her class and then went on to do great things Mom admired. Amazing what you can do when you have a plan.   Later, I got married before I graduated, and finished my bachelor’s degree on time, no problem. In fact, the new location lead to an interesting job opportunity I would never have had if I had not moved.

DIVORCE IS FORBIDDEN! I knew my Aunt E was divorced; THAT was not a secret. The reason was, though.  E and her daughter S lived with my paternal grandparents and other than their rooms being very crowded and messy, nothing was unusual, really. But when my own marriage became emotional stressed I had this wall of forbidden territory I kept bumping against. No  method of trying to reach his head or his heart worked and it wasn’t until my mother came to visit and noticed how rude he was, even to her, she said to me “I don’t know how you can stay with him.”  It was like a ray of sunshine on a dark dreary day. Thanks for changing the Momism, Mom.


NO SEX BEFORE MARRIAGE! 
Get real Mom. Teach responsibility. (Don’t just leave books out for me to “find” and read.) Teach about not giving yourself away. Teach about birth control. Teach about how magical sex can be if the partner is a person who truly loves you. But also remember to teach that sexual urges are pretty darn normal.  So, yes, I had my early escapade, and shamefully but wisely went to the health center to get my birth control. Hid it in the sweater drawer when I went home for the summer. (Surely there was no need for Mom to go into THAT drawer.) What fools we be, we who try to deceive. Yes, Mom, the pills were mine.  I was being playful, but responsible. And get out of my drawers!!!sweaters

 

THE MAN IS THE BOSS. YOU WILL TAKE CARE OF YOUR HUSBAND AND HE WILL TAKE CARE OF YOU. Only problem with that one was he didn’t have the same mom so he didn’t get taught the same lesson. (Of course, if he had had the same mom, we would have been into a different forbidden territory-LOL) A corollary of this was told to my oldest sister who, when she achieved her Masters in Nursing and discussed continuing to get her PhD was told she would emasculate her husband who had been “working” on his PhD for 10 years. My sister did not recognize this was a Momism; she thought it was sage advice, and so, she did not continue her education.  That marriage ended in divorce, because, as I indicated above, I broke the taboo in the family.boss

ADULT CHILDREN SHOULD LIVE NEAR THEIR PARENTS, TO BETTER HELP THEM WHEN THEY GET OLD. I was very very young when my paternal grandmother came to stay with us to recuperate from a heart attack. I do remember that she decided that I, at age 3, was too old for my favorite bedtime blankie and made it disappear.  I imagine my mom had issues as well because Grandma did not come back when she had a subsequent heart attack a few years later. Mom had my vote on that one, not that she asked.  When I ended up living 1000 miles away from my parents as a young adult, my mom asked why. I reminded her that she had taken us camping around the US every summer; that if she wanted me to be convinced that New Jersey was the center of the universe she should have never shown me the world.

sleep-walking-01CHILDREN NEED TO…….(PICK ANY) WAKE UP AND PERFORM WHEN RELATIVES STOP BY AFTER BEDTIME, GET ON THE PHONE AND TALK TO YOUR GRANDPARENTS EVEN THOUGH YOU VISITED THEM WEEKLY, GIVE KISSES TO PEOPLE YOU DIDN’T KNOW BECAUSE YOUR PARENTS SAID IT WAS WHAT YOU MUST DO…(the list goes on and on and on). One morning my mother told me that I had played my violin very well for the second cousins who had stopped by (we were just off the New Jersey Turnpike so it was a friendly pit stop) on their way home to Albany around 10pm. I was 10 years old and I’m sure it was no more than Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, but golly gee, I had no memory of it. What a talent! I could play in my sleep! This “late night” performing did not bother me as much as the enforced phone conversations and I never made my kids get on the phone. Interesting enough, they often wanted to. Amazing what free choice can do.

OUR RELIGION IS THE ONLY RIGHT ONE. Well, no. Simply, no. Since people started sharing their thoughts about their place in the Universe there has been over 3000 interpretations of man’s relationship with God. And all, every single one of them, was “manmade”.  (very few women have been involved in the major Western religions.) So, let’s toss out “my way is the only way” and get to the basics-teaching morals and behavior based on treating others the way you want to be treated. I dare say if we comply with that, as simple as it is, we will be happier as a people.

IF YOU’RE DOING SOMETHING I WOULD NOT LIKE, YOU SHOULDN’T BE DOING IT.  Yikes, Mom…not fair! Although you smoked, it wasn’t pot. You didn’t cut school.  You didn’t hitchhike. (Well, considering how scary that one was, I never did it again.) You didn’t get mugged in the New York subway with your best friend. (And I couldn’t tell you about it because it was one of those days when I had skipped school.)  My mom’s voice was in my head when I started a misadventure but I always told her to be quiet, I had thought it through. So, when it came time to raise my own kids, I modified it. IF YOU’RE DOING SOMETHING YOU KNOW I WOULD NOT LIKE, BE SURE YOU WANT TO BE DOING IT.

It would be interesting to read my kids’ version of this essay. LOL

 

 


2 Comments

Family Ties

Following the Christmas holiday I don’t need to tell YOU that your family is……..well, challenged.  I have one myself. I had an aunt that my mother disliked so much she never talked to her brother but, because of family dynamics, I needed to allow her to sing her warble of some song I didn’t even know at my wedding.  I had another aunt who, in the 1950s got a (whisper here) divorce and all we ever heard was “don’t come running home to us if you have problems with your husband.” Not exactly a helpful life lesson.

So, we all have less than perfect families, and if we are true to form, we don’t do such a great job at parenting. We do what we know, so unless you have sought out a parenting class, you will have a tendency to teach your children in the same dysfunctional way you were raised.

In the interest of changing that here are TEN RULES TO BETTER FAMILY LIFE:

  1. Recognize that the reason you love your friends more than your family is because your friends let you do the shit your mom and dad won’t. That doesn’t mean that shit is good. It still is shit. Your parents literally cleaned up your shit as a baby and into your childhood, but  now it is time for you to realize that your actions have consequences and you really need to accept responsibility. When you grow up, your relationships with the long term people who are on your life path AKA your family, will improve.Illustration by Nate Powell.
  2. Let go of anger. We want to be RIGHT! We want others to know they are WRONG! Let it go. It is not a helpful manner of communication. If you really feel strongly that your little sister or your second cousin is on the road to perdition, sit down calmly, maybe with a cup of lavender tea (ha ha) and ask why they feel their pathway is going to bring them the life they want. LISTEN.  They probably will not come around, but at least you’ll understand better and maybe they will turn to you when they recognize they need to change their ways.being kind
  3. Look in the mirror. Recognize your own flaws. Now praise your skills realistically. Understand that each of us is made of the entire ability spectrum. You and your buddies are not the only ones who can do things right. Even your parents get it right some of the time.looking-in-the-mirror
  4. Learn from others. Yup, even that warbling aunt of mine probably had something worthwhile to share with me……hard for me to imagine but I am remembering her with a child’s memory. If you are an adult, you can go where I was unable to perceive.learning
  5. Look at your children. We watched Home Alone again this Christmas and a few things were obvious to an outsider that the family members did not perceive. Be fair when you think over your kids’ strengths and weaknesses. Don’t have them do what YOU wish you could have done as a kid if they are not interested. Help them develop their own interests. Help them learn to read and research. Your-Kids-Look-up-to-You-for-Guidance
  6. Look at your children again. Help them learn life skills like cooking, sewing buttons and hems, how to wash laundry and iron to press a shirt to make a good appearance,  and how to swim.  A man who expects his wife or girlfriend to do all the cooking does not realize the stress that constant task causes. More importantly, he never sees her face light up in pleasure when he prepares her a nourishing meal. A man who can cook is sexy.LifeSkills-750
  7. Look at your children again. Teach your kids to change their oil and their tires. You may not be that proficient yourself. Learn it together. Your daughters too.  Watch your tendency for sexism. Let your sons and daughters learn they can access the entire array of  arts and skills.Nike-Voices-Feature
  8. Tell stories to your kids. Turn off the television and the electronic gadgets. Have one evening a month (or more) when you gather to share the stories of your childhood. Keep it as upbeat as possible. Your baggage with your parents need not be their baggage.  Tell about adventures you had when you were tested and succeeded. Tell about times you thought you could do something but failed and how you responded to that experience. Let them tell stories too. Use a talking stick to pass the right to talk around the circle. talking stick
  9. Explore together. Food is an excellent vehicle for exploration. Move away from what you know. I remember when we visited England for the first time and I asked for bangers and mash at a pub because I had read about it in numerous British stories,. The server paused and then said, “You know that is nursery food?” In other words, for little kids. That was okay, since it was a new experience for me, but it is not okay for you to turn to mac and cheese every few days. Time to learn new tricks. You are an adult now. You have control over your gag reflex and will not barf into your plate. Really. Taste new things. You need not repeat if you honestly do not like it. But your world will open when you explore the amazing variety of flavors from all over the world. 11646-learning-culture-through-food-mexico
  10. Realize, if you change your ways, your birth family members may make some snarky comments. That’s when you get to practice your smile and say, yeah! I’m doing great and I’m proud of my kids! And mean it.keepgoing