Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Homework

As I'm sure most of you know, I'm a big proponent of homework. Not a lot of homework, but the right homework. I think a teacher can assign a very well-thought out assignment that doesn't take too long for a child to finish, and I truly believe that homework, if done at least a couple of times a week, can help the child master skills. This goes for math and grammar especially, at least in my opinion.

Well my opinion goes against what many people--including some people at my kids' elementary school--believe. Which means the girls skated through grades 1 through 5 with minimal homework. Then, they hit middle school, where things got a bit harder, and now, they are in high school. For the most part, school isn't too bad, with the exception of math.

I know, right? The subject Tim loves, the subject I have learned to appreciate, is the subject giving the girls the most trouble. I'm actually not sure why, except that they don't LOVE math. And therefore, I wonder if the urge to learn it and do well in the course has abated. You know, if it's not easy, they don't bother.

But this semester, I see the girls putting forth more of an effort, and Talia is both going into her teacher once a week and having help from Tim in the evenings. And even with all this time and energy, she's still having some trouble.

So who is to blame--Talia or the teacher? In the past, I've almost always sided with the teacher. My child needs to adapt to all sorts of teachers and teaching styles. A lesson like that can be useful later on in life, right? But we know of one student who is also getting help from her father in the same subject (and she has the same teacher as Talia). This young lady is bright, articulate, and like Talia, has done pretty well in the past as far as math classes go. Furthermore, the teacher admitted at one point to me that some of the information she is teaching--get this--she learned in the very recent past. (As in, and I quote, "I had to learn this information to teach it.") Hmm...


And how do I feel now? Well, I'm torn, actually, and think that both sides come into play here.

So you might think my complaint has to do with the teacher or the grade that Talia is getting (I don't feel I can divulge that grade, but it's not so great). But my complaint here isn't about the grade. My observation is this: had the girls had more regular homework early on, they'd be used to doing homework every night in math. Had the girls' grades been determined by tests and not just homework, they'd be more inclined to study for the tests that now determine their grades. Had I known more about how schools worked at the upper level, I would have tried to prepare them better for what was to come.

But--and this is huge (or yuge?)--I am still placing the responsibility for their grades and learning on them. What's done is done, and even though I think the elementary and middle school could have served them better and even though I think I could have served them better, at 15, they need to know that what they produce is a product of them and their hard work. If Talia isn't doing well,she needs to take responsibility for that. Learn from the situation, and move on, hopefully applying that lesson for later.

Because it's one thing to "mess up" a bit in high school. It's a whole other thing to do that in college.

(P.S. My hope, really, is that she's learning this math so she knows how to do the math. It really isn't about the grade. I know too many people, women especially, who say, "I'm not good at math." I think those kids were never taught math the right way, and no one told them they could do it, if they tried.)


Monday, February 27, 2017

Crisis Averted

I walk into the kitchen after dropping the girls off at school. Melina stands near the kitchen counter, her eyes brimming with tears as she fights to keep it all together.

"What's the matter?" I ask her. I have to wonder what the heck could have gone wrong in the six minutes I've been gone. Right before I left, she'd been happily reading her book.

"I don't like this part of my shirt." She reaches inside her T-shirt and pulls on the back of the appliqué. "It's scratching me."

"Okay, well, you can leave it like that or you can go change your shirt." I feel like spitting my words. The cat had me up early. I'm too tired to deal with a this issue today.

"But I like this shirt." She blinks away a few tears.

"I know, but I can't do anything about it now. Either wear it or don't. You need to get to school."

I don't roll my eyes, even though I'm tempted, because I don't want Melina to think I don't care about her and her feelings. But sweet bacon crackers! I thought we'd grown out of this stage a long time ago, about the time when the seams of every single pair of socks we owned stopped bothering her.

Melina skips off, runs up the stairs, and grabs a new shirt. She and I both know she's not done.

"I really like this shirt."

In Melinaese, that's "What are you going to do about this and how fast can you do it?"

I stroll over to my trusty computer, look up what I can find on Amazon about fixing this damn T-shirt, and then tell her goodbye as she walks out the door with Tim. Her eyes still glisten with tears, but she'll hold up for most of the day.

But I know my child and her aptitude for tunnel-vision. And when Melina comes back to me at 2:40 p.m., the first thing she will say is, "How can we fix my shirt?"

I'm two steps ahead of her now, though. For I have to go to the store to buy a smoke alarm (because we certainly want to avert that sort of crisis), and I know that in and among the craft items there, I will find something that can help. And sure enough, I do.

Once I'm home, I grab the shirt, a pair of scissors, my iron, and the HeatnBond that I bought.




Five minutes later, and voila! We have a fixed shirt, one that hopefully will not scratch the tender skin of my youngest child.


Just another day of averting a crisis around these parts. There's nothing a mother can't do, I tell you. Nothing.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Amendment

I'm posting this as a reminder to myself and to others what happened yesterday, February 24, 2017. It begins with a review of the First Amendment from the U. S. Constitution.

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
(Source: https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/first_amendment)

Screen shot of the NYT article. Information was corroborated by other trustworthy outlets.

The article, written by Michael M. Grynbaum, was brief. It stated, "Journalists from The New York Times and two other news organizations were prohibited from attending a briefing by President Trump’s press secretary on Friday . . ."

It went on to reveal that "Aides to Mr. Spicer allowed in reporters from only a handpicked group of news organizations that, the White House said, had been previously confirmed to attend."

And that those organizations "included Breitbart News, the One America News Network and The Washington Times, all with conservative leanings. Journalists from ABC, CBS, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, and Fox News also attended."

Scary news. Very scary news.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Wondering

What would you do for your child? What wouldn't you do? Can you answer that question? Can you find the line--the one you wouldn't cross?

On first glance, I'd say that I'd do anything for my child. Even kill, if I had to, provided I was defending my child and the case warranted those actions. I'd also give my life for any one of those children if I had to: I'd rush into an ocean and save them; I'd push them out of the way of a speeding car; I'd do anything I had to do in order to keep them on this side of the living.

And each day, I perform the smaller (much smaller, thankfully) tasks that indicate how much I love them: I pick up the toys that I certainly didn't leave on the floor; I buy the shampoo they prefer; I help with their homework and make sure they have bacon on their birthdays. I do these things, selflessly, because I love my children. That's all there is to it.

When I was a child, I wondered, often, if there was something my mother wouldn't do for me. Despite any issues I have with her, I do remember her saying that, as a mother, you do what you have to for your child. But as I've grown older, I realize that how you feel when your child is young might be different from how you feel when your child is an adult. The child used to be dependant upon you for so many things, but years later, you've done your job, right? You can back away and assist when necessary, but the dependence no longer exists. So then, I have to ask myself, When the kids are older and have flown the coop, will I feel the same way?


I can't say with confidence that my answer would be yes, but I'd like to think so. But I suspect that with time, comes a complexity for which I will not be ready. The times will change, and it will no longer be a question of buying the proper brand of shampoo or making sure the clothes are clean. Instead, we'll have moved onto bigger and far deeper ways of showing my love: being a good support system, visiting when I'm able, revealing health issues that might directly affect my children.

Yeah, that's right. I'm throwing that last one in there because I'm on the side of full disclosure. I think it is important for my children to know that their maternal grandfather is diabetic and that their paternal great-grandfather had heart issues. That their maternal great-grandmother suffered from dementia, their maternal grandmother has Alzheimer's, and that depression is rooted deeply across our families. 

We talk about all those issues right now, so I'm hoping the lines of communication will stay patent and unmuddled. But I think to myself these days, what if Mom had actually taken herself seriously? What if she'd still subscribed to the belief that you do what you have to for your child? Had she still held that belief even a decade ago, would she have stopped smoking sooner? Would she have visited the doctor for her memory loss earlier? Would she have taken care of years of depression that might very well have impacted her brain? I can't say. I can't even speculate. And sadly, Mom is too far gone to be able to understand what I mean even if I did ask her.

So, I'm left wondering--something I really hope I don't do for those children I purport to love so much.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Dinner Tonight

The other night, on a mere whim, I decided to try and make crispy chicken strips for the kids. They love that form of chicken, and even though we'd eaten out a few days before, I thought that a homemade version might still be somewhat okay for the arteries.

So I looked up how to make chicken strips and found this recipe by The Pioneer Woman. Since I made a few changes to what she did, I'll let you know what worked for me.

Ingredients:
8 chicken tenderloins
Buttermilk (or make buttermilk using 1 cup milk and 1 T vinegar)
1-½ cup flour
½ teaspoon salt, a bit of garlic salt, cayenne, Italian seasoning, black pepper
Canola oil

Instructions:
1. Put the chicken strips in a bowl and cover with buttermilk for 15 to 20 minutes (longer is okay).

2. In a separate bowl combine 1 ½ cups flour and the seasonings and mix together well. Then add ¼ to ½ cup of buttermilk into the flour mixture and stir gently with a fork.

3. Heat 1 inch (I used less) of oil in a large skillet over medium heat.

4. Remove a buttermilk-soaked strip and place it in the flour mixture, turning it over to coat it. Place the strip on a plate. Continue with the rest of the strips.


5. When the oil is ready (flour should make it bubble), begin cooking the strips a few at a time. Cook them for about four minutes or so on each side. (TPW says it should only take less than two minutes per side, but I did not find that to be the case.) When the strips are good and crispy (and golden) remove them to a plate covered with paper towels.



As is likely to happen in our family, three out of four children said to make them again, and one--Aaron--replied, "Meh."

I'm not a big chicken eater, but I didn't find these too shabby for a first attempt at homemade chicken strips.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

What do I know?

I picked up a couple of books on the recommendation of a person I know, mainly because--I think this is so--this person I know knows the author. (Can you follow that?) The books are in our local library, so it was easy to head over, pick up the books, and check them out.

The author's books are not the sort I would write, and while I do agree that the books are well-written (at least the two I've read), I have one major problem with them:

All the characters speak and think in the same manner.

You might wonder what I mean by that. It's not like we give a different dialect to each person, at least I don't. But sometimes, a character can speak in a manner unique to that person. The same goes for thoughts. And I thought that's what was happening when one of the main characters spoke and thought without using subjects and sometimes just in phrases. But then I realized that most of the characters spoke or thought in this way.

What do I mean? Let me give you some examples.

1. "Hotter than the blazes out here." Usually, a character would say, "It's hotter than the blazes out here." This came from a very minor, but named, character.

2. "Trying to get them in before the sale. Make the place look nice." This also from another, secondary, but more important character. I don't know about you, but I miss the subjects in these sentences.

3. "Hadn't planned on spending two hours rearranging stuff I would rather throw out." Later on he says, "Didn't follow you here, [X.]" And then, "Came for a drink, saw you being assaulted." One of the POV characters uttered these sentences (fragments?). This character is slightly closed off and pulls away from people. In my mind, I understand why he's terse and skips the subjects.

4. Shame Faith wasn't here to enjoy it with her. This was the thought of another POV character, one who is open and honest and truly, shouldn't speak/think this way.

Now before you think I'm being picky, I want to say that these instances were not examples of when a writer drops the "You" at the beginning of imperative sentences like, "Walk the dog," or "Put on a coat." And sometimes, in dialogue, or even in the narrative, we skip the subject because the phrase follows the sentence before. But for all the characters to use this technique? I found myself having trouble remembering who was speaking. Thus, I was, at times, confused.

Confusion is not something you want to cause in a reader, in my opinion. But then again, this writer had both a literary agent and a slew of published books. So really, what do I know?


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Ravioli Dreams

Full disclosure: I hauled this out of the draft bin because I thought it was funny. The baby referenced in the last paragraph is now two years old.

Dreams are funny. Many nights, I dream about high school. I'm not sure why this is the case. That time of my life certainly wasn't my favorite of all times. I met some nice kids. I met some not-nice kids. I went to a school in a small town with a small-town mentality. I had some great teachers and some not great teachers. The story isn't exciting, and so I will never write a book about it. No one would read it. (Oh wait. No one besides my friends are reading my books right now anyway, right?)

But why do I dream about people from high school? I'm in contact with pretty much one (yes one!) person from that wretched place, and I hear from a few more via Facebook, but I do not think about these people on a regular basis. So why do my dreams? Maybe, unbeknownst to me, I hold onto residual teen angst. And maybe, my subconscious is trying to work through all of that crap. Who knows? Again, not me.

So what was it this time? The last time I dreamed of high school I ended up viewing the family jewels of an old crush. This time, I served ravioli and sausage to an old friend who is due with a baby sometime this month. She wondered why I served so much (I cook for at least six people these days) and I wondered why she was planning on serving ravioli to a future five-week old baby ("I'll freeze some," she said. "Babies can eat ravioli at five weeks!")

No clue. No clue. And what's wrong with me?




Monday, February 20, 2017

Edu-ma-cation II

Each semester, I tell the students to ask questions if they have them. The more they question me, the more I understand if they comprehend the material or not. I've even gone so far as to say to a class, "If you don't understand a concept, but you're not sure what question to ask, still contact me. I can probably help."

Of course I can help: I'M THE PERSON WHO WRITES THE EXAMS FOR THE COURSE. I'm also really qualified to be teaching the class, and that's not being a braggart, it's stating a fact.

Finally, the other night, I received this email: "I am having a hard time understanding F=P/R and P=HR x SV x R. I understand how you get to that equation, but what I don't understand is how those all regulate blood pressure. I'm not really sure how to ask a question."

Aha! So they do listen to me at times!

Well, to be quite honest, talking about blood flow (F), blood pressure (P or more accurately ΔP), and resistance (R) is a difficult thing to do via email. But I felt the need to get this student an answer. So I plunged in. And then, I thought, why not share this information to my faithful readers? Of course, you need to know a bit about the heart, blood vessels, and the body to understand the answer, but if you have any interest in your blood pressure and how it is regulated, then read on. This is what I said:

F=P/R means that flow is affected by pressure and resistance. The P should really be ΔP, which indicates a difference in pressure. If you don't have a pressure difference, then there will be no flow. That concept is proven with that formula, but it's also a concept you need to know. 
Flow is also affected by resistance. If you increase the resistance, you decrease the flow. Think of it as someone blocking a doorway to let people out. The flow of people will be decreased if you increase resistance (block the doorway with your body). If you decrease resistance, flow goes up. But again, the reason we talk about flow in terms of pressure in the first place is because you can't have flow without a pressure differential. The pressure is high in the aorta and then gets lower as you go through the hierarchy of vessels. Once you get to the veins, the pressure is very low. That differential is what helps the flow of blood to occur. 
Remember that if you don't have blood flow, you don't have oxygen getting to your tissues, and tissues will die. 
So, you need to have a ΔP, and we need to maintain that pressure. That's where P=HR x SV x R comes in. We essentially took F=P/R, multiplied by R on both sides to get P = F x R, and then substituted CO for F [CO means cardiac output, which is equivalent to flow]. Which leads us to P = CO x R. And we know that CO = HR x SV, so if we substitute those into the P = CO x R, we now have P = HR x SV x R. [HR = heart rate and SV = stroke volume, in case you're interested.] 
That's a great formula to know because it helps us understand what affects the maintenance of blood pressure. We know that an increase in HR, SV, or R will increase the pressure (increase in R means we vasoconstrict). If we decrease HR, SV, or R, then we decrease the pressure (decrease in R means we vasodilate). So, our body can adjust these variables to make changes in the BP if necessary. We can easily adjust HR and R and we routinely do when our body faces a homeostatic imbalance. 
Think about what we discussed in class. What happens when our BP goes up? How does our body adjust to that? First and foremost, we want to bring the BP back down. How do we do that? The baroreceptors that sensed the BP change will send a message to the brain. The brain says, we need to do something to fix this situation, and we need to get the BP to come back down. So, let's inhibit impulses to the sympathetic nervous system, which will decrease HR, AND it will allow for a decrease in R (via vasodilation). We also see a decrease in CO. All of the decreases lead to a decrease in BP. One of the main things here is to remember that this is a short term control and it mainly works with the resistance side of things (called peripheral resistance). 
The picture I've included in the notes [see below] goes through that scenario (at the top) and the opposite scenario (at the bottom). But that control is pretty much short term and we can't sustain it long term, so then we need help from the kidneys. The kidneys alter the blood volume to make changes in BP. We don't know about kidney function yet, so I'm not requiring you to know all the details. Mainly, if blood pressure does down, we need to get it back up. If we increase blood volume (an increase in CO), then we increase BP (using that above formula again). Of course, there are details about conserving water and the direct and indirect mechanisms that the kidney uses in this control, but those details--right now--aren't needed. 
After that, we have to ask ourselves if we have transient (intermittent) changes in BP and our body is making adjustments, how do tissues get what they need? That's when we talked about local blood flow and local arterioles, vasoconstriction and vasodilation. I think those notes are pretty straight forward. 
Hope that helps.

For educational purposes only, Pearson Education Inc.
And I do hope that helps. The student, you, your mom, your sibling. Whoever. I'm here to edumacate you and I enjoy doing so.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Buckle Up

Last week, I registered the twins for a driving class.

A DRIVING CLASS.

I just need time to buckle up and slow down. Don't you?


Friday, February 17, 2017

Plus Ça Change...

The other day at the library, Melina and I happened upon a book that looked very interesting. Melina is a history lover, and we're always looking for books that might be appropriate for her young eyes. In the juvenile section, we found The Plot to Kill Hitler: Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Spy, Unlikely Hero, by Patricia McCormick.

Before Melina could even begin to look at the book, both Aaron and I had devoured it--me within about an hour. The author researched Bonhoeffer's life and used primary sources in many instances to get details correct. Forty pages into the book, I found myself clutching my throat. A letter* that Bonhoeffer, a German citizen, had sent home when he was traveling to the United States made me tear up and realize that here in the United States, some things never change.
The separation of whites from blacks in the southern states really does make a rather shameful impression. In railways that separation extends to even the tiniest details. I found that the cars of the negroes generally look cleaner than the others. It also pleased me when the whites had to crowd into their railway cars while often only a single person was sitting in the entire railway car for negroes. The way the southerners talk about the negroes is simply repugnant, and in this regard the pastors are no better than the others. I still believe that the spiritual songs of the southern negroes represent some of the greatest artistic achievements in America. It is a bit unnerving that in a country with so inordinately many slogans about brotherhood, peace and so on, such things still continue completely uncorrected.

A short time ago, I might have thought we'd made some progress in terms of race relations, but now, I know how much farther we have to go.

*Excerpted from: Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, by Eric Metaxas (Thomas Nelson, 2010), p. 109.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Unfriended

Social media is an interesting beast. I have friends on Facebook who claim to have 5000 or more friends. Are each and every one of those people actually people they've met? Furthermore, do they care about each and every one?

Of course, I'm probably being a hypocrite. I have people in my friends' list who I guess shouldn't be there. People I knew back in high school or elementary school, those who I really don't keep up with on a daily or even monthly basis. Hell, some of the people on the list don't pop up regularly enough on my feed to keep me interested. I can't really even say when I last interacted with them. I probably should let them go, I guess.

But unfriending someone is also an interesting beast, if you ask me. Because unfriending someone effectively cuts them out of your social media life and says to them, "I don't like you enough to keep you in my very large acquaintance circle." I can also think of a few other things unfriending says, but those aren't appropriate for this forum. Since I'm the sort of person who mainly gets along with most people, and who tries my best to see the other side of things, I have, to date, only unfriended one person.


Why? Because that person, regardless of what I said, always had something contraditory to say to me. And that person always thought he or she was right. And most of all, that person always, and I mean ALWAYS, used SHOUTY CAPITALS to try and make his or her point. As well as profanity. Imagine profanity and those shouty capitals. I just couldn't take it anymore. I asked once for the language to stop. It didn't. So I hit the button.

Well imagine my surprise when I realized the other day that yes, I had been unfriended. I think I know why it occurred--that's for me to ruminate about--but I have to say that truly, I was gobsmacked. I reserve unfriending for the most extreme of cases. Anyone else I disagree with--I just don't bother engaging in conversation if they refuse to discuss and insist on arguing. And this person--well--we didn't really have an out and out disagreement. We just didn't see eye to eye on something. One time. But instead of simply ignoring that particular post or trying to pursue a thoughtful conversation to discuss our different points of view, this person felt the need to say goodbye.

I actually went back in my timeline to see what I had posted recently that might have set this person off. All I could find was that one post. The rest of my posts were related to one of the following: my dog, this blog, where you can find facts, Black History Month, funnies about kids, and some science news. And if any of those topics turned this person away, so be it.

I should be honest and say that I'm not hurt by the lack of connection. This person merely stood on the periphery of my small friend circle. I interact with him or her, but not enough to warrant thoughts from me every day. But I will say this: I held this person in higher regard than I guess I should have, and thus, I am disappointed. I really thought he or she possessed the maturity to discuss with me our differences, to maybe sit and chat and figure out what I meant with my post and what he or she meant with the reply.

Clearly, I was wrong.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Sucker

In case you weren't aware, email marketing works.

How do I know? Because yesterday, as I was editing a piece of someone else's fiction, I checked my email. There, in my promotions folder, I found an email from CVS. It said:
Valentine's Day is here! Need a last-minute gift or two? Hurry in store -- we've got just what you need.
Up until that moment, I had no plans to get any of the family members a gift for Valentine's Day. But no sooner had I read the email and there I was, checking my watch to see what time it was and wondering if I had spare time to run out to CVS. Twenty minutes later, I came home, less money in my pocket and this load in my hands.


I'm a sucker and I know it. (But in reality, I just really love my kids.)


Monday, February 13, 2017

A Lesson in Toasted Oats

Every morning of the week, I eat toasted oats for breakfast. In fact, if I have a choice of a large breakfast, complete with eggs, toast, potatoes, and fruit, I will choose the bowl of toasted oats. I much prefer a smaller breakfast, and would rather eat the larger meal at lunchtime.

What I've learned over the last year, though, is that I'm more particular about my toasted oats than I originally thought. As in, I apparently won't eat just any toasted oats.

So what happened? I know you're dying to know...

A week or two ago, when I was at Meijer, I remembered that we were getting low on toasted oats. (It's not that I have anything against Cheerios, per se--they are tasty--but they are also expensive. Of course, all cold cereal is a little pricey when you compare it to other foods, but I digress.) I made my way to the cereal aisle, grabbed a box of the store brand toasted oats, and eventually made my way home.


When it came time to open the package and eat the cereal, though, it became very clear--within two bites,really--that my belief that not all toasted oats are created equal is true. I had already figured this lesson out earlier in they year when I purchased a box of Millville Crispy Oats. That cereal, in my opinion, tastes like cardboard. It was so bad that I actually threw the entire box out. Well the Meijer brand tasted only minimally better to me.

Why hadn't I noticed all of this before? Probably because I usually buy the Kroger or Trader Joe's brand of toasted oats.

What have I learned? That I must stick to those three brands--Kroger, Trader Joe's, or Cheerios--if I want to start my day off on the right foot. And I'm all about starting off the day properly.

Happy Monday!


Sunday, February 12, 2017

Talk

Sometimes you just need to talk about something—not to get sympathy or help, but just to kill its power by allowing the truth of things to hit the air.

~Karen Salmansohn


Friday, February 10, 2017

Can I Get An Amen?

Almost four years ago now, FRN wrote to me: In my next life, I'm coming back as Melina. Can I get an amen?

Of course, she can get an amen from me. In fact, she can get a resounding AMEN. I love all of my children, but if I had to come back as any one of them, I'd pick her.

Does that sound bad? It might. There's no doubt that I would love to have Aaron's way with numbers and ability to create anything from cardboard. I'd also be willing to experience Talia's melodious voice and aptitude for writing and drawing. And Zoe? Well, she also has a wonderful singing voice and ability to stand her ground, plus she's also a good writer. Each of my children possesses qualities that I can identify and appreciate. And if I get to come back, I could probably do pretty well as each of them. But Melina? Well, she's just another set of Legos all together.

We've talked about this trait of hers before. The moments she stands before the mirror and likes what she sees. The way she is confident in herself and what she knows. The way she stands to be corrected by someone without getting upset. How she loves herself, her family, her life. Happiness is so abundant in Melinaland. Why can't we all capture that same joy, hold onto it, and pass it on in our everyday lives?

So can I get an amen to that?



Thursday, February 9, 2017

Gathering Dust

I bought flowers for her,
an ebullient bunch of lilies and pachysandra and daisies.
All whites and blues and yellows,
the colors she tells me she loves.
"They remind me of the sun and the water,
of my favorite beach," she says.
The one where she grew up.
She tells me this each time I see her.

She also pulls me in close,
wraps her soft arms around my shoulders
and whispers into my ear.
"It's always good to see you."
Her eyes crinkle inward,
and her lips curve upwards.
and the hug, long and slow,
is the type that engulfs you,
makes you feel special.
You think you might be one of the chosen,
the special few who breach the wall.

Those lilies and pachysandra and daisies still sit,
waiting, on my windowsill.
Gathering dust, losing life,
wilting in the weak winter sun.
The loss is hers, really.



Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Looking for Answers

My latest question:

How many members of Congress who have school-age children actually utilize public schools?

And the related question:

How many members of Congress who have children actually utilized public schools when their children were of age?

If you have those answers, let me know. Thank you.




Tuesday, February 7, 2017

My Views, III

I try to avoid making blanket statements and generalizations in my everyday writing. But I've found that some generalizations ring true, and sometimes, I say what I think sans filter. You and I both know, of course, that if you say what you think, at least one person with a differing point of view will have something else to say back. That's okay with me: I like discussions. On the other hand, if the other people don't want to discuss, and instead want to argue, you've just gotten yourself into a bit of a pickle. Hence my penchant to avoid blanket statements and generalizations.

Well, I made a mistake several weeks ago and said something that I think is true (from my experience) but that I admit, could have been worded in a better way. What I'd written was: "My read on the Republican viewpoint: Every life is precious but every life isn't precious enough to ensure healthcare for everyone." I went on to also write, "(And now I'm done politically. Going back to posts about the writing life only...)" This post of mine came on January 13, before Trump was inaugurated, but in the thick of conversation about the ACA repeal.

Most people who know me understood what I meant (I even received an email about it), but some folks felt affronted by my words and spat back some comments that might have been construed as "not friendly." In fact, a friend of mine apologized if I felt attacked, even though she didn't chime in on the discussion. Actually, I didn't feel attacked, but I was glad this friend at least cared enough to check in on me.

One thing I was accused of was making a blanket statement, which is true. My wording implied that every Republican in the entire USA is pro-life and doesn't want to extend healthcare to everyone. On the other side of the coin, another person pointed out that my post could imply that every Democrat doesn't believe in life at all. Mea culpa. I definitely should have worded my views differently.


Here's the thing though. I will stand by that statement, although what I should have actually written is: "My read on the Republican Congress viewpoint right now: every life is precious but not precious enough to ensure health care for everyone." Had I stated it that way, I would have been right. The Republican members of Congress had already voted, at that time, to begin the repeal of the ACA before anything else was in place. So yes, that statement--while an opinion of mine and a blanket statement--seemed pretty accurate. On the other hand, I know that not all Republicans agree with the repeal of the ACA. I also know that not all Democrats agree with the existence of the ACA.

And here's another thing. Very few Republican acquaintances of mine think that a repeal of the ACA without having any other plan in place is a problem. I know that the size of my friend/acquaintance pool is a small sample size, but if I took a poll of all the people who identify as Republican, what would I find? I should do the same for the Democrats or Independents, too. I'll have to put that on my to-do list and send out an update. (If you have similar data, feel free to reach out to me.)

What I can easily find comes in two forms:

First up, data from the Pew Research center that states, with respect to the ACA: "48% [of Americans] approve of it while 47% disapprove, according to the survey, conducted Nov. 30 to Dec. 5."

They provide a nice info graphic, which I've linked to here:

That article also goes on to say that "about three-quarters (73%) of Democrats approve of the law, while 85% of Republicans disapprove. Independents are roughly as likely to approve (52%) as disapprove (45%), though independent views of the law have grown more positive in the wake of the election."

What I find even more interesting, though, is that when the ACA is broken down into its provisions, look at how many people--including Republicans--are in favor of much of the health care law:

Go here for the image and article.
So my question is, then, do these people, who favor these provisions, realize that with an entire repeal of the ACA, these provisions will be gone?

Secondly, I also found a link to an article that discusses Obamacare, how it works, and how Republicans would change it. Within that article is a graph that answers the question, "What would you like to see President-elect Donald Trump and the next Congress do when it comes to the health care law?" The answer given is that 26% of Americans (I don't know if that's all Americans, but I think it is, no details of political affiliations) want to "repeal the entire law."

I find that a body of people (of any affiliation) who wants to repeal a plan that helps millions of citizens without having an alternative plan in place to be reprehensible. I find it very, very intriguing that those same people who "favor provisions" want to repeal the entire law. It makes me think that most people don't really understand the questions they are being asked, or the extent of what the ACA even means.

And let me say this, lest you think I'm against all Republicans, if the Democrat members of Congress had voted to repeal the ACA entirely, I'd be upset with them, too. I might stand on the side of the Democrats in most instances, but I certainly don't think they are infallible. Yes, the ACA has its problems. But let me tell you something that shapes my outlook.

I have a student who, thanks to the ACA, is now covered by insurance even though she suffers from acute intermittent porphyria. She is afraid that she will not find someone to cover her due to this pre-existing condition.

I have a student who, thanks to the ACA, could afford to follow her dreams and open her own business. Prior to Obamacare, she'd been afraid to quit her job because she depended on it for insurance. Sure, she has a few high premiums, but she's insured. And grateful. Now, she's not quite sure what she will do.

I know a woman who, prior to the ACA, was pregnant. Her husband switched jobs during that time and her pregnancy was deemed a "pre-existing" condition. With a repeal of the ACA, it is possible that pregnant women might be denied insurance, at a time when insurance is so crucial to the health and livelihood of both mom and baby.

And those are three circumstances of which I am aware. My guess is that plenty more stories could be told if I simply seek them out. (Just for kicks, search for some stories on how Obamacare has positively affected the general public. One story can be found here, and another here,)

I'm lucky in that my husband carries insurance through his employer and when I go back to work full-time, I could choose to use that insurance plan if I needed to. I'm also lucky that so far, my family is relatively young and healthy.

But what about my folks--an 81 year old pre-diabetic father and a 71-year-old mother with Alzheimer's? Let me be clear that my folks are doing fine: my father worked for a very long time before retiring, he didn't spend frivolously, and he's managed his investments well. Both of my parents, however, have a laundry list of medicines they currently take. According to Politifact, with the repeal of the ACA, they, too, will feel ramifications because they rely, in part, on Medicare. In fact, according to that article, medicine costs will likely increase quite a bit:
Perhaps the most notable change would be to reverse efforts to close the "doughnut hole" for prescription drugs. One provision of the Affordable Care Act dramatically cut the amount that seniors on Medicare have to pay for their medicines. (This is known as "closing the doughnut hole" because prior to the law’s passage, beneficiaries got some coverage up to a certain dollar amount, and then none until high-dollar, catastrophic coverage provisions kicked in.)
Both my mother and father voted for Trump, for a multitude of reasons. But I spoke to my dad once about Medicare and health care costs. He didn't fully understand that 1. Medicare was a government run program and that 2. Trump had planned to change the ACA. My father worries that the money for my mother's impending nursing home care won't be there, and I fear that he'll be right. With rising costs due to the ACA repeal, my folks and people like them will find less money in their pockets.

I'm not here to convince any readers of anything, though. Anyone with the ability to read and synthesize their own ideas after reading credible reports can figure out that the repeal of the ACA will cause changes, many of them not good, for many of Americans. What it comes down to, in my opinion, is whether these changes were important to you back on November 8.

For me, they were. As much as I can see the problems with Obamacare, I was more concerned that millions of Americans had access to insurance and I knew that Trump and a Republican Congress would pull it away from unsuspecting Americans as quickly as they could. And while some Republican members of Congress (think Bill Cassidy and Susan Collins) do admit that an alternate plan in place is a good idea, sadly, those members aren't making a big enough stink to mean a thing, nor are the alternatives good for the low-income families who live in the USA. And of course, that was always the problem with Trump during his campaign days: he never had a solid plan for anything and despite what he said, he never had the low-income folks in mind.

P.S. While I was putting this post together, I found this first-hand account of someone who used to work in insurance. I'm sharing the link here, since he made it public on his Facebook account. He certainly gives us something to think about.

P.P.S. Also while putting together this post, NPR reported that the GOP is backing away from an entire repeal of the law and that other Republican members of congress, like Lamar Alexander, have something to say about repeal before replacement.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Episodes

She knows when she looks back on the moment later, she'll laugh. But now, as she watches her mom walk up and down the stairs and then watches her dad do the same thing, looks of confusion filling each of their faces, neither one convinced that the jacket in her hand is really her mother's, she realizes just how bad her parents' minds have become.

How and when did the trajectory turn south? Hadn't she been there, most of the days, to help them with the mundane activities? Hadn't she been shuttling them to this appointment and that, finding the time to fit in trips to the grocery store and the library and church? Maybe she'd been too close to see anything, but she really figured she'd have more time than this to make changes in her life. To make changes in their lives.

"Mom! This isn't my coat." She shakes the garment, trying to transfer her frustration from her own body to this inanimate object. "This isn't a coat that any of us have ever worn. This is your coat."

"No," her mom shakes her head. "I don't think so." Placing a hand back on the banister, her mother looks up toward the ceiling and begins to climb once again the 13 steps to the second floor.

She wonders if her mother can still count that high, to 13, or if that, too, is beyond her current capabilities. A voice interrupts her thoughts.

"I'll look again, just a minute." The voice is followed by a pair of slipper-clad feet, then khaki-covered legs, then the rest of her dad's body as he comes to stand next to her. He reaches out to the navy fleece, fingers the pilled cloth, and looks at her. "I don't think this is it. I really don't. But I'm not actually sure where she put her coat." And then he, too, goes back up the stairs.


An enormous bubble of agitated laughter begins to erupt within her as she watches the circus (or the shit show, which is it?) in front of her. She knows that the coat she grips is her mother's. It's the same one Mom always wears, spring, summer, fall, and winter. The one that keeps her mother too warm in the June sunshine and too cool in the bitter wind of January. It's the coat that her parents had placed into the front closet upon their arrival, much like they have for the past 13 years.

She arches her back and adjusts her shoulders, drapes the jacket over her arm, and then pulls the chair toward her body. Lowering herself into the seat, she lets out a tired breath. She lays the coat over her knees and closes her eyes. In a few minutes, at least this episode will be over.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Misinformation

I cannot tell you how many of my friends talk to me about people being uninformed these days. Despite the plethora of news via social media and other technology, people tend not to read anymore. Instead, they look at a headline, make a rash judgment, and share the news wihtout actually having read the actual article they are promoting or condemning. And really, I see this behavior from left leaners, centrists, right wingers, and everyone else. I've even done it myself once or twice, but I learned long ago that being uninformed or misinformed is a state I'd rather not inhabit. So I try my best not to do it.

Well, the other day, I found a very disturbing headline attached to a post I read on--where else?--Facebook. And my first inclination was to yell out, "I don't think so!" But my second thought was to click on the article and see what it had to say. So, I did just that.

Screen shot of the post.

Come to find out, a little video was attached, along with a transcript of what Sean Spicer said in the interview. I'm copying the transcript here, so you can read it and make a judgment for yourself:
SEAN SPICER: Well I think -- there is this -- what I get frustrated with is the double standard in rush to click instead of get it right. Look we all make mistakes. I make them all the time. And I think that what has happened is there is this predisposition in the media to, especially with this president to assume he can't do certain things. He wasn't going to run, he's wasn't going to file, he couldn't win a primary, he wasn't going to get of the field, that he couldn't win Michigan, he wouldn't win Iowa, why is he wasting his time in Pennsylvania? Then he didn't win this. And this vote was going to happen and now the nominees aren't going to get through. In every case, he's  defied the odds and won. And I think the interesting thing is, at some point, the disposition should be he is going to do it unless we can prove otherwise. He has shown through every step of the way that he's going to win. And so it just seems to me it's just odd that if those are the odds, if you are looking at his track record, the track record is a proven track record of success and winning. And yet, the media's default is on every scenario, whether it's hasn't nominees getting through or winning a primary or him accomplishing something,its immediately negative and a failure.
What? Even though I'm no fan of either Spicer or Trump, I certainly did not hear Spicer say that we should "assume Trump is correct unless we can prove otherwise." Did you? Really, did you? Because if you did, I want to know. I want to understand how I can come to one conclusion and you another.

And what was my conclusion? I'll tell you, just as I told my friend who posted the link, as well as Media Matters (I sent them an email shortly after I read the transcript):
For the record, I listened to this interview and just read the transcript. This is what was said, "...the disposition should be he is going to do it unless we can prove otherwise. He has shown through every step of the way that he's going to win. And so it just seems to me it's just odd that if those are the odds, if you are looking at his track record, the track record is a proven track record of success and winning." That is very different from the headline, which in my opinion is somewhat misleading. What Spicer said is that Trump will go ahead and do whatever he wants to do, and that most likely, he will manage to do it. In my opinion that is not the same as Trump being "correct unless they prove otherwise." I'm a little saddened that Media Matters printed a headline like that. 
Of course, Media Matters didn't email me back, but I checked their site to see if they'd changed the title. And sure enough, this is what I found.

Screen shot of the article.

Gah! That still doesn't give the truth of what Spicer said. Again, if you read the transcript, it says, "the disposition should be he is going to do it unless we can prove otherwise." Meaning, Trump will do it (whatever IT is) regardless of whether or not people want him to. Or, don't assume he won't do it, because he will.

I went to look at the Media Matters website and to see what it is all about. As far as I understood, it was a media outlet that tended to lean to the left. I should also add, although I lean left, it is not a website I usually go to for reliable news. And I'm glad that I don't, for this is what they had on their about page (bolded emphasis mine):
Media Matters for America is a Web-based, not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media. 
Launched in May 2004, Media Matters for America put in place, for the first time, the means to systematically monitor a cross section of print, broadcast, cable, radio, and Internet media outlets for conservative misinformation - news or commentary that is not accurate, reliable, or credible and that forwards the conservative agenda - every day, in real time. 
Using the website mediamatters.org as the principal vehicle for disseminating research and information, Media Matters posts rapid-response items as well as longer research and analytic reports documenting conservative misinformation throughout the media. Additionally, Media Matters works daily to notify activists, journalists, pundits, and the general public about instances of misinformation, providing them with the resources to rebut false claims and to take direct action against offending media institutions.
Conservative misinformation? Yeah, I think Media Matters needs to put their money where there mouth is, don't you?

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Five Things

A year ago, or maybe two, I signed up to receive emails from Lunchbox Love. Yesterday was day 24 of the 2017 Family Kindness Challenge. The thought for the day?


I thought for a couple of moments because many times we do spend a lot of time preaching kindness to others, but it's so important to be kind to yourself. And being kind to yourself means recognizing all the characteristics about yourself that you like.

So, the question was, could I even find five things I like about myself?

I thought some more and decided that I didn't want to list something physical like, "the color of my eyes." Instead, I wanted to jot down non-physical characteristics. And let me tell you, the task is harder than you might think. I challenge you to try it.

Five Things I Like About Myself
1. My inordinate amount of common sense.
2. My ability to empathize.
3. My listening skills.
4. My diplomacy.
5. My patience.

I looked back over this list, by the way, and I guess I can see why I'm drawn toward mothering, teaching, and editing. I use all five of these characteristics on an almost daily basis.

By the way, the folks over at sayplease.com have given me permission to share their images, all of which have been put together by them.