back!

Greetings, readers, friends, peers, and participants! I have missed you! But prior to sharing some insight into the past few weeks and foreshadowing a bit of what’s next, allow me to extract some wisdom from current, current events…

Roger Federer, one of most talented persons to ever play the sport of tennis, celebrated his 36th birthday during my recent respite. Currently contending in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open, in July, Federer was crowned the oldest open era winner of Wimbledon (the “open era” began in 1968). If Federer wins this weekend’s championship, he will also become the oldest winner at Flushing Meadows.

To win at 36 in professional tennis is highly unusual. Also seemingly unusual, is the discernment Federer has so keenly displayed — a discernment available (to us all, if we take it) via age. In an excellent editorial by contributor Bruce Y. Lee in Forbes this summer, Lee noted what was unique about Federer’s success. Unlike the professionals who enroll in each and every tournament, Federer decided much of last year to rest. He wasn’t hurt; he took time off — despite being ostensibly healthy.

Lee continued with the following:

“Rest and recovery are an important and often overlooked part of sports. Of course, if you are resting all the time, you aren’t really playing the sport… But constant practice, training and competition are not good either. Anything in excess, including sushi and baby animals, is bad. Always being on the go doesn’t give your body time to replenish its glycogen stores, repair damage such as small muscle tears and rebuild into a stronger and more flexible version. Injuries tend to occur when you are fatigued not only because of wear and tear, but also because you tend to lose focus, concentration and good form.”

Something in Lee’s words struck me this summer (… no, not that I believe Roger and I have so much in common in our obvious, mutual athletic prowess). Rather, I am learning that rest is good. Rest is necessary. And intentional rest is wise. In fact, if we are not intentional in employing individual rest, then the good Lord seems to allow for some creative way — like it or not — of slowing us down. Yes, it is wise to be intentional in our rest so that we don’t lose our focus, concentration and good form.

I suppose some from afar would look at my last few weeks and ponder where the rest was. True. My best estimates are that in the past 6-7 weeks, I drove approximately 5,914 miles, sold a house, moved four states away, dropped two kids off at college, ensured one medium-sized dog survived, and witnessed one son eat both frog legs and escargot. (Ok, so that last one isn’t so relevant… just kind of fun to say.)

To say the least, my season was busy; the above was on top of the other commitments already a part of my day. I needed rest. I needed not just a time for crashing on the couch. I needed time to slow down… rest and reflect… be refreshed… both feast and fast… get a sense of divine direction… be still… quiet… gently ask where are those pockets where I still need to grow. The intentional rest thus allowed for such a time.

And so let me first offer a humble thank you… to our once again excellent Guest Writers in our annual series. Thank you for covering so much so well! Whether I shared your opinion or not was secondary to the respect lavished upon the expression of your perspective; that is something we all could get so better at — and dare I say, should get so better at. I thoroughly enjoyed processing each of your perspectives.

Thank you, also, to you, my respected readers, friends, peers, and participants. I appreciate that you have embraced others who prioritize respectful communication. That is a gift you give to me. That is a gift we give to one another.

And so now ’tis time to get started. I mean it… I have so much to say!! I want to talk about Charlottesville, Harvey, ESPN, and CBS News. I want to talk about controlling the historical narrative, racial reconciliation, and how disaster can be an opportunity. I want to talk about finger pointing and healing… authentic healing. I also want to talk about virtue and who has it and the penetration of pluralism in our culture. Yes, so much to say. So many things we need to talk about.

So let’s start on Thursday. Topic?

Bumper stickers.

I drove approximately 5,914 miles; remember?

(Looks like we’re back in good form.)

Respectfully…
AR

 

[Photo by anja. on Unsplash]

principle or power

Over the last decade I have seen the priorities of discourse trend away from arguments based on principle to those fed by the desire for power. Persuasive speech driven by facts has given way to forceful tactics where anything goes as long as you persuade or shut up your opponent. Honesty has lost its value while influence is the goal we all seem to be grabbing for.

A few years ago a friend shared an article on Facebook regarding an author she had issues with. The article was full of fabricated untruths that vilified the author. I pointed this out to my friend.

“It doesn’t matter,” she said, “I don’t think people should read her books.”

She was using the article to frighten people from reading rather than putting out her own thoughtful opinion based on facts and reason.

In this world of instant results, it seems we have lost the willpower to take the time to actually engage over our differences. We would rather convince people of something in a matter of seconds. Our world of pictures, where we can with a snap show the universe a fabulous meal at a restaurant — “You need to go here!” or of a disastrous vacation spot, “Avoid this place at all costs!” — has turned us into toddlers who use only short sentences and a lot of jumping up and down to get our opinion heard.

To my point, I received a phone call from a polling firm earlier this summer. They asked a series of questions regarding political issues. For most questions, I was given 4-5 responses to choose from, except one question where I was given only two possible answers, neither of which reflected my opinion and both were very one-sided.

“Are those the only answers to choose from?” I asked the surveyor.

“Umm, no,“ she replied. “There are three more listed, but we were told to only read the first two unless asked.”

The polling firm was obviously looking for a particular answer, not caring about the integrity of the survey.

When we use false, exaggerated or manipulated information, not only does the argument fall flat, but the source loses respect and credibility. Which is why, according to recent Gallop polls, less than a third of Americans trust the media. But it is not just the media that are using these tactics.

There is a current court case in Canada where a scientist has been accused of manipulating data in order to show certain results… celebrities being sued for posting complete falsehoods on Twitter… and the thousands who reposted a picture of President Obama not having his hand over his heart during the national anthem while military members saluted around him, not bothering to check the source. Turns out it was “Hail to the Chief” that was playing and he wasn’t supposed to have his hand anywhere near his heart. We have become just as quick to put something out there because it reinforces our opinion whether there is validity to it or not.

If we want to maintain our integrity as individuals or as a society, I propose that we need to all take stock in how we try to persuade others…

Are we totally honest with our approach?

Are we open to hearing rebuttals?

Are we willing to take the time to have open and civil conversations over our differences?

Are we willing to be principled rather than powerful?

Respectfully…
SS

your health is in your hands

With chronic illness on the rise and many of us facing our own health-related challenges these days, I want to take a moment to look at how we respond to these difficult circumstances. So often, when faced with illness, we are looking for a quick fix, an easy answer. We go to the doctor expecting him/her to fix it, to give us a prescription or recommend a procedure that will make it all go away.

But what would happen if we stopped looking for a magic pill, for a simple fix, for a doctor to give us the answer? What if we, instead, turned to our own bodies for the answer to healing? What if illness is our bodies way of communicating with us and telling us we need to make a change? What if healing is possible, but the answer isn’t just a simple fix?

Truth is, we are extremely capable of healing ourselves. Our immune system was designed to heal our body and it’s inherently great and efficient at doing so. Think about it… if you get a cut on your arm, you don’t need a prescription or a procedure to heal. Your body knows what to do and immediately goes to work healing the wound. So, if we know that our body is inherently capable of healing itself then why do we look outside the body for a cure when things get tough?

We often turn to the advice of doctors because they are the experts in their field. They “know more than us.” While they surely have depth in their field of knowledge, it is often a very narrow scope, when illness is usually caused by a wide range of conditions. Doctors don’t always take the time to get to know their patients and the lifestyle habits that can influence the patient’s health. All of these variables need to be considered when deciding the best path to healing. Who is more of an expert on what’s going on in your body than you? Who better to decide what’s right for your body than the person who knows it best? If we trust in our body and our own personal ability to heal, we could have a great impact on our own health.

This is not just ideology, I speak from my own experience. I dealt with HPV and severe cervical dysplasia for over 7 years before finally finding my way to health and healing. HPV (the Human Papilloma Virus) is an extremely common sexually transmitted virus that can potentially cause cervical cancer. I had severe cervical dysplasia or mutated cells on the inner lining of my cervix. Had it progressed any worse, it would have been cancer. I spent years trying the traditional methods, following the doctor’s orders. They recommended a LEEP (Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure), which could possibly reduce my ability to bear children, only to have the mutated cells return, worse than before.

After a doctor told me my options were getting a second LEEP, or waiting until it turns to cancer and she would give me a hysterectomy, I choose a different option. Instead of relying only on what a doctor had to say, I started listening to myself, something we often forget to do when dealing with our health. I decided to take my health into my own hands. I started to listen to my body. I trusted my own intuition. And it told me that another LEEP was not the answer. I knew that my body was capable of healing itself. just had to have faith in it and find ways to help my body heal.

If I was going to heal, I was going to have to heal myself. After years of trying different methods, I was finally able to clear the virus and reverse the cervical dysplasia. Many people asked me how I did it. I noticed they were looking for one simple answer — a diet, a pill, a vitamin, a supplement, a doctor. But my path to healing wasn’t that simple.

In fact, I knew in order to fully heal, it wouldn’t be a simple answer or a quick fix at all. I knew it would be a complete overhaul of the way I lived my life. I looked at my life from every angle. I started doing my own research and implementing changes that made sense to me. I improved my diet, adding in more fruits and vegetables including lots of dark, leafy greens. I ate more organic foods, less meat and dairy and more nuts, seeds, and whole grains. I cut out a lot of junk food, fast food, and highly-processed food (think anything in a box/bag). I stayed thoroughly hydrated with clean, filtered water. I got rid of personal care products with toxic ingredients, such as parabens and phthalates, which are known cancer-causing agents and replaced them with natural soaps and homemade deodorants and lotions.

But I didn’t stop there. I added more yoga and meditation into my daily life to help reduce stress and anxiety. I changed my daily habits, working less, sleeping more and waking up with the sun. I spent more time outside in nature and less time behind a computer screen. I focused more on self-care and self-love. I spent more time honoring the people and relationships in my life. I was more mindful about the way I reacted to stress, letting the little things go more easily and keeping my body out of unnecessary fight or flight mode, which can wreak havoc on your immune system. I used a variety of immune boosting supplements, changing it up as I learned more about each supplement and how my body responded to them. I found a doctor whose principles were in line with mine and would help support me in my own healing journey.

Basically, I renovated my entire life to be in line with healing. It wasn’t just one thing in the end that did it. There wasn’t a magic pill. It took hard work and determination to really look at my life, analyze what got me to this point and how I wanted to shape the future of my health from here. Sometimes, I wish there was a magic pill, an easy way out, but, the truth is, I have learned so much along the way, I honestly wouldn’t trade the experience for the world. I have changed my daily habits and diet for the better. I feel healthier, stronger and have more energy. HPV truly was a blessing in disguise, designed to help me clean up my diet and lifestyle to ensure a healthy and happy future.

When faced with a medical challenge, keep in mind, YOU are the most important part of the healing process. Sunshine, fresh air, exercise and a healthy diet are the best medicines. Of course, this should not take the place of professional medical advice. But if that advice doesn’t resonate with you, listen to yourself, seek out other opinions and do your own research. Knowledge is power and power is healing.

Empowering yourself and putting your health into your own hands is a huge part of the healing process. Align yourself with a healing path that works for you. If we eat well, take care of ourselves, put the right things in our body and take the wrong things out, our bodies can and will heal themselves.

Healing takes hard work, dedication and self-discipline. It’s not just one little change that will do it, but redesigning your life as a whole. It may not always be easy to find your own path to healing, but I promise you, it will be worth it.

Respectfully…
CBM

hope deferred

Can I be real with you for just a minute?

I love words. I love the flow of the pen across an empty page. However, there are those moments when the thoughts are swimming inside my head longing to be free, but it is as if they are stuck somewhere between my mind and my hand. And those are the times when I am reminded that I need to just stop and do some soul listening. That, my friends, is what happened to me this weekend, and I am so grateful.

In mid-June, our friends, Scott and Mindy, their six children, two neighbors’ kids, Mindy’s brother, and Gracie (the family pet from Thailand) came to visit. This was a special visit for our family because it was the first time we got to meet the sweet Asian treasure that we had been praying for and supporting for over a year and a half. Levi came home to his forever family on April 22, 2017. Never before have you seen love given so freely, without reservation, or a heart so grateful for EVERYTHING!!! And when I say everything, I mean everything. His smile, it lights up the room. You would never believe that you are looking at the same child if you saw a picture of him from nearly four months ago and a picture of him now.

Long after their return to Florida, my friend Mindy posted one of the last pictures of Levi in China and talked about his sad eyes… his sad, empty eyes. Those pictures brought to life, for me, more than ever the Proverb that says:

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”

My eyes were quickly drawn to two words: “hope” and “deferred.”

Hope… that trust or reliance on, desire accompanied by expectation of fulfillment…

And…

Deferred… to put off, postpone…

Therefore, hope deferred would be to put off or postpone trust or desire. When hope — something we are trusting in or believing to come about — is deferred or put off/postponed, it truly does make the heart sick. The sick heart, the sad, empty eyes — you’ve seen them. I have seen them. We have all seen them whether we like to admit it or not… the pictures of the starving children, with the bloated bellies, in Africa… the rough and tumble group of siblings facing yet another move and another family because they are caught in the foster care system with what seems like no end in sight… or the Chinese treasure who has been sitting in an orphanage for 1,683 days waiting for someone to love him and to love on.

The coolest part of this Proverb is not the sick hearts nor the deferred hope; the coolest part of is that: a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. The longing of a heart fulfilled brings forth hope anew. That which was once on the verge of death is brought to life! This is a love so freely given. This is a heart that is finally set free… this is Hope Deferred…

Sad, empty eyes looking out of you and piercing me
What brings you so much pain?
What could it be?

Sad, empty eyes looking out of you begging to be free
What brings you so much heartache?
What could it be?

Sad, empty eyes looking out of you longing to see
Hope spring alive
Could it really be?

Hope no longer delayed
Empty eyes cease to be
Life springs forth and the heart is set free.

Dedicated to Levi Simeon Wise… thanks for letting me be a part of your circle of love.

Respectfully…
LJ

does evolution make sense?

I recently read an article (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/14/us/darrow-bryan-dayton-tennessee-scopes-statues.html) about a statue of Clarence Darrow being erected in front of the courthouse in Dayton, Tennessee, where the famous Scopes trial was held in 1925. I was interested in one of the comments about the public having an aversion to scientific findings regarding the evolution/creation debate.

I should state at the beginning that I am a believer in Biblical creation. I don’t believe that the Bible contradicts science. I believe that without an orderly, designed creation, there couldn’t be any science. True science, I believe, is based on observable, repeatable events that can be depended on to occur, not presuppositions of things that cannot be observed from the past.

Just as a house or a car need someone who knows what they are doing to conceive of it, design it and make a blueprint, this cosmos needed a wise, knowledgeable being to design and create it. I was in a class where the teacher read a quote from an atheist scientist that if he didn’t know better, it looked like the animal he was studying had been designed. I’ve also read articles that state that parts of animals, like the eyes or wings, etc., could not have evolved little by little. To function, they had to have been created in one step.

I believe that it takes more faith to believe that the universe evolved from nothing to simplicity to complexity than it takes to believe in an intelligent being who thought of it all and created it from nothing. If you go back millions of years to the very beginning, the question remains:

“What was there before the beginning of things, and how did it begin?”

I believe that the intelligent being was God and that He has always existed and is outside of time. I believe He created everything out of nothing. He is described as being “self-existent” and the “uncaused cause.”

It’s not as important to me how long people think it took for God to create the universe, or how long ago it was. But I do believe that the creation narrative is true, in that it says that God created the plants and animals after their own kind, to reproduce their own kind. If you plant an apple seed, you get an apple tree. I will admit that there are mutations and variations within kinds (species), such as the different species of the cat family – house cats to lions and tigers. And lions and tigers can even mate and produce offspring. But I do not believe that one kind can change into another kind, as the theory of evolution suggests.

I believe that as humans, we enjoy and appreciate beauty, nature, music, etc. because a mind that can create those things in the first place placed the enjoyment of them in our minds. When I see a dead animal in the road, I am repulsed. I wonder why humans are repulsed by death and decay, and it occurs to me that it is because death is not natural to us. If we evolved by survival of the fittest, it seems to me that we wouldn’t care if things die and decay.

Ultimately, Biblical creation makes more sense to me than evolution.

Respectfully…
SF

[Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash]

how many cups?

There were two other scary incidents that could have been life threatening to Sam. They were in addition to the times I personally threatened his life.

The first was the grill brush. It was an industrial strength brush hanging on a bar designed for grill accessories on the side of the grill. It was heavy plastic with a brush made of one-inch long, very stiff stainless steel. It was a sturdy sucker-I could have scraped the asphalt driveway clean down to the gravel beneath. The grill was sitting in a corner of the deck covered by a vinyl cover-out of sight, out of mind. Apparently, it wasn’t out of Sam’s mind.

We frequently left Sam and Meg outside in the backyard, safe within the confines of the Invisible Fence. They loved to lie on the deck in the sun. Like a child, we couldn’t leave Sam alone for long or he’d find something to do, and this time he thought he would clean the meat flavor off the grill brush. Maybe he thought he was helping, like doing the dishes.

I found what little was left of the plastic handle lying in the grass. There was no sign of the steel brush anywhere. I even got down on my hands and knees to look for pieces hidden in the grass, but I found nothing. He could have munched it anywhere and discarded it. He was never selective about dining ambiance.

I started to seriously worry about the metal pieces perforating his stomach or intestines trying to pass through his body, and a possible trip to the emergency clinic in the middle of the night. No sign of distress the following two days, but on the third, Ed was doing poop patrol before mowing and yelled, “Lin, come out here. You’ve got to see this!”

I walked up, looked where he was pointing and burst out laughing. There it was: a huge pooh that looked like an explosion of mangled Brillo, all spikey and metallic. It must have hurt a lot, like passing ground up tin cans. It was really something, and we laughed about it for days.

The next eating extravaganza was expensive. I used manure-based fertilizer for many of the flowering shrubs around the house. The ten pound bag was too heavy to lug around, so I filled a five gallon bucket about three-quarters full. As I worked my way around digging trenches around the drip lines and mixing the fertilizer into the soil, I had my back turned to the bucket sitting several feet behind me.

I heard Sam behind me somewhere, but I had my head in a Rhododendron, and wasn’t paying him any mind. I had no idea he was following and eating the fertilizer as I worked. Ed came out of the garage and caught him with his head in the bucket.

“Sam! Get out of there”! he yelled.

I turned and looked, and saw Sam’s entire snout covered with the fertilizer. Good grief. How long had he been sneaking the stuff, and what’s in it besides pooh? We knew Sam loved to eat deer and bunny poop, so this was probably a culinary convenience-just stuck his head in a bucket. No rooting in the grass required.

Ed grabbed the bag and started reading the ingredients. To be safe, I called the poison control center. I never had reason to call the doggy poison control center before, and wasn’t aware you were required to charge a rather large sum to a credit card before anyone would speak to you that knew anything about anything. They weren’t in it for philanthropic reasons.

First a tech, or someone like that, asked a lot of questions. I repeated the same answers to the same questions when the vet finally came on the line. At least I assumed he was a vet. He could have been a plumber for all I knew.

I gave Sam’s age, weight, rattled off the ingredients, but could not say exactly how much Sam had ingested. The doctor wanted to know how many cups.

“I wasn’t serving tea”, I snapped. “He was sneaking it when I wasn’t looking”!

After a somewhat frustrating conversation, it was suggested I take him to a vet. Ours was closed for the day, so we piled Sam into the van, and off we went to the Emergency Care Center.

The big goof was as happy as a clam to meet so many new friends. He greeted everyone in the waiting room, went from chair to chair, wagging and smiling, as if he wasn’t about to empty our bank account. He reminded me of a smarmy politician working a crowd. He did everything but kiss babies.

After explaining the situation at the front desk for a third time and filling out the required paperwork, Sam was whisked off to the back. Thankfully, no one asked, “how many cups”?

An hour later a doctor came out to tell us Sam was receiving IV fluids, and they may want to keep him all night to keep an eye on him. She said the high iron content in the fertilizer could damage the lining of his stomach. I almost laughed at that. His stomach was made of iron! She said to hang around for a while, and she would let us know. Cha-ching went the cash register in my head.

While we waited we could hear what sounded like Sam’s deep bark in the back. He didn’t sound ill. In fact, he sounded rather boisterous. It was his happy bark. The doctor came out to give us an update, and I asked her if that was Sam barking. She laughed, and said, “Yes. He’s barking at the cats in the cages. He’s a happy boy, isn’t he? Everybody loves him”. Yeah, everybody loves him.

Four and a half hours later, $522.00 poorer and with two prescriptions, we took Sam home. He had mild diarrhea for a couple of days, but was none the worse for wear. What a knothead.

I will say though, the Rhododendron’s looked splendid that year.

Respectfully…
Linda

 

[Sam and Friends, A Collection of Recollections of Life with a Knothead
With permission by Linda Kiernan July 2017]

doomsday?

Growing up in the inner city of South East Queens NY was a tough enough experience without having new fears to be concerned about with life in NYC in the ‘70s. In high school my science teacher, Mrs. Alvarado/Morales (I never remembered which was her maiden or married name), told us that we had to get prepared for a new phenomena soon to come in our lifetimes. The phenomena was the new Ice Age. She and others in the scientific community were sure that we were headed to an ice armageddon in our very near future. As is evident by the publications of the time, Mrs. Alvarado seemingly had sound evidence behind her claim — or did she?

This last article in July 1971 claims that in 50 or 60 years (which would be about 4-14 years from current date) we might have to have start growing gills. By now some of that evidence should be seen (it doesn’t exist). Wait. I thought ice freezes water — not liquifies it. So while we were sufficiently concerned, no one was panicking that this was going to happen — at least not anyone I was associated with at the time.

Fast forward to 2017… Now it’s global warming which quickly fell out of vogue. It is now “climate change.” The most important aspect of this new climate change frenzy is if you don’t believe in it as prescribed, many consider you a neanderthal, fool, or as Al Gore said July 13th in Australia, ignoring “the tradition of all the great moral causes that have improved the circumstances of humanity throughout our history.” He further went on to liken the climate change battle to “the abolition of slavery, woman’s suffrage and women’s rights, the civil rights movement and the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, the movement to stop the toxic phase of nuclear arms race and more recently, the gay rights movement.”

Wow… Being a black man, I can’t imagine anyone trivializing any of these great struggles, especially slavery to climate change.

Climate change has become a new religion; if you disagree with the so-called faithfuls’ ideas on this subject, you might be shamed or rhetorically stoned. Those who present it as settled science that another dare not challenge, are some of the people who told us about the impending Ice Age years ago. The major difference today is how social media and the internet spread the propaganda.

I recently challenged my educated, knowledgeable cousin to prove how climate change really works; he couldn’t. He referenced many scientists who say it is so, and I mentioned scientists who say it is not. At best we had a draw. I asked him why is it ok to accept the thinking of the scientist who says it is so and not the other way around? Were they not all giving theoretical explanations? Again, we had a tie on the arguments at best.

I then asked him a simple question: “Do you know the Las Vegas Valley (where I live) and part of the Mojave Desert was part of an ancient body of water? What happened to it?”

In disbelief, he shrugged it off that this was a fact. I pulled the information from the UNLV site; it reads: “The Mojave Desert is located in the southwestern United States and is composed of Death Valley, Pahrump Valley, Amargosa Valley, the Las Vegas Valley and some of the surrounding areas.

The Mojave Desert region has oscillated in climate many times in the past. When man first arrived in the Mojave, it was not likely to be as desert like as what we experience today. While, no one is sure when man first visited the region, there is evidence for human activity over 10,000 years ago! That would have marked about the end of the Pleistocene era, a time when the Mojave was a much cooler and less arid environment. Portions of what are now vast expanses of desert, were likely shorelines of lakes, streams and marshes, and plentiful vegetation and animal life.

As the climate became hotter and drier, the lakes dried up, the streams receded, and left behind isolated ground water fed springs that contain species found no where else in the world, or ‘endemic’ species.”

So my cousin asked the same question you might ask, which is what the heck does this all mean?

It simply means that nature changes itself with or without mankind’s intervention. We have been measuring weather and keeping records for the past 150 years. We assume that the last 150 years have been the most significant because we must be the masters of weather patterns. We confuse weather which is constantly going through cycles as climate. Climate takes a significant amount of time to change as indicated above by UNLV. Weather can change day to day, year to year, decade to decade. 150 years is not statistically significant to call it a “crisis.”

I gave my cousin some additional examples, such as theories that say the Earth’s poles have shifted over the life of the planet. In other words, it is quite possible that the North pole now sits where the South pole is. After much debate, he admitted that there surely should be additional investigation and we shouldn’t declare climate change to be a settled matter. That was all I asked him and all I would ask you. I also asked him to follow the money line on this issue. Advocates like Al Gore are now worth somewhere between $100 and $300 million according to varied reports. They have made a considerable fortune, perhaps trying to be the modern Noah of the bible. They do this while often flying in Lear jets, limos and burning more carbon footprint in a year than most of us do in a lifetime.

My final conclusion is either someone was lying to me in the 1970s or lying to me now. Or could it be they are just misguided but believe they are smarter than us? I believe the Emperor has no clothes…

Who remembers Heat Miser and Snow Miser from that Christmas cartoon? They are opposite ends of the same idea… just like the Ice Age doomsday that was predicted and passed, as well as the new climate change.

Respectfully…
DG

 

a sick health care system

Most of the news coverage about Congress’ attempt to rewrite the Affordable Care Act may as well be on the sports page. It’s all about who’s winning and losing. Similarly, most of our elected officials stick to their shallow talking points because they are focused on winning politically, too. To talk forthrightly about health care means to acknowledge there will be trade-offs whatever public policy we pursue. Both parties are hesitant to face these realities head on.

We all know that money doesn’t grow on trees, but for some reason many of us seem to think that health care does, and we can have as much of it that we want or need. That is not the case. Health care is like any other good or service. There is not enough of it available for everyone to have as much as they desire. One way or another, there will be rationing. It’s just a question of how.

For most items in our economy, prices are the mechanism to determine who gets what. Some are able to afford the health care they desire at market rates, many can afford it only if they forgo different purchases, and others can’t afford it at all. We are a compassionate people and we don’t like to see others suffer. And so, through our government we have developed programs whereby costs are shifted from one group of people to another: from the poor to the rich (Medicaid), from the old to the young (Medicare), and from the sick to the healthy (Obamacare).

(Actually, the biggest cost shift is from the living to the unborn. All of these programs are financially unsustainable and are loading down future taxpayers with untenable amounts of debt. But that’s for another column.)

Taxes are just one way these costs are shifted. At least with taxes, though, we know who’s paying what. Increasingly, health insurance has become the vehicle by which costs are shifted. This method is particularly insidious, because the degree to which some are subsidizing others is not transparent.

Health care and health insurance are two different things. Traditionally, insurance is something you buy, but hope you never use. If you file an auto, home, or life insurance claim, that means something bad has happened. We willingly pay a relatively small amount of money to share the risk in the unlikely event something catastrophic occurs to us.

Health insurance is structured differently. You would never use your auto insurance to pay for an oil change, yet we use health insurance to pay for a routine check-up. Furthermore, it is common toward the end of the year when deductibles reset for a glut of elective procedures to get scheduled because that way someone else will pay for them. That creates upward pressure on premiums for everyone.

Also, both the federal and state governments require that health insurance policies cover a variety of treatments. At first glance this appears to be a benevolent gesture to force the big rich insurance companies to share some of their wealth. In reality, these costs get passed along to all customers, even those who wouldn’t buy that particular coverage if given a choice.

The regulation that has truly caused health insurance to not be insurance any more is the requirement that insurers cover pre-existing conditions. Consider if you didn’t have auto insurance and had a car accident, or if you didn’t have home insurance and your house caught on fire. If you called an insurance agent the next day and said you wanted to buy a policy and file a claim, they would likely laugh and hang up on you. However, if you didn’t have health insurance and were diagnosed with a costly disease, an insurer has to sell you a policy under current law. That’s crazy.

The Democrats’ answer to this conundrum was the individual mandate. Force everyone to buy insurance and nothing will be pre-existing. It’s hard to keep track of all the Republican reform plans put forth this summer, but some GOP proposals would have kept the politically popular requirement to cover pre-existing conditions but ditched the politically unpopular individual mandate. How about being honest with the American people? You can’t have one without the other.

Ultimately, we need to let health insurance be insurance again. Allow people to buy catastrophic coverage only and pay for routine procedures themselves. For those who can’t afford routine care, use public funds to pay for basic services, and reform malpractice laws for free clinics who provide charity care (again, a topic for another column). Don’t wreck the entire system in pursuit of an unattainable, utopian goal.

Health care is not a right. The irony is that treating it as such actually results less care for everyone, including the poor. How compassionate is that?

Respectfully…
Pete

mom guilt

I struggled this year. I struggled with what I needed to write. What would help someone along their way? …and I struggled. I even considered that the Lord had closed the door on my guest blog time, and yet here I am. I hope this meets you or someone you know along the road when you need it most. Thanks to AR for the invite again; it’s always such an honor.

I was walking with a fellow mom (who I will call P) along a beach path recently in Myrtle Beach. I am just getting to know her, as our sons played baseball together this year.

The husbands were taking a large group of the boys from the team to a local water park and most of the moms were spending the day on the beach. She looked at me like I had 3 heads when I said I was looking forward to a day of relaxing. She asked why I didn’t feel guilty for not going nor felt guilty for planning a day of relaxing at the beach.

I said, “No, I don’t feel guilty.”

I told her P we’re a better mom when we take time for ourselves, read a book, get a pedicure, sit on the beach or have lunch with a friend… doing these things all help us, not hurt us — in being a better mom. P told me she has a lot of guilt being a mom, and that her husband really feeds into the guilt. This conversation has been plaguing me for weeks and got me wondering how many moms feel this same way.

When I googled “mom guilt,” 493,000 pages came up! WOW! WOW! WOW!

I had no idea this was crippling so many moms. I then saw this quote from author Fay Weldon: “guilt to motherhood is like grapes to wine.”

Webster’s defines “mom guilt” as tendencies a mom has to berate herself and to be judged by others for our child rearing decisions. A poll by Glamour Magazine asked men and women how guilty they felt about working after having kids. I was dumbfounded by the results: 87% of women and 0% of men feel guilty.

Let’s go back to my earlier time I was sharing while at the beach…

A group of us were having fun, enjoying the waves, the sun… some were napping, some were chatting… it was a great day. Throughout the day P kept asking if anyone had heard from our spouses and sons… “Do you think they’re ok?… Should I be worried that I haven’t heard from them?” I reassured her several times that it would be more concerning if we had heard from them.

I could see the struggle inside her on her face. It was sad; she’s believed the mom guilt lie. It’s the lie that says good moms don’t need a break — good moms are fulfilled solely by the time with their kids; “good moms _____________ (fill in the blank).” Friends, it’s a lie.

Focus on the Family describes taking time for yourself in this way…

Imagine running your car on low gas; it’s always a gamble, right? If you run out then someone has to come rescue you, fill up your car, and that takes away from two people — where if you had just stopped and filled up, you could’ve kept going. We are just like that car. If we are running our emotional and/or physical tank on empty, we can’t be the best for our family. We run the risk of running on low gas and that’s when tempers flare, feelings get hurt and meltdowns happen. If we had stopped and taken an hour, an evening, a whole day or even a weekend, we could’ve kept going at our best.

I’ll promise you this: the longer we let our tank run empty, the longer it takes to refill. Small stops of refilling when we’re a little low is much easier than if we let ourselves run bone dry.

I think I’ve become the strange lady in the grocery. When a kid is screaming and the mom is trying to regain control or maybe she’s not and just letting the kid scream, I’ve begun offering encouraging words. Sometimes my words are well received — sometimes they’re not — but I’ll keep saying them.

Let me end by saying parenthood is hard, and we’re all in the same kind of boat whether we see it or not.

So be kind; sometimes the sea of parenthood is temporarily smooth and sometimes it’s rowdy and the water is sloshing into the boat. So offer a smile, say a kind word, load a busy mom’s groceries into her cart, be kind to each other, and mostly be kind to yourself.

Respectfully…
AW

 

[Photo by Dakota Corbin on Unsplash]

an american millennial… overseas…

Change has never been an unfamiliar thing for me. In fact, 18 years and eight life-altering moves later, change is something I welcome into my life.

As a little bit of a background, my mother works for General Electric (GE) as a Human Resources manager. In the past we have gladly followed her across the country. It was no surprise when she came home and told us that she was wanted for a job in Cheltenham, England; we jumped on the chance to live overseas.

Following my high school graduation we packed up and left our house in Loveland, Ohio. My sister and dad were getting ready to start a new life, once again, this time “across the pond”. On the other hand, I was only staying for the summer before attending Penn State in the fall.

I’d like to think that with every move I learn something new and this move is no exception. Despite the fact that I have only been here for about a month, I have already noticed so many differences between America and the United Kingdom. Prior to immersing myself into this place I was under the impression that because we spoke the same language we would be the same; I was greatly mistaken. I have not only learned how difficult it is to assimilate to a culture completely different from my own — and that while this move is an amazing experience for me and my family — I am so blessed to be an American.

Before we left Loveland, I pictured this move like it was just another family vacation; like every day would be activity filled and all my Instagram followers would be jealous of my amazing summer. The truth is, after my mom and dad go to work, it is just my sister and I left to explore this fabulous new city we are in; we have covered just about every inch of it and slowly we are settling into our routines. However, even as we go about our daily lives the way we would at home, the world around us moves differently. Everyday I sit at the same table in the same bookstore cafe dressed the same as everyone else, but when I walk in, it feels as if I’m back in the high school cafeteria looking for a place to sit.

Living in Cheltenham is like living in the Hamptons of New York. Everyone there went to an expensive prep school and buys expensive clothes and drinks fancy coffee with their circle of friends they’ve known all their lives. A friend of mine that grew up in London and is now living here says that because she’s black she feels that people stare at her more here, where it is less common and for the first time in my life I knew exactly what she meant.

I never realized how proud I was of my beautiful country until I, so badly, wanted to celebrate the Fourth of July and here it was just a normal day. Whereas Americans wear their patriotism loud and proud, the Brits do not. They also don’t like when people look them directly in the eye or raise their voice. In America it is considered friendly to compliment strangers… I told a girl I liked her skirt and she looked completely shocked I was even speaking to her.

However, not all Brits are this reserved; in fact, one of the biggest things I learned upon interacting with them is that they are not all the same. Due to the fact that they were different from me, I wanted to put them all in one large category, but just like Americans, how they interact with you mostly depends on where they are from. Cheltenham feels more like a social circle that I am slowly trying to find a way into; it feels almost as if they don’t know how to talk to me rather than they don’t want to. On the other hand, people from Wales more willing to talk to anyone, and unlike the most Brits, they hug as a greeting. Generally speaking they are far more reserved than Americans, but each new one I interact with, I learn something new and I can’t wait to meet more.

As different and weird as it feels, this place is becoming our home. No, they don’t have any good Mexican food, but I think when I go to college (or “uni” as they call it here), I know my family will do well. The main reason we came here still stands; it is an amazing opportunity to see Europe. Already I have seen and experienced so many things. My goals and aspirations to travel have grown so much because of this move. I have also learned the importance of family and I am amazed at how much closer we have grown since this move.

I once had a teacher who, after telling her about how often I’ve moved, she asked where I called home. At the time I told her I didn’t know and she responded that it was sad I didn’t call any particular place home. But what I know now is that home is where you make a life for yourself and you have people that love and accept you no matter what. Overall, this move has taught me that I will always be an American (and proud of it), but if you surround yourself with people that love and care about you, then you have found home.

Respectfully…
HB

 

[Photo by Hugo Sousa on Unsplash]