3494– Monday, October 7, 2019 — Can We Really Grow Old Gracefully? – Part 2

persico family with names

This is the continuation of an article I started which might have been called the “Top Ten Attributes for Growing Old Gracefully.”  In Part 1, I described attributes 1 through 5.  I also noted that two of my very good friends had been ill for some time and were not expected to live out the year.  One of these good friends, died two days after I published Part 1 of this article.  He was a unique individual about whom I wrote the following to some common friends the day after he died:

“I will always remember Sam for his brilliance and intellectual rigor.  I do not think I have ever met anyone with a greater knowledge of the world than Sam.  He was my first mentor out of graduate school, and I learned almost all I know about consulting from the work that we did together at International Nickel in Canada.  He was kind and gracious to a fool that knew little or nothing about the consulting world.  Over the years, we had our ups and downs, but Sam always helped me when I was in need of advice or guidance.”

“The world is truly less of a place for me and many others without Sam.” 

I must say a word about the validity and reliability of the ideas that I am presenting here.  I believe in them with my whole heart and soul.  Everything about life that I have learned up to this point says that they are the keys to a happy old age.  A friend whom I have found since writing my blogs left a comment in Part 1 where she said: “I hope you are following this excellent advice, John!  I replied: “Jane, I wish I could honestly say that I always do but that is not always the case.”

For me, I am somewhat like the alcoholic with good intentions who occasionally falls off the bandwagon.  Looking at each of these attributes, I have good days and bad.  But somehow, I climb back up out of whatever is bothering me, and I start again.  I have days when I am not grateful or have very little sense of humor.  I have days when I can find no joy in life and days when I can find no purpose or meaning in what I am doing.  But I know that “this too will pass” and that it is important not to give up.  Growing old is a journey that only ends when it will be too late for you to do anything about it.  But as long as we are alive, we can do our best to enjoy the journey.  So, here are the rest of the key attributes that will help you grow old gracefully and enjoy the trip.  Following are attributes six through ten.

one_kind_word

  1. Kindness

This is a simple one.  Do something kind for someone each day.  Make someone else happy by sharing your good fortune, knowledge, skills or abilities with another.  It is often easier said than done though.  We get so busy with our own problems that it is easy to forget the needs of those around us.  Very few people will wake up today and jump out of bed with joy at being alive.  For many people, the kind word or deed that you can do for them will give them the strength to live another day or to have a day with joy and happiness.

A funny thing happened to me this afternoon while I was on my way to see a play called Pipeline at Penumbra Theater in St. Paul.  An old rumpled homeless looking man on a bicycle asked if I could give him a few bucks for a meal.  I was feeling generous, so I pulled out my wallet and took a peek in it.  I had a five, a twenty and three one-dollar bills.  I grabbed the fiver and handed it to the old man.  He took it and thanked me, and I impulsively decided to give him another single.  He took the second bill I gave him and let out a rather exuberant exclamation of thanks and gave both me and Karen hugs.

He set off down the street and said that he was heading right to McDonald’s to get a meal to eat.  I was still surprised at his extreme gratefulness.  Later on, when I went to look in my wallet for some money to pay for some stuff, I found that I still had the three singles but no twenty.  I suddenly realized why the old feller had been so ecstatic.  I had given him the five-dollar bill and the twenty-dollar bill.  I could have kicked myself in the butt.  I told Karen about my unexpected generosity and we both laughed and wondered what he was going to get to eat for the money we gave him.  I felt a little stupid giving this much money away but on the other hand, how many times have I wasted three or four times this amount on some impulse purchase that I did not really need.  It felt good knowing that I had made somebodies day a little brighter even if it was by accident.

“Beginning today, treat everyone you meet as if they were going to be dead by midnight.  Extend to them all the care, kindness and understanding you can muster, and do it with no thought of any reward. Your life will never be the same again.” — Og Mandino

benifits-of-physical-fitness

  1. Physical Fitness

What is the secret to living a long and health life?  Ask anyone who fits this qualification and who is in their nineties and do you know what they will say?  “Keep moving!”  “Keep moving!”  Stay active!  Garden, run, swim, bicycle, play Pickleball, walk, do Zumba, do Yoga, do anything but keep your body moving!

I have talked about the need for an exercise plan in many of my other blogs.  You have a choice.  If you live long enough and stay somewhat reasonably fit, then like our friend Joan, you can still play golf when you are ninety.  Or you can sit all day watching TV and become more and more dependent on walkers and canes and surgeries for your ailing joints.  Some of the problems of old age are unavoidable but some are due to a lack of good nutrition and good exercise.  Keep all things in moderation.  You will not be an Arnold Schwarzenegger at 80 but you can still be healthy enough to take trips and spend active time outdoors.  The key?  Right!  Keep moving!

For me, I love having an exercise plan that will adapt to my changing circumstances and that is fun.  If you are interested in more information on developing an exercise plan, see my blog at:  How Can We Set Realistic Exercise Goals as We Age?

“Those who think they have no time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness.” — Edward Stanley

friendship

  1. Friendships

There is a story told about Thomas Jefferson who supposedly attended a fiftieth anniversary party for the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1826.  According to the story, Jefferson was not recognized by anyone at the party.  He was one of only three surviving members of the original signers who were still alive.  The other two being John Adams and Charles Carroll.  Jefferson died on July 4th, 1826 as did John Adams, so I am not sure when the party was actually held.  Nevertheless, Jefferson is reported to have said that he felt like a ghost.  That he felt like someone living in a time when he no longer belonged.

This story made an impact on me since as we age, we see more and more of our loved ones, relatives and friends pass away.  In the picture (top of blog) taken at a wedding for my father’s youngest sister, I am standing to the right in the picture.  The wedding was held in 1957.  The most remarkable thing about this photo (For me anyway) is that I am the only one left alive in the photo.  My sister died of lung cancer several years ago and my two cousins in the photo both passed away.  One died of a stroke and the other died younger of suicide.

My Aunt Mary, who is on the right in the picture, (She was my Godmother) died at the age of 103 about four years ago.  She too outlived almost everyone in the photo except me.  She outlived two of her sons and her husband who are in the picture.  I asked my Aunt a few years before she died if she felt like she no longer belonged and that her time had passed.  Her answer surprised me.  She said “No.”  I asked how she managed, and she told me that you must keep making friends.  She said that she had made many new friends who cared about her and helped enrich her life.  Could this be how she made it to 103 years of age?

The attribute of “Friendship” was mentioned at the Caregiver Conference I attended as one of the most important factors for a happy old age.  We cannot bury ourselves in pity or sorrow for the past.  Life must go on.  As someone said: “Life is for the living.”  You are never too old to make new friends.

“If you go looking for a friend, you’re going to find they’re very scarce.  If you go out to be a friend, you’ll find them everywhere.” — Zig Ziglar

chronic_pain_treatment_continuum_jpeg

  1. Pain Management

Yes, you better believe it.  Pain management is a key attribute of growing old gracefully.  The older you get, the more pains you will have.  You will have pain and if you cannot deal with it, life will be one endless day of misery.  The sad fact is that people seem to only know two ways to deal with pain.  The first is to see a doctor who will often prescribe surgery.  The second is similar, you go to see a doctor, only in this case, the doctor prescribes some sort of pain killer.  If you want to know what is causing the pain, which should be the first step towards any diagnosis or remedy, the doctor will be very reluctant to order a Ct scan or MRI due to the cost of such diagnostics.  He/she might do some blood tests or other tests that will probably not tell you very much.

More than likely though, your doc will just tell you that the cause of your pain is “Old Age” and your remedy is to live with it.  The older you are, the more likely the latter will be your diagnosis and prescription.  A few years ago (until the opioid epidemic which doctors and pharmaceutical companies created), they would probably have given you an abundant supply of Oxycontin or Vicodin and told you to go home and swallow a pill.

Now the first step towards pain management is preventive.  You guessed it.  Exercise and weight control.  However, even with diligent exercise you will encounter problems.  The chronic pain treatment diagram (I have included above) is one that best fits my ideas of how we should deal with pain.  You start with the lowest possible tier with the least side effects and you work up.  You do not immediately accept that surgery is the solution.  There are more surgeries done in this country that are unneeded than I can count.  If you doubt my assertion, then see my blog on the subject where I have written about the epidemic of surgeries which serve only to make more money for doctors.  “Should we be cautious when seeing our family doctor?”

I could tell you true story after true story of pains that I have dealt with over the years.  Yes, I had prostate surgery and hernia surgery.  These required invasive medical procedures and some respite from exercising.  But I have had Plantar Fasciitis, Sesamoiditis, Morton’s Neuroma, knee pain, hip pain, shoulder pain, back pain and several other neuromuscular pains.  I have not had surgery for any of these.  While several of these problems managed to derail my exercise program for some months, I have managed to deal with each of these without surgery and am still running and exercising regularly.

In all cases, I have used the pain management continuum as noted above.  Starting with diagnosis (sometimes seeing a doctor but often doing research on the web) and moving up to the first level of diet, exercise and nutrition.  My second level would include OTC drugs, lotions like Tiger Balm or now CBD cream and diet supplements like Glucosamine and Turmeric.  I have managed to avoid opioids except in one case of dental problems where some implants became infected.  My second level also includes things like knee braces and elbow braces to help stabilize the joint until the inflammation went away.  My favorite second tier cure is a great massage which if I appear to be in enough pain, my spouse will usually proffer.  A massage will not cure the pain, but it helps to alleviate the pain and with other pain management techniques can speed recover.

I will not say anymore about pain management except to be wary of surgery until you have exhausted other less invasive possibilities.

“I’ve dealt with a lot of physical pain, with a lot of emotional pain; anybody’s who’s ever been an alcoholic has handled both of those in extreme.” — Jason Isbell

hope and optimism

  1. Hope and Optimism

I have saved these two attributes for graceful aging for last.  I believe these are essential for a happy and complete life.  I also believe they are the most difficult to acquire and maintain.  How can we be optimistic or have hope when death surrounds us and is the most inevitable fact of our lives?  What is there to be hopeful for when your friends and loved ones are dying and you see a future where you are left alone?  Sounds pretty bleak doesn’t it?

They say hope springs eternal in the human breast but a simple observation of the people you know, will tell you that is a lie.  People give up hope when they are continually beaten down by the daily toil and challenges of life.  It should be a great deal easier to be optimistic when you are twenty than when you are eighty, but I doubt whether hope and optimism are linked to aging.  (True, the suicide rate for the aged is very high, but some of that may reflect practicality rather than hopelessness. The suicide rate for teenagers is nearly as high as that for the aged.)  The simple fact is that some people are more optimistic than others.  Some are more hopeful than others.

But hope and optimism are a choice we each can make in how to see life.

I can’t tell you what your hope should be.  My hope is that my writing will help you to lead a better life. I am hopeful that something I say and someone who reads what I say will find some value in my ideas.

I can’t tell you what to be optimistic about.  I am optimistic about my trip to Russia this coming year.  It will be a new adventure and I will go again with my spouse to our 40th new country.  I have always dreamed of taking an express train across Europe and we are going to take the Paris to Moscow Express for our trip into Russia.  There are a million things that could go wrong between now and then, but what gain do I have from being negative and pessimistic?

Find your hope and find your optimism.  Perhaps they will change each day but without them, your life will be like a life without sunshine

“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

 

 

3498– Thursday, October 3, 2019 — Can We Really Grow Old Gracefully? Part 1

growing old gracefully_main

Let’s be honest.  Growing old is not like fine wine aging.  Growing old is not “golden years.”  Growing old means infirmity.  Growing old means watching friends and loved ones suffer and die.  Growing old means dealing with pain, doctors, medications, surgery and increasing illness.  In short, growing old sucks or does it?  Can growing old bring true happiness and meaning to our lives?  Can we really grow old gracefully?

Last week I went to a conference on care-giving.  My spouse Karen went with me.  It was held at the Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College in New Richmond, Wisconsin.  The title of the conference was “A Positive Approach to Care.”  The keynote speaker and also a workshop presenter was a remarkable woman named Teepa Snow.  To paraphrase a famous quote, I would say that the conference was “Not for the faint of heart.”  The participants seemed to be divided between professional caregivers like nurses and aides and family members who had care-giving responsibilities thrust on them due to the illness of a loved one.  Many more women than men were in attendance, but the demographics of the attendees included young and old alike.

The conference was a challenge for me because it touched on many topics that I would rather ignore.  If I can only keep my head down or buried in the ground perhaps the things that they discussed would never happen to me or anyone I love.  Of course, this last thought is fake.  These things are already happening to many people I know and love.  Two of my good friends are in homes as I speak with increasing dementia and not expected to live out the rest of the year.  They can no longer recognize old friends or deal with life in the forceful energetic manner that was once typical of them.  Before these things can happen to me, I want to run and hide someplace.  But there is no where to hide, is there!  The alternative is to find a way to succeed in dying and not to let dying succeed in diminishing us.  Death can take our bodies, but it cannot take our spirits.

I found ten attributes at the conference from listening to the speakers and observing and studying the stories that were told that I think can help our spirits as we age.  I am calling these “The Ten Attributes for Growing Old Gracefully.”  I have created a checklist for these attributes which I am going to use on a weekly basis to see how well I have done at following them.  If you prefer, think of these ten attributes as a multi-vitamin for emotional aging.  You may not need all ten of them each day, but at least one of these each day will certainly do you no harm and may help to make your life easier and happier.  The order of these is of no importance.

meaning and purpose

  1. A sense of purpose and meaning

You may well ask “What is the difference between purpose and meaning?”  Purpose is the things that you plan to do each day or with the rest of your life.  Purpose should be something you enjoy doing and are good at.  You get up in the morning with a purpose.  Meaning concerns the usefulness or strength of feeling that you have for your purpose.  Meaning comes from making a difference in the world or trying to make a difference.  Meaning comes from helping others or giving back to the world.  Meaning provides the world with beauty and grace.  Purpose without meaning is boring.

I like to think that my purpose now is writing.  I believe that I write well, and I enjoy writing very much.  The meaning of my writing comes from the sense that I hope my writing will help others find peace and joy in their lives.  I often receive comments attesting to the fact that others are helped by my writing.  This keeps inspiring me and helping me to continue.

“There is not one big cosmic meaning for all; there is only the meaning we each give to our life, an individual meaning, an individual plot, like an individual novel, a book for each person.”  ― Anaïs Nin,

courage

  1. Courage

If you are growing old, there are no doubt days when you wish you could just leave this world.  We all have days of depression, misery and pain.  Suicide is highest among the elderly.  Who among us has not thought of suicide as a viable option to growing old?  Thus, the saying that “Aging is not for the faint of heart.”

I have written about my good friend Brian who committed suicide about four years ago.  He was 68 at the time.  There are many things that could be said about why he chose this path, but they all seem irrelevant now.  I miss him and so do many other people.  Brian was one of the most positive people you could ever meet.  Nevertheless, the prospect of growing old in a nursing home dictated his actions.

Why, you might ask should we have courage when we are going to lose the battle anyway?  I guess it all comes down to how you want to face the foe.  Do you want to go to your death on your knees or with dignity and grit?  I prefer the route of true grit.  I try to keep in mind the famous quote from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar: “Cowards die many times before their death, the valiant only die once.”

Perhaps a better reason for courage are the people that love you and care about you.  Would they choose that you leave the world earlier or later?  What difference can you make to them by choosing courage and the will to live?

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”  ― Lao Tzu

humor

  1. Humor

Did you have any fun today?  Did you see any humor is some recent news or event where others only see doom and gloom?  It is very easy to get all wrapped up in the misery and disasters that plague our daily news.  We live in a society that seldom seems to present us with much humor.  But what would any life be without some humor.

Each day when I get together with our local library group, we have some fun by laughing at some of the stupidity that surrounds us.  A social group that can laugh at the world is helpful to my sanity.  One of the guys is always good for laughs since he has a “fun meter” that he uses to gauge our group conversations.  It goes from blue to red.  When he is enjoying or having fun in a discussion, he moves his fun meter to red.  When conversations turns bleak or sometimes idiotic, he moves his meter to blue.  Not only is his meter a good source of laughs but he is always good for laughs with some of his other antics.

Can you find one thing each day to laugh about?  Do you build some fun into your life?  If your answer is no to either of these questions, you really need to start today to have some fun.

“And the sun and the moon sometimes argue over who will tuck me in at night.  If you think I am having more fun than anyone on this planet, you are absolutely correct.”   ― Hafiz

Finding-Joy

  1. Finding joy in your life

Sounds like the same as finding humor but it is not.  Finding joy in your life means to find things each day that you enjoy doing or just simply being.  For many people, it means finding ways to help others.  It is related to finding a purpose or meaning in life since it is hard to find joy without finding a purpose that makes you happy.

However, finding joy can mean simply enjoying a rainy day.  It can mean enjoying a good book or sitting on a beach and watching the tide roll in.  I can find joy in doing nothing, but it takes reflection to find joy.  You must think about what you are doing.  At some point, I say “Wow, I will really enjoy doing this or maybe today I will enjoy doing nothing.”  I don’t need a widget or gadget to make my life.  I am responsible for my own joy and happiness.  It is a thought that makes one miserable or happy and you can find joy in life when you choose joyful thoughts.

“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”  ― Thich Nhat Hanh

grateful

  1. Gratitude

St. Ignatius believed ingratitude to be “The cause, beginning, and origin of all evils and sins.”  Ingratitude makes us look at things that others have and want them.  Ingratitude makes us unhappy and miserable with our own lives.  Growing old, it is always easy to look at what others have and find a deficit in our lives.  Friends may have more money, bigger homes, better retirement living, more vacations, nicer cars, better physical condition and even “better” grandchildren.

No matter what the world brings, you can always find something or someone who is better, smarter and probably happier than you are.  It is not observing these things which will bring you unhappiness.  It is forgetting to see the good things in your own life.  No matter how bad life is or the cards we are dealt, there is always something that we can find to be grateful for.  I love flowers and every day; I look at the flowers that my wife has planted, and I am grateful for her taking the time and effort to try to make our home beautiful.  I can easily find people with nicer gardens, more flowers, less weeds, better displays but forgetting to appreciate what I have makes for an unhappy existence.

At the end of each day, see if you can find one thing to be grateful for.  If you start thinking about such a list, you will undoubtedly find several things to be grateful for.

“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”   ― Epicurus

Part 2 – To Be Continued.

I will share my 6 through 10 attitudes for graceful aging in the next blog I post.

3503– Saturday, September 28, 2019 — The Story of Little Red Riding Hood:  AKA: Autumn, Part 2

hoodie in cemetary

The years before high school went by pretty fast for Autumn and her mother.  They were not without problems.  Autumn caught shoplifting.  Autumn suspended from junior high school for truancy.  Autumn caught with 20-year-old boyfriend in bed.  Autumn doing pot and possibly some ecstasy.  Autumn running away from home.  Autumn and her mother constantly fighting.  Autumn understood that she was on a slippery slope and it seemed to all head downhill.

However, she told herself that when she turned 14 and started high school that things would be really different.  She would find a nice guy to love and they would plan a life together after high school.  In addition to her dreams, it came as a happy surprise for Autumn when her mom and dad got back together again.  Her father and brothers moved back in with Autumn and her mom.  Autumn took these events as auspicious signs that things were already starting to look up.

Within the next year, Autumn started 9th grade at the local high school.  Her brothers were in the 11th and 12th grades respectively.  Autumn wasted little time in finding a new boyfriend, but they quickly parted when it seemed that all he wanted was sex and Autumn wanted more than just sex.  Autumn was quite happy to provide some of what the boy wanted but in exchange she expected to be treated as a girlfriend and not just some bimbo.

Autumn found another boyfriend and then another boyfriend.  One boyfriend followed another faster than she could count, and her relationships always followed the same pattern.  A date, sex, more sex, being taken for granted and then breaking up.  Autumn was only 14 but within months of starting high school she had acquired a reputation as an easy girl who would put out on the first date.  The more her reputation as a harlot grew, the worse her relationships with others at the school became.  The boys all gave her funny looks and smirks as she passed them in the hallways, but it was the girls that proved her real problem.

The girls at school would gossip behind her back and she would actually find comments about herself in the bathroom stalls.  Comments like “For a quick fuck, call Autumn at 520-238-6123.”  Groups of girls talking would point to her and laugh and then grow silent and snicker when she walked by.  Autumn felt that she had become a laughing stock in school and that none of the other girls wanted or dared to associate with her.  Her life grew lonelier and more and more bleak.

At home, Autumn noticed her once loving brothers becoming more and more distant.  One day she summoned up her courage and asked them what was wrong.  They told her in no uncertain terms that she was the laughing stock of the school and that all their friends made sexual comments about her.  They wanted noting to do with Autumn and they were both ashamed that she was their sister. “Keep away from us” were their parting comments.

The school year eventually ended.  The hopes for love and happiness that Autumn cherished had evaporated like a puddle of water on a hot summer day in Texas.  Autumn kept to herself most of the summer months before the next school year.  Her mother and father were both to busy working to deal with her problems and assumed it was just teenage angst and that she would grow out of it.  Autumn dreaded the coming of school but tried to convince herself that a great guy must be out there some place if she could only find him.

The new school year started.  Autumn was 15 years old and a sophomore.  Within the first two weeks of school she met a good-looking guy who was a senior and he asked her out on a date.  He seemed really nice.  He took her to dinner and a movie and even bought her flowers.  They went out on a few other dates before he wanted to go to bed with her.  She began to think that she had found true love.

The girls at school still avoided Autumn.  Comments about Autumn would still appear in the girls’ bathrooms.   Many of the boys would make insulting remarks as she walked by.  Autumn did not care though.  She finally felt that she had found the love and acceptance that she had always dreamed of.

Autumn had been going out with her new beau for several weeks when he picked her up one Friday night and took her to his house.  They had had sex there several times when his parents were not home and she did not think anything about it.  However, tonight he seemed somewhat nervous and anxious and not his usual upbeat self.  Probably just some school related problems thought Autumn.  They arrived at his house and he promptly took her into to his bedroom and shut the door.

He had undressed Autumn and they had started to make love when with a loud bang the door to the bedroom opened and one of his friends yelled out “My turn!”  Autumn’s boyfriend jumped out of bed as Autumn asked what was going on?  “Well, I told some of my friends how good you were in bed and I did not think that you would mind screwing them as well.”  As the new boy pushed Autumn back down and took his turn, Autumn said nothing.  She did not scream.  She did not yell rape.  She did not say stop, no, don’t or get off of me.  As one after another of her boyfriend’s buddies took advantage of Autumn, she quietly laid there and said nothing.

When the assaults had ceased and all of the boys had left for parts unknown, Autumn put on her clothes and said: “Take me home.”  No other words were spoken as her boyfriend drove her home and Autumn got out of his car and went into her house.  It was the worst day of Autumn’s short life and it did not seem like life could get any worse.  Autumn climbed into her bed.  The next two days went by in a sort of haze.  Her cellphone went off dozens if not hundreds of times, but she ignored it.

Monday started another day of hell at school for Autumn.  Walking around it seemed like everyone knew her secret.  The secret being that on Friday, she had been gang-banged by as many as five or six seniors at the high school.  How could everyone know though?  Word could not possibly have spread that fast.  Autumn received more phone calls and text messages but continued to ignore them.  Autumn could not wait for the end of the school day.  It seemed like forever before school the bell signaling the end of the school day sounded.  Autumn walked home alone.

When Autumn arrived home, both her brothers were still out, and her father and mother were most likely at work.  Autumn went up to her room, shut the door and logged onto her computer.  She signed into her Facebook account and nearly passed out at what she saw on her home page.  There in the middle of the page was a picture that had been shared more than 300 times.  It was a picture of Autumn nude in bed with a young man situated somewhere between her splayed legs.  You could only see the boys back, but it was clear from his position that he had inserted something into Autumn.  The expression on Autumn’s face was dull and lifeless but not panicked or frightened.  Autumn now remembered that while some boys were having sex with her, others had been taking pictures on their cell phones.  She realized what must be on the hundreds of text messages that she had been ignoring.

The was the final straw.  Autumn could not, indeed would not take any more.  She got up off the bed and went downstairs to her mom’s bathroom.  She rummaged through the medicine cabinet until she found what she wanted.  At this point, she turned the water on in the bathtub and started to disrobe.  When she was fully undressed, she stepped into the tub and laid down.  She opened the vial containing her mom’s sleeping pills.  She counted only twenty inside.  She was not sure if that was enough to do the job, but she was not going to rely on pills anyway.  The pills would at best make her drowsy and the razor blade would do the rest.  She was determined not to screw this up.  She swallowed all the pills sipping some of the tub water to wash them down.   It took a few minutes, but she began to feel drowsy.  At this point, she took the razor blade and slashed both of her wrists several times.  Autumn then put her hands in the warm water and laid her head back to sleep.

About three hours or so later, her mom and two brothers all arrived home at the same time.  Mom headed into the downstairs bathroom and the two boys went upstairs to their bedrooms.  As her mother entered the bathroom, she immediately noticed a tub full of red water and Autumn laying asleep in the tub.  What, her mom thought is Autumn doing laying in a tub of red water?  Suddenly her mind filled with a single dreadful thought.  She grabbed Autumn by the shoulders and shook her violently, but Autumn would not wake up.  Her mom let out a series of screams which brought both sons running.  The oldest son looked at his mom and the bathtub and bolted for a phone to call 911.  The youngest son grabbed his mom and tried to question her over her screams.  “Mom, Mom, is Autumn dead” he asked.  “No, no, no, it can’t be, it can’t be,” she said.  When 911 came, they told Autumn’s mother and brothers that they were sorry but that there was nothing they could do.  Autumn had been dead for at least two hours.

Funeral preparations started in a few days.  Autumn’s mom and grandmother were discussing arrangements when grandmother suggested that Autumn be buried next to her grandfather in the cemetery.  Something snapped in mom and she grabbed grandmother and violently shook her while yelling “Not near that Son of a Bitch, not near that Son of a Bitch.”  Both women’s eyes locked onto each other’s and both accepted what each had known for a long time.  They had suspected and then known but neither had wanted to admit it.  Looking into each other’s eyes, the truth became clear.  They folded into one big hug and began crying and crying and crying.

A week or so later they held the funeral for Autumn.  The interment was conducted at a cemetery across town from where grandfather was laid to rest.  Autumn’s mother, grandmother, both brothers, father and many other relatives attended.  To the family’s great surprise, hundreds of other people showed up for the burial.  Most of them from Autumn’s high school.  Some showed up out of curiosity, a few out of grief for a lost comrade but many showed up out of guilt and shame.

Autumn’s mother had insisted on writing the script for the gravestone marker in a somewhat unusual manner.  No last name for Autumn and no date of birth.  Only the month that Autumn was born in.  The marker read:

AutumnAutumn gravemarker

October

15 years Old

A Troubled Soul

May she rest in peace now

 

One week after she was buried, her mother went to visit Autumn’s grave-site by herself.  She brought Autumn’s favorite little red hoodie with her.  She stood looking at Autumn’s grave for several minutes, but she could no longer shed any tears.  It was like there was no moisture left in her entire body.  As she draped Autumn’s little red hoodie over the gravestone, she whispered two words before turning to leave: “I’m sorry.”

 

3509 – Sunday, September 22, 2019 — The Story of Little Red Riding Hood:  AKA: Autumn, Part 1

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Once upon a time there was a cute little five-year-old girl named Autumn.  She was given this name because she was born in the middle of a pumpkin festival that her family had gone to.  It was on this same day that her mother had gone into labor and given birth to Autumn.  Several years later though, her family and friends had all started calling her Little Red Riding Hood.  They gave here that nick name the year that her grandmother had given her a little red hoodie for a birthday present.  Autumn liked the little red hoodie so much that she would never go anywhere without it.  She wore it all around the house and would even have worn it to bed, but her mother always made her take it off at bedtime.

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Autumn was an average five-year-old girl.  She liked dolls but also video games.  She liked to read, watch TV and go to the beach and play in the sand.  She especially looked forward to going out with her two older brothers and playing soccer with them.  She was quite a good kicker for a five-year-old.  She had recently started pre-school and Autumn got along well with all the other children.

Autumn’s father was a postal worker and her mother worked part-time at Walmart.  Her father and mother were childhood sweethearts who had met in high school.  They both married shortly after leaving high school and they seemed like the perfect couple.  Before long, they had two boys and then a few years later, they had Autumn.  Sadly though, as these things go, Autumn’s mother and father began to argue more and more and eventually they decided to divorce.  Her father took custody of the two boys and Autumn went with her mother.  Autumn was now eight years old.

download (3)Autumn’s mom decided to move to El Paso where her mother and dad were living.  She needed to find full-time work to support her and Autumn and her mother (Autumn’s grandmother) offered to take care of Autumn when mom was working.  They moved into a neighborhood that was within walking distance of grandma and grandpa.  Autumn was often tasked with bringing something over to her grandparents or retrieving something from their house.

One day her mom asked Autumn to take over a package to her grandparents.  Autumn put on her red hoodie (which was now a new red hoodie a few sizes bigger than her last one) and took her well-trod route over to grandma’s house.  When she arrived, grandpa was in bed and grandma had gone out to run some errands.  Grandpa said that he was not feeling well but could Autumn sit on the bed with him.  Autumn climbed up on the bed.  Grandpa asked Autumn to read a book to him that he had on the bedside.  Autumn was proud of her reading ability and pleased to be asked.  She began to read a story to grandpa about a cowboy in old Mexico.

1FLC3464_christmas-red-hooded-cape-01_0719_001As she read to her grandpa, Autumn felt her grandfathers’ hand on her leg but at first did not think anything about it.  His hand moved up to her thigh and eventually it arrived at her most private parts.  At this point, Autumn tried to move away but her grandfather held her tightly and said.  “Don’t worry Autumn, it is all right.  I want to make you feel good.  I am your grandfather and would never hurt you.”  Autumn relaxed some but soon became more and more discomforted as her grandfather’s hand roamed over and then invaded her most private parts.  Her grandfather kept assuring her that it was all right and that he loved her very much and would never do anything to hurt her. Autumn’s invasion lasted the better part of an hour until they heard the door open and grandmother returning.  At this point, her grandfather told her to get off the bed and not say a word about anything that had happened.  He told her that no one would understand and that this would be their secret.

Autumn’s mother kept sending Autumn to her grandparents on errands and over the next two years or so, Autumn received more of the same treatment by her grandfather.  In fact, the assaults escalated to cunninglingus, fellatio and repeated rapes.  Autumn had now passed her eleventh year and increasingly felt afraid of going to her grandparents.  She invented many excuses to avoid going to visit them.  Her mother noticed the reluctance of Autumn to go to her grandparents and finally demanded to know what the problem was.  At this point, Autumn decided to tell her mother what her grandfather would do to her when she went over there.

Upon hearing Autumns story, her mom became quite incensed.  “How can you say anything like this Autumn?  You don’t have to make up stories just because you are too lazy to walk over there.  Your grandmother and grandfather have done so much to help us out and you say things like this?  You had better never repeat these stories to anyone or you will get grandfather in very much trouble.”

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Some might say, fortunately for Autumn, her grandfather’s heart condition continued to decline and a few months after Autumn’s revelations about his behavior he passed away.  Mother, grandmother, Autumns brothers and Autumn were all at the funeral.  It was a very solemn and sorrowful occasion for most who attended with the exception of Little Red Riding Hood.  Autumn could never admit it to anyone, but she was quite relieved and even happy that Grandpa had died.

The years passed:  (Continued in Part 2 – next week)

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3515 – Tuesday, September 17, 2019 — Can a Woman Be President of the USA?

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In 1996, I predicted that the United States of America would have its first woman president no later than the year 2004.  There were a number of notable women in congress at the time and the USA was long overdue for its first woman president.  It is now 2019, and we still have not had a woman president in the USA.  We are beginning the 2020 elections and we have a number of strong intelligent women on the campaign trail for the Democratic Party Presidential candidate.   

Perhaps not surprisingly, the political pundits are saying that this election year a woman cannot beat Donald Trump for the office.  The suggestion is that a woman might be selected for the Vice Presidency but not for the Presidency.  A man can beat Trump, but you know how woman are, they just can’t take the heat. 

“I now announce myself as a candidate for the Presidency. I anticipate criticism; but however unfavorable I trust that my sincerity will not be called into question.” — Victoria Woodhull, 1872

In 1872, Victoria Woodhull became the first female presidential candidate while the former slave Frederick Douglass was her running mate.  The record shows that no one even bothered to count their votes.  It is a safe bet that women did not vote for anyone since they did not get the right to vote until June 4, 1919.  It is also a safe bet that in 1872, the KKK was doing all it could to keep African American men from voting.  Despite their efforts, the percentage of voters who were Black in 1872 was at a high-water mark that was not surpassed for many years.  In fact, after 1872, the number of Black voters declined as the Federal Government abandoned African Americans in the South and let the notorious Jim Crow laws be enacted. 

“America is false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future.” — Frederick Douglass

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In 2008, Hillary Clinton was the first woman to be nominated by a major political party as their presidential candidate.  During the election year, those opposed to her called her a bitch, dyke, castrator, liar, crook, hypocrite, racist, traitor, Nazi and narcissist.

“I’ve seen both candidates attacked based upon physical characteristics, both attacked based upon personality traits, both attacked based on past decisions.  The one element that separates the two is that Clinton is also attacked for being a woman, and Trump is not attacked for being a man.” — Jennifer Mercieca, a historian of American political rhetoric.

My first-born child was a girl.  She was born in 1968 and we named her Christina.  People always asked me if I was disappointed that I did not have a son.  The thought of disappointment never crossed my mind.  I was proud to have a daughter and both my wife Julia, and I were determined to give her every opportunity that we would have given a son.  When she was a young child, she received as many “boy” toys like trucks and erector sets as she did dolls and playhouses.  She was inundated with books and just as many were about science as about other subjects that might have been considered traditionally female subjects.

When she was old enough for sports, I spent time ice skating, bicycling, swimming, skiing and canoeing with her.  We once took second place in a father daughter canoe race.  When she was in high school and wanted to be a cheerleader, we also encouraged her to play some sports and not just stand on the sidelines and cheer for some boys.  I did not want to let society stereotype her, and I wanted her to believe that she could be anything she set her mind to.  Doctor or nurse.  Pilot or flight attendant.  President or President’s wife. 

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The United States of America prides itself on being the land of liberty and justice.  The home of the brave and the land of the free.  The home of democracy.  While we brag about American Exceptionalism, 101 countries have had a woman elected either as president or prime minister.  Excluding female monarchs, over 150 women since 1918 have been elected or appointed head of state.  Meanwhile in the United States of America, we have not even had an elected woman vice president. 

And of course, this year is not the right time for a woman.  We need to select a guy because only another guy can beat Trump.  It is not a woman’s role to be president, at least not in the Land of the Free.  The Democrats with several woman candidates seem to think that the best we can do is select a woman as a running mate for the male presidential candidate.  It is said to be imperative that we select a man if we really want to beat Trump.

“Of all the indignities Donald Trump has imposed on Democrats since he decided to run for president, the fact that he has convinced many of them they dare not nominate a woman to oppose him is among the worst.” —  Ed Kilgore, Intelligencer, Sept 20, 2018

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I have watched some of all three Democratic debates to date.  It is clearly my opinion that Warren is the most intelligent, coherent and poised of all the candidates.  My wife also shares that opinion with me as does a large percentage of the American electorate.  I have qualms with every one of the Democratic candidates.  Not one of them is without some problems in terms of policy or procedures.  But I will not vote for anyone just because they can beat Trump.  Neither will I vote for a candidate on the basis of race, religion, age or gender.  

Dear Daughter,

I am sorry I lied to you when you were growing up.  In America, the dream that you can be anything you want to be is for men only.  This country is terribly divided but is less divided on the issue of whether or not a woman is qualified to be president.  Most people seem sure that she is not.  I should never have set you up for failure by telling you that a woman could be President of the United States of America.  Our country is not ready for a woman president.  Maybe in another 100 years or so, we will have the intelligence and open mindedness to see that women are the equal of men in politics and many other areas of life.  Until then, please do not lie to your daughters and set them up for heartache and disappointment.  It would not be easy for them to be called a bitch, liar, hypocrite, feminazi, dyke, crook and other insults like the ones that Hillary had to endure.

Love, your father.

“When a man gives his opinion, he’s a man.  When a woman gives her opinion, she’s a bitch.” — Bette Davis

We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls, you can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful. Otherwise, you would threaten the man. Because I am female, I am expected to aspire to marriage. I am expected to make my life choices always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important. Now marriage can be a source of joy and love and mutual support but why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage and we don’t teach boys the same? We raise girls to see each other as competitors not for jobs or accomplishments, which I think can be a good thing, but for the attention of men. We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings in the way that boys are.”  — Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, We Should All Be Feminists

 

 

 

 

 

 

Creating a Twenty First Century Education System

Every single one of the Democratic candidates for President support higher pay for teachers. Not one realizes that higher pay will not improve our education system. Maybe someone could send my blog to them.

Aging Capriciously

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We no longer have an education system that works.  This is true for most people that need education.  A few people still find value in the current system, but it is no longer a system that works for the masses.  It is no longer a democratic education system.  It has become a school system devoid of the benefits and value that it once had.  We now are stuck with a school system designed for the nineteenth century that is expensive, inefficient and much less effective than it could be.  This is true not only in America but also for most of the world.

Times have changed.  Needs have changed.  Our education system has not changed.  It no longer meets the needs of a world economy that has gone from agriculture to industry to information.  A world that has gone from analog to digital.  Changes from the nineteenth century to the…

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3520 – Wednesday, September 11, 2019 — Can We Ever Understand the Trump Phenomenon?

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Pontificating and writing books and articles about what I will call the Trump phenomenon has become (forgive my use of this cliché), a Cottage Industry.  I have three books on my shelf right now in which an author has gone on a quest (to a remote area of America) to find the reason why so much of rural and middle America embraced Trump.  The ostensible goal of these quests is to understand why anyone would vote for a racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic bigoted egomaniac.  Fully twenty-eight percent of American voters selected Trump as well as more than 75 percent of the Republican Party.  Most of those on the left, regard it as the proverbial enigma wrapped in a riddle.

Many of these quests endeavor to be “objective” exercises to find out why Americans voted for and in many cases “love” Trump.  Not surprisingly, these authors tend to be on the left of the political spectrum.  I suppose to be objective and qualify as research, each author must show sympathy for the “deplorables” that elected Trump by trying to listen, empathize and gently understand the forces that were at work in their embracing Trump.  In one case, the author assumes that if you can party with the other side, you will better understand their perspective. 

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A few of these books have sold quite well, even if they do very little to shed any real light on the Trump phenomenon.  They all seem to be researched (research to these authors means meeting with rural folks over tea or coffee and talking to them without insulting their intelligence) by a well-meaning liberal.  Usually, the author is an academic who thinks that talking to anyone who would vote for Trump can solve the puzzle and perhaps make America great again.  Reading these books, you will be no doubt be embellished with many narratives that involve a poignant description of a “typical” rural American to show how the other side really lives and how sad some of their lives are.

I find the solution to the enigma much less puzzling and much less difficult to solve.  I did not need to go on a quest to find the solution.  The solution simply involves “looking at rural America.”  Rural America is dying, dying, dying.  Churches are dying.  Restaurants are dying.  Retail stores are dying.  Industries are dying.  Banks are dying.  Resorts are dying.  Jobs are dying.  Small farms are dying.  Rural America is dying, and no one seems to notice.  Even the people living there do not really notice.  It is a case of the fish being the last ones to see the water.  But on many levels, the angst exacts a toll on the citizens of these areas.   Alcoholism, drug addictions and guns are all means of coping in rural communities.  

People who live in many of many of these rural depressed areas have been told to “get retrained.”  “Find employment in the new emerging industries.”  “Join the information age.”  “Learn computer programming.”  “Go back to school.”  “Go where the jobs are.”

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In 1979, I was hired as a DVOP (Disabled Veterans Outreach Person) by the State of Minnesota.  I worked as a job counselor with the DES (Department of Economic Security.)  At about this time in Minnesota, the iron range was shutting down, many foundries in St. Paul were closing and the stock yards were closing.  For years, these industries had provided relatively decent pay and benefits for people more amenable to working with their backs than with their intellects.  As an employment counselor with a Masters in Employment Counseling from the University of Wisconsin Stout, my job was to help them regain financially viable employment.  Here is what this meant.

I had to take a man (most often a man) with twenty or so years working in one industry, a bad back, little or no education beyond high school, responsible for supporting a wife and two or more children and find him or her a job paying twenty or so dollars per hour with benefits.  There were no funds provided by DES for this man to go to school and even if there were, what kind of school could he go to?  Over the years, both Wisconsin and Minnesota had shut down many vocational training schools to emphasize college over vocational education.  Unions seldom provided apprenticeships and even if they did, most would go to younger workers with less physical problems. 

Globalization was hailed as a great concept and as a business person, I would argue it was good for many Americans and much of the world.  But for the man or woman who worked in American industries that were either outsourced, replaced by foreign labor or moved overseas, it was not so good. 

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I continued working as an employment counselor for the DILHR (Department of Industry, Labor and Human Relations) in Wisconsin.  I had taken a Wisconsin State test and found work closer to my home in River Falls, Wisconsin.  I became a Manpower Counselor II in charge of an office in Hudson and Ellsworth Wisconsin.  I ran the WIN Program (Work Incentive), IHRAP Program (Indochinese Refugee Assistance Program), LEAP Program (Labor Education Advancement Program) and several programs for veterans and minorities. 

We had minimal funds for people that could qualify for education and we had maintenance funds for eligible job seekers to help support them while they looked for gainful employment.  With respect to education, there was no way anyone could go to school and support a family while they were in school on the available funds.  For job seekers, the maintenance funds could help while they looked for employment but, in many cases, they had little chance of finding employment without further education.  Regulations prohibited many of these “eligible” job seekers from going to school while they received AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependent Children), Welfare benefits or unemployment benefits.

Bottom line, both the Democrats and Republicans threw many of the people who lost their jobs because of Globalization under the bus or over the cliff.  “Go get retrained they were told.” 

694940094001_5470675642001_5470650547001-vsThe research that purports to explain the Trump phenomenon almost never goes beyond the “Right Wing” narratives for Trumps election.  These narratives all point to abortion, guns, taxes, small government, immigration and jobs as the key factors in Trumps victory.  Trump blames the Democrats for everything wrong in rural America and the Republicans have provided a compelling set of schemes that have convinced many in rural America that a partial solution to their problems lies in more capitalism. 

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Greed is good is a mantra among Republicans and they have managed to sell desperate people needing desperate measures with faith in the “Trickle Down Theory.”  For those who might question this theory, the fallback narrative is to blame immigrants, Latinos, Blacks and Muslims with usurping the American Dream.  Trump and the Republicans have sold the rest of the solution as “Make America White Again.” 

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Is it any wonder that people are sick of government and politicians?  The vision and mission of most government agencies hardly ever comes close to matching the reality of the policies, laws and regulations that spew forth from these lawyer led entities.   You would be forgiven for not realizing that the citizens of the United States of America are the customers of government rather than the other way around.  Trump is a phenomenon of distrust, disgust and despair.  Trump promised solutions to these problems while the rest of the government slept and slept and slept.

“I’ve always resented the smug statements of politicians, media commentators, corporate executives who talked of how, in America, if you worked hard you would become rich. The meaning of that was if you were poor it was because you hadn’t worked hard enough. I knew this was a lie, about my father and millions of others, men and women who worked harder than anyone, harder than financiers and politicians, harder than anybody if you accept that when you work at an unpleasant job that makes it very hard work indeed.”  ― Howard Zinn, You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times

 

 

 

 

 

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