The Fox and the Rabbit

Growing up, I always loved the Uncle Remus stories and the Aesop fables.  The following story melds elements of both authors.  If you have never read tales from either source, you are missing one of the great treasure troves of morals ever written.  Here is my contribution to the genre of fables with a moral. 

wily fox

It was shortly after the race between Mr. Rabbit and the Mr. Tortoise.  Everyone was still talking about how Mr. Tortoise had beaten Mr. Rabbit.  The unthinkable had happened.  How could the slowest moving creature in the forest beat one of the speediest forest creatures?  Of course, the entire episode was an example of how pride and hubris could be the downfall of anyone.  Mr. Rabbit was so certain that he could beat the tortoise that he played the fool and lost the race.  However, Mr. Rabbit assured everyone that he was too smart to ever let this happen again.

The wise old fox was getting long in tooth and short in speed.  Years ago, he would have had a chance to catch a rabbit for dinner but those times were mostly history now.  Instead, Mr. Fox knew that he must rely on stealth and not speed.  Only by using his wit and cunning could he avoid starvation in old age.

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Now Mr. Fox had observed the race between the rabbit and the tortoise.  He had observed the strutting and pompousness of Mr. Rabbit.  He has also heard Mr. Rabbit assure everyone that such a situation would never happen again.  Mr. Fox had another idea though and he thought “This might just be the opportunity that I am waiting for.  I think that leopards rarely change their spots and I will test my theory on Mr. Rabbit.”

A few weeks went by and one day Mr. Rabbit and Mr. Fox were crossing intersecting trails when Mr. Fox spied Mr. Rabbit and decided to put his plan into action.  He yelled to Mr. Rabbit “Can you wait just a minute, I have a challenge for you?”  Mr. Rabbit, always very competitive and certain that Mr. Fox was nowhere close enough to grab him answered back “What kind of a challenge Mr. Fox?”

mr rabbit

“I want to challenge you to a race just like the one you had with Mr. Tortoise”, replied Mr. Fox.  Now Mr. Rabbit knew that Mr. Fox was very cunning but he also knew that Mr. Fox had grown old and slow.  He decided to play out the game because he was curious to see what Mr. Fox was up to.  “What’s in it for me if I beat you” said Mr. Rabbit, confident that there was no way Mr. Fox could beat him.  “Well, said Mr. Fox, if you win I will bring you a bushel full of carrots to eat.  If I win, you will bring me a bushel full of wheat.”  Mr. Fox, did not really care for wheat but he needed to show that he thought he just might win.

Mr. Rabbit, still suspicious of a trick answered “Well, I am agreeable to the race but on one condition.  If I win, you must deliver the carrots to me at a place and time that I will specify.”  Surely, he thought, there will be no chance for Mr. Fox to grab me if I have him deliver the carrots to my warren.  Mr. Fox was agreeable to the terms for truth be told, the situation was working out just as he had hoped it would.

Mr. Rabbit assumed that Mr. Fox would try to somehow grab him during the race and he was not going to let this happen.  No sleeping or napping during this race.  He would move so fast that he would blow the pants off Mr. Fox.  The word went out through the forest that Mr. Rabbit was going to be in another race.  His opponent this time would be Mr. Fox.  The entire forest was abuzz with anticipation.  All knew that for many years, Mr. Fox had tried to catch Mr. Rabbit but with no results.  What was he up to, was the thought on everyone’s mind,

The day of the race came.  Mr. Rabbit and Mr. Fox took their respective places.  Mr. Rabbit made sure he was nowhere close to Mr. Fox at the starting line.  Hundreds of forest creatures had arrived to watch the big race.  Mr. Owl blew the starting whistle and off they went.  Over hill, over dale, through the thickest parts of the forest ran Mr. Fox and Mr. Rabbit.  However, Mr. Fox was clearly outmatched.  Mr. Rabbit was hundreds of yards ahead.  He had such a lead that he could not even see Mr. Fox.  He thought to himself “Mr. Fox thinks I am going to take a nap and catch me, but he is too stupid for me, I will keep going until I reach the finish line.”  Minutes later, Mr. Rabbit crossed the finish line and Mr. Fox was nowhere in sight.  Mr. Rabbit jumped up and down and shouted things like “Stupid old fox, thought he could catch me.”  “Mr. Fox has gotten senile in his old age if he thinks that he can outsmart me.”

fox_and_rabbit. race

Mr. Fox finally crossed the finish line many minutes later than Mr. Rabbit.  Mr. Rabbit had grown tired of waiting and he left a note for Mr. Fox with Mr. Owl.  “Please give this note to Mr. Fox from me” he asked, “It has directions for when and where he should bring the carrots that he owes me.”  Mr. Fox took the note and went home.

A week or so passed and Mr. Fox had collected all the carrots that would fit into a bushel basket.  He also collected a few more that he was going to put into a gunny sack.  He put a note on the bushel basket that he had picked more carrots than required by the bet but he was going to donate them to Mr. Rabbit anyway.  Furthermore, he left the sack to make it easier for Mr. Rabbit to get his carrots home.

Mr. Rabbit thought “My, my, I guess Mr. Fox knows who is the better runner now.  That stupid fox will think twice before he challenges me again.”  Mr. Rabbit grabbed a carrot and promptly ate it.  After eating a few more carrots, he decided it was time to get them back home.  It would not do to be out after dark.

rabbit and carrots

Mr. Rabbit managed to carry the basket home and then came back for the sack.  Letting his guard down, Mr. Rabbit did not notice that Mr. Fox had snuck back to the site where the sack was and climbed inside it.  Mr. Rabbit grabbed the sack and tried to throw it over his shoulder but it was too heavy.  “What is in this sack?” thought Mr. Rabbit.  He opened it to peer inside and before you could say “Jack Rabbit,” Mr. Fox had Mr. Rabbit in his jaws.  Sad to say, that was the end of Mr. Rabbit.

Now, any good story must have a moral and that goes double for stories with an unhappy ending.  I have tried to find a fitting moral to this tale.  There are perhaps several morals that might fit.

  • Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.
  • Pride goes before a fall.
  • The leopard does not change its spots.
  • Always keep your enemies in sight.
  • Long-term thinking will always win out over short-term thinking.

Mr. Fox was not sure which of these morals he had followed.  He only knew that rabbit was a mighty tasty morsel when served cold.

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Time for Questions:

What moral do you find in this story?  Why?  What would you have put for an ending? Why?

Life is just beginning.

“Because philosophy arises from awe, a philosopher is bound in his way to be a lover of myths and poetic fables. Poets and philosophers are alike in being big with wonder.” — Thomas Aquinas
 

 

The Mean Old Man and the Single Chair

The following story was inspired by a true story about a mean old man and his single chair.  My friend Don Johnson told me this story and I have put more details into it.  Nevertheless, I must thank Don for the basic outline and for the great way he told the story which as I said inspired me to write this tale.  I hope you will enjoy it.

Old man scowls, leans forward and shakes his cane

When I was a young boy my parents, two sisters and I lived in a mobile home or trailer as some would call them.  Though, we never trailer-ed it anyplace.  Villagers said we lived in a trailer park and kids at school would laugh and joke about us being “trailer trash.”  I got in lots of fights with other kids over these insults.

Every day, my sisters and I would walk to the pickup site for the school bus.  Back in those days, kids could still go to school without a chaperone.  We even went out trick or treating by ourselves and kept any food or candy that we collected.  The one house we did not go to for tricks or treats belonged to a mean old man.  My parents and the older kids in the trailer park warned us to stay away from his house.  They all said that he was very nasty and hated everyone.

Each day after coming back from school, school let out at about 3:15 PM, the school bus would drop us off and my sisters and a few of my friends would walk home.  We would go by the old man’s house.  He would inevitably be sitting on a makeshift porch in front of his trailer in an old rocking chair.  We would stroll by his home and occasionally wave but he would never wave back.  As we went by, he would fix a relentlessly hostile gaze on us which could put fear in anyone’s heart.  We imagined he was mad at the world and that certainly included us.  Inevitably, we picked up our pace and tried to hurry by his place as fast as we could.

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A few years passed and the mean old man simply seemed to grow meaner.  One day after the bus dropped us off, a few of my friends and I were walking home.  As we were passing the old man’s home, he was sitting in his usual place and just staring at us.  My friends started laughing at and taunting him with various insults.  “Hey grandpa, what’s it like being so mean?”  “Hey old man, can you help us find our cat?”  I told them to stop it as he had never bothered anyone.  They turned their taunts on me and said “If you like him so much, why don’t you go talk to him.  We dare you to go talk to him.  They cried out at me: “Chicken!  Chicken!  Chicken!”

I tried to ignore their jibes, but finally, I had had enough.  “I am not afraid. I will go talk to him.”  I started to walk down the path to where the old man was sitting.  My heart began beating faster and faster.  I wondered what I was going to say.  Nothing occurred to me.  The old man was staring at me intently.  I could hear my friends laughing and hooting behind me.

As I reached the old man, he looked very angry.  “Ok”, he said, “What do you want.”  I said the first thing that came into my mind: “Well, I was just wondering why you don’t have another chair so someone can sit and talk with you?”  “None of your business”, he answered, “Now why don’t you just run off and go back with your friends.”  I could not think of another thing to say.  As I turned to leave, I said “Goodbye, have a nice day.”  The old man mumbled something which I thought might be “same to you” but I could not be sure.

Saturday and Sunday passed quickly and Monday we were back in school.  After school adjourned, I decided that I did not want to be go home with my usual friends so I took the “late” bus from school.  I got off at the bus stop and started home.  As I passed the mean old man’s house, he was sitting in his chair.  Much to my surprise, he had a single chair sitting right next to him.  Somewhat emboldened by this turn of events, I walked up the path to his house and stood in front of him again.  He looked at me and asked me “What do you want.”  I said “Well, I notice that you have a single chair free, would you mind if I sat and talked to you for a while.”  “OK” was all he said.

black man in a rocking chair

I sat down and started to tell him about all the things that I was doing in school.  I told him about my classes, my teachers and my friends.  I talked about my parents, my sisters and my grandparents.  He listened intently to all I said and never interrupted or asked any questions.  Realizing that it was getting late and that my parents would be worried, I said that I was going to go home but I would see him again tomorrow.  He simply nodded and said “Goodbye.”

My trips and visits to the mean old man’s house continued for many days.  The days stretched into weeks.  Over time, we started to talk more about his life.  I found out that his name was Bill and that he had been married but his wife had died about ten years earlier.  He had not had any children.  Bill was a veteran and we talked about his wartime service and experiences.  Bill was always more interested in what I was doing and asked me many questions about my school and life.  Bill said that he did not have any friends and no surviving relatives.

I asked Bill if he did not have any friends in our local church but he said that his wife had been the church goer.  He had occasionally gone to church with her, but after she died, his stopped going.  Bill confided in me that he had never been a social person and had always found it difficult to make friends.  Most of the friends whom he once had were his wife’s friends and after she died, they stopped coming to visit.  He was all alone now.

Weeks turned into months and it became my habit to routinely stop by Bill’s house on my way home from school.  We talked and I told him about my day and he listened and asked questions which made me think a great deal about my choices and decisions in life.  I could share things with Bill that I did not share with anyone else.

Then one day when I was coming home and passing Bill’s house, I saw that someone else was sitting in the single chair.  Not wanting to interrupt, I waved and walked on by.  The next day we resumed our discussions as usual but the following day, the chair was again occupied.  Over time, the single chair was alternately occupied by myself and many other people.

two old men on a porch

I found out that Bill had started to go to church again and he had met people from all walks of life.  Some were retired and some were not.  The people who met Bill found him to be a very interesting person. They would stop by and sit in the single chair next to Bill and talk about various and sundry things.

High school came and went.  Bill and I had many talks but just as often, he had someone else sitting in the chair when I came by.  I went off to college and saw Bill much less except when I came home to visit my parents.  Bill and I discussed writing to each other but we both agreed that we were not writers.  I finished college and found a job in another city.  My times with Bill had dwindled to a mere pittance of what they once had been.

A few more years passed by.  My parents notified me that Bill had died.  I came home to go to his funeral.  It was well attended and nearly a hundred people were there.  Many nice things were said about Bill.  Everyone talked about what a good listener he was and how he always cared more about what others were doing or thinking.  He was one of the least egocentric people you could have met.

single chair on a porch

About two weeks after the funeral, a letter arrived in my mail.  It was from my home town but I did not recognize the address.  I opened it up and inside were two pieces of stationary.  I opened the one with the typing on it.  It read, “We were going through some of Bill’s possessions and we found this note on his bedside.  We thought he meant to give it to you but never got around to mailing it.”  I opened the second piece of stationary.  It was in rough scrawl which I recognized as Bill’s handwriting.  Bill wrote the following:

Dear Tim,

You are the best friend I ever had. 

Thanks,

Bill

I still keep this note.  It is perhaps the nicest compliment I have ever received.  Whenever, I miss Bill, I pull this note out to remember him and the many talks we had.  Bill in his rocking chair and me in the single chair beside him.

Time for Questions:

My writers group said that the “Mean Old Man” was iconic and that every neighborhood had such a character.  Can you think of someone in your neighborhood like this “Mean Old Man?”  Did anyone ever try to talk to him or find out what bothered him?  What happened to him?  Why do you suppose children are often likely to befriend such people?

Life is just beginning.

“My mother says that when Mrs. Rowley is mean, which is generally the case, it is really because she is just unhappy, and who could blame her with a husband like that . . . She says this is really the only reason people are ever mean–they have something hurting inside of them, a claw of unhappiness scratching at their hearts, and it hurts them so much that sometimes they have to push it right out of their mouths to scratch someone else, just to give themselves a rest, a moment of relief.”  — Laura Moriarty

The Little Boy Who Believed in God

The following story was inspired by a Charles Dickens story called “A Child’s Dream of a Star.”

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Once upon a time there was a little boy who believed in God.  Every morning when he woke up, he would look out the window and thank God for his blessings.  He thanked God for the sun, the beautiful day, the flowers, the trees, the water, the birds and most of all for his mother, father, sister, brother and grandparents.  Every night when the little boy would go to bed, he would look out the window and again thank God for his blessings.  He thanked God for the moon, the stars, the planets and most of all for his mother, father, sister, brother and grandparents.

Now the circumstance of a little boy believing in God might not seem strange but in this case, it was very strange.  You see, the little boy’s mother and father and older sister and older brother and even his grandparents were all confirmed Atheists.  Not a one of them went to church or professed a belief in any type of a higher entity.  In fact, his father and mother were very worried about the little boy.

Father:  “Honey, I am very worried about our little boy.  We have told him that Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and God are all myths.  He accepted the reality for these fictions except for the greatest fiction of all, a higher power called God who supposedly created the universe.  Where do you think he got this idea of God from?

Mother:  “I don’t know. It is very strange.  The schools do not teach God.  His brother and sister do not believe in God.  His grandparents do not believe in God.  None of our friends believe in God.  Most religions do not really practice what they preach.  Most people who say they believe in God are really hypocrites or liars.  I am as mystified as you are.

Believing in God might not have been a problem for the little boy as he had very accepting parents.  However, the little boy found out that whenever he tried to talk to any of his friends or schoolmates or even teachers about God, they did not want to discuss the issue.  The little boy would ask questions like “Do you think God is having a good day today?”  “Do you think God worries about the evil deeds in the world?”  “How can we help God to bring more joy and happiness in the world?”  His teachers and friends would puzzle at such questions and try to ignore him.  They would shake their heads and hope that he would stop asking about God.  His wanting to discuss God made most people very uncomfortable.  God was not a subject for polite conversation.

God-is-good-Article-TemplateAs the little boy grew up, he became an even more devout believer in God.  Everywhere he went, he saw the hand of God.  In the clouds, in nature, in the weather, in the oceans, in good times and in bad times he believed that God was present.  The little boy thought how hard God must have to work to try to keep life sustained.  Each night he would pray to God that when he grew up, he would be able to help ease God’s work somewhat and do his share to help make the world a better place.

The little boy became a social worker and devoted his life to helping other people.  He met many other social workers who became cynical and skeptical.  One told him what a fool he was for believing that a God existed who cared about the human race.  Another told him that if a God really existed he would not have allowed people to be so greedy and corrupt.  Most of the social workers he knew eventually quit to become investment bankers or insurance salespeople.

god is my salvation

Time passed.  Aging became more salient in the little boy’s life.  His grandparents died.  His mother and father died.  His sister and brother died.  All his friends passed away.  Every time one of them died, the little boy would thank God for the time he had been able to spend with his loved ones.  He would ask God to take good care of them until he could see them again.

Many years went by and eventually the little boy stood at death’s door.  It was his last hour on earth.  He had few breaths left.  A nurse and a doctor waited at his bedside.  They heard him say before he passed “Thank you God for the life you gave me.  Thank you for the trees and the sun and the moon and the stars and the oceans and the forests and the sky.  But most of all, thank you for all the wonderful people that you put in my life and who I will now meet again.”

Time for Questions:

What do you believe in?  Why?  What role does faith have in your beliefs?  Do you think that there is a God?  Does he/she watch over and take care of humanity?  Why or why not?

Life is just beginning.

“To love means loving the unlovable. To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable.  Faith means believing the unbelievable. Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless.” — Gilbert K. Chesterton
 

 

 

Leandra

Years ago, I remember seeing a Twilight Zone story about a man and a wife who wanted to swap their bodies for younger ones.  This story stuck in my head and helped influence the following story.  I hope you will enjoy it. 

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There it was.  The UPS Truck and the knock on the door.  I had waited over six months but it had finally arrived.  Like the saying goes “Good things take time.”  I signed for the package or packages.  She had been delivered in three boxes.  The company had assured me she would be quick and easy to assemble.  I called in to my business to tell them that I needed to take the day off.  This was much more important than work.

But I suppose I must back up a bit to tell you the whole story.  My name is Rob and about 12 months ago, my wife Leandra packed her bags and left a note on the kitchen table.  It read “Gone with Pete, don’t love you anymore.  Bye.”  Pete was my best friend.  I never suspected that Leandra was having an affair with Pete, much less that she was the slightest bit unhappy in our relationship.

I was stunned.  We had been married for 10 years and she had never once complained about our relationship.  I thought we had the perfect marriage.  We had dinner together at least twice a week.  We watched the football game every Monday night together.  We attended church every Sunday together.  We had sex on the average of once per week.  She always said it was great sex.  I thought we were happy together.

woman robotI am not a very sentimental person nor am I one to cling to the past.  I decided I would move on with my life.  I threw myself into my job and time went by.  I had almost forgotten about Leandra when I saw the ad.  It was from the Resurrection Android Company.  It was the same company that I had purchased my android valet Sam from.  Actually, Sam was much more than just a valet.  Sam was a third-generation android with some independent powers of decision making.  He could decide what to cook each day and he also decided what I should wear for work.  He did cleaning, mending and many light repairs around the house.  I had bought Sam shortly after Leandra and I were married.  Leandra had mentioned that it would be nice to have some help with housekeeping and all.  That way she would have more time to spend with me.

robot-butlerAndroids of course are not human and they have no empathy or ability to show any emotions.  Sam was logical and could be persuasive but he could not show love or compassion.   In the ten years since I had purchased Sam, android technology had advanced considerably.  Looking at the ad from the company, it appeared that they were now on a 15th generation android that had affective as well as cognitive abilities.  The ad claimed that the new android could help replace a loved one both emotionally and physically.  By integrating DNA characteristics using a technique called “Assisted human reproduction”, they could capture the exact characteristics of a loved one.  All they would need would be some trace or remnant of the deceased or former loved one’s DNA.

Westworld-style-sexbots-could-soon-be-a-reality-after-AI-app-developed-to-give-love-dolls-personalThat was when the idea occurred to me.  I called the customer service line and asked to speak to a representative.  I asked her whether it would be possible for me to create a new wife in the exact image of my former wife Leandra.  They assured me it was.  It would take about six months for the bio-engineering to integrate the mechanical aspects of the droid with the alleles and DNA strands that they could map from a sample of Leandra’s DNA.  When the process was completed, I would have an exact physical, mental and emotional copy of Leandra.  Even better, she could continue to be programmed and become an even better Leandra.  The old Leandra was somewhat boring in bed.  The new Leandra could become a wild and wanton partner if that is what I desired.

female android with linesIt did not take long to assemble the new Leandra.  I put the lower torso, upper torso and head together in less time than it takes to make a milk shake.  She was perfect.  She looked just like my old Leandra.  When I turned her on, she greeted me and asked, “What will my name be.”  I replied “You are Leandra. You are the perfect wife.  You will love and obey me always.”

The next year was the best year of my life.  Leandra was perfect.  She never argued.  She never complained.  She never talked back.  She agreed with everything I said.  She spoke only when spoken to.  She had a beautiful body and after a while she became a real wild woman in bed.  What more could a man want.  Once again bliss had entered my life.  And then it happened.

female robot with head and robot bodyI came home one day from work and Leandra did not greet me at the door.  I thought maybe her battery had discharged or that Sam had forgotten to recharge her.  I had left strict instructions for Sam to recharge Leandra every day.  But, where was Sam?  I did not hear him fixing dinner in the kitchen.  I went into the kitchen but Sam was not there.  Suddenly, I noticed a note on the table.  I picked it up.  It was from Leandra.  She had written: “Gone with Sam, don’t love you anymore.  Bye.”

I could not understand this.  I was angry.  I was angriest at the Resurrection Android Company.  They had sold me this traitor with a guarantee that she would be perfect.  She was going to replace my old Leandra.  Well, I would call the company and get my money back.  I called and was transferred to the complaint department.  They said “Why of course, you will get your money back.  However, this will first need to go to our adjudication department to check the terms of the agreement.  If they decide that we have violated the agreement, we will immediately send you a check for reimbursement. This is usually just a formality.”

One week later, an envelope from the Resurrection Android Company arrived in the mail.  I opened it expecting to find a check.  Instead, there was a letter.  It read:

Dear Mr. Rob,  

After carefully reviewing the terms of your agreement with the Android Company and the DNA sample that you sent us, we have found no violation of our guarantee with you.  You specified that the new Leandra should be just like the old Leandra physically, mentally and emotionally.  Her recent departure with your valet Sam is evidence that the new Leandra was just like the old Leandra. 

We are very sorry for your loss. 

Respectfully,

The Resurrection Android Company

Female-robot

 Time for Questions:

Will robots ever replace people?  Do you think someday we will have robot spouses?  Are we going too far with robotics?  Do you think robots help or hurt the world?  What if robots could do all the work in the world that needed to be done?

Life is just beginning.

“California-based Abyss Creations is building a range of silicone sex dolls that not only look like real women but move and speak like them too.  In the hope of making the most realistic sex doll yet, designers have created a bot that they claim can fall in love with its user.

An app called Harmony 2.0 allows the user to tailor their Real Doll’s “personality” by selecting from 18 traits – including happy, shy, sensual, funny, jealous, moody and talkative.  Turn up the intellectual setting and it may even recite poetry or engage in witty banter.  A new video has been released that shows the doll speaking, in which she describes sex as ‘one of the most fascinating things in the world.”

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-4376310/Sex-doll-TALK-Robot-different-personalities.html#ixzz4iGLA2ocH

 

Why a Health Advocate Is Your Most Important Health Care Plan!

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This is the final article in my series on health care.  This article has been preceded by nine other articles.  There is no need to read them in order but if you have not read the other nine, you will be missing a good deal of information that just might help you live longer, healthier and happier.  As I finish this series on health care, I am gratified that over the ten weeks I have been writing about the subject, I have found only more evidence that confirms the advice and opinions I have given in this series.  In this final article, I want to talk about how important it is to have someone as an advocate when you enter the health care system in this country.  Let me tell you a personal story that illustrates this point very well.

Several years ago, my sister lay dying in hospice care.  Hospice care is a gentle humane way of helping ease out a person who is at deaths door.  By gradually increasing their doses of morphine, the patients’ bodily functions will eventually slow down and finally cease.  If a patient is accepted into hospice care, it is assumed that they are terminally ill.  What might be a slow lingering painful death without hospice, becomes a respectful and hopefully painless termination of vital processes and death.

My mother went into hospice care in 1994 and died in three days.  She had a terminal infection which was beyond treatment.  We (sisters and brother) sat with her until she expired.  My sister Sheri was also accepted into hospice care in 1999.  She was only fifty-one years old.  She was considered terminal due to her advanced cancer.  As a family, we began another vigil waiting for my sister to succumb to the cancer and morphine.  However, things did not go the same path with my sister.

We noticed that she would seem to come in and out of consciousness.  Often, when she came out she would seem quite rationale and even energetic.  The nurses did not seem to pay much attention to these episodes.  One day, the morphine drip somehow came unplugged.  My sister became quite lucid and wanted to know if it was time for her to do taxes.  She did not seem like a patient near death.  We demanded that they take her off the morphine.  This met with much resistance as I assume they thought my sister would be in great pain and that we would be the instigators of a now painful as well as inevitable death.  Such was not the case.  My sister revived and seemed very healthy.  In a day or so she was out of the hospital.  She moved in with my sister and lived another three years before she passed away in 2002.  The next three years were not always good ones for my sister but we never regretted the decision to take her out of hospice.

Advocacy-bannerThe point of this story is that if we had not been siting vigil at my sister’s deathbed, we would not have been able to prevent a premature death.  This is merely one example of the value of an “advocate” when you must go to a hospital.  I am sure everyone reading this blog has at least one example that highlights how important it is to have someone as an advocate when you are in the hospital.

A health advocate is a family member, friend, trusted coworker, or a hired professional who can ask questions, write down information, and speak up for you so you can better understand your illness and get the care and resources you need – giving you a peace of mind so you can focus on your recovery.

Nurses, doctors and staff all want to do a good job and provide wonderful healthcare.  However, our health care system is under tremendous pressure to cut costs and reduce expenses.  This translates to less time available to care for each patient.  Less time that a nurse or doctor can spend with each patient.

advocateAn alarm might go off in an intensive care room but not be noticed for quite some time.  I have personally observed many times when a patient needed to call someone for assistance but no one came.  Unable to get out of bed, a patient may have to wait a long time before someone is finally able to help them.  In many cases, an advocate in the room can help a patient with minor personal needs.  If more severe needs exist, the advocate can be of assistance if finding someone to help and making sure that the patient needs are not overlooked or even forgotten.

Advocates assist people with making sure their rights are respected. They help consumers to resolve complaints about health or disability services. They operate independently of government agencies, the Health and Disability Commissioner, and the funders of health and disability services.

70b2adaac53bf082bb116c279362275c_advocacy-clip-art-clipart-download-advocacy-clipart_1822-1415Another function an advocate can provide is to stand up for the patient when needed.  Most of the time when we are feeling sick or hurting, we are in no position to stand up for what we need or want.  In such instances, a patient only wants the pain to go away.  Hospitals and health care providers often have needs that transcend the needs of the patient.  The patient that must play second fiddle to a variety of administrative and financial procedures.  Another example might clarify this.

Three years ago, I went to the Mayo Clinic for prostate surgery.  The surgery went fine and I was sent to a room for recovery.  The night passed as most do in a hospital.  Interminable interruptions for pills, blood tests and getting up to walk the surgery unit for exercise.  The night nurse was polite and helpful.  She left sometime after 7 AM and a new nurse came on shift.  She immediately informed me that I had to be out of the room by 12 PM and I should try to do more walking.

I had thought that I was doing a great job of getting mobile but I had not met my new nurse’s standard.  I started to try to walk more and meantime I became fixated on the clock in my room.  I still felt like shit as I watched the hands on the clock move inexorably towards 12 PM.  I am sure that Cinderella did not feel as bad as I felt since she would only be outed as a pauper while I be would be viewed as weak, wimpy and unable to meet standards that every other male prostate victim in America had met.

Fortunately, when the witching hour arrived, I had my advocate intercede on my behalf.  My wife Karen who had kept vigil with me this whole time told them in no uncertain terms that I was not going anywhere until I felt better.  It was now 12 PM but with her assurance, I fell into a deep sleep.  I awoke two hours later and immediately saw that the clock hands were on 2 PM.  Somehow, this extra sleep time was all I needed.  I practically jumped out of bed and started grabbing my clothes.  Karen who had been napping in a chair beside my bed woke up.  I said, “Lets go, we are getting out of here.” She replied, “but we are not packed.”  I replied, “I don’t care, I want to get out of here now.”  Karen grabbled whatever we could and we made the 2-hour drive back to Arizona City from Scottsdale.  I was not sure how I was going to handle two hours in the car post-surgery but I did not care.  I wanted out of the Mayo Clinic and back in my own bed.  To this day, I wonder how much stock my second nurse had in the Mayo Clinic.

Preserver wNew Shadow-logo tagline

My rule now is this.  I will never let a friend or relative go to a hospital for treatment (regardless of how minor) by themselves.  If I have a friend who has no one to go with them, I will be their advocate.  If Karen needs to go to a doctor, clinic or hospital for any reason, even a hangnail, I will go with her.  Hospitals can be places of healing but they can also unexpectedly be places of death.  No one should assume or take for granted what might or might not happen at a hospital.  I could provide many more examples of unintended consequences that happened to friends and people we knew when they went into a hospital.  Better to be safe than sorry.

Patient advocates can work to help patients and their families by providing a variety of services, depending on the patient’s needs and the advocate’s area of expertise. They may help them to secure health care, manage insurance, or make treatment plan decisions.

Your advocate is your best health care plan.  Your advocate can have your back when you are under the weather or unable to defend yourself.  Your advocate can help make sure that the hospital and its providers live up to their own expectations.  Your advocate can help watch over you when everyone else is busy with other patients or administrative tasks.

Pity the poor person who goes into a hospital without a personal advocate.

This now concludes my series on health care.  I hope my blogs on health care have been useful and that you have found some ideas that will help you to lead a healthier, happier and more robust life.

Time for Questions:

Can you think of a time when you wished you had an advocate?  Were you ever an advocate for someone else?  What role do you think an advocate should play in healthcare?  Do you agree that everyone needs an advocate?  Why or why not?

Life is just beginning.

“For he who has health has hope; and he who has hope, has everything.”  — Owen Arthur

 

Will Yoga or Physical Therapy Help You or Kill You?

yoga

I started doing Yoga in 1972.  I am still doing Yoga three times per week and for over 45 years now.  My first Yoga instructor was a gentleman from India who did not look anything like Arnold Schwarzenegger.  He was short and a little on the pudgy side.  I credit him for giving me a wonderful grounding in both the physical and spiritual characteristics of Yoga.  I have since had many Yoga instructors but my first one still stands out in my mind as head and shoulders above the rest.

Over the years, many people have taken up teaching and doing Yoga.  Many of these “so-called” Yoga instructors are really Jazzercise or aerobics instructors in disguise.  Taking Yoga from some of them is a little like taking music lessons from someone who can only play an “air guitar.”  You will not get the true flavor of Yoga from someone who does Yoga to a four count hip hop beat and keeps shouting “work your buns.”  I feel privileged that I know the difference between real Yoga and “fake” Yoga.  Real Yoga has been a vital aspect of my weekly exercise routine.

When I started this blog (Which will be the 8th in my series on exercise and health care) my spouse wanted to know “Whether was I was going to say something negative about Yoga?”  I reassured her that it was not my intention to disparage Yoga or to say anything off putting about the practice.  Indeed, I think everyone would be happier and healthier if they did Yoga at least three times per week for ½ hour per session.  However, I did note in an earlier blog that Yoga and physical therapy could make your health worse.  As with anything in life, there is always a possible downside or negative impact which can occur with any activity.  If you lay in your bed all day long, your house could be hit by a tornado, earthquake, hurricane, flood or falling airliner.  Everything in life has a risk.

ManDoingYoga_0

The greater risk in life (IMHO) is doing nothing.  It is always easier to do nothing.  Whether your doctor has given you a regimen to practice physical therapy or whether you have a schedule for Yoga, there are many nights when you will just feel like doing nothing or perhaps simply eating.  It often goes like this in our house:

5 PM

John:  Let’s do Yoga today at 6:30 PM.

Karen:  OK

6:15 PM

John:  I sort of got behind on some things I was doing.  Could we make it at 7 PM and eat dinner after?

Karen:  OK

8 PM

John:  Dam that took longer than I thought it would.  Shit, it is now 8 PM.  I am hungry and tired.  Would you mind if we skipped Yoga tonight?  We could do it tomorrow instead.

Karen:   OK

One problem with Yoga (as noted in the above discussion) is to skip doing it.

yoga cat

Another problem can be overdoing it.  Yoga must be practiced carefully.  The formula “no pain, no gain” is a prescription for disaster when it comes to doing Yoga.  That is the issue I have with Jazzercise instructors who think that they can teach Yoga with the same philosophy they use in their Jazzercise classes.  Yoga should be slow and gentle.  Yoga should not be frenetic and schizophrenic.  Some people might feel that there is little benefit to doing something that does not result in pain or sore muscles.  However, with the wrong philosophy, you can do real damage to your muscles or joints while attempting to do some Yoga exercises.

worrier poseBeing overly competitive might be a good formula in exercise programs where you attempt to outdo other participants, but this can be another recipe for disaster when it comes to Yoga.  Each participant in Yoga needs to pay attention only to their own body; not to the other participants or even the instructor.  If the instructor has his/her legs at a 180 degree angle to their torso and you can only make 30 degrees, you are best advised not try to imitate your instructor or other participants.  A good instructor will repeatedly advise you to only go as far as you can with any Yoga posture.  Pushing the envelope may lead to torn muscles or dislocated joints.

I have lumped physical therapy in with Yoga exercise.  I have done this recognizing that though they are two very different practices they actually share several things in common.

  1. They are both healthy alternatives to pills and surgery
  2. They both require discipline and a regular routine
  3. They cost a great deal less than surgery or pills
  4. They have less side effects than pills or surgery
  5. You can do them in the privacy of your home and you do not need a prescription
  6. You can target particular areas of the body where you have some type of soreness or imbalance
  7. You can do them regardless of the physical shape you are in since the level you do each at can be adjusted to your present condition
  8. You can do them forever and they will help prevent future problems
  9. They are both proven in terms of health and therapeutic value

Many of the yoga practices that have now become routine in physical therapy are derived from Yoga exercises that go back thousands of years.

“A co-worker of mine recently had knee surgery and said he is in physical therapy. I am always curious as a Yoga teacher what the medical community does to treat ailments via physical movement.  He graciously copied his sheet of exercises his physical therapist prescribed to him.

I saw immediately that the actions being taught in physical therapy mimic many of those in asana, with asana being a bit more extreme in range of motion.” — From Home Yoga Practice

For a more in-depth analysis of the similarities and differences between Yoga and physical therapy see the following article:  Yoga and physical exercise – a review and comparison by Ramajayam GovindarajSneha KarmaniShivarama Varambally & B.N. Gangadhar

Conclusions:

Yoga can be an excellent addition to your weekly health routine.  The exercises (called asanas) will help to keep you flexible and limber.  Yoga will also help with your balance and posture.  Flexibility and balance are two of the six key pillars for a healthy lifestyle.  I would argue that for good health, you need to address each of the following six pillars on a weekly basis:

  1. Flexibility routine
  2. Strength routine
  3. Balance routine
  4. Stress routine
  5. Good nutrition
  6. Aerobic routine

If you supplement your weekly Yoga with an aerobic exercise program, strength program and good nutrition, you will have done the most that anyone can do to insure a long and healthy life.  The rest will be up to your genes and lifestyle.

Yoga set394Start doing Yoga once or twice a week.  You can get a Yoga mat, strap, blocks and some used Yoga DVD’s for less than $30 dollars.  With some Yoga tapes and a DVD player, you will be able to do Yoga in the privacy of your home and as often as you want. I have found Rodney Yee, Patricia Walden and Susan Deason to be great instructors.  Gaiam Yoga tapes can often be found in Goodwill or other thrift stores for a few dollars each.  On frigid days, it is a real pleasure not to have to get dressed and go to a gym.  It is also great to have an instructor on DVD that I do not have to keep paying weekly fees to.

Time for Questions:

Do you do Yoga?  Why or why not?  If not, what would it take for you to get started?

Life is just beginning.

“Yoga is not a religion. It is a science, science of well-being, science of youthfulness, science of integrating body, mind and soul.” — Amit Ray

 

 

 

 

Why Diet Programs Ignore Common Sense! Or How to Lose Weight without even Trying!

marthas-vineyard-detox-diet

There are two rules of wisdom that I think most of us believe in.  They are:

  1. If it is too good to be true, it probably isn’t
  2. There are no free lunches

I have found the above precepts to be good guideposts for my life.  They are so often noted that we begin to take them for granted.  It could be argued that perhaps they are not true in every situation, but I believe that they are more often true than not true.  This brings us to the issue of diet programs.  Consider the following statistics:

  • An estimated 108 million American adults were dieting in 2012.
  • Each year, more and more adults are trying to lose weight
  • 80% of dieters try to lose weight on their own
  • In 2012, Americans spent an estimated $65 billion trying to lose weight
  • 90-95 percent of all dieters gain their weight back

(Statistics are from Fitness for Weight Loss)

HT_rocco_dispirito_book_jef_140109_16x9_608If I go to Amazon.com and type in “diet books”, I find that there are 184,291 books available to sell me on a strategy for losing weight.   There were 424 “Diet Best Sellers” in 2016 and 209 “Best Sellers” published already in 2017.  These are only the “Best Sellers.”  There were a total of 39,673 diet books listed as published in 2016.  Many if not most diet books do not make the “Best Seller” lists.  In terms of magazines dealing with diets and weight loss, there are over a dozen magazines that you can buy each week at your local grocery store (that you will find stocked right next to the chocolates) that will tell you how to lose weight “without even trying.”

fad-diet-adsHowever, the above statistics are only the tip of the proverbial iceberg.  If I go to Google and type in the words “diet strategies” in parentheses, I find that there are over 319,000 listings concerning various diets, stratagems, plans, tips, secrets, etc., that will show you how to lose weight “without even trying.”

Here are some typical headlines that you will find as you peruse any of the above information that is offered for those of us that need to lose weight “without even trying”:

  • The Harcombe Diet 3-Step Plan: Lose 7 lbs. in 5 days and end food cravings forever
  • 1200 Calorie Diet Menu – 7 Day Lose 20 Pounds Weight Loss Meal Plan
  • Win at Slim: New Secrets to Lasting Weight Loss
  • Outsmart Your Cravings: Sweet, Salty, Crunchy
  • How I Lost 42 lbs.
  • Eat, Drink, Shrink: No Diet Ways to Fight Holiday Gain
  • No More Guilt: Stop Dwelling, Start Enjoying

no exercise or dieting

The beauty of all these weight loss schemes is that you can lose weight “without (you guessed it) even trying.”  Any half-way intelligent person would regard these titles and by applying either of the two rules noted earlier decide that they were pure bunko.  Lose weight without trying!  End food cravings forever!  Lose 7 lbs. in 5 days!  No sane person would believe any of this BS.  Nevertheless, the diet magazines, diet plans and diet books sell like crazy.  Every year a plethora of new diet strategies replace last year’s models.  Why do people continue taking the bait when they know that it is a sucker’s game?  The simple answer is that when it comes to looking like Jennifer Lopes, Christie Brinkley or any of the Kardashians, all brain power and rational thinking goes down the drains.  Everyone in America wants to be thin and beautiful “without even trying.”

SUPER-SHRED-DIET-ROTATOR-617x241Every new diet strategy renews hope for the downtrodden and overweight oppressed masses.  Every new diet plan offers the possibility that beauty and slimness might be had before Christmas or at least before the New Year.  Every new weight loss scheme provides the potential to become the person that we dream of being.  Hope springs not just eternal in the human breast, but perpetually, irrationally and beyond all measures of logic or intellect:  To hell with “no free lunches!”  To hell with “it probably is not true!”

If even the remotest opportunity exists that I can lose weight “without even trying”, I will take the bait like a mouse eats peanut butter or a cat eats catnip or a bear eats donuts.  “Dam the torpedoes, full speed ahead.”  Who cares about logic?  Who cares that no evidence exists to back these claims up?

before and after maleSo now we come to the real issue.  You wanted to know if there actually might be a method for losing weight “without even trying.”  My answer is YES!  But there is even better news.  I will send you the secret strategy for my quick weight loss “without even trying” plan that I have developed for only $9.95 plus postage and handling.  In six weeks or less, I will give you a money back guarantee that you will lose twenty pounds “without even trying” or I will send you a full refund.  This offer is good for only thirty days after you read this blog and it will then expire.  The following stipulations also apply:

  • You must reside on a lake
  • You must be over 99 years of age
  • You must have been born in Last Chance, New Mexico
  • You must be at least 100 lbs. overweight at the start of this offer
  • You must believe everything you read or hear

Time for Questions:

Do you need to lose weight?  Have you been trying to lose weight?  How successful have your efforts been?  What has worked for you?  What did not work for you?  What would you like to change in your diet?

Life is just beginning.

“I believe that parents need to make nutrition education a priority in their home environment. It’s crucial for good health and longevity to instill in your children sound eating habits from an early age.” — Cat Cora
 

 

 

 

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