Community outreach

Op-ed: Who are Seattle’s 47 percent? | Opinion | The Seattle Times

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Op-ed: Who are Seattle’s 47 percent? | Opinion | The Seattle Times.

In my opinion, the article linked above paints a clear picture of what the 47 percent might encompass.  As with any situation for which we have little understanding or exposure, it’s healthy to see what the flesh and blood of the situation equates to – put a face on it.

Making a generalization that those who don’t pay federal taxes are taking unfair advantage of government handouts seems so inaccurate – I guess that’s what generalizations are: inaccurate attempts (oversimplifications) to state something about which we have no understanding.   Just about everyone with whom I associate has gone through difficult times – financial and otherwise – at some time in their lives.  Not everyone stays hungry and without the means to get by – as if they would choose to remain that way year after year after year.

The above article introduces us to

  • a 76-year old woman who works but is not able to pay her electricity bill;
  • a well-dressed man with a Master’s degree in engineering who needs help with his rent who was very embarrassed to ask for help; and
  • a woman battling cancer and diabetes at risk of losing a leg.

These individuals are not second-class citizens just because they’re going through a rough patch in life.  I don’t consider myself a bad person because in the mid-1980’s I was laid off from my job as a program director at a cable TV company and had to collect unemployment insurance while looking for  a replacement job.  That time was temporary – as many trying times in life are.

Does this mean that everyone in need of a handout represents the “better angels of our culture?”  No, there will always be those who try to bilk the system – heck, the big bankers and financiers did that very recently – and arguably, still are –  and they certainly weren’t dining at the downtown food kitchen or struggling to pay their utility bills.  We might categorize them as second-class citizens because of their greediness, but I dare say they look vastly different from those portrayed so cavalierly in the political arena during this current election season.

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World Alzheimer’s Day.

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World Alzheimer’s Day video:

The above video is amazingly dramatic and not just because it’s so well done and the music is so compelling.  It’s dramatic because it speaks of facts about Alzheimer’s and other dementia that are hard to wrap your mind around.

Here’s one fact I’ll provide, and then I encourage you to watch this two minute video to increase your awareness of this insidious disease.

The Fact: there are 15 million caregivers currently living in America.  If caregivers were the only residents in one of the states in the United States, they would completely populate the state of Illinois – the 5th largest state in the country.

Awareness is key – pass this link on to others so that greater attention is placed on this disease that is the ONLY cause of death among the top 10 causes of death in America without a way to prevent, cure, or even slow its progression.

Healing from an unfulfilled expectation.

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I didn’t think I would write about this personal experience, but today I realized that in order to fully heal, I need to express myself.

So here I go.

English: Trinity Presbyterian Church Cross in ...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Five months ago, I made a well-thought out and measured decision to leave the religion of my birth.  Let me make this perfectly clear: I left a religious organization.  My faith is still intact.

I was quite active in the local-area church of that religion: I was a scripture reader; I trained other scripture readers; I started a volunteer chore ministry that served the members of that local church as well as the geographic community in which that church is located; and I contributed financially to both the local-area church and the “Mother” church.

The catalyst for my leaving the religion of my birth was the “Mother” church’s decision to encourage all local churches of that religion in Washington state to hold a political petition signing at each church service on a particular Sunday in April 2012.  Each local church was given the option of whether or not to hold this particular petition signing; some churches opted out, many opted in.  Therein lies part of the problem.

I firmly believe in the absolute separation of church and state.  When I heard that this petition signing was to take place, I approached my local church and asked if they would be participating.  “Yes” was their answer, and they did.  The issue at hand for me is that once you bring politics into a church’s sanctuary – regardless of the political party, cause, or issue – you taint the worship space that was created for the express purpose of praising God, celebrating the rituals in which we find comfort, and building up the Body of believers who call that local church the home base for their faith.

My “beef” isn’t even with the local church I left.  (As a matter of fact I met with the local church leadership to talk about my concerns and my intention to leave and we had a very thoughtful and respectful conversation.)  My beef and major concern centers around the hierarchy of leadership that holds onto teachings that I have not supported for quite some time now.  The petition signing was merely the catalyst for me to finally be true to myself and the faith in which I clothe myself.

Now the healing that I’m seeking – healing from an unfulfilled expectation.  I cared deeply about many of the people with whom I worshiped and I thought the feeling was mutual.  You see, after more than ten years of attendance and active participation, I had the expectation that someone would a) notice that I was no longer there; and b) care enough to get in touch with me.  Five months after leaving the church I received an e-mail from someone asking if I had left the parish, because this person missed seeing me on Sundays. That e-mail made my day.  That e-mail both made me grieve, and rejoice.  Grieve – because only one person cared enough to reach out to me.  Rejoice – because one person reached out to me and confirmed that I mattered.

The lesson in all of this for me is that it’s not the local church’s fault that I’m hurt from their lack of response to my absence.  I erroneously placed my personal expectation onto others – those who didn’t know what I had hoped would happen.  I’ve come to believe that “expectation” is simply a fantasy of a personal hope that we try to impose on other people and/or events.

In that respect, the phrase “unfulfilled expectation” is a contradiction in terms.  Again, going with my definition of fantasy, the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines fantasy in this manner: the free play of creative imagination.  The dictionary also provides an obsolete definition of fantasy as “hallucination.”

So there you have it.  I hallucinated what I had wanted to take place – but it wasn’t fact.

Life is a series of reboots.

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060526-N-9543M-001 New York City (May 26th, 20...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Katie Couric is redesigning her news career with a daytime talk show; and Jeff Probst of the “Survivor” television series has done the same.  I guess you don’t have to be a normal non-celebrity middle class person to be bored or unsatisfied with life to have an excuse to recreate yourself.

In my article, “Creating the next chapter of your life” I focus on the tendency of some of us to seek new ways in which to express ourselves and/or additional ways in which to make an impact on our small portion of the world.  This is certainly a topic that rarely leaves my thought process as witnessed by some of the other articles I’ve written, including: “Dragonfly: a well-lived brief lifetime,” and “Voices of the Bored Retirees.” 

But I’m not the only one who is currently redefining or recreating ones life.

I am personally acquainted with a 79-year old woman, a 64-year old man, and a 63-year old,  59-year old, and 36-year old woman, who are actively pursuing a transition from one chapter of their lives to the next.  Personally, I feel that such a pursuit is good for the psyche; it brings a fresh outlook on what we’re still able to accomplish, and, equally as important, might prove beneficial to others as we stretch our wings – and perhaps even our comfort zone – in our efforts to make the most of our talents.

Does this mean that if a person spends decades in the same career they are less evolved or community-focused?

Hell no.  I happen to be married to a wonderful man who has been with the same company since he graduated from college more than 30 years ago, and not only is he doing all he can, and then some, in his career, he also reaches out to others for whom his other non-job skills – and there are many – can be used.  And boy do we need those dedicated employees in this world who are not only committed to their chosen career path but who also defy the odds – and improve the economic forecast – by staying with the same employer.  I’m glad some of you are doing that, and doing it so very well.

I think I can credit, and thank, my limited attention span for the catalyst that keeps me on the look out for that “something else” that might be out there for me to do.  Fortunately, most of the reboots I’ve experienced have worked out for the better.  Not all of them are money-makers, but I can honestly say that they have all had a more positive than negative impact on the world around me.  I’m the only one who has to account for whether or not I’ve been a “good and faithful servant” of this life that I’ve been given and I’m committed to keep trying until I get it right.

Dragonfly: a well-lived brief lifetime.

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I read in the Seattle Times newspaper recently that a dragonfly, in its nymph stage, lives in the water for up to four years while it is growing & developing.  When it finally emerges from its skin, it only lives a few months.

I know there are other insects who have an even briefer adult life, but this substantial insect caught my attention for one specific reason – although its post-nymph life is brief, it goes for the gusto during its brief time on Planet Earth.

English: Broad-bodied Chaser (a dragonfly) Lib...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s believed that dragonflies have existed on Earth for approximately 300 million years – wow! – that’s older than us humans!!!  I guess they’ve had a great deal of time to learn how to make their individual lives count.  As nymphs, growing & developing under water, a special appendage on their head helps them to spear their food – small fish, other insects, yum!  When full grown and ready to emerge, the dragonfly climbs out of the water, sheds its skin, and waits for its wings to dry before getting down to business.

By the time their wings are developed, they are considered full-grown adults and have only a few weeks remaining of their lives.  Their primary goal during this winged stage is mating – so when you see two dragonflies flying through the air attached to one another, it is almost always a male and female mating.  I guess they are able to fly while “distracted” because they can see nearly 360 degrees around themselves at all times – no obstacle will get in the way of these industrious bugs!  And I can’t help but state that they present an entirely new definition of the mile-high club.

But this article isn’t really about dragonflies and their mating-in-flight capabilities.  It’s about how you and I choose to live our lives because in the grand-scheme of things, our life span is just as short as an insect’s, if not – relatively speaking – shorter.

Considering how old the world is, even if we live to be 100, it’s still a drop in the bucket compared to the years that have preceded us, and the infinity that will carry on after us.

I wrote two articles on this Blog site about making the most of our lives – especially as we near retirement.  Retirement Planning – it’s not what you think; and Creating the next chapter of your life explore whether “the rest of our lives” post-retirement will bore us and benefit few; or excite us and benefit many.   This topic interests me greatly because I witnessed first hand what an unplanned retirement can look like.

A few months into my father’s retirement, my mother started to complain about my dad’s inactivity – phew, not fun!  Before long – and in the midst of great boredom on his part – my father got the hint, climbed off his golf cart, and pursued volunteer opportunities with AARP.  You see, he realized within a few months of retirement that he wasn’t satisfied not contributing to the larger community around him.  The long and the short of it is that both my mother and father eventually established a state-wide volunteer program to help the elderly and low-income individuals with their annual tax returns.  My parents recruited other like-minded retirees, put them through training, and by the time of my parents’ real retirement, this tax-aide program had helped more than a million people in the course of 20 years.

But that was them.  That’s what my parents could do and enjoyed doing.  We have to discern what an appealing retirement looks like for us.  I don’t begrudge anyone a relaxing and enjoyable retirement – I’m all for it – but let’s not waste our previous employment skills by putting them on hold as soon as we leave our J-O-B.

My husband surprised me the other day when he stated that he’s already thinking about what he’ll do when he retires – four years hence.  I’m thrilled that he’s already considering his options, and who knows?  Maybe we’ll team up and do something meaningful to both of us, just as my parents did many years ago.

New ad campaign portrays caregivers’ call for help

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New ad campaign portrays caregivers’ call for help.

A recent NBC Nightly News story focused on the role of caregiving as adult children take on the parental role vacated by their parents.

Imagine, if you can, handling all that you normally do in your hectic life and adding between 20 to 60 more hours to your workload.   Haven’t arrived at that point yet?  Of this potentiality you can be certain – all signs point to that being in your future.  Whether your involvement is characterized by general care for an aging family member, or specialized care for a family member with cognitive decline, caregiving is most likely a task to which you have not devoted much attention.

It is said that 1,200 people per day are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other dementia.  Let’s re-categorize that statistic: 1,200 caregivers are created every day.

The new ad campaign, a joint project between AARP and the Ad Council, was created to address the impact of family caregiving with the graying of the population.  This ad campaign seeks to provide resources for those who are thrust into this role for which they are ill-prepared.

“Although they often don’t identify themselves as ‘caregivers,’ more than 42 million Americans perform some form of consistent care for older or impaired adult relatives or friends, according to a 2009 estimate.  It can range from paying bills, to driving Mom to doctor appointments, to more hands-on care such as bathing, and even tasks once left to nurses such as the care of open wounds.”

Taking a walk with my wonderful Dad in 2007.

And as many of us who have been in that caregiving role can attest, ones’ active role goes on and on when behind-the-scenes caregiving occurs, dealing with finance and insurance issues and the like during  our alleged “free” time; a time when others are settling down to watch their favorite TV show or to read a good book.

This extraordinary AARP/Ad Council project is broader than another effort that is part of the new National Alzheimer’s Plan that can be found on the federal government’s website, www.alzheimers.gov.  But both of these projects address the loneliness inherent with the caregiving task when so many caregivers feel, and become, isolated and adrift in an ocean of frustration and despair.

FINALLY some resources are being directed to the tidal wave of caregiving issues that Baby Boomers face.  It may be too little too late, but it’s more than has been available up to this point.  My hope is that the generation in which our children live will have sufficient resources to deal with us Baby Boomers because if our children think this caregiving task is going to jump their generation, they’ve got another thing coming to them.

And I apologize ahead of time for what awaits you.

Alzheimer’s: Laughter and Forgetting

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Alzheimer’s: Laughter and Forgetting.

The attached article, from the magazine, Seattle Met, is a stellar example of a therapy that is not medicinal or chemical, nonetheless, it’s a therapy that works.  Imagine that – and without drugs???

  • Frye Art Museum, Seattle, Washington
    Frye Art Museum, Seattle, WA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    Viewing art at a museum and painting to express oneself afterwards. What kind of wackadoodle therapy is that?

It is a very successful therapy – that’s what!  Here: Now is an arts enrichment program developed in partnership with the Frye Museum, Elderwise, and the regional  Alzheimer’s Association, in the greater Seattle, Washington area.

The above article focuses primarily on the younger onset Alzheimer’s disease scenario, highlighting the experiences of Cathie Cannon and her partner, Sharon Monaghan, the latter who was diagnosed with this life-changing disease.    As the author of the article, Ann Hedreen, states

Art – looking at it, talking about, making it – is powerful medicine, one that gives Sharon a way, however fleeting, to live peacefully in the moment, no remembering required.  Even in its very name, Here: Now is about living in the moment.

So I’m going to let you discover the healing power of art, as told by those who can explain it far better than I ever could: Cathie and her partner, Sharon.