Seattle Times

Grandma and Grandpa pods

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I wrote this article five years ago and I’m posting it again today because it is one of the most viewed posts on my blog. Financial figures are five years old so current, 2018/2019 figures will be considerably higher.

I read a fabulous article in the “Home” section of today’s Seattle Times newspaper.  It’s a throwaway section that I always read before I toss it into the recycle basket.

Publicity photo of Will Geer and Ellen Corby a...
Publicity photo of Will Geer and Ellen Corby as Grandpa and Grandma Walton from the television program The Waltons. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

All of us are getting older – there’s no cure for that other than not growing older by leaving this earth before you’re ready – so where are all of us going to live – especially Granny and Pappy who can no longer safely live on their own?

Long-term care (LTC) facilities have priced themselves out of most households’ bank accounts and the alternative solution of having grandparent sitters is cumbersome and expensive in itself.  What’s an adult child to do?  If you have space on your property to have a guest house newly built or better yet, if you’re willing to turn your sunporch or guesthouse into accommodations for mom and dad, the original outlay of funds will pay for itself because you will have avoided the need for a facility’s ultra-expensive long-term care services.

One company that makes the pods spotlighted in the Seattle Times’ article is called Home Care Suites.  Disclaimer: I am not advocating for this company’s product.  I am merely pulling information out of the article and presenting it to the reader so you can do research that applies to your situation and your budget.

The pods made by this company range in size from 256 to 588 square feet with prices ranging from $42,000 to $83,000.  This is no drop in the bucket but let’s consider the cost of facility care.  Genworth (who sells long-term care insurance) states that the average monthly fee for assisted-living (AL) was $3,300 in 2012.  I think that’s a very naive figure based on my experience of having worked in the LTC housing industry.  Maybe Genworth’s lower number is just the cost for monthly rent – but what about care services?  Cha-ching!!!  Now you’re looking at double that amount and the cost will only go higher as care needs increase.  But even at only $3,300 per month, that amounts to $158,400 for a four-year period.  See how do-able the pod concept seems now?

Many of the AL service needs are simple monitoring of a resident – tasks that you can do for your loved one: waking them up, helping them get dressed, a certain amount of medication assistance, meal provision.  Many seniors living in AL facilities don’t need the massive hands-on care of bathing assistance, toileting services, physical therapy, etc.  I know for a fact that if a family member has the time – and a little patience – they can provide these lower acuity services on their own for quite some time before securing hands-on medical care for the elder member of their household.

Skipping ahead to after Grandma and Grandpa/Mom and Dad have passed on, you now are left with an added structure on your property which you can transform back into the porch or game room of its earlier existence, or simply leave as is as a guest room that may accommodate someone else in your family.  I have to believe that your initial investment in constructing a pod is an investment that you won’t regret.  And don’t forget – the costs for such a project aren’t necessarily out of your own pocket.  Perhaps Grandma or Grandpa are willing to pull some of their savings out from underneath their mattress and contribute to the cost of this alternative living arrangement that would certainly be more attractive to them than a lengthy stint at an AL facility or nursing home.  Just saying.

My plea for print news media

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I love, love, love to read my local print newspaper, The Seattle Times, each morning.

 If a daily edition is late due to inclement weather, I will read the paper on my tablet, but only if I’m quite certain the print edition won’t arrive, e.g., snow, power lines across the roads, the end of the world as we know it, etc.

But I don’t want to read the paper on my tablet  – or sitting at my computer – as  my only option.


The other local area newspaper, Seattle Post Intelligencer, switched to online-only several years ago.  I’m thrilled that the Seattle PI is still available to readers but I fear the remaining local newspaper will end up with the same fate.

Why do I think so?  Read the rest of this entry »

App-licable to retirees

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Person with cellphoneSome of us have owned smartphones for quite some time now.  Others have finally joined the 21st century, just recently retiring their Motorola flip phone. (Love you Honey!)

Sure, the latest and greatest phones are used to make calls – oddly enough not as frequently as we send texts – but they can also help us through our day-to-day schedules.  Jonah Bromwich, New York Times columnist, provides retirees with information on apps we might find quite useful. Read the rest of this entry »

Rejection is a passing fantasy

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Enevelope greenHave you ever been rejected? Read the attached NY Times article: Accepted? Rejected? Relax You’ll see that the article was retitled since it first appeared so when you click on the link, you’ll see the subject matter as being about college admissions.

Rejection affects all of us: it’s not just about college admission policies.

I’m a writer; I should know.

I’ve only been looking for an agent for 30 days, therefore the 15 rejections – or what I like to call not interesteds – I’ve received out of 60 submissions sent is only 25% of the total so far.  Wow, 75% of the agents haven’t turned me down yet! Read the rest of this entry »

Unconditional support at home and on the field

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via Jim Caviezel’s challenge to 12s: Now is the time when Seahawks need us most.

Washington State’s own Jim Caviezel, film and television actor, wrote a fabulous article for the Seattle Times newspaper, attached above.  I echo his sentiments about the importance of unconditional support.

Group of gray and blue peopleMost parents don’t have a problem understanding the concept of unconditional love when it comes to their children.  When a child messes up, they don’t give up on him or abandon him.  Parents retain the hope that their child will do better next time, and they stand by their child to help him get there. Read the rest of this entry »

The team mindset

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TeamworkHow Legion of Boom’s message of brotherhood helped save the Seahawks’ season | Larry Stone | The Seattle Times.  Larry Stone, sports writer at the Seattle Times newspaper, wrote an inspiring column that highlights the “us” philosophy of the Seattle Seahawks team.  Note: this is not just an article about football – it’s much, much more.  I addressed a similar message in my article: Teamwork: playing nice together.  Here’s an excerpt from that article:

Working in tandem is effective only when each person grabs a hold of the baton for their portion of the project.  In relay racing, one person doesn’t run the entire race, everyone does their part; no single effort is worth more than the other.

When you read Larry Stone’s and my articles (both attached above) you’ll come to the conclusion that the principle that is being proposed is not just football-related, it’s also society-related.  Read the rest of this entry »

Teamwork: playing nice together

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Children with Seahawks colorsAs a child, do you remember being admonished to “play nice together” with your siblings or friends?  Or perhaps you’re a grandparent who has encouraged your grandchildren to behave better with others by using that same phrase.  I like it, and I think playing nice together needs to be a part of our daily life strategy. Read the rest of this entry »

I’ll write what I damn well please

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Where has freedom of the press, and freedom of speech gone?

Must we concern ourselves with offending every element of society – friendly or adverse – with the words we choose to express ourselves?  to express our views?  Whether political or religious views; whether mundane topics such as fashion or dining; are we supposed to produce euphemistic journalism so as to avoid ruffling the feathers of another person’s beliefs or opinions?

That’s not my plan.
Read the rest of this entry »

Viral construction cranes or vibrant human activity?

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Guest: As Seattle grows, will the community and character stay? | Opinion | The Seattle Times. by Taso G. Lagos

Here we go again: I’ve linked another article about neighbors and community.  I’m not making this stuff up, folks; I’m not the only person out there who appears to be hyper-focused on neighborly kinship.  When I posted my article, The importance of good neighbors, I had been experiencing a comforting sense of neighborliness resultant from how attentive my neighbors have been to me after a recent household accident in which I injured my back and right hip.  Their outpouring of support wasn’t surprising to me at all – my neighbors are what I consider super neighbors – but their support clicked with me in such a way that I had to boast about them; so I did. Read the rest of this entry »

As relationships move online, neighbors become more vital

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As relationships move online, a dark vision of ‘Pottersville’ becomes real | Editorials | The Seattle Times.

House with green roofLately, it seems everywhere I look I read articles about the importance of neighborhood connections.  In the past few days I wrote two articles specifically addressing that concept: The importance of good neighbors, and Positive community activism.

Snow globeThe attached article above, written by Froma Harrop, compares today’s community with that which existed in the movie It’s a wonderful life, an annual Holiday classic.  George Bailey’s bank customers and neighbors were people with whom he had a connection, “of varying incomes, education, and ethnicity.  Each of them was an individual, not just a useful provider of a good or service.”  Ms. Harrop goes on to say that the middle ring of society – as existed in George Bailey’s life – has been weakened over the years.  Her article outlines her belief that social media and e-commerce are responsible for that societal change.

Here’s an article excerpt that further explains the phenomenon:

Marc Dunkelman writes of the fading town-based model of society in his book, “The Vanishing Neighbor: The Transformation of American Community.” The middle ring, he says, was “where communities of people with different skills and interests, disparate concerns and values, collaborated with their neighbors in the pursuit of the common good.”

Those middle relationships are what bind us together.

That’s what I want, and thankfully, that is what I have with the households in my neighborhood where that connection exists.  Eva and Ian across the street, Irma and Larry next door to the south, Simone and Gareth, our New Zealand next-door neighbors to the north, and Patty and Bob just around the corner, all represent my middle ring of people who collaborate for the common good.

If you live on the outside of that ring, I encourage you to make your way into the center, and bring your other neighbors with you.

(all images courtesy of Pixabay)

Positive community activism

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Seattle Profile – Volunteering and Civic Life in America.

The Seattle Times newspaper posted an article touting Seattle’s stellar volunteer rate for 2013:

34% of Seattle area residents volunteer ranking Seattle 4th among the 51 largest volunteer locations.  After researching that article, I found the attached report detailing my area’s community service activities.  You can locate your State and city in the report to discern the degree of your community’s civic life.

Community hands together to volunteerThis report shines a light on content that I recently provided in two articles posted to this blog:  Restless in retirement? You don’t have to be, and The importance of good neighbors.

38.7 percent of Washington State’s Baby Boomer population volunteered in 2013, ranking my state’s volunteering Baby Boomers 6th out of 51.  See?  You’ll be in good company when you turn your retirement restlessness into service for others.

64.9 percent of Washington State residents participate in “informal volunteer activities” defined as doing favors for neighbors.  Wow, that’s a lot of people getting to know their neighbors and “having their backs.”

You don’t have to give up all of your free time to help others.

Community and the world volunteeringI’ve heard people say time and again that they can’t spare another 40 hours a week to become a volunteer.  Who asked you to?

There are countless volunteer opportunities that only require a couple hours a week.  My best friend volunteers as a companion to a disabled person who needs transportation assistance to shop and/or to attend doctor appointments.  A fellow Bar Method exerciser volunteers once a week at a local food bank to provide much needed sustenance to those in her community.  Wow, such a small commitment of time that provides a service for which others cannot do without.

Thank about it: if you spent two or three less hours a week watching television, or two or three less hours working on home projects, or two or three less hours sitting at the computer (point taken), you’ll still have oodles of free time left after spending a fraction of your week focused on someone else.

Wow, when put that way, volunteering sure sounds easy, doesn’t it? And here’s a resource that will help direct you to volunteering and other worthwhile community involvement: Sixty and Me.

(All images courtesy of Pixabay)

Restless in retirement? You don’t have to be.

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A guy who made city’s unused toilet paper a precious gift | Local News | The Seattle Times.

Office worker overworkedThose of us working the 9 to 5 work day drudgery can’t imagine having any difficulty filling our days with whatever the heck we want to do once once we’ve walked off our career path and onto the retirement treadmill.  To be sure, the first several months – perhaps even the first couple years – we’ll readily manage the forty free hours a week now available to us post-employment.

Retired man reading newspaperBut what about the point in time when we wake up in the morning, complete our morning rituals, sit in our easy chair and find ourselves thinking, “Now what?”  Those of us who barely have enough time in the day to organize our thoughts can’t imagine ever being restless, but chances are, each and every one of us will be well-acquainted with that feeling at some point in our retirement future.

So what’s a person to do?  Go back to the grind just so we have something to do that removes the boredom from our lives?  Hell no.  What we can do, however, is take on a project that satisfies our need to be useful and productive, but also satisfies the needs of those hidden citizens in our community whose needs far outweigh their means.

Toilet Paper GuyThat’s what Leon Delong did when he got restless.  He became aware of a pattern of waste that was going on in office buildings all over the city of Seattle: at night, janitorial crews replaced partial rolls of toilet paper with full rolls so that the nether regions of the next day’s workforce would have plenty of the stuff to take care of their toileting needs.  Perfectly good partial rolls went unused – and worse – were thrown away.  Thanks to the Toilet Paper Guy, however, these perfectly usable rolls were donated to food banks all over the greater Seattle area.

When you read the above, did you think, Big deal, it’s just toilet paper; it’s not like the food bank customers were offered a filet mignon to take home to their families.  Hold onto that thought for a moment and think back to an incident where you scrambled for some sort of “cleaning implement” to finalize your stay on the commode.  As the above article’s writer, Danny Westneat, stated, “I know it’s just TP.  But as someone who once substituted coffee filters in an emergency, I can attest: It’s like gold when you don’t have it.”

When you become restless in your retirement years, who will you become?

  • The Perfectly Usable But Discarded Produce Lady?
  • The Overstocked Slightly Irregular Chartreuse & Hot Pink Striped Bedsheets Guy?
  • The Unsellable Dented Canned Good Lady?
  • The Super-sized Box of Costco Bandaids Person?
  • The You Fill in the Blank Guy?

The possibilities are endless because there is no shortage of need in your community.  Visit a food bank or homeless shelter and ask them what is their greatest need; the product that is most in demand.  Then go about defining a way to meet that need.  Come on, you have all the time in the world to do so and still have plenty of time to enjoy your own leisurely retirement activities.

“So take it from the Toilet Paper Guy.  Life is like a toilet-paper roll.  What you do with what you’ve got left is up to you.”




2014: The year of no ideas a/k/a red states vs blue states

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2014: The year of no ideas | Opinion | The Seattle Times.

Opposing sides of the field
Opposing sides of the field (Pixabay)

Syndicated columnist, Leonard Pitts Jr. did it again: he wrote about issues that most of us are very concerned about and at least for this one reader/writer, he spoke for me.  The above article addresses the precise way that I feel – and that many others feel – about red versus blue.  Here’s a few quotes from the article that you should take the time to read in its entirety.

First a quote from President Obama, a quote that he premiered ten years ago and reiterated after the recent mid-term elections:

“I continue to believe,” said President Obama, “we are simply more than a collection of red and blue states.  We are the United States.”

Now a few paragraphs from Mr. Pitts’ article addressing that statement:

“People for whom everything is about politics tend to forget that most of us do not see the world that way.  Red or blue, left or right, most Americans simply want a government that works, that gets things done, and a nation that stands for something, that means something in the world beyond just a parcel of land where a bunch of people live.  This is why Obama’s words electrified 10 years ago; they seemed to connect people to ideals larger than their own lives.

“And it is why the same words seem flatter than left-out cola 10 years later, the hope of larger ideals having been sequestered, government shutdowned, PAC’d and gridlocked down into a sobering realization of how truly small American politics can be.

“Cowardice squared off against cynicism Tuesday [2014 election day] and cynicism won.  But there is something wrong when those are the only options on the ballot.

“We are supposed to be united states, the president says.  But there are too many days lately when a sentiment that once grounded and ennobled feels fanciful and unlikely.”

And now my statement:

Whether we’re talking about State/local government or Federal – year after year, too many employees of each have failed to do their job.  These employees don’t work behind desks in the hallowed walls of government; they square off on the football field where at least two opposing sides refuse to give an inch for fear that the opponents’ goals might be reached.

And I might add, goals that could very well benefit the American citizenry, but are turned down simply because the other team proposed them.

Doesn’t that seem shameful to you?


Your aimless life

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‘Purpose in life’ can help reduce medical costs, study says | Nation & World | The Seattle Times.

DEAD END signThink of how you feel with the title of this article: Your aimless life.  Now discern how you feel with the statement, Purpose in life.  There’s no comparison, right?  If the word aimless made you feel lost or empty, there’s a reason.  The Oxford English Dictionary, 11th Edition, 2004, provides the following definition of aimless: adj. without purpose or direction.  Not much can go right with that way of living.

In contrast, let’s look at the definition of purpose from the same dictionary: n. the reason for which something is done or for which something exists.

One can conclude therefore, that a person without purpose has no reason to live.  That’s downright depressing, but that’s the point.

The above article from a recent Seattle Times issue highlights the benefit of reduced medical costs when a person successfully defines their purpose in life.  Instead of focusing on reduced medical costs, however, I’d like to look at the less tangible – but more important – benefit of being in good health as a result of living a purposeful life.  It’s amazing to me that just living and carrying out ones life with intention equates to being healthier than if one lived without any meaningful direction.

When a person enters retirement there is an initial exhilaration in not having to go through the drudgery of an 8 to 5 work day.  Quite frankly, it would feel darn good not having to do anything you don’t want to do.  Eventually, however, you might feel like you’re just drifting through that time of your life.  You need to have a reason to get up in the morning that surpasses the joy of lingering over the morning paper and sipping a cup of coffee.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying that you’re supposed to line up a new job, hang up your retirement sweatsuit, and return to the employment drudgery from which you escaped.  I’d never promote that idea but I will stand by my belief that unless you have direction, you’re not going to be as happy – and as healthy – as you can be.  Purpose and direction will mean something different for each of you.

Fulfilling long ignored house projects that will assure you and yours a safe and comfortable place to live for years to come?  Fabulous.

Try your hand at growing your own vegetables and sharing with your neighbors or a local food bank?  Delicious.

Volunteering for an organization that aligns with your world beliefs?  Go for it.

Become a freelance writer ?  Sharpen your pencil and get started.

What matters is not what gives you purpose, rather, that you put feet to that purpose.  If it satisfies your life and gives you an added reason to get up in the morning, you’ve received the benefit that a purposeful life can provide.

It’s really as easy as that.  You have many years ahead of you, make them count for you and make them count for others.

And here’s something to consider, from the book The One Thing by Gary Keller:

Purpose may sound heavy, but it doesn’t have to be.  Think of it as simply the ONE Thing you want your life to be about more than any other … Pick a direction, start marching down that path, and see how you like it.  Time brings clarity, and if you find you don’t like it, you can always change your mind.  It’s your life.


Ending life on our own terms

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Ending life on your terms | Opinion | The Seattle Times. by syndicated columnist, Froma Harrop.

Being prepared, well in advance of needing to be, will serve you well.

All our lives, we set out on new adventures having prepared for them to the best of our abilities:

  • First day of school;
  • The start of a new job;
  • Preparing for a first date;
  • Wedding preparations;
  • Organizing a Holiday meal;
  • Even something as mundane as putting together a grocery shopping list.
Painting courtesy of Mary Riesche Studios
Painting courtesy of Mary Riesche Studios

We know how to be at our best, and being at our best means painstakingly and carefully preparing for important events in our life.  You didn’t personally have the option of preparing for your birth, but you do have the option, right now, to prepare for your death.

Carpe diem.

What does it mean to end our life on our own terms?  This doesn’t have to be a controversial topic.  I’m not talking about assisted suicide/right to die matters.  What I am talking about, however, is the importance of each of us to spell out in painstakingly and carefully prepared language, all that you want done – or not done – when you are determined to have an irreversible fatal disease.

Death is such a taboo subject.

Why is that?  None of us will avoid the inevitable, but many of us avoid laying down our wishes regarding that final time in our lives.  The subject matter of the attached article relates to medical insurance companies reimbursing medical professionals for end-of-life counseling provided to their patients.  I repeat, this counseling is not controversial.  As Ms. Harrop states, “Critics of end-of-life discussions argue the doctors would ‘push’ patients to end their lives prematurely.  Why would doctors do that?  Where’s the financial incentive in losing a patient?”

The report Dying in America calls on Congress “to end the ‘perverse’ financial incentives that rush fragile patients into invasive medical treatments they’d prefer to avoid.”  That being the case, it seems to me that counseling a patient about their dying wishes hurts, more than helps, the physician’s bottom line, so forget the nonsense about doctors encouraging patients to die sooner than later.  That’s just hogwash.

“Meanwhile, there’s evidence that for some very ill people, a palliative approach may extend life longer than industrial-strength medicine.”  And certainly ones final days without the poison of chemotherapy that has no prospect of curing a cancer, would be far more comfortable than if that therapy had been employed.  “In a study of terminal lung cancer patients, the group that chose hospice care actually lived three months longer than those subjected to hard chemotherapy.”  Again, that would be a more pleasant exit from this life than suffering the ravages of a chemo treatment that is not curative in nature.

“An end-of-life talk with a doctor spells out the options.  Patients can use it as a basis for filling out an advance care directive – a form listing which treatments they would want or not want.”  And let’s not forget that such a document only comes into play if the patient can no longer speak/express his or her wishes regarding their care.  An advance care directive is a legal document and as such, spells out when it can be put in motion, and when it can not.  If ever there’s a time when you can benefit from being a control freak, your final days is it.

This legal document is not just for the older population.

Once you’re considered an adult, you can decide what you want regarding your life.  Don’t wait until it’s too late and someone else decides medical matters without your input.

Is your doctor an enabler?

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Certain anti-anxiety drugs may raise Alzheimer’s risk in elderly | Nation & World | The Seattle Times.

STOP signConsider the prescriptions in your medicine cabinet/pill-minder box.  Is one of those medications something that your doctor renews over and over again for you?  How about that something-or-other that seems innocuous enough because you take the lowest possible dose?

Are you like many of us out there who struggle to fall asleep?  The anxiety of worrying about whether or not you’re going to fall asleep being a sufficient reason for your doctor to prescribe a benzodiazepine to help you along the way?  When did you first tell your doctor about your sleep struggles and how many months or years have passed since he or she prescribed a measly dose of Ativan, Valium, Xanax or Klonopin?

Each time the refill runs out and you call your doctor to renew the prescription, does she do so, even without meeting with you in person to discern whether or not it’s still needed?  Your doctor is an enabler.

Your doctor might be putting you at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.  That itsy bitsy dosage you take nightly for months and years on end?  It’s not a harmless prescription if it gives you a fatal disease – which Alzheimer’s is.

Now that you’re aware of the risk, make sure your doctor is aware and don’t let him or her poo poo that risk; instead, ask her to wean you off that medication so that you can have control over this one potential cause of developing a disease that you absolutely do not want to get.

You’re in charge, not your doctor.  Don’t assume that her constant renewal of such medication means it’s okay.  You’re an informed patient now; it’s time you took steps to remove this Alzheimer’s risk from your life.

Downsizing our lives

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Boomers need help dealing with their parents’ ‘stuff’ | Business & Technology | The Seattle Times.  The attached article by Sacramento Bee reporter, Claudia Buck, provides sage and practical advice for those who are downsizing a parent’s belongings when said parents move into a senior housing environment, and for those who are dispersing the parental belongings after their death.  Please read Ms. Buck’s article; it contains extremely useful information.

The following list gleaned from the article provides a few suggestions worth your consideration:

  • When you set out to eliminate stuff from a residence, don’t get rid of the memories in the process.  Once you’ve dispensed with the goods, you’ll never get them back again.  My mother died in her sleep – no one in the family expected it or prepared for it.  After the funeral event had passed and my brother and sister had returned to Washington and California, I remained to help my father with a massive downsize of his house.  There were obvious sentimental items that were boxed up for later, but for the most part, we stuffed large Hefty bags with items and placed them into two piles: donation-worthy, and garbage.  Not a bad idea, actually, but we didn’t pause long enough to properly discern what should have been kept.  With both parents now deceased, us three adult kids have far too few tactile sentimental items in our possession.
  • Creating a shadowbox of the most precious mementos.  Having read the attached article, I’ve decided to create a shadowbox of the few items remaining from my parents’ lives so I can reminisce at the sight of them.  One thing is for certain: containers full of sentimental nick nacks stacked in a closet do not honor a memory.
  • If you absolutely know that some of the nicer items will not be enjoyed by your household, give them away or donate them so others can.  Look at it this way, your and your parents’ legacies will live on in the lives of others.  Not a bad consolation if I do say so myself.
  • My family in the 70s. I no longer have the red dress I'm wearing, but I do have those earrings my mom is wearing.
    My family in the 70s. I no longer have that red dress but I do have those earrings my mom is wearing.

    If at all possible, prior to any parent’s death, document the items that are meaningful to each family member.  You’ll be glad you did.  Within three months of my mother’s death, my father moved into an independent living senior community taking with him the bare necessities of furniture and kitchen items, as well as the aforementioned sentimental items that he and I had boxed up earlier.  As he aged, he wisely decided that the next time each of us kids visited him, we would designate which items we would most like to inherit at his passing.  Dad documented our wishes, and when he died all I had to do was retrieve the list from his files and distribute that which us three kids were interested in.  Sure, conflicts can arise, but a little give and take go a long way towards preserving the value of each memory.

  • Speaking of taking steps in advance, what about you?  Do you have clothing you haven’t worn in more than a year and probably won’t wear in the years to come?  How about household items for which you have duplicates?  Is there any chance whatsoever that over the years you’ve acquired items that could be re-purposed, donated, or tossed?

I’d say with 100% confidence that you have belongings that you no longer use or need.

Donating to charity is very commendable because it’s always a good thing to provide for those who don’t have the means.

And just think of all the room you’ll gain in your closets once you’ve successfully downsized your life by adding to the lives of others.

Spineless inaction: the bystander effect

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Courageous or spineless? Our actions, or inactions, decide | Opinion | The Seattle Times.

“Someone else will step in.”

“My God, this is horrible; someone should really do something!”

That someone is you and me.

from "The Colors and Letters of Jen Elek and Jeremy Bert" (Seattle)
from “The Colors and Letters of Jen Elek and Jeremy Bert” (Seattle)

In the attached article from today’s Seattle Times newspaper, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist, Leonard Pitts Jr., poses a question that all of us should readily be able to answer.  If you see someone in need of help, do you wait for someone else to do the right thing, or do you step in?  Do you need to look to other people, watching the same emergency situation as you, to receive the correct “cue” as to what is required of you?  No, each of us should assume that if I don’t help this person, no one else will.  That’s what Martin Luther King Jr. encouraged us to do when, during one of his speeches, he relayed the story of the Good Samaritan from the Bible.

Pardon my paraphrase, but his message went something like this:

When I happen upon someone in obvious need of assistance, instead of hesitating and wondering what will happen to me if I render assistance, I should be asking myself, “What will happen to this person if I don’t stop and help?”

Some needs are obvious as detailed in one of the stories in Mr. Pitts’ article: Just outside of a New Jersey McDonald’s restaurant, a female McDonald’s worker was savagely beaten by a co-worker who was upset because the other woman gossiped about her.  During the beating, no one stepped in to help.  While the crowd exclaimed over what they saw – and even took photos and videos of the beating – the only person who came to this victim’s aide was her two-year old son who did what he could to get the mean woman off of his mommy.  Not one person at this McDonald’s eatery called 911.  I encourage you to read Mr. Pitts’ account to learn the outcome of this story.

Some needs aren’t as evident: in the heat of a summer’s day, you see an elderly man walking down the street when you leave the house to do some errands, and on your return trip a couple hours later, this same elderly man is sitting on a boulder at the side of the road – a bewildered look upon his face.  That’s when you need to trust your gut.  You say to yourself, “This isn’t right.  This guy must be lost and most certainly could be dehydrated,” and so you pull over the car.  I wrote an article last summer on this very subject matter, Trust your gut!, resultant from an experience that reinforced my belief that if something feels wrong, it is wrong.

Whether a need is obvious or not-so-obvious, you’re the someone who needs to step up to meet that need.  Life is too precious to be an apathetic bystander.

Theological bullying

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Forced faith is not faith | Opinion | The Seattle Times.  The syndicated columnist, Leonard Pitts Jr., has proven yet again how fabulously he writes.  His writing can only attain that quality, however, if what he writes comes from a sense of justice, compassion, and truth.  Therefore, hands down – his writing is fabulous.

The title for this blog piece comes from Mr. Pitts’ article where he quotes Martin Luther King’s definition of faith as being, “taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”  The columnist says that given what the Sudanese Parliament has done by imposing the death penalty on one of its citizens who wouldn’t disavow her faith, “faith has less to do with hope and assurance and the courage to take steps in the dark, than with justifying just this kind of theological bullying.”

This story centers around choosing one religion over another.  My writing on this story does not pit Christianity against Islam, (or vice versa) rather, it’s a story showing a conflict between two religions that very well might end horrifically.   It’s a dramatic story because the “guilty” party, Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, a mother of two who married a Christian man, will receive 100 lashes and then she will be killed after her youngest child has been weaned – nothing short of outrageous and barbaric.

Can you require/force someone to have faith?

Can you require/force someone to love you?

Mr. Pitts asks:

Can faith ever truly be faith if it is imposed by force of law or threat of violence?  Is faith faith if it is not freely chosen?  If someone swore at gunpoint that she loved you, would you believe her?

Faith can move mountains; religion can't.
Faith can move mountains; religion can’t. (Painting by artist, Mary Riesche)

The Sudanese Parliament has no concept of what faith is.  Again, I’m not talking about Islam in general, I’m talking about the actions of the Sudanese Parliament.  Its members are simply trying to force this 27-year old woman to leave her Christian religion and follow their religion, Islam.  They are proving that they are a bunch of fearful wimps – so afraid are they of any religion that differs from theirs.  But we all know the truth: the strongest person represented in this travesty is Meriam Yehya Ibrahim.  She’s not holding on to her religion, she’s holding on to her faith.

Bullies are weaklings in disguise whose only weapon is to assert a strength they will never have.



Dog bite statistics and novel writing

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If you have been bitten by a dog you’re in good company.  I read the following statistics in the May 16, 2014 issue of the Seattle Times newspaper:

  • In 2013, 4.5 million Americans were bitten by dogs in the United States;
  • The above total includes more than 2 million children and almost 5,600 U.S Postal Service employees.

Gee, statistics for 2014 will include me in the number of Americans bitten in the United States.  I seem to have greater potential for becoming part of those statistics than making a name for myself as a published author.

Future Margarita rewards for when my manuscript gets picked up.
Future Margarita rewards for when my manuscript gets picked up.

The title for this article is my shameless attempt to keep my novel-writing in the forefront of everyone’s minds.

I’m pretty excited however – not by the dog bite episode of May 7th – but by the status of my manuscript.  I’ve almost finished reading it through – for the zillion’th time – and thus far I’m pleased with the cohesiveness of the storyline.  I’m still making edits in grammar and punctuation – semi-colons and hyphens/dashes are really stymieing me – but I’m hoping if I do my very best, a copy editor will do the rest.  I am 100% certain that an agent will want to represent a book that throws a personal and touching spotlight on those who are living with Alzheimer’s and dementia.  There’s not an agent or publisher out there who hasn’t been affected by this disease – either peripherally or specifically.

Please stay tuned as I will be providing updates in an effort to keep me on my toes, keep me honest, and get this d@*#mn book published.

Same sex marriage: we don’t have to agree

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Fanaticism on both sides of gay-rights issue | Local News | The Seattle Times.  by Danny Westneat  Please read the attached article if you have not already done so.

A friend from college found me through Facebook the other day and we’ve spent a couple days catching up with each other via e-mail because it has been decades since we’ve communicated with each other.  I told Angie about my work with the elder-care community and I also mentioned that I’m a contributing writer for Grandparents Day Magazine (an Australian online publication), I have my own blog, and I’m writing my first novel.  “Irene, did you major in English at the University?”  “Nope, I majored in French.  I write not because I’m an exceptional writer, but because I have something to say.”

As is the case today.

Danny Westneat of the Seattle Times wrote another brilliant column in such a way as to make you say, “Hmmmm.”  What I mean is that at least for me, he opened my eyes as to how demanding some of our opinions can be.  For example:

Whether you support same-sex marriage or you don’t, you have the right to say how you feel about it.

Six years ago, Mozilla CEO, Brendan Eich contributed financially to Proposition 8 in California – a proposition that opposed gay marriage.  It was discovered that he had done so, and the newly installed CEO was immediately ousted.  He had, however, been with the company since the 1990s, and as Danny Westneat pointed out, “There was no evidence his views against legalizing gay marriage had any effect on his various jobs at the company, including his treatment of gay co-workers.”

Putting a more local perspective on this same subject, Washington State’s 2012 Referendum 74 that would allow same-sex marriage in our state, had 5,700 names on the anti-gay-marriage monetary contributor list, including those from Amazon, Starbucks, T-Mobile, F5 Networks, Microsoft, and Boeing, to name a few.  Many others were opposed to the Referendum and financially contributed against it: medical professionals, public-school teachers, a school superintendent, and a couple college instructors.  The measure passed, with the voters split 53.7% to 46.3% of valid votes placed.

Is this where we're gonna place those who don't believe the way we do?
Is this where we’re gonna place those who don’t believe the way we do?

Isn’t that grand?  Everyone was allowed to vote which ever way they wanted; a fabulous example of the right to believe/speak the way you want through the democratic voting process.  But do or say something that might give ones business a bad reputation in the eyes of the majority – or even the minority – then by God, you’ve gotta go.

Where do we draw the line?

Personally, I passionately voted the way I wanted to vote regarding Referendum 74, and although I might disagree with those who voted differently from me, I respected their right to vote which ever way they wanted.

In his article, Danny Westneat talked about the fanaticism that the Boy Scouts exhibited by ousting a gay Boy Scout leader because of who he is, not because of his work performance.  But the columnist added that the same fanaticism was displayed when the Mozilla CEO was ousted for what he believes.

If we are now requiring everyone to believe the way we believe; think the way we think; or vote the way we vote, aren’t we exhibiting a radical intolerance that nullifies our right to believe and speak as our conscience leads us?

I hope I never live in a world where someone figuratively puts a gun to my head to force me to think, believe, or vote the way they want me to.

Anyone who knows me, knows that would really piss me off, and it should make you pretty darn angry as well.

Paper versus digital: what do you choose?

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via Paper or pixel? Don’t burn those books just yet.

Paper vs DigitalMonica Guzman wrote a thought-provoking article in the Sunday Seattle Times, linked above, that I read in the print-edition of the local newspaper today.  I enjoy reading the newspaper each morning; my husband reads the same newspaper in the evening – both times providing opportunities for daily ritualistic enjoyment.  Ms. Guzman describes these occasions as “a world where paper is sweet, sweet, sanctuary.”

I’m certainly a technological user.  I own a desktop computer, a laptop, a tablet (Kindle), and a smartphone.  Because I’ve grown accustomed to the ease with which all of these devices are used, I have been guilty of the same snobbishness (read superiority) experienced by Ms. Guzman.  I observe someone reading a bound paper book in a coffee shop, or on an airplane, and I think to myself, “Welcome to the 21st century people; how lame can you be?”  But like Ms. Guzman, I’m also jealous.

If we compare paper to digital as media, one is smart, and the other is dumb.  If we compare them as devices, “(P)aper’s purpose is simple.  You look at it or you put something on it.”  Digital media, however, has as many “purposes as infinite as the operations they perform.”  But is that always a great thing?  Take into consideration the columnist’s statement:

Next to the capabilities of digital, paper is dumb.  But next to the tranquility of paper, digital is an assault.  Alive with possibilities but full of demands.  Always connected but never done. (Emphasis mine) Triggers, enablers, provocateurs.

When I finish reading a print-edition newspaper, I don’t leave it on my nightstand just in case updates come in during the night that I might need to read.  Ditto with a hand-written letter I receive from a friend – she put down her thoughts on paper, I’ve read it and might even save it, but the letter is finite – unlike e-mails which leap out at us with each vibrating notification.

In days past, when I finished reading a particularly riveting paperback novel, I would close the back cover, hug the book to my chest, and glory in the connection that said book created in me.  I might even mourn that I had finished the book.  Give me more!  When I finish reading a book on my Kindle Fire HDX, regardless of how fabulous a read, there’s no device hugging going on.  Instead I’m instantly downloading another title to be at the ready for my next respite of reading time.  One down, millions to go.

Convenient, yes, but I must say that before I entered the Kindle generation, I thoroughly enjoyed requesting books from my local King County library, knowing that it might be a few weeks before the title finally became available to me.  How exciting it was, however, when I received an electronic notification that the book was now available for pick-up.  I might even drop everything, stop what I was doing, and make an extra car trip just to grab hold of the much-anticipated title.

What an extraordinary pleasure that was.

I don’t bemoan my technological gadgets – they do make my life easier and I am certainly more tuned in to the latest updates in the news, good or bad.  But I don’t want paper to go away.  I cancelled my Newsweek print magazine prescription when they went to an all digital format in 2012.  I don’t want to sit at my computer or gaze into my tablet to read a periodical.  (Hear that Seattle Times?  Keep printing!)  But listen to this.  Earlier this month Newsweek brought back their print edition.  I sincerely hope this is an indication that print periodicals aren’t dead.  I share the same sentiment provided by Ms. Guzman towards the end of her article:

Not long ago I was convinced paper was outdone.  Outperformed.  Beaten.  It wasn’t a question of whether paper would die, but when.  Now, I hope it sticks around long enough for us to know why we would want it to.

What about you: paper or digital?

DUI of Dementia

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Fatal crash restarts conversation on aging drivers | Local News | The Seattle Times.

When is it okay to drive while impaired?


And yet many drivers that are cognitively impaired are doing just that.  Justin Runquist’s Seattle Times article, attached above, addresses the wave of aging drivers that has swept onto our roads.  I’ll be the first to admit that dementia isn’t always the impairment associated with aging drivers.  Sometimes medication side effects and/or slower response times – even without Alzheimer’s or dementia – can be the cause of accidents that can harm the driver, and anyone in his or her path.

In this article, however, I address the type of DUI that does involve dementia.  As I mentioned in my two part series: Driving under the influence of dementia and Part 2 of that article, there are far too many news reports covering the risks of impaired driving – many of which end in disaster.

My dad (circa 1980's) gave up his car keys shortly before being diagnosed with Alzheimer's.
My dad (circa 1980’s) gave up his car keys shortly before being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

How can we possibly take comfort in denying that either ourselves or our loved ones should no longer get behind the wheel?  This type of denial is dangerous but it is possible to get around the difficulties associated with this subject without alienating yourself or others.

In my article: Driving with dementia: the dangers of denial I offer a few suggestions on how to take the keys away – or give up ones own keys – before someone else gets hurt.

For those of you who are still driving and who have considered even once that you shouldn’t be doing so – please read all the articles attached within this blog entry and then decide if you still feel comfortable driving a weapon that might kill you, or someone in your path.  And for you adult children who have felt the same uncomfortableness surrounding your own parents’ driving skills – take heed and act before it’s too late.

Mice are our friends

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Allen Institute scientists try to decode mouse brain to understand our own | Local News | The Seattle Times.

DSC00021It’s not often – or ever – that I would tout the beauty and benefits of mice, especially since where I live in a very rural part of my city, mice are a force with which to be reckoned during their annual winter attempts to seek warmth in crawl spaces, attics, and home interiors.

Today, however, I am making a one-time exception because it appears that mice brains have become very valuable in the medical and science worlds’ attempts to map the human brain, and mapping the human brain contributes to the effort of solving brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s.  I’ll leave it up to you to read the full article, attached above, because my efforts at summarizing scientific jargon would fall short of doing that science justice.

What I will say, however, is that I am extraordinarily excited that valid attempts are being made to decipher the science of our brains; attempts that generate hope in the lives of those of us who have personally experienced the destruction of a loved one’s brain by Alzheimer’s – a disease that I’ve been known to call “a murderer.”  Read my article, Alzheimer’s disease is a murderer to understand the full impact of my feelings on the subject matter.

I know that a lot of behind the scenes research is being done to eradicate a disease that is always fatal, but we aren’t always privy to what that research looks like.  I’ve read numerous horrific statistics about the numbers of people who have – and will have – Alzheimer’s in the years to come.  Part of those statistics include the detailed monetary impact on society as a whole, as well as the personal and emotional costs to each of us who have dealt with, and who have yet to deal with, the disease’s intrusion into our lives.

I congratulate the Seattle Times and the New York Times, for publishing the above article.  And I sincerely thank the Allen Institute for Brain Science for taking on a task whose efforts will benefit every last one of us in this country, and around the world.

You are my hero Paul Allen.  Keep up the good work.

No one is perfect

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A big issue for small minds | Opinion | The Seattle Times.

Syndicated columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. had an Opinion piece in the January 19, 2014 Seattle Times Sunday newspaper.  His article focuses on the cruelty that comes out of the mouths of people who feel they are obligated to point out the obvious to others.  During and after her appearance on the Golden Globes, the exceptional 30-year old actress, Gabourey Sidibe, became the target of many anonymous, and sometimes identified, Twitter trolls who decided to remind her that she’s fat.  One Tweet said she looked like the Globe in the Golden Globes; another stated that she missed the hour glass look by 10 hours.

Leonard Pitts questions when and how did this type of truly sadistic personal meanness become acceptable, even common place? “Everybody’s got something…some physical or emotional blemish measuring the distance from you to perfection.”  So why do we think it’s any of our business to criticize someone else’s imperfection?  Doing so is an act of judgment of someone about whom we know very little.

When us kids would say something cruel about someone, my dad would offer the following: "It's too bad that everyone isn't as perfect as us."
When us kids would say something cruel about someone, my dad would offer the following: “It’s too bad that everyone isn’t as perfect as us.”  Point taken.

What happened to what Mr. Pitts calls “home training” that is supposed to teach us that there are just some things you don’t say to – or about – people in a public forum?  Are these grown adults mimicking the behaviors from their upbringing, or did they just decide on their own to cut people to pieces, not caring a wit about the harm such cutting banter will have on the recipient?

Bullies – all of them.

Whether our “something” is shaped like the emotional scars of abuse, an eating disorder, physical or developmental disabilities, bad teeth, or a nose that is too big, too fat,or too small, no one has a right to inflict hurt on us by their words.  Does hurting someone with words serve to downplay our own imperfections and/or personal issues?  Does a person actually feel better after they’ve called someone a tub of lard, or uglier than sin, or dumber than a doornail?

I’ll leave you with Nobel Peace Prize winner, Eli Wiesel’s statement during an interview with Oprah Winfrey a couple years back.  May it be a challenge to me, and a challenge to you.

As a human race, we must choose between: the violence of adults, and the smiles of children; the ugliness of hate, and the will to oppose it; inflicting suffering and humiliation on our fellow man, and offering him the solidarity and hope he deserves for naught.

Even in darkness, it is possible to create light and encourage compassion.  Every moment of our life is essential; every gesture is essential.  Our role in life is to give an offering to each other.

What you hope for is worth the wait

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Contemplating high hopes for the new year | Local News | The Seattle Times.

The Seattle Times newspaper has a Saturday column, Faith & Values, that spotlights a variety of religious denominations. One week there might be an article by a Catholic priest, another week, from a Rabbi, another, an Imam from the Islam faith.  On Saturday, January 11th, the one who submitted her article is a minister with the Northwest Ministry Network (Assemblies of God), Jodi Detrick.

Ms. Detrick quotes several of the more well-known scriptures from the Bible that focus on hope, one of which is: “But hope that is seen is no hope at all.  Who hopes for what they already have?” Romans 8:24

In my experience, I’ve found that there are many messages of hope out in the universe, and not all of them come from a spiritual text.  Take Astronaut Mark Kelly’s response to Diane Sawyer on ABC’s 20/20 program a couple years ago.  When talking about his wife Gabrielle Gifford’s chances for recovery from a gunshot wound to her brain, Diane Sawyer suggested that he was holding out too much hope for his wife’s successful recovery from the bullet’s onslaught.  His response:

“You can’t have too much hope!  That’s not practical!”

Isn’t that the truth?  How limiting it would be to portion out a wee bit of hope, but not invest fully in that state of being.  “In other words, it’s OK to be filled with anticipation for things that seem way out of sight and out of reach … Uncertainty is where hope does its best work,” says the columnist Jodi Detrick.  Two years after the 20/20 interview, Gabrielle Giffords is doing “miraculously” better and she would argue that her day-to-day life is very complete, and very worthwhile.  Thank goodness neither she, nor her husband, gave up hope!

“Hope outlasts disappointments.  Not everything we hope for, happens, it’s true … Unrealized expectations can be an open door to new possibilities – options we hadn’t previously considered.”  Jodi Detrick again.  I agree with her statement because I’ve experienced those other possibilities.  I’ve certainly couched my hopes and dreams to look a certain way, only to discover that the options I hadn’t previously considered managed to transform my hope into something better than I could have imagined.

Writing while on vacation a couple years ago.
Writing while on vacation a couple years ago.

Interestingly enough, the first hope that Jodi Detrick mentioned when she listed the types of dreams that  hopeful people think about, was writing a book.  I happen to be writing a book about the effects of Alzheimer’s on family caregivers and the ones for whom they are providing care – a project I started on December 29th, 2012.  In the year since then, my novel has been through numerous edits – some of a substantive nature, and many that were grammar related.  The mission for my book has always been to put a personal face on Alzheimer’s disease; to expand on the impressive, yet horrific, statistics on this fatal condition by making it more personal, and therefore more real.

One of my first “friendly editors” happens to have the same name as the protagonist in my book, Colleen.  When Colleen read the very first draft of the very first 150 pages of my book, her first question was, “Who is your reader?”  I insisted then, and I insisted for the past year, that my reader is the current or former caregiver, or the soon-to-be-caregiver who will find themselves amongst the millions of family members caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or other dementia.  “But does the caregiver have time for the luxury of reading a novel?  Or does the caregiver even want yet something else that reeks of the challenges they are currently facing?”

Crap.  Of course not.  But I kept on structuring the novel in my original – and stubborn – way.  My second friendly editor was a coworker who was dying of cancer.  Dennis wanted me to hurry up and finish my book so he could read it – “before it’s too late.”  I gave him what I had.  A week later I met with him and one of the constructive suggestions he gave me was, “You should be considering this novel as a textbook.”  My response: “Dennis, I’m not writing a textbook.  I’m not even writing non-fiction.  I chose fiction as the genre because I don’t have any sophisticated initials that signify astute knowledge, such as: MD, PhD, MSW (Masters of Social Work), and the like.”

Dennis responded, “I do have a MSW and I think your novel should be required reading for medical professionals and others directly involved in Alzheimer’s care.”  I continued writing, thinking that a textbook might be a secondary use for my novel, but it would primarily be a vehicle that provides hope and promise for those intimately involved on the Alzheimer’s disease journey.  (Didn’t I tell you I can be a little stubborn?)

Fast forward ten months.  I had lunch two weeks ago with a friend of mine, Gwen, and a woman who lives in the same apartment building as she.  This woman, Liz, works for a company that provides a remarkable early-detection testing and monitoring system for those suspected of having mild cognitive impairment.  I’m not here to promote the company, I’m merely providing the background of the person I met.

My friend, Gwen, brought up the fact that I was writing a novel about Alzheimer’s with a focus on the caregiver and patient journey.  Immediately, Liz suggested that the founder of her company, who among other qualifications, has a PhD in Clinical Psychology, should read my manuscript.  The Curriculum Vitae for each member of this company’s scientific advisory board contains more initials after their names than letters in the alphabet.  These professionals know their stuff and most of it focuses on Alzheimer’s and other dementia.

I insisted that if the founder were to read my manuscript, Liz had to pave the way and do so without putting any pressure or sense of obligation on this very busy doctor.  She met with him and that afternoon, Liz e-mailed me his contact information.  Phew!  Very long story, short, he is now in possession of the first 150 pages (the much revised version which I printed and overnighted to him) and he is taking it with him on vacation.  What?!

Indeed, what?  Also – what does this mean?  Can I throw all caution to the wind and have even greater hopes that he and/or his advisory board will provide valuable input so that my manuscript carries more credible weight?  Can I also wonder if my manuscript’s exposure to these professionals may segue into what my now deceased friend, Dennis, suggested it should be?  Required reading?  Whoa!  The institutions of higher learning to which these professionals are attached, to name a few, are: Duke University Medical Center, University of Washington (Seattle) Medical Center and Memory Disorder Clinic, Stanford University School of Medicine, and UC San Diego School of Medicine.

I know what you’re thinking.  “Aren’t you getting way ahead of yourself Irene?  You could be setting yourself up for a huge disappointment.”  My response to that is: Haven’t you heard?  Hope outlasts disappointments.

And so I keep on hoping.

Disposable human beings

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Feds: DSHS neglected disabled to cut costs, may owe $16M | Local News | The Seattle Times.

You can’t open a newspaper these days without reading about budget cuts to Federal, State, and City services.  Memos are flying around these offices demanding across the board reductions or else!

The State of Washington figured out a way to save more than one million dollars and its Department of Social and Health Services is the brainchild of this impressive savings coup: deprive those with developmental disabilities the required services mandated by law that help them to function better in society.  The required services include physical and occupational therapy, personal-care training, speech therapy, guided behavioral norms, job skills, and recreation.

Two dozen developmentally disabled residents of Lakeland Village in Spokane, Washington – a state and federally funded long-term care facility – were denied these services for two years – most likely causing irreparable damage to these residents.  Let’s see – two dozen residents for two years – how many times was the law broken as a result?

41,231 times

How did they pull it off?  They moved a couple dozen residents from the intermediate-care facility of Lakeland Village into its nursing facility which is cheaper because that part of the facility does not have to provide the specialized services that the developmentally disabled residents need.  The relocated men and women received excellent medical care – most of which wasn’t called for – but they were deprived of all the quality-of-life services they needed most.  This violation of federal law means that the facility received federal funds in error – funds that were meant to cover legally mandated services at the facility.

When the investigation was launched and DSHS was told to provide documentation for the time period in question, there was little evidence that the specialized services had been provided.  In response, DSHS stated, “We didn’t make good documentation, or indeed, we didn’t provide some of them (documents).”  It is thought that the reason the paperwork wasn’t found, is that it doesn’t exist.

The State tried to cut its budget by $1 million by fraudulently withholding required care services.  The investigation continues while it is estimated that the federal government will penalize the State of Washington/the Department of Social and Health Services in the amount of $16 million.

English: Garbage bins in a row, during prepara...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But you and I already know that the biggest price has already been paid by the disposed of human beings.

Freedom of the Press using Boeing as an example.

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‘Squeeze play’ on Machinists is reality elites failed to feel | Local News | The Seattle Times.

I am very pleased to say that I am a subscriber of the only Seattle newspaper still in print – the Seattle Times.  This newspaper writes and publishes varying opinions on local and global issues – even when one journalist disagrees with his or her fellow journalists or – dare I say – the Editors of the paper.  A timely example of freedom of the press was displayed during the showdown between the aerospace machinists unions representing Puget Sound Boeing machinists (blue collar workers) and the higher-up Boeing management who replaced Seattle with Chicago as their ivory tower home base in the year 2001.

English: The top of the Space Needle in Seattl...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Washington State Governor, Jay Inslee, asked for – and received – a special legislative session to present a bill that would award Boeing with delightful tax incentives to entice the company to continue the practice of building their airplanes in the greater Seattle area, a/k/a the Puget Sound region.  This bill was passed but was contingent on the machinists agreeing to an extension of their current union contract period from 2016 to the year 2024.  Additionally, the newly revised contract would not come close to resembling the current contract that both the machinists and the Boeing executives agreed upon when signed a few years back.  If the union membership would vote “Yes” on this newly devised contract, Boeing would keep the 777X in Washington forever more.  If the machinists voted “No” on the contract, Boeing leadership would approach other non-local Boeing sites – those not in Washington State.  Now why would this Washington business want to give their work to another state’s economy?  It’s all about the unions, baby.

Boeing leadership, and the major shareholders of Boeing stock, are sick and tired of machinists and engineers caring about – and fighting for – their rights regarding employee benefits.  Shifting work to non-union locations means that the company doesn’t have to deal with the petty demands of their dedicated workers who are just trying to make a decent living now, while building a decent retirement for later.  One of the major take-aways of the newly crafted contract is the cessation of the machinist’s pension plan, replacing it with a traditional 401(k) savings plan.  Go ahead and say it – many people are thinking the same thing you are: “Shit!  Companies all over the United States are ending employee pensions and cutting back.  You SOB Boeing machinists should stop your whining and just be glad that you have a job!”

On November 11, 2013, the Seattle Times editorial staff printed their opinion of what the machinists should do: Vote Yes for the Boeing 777X.  I encourage you to read the attached article because the Editors no doubt speak for a certain percentage of their readership who believed that the machinists should give up their current contract and take on a new contract – let’s call it Machinists’ ContractX.  Danny Westneat’s “Squeeze play” opinion piece attached at the top of my article, speaks for a different percentage of the newspaper readership – many who work for Boeing – but also those non-Boeing people who understand that when employees are told to sacrifice and cut back on their benefits for the good of the company – everyone in the company should be a part of that sacrifice.

Let’s look at the facts and you can decide if the executives are sacrificing to the same extent as their employees.  Boeing has been racking up profits with its stock exhibiting impressive numbers.  When the markets closed on Monday, November 18th, the stock price was $138.36 per share.  “If Boeing’s CEO, Jim McNerney, retires right now, he will get $265,575 a month.  That’s not a misprint: The man presiding over a drive to slash retirement for his own workers, and for stiffs in the rest of America, stands to glide out on a company pension that pays a quarter-million dollars per month.”  See Anguish many of us understand, by Danny Westneat dated 11/9/2013.

At play here are many emotions and opinions – both in the newsroom and in our living rooms.  On the one hand, people are saying that the machinists ruined it for Washington State by not agreeing to replace their current contract in 2016 with the hastily revised one.  This new contract came about as a result of the Governor and his legislators getting into bed with the Boeing executives and some of the machinist union leaders, to discuss in private what they felt was best for their employees.  As a result, the squeeze was indeed put on the machinists and now they are being blamed for Boeing’s decision to look elsewhere for airplane production that would have provided guaranteed work for current – and future – Boeing employees in the Puget Sound region.

Let’s get back to the disgruntled people who say that Boeing employees should just be glad that they have a job.  Boeing employees are highly skilled workers, and historically they have been paid salary and benefits commensurate to their skills – as is the case with Boeing engineers – many of whom have been with the company for decades.  All the salary and benefit details were agreed upon by Boeing management and Boeing laborers at the beginning of their current contract – the contract for which the terms don’t expire until 2016.  If the machinists voted “Yes” on the newly proposed contract, they would have eight years’ worth of financial takeaways for which they weren’t prepared at the 2016 contract end.

Based on what had been legally agreed upon, these employees had been managing their present lives and gearing up for their future lives, when all of a sudden they were presented with a different financial formula than the one promised in the contract upon which they based these financial plans.  Then the rug was pulled out from under them and the people pulling the rug were those who will bank monthly pension amounts of approximately $300,000 at today’s rate.  Where’s the sacrifice baby?  What am I missing?  Don’t forget, the aforementioned amount is just the pension amount – there are many other richly held benefits held by the executives.  And even if $300k per month was all the compensation each executive were to receive in retirement, that’s $3,600,000 a year.  Shouldn’t that leave some sacrificial wiggle room?

But the article I set out to write is about Freedom of the Press and the wonderful ability for one newspaper to express conflicting views while still being able to retain their jobs.  Newspapers and other periodicals would do well to model the Times so that the reading public can read conflicting journalistic opinions in order to arrive at their own opinions on hotly contested subject matters…

just as I have done in this article.

Baby boomers – don’t throw in the towel!

Posted on Updated on

Baby boomers still rock | Opinion | The Seattle Times.

Ms. Froma Harrop’s Opinion piece, linked above, challenges all of us Baby Boomers to not surrender to the other groups coming up in the generational ranks.

Are you done at 61?  Closing the door at 64?  Barely alive at 75?  Or are you skipping to my Lou at 82?

Come on everyone – don’t throw in the towel!  As Ms. Harrop said in her Opinion piece, “there’s nothing noble about declaring oneself out of the game, whatever the game is.”  I’m not saying that us Baby Boomers and older don’t have age-related changes – of course we do – but that doesn’t mean that nothing remains for us in the years ahead.  In my recent blog article, A surprising fete by a Baby Boomer! I complained about a Florida reporter’s characterization of something that a 55-year old woman was able to accomplish – even at her advanced age.  Click on the link to my article to get the full gist of my whining diatribe.

Circa 1960's; my dad running a marathon in his late 50;s.
Circa 1960’s: my dad running a marathon in his late 50’s.

I am not advocating that you suddenly decide to beat 64-year old Diana Nyad’s swimming record, unless, of course you feel like doing so.  I am advocating, however, that you explore what you’re able to do and capitalize on it.  Start a new business, volunteer for organizations that you support, or just keep working at your current job as long as you still want to.  Who’s stopping you?  My former father-in-law turned 90-years old on September 18, 2013, and he still plays tennis and is still working at his commercial real estate development company.  If Jimmy were to stop working, he’d probably collapse and die on the spot.  Why?  Because he enjoys being active and productive.  So should you.

Don’t let the younger folks – anyone less than 50-years old – have all the fun!  You can have fun too!  I turned 60-years old this past May.  I’ve always been an active person exercise-wise but most of that centered around taking lengthy neighborhood walks and gentle hikes.  My exceptional and persistent daughter, Erin, decided I could do more.  She purchased six sessions of Bar Method classes for each of us and presented it as my birthday/Mother’s Day gift.  “It’ll be fun!  Once you get there, I know you’ll love it.”

My daughter (the Bar Enforcer), me in the middle, and my sister Mary.
My daughter (the Bar Enforcer), me in the middle, and my sister Mary.

Very presumptuous on her part, but she was right!  After six sessions, Erin dropped out (she has other mind-boggling exercises that she does) but I continued with the program.  The biggest lesson that I learned through this process is that I can do more than I thought I could do.  Bar Method is extremely difficult, but it’s not impossible.  After the first six lessons, I was able to conclude that a) it didn’t kill me; b) it didn’t disable me; and c) I kicked ass!  That’s right – I kicked ass.  I am in a class of mostly 20-50 year olds, and I not only keep up, but sometimes I outlast the younger students.  I go to class once a week and two to three additional times a week I exercise to the Bar Method DVDs at home – courtesy of my husband who installed a ballet bar in our exercise room.  Thanks hubby!

If you lack confidence, go find some!  If you’re hesitant to go it alone, find someone else with your same interests, and go for it together.

You are not done yet.  To quote Ms. Harrop, “Every age group brings something to the party.  And for every generation, the party’s not over until it’s over.”

What are you waiting for?  Come join the party!

People are Asian – rugs are Oriental.

Posted on Updated on

Race exhibit asks provocative question: ‘Are we so different?’ | Local News | The Seattle Times.

The attached article appeared in the September 27, 2013 edition of The Seattle Times newspaper, and provides the public with information about a traveling exhibit, developed by the American Anthropological Association that inspires us to consider not just what race is, but what it is not.  By the way, I changed the title of my article after fellow blogger, commented on my article – see below.

The central message of the exhibit is that what we call races are not separate genetic or biological groups, but distinctions created by people, oftentimes to mistreat or isolate those they regard as different from themselves…But those distinctions come from emotion and prejudice, not science.

The writer of the article, Jack Broom, states: “In the enlightened Pacific Northwest of 2013, it may be tempting to think of racism as a thing of the past, or something that happened elsewhere.”

I live in a suburb of the Seattle area and have no doubt that racist thoughts run rampant through my local society – oftentimes with a fervency that should shock the sensibilities of everyone.  I know I was shocked when I recently experienced the following:

I’m out to lunch with a female friend who characterized “oriental” people as being very abrupt.  I told her that I took offense to her statement for several reasons: 1) I was pretty sure the term ‘oriental’ was replaced by the word, ‘Asian’ a long time ago; 2) how can she so readily characterize billions of people using one word: abrupt; and more importantly, 3) my daughter (biological, born in Anchorage, Alaska, whose dad, my ex-husband, is Chinese, born and raised in Hawaii) is half Caucasian and half Chinese and if push came to shove, she might be characterized as looking Asian.  My friend’s response: “Really?  I thought Megan (not her real name) was American?”  God help us all.

How does one respond to that?  Well, I did, but I’d like to keep this article G-rated.

Second example: my husband and I are in the market for a new bed so I did some preliminary in-store research last week at a nearby store that specializes in mattress sets.  I told the salesman that I was looking for a fairly firm mattress so he proceeded to point out various mattresses for me to lay on so I could test the different degrees of firmness.

The last mattress he showed me was very firm.  When I laid down on it, I told him that we wouldn’t be comfortable on such a firm mattress.  His response: “That’s the mattress the Asians buy.  For some reason, all my Asian customers buy that firmness.  Must be a cultural thing.”

Ugh – I walked out.

The writer summed up what visiting this installation at the Pacific Science Center might show us: “…the exercise helps make the point that dividing people into groups may tell more about the people doing the dividing than those being categorized.”

Amen to that!