Friday, December 24, 2010

Let it Snow?

Okay, okay...two big blizzards, and it's snowing like crazy again! Admittedly, I usually like the snow. But it is really hard to see to pull out over the mountains of it, a lot of lanes have just plain disappeared on roads (they were once three lanes, now they are maybe a lane and a half), and forget the parking lanes - let alone trying to walk anywhere! It's also hard to shovel because there is simply no where to put can barely see the car parked in front of the house behind the seven foot pile...and I took this picture days ago:

It is only December....let it snow? It can stop for awhile now :-)

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Disgrace of Not Helping First Responders

In all the game playing, or whatever you call it, to halt things passing that need to be passed - in order for the super rich to get super tax cuts - the most disgusting has to be denying a vote on the bill for 911 first responders. Isn't this really just a moral issue? An issue to thank - and take care of - those who took care of everyone else after a terrible terrorist act?

It is remarkable to me that every time you turn around the Republicans are talking about patriotism, 911, and fallen heroes. Yet, they deny helping out people who are literally dying (and the 900 rescue workers who have already died). As one of the responders says in this video: It just shows how disconnected they are.

These people risked their lives to help. They came from all over the country. The Daily Show is a comedy news show, yet it often seems to hit things harder than the "real" news channels do. Way to go to The Daily Show and Jon Stewart. And to the courageous rescue workers: Just know that there are a lot of Americans out there who appreciate what you did and are extremely angered by this. You deserve the best of health care, the highest respect, and to be treated like the heroes that you are. I'm so sorry this has happened to you. It's a sickening, terrible injustice that goes beyond words - and it is about time it was fixed.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
9/11 First Responders React to the Senate Filibuster
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Caving In

I've been gone for quite some time. First there was my mother's death, then there was the death of a favorite client, working my butt off for a company that doesn't even begin to appreciate or respect me...but, life moves on.

So, politics have brought me back. Namely, a guy I voted for and really believed in. An intelligent man with integrity and - I thought - backbone. So, here he is caving in to the Republicans ridiculous demand? What's the deal? There is no reasonable explanation to giving super wealthy people huge tax cuts - especially when the money has to be borrowed! There is no reasonable explanation to respond this way to threats to hold up everything else so they get their way. And there is certainly no reasonable explanation to why you are going against everything you stood on. This is health care all over again...yes, it passed. But it's lacking the biggest part of it we needed.

Quit trying to be nice and reason with people who are unreasonable. I am in the middle class bracket. Not getting a tax cut for me probably means my check is twenty dollars less. I can live with that. And the unemployment? My significant other - since we are in a state that does not have a huge unemployment number - stopped getting his months ago. So, I think I get it. And I still don't think it's worth it.

Caving in to bullies is exactly what I have done with my boss. It makes you feel like crap. It makes you feel used and abused. And it makes you feel like you have done a lot for absolutely nothing. Not only will you feel this way too, but the majority of the American people will as well.

Please, grow a pair for God's sake. The little promise that one famous Republican made about making it his goal to have you fail and not get to a second term - you just gave into it. You let him win...and you are way too smart for this. And not only are you losing your base and the independents, you are losing your own beliefs. In the long run, by giving 2% of the country a huge break while giving the other 97% a small handout just isn't worth it. At least put up a fight!

And on that note, for my mom's memory, I will do the same.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


How does one come back from such a deep grief? I still can't believe my mother is gone. I can't call her, can't hear her voice, can't reach out to her...

I also can't concentrate or seem to care about doing anything other than working and coming home. Last night I spent the evening crying and was awake all night. The usual suspects go round and round...denial, grief, anger...and just seem to keep circling around me and getting worse. I know it has only been a month. But, I miss her voice, her laugh. She was the one who always believed in me, was always happy to hear from me, and always stuck up for me.

My mother struggled off and on for a very long time. She was a fighter and I have such enormous respect for her....and my Dad. What a fantastic team they were! He always helped her, always stood by her. The loss he feels after being married to her for over 61 years must be too enormous to comprehend. I feel like my grief doesn't compare to his.

But, I'm still grieving. She was my mom. And she was a great mom.

I had a message on my voice mail she had left a few days before she died. I kept it and kept listening to it because I just liked hearing her voice. I would listen to it among all the other messages I get every day. Somehow, it got erased. Maybe because I knew I was flying down to see her in a couple of days - or maybe because I get so many phone calls and voice mails with my job everyday. I wish I could get it back and keep it forever. I want to be able to hear her voice.

I had a terrible pit in my stomach for two weeks prior to her death. I knew something was wrong but could not put my finger on it. She died the night before I flew down for a planned family get together. That pit in my stomach knew something was going on. It has been replaced with a very empty feeling that won't go away.

I miss her. I always will. Life will never be the same.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I Have You in My Heart

This came from a friend, who found it for her sister. I post it for my mom:
I wish Heaven had a phone,
so I could hear your voice again.

I thought of you today,
But that is nothing new,
I thought about you yesterday,
And days before that too.

I think of you in silence,
I often speak your name,
All I have are memories,
And a picture in a frame.

Your memory is a keepsake,
From which I'll never part,
God has you in his arms,
I have you in my heart. ♥

- Unknown

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Goodbye to the Best Lady Ever

I have been absent from the blog for awhile. On October 4, 2010, my mother passed away unexpectedly.

Last week was rather surreal. Instead of the planned family get together to celebrate my brother and sister's birthday, my mother took a turn for the worse, and was gone that evening. I arrived the next day, which made it even harder. It is difficult when things happen quickly and you are a long plane ride away. I hope that she knew I was with her in my heart, and that is where I will carry her from now on. She was a beautiful lady, inside and out.

I was fortunate to write my mother's obituary. I hope it really says who she was in the few sentences allowed. I don't know how I wrote it, but I am glad I did. I wanted to honor her. So, thank you, Mom. For being the best. I'm sorry for all the pain you had the last couple of years, I'm sorry for the mistakes I made. I hope you know how much you were loved and appreciated. I thank you, and honor you, and will always miss you.

Margaret, 82, died Monday, October 4, 2010.

One of the most positive and upbeat people that you would ever meet, Margaret was a light to everyone she met. She spent her life dedicated to her husband, her children, and her grandchildren. She spent many hours volunteering and loved being around people - who in turn loved being around her. She was almost always smiling and her laugh was contagious. Even in the midst of a particularly painful period, she still looked at the best in everything. She always saw the cup as half-full, not half-empty, and never missed an opportunity to tell someone how much she loved them. One of the things she said often was: “I sure have great kids, and no one could ask for anyone better than Dad.”

She was born and raised in Michigan, where she met and married her husband. They met in high school, and then were married for sixty-one years. She did many things throughout her lifetime, working in banking and in credit, but most of her time was spent as a homemaker, mother, and in her volunteer work. Her devotion to her family was unwavering.

She is survived by her husband, her children, her grandchildren, many nieces and nephews, and countless friends. She will be remembered for her smile, her laugh, and her abundance for life. She will be missed forever.

Friday, October 1, 2010

National Vegetarian Month

October is National Vegetarian Month. Check out the facts and healthy suggestions on a few of these websites:

World Vegetarian Day

The Kind Life

Since going back to being a vegetarian again, I feel better and much more healthy. I've also dropped the extra weight I had put on. I feel better helping the environment and supporting my love for animals as well.

I think people should eat the way they want to, but even making a few choices to eat meat a little less often and try some new vegetarian options can make a difference...and add a bit of variety to your diet!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Linden Hills Co-op

Congrats to Linden Hills Co-op! They opened their doors today to the new store! How great that a store with such nice people and quality, wholesome products is even bigger with more selection.

I was fortunate to be able to interview Allie Mentzer and write the article for The Mix about the new store (thanks, always, to Pat at The Mix). The new store is not only bigger, but better too:

There will be new features and product improvements in the new location that members have wanted for a while. “We look forward to holding more classes now that we’ll have a dedicated classroom complete with a teaching kitchen,” said Mentzer. There will also be a larger bakery and deli, a meat and seafood counter, and even new flavors of their popular homemade soups. “Our produce and bulk departments will also be larger and easier to navigate,” said Mentzer.

Another advantage of more space is the inclusion of the Linden Hills Natural Home Store, which opened across the street from the current co-op in 2005. Said Mentzer, “Natural Home has always functioned as a department of the co-op—now we’ll all be under one roof.”

With an always helpful and friendly—and downright fun—staff, perhaps the walk will have nearby customers heading in a slightly different direction but only by a few blocks. Of course, it’s well worth it just for the fresh strawberries and kale alone! The co-op’s new location is right next door to Sunnyside Gardens, where customers can buy fresh herb and vegetable plants for their gardens. But most of all, Linden Hills Co-op is thrilled to be able to grow its facility and its ability to meet the needs of its local community.

I wish the co-op much success in the future...and thanks for being such an important part of the community!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Mike Huckabee's Lack of Compassion

Yesterday Mike Huckabee, a former minister, talk show host, former governor, and supposed Christian came out with a pretty cruel statement. Stated yesterday on the health care plan's preexisting condition clause on Talking Points Memo:

When Republicans attack health care reform, Democrats like to counter by accusing Republicans of wanting to repeal a law that requires insurance companies to cover people with pre-existing conditions. According to Republican Presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee, that's exactly right. People with pre-existing conditions, he explains are like houses that have already burned down.

"It sounds so good, and it's such a warm message to say we're not gonna deny anyone from a preexisting condition," Huckabee explained at the Value Voters Summit today. "Look, I think that sounds terrific, but I want to ask you something from a common sense perspective. Suppose we applied that principle [to] our property insurance. And you can call your insurance agent and say, "I'd like to buy some insurance for my house." He'd say, "Tell me about your house." "Well sir, it burned down yesterday, but I'd like to insure it today." And he'll say "I'm sorry, but we can't insure it after it's already burned." Well, no preexisting conditions."

A moment of candor from the evangelical former Arkansas governor. Hard to say how that comports with voting on values, though.

It's worth pointing out, too, that the health care law's individual mandate is in large part meant to make sure people don't wait until they get ill until they buy insurance. But Republicans want to do away with that part of reform as well.

Once again, it is shameful that another Christian shows such a lack of caring, understanding, or compassion toward people. Many people have preexisting conditions. Children are often even born with them. So they should be denied care? How thoughtful and caring, Mike. I wonder how you will feel if you ever have something that fits into this category.

Friday, September 3, 2010

JK Rowling Gives to MS

I am a huge fan of the Harry Potter Books. I ended up buying the first book (The English version) at a used bookstore about the time the last book was coming out. I find the series to be cleverly written, with impeccable research, rich characters, and a wonderful imagination. I thank JK Rowling for giving us very entertaining books that all tied together so well.

Today I read something that wanted me to thank her further though: She gave ten million dollars for the Edinburgh MS Center. According to BBC News:

The Anne Rowling Regenerative Neurology Clinic will aim to put patients at the heart of the research process.

Work at the new clinic will also focus on other degenerative neurological conditions, including Alzheimer's, Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease and Motor Neurone Disease.

Ms Rowling said: "I cannot think of anything more important, or of more lasting value, than to help the university attract world-class minds in the field of neuroregeneration, to build on its long and illustrious history of medical research and, ultimately, to seek a cure for a very Scottish disease."

She added: "I have just turned 45, the age at which my mother, Anne, died of complications related to her MS. I know that she would rather have had her name on this clinic than on any statue, flower garden or commemorative plaque, so this donation is on her behalf, too; and in gratitude for everything she gave me in her far-too-short life."

The Anne Rowling Regenerative Neurology Clinic will enable us to carry out studies that can inform laboratory research and, in turn, this knowledge can be translated back into treatments for patients.

So, thank you for not only being a fun writer, but for sharing your wealth for a worthy cause. This will really help people with Multiple Sclerosis - and so many others with other neurological conditions.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Remember Rabbit Feet?

I don't know anything about this insurance company, but I do know this commercial cracked me up. I carried one of these when I was a kid. Now, looking back, what were we thinking? And they were died bright colors of green and pink?

As a huge animal lover, advocate, vegetarian, and former bunny owner, what a weird thing to carry around with you - and ick! But, admittedly, it is a funny commercial:

Sunday, August 29, 2010

New Orleans Five Years After Katrina

New Orleans is one of the most original cities I've ever been to. The food and the music are both fabulous, the atmosphere is fun, and the residents are some of the most genuinely nice people I've ever met.

It still bothers me, and many others, how Hurricane Katrina was handled. How a year later when I visited, so little had still not been done. Trailers sat empty and locked, water lines were still very apparent, and only one streetcar was running. The difference in the way poor people and wealthy people in this country are treated, was pretty clear in this disaster. That 100,000 people never returned to New Orleans, and how it looks like a third world country in the footage - and it is right here in the United States. It is amazing to me that a city with more spirit and joy than so many others, was treated with so little respect in their greatest time of need.

First the city had to deal with a natural disaster with Katrina, then the unnatural one with BP these past few months. It is unfair it is hit yet again.

It is my hope that the city will continue in its recovery. Please know that although your government let you down in a time of need, your fellow Americans have not forgotten you. I hope to be there for another visit soon.

May your fight, your spirit, and your courage continue.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Selling Your Book & Memoir, Part 2

My latest article was sent to me today, a piece on memoir writing for the Loft Literary Center's A View from the Loft. The first part of this I wrote about on April 30, is an excerpt from the second, No Longer Silent: On Memoir:
"All writing, even fiction, contains some truth. Characters are usually based, at least in part, on someone we've met in our lives. Our perceptions, beliefs, and experiences can’t help but come through in our stories.

But when writing memoir, the author can’t hide behind a character. And no matter how much you might try to avoid telling a story, it will eventually have to be written or you just can’t move on with your life. I read somewhere that author Kathryn Harrison had to write about her incestuous relationship with her father, something that had been running in her head for years. When she finally wrote it out, she was no longer blocked. Said Harrison, “One of the solaces that art can offer you is the chance to make something out of what’s hurt you. You can objectify an experience, put it on paper, craft it, and shape it. There’s perhaps an illusionary control over it. But it is significant.”

I wrote my memoir piece for the anthology Voices of Multiple Sclerosis several years after being diagnosed with the disease. As often happens with me, essays start to flow out once I have that first line—and it just had to be shared. I suppose it is the same with all artists: writers need to write as painters need to paint as musicians need to play. Many love songs are about being heartbroken; many paintings express incredible pain. I am inspired every day by other people’s stories—told in whatever medium they choose. That is part of the reason I decided to make a very personal piece a public one."

As with most of my writing, it's often my hope that it will help someone else. We go through tough times in our life for a reason. Perhaps to make us stronger, perhaps to make us realize how far we've come, perhaps to teach us something...but definitely in the hope that our difficult times will not be for nothing. In the process of telling my story, it is my biggest hope that it will help someone else not only get through their own tough time, but to tell their own story too.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Freedom of Religion

America is a country of all backgrounds - a young country where we are supposed to embrace freedoms...including freedom of religion.

I am a Christian. I have friends who are Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim....they are from all different places, all different backgrounds, all different shades - some even speak other languages along with English! Shouldn't this be celebrated? The differences, the's what makes this country what it is. I will never understand why some Christians have to pass such judgment on others. What happened to love and compassion - and perhaps an open mind?

The proposed Mosque in lower Manhattan, is actually an Islamic Center, which will also include a culinary school and a recreational area. It is not on Ground Zero, it is actually several blocks from it.

People too often forget we have a large Muslim population in this country - and in New York. There were dozens of Muslims killed during the terrorist attacks of 911, and many more were hurt, along with everyone else. There were others that were rescue workers, nurses, and doctors. To build a center nearby gives them a place to meet and worship and honors them. The fear being drummed up is just that - fear. Have any of them ever even spent time in New York City?

On a special commentary on Countdown tonight, it was really well put:

Bookmark and Share

Let's all try to remember that freedom of religion means all have freedom of religion. No one likes to be stereotyped or generalized about. There are radicals in every religion (remember Oklahoma City?) - that does not make the entire religion bad. Allowing something to be built that actually celebrates peace and diversity is sending a message that is so much deeper than just tolerance. It will surprise many who fear it when it really does a great thing for the community.

My heart goes out to all the people who suffered on 911. It was a terrible act of terrorism. But, don't punish the many peaceful Muslims here who had nothing to do with it.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Even Worse Than the KFC Sandwich?

Granted, I'm a vegetarian. So, meat isn't on my list for a dinner item. But, Friendly's Restaurants actually came out with something even more disgusting than the KFC Double Down, which I wrote a post about on April 14, 2010. I had pretty fond memories of Friendly's as a kid. I loved living right outside Boston and it's where we went for Frappes (they call them milkshakes in the Midwest...but then they also call casseroles "hot dishes" here).

But, Friendly's sandwich takes the KFC Double Down to a whole new level. It's called a Grilled Cheese Burger Melt. It's a huge beef burger between two grilled cheese sandwiches on white bread. According to, the numbers are startling:

"1,500 calories (870 of those from fat); 79g of saturated fat; and a whopping 2,090mg of sodium (trouncing the Double Down, which weighs in at a paltry 1,380mg of salt)."

This is actually more calories than I would eat on a normal day! Isn't this just a bit irresponsible? And we wonder why we have an obesity problem in this country when restaurants are coming up with these type of food items (I use that term lightly).

So, sorry Friendly's. Loved you as a kid. But my vegetarian diet - let alone my common sense and heart - wouldn't want this pile of goo even if I did eat meat.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Target is Off Target...

I am a regular shopper at Target, stopping by there a couple times a week. I happen to live by one of the nicest stores in the country (the CEO lives nearby, I'm told). I've found they have great prices, and have always liked how the corporation gives to social services, education, and other needed areas in the community. I've also always liked how they hire disabled people, giving them a chance. It has gotten so I purchase almost all of my groceries there, except for the organic items and produce I purchase at the co-op.

With Target's latest leap into the political agenda, my thoughts have changed, however. According to Strong Progressive:
Target earlier this month donated $150,000 to MN Forward, a pro-business group backing Rep. Tom Emmer, the conservative Republican-endorsed gubernatorial candidate.

So Target supports a candidate who:
And oh, yeah: Target CEO Gregg W. Steinhafel personally donated $10,000 to Michelle Bachman's campaign! If that alone isn't reason enough to stop shopping at Target, the donation to MN Forward certainly is.
Seriously, keep up with the social services and educational donations, but stay out of politics...especially toward two people who are an embarrassment to many of us in Minnesota. Yes, it's a convenient store, and yes it has good prices. But, seriously, with this latest venture and with my return to vegetarianism, along with the opening of a new co-op right by my house, I see no reason to shop there anymore. This is a big city with lots of choices. I choose to not support a corporation that throws large sums of money to politicians who don't seem to believe in their own constituents.

I did hear that the CEO recently apologized, but this is after the fact - and it isn't like they are going to take the money back. Admittedly, I still love the dog: Bullseye is a cutie. But, I'm really beginning to wonder if he's the real brains behind the operation.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Rosemary is for Remembrance

One of my favorite herbs to grow has always been Rosemary. The old saying is "Rosemary is for remembrance." I always thought of one of my very favorite clients, Rosemary, when I was taking care of my Rosemary plant in my garden. Rosemary passed away last night at the age of 99 1/2.

I got a call from one of Rosemary's sons this morning telling me she had died. Yes, she lived a full life. Yes, she raised a wonderful family of three sons and one daughter. She welcomed many grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, over the years. She lost her husband many years ago, and never remarried. "No one could ever live up to him," she used to say.

I had the privilege of knowing Rosemary for over six years. When I first met her she was 94 years old and still living in her own apartment. She moved into a nursing home a couple of years ago when she needed a little more care. Although part of our job in social services is to teach our clients, Rosemary was one of those clients who taught me more than I could ever teach her. I always left with some great kernel of wisdom, some great quote, some wonderful teaching on faith. Born in 1910, she saw so many changes in her lifetime. She had an infectious laugh that always left me smiling.

She became much more than a client a very long time ago. She was more like an adopted grandmother that I had the privilege of seeing on a regular basis. I hope I helped her over the years. I hope I made a difference. But mostly, I am thankful for knowing her and hope she is now at peace.

She will be missed by so many. Everyone that had the chance to know her. The kids she taught when she was a teacher, the family she left behind. Even when we know someone has gone on to be with God, we still miss them. Even if they did have a long and full life. So, my prayers, my thoughts are with her family now. Especially her son, Tom, and his wife. They were wonderful with his mother.

I am positive she is in Heaven now. Finally, once again, with her husband, her sisters, her parents. She spoke of them often. I will carry her teachings, her laugh, her smile with me. She was a genuine, caring, beautiful woman. Rosemary is for remembrance - and never has there been someone more worthwhile to remember.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Great Quote

A great quote I pulled out for someone the other day. A good reminder for all of us to see from time to time:

"How far you go in life depends on
your being tender with the young,
compassionate with the aged,
sympathetic with the striving, and
tolerant of the weak and strong.
Because someday in life you
will have been all of these."

- George Washington Carver

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

On Being an Herbivore Again

After some time, I'm finally back to a total vegetarian diet. I am just too much of an animal lover, have never liked the texture of meat...and it just wasn't me. Funny, during the time I did eat it, my weight went up, and I felt much more sluggish. Now I am not only feeling more like myself again, I feel better mentally, physically, and spiritually. On that note, I found some great quotes:
"Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances of survival on Earth as much as the evolution of a vegetarian diet." (Albert Einstein)

"Why do we call some animals "pets" and others "dinner?" (K.D. Lang)

"I have no doubt that it is part of the destiny of the human race, in its gradual improvement, to leave off eating animals, as surely as the savage tribes have left off eating each other." (Henry David Thoreau)

"I was a vegetarian until I started leaning toward the sunlight." (Rita Rudner)

Of course the last one is funny. And what's so wrong with leaning toward the sunlight a bit anyway...and being a bit more enlightened? Beats being in the dark for a little too long!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

What if the Tea Party was Black?

This video is just so well done. There should not be all this hate...if this was different, as shown in this video, one has to really wonder if this would be tolerated for even a moment.

Remember Katrina? The white folks breaking into stores to get food and water when no help was arriving were surviving. The people of color were "looting" when they were also just trying to survive.

America is a diverse nation of all backgrounds, colors, and languages. Why oh why can't we celebrate that diversity and respect each other even when we disagree? Women and people of color have dealt with this double standard for too long. He makes a good point in this video:

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Needed That Kick...

Life is funny...and sometimes not. How do we go from a week of such major highs to a week of such major lows? Is it a test, or just a joke? Guess it is just part of life.

Two weeks ago, things couldn't have looked more up. Then an engine blows up on one car, a battery on another dies. There is a serious case of identity theft, and a relapse of terrible pain for two people I love. Someone I thought I'd try to give yet another chance to betrays me AGAIN, most of my clients have some sort of crisis, and, oh yes, a funeral to attend tomorrow.

Live and learn. Kind of puts it all into perspective. And reminds me of that old saying: "Remember that some days you are the pigeon, and some days you are the statue."

The good thing through all of it: I decided to do a fast, get myself re-started, and re-read a great book, "Skinny Bitch." Chocked full of information - and funny to boot - and really kicked my butt back into being a total vegetarian again.

Tough week...but, as always, learned a few things. And thanks to the authors of this book, not only put a few things back into perspective mentally and intellectually, but physically as well.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Independence Day

Spending many years in New England, I actually lived there during the Bicentennial in 1976. Besides being fortunate to see so much history there (and having a grandfather who came from Norwich, England when he was 14), my parents took me to many historical reenactments. I didn't appreciate it then as much as I do now. But, I can sincerely say that, despite this additional education, I always knew that America's independence was indeed from England.

I was surprised to learn the other day that not everyone in this country seems to know this fact. According to Maris Poll, it states that:
"There's good news for American education. About three-quarters of residents — 74% — know the U.S. declared its independence from Great Britain in 1776. The bad news for the academic system — 26% do not. This 26% includes one-fifth who are unsure and 6% who thought the U.S. separated from another nation. That begs the question, “From where do the latter think the U.S. achieved its independence?” Among the countries mentioned are France, China, Japan, Mexico, and Spain."
Wow! Didn't they ever hear the famous phrase by Paul Revere warning the residents that "The British are coming?" Or ever open a history book? China? MEXICO? Mexico didn't even exist in 1776! Seriously, this level of stupidity is downright scary. Perhaps the fireworks are just pretty colors to this group.

Alas, Happy 4th of July to the American people anyway....the red, white, blue....and all the other colors and backgrounds that make this country so interesting and diverse. And, sadly, to the ignorant as well.

(Painting from "The Sons of Liberty")

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Finally, a new car...

I finally took the plunge. After lots of research and lots of looking, I finally bought a new car a couple of days ago. New car, new style, bright new color! I went from a 1991 sports car to a 2006 sports car that looks (and feels) brand new.

For once I had a crazy day (with 37 phone calls before 10:30...all in crisis mode), and I wasn't melting in the heat and looking for a shady place to park. It was hard to say goodbye to ole Bessy. She went through a lot with me...radiators being stolen, trips across country, and many, many other memories (some good, some bad). So, now a new car, with new memories to make...

And, ahhh, to have a new, air conditioned car again! For the first time in ages, when someone asked me if it was getting hot out there today, I actually said I hadn't noticed.

The New Wheels

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Heat & Weakness...and Let It Go Already!

I have driven my car for too many summers now without air conditioning. I never planned on keeping it as long as I have, and should have put the money into it when it gave out. This wouldn't be such a problem if I wasn't in and out of my car several times a day (and there are only so many shady parking spots). It also probably wouldn't be such a problem if I didn't have Multiple Sclerosis.

My MS is pretty manageable. I work a very hectic job in social services, and also do freelance writing and photography. Most people are shocked when they find out I have MS. They have no idea.

When the humidity and heat goes way up, however, the regular problems I have from time to time become much more frequent and much less manageable. After melting in the heat all day, I often come home and literally collapse. My eyes are blurry, my legs feel weak, my head is fuzzy - and I often have what feels like the start of a migraine.

Put in a better way, Julie Stachowiak, Ph.D.
, describes it quite well on her blog. It's that anxious feeling that overwhelms you when the heat starts going up:

"For many of us with multiple sclerosis (MS), summer fills us with anxiety. Hot weather means MS symptoms and, well, suffering.

Heat intolerance in MS shows up as a "pseudoexacerbation" -- the experience of having symptoms appear or worsen due to heat exposure. This is different than a true relapse. In the case of a pseudoexacerbation, when the body’s temperature returns to normal, these symptoms disappear. No damage, such as inflammation, demyelination or new lesions, has been done during these pseudoexacerbations.

Heat intolerance is felt as increased symptoms, such as:
  • Decreased cognitive function
  • Numbness in the extremities
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision, known as Uhthoff’s sign
  • Tremor
  • Weakness

Really, any MS symptoms can be much worse in the heat. Sometimes, symptoms appear that we might not have felt before, which is the result of a lesion in a corresponding area of the brain or spinal cord that was slight enough that it did not cause a relapse or symptoms dramatic enough to notice."

So, yes heat makes MS worse. And, yes there is an emotional attachment to my little sports car. It took me across country packed to the roof with necessities while the rest of my belongings sat in storage. It had the radiator stolen out of it (a whole other story), it has gotten me through so many things...and it's still a very cool looking car. When I bought it is had 31,000 miles on it. It now has almost 191,000.

But, attachment or not, it's time. It's cute, it's fun, it handles great in the snow. It will probably go another 100,000 miles easily. But, it isn't worth putting the money into it to fix the air.

So cool or not, it's just too hot.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Don't Hate Her Because She's Beautiful?

On a recent news broadcast it was reported that a conservative writer named A.W.R. Hawkins wrote a piece entitled, "Liberals Hate Palin Because She’s Beautiful." According to Hawkins:
"Liberals have never liked former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. They don’t like that she didn’t go to an Ivy League school, that she doesn’t follow the usual protocol of not speaking until a liberal says it’s okay to do so, and that she chose to carry her Down Syndrome baby to term instead of aborting it. (That last one really drives them crazy.)

They dislike her political support for smaller government, tax cuts, and a strong military. They are outraged by her ongoing push for drilling in ANWR, her participation in hunting sports, and the fact that she’s a card-carrying, Life Member of the NRA.

But all these reasons are trumped by the fact that they despise her beauty. It pushes them over the edge to know that she doesn’t just shoot an assault rifle, but makes an assault rifle look good when shooting it."

From a woman's perspective, let me set the record straight on just a couple of things: I could care less where a person goes to school, as long as they are well-educated and intelligent. On carrying her baby to term, that was an admirable choice as his mother. It is yet another generalization that all liberals are pro-abortion. On the NRA matter: I'm an animal lover, I don't care for guns, and I'm a vegetarian. But, I'm not one of those people who say everyone has to eat like I do. If you hunt and eat your meat (and it isn't just for sport), I don't have a problem with that either. But, to say she "makes an assault rifle look good when shooting it?" Really? Does anyone look good shooting an assault rifle?

The real issues are different:

#1: She isn't all that beautiful. She's sort of pretty - if you can get past the deer-in-the-headlights look. But even if she was gorgeous, liberals are continuously criticized for being intellectuals and independent thinkers (which is really a compliment, by the way). To say they hate someone because she is so pretty, is not really sticking with the whole intellectual thing. It also discounts (once again) all the heterosexual women who don't look at her that way anyway.

#2: She does annoy me, but I don't hate her. My concern with her is she isn't all that bright and only talks about things that she has memorized. Simply said, she is just plain unqualified. There are many people who have stepped out to run for president who are unqualified - male and female, Republican and Democrat. If someone is going by looks alone, they aren't looking deep enough. This isn't a PTA position or a part in a summer play - it is running the country.

#3: As I've said before, the woman has set educated, intelligent, feminist women back years. When she came out in her tight little skirts and spike heels, with her hair perfectly teased that was - again - fine for other forums. Not for vice presidential debates. Not for serious political issues in a time when we have some major ones.

#4: I've always thought Antonio Banderas is, well, pretty fine. If he came out looking all hot and touted off all kinds of memorized political points, guess what? I still wouldn't vote for him for president. Because he isn't qualified.

I have a lot of friends who are beautiful, educated, very intelligent women with good jobs, many of them moms, some of them not, and guess what - they see things the same way. Enough with the superficial junk. She isn't that pretty. She isn't that smart. And even if she looked like Giselle Bündchen, she just plain isn't qualified.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Wasn't Their Old Logo "Beyond Petroleum?"

There are many bad things about this whole BP Disaster. There's the loss of human life, the loss of wildlife, the obvious pollution of the ocean that will take years to clean up, the loss of money for businesses - not to mention that the gulf coast gets socked...again!

I used to always get my gas at BP stations. This was more for convenience than anything else. Where I live, it seems there is a BP gas station every few miles. You literally have to drive out of your way to find a different station.

Unfortunately, it isn't that a disaster like this hasn't happened before. It's just the outright greediness, complete negligence, lack of being able to see possible consequences - and have a plan in place - is ridiculous! And this is from a company that has BILLIONS in profits each year and could have clearly afforded to have a plan when something like this DID happen.

Flicker is running a contest for new logos for BP
right now. People are angry and creative at the same time. There are so many good ones. My personal favorite so far:

029 by Greenpeace UK.

I have a car and I have to drive it (even though it's a little car). In my line of work, I have no choice. If I could bike or walk to work, I would. But, most Americans do use oil, and the added problem of depending on foreign oil is not good either. It is more that the record profits made by this company, lack of planning for disasters, and complete disregard for wildlife and for people is sickening.

Quite frankly, this all sucks. Especially for New Orleans. And it isn't even hurricane season yet.

I think it is worth the drive to go elsewhere.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Those Who Save Us

I finished a book last night that is still with me. Very haunting, very sad....extremely well written. "Those Who Save Us," by Jenna Blum, flips back and forth between a mother in 1940's Germany during World War II, and 1993-1997 Minnesota from her grown daughter's perspective in Minneapolis.

Many parts of the story are very difficult to read - the atrocities inflicted on the Jewish people of the time, the enormous cruelty of the Nazi's, and the horrible struggles of the German people that carry forth into the modern day with both mother and daughter. The vivid images, the sadness and horror of what people lived something that we should never forget. My Uncle Bill, who was one of the soldiers who marched into Dachau, was much like the character, Anna. All these years later, he will not speak of it.

On another interesting note, the detailed descriptions of Minnesota and the cold winters here are obviously written by a woman who has lived here.

A very well-researched, worthwhile read, Blum says it best at the end. In her acknowledgements at the back of the book, Blum states: "And to the survivors themselves, who demonstrated unparalleled courage and generosity in sharing their stories, I cannot express adequate gratitude in words: perhaps it will suffice to say that you are living miracles and nothing you have said will ever be forgotten."

Sunday, May 30, 2010

"The Secret Life of Bees"....and Friendship

I finished the book "The Secret Life of Bees" a few days ago. I had purchased it off of a table at one of my favorite used bookstores, but hadn't gotten around to reading it. What a great story on perseverance, friendship, and the support you get from women. Although it is a sad story, it is also a very uplifting one - and a great read!

I save quotes and always mark up books with things I think are written particularly well or just something to remember. It is amazing to me how many times I will be reading something that really touches on a situation I just went through. This is especially true when it is a well written story.

Sue Monk Kidd, the author of the book, does an interview after the story is completed. She quotes Isak Dinesen in saying: "All sorrows can be borne if we put them in a story or tell a story about them." As a writer, I wholeheartedly agree.

She goes on to say: "When women bond together in a community in such a way that 'sisterhood' is created, it gives them an accepting and intimate forum to tell their stories and have them heard and validated by others. The community not only helps to heal their circumstance, but encourages them to grow into their larger destiny. This is what happened to Lily. She found a sanctuary of women where she could tell her story, and have it heard and validated - an act that allowed her not only to bear her sorrow but transform it."

I always remember the quote "Writers live things twice." Some of the most painful things I've been through in my life are the strongest pieces I've written. And I always learn something from it. It is always my hope that my deepest writing will touch others in a way that will help them when they are facing a difficult time.

I am fortunate to have many wonderful, supportive friends - both male and female. But, there is a special bond with the close female friends. There is something special about that bond, that support, that sisterhood. They believe in me as I believe in them. I am thankful everyday for that.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Rest in Peace, Pat

There are many difficult parts to social services. There are difficult situations, and sometimes difficult clients - but it is usually the situations, physical pain, mental illness, or a lifetime of hurts that make them difficult. I've always been able to see past all of it. It just takes a little compassion.

The most difficult is when we lose a client. And we aren't supposed to have favorites, but there are always those who just plain are. Pat was one of those. An 86 year-old woman with the exuberance and sharp sense of humor of someone half her age, she was one I always looked forward to seeing. After a long busy week, full of one crisis after another, and constant phone calls, she was a great way to end the week on a Friday afternoon.

At almost 2:30 AM, I am unable to sleep. Pat's oldest son called me today to tell me his mother had passed away on May 12th. He thought I already knew. I knew she was ill, and back in the hospital. I'm sure each kid thought the other had called. In their grief, who can really blame them? She had a wonderful family full of dedicated kids that adored her. In fact her house was often full of one or more of the kids or a neighbor who had stopped by to say hi and play a game of cribbage. When we were done working, she would often ask me to stay a bit longer on my own time and play a game.

Then there were her kids. Her daughter, Mary, who lived with her and tended the backyard garden and cooked for everyone. Her daughter, Katie, who lived a few miles away and stopped by often. The sons who didn't live nearby but who called frequently, and her son, Tom, who she took care of until very recently - resisting putting him in assisted living until she had to. Then there was Buck, a Labradoodle with bushy eyebrows and legs as long as a horse, who would lean his 100 pound body against you and jump through hula hoops on command. Sitting in a nearby chair on the porch, he sat tall and looked around like he was a person. He only barked until he realized a friend had come to visit.

I am awake and sad, quiet and reflective. Pat had one of the greatest senses of humor I've ever been around. She didn't care what people thought, flirted with her doctors, and loved everybody. She surpassed being just a client several years ago. Her "I Love ya" always followed you out the door, and you could never leave without a hug. She was proud of being Irish, happy with her life, and loyal to her Catholic faith.

I will miss the Friday afternoons there. Miss helping her with whatever she needed help with on that day. I am sorry she was so ill at the end, sorry her smoking took over her lungs, sorry she had to resort to an oxygen tank. I will miss Mary and Tom and Katie. And I will miss Buck - one of the funniest dogs I've yet to come across - who once ate an entire tray of chicken drumsticks just off the grill, bones and all.

But, I will miss Pat terribly. She was such a joy, such a sweetheart, and so much fun. I am fortunate to have known her. I hope she is no longer suffering and at peace. She has touched my life in a way that few have. While I have lost clients before, she was an extra special one that it was an honor to know. I will hold you in my heart, Pat, and never forget you - and in your own words: "I love ya."

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Hub Bike Co-op

I don't always post my articles, but I found this place to be particularly interesting. There are a lot of great co-ops in the Twin Cities. I am often quite glad I can walk to one and drive short distances to the others. There is nothing like fresh, locally grown, organic food...

But this article was on a completely different idea for a co-op: a co-op for bike riders. As it says in my article for The Mix:

The Hub Bike-Co-op is an integral part of bicycle culture in the Twin Cities. As a worker-owned cooperative for eight years, they have focused on the environment and consumer education. They look at riding bikes as much more than just a recreational activity—bikes are a main source of transit that can improve the world, creating less pollution and waste in the process. The co-op’s supplies are also green, from recycled paper to biodegradable chain lube, and they recycle their tires and all aluminum and steel left over from bicycle repairs.

There were three original founders of the Hub Bike Co-op, and now there are 12 current owners as the business has grown. “We decided it was a very democratic way to run a business, with no hierarchy,” said co-owner Amber Schmidt, “It takes a lot of compromise, but it’s very fair and balances out with all the different personalities.”

The co-op’s philosophy is seen in their business motto: “All types of bikes for all types of people.” Although they see bikes as more than recreational, they also realize bikes can be used for all purposes, whether it is for sport, racing, or for transit. Said Schmidt, “We advocate for using your bike the way you want to use it.”

Besides selling bikes, the co-op is strongly focused on bicycle education. “We offer in-store basic maintenance classes and have smaller events on bike safety,” said Schmidt. They also teach about the different types of bikes. Having three stores (Cedar- Riverside, Minnetonka, and the new store set to open on the University of Minnesota campus this spring), really focuses on individual customers’ needs.

“We even have a do-it-yourself stand at our larger Minnehaha store,” said Schmidt, “You can repair your own bikes there, so you don’t have to go out and buy tools.” The new location on the school campus is also set up for commuters with 24-hour access to showers, lockers, bike storage, and a public computer to look up bike routes and offer bicycling tips.

In a time when being green is important - as well as the always important need to get some healthy exercise - what a great idea. This is definitely the place I'll go to now when I need a bike tune-up!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Disappointments & Deadlines

After a few difficult weeks full of crisis situations (clients), near scares (mom), a huge disappointment turning into being depressed and overwhelmed (me), and illness (my fiance), things are starting to turn around.

It is funny that, as a writer, the most therapeutic thing to do when you are struggling is to write. It is healing, it is meditative, it is beyond helpful. Yet, every time I thought of writing, I ignored it. I'm not sure why I do this. I would do the dishes, be a couch name it - when the thing I love the most got pushed aside. And I probably lost out on some good material that might have taught me something.

Fortunately, I have an article due and am on a deadline - so I at least had to do an interview and work on writing that. And, thankfully, I have moved on from the ridiculous depressed/overwhelmed state I seemed to have plummeted into - thanks to good friends, a great fiance...and time.

Sometimes we really only get perspective when we have a little hindsight. I am grateful my clients are now okay, my fiance is getting better, my mom is doing better - and I am now very thankful that the huge disappointment didn't work out anyway. What's that old saying? Hindsight is 20/20? Sure beats the fog I had over my eyes for the last couple of weeks....

Friday, April 30, 2010

Selling Your Book & Memoir: Part 1

We are very fortunate to have a place like The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. I have attended many classes, workshops, and events over the years. The staff is fantastic, and the experiences have been wonderful. I've made some friends from The Loft, and enjoy visiting there as often as I can.

I was asked to write a piece about "selling your book out of the trunk of your car" (along with three other writers). I shared my experiences in A View from the Loft:

I’ve never been much of a salesperson. Now I’m faced with selling me. Working for corporations and nonprofits for years, I did get into marketing—brochures, newsletters, promoting the business. But it is harder to promote yourself. This is especially true when it comes to something as personal as a story that you lived through. I think writers tend to focus on the creating, and forget about the legwork.

When Voices of Multiple Sclerosis, the anthology in which I have an essay, was released, I was fortunate to start out with a publicist. She booked me on a local TV talk show for an interview that was less than five minutes long and in which I was asked very basic questions about the book. Since I was not only promoting myself, it was important to mention that there are 32 other authors in the book, who published it, and where people could find it. I thought I would be so nervous, but it was actually fun. Being in the famous “green room” at the television station with a comedian, a musician, and a fellow writer also made it interesting.

In the end, the publicity business is an ongoing process and learning experience. Next time, when the entire book is mine—and I know that time is coming—I hope I can take the experience of the anthology and understand the process better. Finishing the manuscript may give you a great sense of completion—and it should—but it’s really only the beginning.

Thanks again to my fellow writers, both on the site and in the book. And thanks to The Loft....especially Dara! It is so great to have a place that is so supportive of writers in the community. You guys rock!

There is another piece yet to come out attached to this on writing memoir and how the story has to be told - so this is, I guess, to be continued...

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Fatigue, Depression & Being Overwhelmed

I'm often told what an upbeat person I am. I always try to see the best in people, and I always try to see how good things still come out of bad experiences. I try to be positive, and many of my clients tell me I am the bright spot in their week. This is a great compliment, and I'm glad I can help them. But, one client took it further..."Don't you ever get depressed?"

YES! Doesn't everyone?

Lately, it has been very hard. Burnt out on a tough job that is crazy busy with way too many crisis situations all the time, worried about my mother who is still trying to heal from a tough back surgery almost thirty days ago now....and now the incision has broken open, may be infected, and she is retaining over sixty pounds of water - let alone being way too far away from her. But the toughest part is simply not having the energy to deal with all of it. And this in turn seems to turn into more of a depression than just the usual bouts we all get from time to time.

It is hard to understand the fatigue you get with Multiple Sclerosis. The usual response is, "Ya, I get really tired too." It isn't that I don't sympathize, but it isn't the same. I try to describe it as a really extreme jet lag. I usually plow through it all day and drop when I get home, but it isn't easy. And as the days get warmer, the heat makes it even worse. It is hard always having to be strong for everyone else when deep down you feel rather weak.

But today I came across a blog, Suite 101, that explained it better, as well as pulling in the depression that is always there with a chronic illness:
"Imagine feeling like a truck ran over you, not at the end of a long workday, not after coming back from an adventurous hike, not even after a rowdy day playing with your kids, but soon after getting up out of bed. This sort of exhaustion plagues many people with multiple sclerosis. It feels like having legs and arms made of cement, hindering you from performing even small tasks. This symptom can fluctuate throughout the day, leaving a person uncertain as to how much energy they will have. If the fatigue is caused by the disease, there are tricks to conserve energy, as well as medication to relieve it. If the problem stems from depression, therapy and antidepressants can also help. A theory behind disease-producing fatigue is that it takes a lot more energy to send messages along damaged nerves than normal ones."
So, I finally found a medication that helps with the fatigue (recommended by my neurologist), and my insurance (which is supposed to be good insurance) will not cover the generic version ($320), and recommends the the brand name ($85). I know it could be worse, but this just sucks. So, I found myself cutting the dose in half, which ended up not helping at all. Finally finding something that helps and then not being able to justify - or afford - the cost, is way too common of a problem with way too many people.

So, yes I get depressed. Sometimes I am just down, sometimes just overwhelmed, sometimes just sad. Lately all of the above. But, seriously, most of the time I do just push through it - but I, like many others with MS, am really just plain tired of being tired.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Yes, There's a Black Man in the White House

A read in a recent poll conducted by the New York Times/CBS, that tea party members were more educated than most. What? This sounded like a joke when it came out. If the signs they hold, the "news" channel they watch, and the things they chant are any indication, I beg to differ.

Let's just be honest here. One of the main things they can't stand is the color of President
Obama's skin. He may be too liberal for them too, but he's most certainly more intelligent than the last guy who was in office.

In a post on one the funnier blogs out there, Margaret and Helen, she said it so well....once again:
"So now a black man named Barack Obama, elected by the will of the people, has decided to fight for the poor, and work for world peace… and a bunch of white guys who think Fox really is News just can’t stand it.

Well, they can kiss my ass because I am tired of their belly aching.

This is exactly how our political system works. Sometimes your party is in and sometimes it is out. Your party is currently out. So shut the hell up and deal with it.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m all for a group of disgruntled citizens banding together to form a third political party because they don’t feel represented by the other two. But let’s be honest - this bunch of idiots doesn’t like that a black man is the most powerful man on the globe. I wonder if they know that, while 78% of the world is not white, only 13% of the United States is black. So they can relax. Barack and Michelle most likely will not be buying the house next door.

Tea Party members should listen up. As long as Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann are your torchbearers, you don’t have much credibility with me. One echoes between the ears and the other is 12 shy of a dozen. You honestly want me to think that your biggest issue is the cost of healthcare reform? You sat idly by while Bush squandered billions on a failed war, but all children having health insurance is too much to handle? That’s your beef? You realize, of course, that some of those children are white, don’t you?

Please. You might not be wearing hoods, but your misspelled signs are one step shy of a burning cross. You should be ashamed of yourselves."

Thank you for stating it like it is. And thank you for your honesty...what was that last statement by McCain stating he never said he was a maverick? This honesty seems to be something that is severely lacking on the other side.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Memories of Grease & a Disgusting Invention

We all make mistakes. And sometimes it takes a long time for us to learn from those mistakes. Sometimes we can blame it on being too young. Sometimes we can blame it on being under the influence of something (probably when we were too young). Most of the time - especially when we are older - we regret these mistakes. I choose to look at them as learning experiences - learn a little, move on, try not to repeat.

I've made quite a few mistakes in my life, and will probably make quite a few more. One of the biggest ones to date was marrying way too young to a man who was wrong for me on way too many levels. As my older brother pleaded with me ("He's a small town boy, you're not a small town girl," along with "You're way too young!"), I went ahead and did it anyway. Looking back, I can't figure out what I was thinking - or if I was thinking at all. Why all the red flags hitting me in the face were ignored. Why I chose to ignore the difference in intelligence, the difference in ambition, the difference in culture....why oh why?

So, I have to admit when I saw the latest concoction that KFC came out with, it reminded me of my former husband. How when everyone else was going to college he was working there. How every night he would be doused in chicken grease, wearing it like cologne on his clothes and in his hair. How he brought buckets full of the nasty stuff home to his roommates (and to the bar where he traded it for beer...yet another red flag). And how his only ambition was to be the assistant manager of the place - in a college town where everyone else was only eating it because it was free and they were up late studying for exams.

I admit I liked the coleslaw. But I think it was about that time that I grossed out on meat altogether and decided to become a vegetarian once and for all. So, I have to say that the latest invention by KFC has to be one of the most disgusting things they have come up with yet. As reported on the Huffington Post:

Do you know what I'm talking about yet? Have you seen it? Apparently, for many months, people who run the snarky junk food blogs on the Interwebs heard rumors that KFC was testing this item, and thought it might be a joke, a viral gimmick. Or if not that, then something that certainly would never make it to market, given how it looks like some sort of frat-boy prank, like the drones at KFC's test kitchens got completely hammered one night and had a bet as to who could come up with the most repulsive menu item imaginable.

Behold, the KFC Double Down sandwich. It is, if you really want to know, two slabs of fried chicken intersliced with two pieces of bacon, two slabs of cheese, and the Colonel's "special sauce." It comes in the form of a sandwich, with the fried chicken where the bread used to be. It's sort of hilarious.

Did you notice? How in one pseudo-food item, you are consuming not one, not two, but the mutated, chemically injected flesh/byproducts of fully three different distended, liquefied, industrially tortured creatures? Feel the love, pitiable animal kingdom.

What's more, some fast food companies are trying, at least a little, to respond to the call for slightly healthier foods, adding salads and fruit and grilled chicken breasts to their menus, even though every single one of those items is just as jammed with chemicals, preservatives, synthetic flavorings and high-fructose corn syrup as the rest, and all the "healthy" meat products are still raised on the most execrable, environmentally rapacious industrial feedlots imaginable. But hey, it's something, right?

Further, some argue that it's a bit disingenuous to blame the junk food purveyors for all the obesity, cancer, impotence, bad skin and colonic pain in the land. After all, the undereducated masses love to eat this garbage, right? KFC test-marketed this Double Down death bomb for months, to (presumably) great effect.

Of course, it's sort of a foregone conclusion, a rigged game. This vile meatwich is crammed like a grenade with sodium, sugar, fat and chemicals. Ergo, the testers, presumably people with taste buds devastated by years of cramming similar compost into their guts, thought it was pure nirvana. And then their colons exploded.

So, as I said, most intelligent people learn from their mistakes. In the case of this food, let's move on to healthier things. Really. I moved on from the former husband covered in this greasy stuff - many years ago. The spots on the shirts were disgusting we really want to put this into our bodies?

In a similar fashion, neither should have happened in the first place. But, learn I have. And as a writer, its all book material as far as I'm concerned. It reminds me of an old joke I read years ago: "A ham and egg breakfast is a day's work for the chicken, but a lifetime commitment for the pig." Just goes to show you, its all in perspective. And, yes, I made a commitment too, but at least I finally had the sense to walk away. I would suggest the same for this disgusting, can't-possibly-be-good-for-you mess as well.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Hiawatha Yoga in a New Location

Hiawatha Yoga had its grand opening at its new location last night (see original post from January 19, 2010.) The classes really do stick with the philosophy of "yoga and wellness for every body." The point is that you can learn to be more healthy and flexible, while reducing stress. As one class member commented at the opening, "Sue is great because she asks you not only what you need, but what kind of day you've had. "

She has also added a Sunday class that is yoga in a chair for people that are less mobile. Her classes are small and personable - and she has very reasonable price packages:

Class Schedule from 5/1/10 - 8/31/10:
Wednesdays: 7:30 PM
Saturdays: 9:30 AM
Sundays: Yoga in a Chair: 3:00-3:45 PM
& 4:00-5:00 PM

Intro to Yoga:
Saturdays, 10:45-11:30 AM
Go to to register. "Hiawatha Yoga's hatha vinyasa classes are designed to help you escape from stress and revitalize your spirit," and, with practice, can put you on the road to a healthier, more relaxed mind and body.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Service Dogs & Social Services

In one of those extremely trying days at work which started with very early morning phone calls, I have to admit there are times that I really wonder why I'm in social services. Someday I do indeed plan to write full-time, but for now I see myself as helping people and gathering lots of material...

Near the end of the day, after working with three especially nice clients, I realized that although it is tough, it is indeed rewarding helping people. Especially when the people are so thankful and the help is so needed.

Of all the things I've been able to do over the years, my most fulfilling has been being able to help clients get service dogs. Anyone that knows me knows I am a huge dog lover, but these dogs are actually quite amazing.

One client is a man in a wheelchair who has a wonderful black and white Cockapoo named Oreo. Oreo is a service dog - well-trained, smart, attentive. He adores his owner and would do just about anything for him. He does everything from picking things up for him - including going to get the phone if he falls - to just being a fun, affectionate companion. He is one of the nicest dogs you would ever meet and has the face and temperament of an old soul there to provide you with wisdom and guidance.


Another client is a woman who is an amputee with an adorable Yorkie named Tex. A fifteen pound dog who is convinced he is a big dog, Tex seems to almost swagger when he walks, has silky fur, and does everything for his owner from picking things up for her, hitting her Lifeline button when she falls, grabbing her shoe and putting it on her scooter when it is time to go out, and lately he has taken to curling up to her and putting his head on her shoulder and calming her down when she is anxious. He has the face of an angel and the heart to match.


When Al Franken penned the bill for service dogs for veterans, I was thrilled. Not only are many of them coming back with brain injuries and physical disabilities, but also with a lot of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. According to the New York Times:
Under a bill written by Senator Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota, veterans with P.T.S.D. will get service dogs as part of a pilot program run by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Training a psychiatric service dog and pairing it with a client costs more than $20,000. The government already helps provide dogs to soldiers who lost their sight or were severely wounded in combat, but had never considered placing dogs for emotional damage.
The bill provides so much for men and women who have suffered from the war. This already confirms something widely known in social services: dogs provide healing, companionship, and courage to so many who are disabled emotionally, mentally, and physically. In a couple of cases cited in the article:
Just weeks after Chris Goehner, 25, an Iraq war veteran, got a dog, he was able to cut in half the dose of anxiety and sleep medications he took for post-traumatic stress disorder. The night terrors and suicidal thoughts that kept him awake for days on end ceased.

Aaron Ellis, 29, another Iraq veteran with the stress disorder, scrapped his medications entirely soon after getting a dog — and set foot in a grocery store for the first time in three years.

The dogs to whom they credit their improved health are not just pets. Rather, they are psychiatric service dogs specially trained to help traumatized veterans leave the battlefield behind as they reintegrate into society.

I am also happy for another client, who, along with a friend, has started the first company in the United States for service dogs for psychiatric disorders: Pet Accolades. Their very first dog is a Springer Spaniel named Kirby. Although there are many dogs trained for the physically disabled, they are working on "providing service dogs for those with invisible disabilities." This will open up service and companion dogs for people who could not get them previously. It's the beginning of something that will help so many.


I am proud of Senator Al Franken. I am proud of my clients with service dogs. But I am especially proud of my client who has taken it upon herself to start a company where there has been a huge void. Her innovation, caring, and creativity will open up many doors for many people. Dog lovers know dogs can be great for you in so many ways, but in the case of service and companion dogs, they go way beyond the call of duty.