Something Terrible’s Happenning …

will-ferrellCheck out comedian Will Ferrell and friends as they “get serious” in a public service announcement about the public healthcare option.

“Something terrible’s happenning…”

Call for Wise Women To Flex Their Muscles

woman-flexing-muscleLet’s strike while the iron’s hot, Wise Women.

Up until this point of the healthcare debate, I have kept quiet and remained on the comfortable sidelines, even though I support reform. My excuse? Not enough time and clearly insufficient passion.

Unfortunately, the people who most need increased access to healthcare are also relatively quiet. But, the reason for their silence is much more compelling: they are caught up in day-to-day efforts to keep their heads above water and deal with their own and their children’s health problems.

The result? The vocal opposition commands the airways with their distortions and scare tactics about healthcare reform. Ladies, it’s time to flex our muscles and make our opinions known.

Think you have no time? You can spend 30 minutes or less and have an impact. Think you don’t know enough? Do you think the people screaming about ‘death panels’ are uber-educated about the issues?!? No, way! They just care enough to voice their opinions.

YOU can influence one of the greatest policy issues of this decade with only a few minutes of your time. Here are some ways:

2 minutes or less: Stay on top of the healthcare debate and join the Health Action Network sponsored by Families USA, a nonprofit dedicated to advancing health care for all consumers. You’ll become educated and the number of  network participants will grow, demonstrating public interest in reform.

5 minutes or less: Click on the administration’s site dedicated to healthcare reform, HealthReform.gov, and express your support online.

10 minutes or less: Write your congressional representative via the House of Representatives site. You enter in your state/zip code and up pops a web form to contact your representative. Your message can be short and sweet – “Pass healthcare reform legislation now!”

20 minutes or less: Write your congressional representative or senator and make a more detailed plea for healthcare reform. Share a personal anecdote about how the current healthcare system has had an adverse impact on you, family or friends. Or, reference policies you would like to see in the final bill (“end pre-existing exclusions”). Don’t think you have to sound like an expert to be convincing. Congressional offices are bombarded with advocacy alerts from national organizations citing statistic after statistic; the only message you need to communicate is that healthcare reform is very important to you as a constituent.

25 minutes or less: Craft similar messages as above, print them out, and spend an extra 5 minutes finding envelopes and stamps to send via snail-mail. Old-fashioned letters have the “Hallmark” touch – they show you cared to send the very best. You can find the addresses of your legislators here.

** Bonus Points**: If you live in Maine, contact Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), a key vote being lobbied by both sides of the aisle, and request her support for healthcare reform. Or, if you know someone from The Pine Tree State, consider asking them to reach out to Sen. Snowe; you can include the link to Sen. Snowe’s site to make it easier for them.

Finally, if you want to get fired up about healthcare reform, watch the video of PBS’s Bill Moyers talking with a former insurance company exec about the industry’s morally bankrupt practices. (Thanks to Wise Woman Stacy for sharing the link with us.)

Good Men Doing Nothing = Triumph of Evil

ostrich-head-in-sandI have purposefully avoided discussions about healthcare reform in recent weeks: sidestepped media coverage, passed up the chance to think about the various options, steered clear of debates around the water cooler at work. I am not proud of my eagerness to stick my head in the sand. I just can’t bear the cacophony of noise dialogue around death panels, public options, and socialized medicine.

Part of my resistance is that every conversation about healthcare reform seems so heated and slanted. How can I analyze the pros and cons of what’s being considered when most analysis is loaded up with rhetoric? Another hurdle is that I have difficulty wrapping my brain around these concepts. As I said to a friend, “It’s all so overwhelming.” To which he replied, “That’s why I don’t think about it.” I, too, am guilty of not thinking about it.

Edmund Burke said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Well, I am a good Wise Woman who is doing nothing. And while I want to end the inertia, I’m not sure with the right something to do is.

Anyone else feel similarly? Have you found good, non-partisan resources to track the debate? Reactions/suggestions are welcome …

(BTW, have you, like me, ever wondered why and how often an ostrich buries its head in the sand? Lo and behold, a quick Internet search reveals that the ostrich does NOT, in fact, bury its head. It may lie down to hide from danger or bend its head down to feed off the land, but the bird doesn’t seek the nearest hole to hide its head during times of stress. Who knew…)

Age Is Just a Number … Like 107!?!?

larryThe ritual of scanning the newspaper one last time is really my thinly disguised attempt to delay my departure for work. So, I felt sheepish when I read the headline: Va. Man, 107, Finds Blessings and Burdens in Longevity; somehow, the “burden” of going to work didn’t seem as onerous.

It turns out that Larry Haubner, age 107, is in the news because he’s outliving his money, and friends are raising funds so he can remain at his assisted living facility. Mind you, it’s not like Larry neglected to plan for his future. He lived in his own apartment until 102, before moving into the facility. Then, he was able to pay the $3,500 monthly tab from his savings through age 105, the point at which his money first ran out. At that time, his friends held a similar campaign and thought they raised a sufficient amount once they could cover two more years of living expenses. But, Larry’s years of healthy eating and exercising (he rode his bike into his 100′s) make him the Energizer Bunny of Seniors. I just checked the donation site, savelarry.org, and with the recent publicity, Larry is now set for another 18 months and counting.

After sharing Larry’s amazing life journey with my friend Gail, she told me about an interactive site where you can calculate your Real Age (versus your chronological age according to the calendar). I find this calculation infinitely more appealing than figuring out when I’ll die, like I can at The Death Clock.

After punching in intimate details about myself (cholesterol level, blood pressure and weight were just the beginning), I discovered that my “real age” is … (drum roll, please) … 44.4! That’s a full year less than my chronological age. Woohoo! (I was SO worried that the number would be higher.)

The following quote puts Larry’s story and my angsting about age into perspective:

Nobody grows old merely by living a number of years. We grow old by deserting our ideals. Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul. ~ Samuel Ullman

Swooning over Swine Flu

wash-handsThere is a continuum of how people react to bad news, with the “boy who cried wolf” on one end and an “ostrich with its head in the sand” on the other. I tend toward the ostrich-end of the continuum. Thus, my ostrich feathers have been ruffled by the media’s current alarm (obsession?) about the swine flu. News headlines from recent days include:

“Swine Flu Hasn’t Hit Our Area … Yet!”

“Swine Flu Scare At Local Airport” (Two passengers on a plane from Mexico were sweaty and vomiting. Turns out they were drunk.)

World Health Organization Raises Alert Level: Global Outbreak Is Imminent” (While the WHO description of Phase 5 contains the word “imminent,” it also says “most countries are not affected at this stage.”)     

“US Records First Swine Flu Death.” (Sadly, a toddler with swine flu died in Texas. Yet, did you know that there have already been 55 pediatric deaths during this flu season, according to the CDC.)

I don’t mean to minimize the risk posed by the swine flu. Swine flu kills people, just like other strains of influenza are associated with 36,000 deaths in America each year. It happens, and it’s scary. But, really? Where is the news coverage on the importance of washing your hands as tens of thousands of people die during the regular, non-swine flu years?!?!

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a dedicated page with swine flu information and updates. The next time I want to learn the latest, I’m turning off my radio and TV and turning to the CDC.

What has been your reaction to the news about swine flu? 

It’s Friday. Get Sassy.

draft_lens1509672module9699092photo_1211826781lemon_cucumber_mint_water1OK…let me explain.  This blog will probably not be as exciting as you’re anticipating. But if WILL BE refreshingly delicious. After listening to the Editor of Prevention Magazine one day, I got lured in to the talk about the Flat Belly Diet.  But I must admit, the talk about Sassy Water grabbed me more than anything else (alright, being given permission to eat waffles with bing cherries and dark chocolate melted over top certainly  helped as well).  Given that I do consume quite a bit of water on any given day, I liked this recipe of sassy water – a cleansing potion to drink every day – and something that maybe can help stiffle at least a glass of wine ….sometimes.

So just mix up a pitcher of sassy water (8 or so cups) – throw in a sliced cucumber, a sliced lemon, 10-12 mint leaves, and a teaspoon of grated ginger.  Enjoy throughout the day and feel refreshed.

Don’t Be Afraid, Just Ask.

david-kellarmannI was so saddened to hear yesterday’s news about the apparent suicide death of David Kellarmann, the 41-year old acting CFO of Freddie Mac. While the news stories focus on the financial turmoil that continues to surround Freddie Mac (the implication being that the mess somehow drove Mr. Kellarmann to suicide), I am more interested in learning from his death.

I have little doubt that Mr. Kellarman’s friends and co-workers at Freddie Mac knew he was extremely stressed. I also believe that few thought he was so stressed that he would want to kill himself. But, my hunch is there were some people who had the fleeting thought that Mr. Kellarmann might consider this unthinkable act. My heart goes out to them as they grieve and replay what they might have said/done differently; agonizing hindsight is part of the unfortunate legacy when someone dies by suicide.

Many of us have been in their position: known someone who’s been so depressed and hopeless that we feared, however briefly, that they may be suicidal. The difference is the storm passed for our friend. Even though we didn’t express our fear or take action, the depression lifted and/or circumstances changed. This high-profile death makes me wonder – what stops us from asking about another person’s safety?

Often, we are afraid to ask about suicidal thinking because we’re anxious that the other person will be insulted. (“What?!? Do you think I’m crazy?”) Then, we’ll be embarrassed about “over-reacting.” Or, we panic at the possibility that the person IS thinking of harming herself. What do we do then? If we ask the question, is it now our responsibility to make sure that person doesn’t act on her suicidal thoughts?

To be honest, in my job, I need to ask depressed people if they’re thinking of killing themselves almost every day, and I can still experience those natural inhibitions.

But, I’m also here to tell you that I’ve never, ever had someone react badly when I ask them if they’re thinking of killing themselves. They are relieved that someone has spoken the unspeakable. And their overwhelming hopelessness is pierced when they realize that someone cares enough to reach out to them when they feel so alone. (Frequently, they say no, they’re not thinking of suicide; they fell badly, but not THAT badly.)

So, the next time you have a concern about the safety of another person, simply say, “I’m worried about how sad and hopeless you’ve been lately (or whatever behavior is of concern). Sometimes people in that place are thinking of killing themselves. Are you having those types of thoughts?”

If they say no, still be empathetic. And let them know, if they ever have such thoughts, they can come to you. (In our relief when a person says no, we can sometimes unintentionally reinforce the idea that it’s not OK to share suicidal thoughts out loud.)

If they say yes, it’s time to have someone assess your friend’s level of risk. Ask if they have a doctor or therapist they can call. Have them call 1-800-273 TALK (if you forget the #, just Google national suicide hotline and it comes right up) and talk to a trained counselor. Bring them to a hospital emergency room. Do something to connect them with someone who can assess their imminent risk and help them develop a plan to keep them safe. At the very least, tell the person who’s closest to your friend (a family member, for instance) of what was shared so they can be aware and take action.

Suicidal thoughts are not shameful secrets to be kept; they’re what happens when a person’s psychological pain has become too much to bear. Our job is to point them in the direction of people who can help lessen the pain.

Perhaps people in Mr. Kellermann’s circle did speak up and ask if he was considering suicide. They may even have brought him to a doctor for an evaluation. The reality is that, even when the question is asked, there is no guarantee that suicide will be averted. But, by taking some steps, we CAN move more people away from the brink.

Here’s the lesson the newspapers should be addressing when reporting Mr. Kellermann’s death: Don’t be afraid, just ask.

One More Piece of Wisdom on Sticking with It

013c0203lla-montage-of-women-exercising-drinking-and-eating-with-health-orientated-words-postersI’ve been thinking about Barb’s post last week about sticking with our New Year’s Resolutions.  Probably the majority of us who make New Year’s Resolutions – make them about exercising more, watching what we eat, trying to lose a few pounds.  I too have failed at this resolution for this year – and I was hoping an upcoming school reunion would be a primary incentive, but no, still hasn’t worked.  In fact, the only New Year’s Resolutions that I have ever executed successfully were ones that had to do with more regular socializing with friends.  

I’m happy to report that my neighbor, however, has been going great guns since setting her New Year’s Resolutions, and has been exercising regularly, has lost 25 pounds, and looks great!  And I’m happy for her, because in her steadfastness to achieve this goal, she hopefully has created a ritual in her life that will stay with her.

I was at a training seminar a couple weeks ago on the “corporate athlete.”  It was a wonderful program about managing energy – and as part of it learning about proper nutrition and fitness.  The key to any change that we want to make in our lives is establishing a new ritual.  Think about what it is, write it down, tell your family.  Then practice it.  It takes 90 days for something to become a ritual.  And even if you can’t execute your goal in the optimal way in a given day, just do something.  I loved the story our trainer told – she has a fairly hectic travel schedule.  Sometimes when she’s travelling, and it’s late and she’s exhausted, she at the very least gets down on the floor and does 10 minutes of stretching (with a glass of wine – I especially liked that part)!  Because just 10 minutes is better than not doing anything at all.  

So just remember that when you’re exhausted and the last thing you want to do is exercise – pick up those hand weights or get on the floor for a few stretches.  You’ll feel a lot better for it, and at least you’ll feel your plan is not derailed.  And if you can stick with it for 90 days…fitting that routine into your life should be more like second nature.

We still have a solid two months before beach season is in full swing!  Get going with those resolutions!

Learning to Count Sheep in My 40′s

counting-sheep-2I love to sleep, an Elaine-fact which is well known in Elaine-circles.

I can sleep anywhere (my car, planes, public benches) and anytime. I know the exact amount of sleep that leaves me well-rested the next day (7.5 hours) and know how/when to take a power nap (20 minutes anytime between 1:30 and 3:30). I pride myself on knowing and practicing good sleep hygiene.

So, why does the clock read 4 a.m. as I write this post? Has my body forgotten the I am a good sleeper?!? That being able to sleep anytime/anyplace is one of the talents I secretly gloat about and depend upon, right up there with my ability to parallel park and regularly complete my to-do list. I am NOT happy.

For two weeks in a row. I have woken up after 4 hours of sleep and been unable to go back to sleep. I have spent a few of these predawn hours researching this sleep crisis on the Internet. I read the National Sleep Foundation’s primer on menopause and sleep and learned that 61% of menopausal women have sleep disorders. I discovered that the steady decline in estrogen triggers sleep problems in women in their 40′s and 50′s. I now see that sleepless early mornings may be the new normal for me over the next few years.

I am so not-OK with this. Suggestions? A shoulder to sleep cry on?

Pool Police Arrest and The Unsuspecting Perpetrator

pool-21My boss and I workout at the same gym. Fortunately, since I’m an early-bird and she’s a post-work exerciser, we’ve bumped into each other just once in the locker room. The work/life boundary certainly gets blurry when chatting up one’s boss while wearing wet hair and a postage-stamp size white towel.

Recently, my boss told me about her unsettling experience before a water aerobics class. She was walking toward the pool’s edge in her bathing suit when another woman verbally pounced on her and demanded to know if she had showered before entering the pool. When my boss said “no”, the woman reprimanded my boss, walked into the pool muttering about how unhygienic and discourteous some people were, and proceeded to complain about my boss to other women in the class. My boss was puzzled (and more than a little embarrassed) by this woman’s very vocal displeasure with her lack of showering prior to pool time. (My boss hastened to assure me she had showered earlier that morning at home.)

Now, I ask you, does any adult ever heed those signs hanging by every pool in America and actually shower before jumping into a pool?

No, don’t answer that. I’m not really interested in discussing the merits or futility of showering before swimming in a pool.

What really fascinates me is that this woman took it upon herself to act as the pool police and shame my 50-something boss into acting differently. It reminds me of a friend of my mother who used to (and maybe still does) chase after and confront smokers who tossed their cigarettes butts on to the ground. I admire their tenacity and passion, but squirm uncomfortably at their methods.

Honestly, I can think of nothing that would inspire or enrage me enough to go after an unwitting stranger and chastise them for their boorish behavior. Maybe I’m just a wimp.

What about you, Wise Women? Have you taken it upon yourself to educate/police others about a particular cause or injustice? What’s been your experience?

P.S. OK, I AM curious about whether one really should shower before entering a pool; more than 350,000 shared my curiosity and Googled that same question. An MD who teaches at Harvard gives his opinion on the matter.

There is such a difference when living simply or serving others is done out of a spirit of gratitude rather than guilt. A given life is different from a driven life.
Mary Jo Leddy

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