An American Hero to France – an encore tribute to Anne Morgan

I wrote this post only a year ago, but the surprising story of Anne Morgan deserves more publicity on this last day of Women’s History Month.

Last night, my wife and I watched a PBS documentary about the youngest daughter of J.P. Morgan, called “Anne Morgan’s War.” A link to the documentary is below. Quite simply, this already strong advocate for human rights, helped rebuild a northern France devastated by The Great War (World War I). Surprisingly, her efforts started even before the war was over as the Germans pulled back.

She was reported as the first philanthropist who married a financial acumen with her efforts to help. She allowed her good friend and colleague Anne Murray Dike be the Executive Director, while she took care of raising and managing the money. And, as women, both had uphill battles to help people.

For example, she recruited a brigade of 350 women, many nurses and doctors to help this war torn area, but female doctors could not practice as doctors in France at the time. Nonetheless, her team impressed everyone with their education, experience, acumen and ability to drive and fix vehicles. It should be noted, she wanted to give back to France who had helped America during its revolution.

Yet, her story is largely a secret in America, even though she is heralded in France. In fact, many of the speakers in the documentary are French historians. I must confess, I was totally unaware of her many contributions, which pre-date and follow her heroic actions in France.

From Wikipedia:

Anne Tracy Morgan (July 25, 1873 – January 29, 1952) was an Americanphilanthropist who provided relief efforts in aid to France during and after World War I and World War II.[2] Morgan was educated privately, traveled frequently and grew up amongst the wealth her father, banker J. P. Morgan, had amassed. She was awarded a medal from the National Institute of Social Science in 1915, the same year she published the story The American Girl. In 1932 she became the first American woman appointed a commander of the French Legion of Honor.

From 1917 to 1921, Morgan took residence near the French front, not far from both Soissons and the “Chemin des Dames” at Blérancourt, and ran a formidable help organisation, The American Friends of France (it employed several hundred people at a time, volunteers from abroad and locally recruited staff), financed partly out of her own deep pockets, partly with the help of an active network in the States.[13] The AFF (aka American Committee for Devastated France) was active in succoring noncombatants, organizing a health service that still exists in Soissons, a workshop to provide basic furniture to bombed-out families, a holiday camp for children, and a mobile library that was taken over by the library in Soissons, and so on. She returned in 1939 to help the Soissons evacuees.Anne Morgan and Anne Murray Dike, ca. 1915

Anne Murray Dike, a doctor, joined Anne Morgan in France. The estate of Blérancourt was transformed into a museum and inaugurated in 1930, one year after the death of Anne Murray Dike. The two were rewarded for their services, and they later developed a romantic relationship.[14] Dike is buried in the village cemetery at Blérancourt.[15]

The documentary is about 55 minutes in length, so it is worth the effort of your time.

SCETV Presents | Anne Morgan’s War | PBS

Different, not less (an important story to repeat)

As we near the end of Women’s History Month, I want to repeat a post from just last year about a woman named Dr. Temple Grandin. It bears repeating as genius can be found in all kinds of people, if we just give them a chance to shine.

I spoke recently of a movie that caught my eye the other day which is well worth the watch – “Temple Grandin” starring Claire Danes as the title character with Julia Ormand, David Strathairn and Catherine O’Hara in key roles. It is a true story of Grandin who overcame her autism to get a Ph.D and become one of the foremost designers of cattle management systems. It is well worth the watch, but please pull out the Kleenex, especially when she first speaks up for autistic kids with her mother beside her.

A key moment in the movie is when her mother, played by Ormond is trying to find a high school that will help her daughter navigate a world with autism. To her credit, her mother defied those who said she needed to institutionalize her daughter back in the 1960s. A science teacher at the prospective school, played by Strathairn, hurried out to convince Ormond to stay as she was leaving with her daughter. He said, Temple is “different, not less.” Grandin had a brilliant mind, but understood better through visualization. She could see things we could not.

“Different, not less.” The line is so powerful, Grandin uses it later as she speaks to searching-for-answers parents of autistic kids. It reminds me of a similar line in a movie about a fictitious band from the 1960s, “Eddie and the Cruisers.” Michael Pare plays Eddie, the lead singer and driving force behind the band. He looks like a “cruiser,” but is well-read and intelligent. He drafts into the band an English major played by Tom Berenger, whom they call “Wordman” because of his profound lyrics.

During the movie as they are playing a college campus, Eddie tells Wordman these people are not like them. They are different. Wordman innocently replies, “they are no better than we are.” Eddie corrected him saying “I said different, not better.” Given the reference, this comment is the same as the above title and equally powerful.

We are different. It would be rather boring if we all thought, learned and said the same things. While we may be different, we are no better or worse than the next person. Grandin designed a system that is now used in over 50% of the cattle business, but she was laughed at because she was a woman and autistic. Her simple questions were pertinent, yet ignored. Her autism allowed her to see what the cattle sees and she factored that in her designs.

As for Eddie, we should always be careful with our first impressions. People dress differently, look differently, and act differently. Yet, Eddie was a deep thinker and knew literature. We are all different, but we have the same rights, responsibilities and need to be heard. My rights are no more important than yours and vice versa.

Both of these movies are worth the watch. They each will help us appreciate what others go through. Different, not less. And, not better either.

Both Sides Now – an encore post on a reflective song

Yesterday, our blogging friend Rose reminded me of this song with various pictures of clouds. I started humming the tune as I scrolled along. Here is an old post which highlights “Both Sides Now.”

From where I sit, one of America’s greatest songwriters is Joni Mitchell. Perhaps my favorite song of hers is “Both Sides Now.” Ironically, it was popularized by Suite Judy Blue Eyes herself, Judy Collins. I also enjoy Neil Diamond’s version with his deeper voice, but Judy’s version is the one most folks know. First, let’s take a peek at the lyrics:

Bows and flows of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
I’ve looked at clouds that way

But now they only block the sun
They rain and snow on everyone
So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way

I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It’s cloud illusions I recall
I really don’t know clouds at all

Moons and Junes and Ferris wheels
The dizzy dancing way you feel
As every fairy tale comes real
I’ve looked at love that way

But now it’s just another show
You leave ’em laughing when you go
And if you care, don’t let them know
Don’t give yourself away

I’ve looked at love from both sides now
From give and take, and still somehow
It’s love’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know love at all

Tears and fears and feeling proud
To say “I love you” right out loud
Dreams and schemes and circus crowds
I’ve looked at life that way

Oh but now old friends are acting strange
They shake their heads, they say I’ve changed
Well something’s lost but something’s gained
In living every day

I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From WIN and LOSE and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all

I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all

In addition to the melancholic and reflective nature of the song, “Both Sides Now” resonates with me as it makes you think of issues, events and people from different perspectives. How we view things is based on our history of experiences. A line from the Heart song “Straight on for You” would reinforce this “what the winner don’t know the gambler understands.”

Mitchell starts with clouds as we lie on our backs and reflect. I find this a clever metaphor. Yet, what you see in the clouds can and will change. Not to mention when you ask someone else what he or she sees, you are likely to get a different answer. So, we really don’t know clouds at all, as what can be seen varies, even with the same observer.

But, the same holds true for love and life, as well. In the US, about half the people who get married, eventually get divorced. Once the passion abates from its peak, people have a different set of experiences and perspectives. As an old fart who has been married for thirty-six (updated) years, it is important that you like your spouse, as well as love her or him. If you don’t, then your marriage will have some challenges. So, we all have viewed love from both sides now.

This goes hand-in-hand with life, as well. Think back on how many opinions of yours have changed over the years. Think back on who you thought were true friends, who you do not involve yourself with anymore. Think back on how it was to struggle with a budget and how it is far easier to make ends meet when you have some money. With the number of people who have been exposed to the precipice of poverty or who have fallen over the cliff, many never imagined that this could happen to them. Your perspective changes when you have to stand in a line to collect unemployment benefits or go on food stamps.

I was thinking about this song after I read the post by Emily January on “Zenzele: a letter for my daughter,” especially when she speaks of the two men you will meet – the one you will be madly in love with and the one who will be your rock to live with day-in and day-out. I also believe my love for this song is a reason why I enjoy Malcolm Gladwell’s books. He describes himself as an outsider based on how he looked and who his parents were, a multi-racial couple (one from Jamaica and one from England) growing up in Toronto. So, he has an uncanny ability to see things from both sides or at least two perspectives. He is constantly challenging normative thoughts and beliefs as he can see things from an outside in perspective.

Joni, as per usual, you got it right. Your song stands the test of time due to the underlying truth in the lyrics. Thanks for setting your wonderful scripted words to such a beautiful melody.

Anti Former Republican NC Governor Pat McCrory ads

The following is a letter I sent into my newspaper which they did not publish, but it is short for that reason. Former Republican Governor Pat McCrory is a moderate Republican that served two terms and seven terms as Mayor of North Carolina’s largest city. He is running in the primary for retiring Senator Richard Burr’s seat. His main opponent is a huge supporter of the former president.

As an independent and former Republican voter, I am bemused by the anti-Pat McCrory commercials being aired as he runs in the Republican primary for Senator. In the commercial, the ads repeat McCrory’s criticisms of the former president and various false narratives put forth by Trump sycophants. The commercial is quite detailed in summarizing McCrory’s concerns. Yet, I agree with everything McCrory said which would make me consider him if he wins the primary. To me this commercial puts McCrory in a positive light, not the intended negative one.

While it is intended to show McCrory as a RINO, which is a now a weaponized label, to get MAGA fans not to vote for him, to me it reveals someone who is actually worth voting for which I am sure was not their intention.

And, more movies still

Here are a list and brief summary of a few more movies that caught my eye the past few weeks. A few have big stars in them, but others the cast is rather unknown. Note, we have turned off a few movies on occasion, but we usually give them a chance and are pleasantly surprised. With William Hurt just passing away, the first one is worth the watch.

“The Yellow Handkerchief starring William Hurt, Kristen Stewart, Eddie Redmayne and Maria Bello is a fascinating movie that unfolds through flashbacks as he released convict (Hurt) is offered a ride and travels to see his wife (Bello) who he has not seen in six years. Redmayne and Stewart have their own issues, so they offer a balance to the story and sympathetic ears and support. Hurt and Bello are good together in their tempestuous relationship.

“Before and After” starring Meryl Streep, Liam Neeson, Edward Furlong, Julie Weldon and Alfred Molina is about the parents of a young teen who is accused of murder of a young woman. The film focuses on the family disagreements in how to defend their son, who may be found guilty. This movie received lesser ratings than it deserved, I think because the expectations for the two stars was higher than normal given the only movie they were in. We did find it enjoyable, though.

“Tumbledown” starring Jason Sudeikis and Rebecca Hall was an unexpectedly good movie. Hall lives in a cabin in the mountains near where she grew up still mourning the loss of her folk singing husband who has a cult-like following. Sudeikis is a professor and huge fan of her husband’s work who wishes to write a non-fiction inspired novel about the deceased singer. Hall will have nothing to do with that, but eventually she sanctions a biography which she will co-write with Sudeikis. The movie is more about discovery and renewal between the two characters and the past.

“The Wake of Light” starring Rome Brooks and Matt Bush is a slow moving, but charming movie about taking a risk. Mary (Brooks), a quiet, reserved woman is grappling between the responsibility in caring for her stroke impacted father and her developing feelings for Cole (Bush), a talkative young man passing through town who falls for her and asks her to join him on his journey. We learn both need to take a risk as the movie unfolds. William Lige Morton plays the father who becomes more endearing as the movie goes on.

“The East” is one of those movies with only a few recognizable actors and a terrific plot. It stars Brit Marling, Andrew Skarsgard, Elliott Page and Patricia Clarkson as a private-firm plants a spy in an eco-terrorist group called The East. The group tends to use the heretofore denied poisonous product of companies to make a statement to embarrass the company and publicize the company’s deception. This is one of the best movies I have seen of late.

“Lawless” starring Tom Hardy, Jessica Chastain, Shia Labeouf, Guy Pearce, Mia Wasikowska, Gary Oldman and Jason Clarke is a true story about four brothers who ran a moonshine business in Virginia during the prohibition with a wink and a nod from the local law enforcement. That is until a new group of law enforcement came in and wanted a larger cut. Anything Hardy is in will be worth the watch, but he is not alone in this well done, but a tad violent movie.

“The House on Carroll Street is an interesting movie starring Kelly McGllis, Jeff Daniels, Mandy Patinkin, Jessica Tandy and Kenneth Welsh. Based in the 1950s, a blacklisted news photographer (McGillis) stumbles onto a Senator helping former Nazis relocate to America. Daniels plays a sympathetic FBI agent with Patinkin playing the Senator. And, it was a treat to see Tandy in a movie before she passed away a few years later.

“100 Streets” starring Idris Elba, Gemma Arterton, Charlie Creed Miles, Franz Drameh, Kiersten Wareing and Ken Stott about three stories in London which are within a small radius ranging from the marital and personal troubles of a retired rugby star (Elba), a couple trying to adopt a child, but a terrible accident gets in the way (Creed Miles and Wareing) and a young man trying to change his life of crime to pursue his passion for the theater and the man who helps him (Drameh and Stott). Arterton plays Elba’s wife and people may know her from the movie “Summerland.”

A few other movies worth a look include “Hideous Kinky” which is nothing like the name which comes from Kate Winslet’s daughters’ imagination as she takes them to Morocco, “The Wilde Wedding” which is an over-the-top romantic comedy with an amazing cast of Glenn Close, John Malkovich, Minnie Driver, Patrick Stewart, Noah Davenport and a host of others in the Wilde family wedding (her fourth), and “Before we go” with Chris Evans and Alice Eve as she is stuck overnight in New York city needing to get home to Connecticut after her purse was stolen and Evans tries to help her with his limited funds.

Happy watching. Have you seen any others you would recommend.

Saturday, in the park (good day for a walkabout)

It has been a windy spring thus far, with the temperatures going up and down. Call me stubborn, but I hate having to switch on the heat, then A/C, then heat again. So, I just turn it off and grab a blanket or change into shorts as needed.

It is a great today for a walkabout, but I will definitely need to hold onto my hat. Yesterday, my wife and I were going to lunch at a restaurant outside on the patio, but we had to weigh down menus and napkins….and hair. My wife left a hair band or clip at home, so she would have been eating through her wind-blown hair. So, we went back inside.

Looking back at the news of the week, a couple random thoughts come to mind.

– Mark Twain is alleged to have said it is better to let people think you are a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt. Some Senators questioning a very well credentialed judge for the Supreme Court should have remembered this. Questions on her rulings are fair game, but these folks should not waste our time with inane questions or looking at their social media to see if their inane banter plays well with a fervent base of voters.

-Speaking of fools, I have been using the phrase believing what (someone) says as the truth is a fool’s errand. I have usually reserved this for a former president who is well documented by data and multiple people as not being very truthful. But, it applies to the current autocratic and malevolent acting leader of Russia or any one of several conspiracy parrots here in the US, disguised as serious journalists, when they are nothing more than entertainers.

-Along these lines, the conspiracy parroting usually follows the recipe of one teaspoon of a small, exaggerated truth, with healthy cups of flights of fancy. Note to the listener or reader – the more sensational it sounds, it is likely a conspiracy story and not the truth. People have gone to jail for believing and acting on the BS of folks like Alex Jones, Donald Trump, Tucker Carlson, et al. And, these folks have been sued for defamation. Carlson’s own employer threw him under the bus in court, when they said Carlson is not a news person, so his comments should not be considered as news.*

-I fully recognize that Democrats are far from perfect and some have said some inane things as well. But, for the most part, I feel I can argue policy emphasis with Democrats, whereas with Republicans, I feel I am arguing what is truthful. The conspiracy parrots have woven their story so well (and it is six times more read per a social media analyst, as the truth is not as sensational), those who do not do their homework end up believing the BS. I am not saying Democrats don’t lie nor all Republicans are untruthful, but we need the truthful people in the GOP to speak up routinely and call out the lies and for them to be applauded by the party for doing.

It frustrates me to feel this way. I have shared the need for the truth tellers to speak up with numerous Republican legislators. We need a more viable conservative party, but right now the one we have is adrift, untethered to the truth and lawfulness. That is what this independent and former Republican and Democrat thinks.

*Note: Anytime a Republican pulls out the Hillary Clinton pinata to beat on, know that person is in trouble. Clinton has not been in politics for a few years, but her lightning rod name is one that can be used when the speaker is trouble. It should not be lost on anyone, that the former president is suing Clinton for defamation for saying he spoke with the Russians during the 2016 election (which is well documented as a concern in The Mueller Report). This is typical SOP (standard operating procedure) for the former president – distract from his own troubles.

A Proven Three for One Return – an example of reducing poverty, abortions and unwanted pregnancies (a reprise from an earlier post)

The following post was written about seven years ago. Given my past volunteer work for working homeless families, this Colorado study was compelling.

If there was a proven solution that would accomplish three major goals and save money, it would be worth considering, right? If data revealed that a state could save $80 million and dramatically reduce abortions, unwanted pregnancies and help people in poverty, it would be as close to a no-brainer as we could get. Then, why is Colorado’s legislature unwinding funding to an effort to provide birth control and family planning to people in need?

Worldwide and in the US, there is a high correlation between larger family size and poverty. Further, a Harvard study from 1982 – 2011 indicates that one of five reasons for poor socio-economic mobility is fewer traditional families (some Conservatives like to say this is the only reason, but that oversimplifies).

Yet, the use of an obvious toolset with a proven track record does not stand up to the scrutiny of this legislature. Of course, the reason is the fervent belief against birth control even though the significant majority of women ignore their religion on this subject. About 90% of American Catholic women use or have used birth control.

In my work with homeless families, one of the reasons for some young women who find themselves homeless is having children before they are ready or out of wedlock. Also about 30% of our clients are victims of domestic violence. Lacking the additional income of a second parent, not to mention the support of a good one, puts a family in a hole which is hard to climb out of.

Here is where religion is less inclined toward the practical and can be harmful. We need to have holistic open discussions about this topic with teens. It is more than OK to preach abstinence, but these teens are tempted far more than we were at that age, and we were tempted. So, we need to teach a girl’s self-esteem is not tied into relenting to sex, nor is a boy’s for that matter. We need to teach boys that no means no. But, we need to also teach family planning and provide tools of birth control.

We have columnists who tout fatherless families as the reason for poverty in the Black community, which it is one of several. It is a reason no matter the race or ethnic group. Yet they stop short of defining one of the cures, which is noted above and proven to be successful. It should be noted in the states with the lowest abortion rate, they each have more robust family planning effort than states with higher rates.

Let’s be smart and practical about these issues. The data is pretty clear. And, it should be noted using a condom actually reduces STDs and HIV transmission which would be fourth benefit.

Critical Race Theory – letter to the editor

My newspaper printed my letter to the editor today. Here it is for your review, comment and use. Please feel free to edit, but note my newspaper has a 150 word limit. Yours might be different.

“It has become apparent that one party has decided to use anti-critical race theory as its new bumper-sticker slogan, akin to Build That Wall.

So, should we not talk about the Birmingham church bombing, Greensboro Four, Edmund Pettus bridge, Wilmington coup, Emmett Till’s horrible murder, Tulsa massacre, slavery, red-lining, voter suppression, genocide of Native Americans, and more?

If we do not teach and learn from our history, especially the bad parts, we are destined to repeat them. Our history is one of imperfect people sometimes failing to live up to our ideals.

We should know what, when and why things happened, especially if it is ugly.”

Wednesday wanderings – lawns, pollen, owls and Les Miz

These old bones need to finish mowing the grass before heading out on my walk about. Many moons ago, I bought a battery powered lawn mower, where I charge the battery before I mow. Either the grass is getting taller or the battery is getting older (this is electric mower #2) as the battery died before I finished. It is not unlike its owner who tires more easily.

So, today I will tidy up the remainder (usually I get about 75 minutes of mowing per charge). Mowing with an electric mower is healthier for me and better for the environment. I don’t have to breathe in the gas fumes, nor does it drown out my hearing. All of my power tools are battery operated now, as a result.

Speaking of being outside, this is supposed to be a more severe pollen season. My hometown is a city of trees, so we rank in the top ten in pollen in the US. Yippee. It used to not bother me as much, but with the creeping northward heat due to climate change, the warmer seasons are longer, and pollen is more severe. Hence, my daily routine includes a Cetrizine pill (generic Zirtec) and squirt of the generic Flonase up each nostril (I highly recommend).

Pollen brings other challenges as well. Over twenty years ago, we built a pool. It was a great decision, as it is good for relaxation and exercise, and we got to meet our kids’ friends. Yet, EVERYTHING gets into the pool, pollen included. So, cleaning the skimmer baskets is an event during the spring, with that stuff coated on the liner I put on the baskets.

Plus, when the pollen is in there, I cannot see if we have any guests in the pool such as brown snake (not poisonous), frog or deceased vole. There is nothing like pulling out a skimmer basket with a small snake in it to get the heart pumping. Fortunately, copper heads do not care for the water as much.

I think the voles are trying to run away from the hawks and owls we get on occasion. Right now, we have three owls in the neighborhood trees, two together and one separate. It must be a love triangle, with a younger male pining for the committed female. Off the subject, but when we went to see Les Miserables for the first time, a good buddy had read up on the wonderful and multi-part story from the playbill and told us all, “Basically, it is a love triangle.” We still laugh about that today.

So, let’s head out for a walk about after the lawn is taking care of. I will look for the odd-man out owl and see if we can find him a new love interest. As his mother tried to tell him, “there are many owls in the trees.” Maybe he can find him one named Cosette or Eponine.

Medical debt impacts 23 million Americans per Kaiser study

In an article called “The burden of medical debt in the United States” by Matthew Rae, Gary Claxton, Emma Wager, Cynthia Clark, Jared Ortaliza, and Krutika Amin, the results of a Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) are noted. Per the article, a link to which is below, the following conclusion can be drawn:

“We find that 23 million people (nearly 1 in 10 adults) owe significant medical debt. The SIPP survey suggests people in the United States owe at least $195 billion in medical debt. Approximately 16 million people (6% of adults) in the U.S. owe over $1,000 in medical debt and 3 million people (1% of adults) owe medical debt of more than $10,000. Medical debt occurs across demographic groups. But, people with disabilities, those in worse health, and poor or near-poor adults are more likely to owe significant medical debt. We also find that Black Americans, and people living in the South or in Medicaid non-expansion states were more likely to have significant medical debt.”

Several years ago, I cited a study that noted medical debt was the number one reason for bankruptcy by individuals, so the above result is not a surprise. The groups that are most exposed are non-Hispanic Blacks at 16% and people in the age 50 to 64 demographic at 12%. Some of the reasons for this age group being higher is Medicare does not kick in until age 65, people are getting downsized in that group and employer retiree medical benefits have largely gone away.

I posted a piece from Politico the other day about rural health care suffering. An important reason is the fourteen states who have not expanded Medicaid to those below a certain poverty level. This has led to more rural hospitals closing and exposed people who do not have coverage to higher medical debt or forsaking care all together. The debt comes with people waiting until they are a train wreck before going to the ER, a more expensive place to get care.

One of the things I have found in my consulting experience as well as patient and care taking experience, access to health care is critical to a person’s health. The ability to get preventive care before the train wrecks also lowers the cost while improving one’s health. In the US, one of our warts is we are the most obese country in the world per the World Health Organization. We have supersized ourselves to earn that mantel. We must get ourselves on a better path before it becomes too late.

Access to care is key to getting on that better path, but making it a more affordable journey. When people say we have the best health care system in the world, that simply is not borne out by the data – we have the most expensive health care in the world; we rank in the low thirties in health care outcomes. We must use the system more wisely. All of us.