Tuesday afternoon

The Moody Blues asked us to stop and smell the roses, as life is too short. Here are the first two stanzas of their poignant song “Tuesday afternoon.”

“Tuesday afternoon
I’m just beginning to see
Now I’m on my way
It doesn’t matter to me
Chasing the clouds away

Something calls to me
The trees are drawing me near
I’ve got to find out why
Those gentle voices I hear
Explain it all with a sigh”

We seem to have many clouds gathering around us. Yes, we must see the clouds and act accordingly. No question. But, we do have lives to lead. So, be smart and still do things to enjoy our world. Walks in the park or woods will see less contamination from the dreaded C word. If you encounter other human beings – give them some space, but still meet and greet. You need not shake a hand to have a conversation.

Ring up a friend or loved one and say “Hi, I was thinking about you.” The best line from the movie “Yesterday,” about a young man who wakes up from an accident and is the only person to remember The Beatles, comes near the end. A profound older man advises the young man that life is simple, “when you find the girl you love, tell her that you love her.”

This piece of advice can be modified to fit most any relationship. Tell you mom (or dad) that you love her (him). Tell your friend that you were thinking of her or him. The Moody Blues should be remembered for more than just their wonderful orchestrations. Their words had meaning. So, start “chasing the clouds away.”

I realize fully this C word has caused illnesses and even death. I realize the social distancing has caused some to lose jobs or get furloughed. Reach out to those folks, in particular. They may need a reference, a helping hand, some groceries, some cash. But, a kind word or reach out will help as a start.

The greatest coronavirus risk is in the White House

Per Reuters “Breakingviews – Donald Trump is rising risk factor in virus battle” this morning before the additional precipitous stock market decline “Donald Trump is becoming a growing risk factor in the virus battle. The U.S. president’s address to the nation on Wednesday night sparked more market panic. A $50 billion pledge for small businesses hit by Covid-19 is good, but his speech lacked public-health remedies, was full of mixed messages and focused on a Europe travel ban. He’s missing both diagnosis and cure. Trump’s primetime speech followed his administration’s trend of inadequate and confusing responses since coronavirus cases started rising in the United States.” A link to the full editorial is below.

The Washington Post echoed these remarks in an opinion piece called “Trumps oval office failure.” A link to the editorial is also below.

About three years ago, after the absolutely disastrous travel ban that was implemented without vetting, advance communication or planning was pulled after two days, conservative pundit David Brooks gave us a clarion call. He said the Trump White House is “equal parts chaos and incompetence.” Sadly, per the book by Michael Lewis called “The Fifth Risk,” the White House started out that way by firing the entire transition team, trashing their research of candidates, leaving positions unfilled, not attending scheduled briefings of how the many government departments work.

Even after filling many jobs, this White House has the highest turnover rate of any of the previous ones, the boss is walking powder keg who people try to keep from blowing up and who has a disdain for study and, as a result, push back on poor decisions is not occurring as it was when a few capable people were there. Plus, there is no consistent planning or communication messaging. To say it is willy-nilly, would not be an overstatement.

So, along comes a real crisis. Not one that is on a distant shore, but one that is here. We need a leader who is calming and we know will shoot straight with us. The president does neither in calmer times, so it is not a surprise he is not so doing in a crisis. I have shared with our Senators for many months the president is a national security risk and a threat to our democracy, our country and our planet. I wish I was off base in my feelings, which are not my own.

If we want stabilization and planning, the best the president can do is let some one else handle it. He needs to step back and let someone who is first and foremost trying to solve the problem, solve it and be the face to America. What I see is a president whose first mission is protecting his own brand, then second helping people. That cannot be the priorities of the US president.

One of my wife’s friends, who is a huge Trump supporter, made the comment to her “at least we have the right person in the White House.” That statement could not be further from the truth.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-breakingviews-idUSKBN20Z0GR
https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/opinion/opinions-trumps-oval-office-failure/ar-BB115UhK?ocid=spartandhp

Mobituaries – great lives worth reliving (a few thoughts)

Many who do not know of the podcast or the book by Mo Rocca and Jonathan Greenberg by the name “Mobituaries – great lives worth reliving,” are asking what does this mean? CBS News contributor Mo Rocca has long been fascinated by the stories of people who passed away, some famous, some less so. He provides interesting vignettes about lives worth noting.

The book is fascinating, one where you can pick up a read a few “mobituaries” about people you may or may not have heard of. Here are a few to whet your appetite:

Chang and Eng Bunker (1811 – 1874) were the first known Siamese twins. They were joined at the side and shared a few organs. They were brought to America and exploited by the circus folks. They eventually took over their own affairs and settled down in Mount Airy, North Carolina. This is where Andy Griffith was born and based his fictional “Mayberry” on. They married two sisters who would live in separate houses on the same property. The Eng brothers would live for three days in one house, then move to the other spouse’s house. Sadly, one of the Eng’s was an alcoholic and was dying. After he died, his attached twin brother not only had to mourn him, but know he would also die shortly. He lived for only a few more hours. Their families live on and, after first not knowing of or embracing their unusual heritage, they now come together for a large family reunion.

Audrey Hepburn (1929 – 1993) is the epitome of the woman we all want in our lives and more than a few men (and I am sure women) had crushes on this actress. She was lovely, charming and vulnerable. Per Rocca, she had a tough life growing up in the same area as Anne Frank. She saw uncles and friends carried off by the Nazis and remembers starving at Christmas time recalling a gift of ten potatoes as a godsend. The Frank people begged her to play Anne Frank in a movie, but she said no as it is too close to home. I think this is why she became an ambassador to UNICEF later on. She won an Oscar for playing Princess Ann in “Roman Holiday,” and apparently that movie made her an icon in Japan, which developed Kabuki theatres on her behalf. When she was asked to do commercials in Japan in the early 1980s, she felt no one would remember her – to the contrary, she was still a star. Rocca said the famous talk show host Johnny Carson and his sidekick Ed McMahon admitted to being more nervous about having Hepburn on as a guest than anyone else. That says a lot.

Sammy Davis, Jr. (1925 – 1990) may have been the world’s greatest entertainer. He could sing, dance, do comedy, act and play several musical instruments. He seemed to give his all to every performance and that may be because he lived to perform. When many folks came together to honor him with performances in 1989, he surprised them all by getting up on stage with them and being, well Sammy Davis, Jr. He lost one eye in a car accident when a poorly designed appendage from a steering wheel pierced his eye socket in a crash. He begged the doctors to make sure he could still use his legs, though, being less concerned about his eye. His career began at age three years old with his father and a friend having a traveling show. He married a white woman before it was legal across the country and converted to Judaism. He would use that in his comedy about being the ultimate outsider. If you have no idea who Sammy Davis is, please Google him and check him out.

Well, this is just a taste of “Mobituaries.” There are many stories therein. Some are offered in detailed fashion, while others may be in a sidebar about like individuals. Read those sidebars as well. Rocca is an interesting and funny reporter. He brings both to his storytelling.

He IS heavy and he’s my brother

Per an article by Mike Stobbe of the Associated Press called “CDC survey finds about 40% of US adults are obese,” Americans are indeed “heavy.” And, some of us are very heavy.

“About 4 in 10 Americans are obese, and nearly 1 in 10 is severely so, government researchers said Thursday.” This comes from a 2017-18 health survey by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The survey found that the obesity rate was 42%….The severe obesity rate was more than 9%…But, it’s clear that adult obesity rates are trending up, said the CDC’s Cynthia Ogden, one of the reports authors.”

This should not be news. The World Health Organization has determined the US as the most obese country in the world for at least decade. A former Global Wellness UK based colleague of mine would say to clients, “one of the US’ greatest exports is obesity.” We have exported the gift of high calorie fast food.

The next time you are in McDonalds, Burger King, KFC, etc., read the calorie content on the orders. An average adult man is supposed to intake 2,500 calories per day with an adult woman limited to 2,000 due to size differential. If a fast food meal tops out at 1,250 calories, that is 1/2 a day’s calories. And, don’t even think of super-sizing.

But, it gets worse as we have too many kids with Types I and II diabetes. And, pre-diabetic is the diagnosis du jour for kids and adults. The key culprit is carbs. Bread, potatoes, pasta, rice – think white foods – convert into sugar and lead to diabetes.

So, what should we do about it? Here are a few ideas that worked for me as I shed about fifty pounds over a several years. The key words to remember are “sustainable change.” Whatever path you choose to follow, make it more than a fad change – make it sustainable. Here are a few paths to consider:

– Portion control – put your meals and snacks in a plate or bowl with smaller portions. Make yourself get up if you want more, but resist that urge.
– Less fast food – no or fewer fries (share them) and less fried food
– Less white food – this one is hard, but cut back
– Snack with nuts, trail mixes, and fruits (ripe or dried)
– Read the calorie contents – I might break a breakfast bar in half if it is 200 calories
– Indulge earlier in the day, so you can burn it off
– Walking is your friend

It goes without saying to check with your doctor before you embark on major change. Other anaerobic, core and stretching exercises (yoga, pilates, jazzeercise, calisthenics, etc.) are excellent, but I recommend something you can keep up over the long haul.

Let me close with a comment another wellness colleague who is a doctor used to say. “We are train wrecks waiting to happen.” Being heavy now will haunt you even more later. So, think sustainable change and get off that track.

Missing context

It is not uncommon to see simplistic solutions or rationales skirt passed needed context. The other day, I read an op-ed that more of the blame on education problems should be laid at the feet of parents than teachers.

Actually, the problem has multiple factors, parents being one of them. But, the missing context is the high percentage of single parents and parents living in poverty. It is quite difficult for single parents to juggle a job (or two) and children and be able to attend all parent/ teacher meetings and help kids with their homework. And, kids in poverty have heard far fewer words in the home and start and remain behind as reported by David Brooks in “30 million fewer words.”

It is not unusual to read a letter to the editor say the problem with poverty is too many single parent families. Again, that is one of multiple causes, but why? There is a high correlation between poverty and large families. So, better funded family planning efforts have shown they can address both issues. Holistic sex education, better access to birth control, and straight shooting answers to questions can help young women and men with these issues.

Healthcare access is another concern that impacts people in poverty. The US is a leader in western world countries in a bad area – maternal death rates in delivery. We still have fifteen states who did not expand Medicaid. Rural hospitals have closed without needed funding. As a result, we have fewer doctors and nurses in these underserved communities. And, this does not reflect food deserts and their impact on community health.

Poverty, poor education, and poor healthcare issues go part and parcel with large family size, more single parents, and lack of opportunity in the community. There are multiple factors that drive these issues, but not doing enough to support families and children, whether it is better and safer after-school programs, whether it is more active community policing to address crime that comes with fewer opportunities, whether it is job retraining where companies and community colleges can address shortages, whether it is asset based community development to restore old buildings to something inviting and/ or commerce related, are all contributors in their absence.

I have worked with a number of homeless working families in an organization I was involved with. These folks were not in poverty due to lack of piety. Some of the most pious people I have ever met are homeless mothers. Poverty is simply the lack of money. Many had multiple jobs. They simply lost their home due to a healthcare crisis, due to childcare issue, due to the loss of car or one of the jobs, or their spouse or boyfriend beat them and they had to get out.

When we discuss the reasons why things happen, we need to think of the larger context. Otherwise, we will solve the wrong problem. A community developer from New York noted his chagrin when a community tore down a school (or left it empty). A community needs an asset like this not just for children, but for community activities for adults and children. This is the premise of asset based community development – repair or repurpose buildings.

Let’s think holistically. Let’s dig into the real causes. Let’s think of those who are in need and how we can help them climb the ladder. We cannot push them up the ladder, but we can make sure the rungs are well built and help them make the first few steps. A social worker I worked with used the phrase that she walked side by side with her clients. I like that. Let’s do more of that.

Five feet apart – movie on teen angst

Even at the ripe old age of 61, I still will pay attention to well-crafted movies about teen angst. While channel surfing, I came across a 2019 film called “Five feet apart,” written by Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis and directed by newcomer Justin Baldoni.

The movie is inspired by a real couple dealing with cystic fibrosis named Dalton and Katie Prager. The movie stars Haley Lu Richardson and Cole Spears who meet in a wing of a hospital dedicafed to serving patients with this life shortening disease.

Because of the deteriorated lung capacity and susceptibility to infection, the patients must stay six apart. Through the eventual relationship, they decide they can shorten the distance to five feet.

The movie received mixed reviews, but I found it worth the watch. I actually watched it three times as I seemed to pick it up 2/3, then 1/3 and finally from the beginning, so it put puzzle pieces together for me.

It also proved educational about cystic fibrosis and what patients must go through, both physically and mentally. Yet, at its heart it is a story of a slow courtship.

I don’t think I am alone in liking movies like this. I recall enjoying “The fault in our stars” a couple of years ago. But, we can trace teen angst movies back to the play “Romeo and Juliet.” Of course, the play and movie “Westside Story” is based off the Shakepeare play.

So, give it a watch. If you have seen it or are a still a sucker for such moviea, let me know what you think.

The Wizard of Oz – scary movie?

CBS Morning News reported an interest in identifying the scariest movie people have seen. Seconds before host Anthony Mason confirmed my wife’s choice, she said “The Wizard of Oz.” Mason echoed her choice as his scariest.

First, what is your scariest movie and why? Second, did “The Wizard of Oz” scare you as a kid as it did my wife and Mason?

Thinking of Oz from a kids perspective, the witch is pretty scary by herself. But, I was scared by the mean talking trees. Yet, we should not forget the flying monkeys or the Oz icon.

As for other scary movies, my scariest is “The Omen,” with Gregory Peck and Lee Remick. I saw “The Exorcist” later, so I was more prepared for it. But, when I think of “The Exorcist,” I recall a local movie critic saying it scared him so much, he drove his car to his front steps and made sure his house key was right-side up before he left the car.

The first “Halloween,” with Jamie Lee Curtis and the fabulous Donald Pleasance is also top-of-mind scary. This was Curtis’ first starring role and Pleasance plays an interesting troubled man, whether he is evil or trying to prevent evil as in this movie.

Let me know your scariest. But, beware of falling houses, talking trees, flying monkeys and most of all, men behind the curtain.