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Miss America

Sept. 15, 2014 6 a.m.

The whole strutting one’s body in a swimsuit in hopes of “winning,” goes against all my sensibilities. Have to say.

Still, I smile when I think of the Miss America pageant. As a little girl, I watched the annual cattle call-like festivities with my grandmother and she would ask, “Cathy Ann, who should we root for?” We kept score and wrote down our favorites. I loved the event because grandma and I hissed and clapped through the two-hour program. And I got to stay up late.

Some traditions have little inherent value, except for the memories. And that means everything.

(S-R photo: Miss Montana Victoria Valentine displays her shoe during the Miss America Shoe Parade at the Atlantic City boardwalk .)



Mental health crisis

Sept. 13, 2014 8:36 p.m. - Updated: 8:45 p.m.

We walk the streets of our communities and at any time we see them: persons who have mental illness.

When one of these persons commits a crime – or is it a crime if they have limited awareness? – they are arrested and put in jail. While waiting for appropriate care, psychiatric care at a hospital, many of these people spend months in jail. And their mental health status deteriorates.

“Mental-health advocates are seeking class-action status in a federal lawsuit arguing that holding these patients in jail violates right to due process and constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. Many hope the Legislature will intervene with more funding,” writes Andy Mannix in a Seattle Times story.  

Our society has lost its way in caring for people who cannot find their way.

(S-R archive photo)


September 11: we remember

Sept. 11, 2014

We remember where we were, the images on television, the accounting for friends and family who live in New York City. My sisters and I frantically called each other to learn about my brother-in-law. He was in Lower Manhattan on business.  After sixty minutes, he called home from a post office where cops had ushered pedestrians inside as the sky rained debris.  He witnessed the second plane hitting the tower.

Thousands of families lost loved ones to the reigning terror of hate.  People who worked hard to provide a life for their families, for themselves, were suddenly lost to madness. Cops, fire fighters, investment professionals, service workers, a priest who rushed in to help - his lifeless body carried out by first responders. Lovely people, gone.

In the months following, victims’ families found each other, sharing anguish, telling stories. The families gathered in a room with a view, in a spartan office space at a 54-story tower: 1 Liberty Plaza, twenty stories above Ground Zero.  While cleanup workers and tourists moved frantically below, the unnoticed Family Room evolved into sacred space. People brought their unfathomable pain, artifacts representing loved ones and their stories. The unplanned space became a sanctuary of grief and hope.

This summer the Family Room was replaced with a new private gathering space in the National September 11 Memorial Museum. The artifacts from the original room were offered back to families. Some people reclaimed the items while others donated their holy objects to the New York State Museum in Albany.

The exhibit – honoring 1,000 victims – is the most singular collection of the faces of those who died that day. One item, a pair of wire-rimmed eyeglasses, has an accompanying note: “So you can see in heaven.”

September 11. A day we can see on Earth that love transcends all evil, love cannot be destroyed.    

(S-R photo: A woman places a hand on the names engraved along the South reflecting pool at the Ground Zero memorial site. )


Cleaning up and letting go

Sept. 10, 2014 8:04 p.m. - Updated: 8:15 p.m.

My husband and I cleaned out the storage area above the garage – without marital discord. He likes to toss, while I like to “consider” how an item may be useful, still. Add in the his/hers factor: as comedian George Carlin said, “Please move your crap so I have room for my stuff!”

After we sifted through the home repair remnants of paint cans, wood trim and unidentifiable weird stuff, we found collections of our younger years: camping gear, cross-country skis and lots and lots of baby items.  We know we will never camp again (his back issues); I insisted we keep the skis; the baby items are a time capsule for our son.   Soon I will open the plastic bins and show him how his mom dressed him in his infancy and toddler days. Then the little clothes will go off to someone else’s little person.

My husband discovered several boxes of notebooks from work.  Now retired, he happily tossed notebook after notebook from the upper level of the storage area down into the trash can below. “The final letting go,” he declared.

I felt sadness in my throat – and a bit of relief - as I watched artifacts of our younger years hit the ground. The cleaning out was a letting go of stuff and an era, recognizing we are entering a new stage of life: only the essentials, just practical tools needed for our senior years. 

(S-R archive photo)


Retirement home cuisine? Five-star delight

Sept. 8, 2014 7:54 a.m. - Updated: 7:57 a.m.

The baby-boom generation is moving into their elder years and bringing their great expectations – like fabulous food. And many senior living facilities are seeking to meet that expectation.

In the Chicago area, the Mather, a senior living community, the chef creates duck breasts and pork chops worthy of a five-star restaurant menu. Catholic retired sisters across town at Mercy Circle drink fruit-enhanced water and enjoy whipped butter on house-baked rolls.

And why not? Senior housing seeks to accommodate the needs of its residents. Fresh, healthy food provides a therapeutic advantage over tapioca from a blender as well as a reason to gather in community and break bread together – really good bread, that is.

(S-R photo)



Cancer drug success

Sept. 5, 2014 noon

The FDA has approved a new class of drugs to fight cancer. The first drug – Keytruda - was approved for patients with advanced melanoma, patients for whom other treatments have failed. Other drugs in trials have been successful against kidney and lung cancers.

The drugs allow one’s own immune system to attack the cancer. As success continues with this new group of drugs, we may see fewer cancer patients prescribed chemotherapy, so toxic and debilitating.   For all cancer patients comes a message of hope.

(S-R archive photo: In the movie “50/50,” the character played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt undergoes chemotherapy, sees a therapist and ultimately survives.)


Joan Rivers

Sept. 4, 2014 4:08 p.m. - Updated: Sept. 5, 8:33 a.m.

America’s funniest funny woman has died. Joan Rivers, 81, died one week after she suffered cardiac arrest during a medical procedure.

She leaves a daughter, Melissa, and a grandson, Cooper, and a nation who couldn’t help but laugh at her quick wit, her outrageous comments.  She never stopped - until today.

Heaven welcomes home another star. Joan Rivers joins Robin Williams – what a reunion.

(S-R photo: Melissa and Joan Rivers)


Kick-off to fall

Sept. 4, 2014 8:11 a.m. - Updated: 8:17 a.m.

Fall is really here now. School busses lumber through our neighborhoods, the cool morning air heralds change. And tonight the Seahawks kick off the professional football season against the Green Bay Packers.

Enjoy the melancholy of autumn, when crisp leaves skitter across cement, marching bands with their drummers beat out cadence; a new rhythm arrives in September. The chaos of summer wanes. Our journey continues.

(S-R photo: Russell Wilson, Seattle quarterback)


Off the menu

Sept. 2, 2014 9:16 a.m. - Updated: 9:23 a.m.

Tracking and living by the “experts’ findings” on food choices can make one’s head – and perhaps stomach – hurt.  Low carb? Low fat?  Vegan? A new major study claims that people who avoid carbohydrates and eat fat – even the saturated kinds of fat – will lose weight and have fewer cardiovascular problems. Trans fat is the exception.

Somewhere in the midst of seeking the magic equation for good health, we may benefit from following our ancestors’ habits: eat a variety of unprocessed foods, then go outside and burn off the calories – harvesting the farmland or hitting tennis balls. 

(S-R archive photo)


Retired and restless?

Aug. 31, 2014 7:58 a.m.

With 10,000 baby boomers retiring each day, the question emerges: “What are all those people doing now?”

Many boomers are selling their homes, shedding possessions and hitting the road – or check-in gate. Last year 360,000 Americans received their Social Security benefits at foreign addresses. Seems travel and travel and travel is a retirement activity.

With limited funds, seniors are having  great times – far away from home. Instead of sleeping at the Ritz-Carlton, seniors are snoozing at short-term vacation rentals or even couch surfing; yes, there is a couch-surfing website for those over 50.

Decades ago many boomers hitched rides across Europe with only a backpack and their youthful fitness; even at 60 or 70-something, it is not too late to see the world. Just don’t leave home without your AARP identification.

(S-R archive photo)

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