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Know Your Neighbors

12 Aug 2015
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In light of the recent uproar over Donald Trump’s blast at Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly—about “blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever,” after she asked him a question he didn’t like—I want to announce that I am not only the Lovable Liberal; I am also the Goddess of Political Correctness. My history includes Russian and Polish ancestors. I have exes who are Irish, Mexican-Indian (Mestizo), British, African American and Canadian. I was born Jewish; chose Unitarian, Baha’i and Buddhist; and married a lapsed Catholic. I’m a pro-choice feminist with a gay son and a lesbian cousin, was born in New Jersey, and was raised in California. I lived in the South. And, yes, I am blonde. There is almost no group you can insult where I won’t take offense. I am hypersensitive to jokes, comments, observations or judgments based on anyone’s color, religion, nationality,…
29 Jul 2015
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I remember my friend Jean every time I hear about the suicide death of a young person. Jean found her 17-year-old son, shot dead by his own hand, in their living room. Although I have known others who lost a child (a reality I can thankfully only imagine), it’s Jean who stands out. The impact on her family was devastating. That was the first suicide involving somebody close to me; sad to say, I’ve had others in my life. It was also the first time I heard the adage: “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that each year, approximately 157,000 youth between the ages of 10 and 24 receive medical care for self-inflicted injuries in ERs across the country. HealthyChildren.org says that suicide is one of the three leading causes of death for 13-to-19-year-olds in the United States, with…
15 Jul 2015
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Summer is whizzing by, and many (most?) parents are ready for it to end. Parts of our area are often referred to as “retirement communities” based on the higher average age of residents, but there are lots of families who need educational activities for the energy their kids never seem to lack. “Go read a book!” my mother used to tell me. And read, I did. I remember the summer of World War II (Battle Cry, From Here to Eternity, The Naked and the Dead), the summer of religious understanding (The Robe, The Silver Chalice, The Education of Hyman Kaplan) and the summer of family drama (A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, The Children’s Hour). Today, toddlers still enjoy picture books, while youngsters read stories about small animals and relatable kids with smelly pants. Older ones begin to get interested in futuristic fiction, or fantasy characters, or learning about things they…
01 Jul 2015
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You live across the country from your parents. You’re raising your children and are wondering how you’ll send three kids to college in a few years. You take pills for some chronic conditions and worry that one major medical crisis might wipe out your retirement plans. You live modestly, in a small middle-class home, and you have no desire to move. On your visit to the desert to visit Mom and Dad, you plan to play a little golf and relax. But you notice that Dad’s eyesight isn’t what it used to be; he doesn’t drive at night anymore—and you’re not so sure he should be driving at all. His legs aren’t as strong as they once were; he used to love to walk but now cramps up after only a block. Mom is still playing bridge with her friends, but she is having trouble remembering things (in fact, she…
17 Jun 2015
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June is graduation month, and there was one ceremony that had a particular impact on me: The graduation of Thermal’s Desert Mirage High School Class of 2015. The ceremony was held at the Indian Wells Tennis Club on a hot evening. The ceremony began with students in pairs holding large wire bowers covered with flowers, to make a path for the senior class to enter. And enter, they did—wearing white robes and caps for the top scholars, with red for the rest of the class. Many graduates had hand-decorated messages on their mortarboards, and robes festooned with bright floral leis or sparkling lights. As they circled the grass court to their assigned seats, families and friends cheered as the graduates struck poses or danced their way along the floral pathway. It’s well known that I cry easily, and my tears began as I scanned the half-full stadium, full of proud…
03 Jun 2015
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For the last two years, I’ve focused on my life—including writing almost 60 “Know Your Neighbors” columns over that time. For the last two weeks, I’ve been focused on pills, heating pads, halting movement, great events I can’t attend, napping and television-cooking shows, thanks to acute arthritis in my lower back and right hip. Really, the last two weeks have been about one thing: pain control. One of my ex-husbands (insert your own joke here) had serious back problems after a major auto accident. He was diagnosed with compression of several vertebrae, had a steel rod inserted, and was told that no further surgery would help his situation. He was then in his 50s. Through a network of doctors, none of which knew of the others, my ex managed to get enough prescription medicines to alleviate the pain—because the prescribed dosages were never enough. By his 60s, he had developed…
20 May 2015
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Regular readers know that I do a lot of work regarding end-of-life decision-making. I once discovered an advance directive written by a man who went to great lengths to define the things he believed made him “a person”: The ability to understand what is happening around me. Awareness of the consequences of medical decisions related to my condition. Knowing who I love and care about, and being able to recognize and communicate with them. He said that if ever he were no longer a person, based on this definition, he didn’t want his life prolonged. He also made a special request of his loved ones: “If ever anyone is in my presence discussing me or my condition, I want them to talk as if I were present.” Reading that made me realize how often we inadvertently ignore someone’s presence. Nurse’s aides may be so focused on emptying waste or washing…
06 May 2015
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One of the joys of writing a column called “Know Your Neighbors” is the freedom to share some of my own experiences. I am, after all, your neighbor. I’ve written before about pet peeves, including my greatest irritation—people who talk during movies. I’ve also written about how we regrettably see those unlike ourselves as “the other,” against whom we feel somehow justified in harboring prejudice and fear. Some of the hateful comments on all sides after the recent trouble in Baltimore epitomize this phenomenon. Once in a while, however, we get the chance to see ourselves as “them”—in other words, we, ourselves, become like those people to whom we feel superior, those people who don’t know how to behave the way we believe they should. It happened to me recently, when those two earlier themes collided. I decided to go to the movies early on a Tuesday afternoon not too…
22 Apr 2015
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One category of gun deaths goes beyond even National Rifle Association-inspired “no restrictions on guns” inanity: when small children get guns and accidentally shoot someone. It happens far too often: Elmo, Mo.: A 5-year-old found his grandpa’s loaded gun and killed his 9-month-old baby brother with a shot in the head. Emerson, Neb.: A 4-year-old got a rifle from a gun case underneath a bed and shot his mother while playing with it. The bullet went through a wall and a recliner, hitting her in the side. Newark, N.J.: A 9-year-old girl was shot by her 12-year-old brother playing with a handgun in their home. The mother faced child-endangerment charges. Hayden, Idaho: A 2-year-old killed his 29-year-old mother in a Walmart. She had a loaded weapon in her purse and a concealed-weapons permit. Tulsa, Okla: An Army veteran, 26, was killed after being shot in the head by her 3-year-old…
08 Apr 2015
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Thursday, April 16, is National Healthcare Decisions Day—devoted to encouraging you to fill out an advance directive indicating who should speak for you if you can’t, and what end-of-life treatments you do and do not want. If you’re someone who doesn’t want to think or talk about this … KEEP READING! Also, I’m not just talking to aging coots and crones—if you’re a legal adult, 18 or older, I’m talking to you! National Healthcare Decisions Day is an “unofficial” national holiday—a collaborative national, state and community initiative to ensure that the information, opportunity and access needed to document end-of-life healthcare decisions are available to all adults capable of making informed decisions. It’s meant to educate and empower you about your rights and the importance of your wishes being respected. Some quick background on the law: The first major decision about a constitutional right to refuse treatment was way back in…