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Know Your Neighbors

23 Apr 2014
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At this time of year—when Passover, Easter and Earth Day are upon us—we tend toward reflection on rebirth, resurrection, the passion for freedom, and the hope for preservation and continuity of our species. Some do this reflection through religion; some do so through nature; others do so through an honest belief in the triumph of reason and the power of knowledge. William Edelen is one of the latter. Born in West Texas, Edelen was originally ordained as a Presbyterian minister after studies at the University of Chicago, but he migrated to the Congregational church more than 30 years ago. Why the shift? “The Presbyterians were always looking over my shoulder, listening to what I was preaching to make sure I was doing the dogma,” he says. He has ultimately come to see himself as a humanist. How did that come about? “Just through thinking.” Edelen taught comparative religion at the…
09 Apr 2014
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I recently attended a seminar on technological literacy in K-12 classrooms, held at California State University San Bernardino’s Palm Desert campus. It was conducted by one of the five 2014 California Teachers of the Year, Jessica Pack, from our own James Workman Middle School in Cathedral City, along with Derrick Lawson, principal of Colonel Mitchell Paige Middle School in La Quinta. Soon after, I received an amazing book, Fear and Learning in America: Bad Data, Good Teachers, and the Attack on Public Education, by John Kuhn, superintendent of the Perrin-Whitt Consolidated Independent School District in Texas, about what he sees as an attempt to destroy public education. Let me explain how these subjects are connected. Jessica Pack is one of those teachers we would all remember if we had been lucky enough to be in her classroom. She teaches language arts, social studies and technology to sixth-graders. Her enthusiasm about…
26 Mar 2014
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It’s funny how seemingly unrelated events can coincidentally coincide. I recently wrote about Cathy Greenblat and her stirring book, Love, Loss, and Laughter, featuring photographs of people with various types of dementia and reminding us that “someone is in there.” Cathy has inspired a local coalition of individuals and organizations to make Coachella Valley into a “dementia-friendly community,” patterned on similar projects around the world. And now for something seemingly unconnected: The Board is a group of men, mostly of a certain age, that gets together monthly for lunch to gab, exchange stories, listen to speakers and generally socialize. They also occasionally have an event where womenfolk are invited. I recently attended just such an event, the day after attending a meeting of the “dementia-friendly” group, where one of The Board’s members, Larry Delrose, showed a film he wrote and co-produced, called Night Club. Delrose’s film includes such film stars…
12 Mar 2014
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Although sexual orientation and dirty-trick campaigning have dominated the headlines regarding the Rancho Mirage City Council election, to my mind, there is a more interesting issue that has emerged: Should only older and more-experienced individuals be elected to represent the city’s residents? Councilmember Dana Hobart recently made that assertion, casting Councilmember Scott Hines as “younger … (with) just ambition.” Hines attended the Air Force Academy, earning a degree in political science in 1992, and then master’s degrees in public management from the University of Maryland, and organizational management from George Washington University. With more than 20 years of business and entrepreneurial experience, he is hardly a kid. Hobart served in the Air Force for four years, then graduated from California State University and earned a juris doctorate from the USC School of Law in 1963. In addition to a long legal career and positions of prestige within the legal community,…
26 Feb 2014
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My intention has always been to write about issues by introducing neighbors who are making a difference in our community, while hopefully informing readers about something they may not already know. Once in a while, however, I feel the need to sound off on something about which I am outraged—something that affects all of us. When I studied the Constitution in law school, I was particularly impressed by the guarantee of equal rights, an aspiration our nation has consistently pursued, and a cause in which I have been involved since “the good old days.” You remember those times, don’t you? The days when if an unmarried woman got pregnant, she had to get married, and the days when child or spousal abuse was something that happened behind closed doors. It was a time when women didn’t even get close to the glass ceiling, and when blatant discrimination in the name…
12 Feb 2014
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He’s known as Peter the Reader to the students he meets with weekly at Bubbling Wells Elementary School in Desert Hot Springs. Peter Fredric of Palm Springs is literally—and literarily—changing lives. “I saw an article in the paper,” says Fredric, “and I was looking for an opportunity to do something in the community. So, since I love reading and communicating, I decided to check it out.” What Fredric checked out was BookPALS (Performing Artists for Literacy in Schools). The original idea was to use actors to engage students in the joy of reading. “I did some work as an announcer and reporter for television, became a tech writer, an account executive, came to the desert to build affordable homes, and worked with local KESQ in their creative-arts department,” says Fredric. “I began my first classroom assignment with BookPALS in 2007. I just wanted to make a difference.” That same impulse…
29 Jan 2014
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Cathy Greenblat is a newcomer to the desert; she’s now settling in Palm Springs after living in Nice, France. Greenblat earned her Ph.D. in sociology at Columbia University. She has published numerous books and papers, and has lectured in South America, Europe, India, Africa, Israel, the Far East and throughout the United States. She is soon heading for Indonesia and Australia. In 2002, Greenblat gave up a tenured professorship at Rutgers to pursue her labor of love: photography and its ability to depict the sociology of aging. Through the Coachella Valley Regional Office of the Alzheimer’s Association, Greenblat has been presenting her work locally. Her photographic display and its accompanying book, published in 2012, is called Love, Loss, and Laughter: Seeing Alzheimer’s Differently. Initially focusing on person-centered care facilities in the United States with her 2004 book, Alive With Alzheimer’s, Greenblat’s photos now depict not only Alzheimer’s patients in the…
15 Jan 2014
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Some recent news items have demonstrated how difficult end-of-life decisions can be. Jahi McMath, of Oakland, was only 13 when she suffered complications after routine surgery related to sleep apnea, and was declared “brain dead” by doctors, indicating “complete cessation of brain activity.” She was placed on artificial life support, but her “life” wasn’t supported: Her body was merely kept breathing by machine. McMath’s parents wouldn’t accept the doctors’ verdict. As long as her heart was beating, they believed she was still alive, an argument many people support. The parents’ very public fight with the hospital, which wouldn’t perform “unethical” medical procedures and life support on what they considered a dead person, finally led to a compromise: She was officially declared “dead.” Her body was then moved to another facility which agreed to continue the life support. A second case involves Marlise Muñoz, of Fort Worth, Texas, who died after…
01 Jan 2014
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In 2000, Pay It Forward, a movie starring Helen Hunt, Kevin Spacey and Hayley Joel Osment, made an indelible impression on me. I believe every occurrence in every moment of our lives is open for us to learn something from it—if we can just figure out what that lesson is, whether we like it or not. We can then pay it forward in how we live our lives. So it’s the start of the new year, and we’re doing what we do every year—comparing lists of bests and worsts, wins and losses of the previous year. One list I’m always both ready and reluctant to see: celebrity deaths. The older I get, the more I notice that lots and lots of people I used to “know” are gone: movie stars, local heroes, famous leaders and friends. But instead of lamenting losses, I’ve decided to celebrate lessons learned and pay them…
18 Dec 2013
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I was struck by the recent story of a 65-year-old woman who gave up a baby son when she was 19 and unmarried. The story ended tragically: She discovered he had been one of the victims of the Lockerbie bombing when he was only 21. Then I saw the movie Philomena, based on a terrific book by Martin Sixsmith. It’s the lovely story of a woman who sought to find her adopted son after more than 50 years of anguish. Those stories brought home for me how lucky I was to receive perhaps the greatest gift I’ve ever received, about nine years ago. I, too, had given up a baby boy at birth, when I was barely 18 and unmarried. It was the “dark ages” of the 1950s, when young women had few choices. Most adoptions then were “closed,” meaning no information could be garnered by the birth parent after…