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Know Your Neighbors

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…
04 Dec 2013
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It’s just not supposed to be this way. When a young child dies, there is always an outpouring of support for the parents, and a lamenting of the lost possibilities of a life that will never be fully realized. But what about the loss of an adult child, whose life has already taken its own direction? My youngest stepson, Thomas Aylesworth, died at 34, a victim of melanoma. He had received treatment in his 20s for a skin-cancer growth on his shoulder, and successfully came through it to pursue a successful career as a chef. Several years later, he discovered a lump in his chest. Six months after that, he was gone. The doctor said to think of this virulent type of cancer as if someone scattered seeds in an empty lot, and eventually, some of them took root. It was little comfort for the family, but at least we…
20 Nov 2013
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Higher-education degrees are increasingly based on what you can do rather than how long you sit in a classroom, so it is pertinent to ask how technology is affecting K-12 education. A recent symposium, “Literacy Summit 4,” held at Cal State San Bernardino’s Palm Desert campus, brought together four teachers showcasing their efforts to incorporate computer-based learning into their lesson plans. The east valley’s Coachella Valley Unified School District (CVUSD) has made the news based on its ambitious goal of providing 18,000 iPads to its students. Katherine Quintana, who teaches at Coral Mountain Academy in Coachella, has already begun using the iPads under the CVUSD pilot program. Quintana has co-produced a short video documenting the project’s use by 120 teachers in CVUSD classrooms. “The capabilities are endless,” says Quintana. “Students are empowered to find their own answers to questions. It’s instantaneous, spontaneous and exciting—a change-based learning model that supports critical-thinking…
08 Nov 2013
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After hearing the lamentable Rush Limbaugh refer to the “chickification of America,” because NFL football players wore pink to support breast cancer research (men have breasts too, you know, and also get cancer), I was fuming and determined to write about my anger and frustration. In spite of that initial impulse, here’s what I’m NOT writing about today: • October was Domestic Violence Awareness Month. As someone who was once in an abusive relationship (and if it could happen to me, it can happen to anyone, men included), I’m NOT writing about how important it is that society recognize the reality of how difficult it is to leave and to stay alive. I’m NOT writing about how 44 percent of all women murdered with guns in the U.S. are killed by a current or former intimate partner. • More than 135,000 women became extremely poor in 2012—not just poor, but…
23 Oct 2013
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I’m always fascinated by people who find ways to change their lives and pursue their dreams. Leanna Bonamici, 58, of Palm Springs, is a great example of such a person. After a career in insurance and real estate, Leanna became a wine consultant, buyer and educator, teaching classes on how to have “wine-pairing dinners.” “It was a very engaging subject,” she says. “I loved it. People would say, ‘I have to impress my boss.’ I always told them that the best bottle of wine in the world is the one that’s your favorite! “But after 10 years, I wanted to do more. I was interested in how to reach the masses of people who aren’t really into wine.” Growing up in Los Angeles, Leanna had wanted to be a producer—organizing projects and seeing them come to fruition. “I wanted to be behind the scenes. For years, I carried around the…

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