Archive for November, 2013

Can you guess where we are? There are chickens and roosters roaming wild in the streets. Hemingway had a house here, and the descendants of his famous six toed cats still strut their stuff. We have landed in the Conch Republic of Key West, the southernmost spot of the US of A.

The Love Bug loves the heat! She was singing in the sunshine. We left 18 degree weather and touched down to 78. At sunset there are cat acrobatics and a juggler of swords on a unicycle. People are kind here, like Europeans they stop to talk to anyone with a baby. And I learn to see the world again through a baby’s eyes; the beautiful birds, the tropical flowers, the lovely small stones.

I am so thankful for the gift of this time with my family. For the laughter of our old friends, friends who knew us when we were just teenagers. The kind who will tell you the truth, even if it hurts.

Today we fed Richard the rooster, he takes bread right out of your hand. Tonight we will play some cards and maybe go for a swim. We’ll let the youngsters go out and party. All the party I need is sleeping right here in her crib. If she wakes, we’ll sing and dance in the moonlight. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!




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We’ve all heard them. Ethnic jokes weave seamlessly through our society. I cut my teeth on Polish jokes, like, “How many Poles does it take to screw in a lightbulb?” I didn’t even know any Polish people, but I sat with the Irish girls in the mess hall at Camp St Joseph. And we had a distinct rivalry with the Italian girls. Just don’t ask me to tell a joke, I’ll screw up the punch line before you can say “Was that supposed to be funny?”

Then I married a Jewish guy. And one day in the 90s, when the Bride was studying to be a Bat Mitzvah, I found myself in the Temple when the world’s first woman rabbi, our very own Monmouth Reform Rabbi Sally Priesand, gave us a lecture sermon about Jewish American Princess (JAP) jokes. Priesand-SallyShe told us they weren’t really funny, they were distortions of a stereotype. They were ugly, thinly veiled anti-woman, antiSemitic nonsense that we would perpetuate by spreading around our community.

Sally said these jokes are insulting, and she asked us to stop someone who was telling a JAP joke, and explain our distaste. “Silence and indifference” helped fuel hatred around Europe in the buildup to WWII…I saw the light.

I had always hated dumb blond jokes. My feminist fire was forged on this stuff! I thought sexist, ethnic humor had been laid to rest, finally. But now we have a Bravo series about Long Island Princesses that is equally stupid and insulting. And recently I received one of those long email forwards titled, “On Being Jewish.” Maybe you’ve seen it in your inbox?

Q: Have you seen the newest Jewish-American-Princess horror movie?
A: It’s called “Debbie Does Dishes.”

There were lots more where that came from, and I challenged the sender. I told her that I find that kind of humor offensive. I deleted it. I think she understood.

On this 50th Anniversary of the assassination of our first Irish American President, I came across this article about Irish jokes in the Irish Central online magazine. And now I have to think about the subtle things we say about being Irish. Even our new VA Gov Terry McAuliffe was quoted: “as an Irish Catholic I’m adept at taking people out for drinks and doing whatever it takes to get things done.” Let’s all stop perpetuating stereotypes shall we.

Now a female priest and a male rabbi walk into a bar….hey with this Pope, we can dream can’t we.

Read more: http://www.irishcentral.com/roots/Top-insulting-Irish-signs-and-jokes-need-to-stop-PHOTOS-232720221.html#ixzz2lZWNDfYX
Follow us: @IrishCentral on Twitter | IrishCentral on Facebook

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Continuing in the Throwback Thursday vein, I’ve come up with a “selfie” from 1975. CLR Hippie Chick 20131120 WebOf course I didn’t take the photo, and don’t remember who did. Except that it was a photographer who stopped me on Madison Avenue near my sister’s NYC apartment with that age-old ruse about making me a star.  I told him he could take my picture, but gave him the Flapper’s address because I didn’t buy into his nonsense. Not wanting to be the next Ms Goodbar, I forgot about it until the picture appeared in my Mother’s inbox mailbox.

At the time I was putting my Psychology degree to good use.                                                                                            http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2010/05/willowbrook_survivors_recollec_1.html

Because of my future employer’s investigative reporting, most of the psychiatric hospitals, previously known as “State Lunatic Asylums” were closing down. The overcrowded, inhuman conditions, coupled with advances in drugs like Thorazine marked the 70s trend toward de-institutionalization. The question remained, what should we do with these patients who were returning to society, sometimes after decades of neglect? The answer was a different type of warehousing, “day treatment facilities.”

I was hired to drive a bus and pick up patients from their group homes, delivering them to a bevy of activities in the state of NJ. I also got to run a few of the group therapy sessions, and since I enjoyed gardening, my supervisor encouraged me to plant a garden of vegetables around the back patio with like-minded patients. Passivity was a continuing problem, either due to the psychotropic drugs they were taking or the years spent behind hospital bars, or both. So actually digging in the dirt was considered a milestone.

Today, many people with severe disabilities are able to live a normal life. Modern pharmaceuticals allow them to work, to drive, to love, and to make a home for themselves. But sometimes psychotic patients stop taking their meds, for various reasons and when that happens, when they become a threat, “to themselves or others,” it’s time for a reboot which includes a short hospital stay. And when those psych beds, which may be on a floor of any hospital in your neighborhood, are full, when a doctor can’t find one bed for his or her patient, well then sometimes that patient falls through a crack. Over the years, Bob has had to discharge too many severely ill psych patients because there were no beds available.

964831-creigh-deeds-and-familyMy prayers go out to VA Sen Creigh Deeds who was stabbed by his own son, Gus, on Tuesday after being released from a hospital in Bath County on Monday. Gus Deeds later turned a gun on himself in a continuation of this Shakespearian tragedy now called a “murder suicide.” And we can’t blame the lack of will to pass gun control legislation after VA Tech, or the shortage of mental health beds in the state alone, because blame can be shared by a tightening of budgets over the past few years that was reported by the  National Alliance on Mental Illness: “Virginia’s overall state mental-health budget decreased $37.7 million dollars from $424.3 million to $386.6 million between fiscal years 2009 and 2012.”  The wheels on this bus cannot continue going round and round. If a state senator’s son could not access help, what does that mean for the rest of us?

 In 2011, Virginia inspector general G. Douglas Bevelacqua released a report chastising the state for turning away in a month an estimated 200 patients determined to be a threat to themselves or others who met the criteria for a temporary detention, only because state facilities lacked the room to hold them. Twenty-three of Virginia’s 40 community-services boards acknowledged that “streeting” occurred at their facilities.

Read more: Virginia State Senator Creigh Deeds’ Son Evaluated and Released Before Stabbing | TIME.com http://nation.time.com/2013/11/19/before-senators-stabbing-a-shortage-of-psychiatric-beds/#ixzz2lI6Mmsqu


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I happen to love this writer. She’s young and supremely talented and gives the blogosphere lots of great tips on self-publishing…she’s one of a few bloggers I follow. Meaning, I subscribe and read every single one of her posts. Here she’s getting all meta on me!

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I have a question I like to ask first time parents: “What’s the most surprising thing you’ve discovered about being a (father or mother)?” When I asked one young dad at a wedding recently, he was stumped for awhile, and admitted no one had ever asked him that question. So he literally asked me to wait while he thought about it; he took his time. His young son was just turning two and he was finishing an MD/PhD program. It was loud and crowded at this reception but eventually he turned to me and said, “His sense of humor!” He never thought he’d be having so much fun laughing at the world with his toddler!

I loved that answer. So we raised our champagne glasses to the new bride and groom, and to laughter!

Well yesterday, after all the amazing speakers and musicians and short films we saw at TEDx, one woman stood out, one woman surprised me. Don’t get me wrong, I had no idea a young man named Kluge, from a formidable Albemarle family, had decided to make dirty water sexy – like the many clean water initiatives throughout the developing world. He started a campaign called “Toilet Hackers” and is determined to make sanitation available to 2.5 billion people. Quite a worthy mission that would impact disease, economic growth and even education world-wide.

But the statistic that surprised me yesterday was 50,000. A beautiful young woman, Dawn Averitt Bridge, walked out on the stage and told us point blank that she had been diagnosed with HIV at the age of 19 in 1988. Normally, this would have been a death sentence, and her doctor told her parents NOT to talk about it or they would risk being ostracized. She managed to qualify for a very early retroviral study, and has devoted her life to fighting the stigma and the spread of this disease. Bridge only teared up when she recounted giving birth to her 2 HIV-free baby girls, and said that tears come every time she talks about that experience. This is her project: http://www.thewellproject.org

With dignity and grace, she urged us all to get tested for HIV, to include testing as a normal part of health screening. Because when we take the stigma out of the disease, when we treat it like any other chronic, blood-born virus, like Hepatitis for example, it loses its power. And the earlier the diagnosis, the better our chance for survival. This made so much sense to me – every year in America 50,000 new cases of HIV infections are reported. Bridge says this is unacceptable. People are taking more risks today, because they are young and think they are invincible, because they think HIV can be controlled now, like any other STD.

And in my opinion, because many states have banned clean needle exchanges for arcane religious reasons – and you know my opinion on mixing ideology with policy…on treating substance abuse as a crime and not a public health epidemic.   http://articles.latimes.com/2013/apr/29/science/la-sci-hiv-screening-20130430

We can distribute nets to halt the spread of malaria in Africa, we can introduce plumbing to the poor in India to stop the spread of dysentery, and in this country we can do one simple thing. We can urge our friends and family to get tested for HIV; and if you don’t want to visit a doctor, you can buy an over-the-counter test at a local pharmacy. Sometimes the most simple intervention, can be the most surprising of all.



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Tomorrow is a big day. Today I’m waiting for the HVAC guy to show up and fix my furnace. Fires are going in both fireplaces and fleece is making a big comeback in my wardrobe. Luckily it’s sunny so getting out of my warm and cozy bed wasn’t quite so bad. I’m reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things which means the temptation to stay under the covers this morning with book and  coffee in hand was nearly insurmountable.

While hovering slightly above 60, thinking about Friday keeps my fingers typing. Bob and I will join the Richmond cousins on the Historic Downtown Mall for Cville’s first ever TEDx conference. You’ve probably watched a few YouTube videos from TED, somebody walks onstage to talk about ‘ideas worth sharing’ –  they are usually very bright people, distinguished in one field or another, and you’ll come away from the requisite 18 minute TED lecture on your laptop feeling a bit smarter. I admit I’ve shared a few of these videos myself. Now I want to know just how all this smart talk got started.

In 1984 Richard Saul Wurman, an architect, writer and designer, came up with the idea for a conference that would synthesize three areas: Technology of business; Entertainment industry; and the Design Professions (TED).

…things that seemed to be interesting to me, had the other two involved. If there was a seeming technology project, it had entertainment, and design involved (when they were good). Certainly, you can look at the first Macintosh — which was shown at my first conference, in ’84. Later on, Google was announced at my conference — a combination of technology, entertainment, and design. When Google Earth was called Keyhole, it was first shown at my conference. And then Google bought Technology Entertainment Design. So that was pretty good. People seemed to like that.

Initially, speakers were very Silicon Valley,  but during the ’90s scientists, philosophers, musicians, religious leaders, and philanthropists all got on board the TED train. Tomorrow we’ll hear from distinguished UVA professors, some alumni and even a few community members, including someone I wrote about once with her Dirty Barbie show. I’m looking forward to hearing from a 3rd year student, Hawa Ahmed. who started her life as a refugee from Chad, and now is studying Politics and Middle Eastern Studies. http://news.virginia.edu/content/local-ted-talks-feature-uva-faculty-alumni-and-student-s-unique-journey

TEDx branched off about four years ago as a kind of repertory company for the rest of these United States and it has now sold out in Cville. Ted.com has been viewed over a Billion times around the world! I believe even my current crush author, Elizabeth Gilbert, expounded once on creativity. http://ed.ted.com/lessons/your-elusive-creative-genius-elizabeth-gilbert And you know I had to just watch this again right?

But after listening to oceanographers, brain researchers, educators and physicists online, sitting in the beautiful Paramount Theatre tomorrow for some 3D inspiration should prove illuminating. And hopefully we won’t end up snoozing simply because we’ll be nice and warm.   IMG_2139

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Something happened this week in Atlanta that will affect 50% of American households, over 11 million adults and 2 million teens in this country. Just think about it, a woman who had recently been chastised by a congressional hearing, turned around to announce “…the largest expansion of behavioral health coverage in a generation.” HHS Kathleen Sebelius told a crowd on Friday she was happy to be out of Washington while speaking at the Carter Center in Georgia. As you can imagine, this got a polite laugh from the audience. src.adapt.960.high.1383940058477

From now on, insurers will have to cover mental health and substance abuse services in order to comply with standards of the Affordable Care Act. In the past, nearly 60% of Americans have reported not seeking mental health services either because of a lingering stigma or an inability to pay for help. The latest round of mass killings has highlighted the need for improved mental health care, although adding this “parity rule” without concomitant gun control legislation seems illogical imho. Still this is BIG news.

Coverage for mental health problems should be the same as for physical problems, but the public needs to speak up,” Rosalynn Carter, speaking with her husband, last year told several hundred members of the Association of Health Care Journalists. “What is holding up equal coverage? I think it’s the political consequences of an election year. Excuse me for being so blunt.       ww.forbes.com/sites/brucejapsen/2013/11/09/carter-bush-backed-mental-health-equality-now-bipartisan-part-of-obamacare/

Maybe you’ve seen the homeless veteran get a makeover on vimeo, and then join AA ? Or maybe you’ve seen Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), a double amputee, dress down a contractor for scamming the system to get government contracts related to his “disability?” http://www.upworthy.com/whats-the-worst-thing-you-could-say-to-a-congresswoman-who-lost-her-legs-in-battle-found-it?c=ufb2

Our veterans have been suffering long enough, waiting to get treatment for PTSD and head injuries. Homelessness and suicides in this population have been rising . Many seek help outside of the VA, because of the stigma, as well as the red tape. http://www.apa.org/about/gr/issues/military/critical-need.aspx

Let’s talk about mental health, like any other illness. My parent’s generation never mentioned the word “cancer.” We didn’t talk about lots of things related to lady parts, now we all wear pink ribbons. Reagan didn’t want to say, “AIDS.” But if we can’t talk about something as a nation, how can we cure it?

“Comfort Food”  is a fascinating essay about a Mother who was diagnosed with breast cancer, and later her daughter was hospitalized with bipolar disorder complicated by substance abuse. Her friends didn’t bring casseroles or even try to talk with her about her daughter. “Friends talk about cancer and other physical maladies more easily than about psychological afflictions. Breasts might draw blushes, but brains are unmentionable. These questions are rarely heard: ‘How’s your depression these days?'” http://www.slate.com/articles/life/family/2013/11/families_dealing_with_mental_illness_need_support_too.html

Now if we could only get that darn website to work…

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