Wisdom of the Aged

‘Age’ is the acceptance of a term of years. But maturity is the glory of years.

~Martha Graham~

Mom and siblings

In my early years, several older people became very important to me and stayed that way throughout my childhood. They are all long dead but I still think of them from time to time and remember the hours I spent with each of them them.

My grandmother was literally my second mother. My father was away in World War II and I spent my first few years at her house. I remember her gentle ways which my mother adopted. She was a quiet soul who preferred to be in the background rather than the center of attention. I remember large family gatherings throughout her house. She would sometimes withdraw to the kitchen for her single glass of beer. She would often invite me to sit quietly with her. I was away in the monastery when she died and I was not allowed to attend her funeral. That has always been one of my main regrets in life.

Her husband, my grandfather, was also jovial. I remember going to work with him at his drug store. Sometimes I sat in the back room with him as he counted out pills for his customers’ prescription. I always found something to do in the drug store but always stopped to survey the candy counter, considering what candy I would choose when it became time to close up the store. At his funeral, talk turned to whether he had ever been angry in his life. Once when they were young two of my uncles chased each other through the house after being told not to. The second time they raced by, he got out of his chair but then sat back down chuckling, realizing he could not catch them.

Mr. and Mrs. Slater lived next to my aunt and uncle. They had first names I am sure but I never knew what they were. For some reason, they and my aunt and uncle did not get along well although I never learned why. Once when I was very young, I was visiting my aunt and uncle and playing with a ball in the back yard. It went over the fence into the Slaters’ yard while they were entertaining guests. I sheepishly approached the hedge and was invited over to fetch my ball. I also stayed for watermelon and later visited them whenever I was in town. They had a copy of Land and Sea which I loved looking at with its drawings of real and imaginary sea beasts. I spent time with my favorite book whenever I visited. This was of course after our traditional cookies and milk. When I reached high school age, they gave me the book thinking I was old enough to care for it.

During my elementary school years, I met Mrs. Muckle, a widow who enjoyed sitting with me at her house sometimes after school. I don’t remember how I met her but was glad I did. We adopted each other and became fast friends. When my family moved to the suburbs, I thought I would never see her again. Then she answered the door at the local parish rectory one day and we renewed our acquaintance.

I met other older people but these were the ones I remember most vividly. They were all peaceful people. I never learned if any of them had faced difficult times. I assume they did. I have learned that most everyone does. Now I have reached the age all of these favorite people had attained when I knew them. They all brought joy to my life and helped me forget my childhood cares. I hope I can be of some comfort and encouragement to children and others I encounter as these five did for to me.
 

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Trump’s Focus On Teen Abstinence Makes It Harder For LGBTQ People To Learn About Safe Sex

The Department of Health and Human Services issued new funding guidelines for Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program (TPP) grantees on Friday, one day after a federal court ruled that the Trump administration couldn’t cut off funding for those programs. Now, not only will the government shift resources toward abstinence-only programs, but organizations advocating for LGBTQ health say Trump’s focus on teen abstinence completely erases LGBTQ youth. The change could make it much harder for already underrepresented teens to get vital sex education.

(Excerpt from Lauren Holter’s article in Hustle.com– read more)

Improving the ways parents talk to their teens about sex and relationships

Talking to teens about sex can be difficult and awkward but don’t put it off or expect sex education in school to cover everything. (123RF)

Sex education in school doesn’t cut it when it comes to teaching our teens everything about sex and relationships. Most teens will say up front they most certainly had questions that were not answered, either by teachers or parents. Sex education is usually limited to some talks about how your body changes physically and then some grave warnings about sexually transmitted diseases or unwanted pregnancy. Often the next step is for kids to turn to the internet for information if they don’t have healthy guidance. So how do adults rise to the challenge of gaining expertise themselves and then giving these answers to teens?

(Excerpt from Ail Sa Keppie’ article in the Halifax Chronicle Herald– read more)

Rising from the Ashes

Auschwitz

Our obligation is to give meaning to life
and in doing so to overcome the passive, indifferent life.

~Elie Wiesel~

Recently I had the privilege of listening to Eva Abrams tell her Holocaust story at the Criminal Justice Day in Batavia, NY sponsored by local community groups.  The theme of the day was surviving and thriving after trauma. I have read accounts of the Holocaust and seen movies presenting various aspects of the events involved. Yet they seem to be fading from the memory and awareness of the public these days. This has happened despite their central place among the events of the twentieth century. This was the first time I have heard a live first hand account from a survivor’s own lips.

Ninety two year old Eva made her way to her seat with the help of her walker.  She sat next to her daughter Bonnie who helped her with translating certain words into English. She was born in 1926 in Oradea, Romania and was sent to Auschwitz with her family when she was seventeen.

Eva shared her story of life in a ghetto, in Auschwitz and digging trenches as she struggled to stay alive after walking across Europe for forced labor digging trenches. All these years later, she is a vibrant articulate survivor who has risen from the ashes of her Holocaust experience and managed to reconstruct her life in a meaningful way.

I tried to imagine what it would be like to walk in her shoes. I have never come close to death especially under the gruesome conditions she endured. Would I have been able to find the physical and emotional strength to make it from one day to the next? If I did survive, how would I think of my experience in a way which might allow me to rebuild my life? I have heard it said that what does not kill you makes you stronger. I wonder what lies within a person to allow him or her to climb back from the brink of a horrible death and find a meaningful life.

I thought about this for several days after Eva’s presentation. How could anyone survive her ordeal? What could I learn from her life? How could her inspiration lead me to make more of a contribution to my fellow human beings? None of these questions has an easy answer. Yet it is not necessary to answer them to draw strength from her example.

I have had misfortunes and setbacks from time to time in my life although nothing which compares with Eva’s experience. Yet I have been able to learn a little about my own inner strength by learning from my challenges rather than letting them get the best of me. Eva had help at her most desperate moments and used that help to find new reserves of strength.

I have learned to appreciate those who have been there in my time of need. I also plan to help others in their time of need whenever I can. What lessons can you draw from the stories of those you encounter in your life?

Learn how to kick your stress

Learn how to kick your stress

Up until about a year ago, the Santa Fe Prep junior suffered frequent episodes of stress-induced sickness. She is not alone. According to a 2013 study by the American Psychological Association, teens in the United States are even more stressed out than adults.

Not only are teens navigating schoolwork and social pressures, but they’re also growing up “in a world of gun violence and terrorism, social media and lack of good health care in schools,” said Erin Doerwald, a licensed clinical social worker and the Program Director at the SKY Center (New Mexico Suicide Intervention Project). “You guys have been handed a really huge, hard baton. You have to deal with all the age-old troubles of the human condition while also figuring out how to live in a society with a collective ADHD and disconnect from nature, a world that is overscheduled, chronically sleep-deprived, and has essentially forgotten how to slow down.”

(Excerpt from Isabel Gallegos and Hanna Abrams’ article in the Santa Fe New Mexican- read more)

America: Corporation or Society

Integrity is essential and irreplaceable. It is the most valuable asset
for a person, a company, or a society seeking to build and progress.

~Rex Tillerson~

another brick

For several centuries America has worked to become a society in the sense of being a community with common laws and customs. We have made progress toward this ideal over the years although we have always had more to do to “form a more perfect union.” This was our goal stated in the preamble to our constitution. Our country has always had more to offer to people of wealth and power than to those less fortunate. We have had times of progress toward meeting the needs of all or citizens and times when the needs and wishes of the few outweighed the needs of the many.

We find ourselves in a time when many of the safeguards to our well­being are being dismantled piece by piece on a daily basis. Those in power act in the interest of themselves and of their powerful allies. Protection of the environment, providing for our health, provision of the basic necessities including clean air and water are now being undermined or discarded outright. Years of work to develop positive relationships with other nations is being undermined or simply cast aside. The idea of cooperation with other countries is being discarded in the interest of America first. Efforts are underway to cleanse America from immigrants whose presence and contributions made us so successful in the first place.

The Corporation Project of the Frank Bold law firm describes the purpose of a corporation first stated in the 1970’s as being to maximize shareholder value. All other goals were seen as secondary to the extent that they were considered at all. I don’t mean to suggest that all corporations are so callous. There are quite a few which have served to enrich society as well as their financial holdings. Yet the corporate culture has focused largely on short term gains with all other considerations becoming secondary at best.

In my opinion, those leading our country at present show a clear corporate mentality about our country in the sense of putting money first. The welfare of our country, our planet, our environment and our global community have all been relegated to secondary consideration with financial gain as the chief focus. In the process, wealth, resources and power become concentrated in fewer hands as the process of corporatizing America continues.

History has shown repeatedly that a course of events such as the one we find propelling us now eventually leads to revolution and overthrow of the few left at the top. Those who are there now are betting that their course will be sustainable in the near future which is their chief frame of reference rather than the greater good of all the world’s citizens which requires a much broader outlook.

Those in power will be happy to continue on their merry way as long as they are allowed to do so. We are currently seeing rumblings of a groundswell of dissent questioning the status quo which I see as unsustainable. The options are evolution of thought and mutual cooperation toward a national and global society or revolution when dissent reaches the tipping point. The choice is ours. What do you choose?

Conference seeks to understand guns and their culture

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Academics from UR and schools across the country talked guns and the cultural ideas around them last Thursday and Friday during the University’s “Social Life of Guns” conference.

“An object is never just an object,” said UR’s Kate Mariner, a professor of anthropology who played a key role in organizing the event.

Mariner hoped the conference would add more nuance to the conversation around guns in America and “deepen our understanding beyond right and left, white and black, innocent and guilty.”

(Excerpt from an article by Efua Aggare-Kumi in the University of Rochester Campus Times- read more)