Friday, October 24, 2014

My Thoughts on Ebola . . .

I wouldn't make a very good medical technologist.

I know we are all sick of hearing about Ebola, but I am preserving my thoughts for posterity. Since Ebola broke out in Texas, I have been doing a lot of reading and questioning about the disease. I am not a doctor, nor do I have a medical background of any kind. I do, however, have a pretty good understanding of medical conditions when they are explained to me. So, I do understand that Ebola is not highly contagious, but at the same time there is no question that it is a deadly disease for which we have no vaccine or real treatment.

Here are the facts as I understand them. When Ebola broke out in Texas, there had been no preparation or real protocols in place there or anywhere in the United States. This lack of preparation was a huge mistake because we knew it was just a matter of time before someone would enter the country carrying the disease. Because of that, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) put lives at risk. When the Texas hospital called for protocols, they were told to look online on their website. They had no training. The healthcare workers caring for patient Duncan had no protective gear to wear for two days. They were told to cover their exposed necks with medical tape. Even though they were highly exposed to the virus, none of them were quarantined for the full 21 days. Instead they were told to self-monitor until they had symptoms, while going about their daily routine. The first nurse, Nina Pham, notified health officials when she started running a fever. She was diagnosed with Ebola and hospitalized. The other healthcare workers were still not quarantined. The second nurse, Amber Vinson, managed to take two flights to and from Ohio and go to a bridal shop for three hours before showing symptoms. The response was to hospitalize her and try and track down everyone who was exposed on those flights, retracing her steps to all other places she happened to go. Common sense tells me if she had been quarantined from the beginning, no one would have been exposed and no resources would have had to be spent tracking down people, but what do I know?

Next thing I hear is that they are going to exercise precautions at certain airports in the US by taking the temperature of everyone who comes off the plane from affected countries. Seriously. My first thought was, why aren’t they taking the temperature of everyone before they board the plane? What happens if they develop a fever two days after getting off the plane? Again, I am not a medical expert. I would love to know why they didn’t just quarantine all passengers arriving from the affected countries in Africa for the full 21 days? After all, that would seem like the best precaution to me to avoid risking other people’s lives here. I questioned these things based on common sense. I think the CDC may be finally coming around to my way of thinking on this.

I know Ebola can only be spread by contact with the bodily fluids of a living or deceased person who has the disease. The CDC says it’s not airborne. Not airborne, means the droplets don’t dry in the air and remain there, like the flu. However, if a person with Ebola sneezes or coughs due to allergies or a cold, and you happen to be nearby, there is a chance you can be infected from the propelled droplets. The CDC says the Ebola virus can live on surfaces for hours, but I read a study that it can survive on glass and plastic for days under the right conditions. The CDC doesn’t mention that. The CDC cleverly says there have been no reports of people getting Ebola from dogs. Yet Nina Pham’s dog was quarantined and the dog of patient in Germany was euthanized. I ask myself why? So I researched and found a study that says dogs can be infected with and carry the Ebola virus and potentially infect humans. Now it makes sense. Maybe no one has gotten the virus from a dog in the US, but the potential is there. I don’t trust the CDC to tell us all the facts, just the facts they want us to know. I don’t trust most media organizations to do responsible reporting and give us the facts without sensationalizing every story for increased ratings. We have to educate ourselves in these matters if we want to get to the truth, everyone else has an agenda. My agenda is to know all I can to try and keep my family from being exposed to even the slightest risk of getting Ebola.

Dr. Tom Frieden is the head of the CDC since 2009 and is tweeting all kinds of facts about Ebola and the care of patients. He may be a highly qualified medical doctor, I don’t know. What I do know is that from 2002 to 2009 he was the Commission of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. The only other thing I remember about his tenure is that he seemed overly concerned about “supersized sodas.” I wish he had been as concerned about Ebola and our country’s preparedness for it. Instead, it “sounded” to me like he was blaming the Texas nurses for not following protocols; the protocols that he never put in place. He finally had to admit he underestimated the need for healthcare workers having intensive training in handling patients with infectious diseases, effective protocols, and a closer monitoring of those people potentially exposed and at risk for developing the disease. Finally, it seems he is taking action that makes sense.

The risk of getting Ebola may be very small, but when it comes to my loved ones, it’s a risk I’m not willing to take. So, in my opinion, we should be erring on the side of caution. Those exposed to Ebola should be quarantined immediately for 21 days, not allowed to go about their business until symptoms develop. Healthcare workers should be protected by the strictest of protocols and the best protective suits. They shouldn’t have to risk their lives and those of their families because the CDC was not ready for an outbreak. If we aren’t going to stop flights from the afflicted countries, then all those arriving from there should be quarantined for 21 days, fever or no fever. Maybe my ideas are extreme, but I believe in better safe than sorry.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Teachable Moments . . .


If you are a mother, you know that you are always trying to find teachable moments for your children. Sometimes these moments will present themselves and sometimes we have to create them. We start teaching from the day our babies are born and never stop. We teach them their first words. We read to them so them develop a love of books. We tell them not to touch the stove because it’s hot. We teach them self help skills like getting dressed, eating with a spoon, using the potty. And, even as they become adults, we go on teaching by imparting the lessons and wisdom we have learned throughout our lifetimes.

This morning I woke up thinking about this because last night I watched a two and a half minute video/advertisement for feminism that had five little girls in it using the “F” word. I know they did this to make a point and for shock value. Everyone is probably talking about this video today. It was all over the news last night. But no one is talking about their topic of “feminism” and inequality of pay. Everyone is talking about how offensive this ad is and how they exploited these little girls. They are trying to understand how the parents could allow their daughters to be used in this way. The video is supposed to be about the power of women, but is anyone getting that message when all we can focus on is the young girls using profanity? What are we trying to teach our girls? Vulgarity equals power?

I recall years ago riding the bus with my husband and my girls, who were about 7 and 9 at the time. A teachable moment presented itself. Diagonally across from us were four or five teenage boys and girls. They were laughing and talking loudly so we couldn’t help but hear them. Every other word they used was the “F” word. They used it in every part of speech possible: verb, noun, adjective, adverb. I was appalled because I didn’t want my girls listening to this vulgarity. Then I realized that as much as I wanted to, I could not protect them from the realities of life. There were going to be times they were going to hear the “F” word when I wasn’t around, and I didn’t want them to think it was okay. So, I used this as a teachable moment. I asked them if they heard what these teenagers were saying. They quietly nodded with eyes wide open. I told them this kind of talk is not appropriate, it’s not cool, it’s not funny. People who have to talk like that have a limited vocabulary. It shows a lack of intelligence. Our language comes with thousands of words we can use to express how we think and feel. The “F” word never has to be used at all. It’s not nice. It’s offensive. We don’t use that word. The girls seemed to understand my point and I was satisfied that I had turned a negative experience into a positive lesson.

Years later, when my older daughter was about 15, the word “whore” was being used a lot. It was used in conjunction with other words like “attention whore,” “shoe whore,” “food whore,” etc. I don’t know how this fad got started or why. Even Mario Cantone had a Broadway Show called, “Laugh Whore.” One day my daughter came home and told me she is being called a “- - - whore” at school, and she thinks it’s funny. I don’t happen to recall what word they placed in front of “whore” because all I could hear was the word whore. I was stunned for a second. I told her I didn’t find it funny. She explained how it doesn’t mean anything, it’s just what people do now. Everything is followed by the word “whore.” I told her I had never heard of this before and didn’t like it. I went on to tell her she needs to put a stop to it and now allow herself to be addressed by any form of the word “whore.“ Of course, she thought I was making a big deal out of nothing, it was all fun and games. If you know anything about teenagers, you know that they know everything and parents know nothing. It’s harder to get through to them at this age, if you can get through to them at all. I decided I needed to have a serious little chat with my daughter about this new trendy usage of the word “whore.” First of all, I explained to her, that the word “whore” has been a derogatory and vulgar way to address women since the beginning of time. This word is not funny. It has a long history of being offensive to women. It doesn’t make it okay to use now because it’s attached to another word and meant to be funny. It’s not funny. It’s not a joke. Secondly, you should respect yourself enough not to allow anyone to address you by any term using the word “whore.” What starts out being funny can sometimes stick, like nicknames. I asked, “Is this the way you want people to think of you?” By your allowing them to refer to you in that way and laughing at it, you are condoning it and saying it’s okay. It’s not okay, it’s sickening. Just because other kids think it’s funny, doesn’t mean you have to go along with it. Maybe they aren’t old enough to appreciate the degrading meaning this word has for women. But, I’m telling you and now you know it’s unacceptable. You should tell anyone who calls you that to stop, you don’t like it.

My daughter listened to my lecture. I didn’t know if I had gotten through to her or not. I couldn’t be with her at school to see if my words had any impact. I know I gave her something to think about. She had a decision to make. I just had to hope she was going to learn something from what I said and correct the situation. She did. A couple of days later she came home from school. She told me that this boy was referring to her as “- - whore,” and she told him to stop because she didn’t like to be called that. I told her I was proud of her, it was the right thing to do. More importantly though, I believe she really understood why it wasn’t a joking matter. She understood that she had to value herself enough not to allow herself to be degraded, even if it was supposed to be "all in fun."



Tuesday, October 21, 2014

My Half-Empty Nest . . .

A rare occurence these days
For twenty-five years I had a full nest. My two girls commuted to and from college every day and spent plenty of time at home studying, watching television, leaving clothes and shoes around the house for me to trip over and a sink full of dirty dishes to keep my hands sanitized. Nothing much changed from their transition from high school to college. We still managed to have dinner together as a family most nights and exchange stories about our day, our friends, and the ups and downs of life. But one day my older daughter graduated from college and went to work. She was missing all day, every day. Then, three years later, my younger daughter graduated and got a job working the second shift at a lab. My daughters are two ships passing in the night. They went from seeing each other all the time to maybe one or two evenings a week. Our regular family dinners have been slashed to once a week. And although I know I am lucky to still have them “home,” I still miss us all being together. I miss watching my girls interact with each other. What’s a half-empty nester to do?

I hate setting the table for two or three, when there should be four of us sitting there. Sometimes I have to rearrange my daughters’ seats so there isn’t an empty seat separating three of us, and making the absence of the one that’s missing that much more obvious. I change my meal plans for dinner based on which one of my daughters will be eating with us. They each have their preferences and I try to accommodate whomever is home that night with something they will enjoy. I have to make extra of certain meals because I need leftovers so my younger daughter can have her “dinners” at lunchtime the next day, before heading out for work. The “leftovers” also fill in for my older daughter’s hot, healthy lunches for work, since she hates sandwiches. So now, instead of planning nice family dinners, I have been relegated to a short-order cook.

When I dust and vacuum the floors, there are no feet that need to be lifted, no shoes to pick up. I just go about my business in a house that is so quiet that the eerie noise from the refrigerator motor is all I can hear. There’s even less laundry. My older daughter has decided to take care of all her laundry herself even though I tell her she can add items to the family hamper. I can buy less snacks because there is no one home to eat them. The sink doesn’t get full of dirty dishes during the day. As soon as a couple of breakfast mugs are washed, the kitchen is closed pretty much till dinner. In fact, the whole house stays a lot cleaner, a lot longer, when I am the only one roaming through the empty rooms. I guess I should be happy.

It’s not like I miss the extra dust, laundry or dirty dishes. We could all do with less of those things. But I do miss the reason for the extra work. Those not so little feet going up and down the stairs to get their laptops, are now running around an office. The hungry little mouths opening refrigerator and cabinet doors looking for snacks are waiting for their lunch break. Today, as I walk into their rooms, I fix the slightly askew comforters on beds that were made in haste, not out of laziness, but out of a rush to get to work. I close the wardrobe closets that were left half open after the day’s outfit was selected. I adjust the couch pillows and see the jackets that were thrown haphazardly on them last night are gone this morning. And there goes the refrigerator motor cranking its “American Horror Story” noise.

I remember watching the movie “Marty,” starring Ernest Borgnine, years ago. It’s a great movie about a single guy who is still living with his mother into his thirties. One day his mother is talking to her sister about the “empty nest.” Here is what Aunt Catherine had to say (in her Italian accent):

“These are the worst years, I tell you. It's a gonna happen to you. I'm afraid to look in a mirror. I'm afraid I'm gonna see an old lady with white hair, just like the old ladies in the park with little bundles and black shawls waiting for the coffin. I'm fifty-six years old. And what am I gonna do with myself? I've got strength in my hands. I want to clean. I want to cook. I want to make dinner for my children. Am I an old dog to lay near the fire till my eyes close? These are terrible years, Theresa, terrible years . . . It's gonna happen to you. It's gonna happen to you! What are you gonna do if Marty gets married? Huh? What are you gonna cook? Where's all the children playing in all the rooms? Where's the noise? It's a curse to be a widow, a curse! What are you gonna do if Marty gets married? What are you gonna do?”

Okay, maybe things are as bleak as Aunt Catherine makes them out to be, but some of her words do hit close to home. I guess I better start preparing myself for the full empty nest and figure out the answer to Aunt Catherine’s, “What are you gonna do when your girls get married? It’s a gonna happen to you. What are you gonna do?”

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Mind Your Own Business . . .

"Mind your own business . . . it’s a very popular expression, but I don’t even know what it means. Everyone who knows me knows that I don’t mind my own business. Maybe it’s my nature or maybe it's a learned behavior I acquired from my mother. My mother’s policy was just like New York City"s terrorist slogan, “If you see something, say something." Only in my mother's case, she took it a few steps further: “If you hear something, say something,” if you know something, say something,” “if you feel something, say something.” My mother didn’t need much in the way of provocation to add her two cents, whether the situation concerned her or not. I find myself doing the same thing more and more and yet I don't feel that I am a meddler.

And what’s the harm of it really? I’d rather say something and risk someone may get angry with me for butting in, than for something to happen and regret not saying anything at all. My intentions are always good, at least I think so. My advice is always free. People can always ignore what I tell them if they don't want to hear it; just ask my daughters, who are both very skilled at letting my words go in one ear and out the other. In their defense though, they do get a lot more of my unsolicited counsel than anyone else I know.

I guess you can look at not minding your own business two ways. On the negative side it can be perceived as “butting in” when the matter doesn’t concern you. Some people might reason you only have a right to say something if the issue directly affects you, if not, don’t add your two cents. Sometimes people can misconstrue “butting in” an being nosy or invading their privacy. And there are many times people just want to vent their frustrations and aren’t looking for help or solutions at all. To this last group, I must apologize for my valiant problem-solving efforts. I am a nurturer and "fixer" and can't help myself until all is right with the world.

On the other hand, if you see someone struggling with something and you feel you can offer some good advice or kind words, is that a crime? Not minding your own business, when you have purely good intentions, can be a blessing to someone else. It can be very helpful or comforting. Their struggle may not be your business, it may not affect you at all, but what if you can help them carry that load or even lighten it a bit? How much easier would it be to just walk away and say or do nothing? There would be no risk of meddling, interfering, or invading privacy if you keep silent and ignore the problems of others. It’s much harder to step up and offer a helping hand . . . a hand that one day you might even need in return. This is why I don’t mind my own business. If I see someone drowning, I am going to try and throw them a life preserver or a rope. They are going to know that someone cares. They might appreciate the concern even if they don’t need any help. And if it becomes a problem for them, well then they can always tell me to mind my own business and maybe I will.

Friday, October 3, 2014

White Privilege Is Just Peachy . . .

Crayola's Ethnic Box of Crayons (1992)
What color are you?

I often learn a lot of things from my daughters during our little chats. For example, the other day I was having a conversation with my older daughter. She was telling me about a friend of hers, who is conservative, and doesn’t feel racism is still an issue or that there is such a thing as white privilege. She told me about their conversation and what she said to him. She explained it’s not always the big or obvious events that show racism and inequality is still an issue. She said sometimes it’s the little things that we take for granted. For example, she said, did you ever realize that band aids are “flesh” tone, but only made for the color of white people’s skin. There are few, if any, flesh tone band aids made for people of color. Then she went on to explain that even in cosmetics, white women have a wide range of colors to choose from, while cosmetics for black women are much more limited and, if they need other shades other than those available, those are considered “specialty” items. She told me, with some satisfaction, that she could see her point was getting across. I learned something too from my daughter, and started wondering what other little subtle ways racism is embedded in our society without “us” even realizing it. And by “us” I mean white people, because I am sure this doesn’t go unnoticed by people of color every time they need a band aid.

I checked on my daughters claims, and of course, as usual, she is right. Band aid skin tones and the lack of make-up for women of color are two very real examples that show being white has its privileges. So I did a little reading of my own. The “nude” bra is also an example of racism because the only skin tone it matches is Caucasian. I’ll be honest and say this never crossed my mind until now. I recall bra shopping with my daughters and the sales clerk corrected me when I told them they need white bras to wear under light or sheer clothing. The clerk said, “Actually they should wear nude.” And since that time we no longer even look at white bras. Now I wonder what she tells a mother who has a black daughter? What color does she wear under sheer clothing? Does she tell her to wear a black bra? If so, that would be equivalent to my girls wearing white bras. There are no “nude” bras for woman of color.

And, I don’t often buy pantyhose these days, but when I did there were plenty of “nude” shades to choose from. So many in fact, that I would get confused. Still, I would always manage to find shades to match my tanned summer skin, as well as my pale winter look, without a problem. And another thing I noticed, but it never struck me in this way before, is in the hair care aisle. There are so many hair products for white women in every product imaginable, that it takes me forever to pick out what I need. I can find my hair care products everywhere too. This is not true for ethnic hair care products. If you even are able to find them in a store, the section is very small and limited. Ironically, I have learned over the years from black friends I have had, that their hair is more fragile and takes more care to maintain and keep healthy. So where are their hair products hiding?

Remember when Crayola had a “Flesh” colored crayon? I never cared for the shade, but as a kid I used it to color all the people in my coloring books. I read that back in the 60’s, Crayola changed the name to “Peach,” when it was challenged during the Civil Rights Movement. And then, thirty years later, Crayola created a set of eight crayons to cover “all” skin tones . . . only problem is, it doesn’t. In fact I don’t anyone’s skin that matches most of those colors. But, on a positive note, at least Crayola recognizes everyone isn’t “Peach,” unlike the band aid, fashion and cosmetic industries.

Picture Credit: Wikipedia