August 2011

From RGQ

Rejoice! Rejoice! Here is some really good news. At least it is really good news for me. I’m a chocoholic and eat chocolate on a daily basis. Sometimes more than is really wise, but I love the substance and have all my life. I try to eat about one-half of a serving per day, so I don’t think I’m really over doing it.

The BBC has reported on an article posted at the BMJ (British Medical Journal) about the health benefits of eating chocolate. The authors of the study wanted to test links between chocolate intake and the risk of “developing cardiometabolic disorders”. They used seven studies which met their standards for data collection so that they had information on 114,000 participants.

The study found that chocolate may protect both the heart and the brain. However, over-consumption may lead to other illnesses. The British Heart Foundation said there were better ways to protect the heart. (I assume they mean more medically sound as I can think of nothing that is “heart healthy” that is equal to the wonderful taste of delicious chocolate.)

The study was done at the University of Cambridge. They compared the heart health of people with low chocolate intake (less than two bars per week) and those with high chocolate intake (more than two bars per week). Those with the “highest levels of chocolate consumption were associated with a 37% reduction in cardiovascular disease and a 29% reduction in stroke compared with the lowest levels.”

Dr. Oscar Franco, one of the researchers, said chocolate was known to reduce blood pressure. He said the study’s findings were “promising” but needed more research. (No mention of where to go to volunteer for further study was listed.)

The down side to this is that eating lots of chocolate can lead to weight gain and Type 2 diabetes, so one should not start to binge on what was once called the “food of the gods” just to be healthy. No one is advising people to begin consuming large quantities of chocolate. The study did not test one type of chocolate against another type. There is some speculation that chocolate may be beneficial if the fats and sugars are removed (which would make it not taste nearly as good).

It is suggested, “If you want to reduce your heart disease risk, there are much better places to start than at the bottom of a box of chocolates.”

Do you eat chocolate? What type do you prefer? Milk? Dark? Semisweet? White? Do you like pure chocolate or do you like things mixed into your chocolate (peanuts, crispies, fruit filling)?

Are you as happy as me to find out that one of your “bad habits” could actually be keeping you healthy?

Published at RGQ today:

Someone once said we would all be given 15 minutes of fame. But with so many people now inhabiting our lovely planet, it seems there aren’t enough 15 minutes to go around. Some people come up with really weird ways to capture some fame.

According to Mary Pemberton writing for the Associated Press, Jessica Beagley was seeking out her 15 minutes and may have gotten more than she bargained for.

The 36-year-old mother from Anchorage, Alaska wanted to get on the Dr. Phil show. She is the adoptive mother of seven-year-old twins who came from Russia. She also has a daughter, aged 10. The family consists of four biological children and the two adopted boys who were adopted in 2008.

Dr. Phil aired a show in April of 2009 titled “Angry Moms” which dealt with angry mothers. Beagley contacted the show in order to get on the air but was not contacted by anyone from the production company. Apparently this is a hot topic and Dr. Phil was revisiting it again in the fall of 2010.

A year and half after contacting the show concerning her anger status, the show called Beagley to see if she was still angry, she claims. Beagley submitted audition videos (I didn’t realize this was part of the process) and was told that yelling wasn’t what they were looking for. They needed to see her punishing her son.

Beagley set the stage, getting all her props ready and asked her daughter to film the punishment. The eight-minute video began with Beagley confronting her son, Kristoff, about school misbehaviors and lying. She then poured hot sauce into the crying child’s mouth and did not let him spit it out for more than a minute.

Apparently to cool him off, the mother then forced the screaming child into a cold shower and sent him to bed.

The video worked and she was flying to Los Angeles within days. The show aired on November 17, 2010.

Prosecutors have brought a case against Beagley for misdemeanor child abuse. They say this punishment was doled out for the sole purpose of getting on the Dr. Phil show; the punishment was vindictive and was outside the bounds of normal activity.

Beagley’s lawyers claim she was just trying to get help for her son. She and her police officer husband had tried numerous other more traditional methods of discipline such has time outs, spankings, and revocation of privileges. Kristoff’s twin more easily adjusted to life in America. However, they claim Kristoff was defiant and would misbehave doing such things as urinating on the floor.

After the show aired, Russians were outraged and demanded the children be returned to Russia. Recently, Kristoff has been diagnosed with a reactive attachment disorder and is now in therapy.

There was no mention in the article about where Mr. Beagley was during any of this and it seems no charges have been filed against him.

Mrs. Beagley’s lawyer says the child did get in trouble at school on the day the video was shot and that his mother was not just punishing him to get on TV, but rather to help him learn how to behave.

Do you believe this was child abuse? Should the twins be removed from the home? If so, where should they go – back to Russia or into foster care? Can their father protect them adequately if they remain in the family? What restrictions should be instituted? Or is this all just making a mountain out of molehill?

What would you do to get on television? Would all this be worth your 15 minutes of fame? Do you watch Dr. Phil or any other reality shows? Have you ever wondered how they got people to appear on them?

I remember Bellfield as a street filled with tall trees and laughing kids.

I remember having to be careful when playing ball in your backyard because if the ball went over the fence Mean Mary, the old lady next door, would keep it.

I remember playing croquet in your backyard because our backyard had the swing set and the pine tree in the middle.

I remember playing jacks on the front porch.

I remember pogo sticks and hula hoops.

I remember being just a bit too much younger to always play with the big kids, but sometimes being welcome.

I remember the cute, small dogs I was always frightened of. Toro, mostly.

I remember our mothers spending hours talking together.

I remember laundry hanging on the lines and getting in trouble if we touched it. You had cool metal clothesline poles.

I remember crying at work, but only once. That was the day I was handed an “add on” case and saw you were scheduled for a mastectomy.

I remember you fighting against a disease that can be so devastating. I remember you being victorious.

I remember the next diagnosis, and the next, and the next.

I remember your fighting spirit the entire time.

I remember your adventures and your scrapbooks about them.

I remember your national travels and plans for more.

I remember …

Rest in peace. We remember.


From RGQ, published today. School has started here in South Carolina and the kiddies are all waiting for buses around the neighborhood. Small clumps of children gather together and wait for the big yellow bus to carry them off to a day full of learning.

What teachers looked like back when I was in school, walking uphill both ways, miles and miles because that's what we did.

At least that is the theory.

I come from a family of teachers. My mother was a teacher. My older sister was a teacher of grade school children as well as an administrator in the grade school setting. She also taught adults how to be teachers. My baby sister is still teaching. My niece is still teaching. I taught for three years back in Ohio.

I know that there are some bad teachers. BTW, I was a nurse for over two decades and I also know there are some bad nurses and bad doctors. Saying there are some bad teachers simply means there are lots and lots of teachers and like any group, their abilities would span a Bell Curve. Most teachers are average, some are sorta bad and some are horrible while some are good and some are great. Most, however, are average.

We send our children off to school for just a few hours a day and expect miracles. We expect in those few hours per day they will learn to read and write, do math, understand geography and history, and turn into little scientists or chemists. We expect all this along with hoping the school will build character and inspire greatness while generating higher self esteem. All this is to be done in a classroom setting with anywhere from 18 to 30+ students from a variety of background and with a variety of mental abilities not to mention special needs.

And yet, when the kids come home, where they spend the majority of their time, parents will sometimes bemoan the concept of homework and how they are supposed to be involved in it. They are also sure that if something goes wrong at school, it is entirely the school’s fault and they should have been able to prevent it and one’s own child is never a precipitating factor let alone at fault in any way.

I would like to speak to parents for a moment. Teachers are far too busy to make up stories about your child. They care about your child and if they say your child is causing a disturbance on the playground, your child is causing a disturbance on the playground. If a teacher tells you your child is participating in some behavior that is not acceptable, the teacher isn’t just trying to make more work for her- or himself. They care about your kids. Believe them, work with them. They are trying to help your child.

Teachers have a difficult job and it becomes far more difficult when the parents opt to just abdicate all responsibility or when the parents decide the teacher is the enemy. Both of these scenarios are deleterious to the student as it takes teamwork to get the child from age 5 to age 18. This is not the sole job of a set of teachers. Parents must remain involved, but not overbearing. Parents must work with rather than against the teacher as well as the teacher working with rather than against the parent. This is a team effort.

One of the things I realized this morning is the opportunity for schools to teach group dynamics. I’m not sure how this is done for people who home school. As I walked this morning, a small child was dawdling on her way to the bus stop. All her life, her parents waited for her to dawdle because it is actually illegal to leave them behind when they won’t hurry up. But the school bus was not going to wait. You are either there on time or you are left behind. What a great lesson. And schools are filled with these types of lessons. You become part of a group and while there can be disadvantages to “group think” there are also some great bonuses. It might teach you to stop picking your nose in public, for instance.

School is a tough place. It is full of strangers who expect you to work in a larger setting than just your family. It’s rather like getting a job and having to fit in to the established corporate culture. We accommodate to the system while maintaining our individuality. It is great to get experience with this at an early age.

There are so many stories we could tell about our own school years and our children’s school years. The perspectives change, but the stories remain part of our lives.

Good luck to all students this year. Spend time with your student asking about what they learned today. Enrich your child’s school experience by providing your own teaching moments. Read with your child as often as you can. Encourage your child to tell stories verbally or with writing or drawing. Make math part of your day by asking your child number questions. Involve yourself in your child’s education because in reality, no matter how great or awful a teacher your kid has, you are the most important teacher in your child’s life.

I did not know my ignorance was going to be such a huge problem today. Please note, I’m not talking stupidity which I also have in abundance at times. Today, there was no stupidity, simply ignorance.

Yesterday, I found out I would be driving into Charleston today. I don’t drive into Charleston. Well, this is actually the second time I’ve done this, but I was going someplace I had never been before. I was going to a charter school for disadvantaged students to provide a luncheon for teachers there. I wasn’t actually providing the lunch, but I was bringing paper stuff for the teachers.

As an aside, my brother-in-law is participating in the Hoka Hey Challenge where he is riding his motorcycle through all 48 contiguous states and after starting in Arizona, he is ending up in Nova Scotia, Canada. He gets directions at check points – Harley Davidson outlets. Then he goes to the next stop, gets more directions and continues on.

Now, I would never do this in a million years. First of all, I get lost backing out of the driveway. I have no sense of direction and am petrified when driving somewhere new. And secondly, I don’t ride motorcycles. But I wouldn’t even do this in a luxury car. My sister pointed out, when I complained about driving downtown, that I would be a mess on the Hoka Hey. I agreed.

I printed out the direction on how to get where I was going. That was good. I also printed directions on how to get back home, because the Route 26 Interchange in downtown Charleston is weird.

My directions said it would take 27 minutes for me to get from work to the school. But it did not take into consideration my propensity for getting lost. I left 45 minutes before I was supposed to be there.

I knew how to get on 26 and so that went well. Soon after I got on the highway, an overhead message board said something like: INCIDENT AHEAD AT MILE MARKER 209. ALL TRAFFIC MUST EXIT AT EXIT 205. I got on the highway at 199 and was traveling to 219.

As I neared exit 204, the traffic was already stopped waiting to get off, so I exited there. Unfortunately, this put me westbound on Route 78 but at least I knew where I was. I was near Trident Hospital, but heading the wrong way. I pulled into someplace and called Lester. I explained that I had only printed directions using 26 and it was closed and I had no idea how to find a way to get where I was going from where I was.

I do not have a smart phone but Lester does. But you can’t look at maps while you are driving and talking on the phone. So he pulled off and looked at a map and called me back. Exit 209 was Ashley Phosphate Road so I needed to go one further exit and there were several off 78 which runs parallel to 26. So all I had to do was get past the blockage and get back on the road and I would be good to go.

Everyone was forced off 26 and 78 is a smaller road. We crept. There is an interchange with route 50 along the way and those people were also trying to get on 26 and not permitted, so they were kicked off and crept along with the rest of us. It took me 40 minutes and I occasionally could manage to get higher than second gear, but not often, until I could successfully once again get on 26.

I got off where I was supposed to get off and I was to make a right turn at the second opportunity and be on King Street. The second right (as far as I could see) was Meeting Street. I know those two streets are parallel to each other so I went one further but it was something else. I tried to make my way back, but was completely lost. So I again called Lester.

Lester grew up in Charleston, but not in this part of Charleston. It was the scary part of Charleston. His client and the woman who was his reason for being at the school, got on his phone and talked me to the school.

People who know me know that I absolutely despise driving and cell phone use. It is even more difficult in my car. I’m a bad driver to start with and I have a stick shift car. So I was trying to navigate with cars all around me getting aggravated at the dummy on the cell phone trying to drive. Gail was trying to be helpful, but she was telling me to turn after I had passed the block or telling me to turn left when I was in the right hand lane. I was in near tears, but somehow, after way too long, I was able to get to the school. It took me slight more than one hour and twenty minutes to make my 27 minute trip.

What was blocking the road.

While we were standing there, Lester got out his smart phone and looked up what would shut down an entire highway. At 3.40 AM, two trucks collided and one burst into flames. Both were carrying wood chips that spilled all over the highway. I’m happy to report that neither of the drivers was killed, however both were injured. Nine hours later, the road was finally cleared and opened again for traffic. I had no idea I should have looked to see about this event prior to leaving today. Simple ignorance. I could have gone a completely different way, allowed for time, and not been in that horrible mess. I still would have gotten lost at the end – probably. I wouldn’t have already been frazzled so maybe I would have seen whatever street I missed.

I did know how to get home and managed to arrive safely and in the time the map said I would.

I bought a couple thermal coffee mugs from Wal-Mart last week. One had an orange top and holder, one had turquoise. I used the orange one first and it worked well. I put that one in the dishwasher and tried the turquoise one. The top would not seal correctly and kept popping off, making the cup more of a dribble cup than a coffee cup.

I decided it made sense to wear a bandana while walking to keep the sweat (glow?) out of my eyes. I had given all my old bandanas to the grandkids, so I needed some of those. I was also getting really low on plastic forks, something I take each day to work so I can eat my salads.

I was up early this morning and figured it would take me just a few minutes to return the cup, get a replacement, and buy the few things I needed. I left 20 minutes early thinking this would give me enough time.

When returning merchandise to Wal-Mart, it has to be marked with a tag before proceeding into the store for the return. The man standing at the door doing this check was a soldier during the Punic Wars. I understand that senior citizens are caught in a money crunch and they need jobs, too. This man moved painfully – very painfully – no, exceedingly painfully slow. I hope they never have him working this station on a weekend.

I did not yell at the poor guy. I figured he wasn’t any happier about ending his life working at Wal-Mart than I was to have him there. But it did take a couple minutes longer to just walk into the store than I had calculated.

Thankfully, the three gossiping women at the service desk could take my cup right away and said I could exchange it for one with a top that stayed on. The top fell off twice while they were handling the cup.

I zipped through the store and picked up the items I needed. I really was hoping I could just buy a pack of men’s handkerchiefs and be done with it, but they don’t seem to carry those. They did have two-to-a-pack bandanas and I got those. Cheaper than buying them individually.

I paid for the items I was actually purchasing and then went back to the service desk. It was no longer just gossiping employees. The two other women had moved on and there was just one person behind the counter.

At the front of the line was a woman who was perhaps five foot one. Maybe not that tall. She weighed in at about 350, if my skills from my nursing years are still working. She may have been closer to 375, but we will be kind and say it was just 350. She looked exactly like she belonged in Wal-Mart. She was returning a pair of stretch pants that apparently didn’t stretch far enough. I have no idea where she bought them, but the store we were standing in did not carry that item.

It made lots of angst up at the head of the line and made one obese woman all cranky and huffy. She sighed repeatedly as both the worker behind the counter and eventually a sales associate from women’s wear tried to explain to her that the item couldn’t be returned at this store.

She finally relented and allowed her transaction to be completed.

Now, when I came up to this line, there was an older gentleman in front of me with a small item to return. He had his sales slip. Then I was there with my replacement cup. Along came another Wal-Mart customer with a phone he was going to exchange. This young man was also dressed fairly typical for a Wal-Mart customer.

He stepped behind me with his packaged phone. It began to look like the woman was going to be finished and he rushed forward to examine the phone he had returned, looking for all the world like he had never seen a cordless phone before and certainly had never seen the one open on the counter.

Tubby began whining some more, so phone guy moved back behind me. Finally, Tubby was getting her cash and phone guy rushed forward to the counter again ostensibly to see if that contraption on the counter was indeed a cordless phone.

Tubs left and the woman behind the counter began to turn to the young man with the phone. I said, “I’m in a hurry too and this gentleman in front of me should actually be next.” I really just said it, not even raising my voice.

Well, this totally affronted the phone guy. It didn’t really bother him until the clerk turned away from HIM and began to wait on the guy who was actually next in line. Then it bothered phone guy. That older man dropped off his item, wanted to get a replacement, and walked away.

Phone guy magnanimously allowed me to go next saying something snotty. I ignored it and indicated that I was the cup person and just wanted my cup. Phone guy spoke loudly saying, “Some people just need to be a little calmer. I wasn’t trying to cut into line. I just wanted to see this phone.” I again ignored him and refrained from asking if it was the first cordless phone he had ever seen and didn’t even ask how long he had owned it before returning it to Wal-Mart.

He kept going on and on, and I said to the clerk, “Thanks, I’m trying to get to work.”

Phone guy counseled me, “Maybe you should have left earlier so you wouldn’t be so rushed.” I ignored him some more. The woman behind the counter gave me a paper to sign and obnoxious phone guy said, “It’s supposed to be beautiful out there today. I hope you have a blessed day.”

Now, it is supposed to be hot and muggy out there today with a heat index of 115⁰ F, but I wished him a blessed day, too. I assumed we were both telling each other to fuck off, but who knows what his “blessed day” meant. I know what mine meant.

I got out to my car, drove on to work, and arrived just in time. So apparently I did leave the house with enough time to do what I needed to get done. As long as no one cut in line on me.