Wednesday, July 31, 2013

An Apple A Day


On July 30th, 1965 President Johnson signed Medicare into law.  In doing so he created a national health insurance program for the middle class elderly.  The visionary for the program, Harry S. Truman, became the first enrollee of the program. There is much discussion and debate over the Medicare system, how it is implemented, whether or not it is sustainable, and if it is making any kind of real positive impact.  What is largely lost in the modern Medicare debate is the original purpose and intent of the program in the eyes of its creators.  Truman imagined the program as a way of giving the middle class access to medical care, yes.  But by his own words, and from the viewpoint of the mid-20th century, access to medical care was not primarily for the purpose of receiving treatment, at that time people still considered medical care to be a means of prevention first, then treatment.   I think that it is important to consider the fundamental changes in the American mindset around health, treatment, prescription medications, and prevention that have taken place in the last fifty years before entering into any policy discussion related to the health care system.  The most important things that we can do in terms of our own health are all related to prevention, it is time to turn our thinking with respect to health and how we care for it.

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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Of All These Friends And Lovers


For all the work of building connections, relationships, and community there is an inevitable slipping of people away to other things, other people, other places.  Like most things in life the passing through of people seems to follow no particular course or trend but happens in fits and starts, as isolated incidents, the death of someone special or a good friend moving to a new job, or sometimes altogether, upon graduation or in connection to a breakup. Some of these passages are hard, some bittersweet, and some are surprisingly easy.  The ones to pay attention to are the ones that do not feel like loss.  The relationships that are the most important to us can weather all kinds of distances and periods of time.  These are the friends with whom we pick up right where we left off, regardless of a year without actually being in the same place at the same time.  These relationships are the ones that sustain us, they are the people to whom we will turn when things really go awry, and they are the people to whom we should be listening when we need advice.  These are the people that we should invest in.  

Consider for a moment the people in your life, the relationships to which you tend.  Which of them sustain you? Which of them exist solely because of proximity?  Try to identify the people that you cannot bear to lose and hold them close before they slip away.

The Beatles, In My Life:

Like what you are reading?  Then support the Kickstarter for my book Girl Gone Wild- On Being a Woman in the Wilderness.  Thanks!

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Friday, July 26, 2013

Communication and Loving Touch


In 1966 Little, Brown published Human Sexual Response a 366 page compendium of the physiology of sex.  In many respects, it was the book that changed everything.  For the first time Americans accepted frank and scientific language about the mechanics and occurrences of sexual response into the public lexicon.  Perhaps more importantly, acceptance of the research required an acceptance of the research techniques, which though conducted by discreet and charming researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson, still required, well, sex; and people to watch it.  In short, the book blew apart the centuries-old notion of sex as a sacred, unmentionable act and opened the worlds eyes to the idea  of it having quite a lot to do with biology.  It was the first published, mainstreamed, scientific step towards the sexual revolution in the United States.  The rest, as they say, is history.

Virginia Johnson, who never earned a college degree, though was awarded two honorary doctorates for her work, who broke barriers as one of the first acclaimed female researchers, who was a country singer, who alternately married and divorced her research partner William Masterson while maintaining their working relationship, died yesterday at the age of 88.  She was an early pioneer of women in the workplace, and an advocate for homosexual rights.  She also developed the first sex therapy methods, sensate therapy, which focused not on medical treatment but on the role of communication and loving touch in the establishment of healthy sexual function,  It is still in use today.


Thursday, July 25, 2013

My Baloney Has a First Name


Not that Anthony Weiner has a particularly interesting sex life, or even a particularly twisted fetish, but he does seem to have a really self destructive and public compulsion that warrants at least a few words.  Is there anything wrong or perverse about his private behavior taken from the context of him as a private citizen? No.  Will it really impact his ability to serve as a political figure? No.  Is it really any of our business? Probably not.  But it is in poor taste, especially the second time around.  That being said, the far more interesting figure in this whole thing is his wife, who is standing by him for a second time.  Mrs. Weiner is young, beautiful and accomplished in her own right, and, ironically, employed by Hilary Clinton.  That she is staying with him indicates that her sense of self esteem, and what she needs from a man and a life partnership is pretty well developed.  While it might be easy to kick him to the curb, that she chooses not to indicates that the relationship serves some other kind of purpose in her life.  Any good, long term relationship is most likely not based primarily on sex and most likely comes with a deep understanding of one another's weaknesses, proclivities, and needs.  Perhaps Mrs. Weiner has taken a page from Mrs. Clinton, and knows that the road is long and that her character may be well fixed in the public eye as solid, loyal, and compassionate, opinions that may serve her well if she wants to continue working in the public sector. While she might be playing the tragic figure right now, she, hopefully, is aware of how this all may serve her in the end.  It worked for Hilary.

Photograph Courtesy of:

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Royal Family


For a country pretty much founded on the idea of the elimination of monarchical rule, the United States sure loves royalty.  While the American fascination with the royal family could be dismissed as just another symptom or our fixation on fame and wealth, I think it says something a little more complex about our collective psychology.  In American media royalty is always the basis for the fairy tale ending.  The ubiquitous happily ever after story is almost always cast from a royal heritage, making it just that much farther from the grasp of the average person.  I think also that in the states having a royal title represents a kind of transcendence, proof of ones ascendance past the nouveau riche class that has forever been the glass ceiling for the American upper class.  There is a sense of entitlement that we attach to royalty, but that we covet for ourselves, the idea that we could be placed outside of the grind, the expectations of success through hard work just by lucky birth or the right marriage.  Americans increasingly value the easy way, and the life of a modern royal seems to be a template for a beneficent and enviable life of leisure. So we watch, from the outside, and hang on their stories our own hopes and fantasies for ourselves, a better life, the easy way.

Photograph Courtesy of:

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Truth and Absurdity


This morning I awoke hot and sweating from a tangled mess of midsummer dreams.  I lay for a moment, resisting the day, chasing pictures of brides in massive dresses wearing top hats, party goers comprised of long-lost friends and new acquaintances, a hurried rush on a sunny day to fix some unexpected glitch and...then I lost it.  What I did not lose though, was an overwhelming sense of letting go, of people specifically.  Something about the dream allowed me to step into my day with a sense of calm and peace regarding the people in my past that have moved on and away.  What was most interesting to me about this was that I had no idea that I was longing for that kind of closure.  

Researchers are still investigating all the purposes served by dreaming, deeper sleep, the building of neural pathways, and free association to name a few.  For my part, throughout my life, they have largely been informative.  Dreaming has always been a way for me to identify underlying problems and priorities, solve problems, and find resolution.  That the usefulness of dreams is knitted with the absurdity of my subconscious has never bothered me, rather I believe that the role of the absurd in my dreams is to allow me to face things I would otherwise not be willing to see.

I still do not know what caused the dream I had last night, or why I chose that peculiar set of images to bring me to closure, but I am glad for it.  Dream on baby, dream on.

To Watch More About Dreams:

Monday, July 22, 2013

At Home Again


I have been thinking a lot lately about the nature of home, what it means, and how it is created and kept.  These days I feel myself at home in most places, content, at peace, and comfortable with myself and my place in things.  The older I get the more I realize that home, at least for me, has more to do with people, community, and way of life than place or tradition.  I think about my body as my primary home, and remind myself that if I do not care for it I will have no place to live.  I do not know if  a happy home creates a happy person, or if a happy person creates a happy home, but to me, at least today, they seem like one and the same.  

Where do you call home?

Photograph courtesy of:

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Debbie Downer


The older I get the more I realize that happiness, success, and most other things related to being good and well in and with the world are mostly about attitude.  It fatigues me to watch friends sabotage their own happiness and undermine their successes because they are unable to willing to simply accept the life or circumstances that have and work with what they are given.  More and more I find myself putting distance between myself and the people in my life who cannot seem to accept responsibility for their own happiness. This is your life, I want to tell them, which means that you are the center of your universe and entirely responsible for your own happiness.  That things will go against plan, that tragedy will strike, these things are certain, but what is not certain is the effect these things will have on you, that part, is your own choice to make.  Maya Angelou put is well, "If you don't like something, change it.  If you cant change it, change your attitude towards it."

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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

In Search of Answers


Why is it that everyone in Hollywood is a scientologist but you could stand on a street corner for hours before coming across an average person that has even read Dianetics much less claims to be a scientologist?  Dianetics, L. Ron Hubbards 1950's era book about past trauma and self-psychotherapy was dismissed as quackery when it was first published but for some reason the popularity of his ideas continues to grow.  Far from being accepted as a religion worldwide (though it is in the U.S. legal system) Scientology charges "fixed rate" donations from it's practitioners and has a long history of legal problems related to fraud.  Scientology also talks a lot about cosmic beings, thought coaching, and surrender to the church.  It also promises exact answers to all of life's questions.  Really.  Also, I do not think that any of us can forget just how strange Katie Holmes became when she was being guarded by her Scientology handlers early in her marriage to Tom Cruise.  At best, Scientology appears to be a strange and virulent cult.  At worst, a total sham.  Mostly though, when scientologists talk about Scientology, they just sound creepy.

However, they do have a truly exceptional success rate in drug rehabilitation and recovery.  Perhaps this explains the Hollywood connection.  I would provide more details regarding their rehabilitation program, but trying to navigate their website, which is entirely propagandized, pretty expensive and playing what sounds like Yanni, for real information is nearly impossible.  Suffice it to say that while Scientology may be a good thing for some, and even a true resource for those suffering from addiction, it probably does not deserve it's non-profit status.

Mostly though, I find the whole thing really entertaining.

To see pictures of celebrities that are practicing Scientologists and hear what they have to say about it:

Photograph Courtesy of:

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Daily Dose


Drug overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death in the United States.  I suspect that if you were to tally up the deaths related to drugs in other ways, violence, suicide, and accidents, the numbers would be shocking.  Because of the inherently secretive nature of recreational drug use in the U.S. and the persistent anti-drug messaging and politically correct avoidance of the topic, it is really difficult to grasp the enormity of just how many people are doing drugs, and how many of them struggle with it.  Not that doing drugs is a necessarily bad thing, I think that the dominant culture does not allow for enjoyment, recreation, or excitement in the daily lives of most people and turning to a drink or some other kind of "helper" is a reasonable, if not necessarily healthy response.  I also think that far more people than we would like to admit are struggling with the repercussions of their drug use.  I grew up in the Nancy Reagan "Just Say No to Drugs" era, though from what I can tell, hardly anybody paid any attention.  What it did do though, was stigmatize drug use to the point of preventing people from asking for help, or offering it, earlier.  We have a tendency of waiting until someones life has spiraled out of control before intervening, which is part of the tough love and rock bottom philosophy of drug treatment, but is likely more rooted in our sense of not invading another persons life.  Perhaps we need to change the paradigm.  Instead of a war on drugs, a black and white, either-or, right and wrong way of looking at drug use, which pushes it farther out of sight, we could usher in an era of moderation and a way of living that requires less escape.  Perhaps a little more time off, a little extra income, and some healthy activities would lessen our reliance on drugs for relaxation and fun.  Because really, wouldn't it be nice to just not need it?

To look at a long list of celebrities with drug problems:

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Thursday, July 11, 2013

How Hippies Make Their Money


Every year since 1969 tens of thousands of people have collected in the woods outside Eugene, Oregon for the annual summer festival called simply, the Oregon Country Fair.  Long before the 21st century American Tribal Revival marked by large-scale festival events such as Burning Man and the prevalence of days-long music festivals like Coachella and Bannaroo the Oregon Country Fair was bringing together an incredible array of music, performance, theatrics, arts, and crafts.  After more than forty years the fair has proven it's ability to survive growing pains and shift with changing times, or even generations, without losing the heart of what it is, a backwoods festival run by hippies who just want to be left alone with their inner children for a few days out of the year.  And oh yeah, they want to make some money too.  

For as much as there is that is good about the fair, it is important to realize that it is a business first and foremost.  There are booths that make a substantial amount of their annual income in the three days of the fair, and there is good reason that change is so slow in coming; you have to wait your turn to get a booth at the fair, and time is the only currency that works.  I have mixed feelings about the commerce of the fair, not that it is any better or worse than any other event, but that it sells itself as so.  There is an air of hippie elitism that at one time may have been appropriate but now just reeks of snobbery and pretension.  The truth is, there is no way to scale back an event such as the Oregon Country Fair, so the only real thing to do is let it grow too big and cumbersome and commercial and played out, and it will mellow itself out in the end.  In the meantime, would you like to purchase a hand made ceramic coffee mug for twenty bucks?

Like what you are reading?  Then support the Kickstarter for my book Girl Gone Wild- On Being a Woman in the Wilderness.  Thanks!

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Four Way Stop


There is a prevalent theory in recovery and and weight loss programs concerning the formation of new habits and the role of familiar or default actions and circumstances that can best be summarized with the notion of an intersection.  This theory talks about the role of familiar places, times, and situations in our day to day lives that act at decision points or crucial moments in our behaviors.  Sometimes these crucial intersections are literal, do I turn towards home or the bar?  Sometimes they are more difficult to spot, do I let my temper get the better of me or take a deep breath?  Understanding where these crossroads are in our own interior lives, the moments where stress and weakness or desire converge, can help us to make fundamental changes to the way we live.  Framing our behaviors in this light may help us avoid temptation or recognize which moments are the most crucial to our success.  

Where are the critical intersections in your day?  Which way will you go?

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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Lost Ones


There are over 100,000 Hikikomori, or young recluses estimated to be living in Japan. Coined in the early 2000's, Hikikomori refers to someone, especially a young person who retreats from society and social interaction, rarely leaving the house and not working productively for at least six months, sometimes years.  Their lives are largely lived online and in their parents houses.  Rather than a mental illness or phobia, it is thought that the Hikikomori suffer from a maladjustment to modernity, there is some relevance to generational attributes of laziness and entitlement, but also some kind of hard wiring gone awry in terms of reality and the online world.    It is a growing and world-wide phenomenon and something that we should take notice of as technology continues to evolve faster than ourselves.

Photograph Courtesy of:

Monday, July 8, 2013

Life on Easy Street


It is remarkable what a few days away from traffic and deadlines, and cell phones, and the internet can do to calm ones mind and bring things back into perspective.  Fresh air, warm summer lake water, and dinners cooked over an open fire go a long way towards reminding us just how simple things can be and just how good the good life really is.  So much of our stress, discomforts, and drama is manufactured by modern life, Facebook, the constant chirping of the phone, errands, that we forget that these modern trappings are voluntary and largely unnecessary.  I think we forget too to make sure that they are serving a higher purpose in our lives, and if they are not, we forget that we can let them go.  The world does not come crashing down if we do not check our email and all those other things that we are told are so important.  These modern gadgets used to be called conveniences, and we were promised they would save us time, make life more efficient so that we would have more time for the good life.  In my experience these things only consume more and more of my time, pulling me away from the people and experiences that make me truly happy.  In my experience the good life does not come in packaging or with bells and whistles, it comes in summer evenings, with people you care for, far from the crush and noise of the daily grind.  

It is time.  Go outside. Ignore your phone.  Soak up the sun.  Happy summer.

Photograph courtesy of:

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Blow Things Up


Samuel Adams is attributed with specifying the particularly American way of celebrating our nations Independence Day.  His was a vision of illuminations, lights, and sound, from one coast to another, which is exactly what you get.   And hot dogs.  Also, potato salad, beer from cans, sun burns, and Bruce Springsteen and Lynyrd Skynyrd being played really loudly.  As a child of immigrants, I have never really gotten this holiday.  I understand the celebration of liberty of course, just not the way Americans choose to celebrate it.  However, I do find it entirely entertaining to watch.  Nothing says patriotism like illegal fireworks purchased from Native Americans in the hands of a middle school kid or dad, drunk, in a stained wife beater trying to put out his shorts by the barbecue, a half-empty can of white gas still clutched in his other hand.  Whatever it is, whatever could be said of it, it is truly an American experience.
So go on, America, get after it.  After all, if you're going to do a thing, do it right.

Photograph Courtesy of:

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Comfortably Numb


Overdoses of pain medications have surpassed cervical cancer and homicide as a leading cause of the death among women in the United States.  This is particularly true for women between the ages of 20 and 40, though one would presume that older women may have more medical cause for pain medications.  While the rate of overdose deaths has increased somewhat in proportion to the associated increase in the prescription of these drugs, there is no evidence to suggest that chronic pain conditions or other illnesses such as severe cancers that require pain medications have also increased.  What we are observing then, is a cultural trend towards the use and abuse of prescription drugs.

This is not news.

Prescription drugs have a long history of overuse, recreational use, and addiction.  From Laudanum in the 1600's to Valium in the fifties and now the Adderall and Oxycontin decades, people have long been looking for a solution to pain, something to lift their mood, motivation, solace, or just plain escape.  But drugs are stronger than ever, and there seems to be a lot more of them, and reasons to need or want them, than ever before as well.  

I think there is room for caution regarding the disparity between our ability to design and manufacture more and better drugs and our ability to handle them both physically and socially.  Perhaps we should consider this a social consequence of other choices; high rates of incarceration and poverty; decreasing vacation time; the dissolution of the family structure; a cultural sense of victimhood.  Somewhere along the line we need to start asking ourselves if we really believe that happiness can come in a pill, or if it should.

The Top Ten Abused Prescription Drugs and Their Effects:


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

By the People


The Battle of Gettysburg in July of 1863 took the lives of more than 30,00 Americans on both sides of the conflict.  Union and Confederate armies had amassed tens of thousands of soldiers in the area, and though there was a clear and deliberate plan of action from the commanding officers, the beginning of the battle was never officially ordered by either side, it somehow just began.  

When it was all over President Lincoln used the site as a platform for re-framing the conflict.  In his Gettysburg address he makes it clear that his intention was to end the Civil War and preserve the integrity of the nation and the tenets upon which it was founded; freedom chief among them.

The entire Gettysburg address, which lasted less than two minutes:

"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

References/Photograph of Abrahan Lincoln monents after delivering the Gettysburg Address:

Monday, July 1, 2013

Out of Soweto


Nelson Mandela may or may not be on his death bed, but the discussion of his legacy and the huge undertaking of forging ahead without him has already begun.  From 1948 to 1994 South Africa was under a government-run system of racial segregation rooted in colonialism and the slave trade.  In the 1990's Nelson Mandela was elected president and an era of relative peace began.  However, for all that has been done to abolish apartheid, an entrenched system of economic injustice and personally held racism still remains.  What will happen to the people of South Africa without their iconic leader?  Will they be able to move forward with grace and dignity or will they descend, as so often happens when leadership changes into in fighting and lack of vision?  Let us hope that Mandela has had the wisdom to be clear about his vision for the future and has left a legacy of like-minded and well-regarded friends and colleagues in his stead.