Why am I plugging current events? Follow the money.

A second day with a current events posting – – not like me to be so topical on what is meant to be a “get away from politics & similar ick” blog.  But the topic has everything to do with all ages & all stages of Americans – our economy.

Because, love it or loathe it, the NY Times has a spot-on article about our nation’s “recovered” economy.  Recovered for those blessed with carefully nurtured, post-2008 stock portfolios;  those who rely on our savings or income from a pay check – – not so lucky.

The headline speaks volumes – – The Recovery Threw the Middle Class Under the Benz.  A truthful OUCH!

From the monied class’ point of view, the 2008 Meltdown served an interesting purpose – – unlike earlier financial crises, the recovery was not universal.  This time, those with their hands on the money reins rebounded, while those who did not did not.  The middle class was devastated by a calamity brought on by reckless practices at what were presumed to be trust-worthy financial institutions who went bonkers at the money gushing from largely unregulated derivatives, compounded by lax (to put it mildly) government oversight.

Today’s middle class not only lost nest eggs, carefully nurtured savings & home investments, it’s political power, once considerable, has been gutted by the one-two punch of the Meltdown & the SCOTUS Citizens United decision, which put the influence wielded by the monied class on steroids.

If our mothers were still alive, neither John nor I would have been that affected by the ’08 meltdown – like us, my m-i-l owned her home, free & clear;  like my mother, her finances weren’t tied to evaporated investments.  But millions of others were not so lucky.  People lost their savings, their jobs, their home value.  And, worst of all, Americans lost their trust in once trusted institutions.  Too many have turned inward, turned angry, turned around & try to find someone to blame.

The middle class was most certainly thrown under the Benz, but so too was our entire nation, which has lost its way as well as financial security & even a core sense of who we are.

 

An absolute MUST READ – protecting investments

SCARY article in today’s NY Times on the looting of aged parents’ investments.  Their daughter discovered that the account, which had been “worth roughly $1.3 million at the start of 2017, had been charged $128,000 in commissions that year — nearly 10 percent of its value, and about 10 times what many financial planners would charge to manage accounts that size.  In August 2017 alone, Mr. Rahn had sold two-thirds of the portfolio, or about $822,000, and then reinvested most of the proceeds, yielding about $47,600 in commissions, according to monthly financial statements and an analysis by Genesis Forensic Consulting…  Mr. Rahn, who still works at J.P. Morgan, and the two managers at the firm with whom Ms. Dewart dealt did not respond to emails seeking comment.”

Please please please remember, whether you have money socked away in what you assume are great investments shepherded by someone looking after YOUR best intesests.  It ain’t necessarily so.

For me, this story hits close to the bone.  A trusted investment broker lost every penny of the money my father left for my mother & dependents because Mom paid no attention to transactions, once the misappropriation was discovered had more concern for the broker (“He has children!”) than herself or her children, balked – out of affection & desire to protect – at taking any action once the dirty deed was discovered.

Read the article.  Be informed.  Be vigilant.  Ask tough questions, expected detailed, documented answers.  The daughter didn’t try to track down the problem all by herself –  she did part of the leg work (she does research & policy analysis), but hired a lawyer & a forensic consultant.

Read, share, learn, discuss.

Timing is everything – in food & life!

It’s about time researchers start drawing us back into the natural rhythms of life, but electric lights & temperature control are seriously messing with our bodies & minds.

Snippets:   Scientists have long known that the human body has a master clock in the brain, located in the hypothalamus, that governs our sleep-wake cycles in response to bright light exposure. A couple of decades ago, researchers discovered that there is not just one clock in the body but a collection of them. Every organ has an internal clock that governs its daily cycle of activity.

“We’re designed to have 24-hour rhythms in our physiology and metabolism. These rhythms exist because, just like our brains need to go to sleep each night to repair, reset and rejuvenate, every organ needs to have down time to repair and reset as well.”

Dozens of studies demonstrate that blood sugar control is best in the morning and at its worst in the evening. We burn more calories and digest food more efficiently in the morning as well.

While studies suggest that eating earlier in the day is optimal for metabolic health, it does not necessarily mean that you should skip dinner. It might, however, make sense to make your dinners relatively light. One group of researchers in Israel found in studies that overweight adults lost more weight and had greater improvements in blood sugar, insulin and cardiovascular risk factors when they ate a large breakfast, modest lunch and small dinner compared to the opposite: A small breakfast and a large dinner. Dr. Peterson said it confirms an age-old adage: Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper.

Medicare Advantage – NY Times article

For olders subscribing to Medicare Advantage, the 2019 plan will allow insurers to add new health-related benefits, including:

  • Adult day care programs
  • Home aides to help with activities of daily life (like bathing & dressing)
  • Palliative at-home care (for some patients)
  • Home safety devices & modifications (think grab bars, wheelchair ramps)
  • Transportation to medical appointments

 

As the article notes, “Yet celebration may prove premature. Many questions remain about how insurers will respond to the legislative opening. ”  To find out the WHY behind the concern, read-print out-file the article, then keep your ear to the ground about future information!

Play as an Rx against loneliness

Am jazzed beyond imagination by an article by the great Jane Brody in today’s NY Times that lead me to an earlier opinion piece in the Boston Globe by Jeremy Noble & Michelle Williams.  Both speak directly to my current across-the-age-spectrum playfulness work.

As a society, we thrive when we are connected. Strong social bonds play a causal role in long-term health and well-being. Social connections, in a very real way, are keys to happiness and health.

The surprising finding is that our relationships and how happy we are in our relationships has a powerful influence on our health. Taking care of your body is important but tending to your relationships is a form of self-care too,” said Dr. Robert Waldinger, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, an ongoing research project since 1938.” 

 

As a nation – world – increasingly oppressed by a mounting wave of chronic depression anxiety unhappiness, how do we combat the two chief culprits:  loneliness & isolation?

First off, what are they?  Social isolation is defined by researchers as something with objective, measurable markers such as living alone, lacking a social network & regular ties to other people.  Loneliness is harder to measure – it’s more subjective, something we perceive & feel, a sadness over a lack of desired social connections, companionship, close connection.  Social isolation often leads to a sense of loneliness, but being alone often does NOT.

Who’s affected by the emotional fall-out of isolation & loneliness?  Over 1/3 of American adults, with another 65% reporting feeling seriously lonely some of the time.  Yikes!  Current research pegs the toxic effects of the two as matching obesity, alcohol abuse & smoking 15 cigarettes a day as health risk factors, upping the chance of an early death by a whopping 30%.  And the internet, which most people think of as a communication tool, more typically increases both – ironically, heavy use of social media more often lead away from engagement connection happiness to increased feelings of loneliness depression anxiety.

As a society, we thrive when we are connected. Strong social bonds play a causal role in long-term health and well-being. Social connections, in a very real way, are keys to happiness and health.

And what combats depression loneliness isolation?  a sense of PLAY!  The too-often overlooked power & importance of PLAY is at the root of the connect creatively monthly discussion circles I’m kicking off tomorrow at Be Well, turning The Hive into a play pen as we toss around Stuart Brown’s thought that the opposite of depression is… natural PLAY!

Taking a moment to express my heartfelt thanks to & gratitude of an abundantly generous & awesomely present Universe, an invaluable partner & inspiring side kick in the work before us (aka my John et moi), for two great articles that showed up in my cosmic news feed JUST in time to include them in tomorrow night’s premiere Bodacious Building Blocks – connecting creatively  back & forth.  Was excited before, beyond zoomed now!  For a over-the-top unimaginable connection between Stuart Brown & Adam Steltzner’s JPL.  Freakishly fabulous!

“I don’t think it is too much to say that play can save your life. It certainly has salvaged mine. Life without play is a grinding, mechanical existence organized around doing the things necessary for survival. Play is the stick that stirs the drink. It is the basis of all art, games, books, sports, movies, fashion, fun, and wonder—in short, the basis of what we think of as civilization. Play is the vital essence of life. It is what makes life lively.”   ~Stuart Brown ~ 

Death loosens its spectral grip

No, am NOT getting kick backs from the NY Times for leading my readers to its articles!  Can’t be helped, with some of the best writers on living expansively issues on staff.  All hail Paula Span & John Leland, with a special place in my heart for two Janes –  Gross & Brody!

Going analog – at home – is a whole new world for me, especially on the weekends, when our local libraries cut back the amount of time someone can fritter… I mean spend on their computers.  Assigned 40 minutes yesterday, so didn’t dig deeply enough into my digital subscription to find John’s article on America’s changing attitudes toward death.  Praise be, he has a dandy short piece in today’s issue, spotted while perusing the print edition this a.m. at Be Well, my beloved café/away-from-home office.

In Sunday’s lengthier piece, John discussed attending Shatzi Weisberger’s FUN-eral.  As the 88-year old former nurse explained,  “I have been studying and learning about death and dying, and I want to tell people what I’ve learned.  Some people are coming because they love me, and some people are coming because they’re curious about what the hell it’s about.”

John was there because covering a revamped/revitalized funeral was a natural build on three years of becoming friends with & writing about a variety of seriously-old (85+) New Yorkers.

The centerpiece of the standing room only party, held in the commons room of her Upper West Side apartment?  A biodegradable cardboard coffin on which enthusiastic guests were writing greetings, from  “Go Shatzi! (but not literally)” to “Shatzi, many happy returns … as trees, as bumble bees, as many happy memories.”

At 88, Shatzi has become a prominent voice in the “positive death movement.”  My heart leapt at the description – didn’t know there was a movement to describe what I experienced seventeen years ago with Mom, three years ago with my sister Mim & even with Dad, who died in 1973 before the first wave of integrating more humanity into death & dying yet still held a remarkable attitude toward what he was experiencing rather than crumpled & devastated at the prospect of dying at 62.

Shatzi & her “Go, Death!” compadres speak to my concern that American culture finds death to be icky, a topic to be avoided rather than embraced, resulting in a silence that diminishes the lives that lead up to it. 

I think about my oldest brother.  After decades of a relatively distant relationship, they became close over the last twenty years of Mim’s life.  But he still has not seen her online memorial service – the first of its kind in our church, inspired by the unescapable fact that the best minister to capture my sister’s unusual persona was retired & living in Arizona.   I can’t understand WHY Peter has yet to see it, but he hasn’t.  Which is too bad, since it is a wonderful collaboration,  a heartfelt tribute to a creative & complex spirit.

Schatzi would understand the inspiration behind Mim’s tribute, honoring a woman who exited this world cracking up hospital staff who’d swing by for a visit if they felt down in the dumps, knowing that a patient facing death within days would make them smile at her jokes & feel awed by her “bring it on!” attitude.

More & more people feel like Ms. Weisberger, who simply got fed up with Death American-style after sitting with a dying friend who was was so terrified at the prospect of her death, “she couldn’t even talk about it…  And then she died.  So that was a problem.  We had not dealt with the issue – myself, herself and the others.

Schatzi Weisberger used her FUN-eral to educate her friends about having a positive death experience.  She showed them the burial shroud she plans to have cover her for burial (she considers cremation to be environmentally unfriendly), which she got from Amazon.  Friends have agreed to was her body, in keeping with Jewish tradition, and another will bring dry ice to preserve it before burial.  But she assured one & all that she’s in good health, good spirits, and will wait her own good time to have the good death for which she has so carefully prepared!

Schatzi Weisberger does have a final wish – “I really want to experience my dying.  I don’t want to die in a car crash or be unconscious. I want to be home, I want to be in my bed, I want to share the experience with anybody who’s interested.”   She doesn’t expect death to take her hand in a spectral grip, but with a friendly touch.

 

Sweet haunting

Reading John Leland’s Happiness is a Choice You Make has me feeling Mom’s presence.  Based on his year-long series of New York Times‘ articles on a year among the oldest of NYC’s old, the stories John shares hit close to home, ditto the lessons he was surprised to learn by being with them.

Resiliency, kindness, generosity.

Making the most of the moment.

Full-throttle living, in their own way.

Wish everyone could read the articles, which I enjoyed immensely, savor the book & perhaps feel the nodding presence of a beloved older!