Monthly Archives: May 2012

Quote of the Week

To stand upon the ramparts and die for our principles is heroic, but to sally forth to battle and win for our principles is something more than heroic.
               – Franklin Delano Roosevelt
                 32nd President of the United States

Monday, May 28 is Memorial Day.  Please remember the fallen men and women who served our country.

Memorial Day

DNA Is Not The Magic Answer

I hear an awful lot from people (especially those tracking down a sperm or egg donor) who are interested in finding out about their DNA, thinking that their DNA would tell them something about their health.  But that’s a bogus supposition.

Even if we take your DNA and if every aspect of your DNA was known, the question is: “would it be possible to predict the diseases in your future?  Could that knowledge be used to forestall the otherwise inevitable?“  According to an important article in The New York Times, the answer is: “No.”

While sequencing your entire DNA is proving very useful in understanding diseases and finding treatments, it is not a method that will predict your medical future. You know why?  There are other issues involved.  It’s not the only variable.

And this new study from twins in five different countries concludes, it is not going to be possible to say that, for example, Type 2 diabetes will occur with absolute certainty unless a person keeps a normal weight, or that colon cancer is a foregone conclusion without frequent screening and a removal of polyps. Conversely, it will not be possible to tell some people that they can ignore all the advice about, for example, preventing a heart attack because they will never get one.  According to their DNA they can still get one.

It turns out, even when they find DNA which would indicate a “Whoops!  You have a gene for _____,” most people will still be at an average risk for one of more than 20 diseases.   Their risk is like the general population, even with the gene.  Isn’t that interesting?

There was one positive finding (positive – not in a good way): “…as many as 90 percent of people would learn that they are at high risk of getting at least one disease and the gene sequencing could, in theory at least, identify as many as 75 percent of those who would develop Alzheimer’s.”

The reason for all this is there is behavior, there is environment and there are random events.  I have a friend who, sadly, is struggling from lung cancer.  Nice, healthy, good environment, good diet, never smoked, not around smokers – yet she has lung cancer.  There is a huge issue that comes under the category of “randomness,” i.e. bad luck.

So if you do a whole genetic analysis of yourself, we can look at some things you might want to be more concerned with and maybe make sure you keep your fat level low, your exercise level up, but none of it, in general, determines anything.

“The real benefit of studying your genes is not to predict your future medically, but to understand how diseases occur and how to use that knowledge to develop better therapies.”  That’s just the reality.  So do not come to me and tell me you want to go back through generations to find out if anybody had a disease because it doesn’t necessarily have a damned thing to do with you.

U.S. Youth: Working Hard or Hardly Working?

As graduation season kicks off and summer approaches, I’ve been seeing a lot of articles about kids being too busy for summer jobs. 

A recent Time magazine article reports,

“It was once common to see teenagers mowing lawns, waiting tables, digging ditches and bagging groceries for modest wages in the long summer months.  Summer employment was a social equalizer, allowing both affluent and financially strapped teenagers to gain a foothold on adulthood, learning the virtues of hard work, respect and teamwork in a relatively low-stakes atmosphere.  But youth employment has declined precipitously over the years, and young people are losing a chance to develop these important life skills in the process.”

The article goes on to say “more than 50 percent of the nation’s young workforce has never held a basic, paying job.  We may be postponing their entry into adulthood.”

As the article makes clear, our kids are not prepared for the real world.  They lack the necessary skills to move up the professional ladder: perseverance, flexibility, humility, and commitment. 

One reason they don’t know about commitment is that “shack-ups” have increased.  Our kids haven’t learned about humility because we live in an environment where parents sue their school if their kid doesn’t get an “A,” or wasn’t chosen to be on the football or basketball team.  How can children learn humility when their failures are elevated to jurisprudence concepts?          

It’s basically the elders who are responsible for our kids’ incompetence.  It’s grownups who don’t make their kids learn values or appropriate expectations.  They don’t teach them how to take advantage of opportunities.  We do a lousy job of getting our kids ready for the real world because we’re teaching them their esteem is more important than their effort.

In addition, a survey conducted by the Corporate Voices for Working Families found that

“nearly three-quarters of survey participants (70 percent) cite deficiencies among incoming high school graduates in ‘applied’ skills, such as professionalism and work ethic, defined as ‘demonstrating personal accountability, effective work habits, e.g. punctuality, working productively with others, time and workload management.’  More than 40 percent of surveyed employers say incoming high school graduates hired are deficiently prepared for the entry-level jobs they fill. The report finds that recent high school graduates lack the basic skills in reading comprehension, writing and math, which many respondents say were needed for successful job performance.”

I guess if you’ve spent your time sexting and playing video games, you’re not going to be good in reading comprehension, writing, and math.            

The study also found that nearly three-quarters of incoming high school graduates are viewed as not being able to use reasonable grammar and spelling.  Their written communication is horrible, and they can’t write memos, letters, or complex technical reports. 

Critical thinking, problem solving, and the ability to express oneself are no longer being taught in school.  Do you know why?  Because we have women’s studies, Black studies, Hispanic studies, purple studies, green studies, etc.  We have all kinds of studies for advocacy groups which have no place in our basic education system.  These studies should all be extracurricular subjects and should have no relevance to graduating with a degree. If you haven’t read the classics and you haven’t thought through profound concepts and essays, then you’re not educated.  All these studies simply involve being angry about something and putting your fist in the air.  This is why our ranking in science and math is below a lot of third world countries.  We should be number one. 

These are just some of the many things bothering employers these days, but it mainly comes down to this: they’re dealing with snot-nosed upstarts with a sense of entitlement.    

For more on this topic, here is a link to some skills most sought after by employers.

Quote of the Week

Armed Forces Day, above all, honors the dedicated individuals who wear the uniforms of their country….The task of each one is the task of all the Armed Forces:  to protect the freedoms which underlie the greatness of America.
               – General Earle G. Wheeler
                 Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Saturday, May 19 is Armed Forces Day

Armed Forces Day

Caretaker Burnout

I get many calls these days about people caretaking for family members.  It’s a difficult and incredibly impactful service.  About 65 percent of older people with long-term needs rely exclusively on family and friends, and another 30 percent will supplement family care with paid providers and, perhaps at some point, hospice.

Psychology Today published an interesting article examining the differences between male and female caregivers.  It applies what I’ve said all along regarding the caregiving realm: men and women are different.

Women provide the majority of care to their spouses, parents, friends, and neighbors.  Biologically, women are the nurturers, so their caregiving role is more natural.  They wear many hats — the hands-on health provider, care manager, friend, companion, surrogate, decision maker, and/or advocate.  Because nurturing is viewed as their natural role, women are expected to be caregivers and are often not very appreciated.  People are less likely to offer a woman help than a man because they don’t expect him to be able to change diapers, wash clothes, or cook.

Men, on the other hand, are generally the providers, protectors, and fixer-uppers.  That’s their biological programming.  Therefore, men see caretaking as a task, and the illness as something to fix.  And when they can’t fix it, they feel like failures, which leads them to depression.  So, men really need help to understand that they are not failures because they can’t fix the people they’re caring for.

With this in mind, you can see why divorce rates are much higher when a wife is sick.  Basically speaking, men don’t handle the caretaking role as well.  We’ve all heard stories of men in positions of political power who abandon or fool around on their wives who are seriously ill. 

Unlike men, women like to talk about stress.  Men get a lot of relief by not talking.  Instead, they do guy stuff – e.g. going out and playing golf for two hours.  That’s what really helps them let go of stress. 

Caregiving Burnout
Whether you’re a male or female caregiver, there are common warning signs you’re burnt out:

* You don’t have as much energy 
* You catch every cold or flu that’s going around 
* You’re constantly exhausted even after you’ve slept
* You start neglecting your own needs, either because you’re too busy or you just don’t care anymore 
* Your whole life revolves around caregiving, and you find absolutely no other satisfaction 
* You can’t relax, even when help appears 
* You get increasingly impatient and irritable with the person you’re caretaking 
* You feel overwhelmed, helpless, and hopeless

You burn out as a caretaker when you’re trying to take on all the responsibilities of caregiving on your own.  You’re not taking breaks or getting assistance.  And it’s really tough to yank yourself back from a burnout. 

So, when you start feeling the symptoms, it’s time to take some action and get more help.  You need to find somebody to take care of the paperwork and the yard, or find someone to come over and cook.  You need to bring in other people.  Whether they’re volunteers, paid helpers, family, or friends taking turns, you’re going to need help.  If you try to take it all on yourself, you’ll make yourself emotionally and physically sick, and you won’t even be at your best for the person you’re trying to help.

Some People Are Just Plain Mean

Everyone has a mean person in his or her life.  I’ve had one in mine for the past 8 years.  To be truthful, it really upset me in the beginning.  It wasn’t because anything this person said had validity, but rather it bothered me she could keep doing ferocious things without consequences.  I was brought up to think if you did something bad, there was always a consequence.  And to this day, it’s overwhelming to me that people get away with doing bad things.

However, at this point in my life, I think it’s funny so much of this person’s existence revolves around being ferocious toward me.  Nonetheless, most of you are not at that stage.

We all know what mean people are like — they gossip about you to others, ignore you, say hurtful things, break or steal your stuff, belittle you, set you up to get into trouble for something you didn’t say or do, call you names, imply you’re not as clever, good-looking, well connected, valuable or nice as they are, intimidate you, leave unfriendly or unkind messages about you on social media sites, and break promises they swore they’d keep.

Yet, people don’t seem to want to accept some people are just plain mean.  Remember The Hillside Strangler during the 1970s?  They molested, tortured, and murdered women, and then scattered their body parts around.  I remember the psychiatrists (the “whores of the court”) coming out of the woodwork during the trial saying The Strangler must have been crazy.  But, I also remember one female psychiatrist’s interview in a long documentary about the case.  When asked about The Strangler, she said, “All I can tell you is some people are just evil.”  That’s what people don’t wish to accept – they want to make evil an illness that they can fix.  They think if they can fix it, then a) they won’t have to face the mean people in their own lives, and b) they feel in control – i.e. if you can fix someone with pills, you have control over him or her. 

Therefore, evil does not exist for a lot of people.  Evil is just something that needs fixing.  But I’m here to tell you evil is NOT a psychiatric illness.  People who put other people in ovens and gas showers, shoot or burn their fellow man, or throw babies up in the air for target practice are evil!

If you’ve been dealing with a mean person at work, in your neighborhood, in your club, or in your family, the best way of handling that person is to not go up against him or her.  You can’t win.  You’re unequipped to deal with a mean person unless you’re equally bad.  Mean people have no rules and no limits.  You do.  Try to avoid contact with the person.  If you’ve tried to sort things out and he or she decides to keep being mean, there isn’t much you can do to influence or change his or her mind.  If this person actually hates you or feels like he or she can’t lose face by dawning a different attitude, you don’t have to put up with it.  Remove yourself.  Don’t listen to his or her taunts, don’t read the crap he or she writes about you, and don’t have any connection to his or her spiteful attitude.  Let this person know you’re not going to tolerate it and make a clean cut.  Even the meanest person may get bored when his or her target stops responding. 

I remember one Star Trek episode (from the original series, which I still think was the best) where a hazy, dusty force took over the Starship Enterprise and caused the crew  to get mean and fight with each other.  The crew tried to kill it, confront it, and reason with it, but to no avail.  Finally, somebody figured out the haze was a force that ate anger and used it as energy to get bigger and stronger.  To stop the force, Captain Kirk got on the intercom and told the crew that no matter how much anger they all felt, they should all laugh and hug.  The thing shriveled up and went away.

I thought the episode offered a nice parallel to how we should approach meanness.  Similar to the Enterprise crew, no matter how much we try to confront or reason with meanness, we can’t.  Some people simply need to be mean to feel better about themselves.  And there are people like that all over the world. 

My advice?  Just get out of their way.  Don’t take it personally.  Unfortunately, karma won’t always kick in and nothing bad necessarily will happen to them.  In fact, sometimes they lead long and financially successful lives.  That may be hard to swallow, but the quality of your life is more important. 

So laugh.  Throw your head back and laugh.  Let them pound sand and not you.

Quote of the Week

A mother’s love for her child is like nothing else in the world.  It knows no law, no pity, it dates all things and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path.
               – Agatha Christie
                 British crime writer
                 From the short story “The Last Séance

Agatha Christie

The Cost of NOT Staying At Home

We all know the costs of moms not staying at home with their kids.  But did you know it literally costs more for moms to work?

After factoring in the rising costs of child care, gas, wear and tear on the car, parking, and other work-related expenses (clothes, food, etc.), a growing number of mothers are figuring out it doesn’t pay to have a job. 

In a CNN article, a third-grade teacher making about $48,000 a year in the Fairfax, Virginia  public school system was shadowed.  Out of the $48,000 she earned, she brought home about $30,000 after taxes, health insurance, and retirement contributions.  Even though she lives in Virginia, where child care costs are among the lowest in the country, care for the child would have cost $12,000 a year – nearly half of her before-tax income.

She says, “It wasn’t worth $18,000 for us to let somebody else raise our son.”  So I thought, “Well what amount of money would make it worth it to have somebody else raise your kid?” 

The Pew Research Center also conducted a study on the public attitude about stay-at-home moms.  According to it, when motherhood and children are brought into the debate, there is an ongoing ambivalence about what is best for society. Oh my gosh!  Imagine thinking of the greater good.  Only 21 percent of adults think the trend toward mothers of young children working outside the home has been a good thing for society.  Personally, I’m sad that the response was as large as 21 percent, but it’s still small.  On the other hand, 37 percent of the people surveyed said being a working mom is a bad thing, and 38 percent were not sure it makes a difference. 

The study goes on to say, most working mothers (62%) prefer to only work part time, and only 37% say they prefer full-time work. That’s scary…a third of those children have mothers who would rather be away from them all day. And finally, only one-in-ten moms say having a mother who works full time is the ideal situation for a child.  Do you realize they took ten mothers and asked each of them, “If you work full time, is that ideal for your kid?”  And one of them actually said, “Yeah.”  I wonder what motivated that, because I’ve always said not everybody’s a great mom.  If you’re not a good mom the kid might be better off with somebody else.  It is possible. 

But then I asked my listeners to describe “Aha!” moments they had about being stay-at-home moms.  Here are just three of the responses… 

Heidi wrote:
“My ‘Aha!’ moment happened rather quickly when I became a mom for the first time.  I was open to returning to work and didn’t know how I was going to feel after giving birth.  But when they put my daughter in my arms for the very first time, I looked at her, felt her tiny little body against mine, and said to my husband, ‘I’m never going back to work!’  Within those first few seconds of holding my daughter, a rush of future moments overwhelmed all my senses.  I didn’t want anyone besides this beautiful baby’s mommy and daddy to care for her.  I didn’t want a nanny to call me when she took her first steps.  I didn’t want a text from someone other than her daddy telling me she ate carrots for the first time.  I didn’t want to learn via email my child could swing all by herself at the park.  I didn’t want a video sent to my cell phone watching her speak her first words or hear her first real giggles.  I didn’t want a Picture Mail of my child’s first smile after losing her first tooth.  No, I wanted to be there for every possible moment in her life.  What job or amount of money would be worth missing all of that?  I’m happy to say after 6 years with two children and a grateful husband who not only loves my choice but also respects my choice (as so few do) of staying at home to raise our children, I still stay at home!  Thank God I had my ‘Aha!’ moment so quickly.  Otherwise I would have missed out on the one thing that matters most in life: being a real and present mother who has enough videos and pictures to fill a thousand albums that were all taken by me!  We all have regrets in our lives on what we should have or wished we would have done.  I thank God that not being there for my children each and every day is not one of them.”

Mayi wrote:
“When I started staying home with my children, I was surprised to find out how much I didn’t value my position as a mother.  I found out I only get to be mommy once and time was valuable. I learned I could live on a lot less than I originally believed.  I learned I like teaching (as they were my first students).  I learned I only get one shot at being an awesome mom.  I learned how to love and appreciate myself as a woman with an important job.  I learned how to budget and sacrifice, and I began to connect with and honor other mothers.  I have learned how to be creative, work, and study from home, and I have learned how to organize and plan.  I know the bond we have created will never be broken.  And I learned as long as I put God first, He will lead and direct me down the correct path and continue to make me an awesome mom and wife.”

And Jane:
“I have my stay-at-home parent ‘Aha!’ moment almost daily when I pick my daughters up from school.  I see the other kids who come out from their classes to emerge into the quad or parking lot area only to look for their ‘after school program’ bus/van, and they have this look of sadness when they see children like mine, who have their mom there to greet them with a hug, kiss, and a smile once they come running out of their classroom.  It would break my heart if I was not able to be there like I am for my girls.  Yes, we don’t have the luxuries like the other kids do of going to Disneyland once a year, video game systems, or designer clothes/shoes, but we are happy with what we have and what we can do. I love my two girls, and I wouldn’t change being a stay-at-home mom for anything!”