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The REAL Problems with Healthcare in America

Political Mayhem

The attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare (ACA) failed. I don’t think there is one person that can confidently say they even know what was in the last revision of the proposed American Health Care Act. Politicians were so desperate to pass the bill, changes were being made faster than it could be revised on paper. What was certain was that the bill did not meet all the Trump administration mandates: that it provided “Affordable coverage for everyone; lower deductibles and healthcare costs; better care; and zero cuts to Medicaid.” Even though the various revisions of the bill failed to meet any of these mandates, the administration supported it.

This was purely political. It failed because it was wrong. It failed because after seven years of complaining about Obamacare, the Republican congressmen STILL had no plan to replace it and threw something together last minute. It failed because enough Republican congressmen refused to be bullied (to vote for it) and pledged to vote their conscious, in favor of what was best for their constituents.

Nothing about this congressional effort focused on the good of the American people. It was never about quality healthcare. It was ALL about repealing Obamacare- destroying Barrack Obama’s legacy. That was the single goal.

Bad, Better, Worse?

In order to discuss the cost and accessibility of healthcare, here are some thing you might want to consider:

  • The Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the failed bill, the American Health Care Act (AHCA) are/were both flawed. The combination of coverage, cost control and availability do not work in favor of the American people under either plan. Still, had the ACA been replaced with the AHCA, 24 million Americans would have lost coverage. A big problem with the ACA is that the model (ratio of insured) hasn’t been reached, driving premium costs up.
  • Without regulation, healthcare providers are at liberty to charge uninsured patients whatever they want. Insurance companies have a stringent table of fees it will pay for services, yet it can vary from provider to provider, affecting individual premium costs.
  • Healthcare insurance policies vary so greatly that it’s nearly impossible for the average American to decipher. This leads to confusion, inadequate coverage and unnecessary higher out-of-pocket costs.
  • Healthcare coverage is more a subsidy than it is an insurance policy. Most Americans would not be able to afford quality care, especially in the situation of an emergency or long-term illness without some sort of assistance. Paying out-of-pocket is simply not an option.
  • Half (or more) of individual American bankruptcies are attributed to debt from medical expenses.
  • Public and private hospitals alike are prohibited by law from denying a patient care in an emergency. The Emergency Medical and Treatment Labor Act (EMTLA) passed by Congress in 1986 explicitly forbids the denial of care to indigent or uninsured patients based on a lack of ability to pay. (from Google)

Taking the above issues into consideration, if we are guaranteed treatment, with or without coverage– who pays? We all do. Whether through higher taxes, bankruptcies, rising premiums or out-of-pocket. We will all pay for healthcare for everyone.

As long as healthcare is for-profit in America, any efforts to make it affordable are likely to fail.

Here’s one example of a for-profit problem: Mark Bertolini, Chairman and CEO of AETNA received  $27.9 million in compensation in 2015, up from 15 million in 2014. The combined compensation of four other top AETNA executives was $18.7 million, not including $17.4 million in restricted stock and stock options. In spite of a huge profit margin and exorbitant compensations for top level executives, AETNA withdrew from the ACA marketplace in eleven states this past year, to assure their financial gains. From 2015 to 2016 their net profits rose 8% to $603.9 million dollars.

We are told they can’t sustain services because Obamacare doesn’t work. In reality, it’s about greed.

Life, Death… Corporate Greed?

When the actual healthcare professionals that you and I are likely to come in contact with– such as EMTs, nurses, doctors and medical office staff– have problems affording adequate health coverage– there is a serious problem with the system.


There are really only three possible options, I can think of, to bring costs under control and make healthcare in America affordable:

  1. Heavy government regulation of all healthcare in America.
  2. Make all healthcare nonprofit.
  3. Establish a single payer national healthcare system.

None of these are easily fixes. What other solutions can you think of?

Washington may be willing to push this issue to the side (for now) but the problem isn’t going to go away.

Send a Christmas Card & Save the World

diy-christmas-card-photoHave you mailed your Christmas cards yet? Do you send them out or have you stopped altogether? What if you could actually save the world; or perhaps closer to home-  a life — by the simple act of mailing a holiday card? The title of this post may seem a little over dramatic but I stand by the sentiment and I’ll explain why.

No, there is no gimmick or marketing ploy here. I don’t work for a greeting card company and I make this suggestion out of sincere concern for where our society is headed. We are rapidly tossing out traditions in the name of progress and the overused phrase, ‘being more politically correct’. We can say we’re too busy or we’re saving money…. but why not be willing to say you’re too lazy or just don’t care?

I’m not judging anyone here. I realize this just isn’t important to some people. If you choose not to send out cards– for whatever reason; that’s fine by me. BUT– if I can encourage you to just consider participating in this time-old tradition… then it was worth my time.

I just read an opinion piece by someone who is sending out their cards (this year) for the last time. Some of their justifications are: a) not getting enough cards in return, b) thinking the recipient will be disappointed if there isn’t a gift card or cash inside, c) it takes too much effort, and d) it’s easier to just send a message online.

I understand how someone might come to these conclusions but I also think they are shallow assumptions and, well– just plain wrong. I also see some of those excuses as just plain selfishness.

Who doesn’t like receiving Christmas cards? (Unless, it’s because it makes you feel guilty for not mailing them out?) The comments from people attached to the above mentioned story all disagreed with the author’s perceptions and want to receive cards. They like this traditional token of holiday cheer.

So how can a silly thing like sending a card save the world?

Here are a few of my points to consider:

  • Communicate, connect, share. Show someone you care. Isolation can be a terrible thing. Your act of thoughtfulness could be the only positive thing someone experiences today. You may be reaching out to someone in desperate need. Someone you know may be feeling completely alone and disenfranchised. You’re card could go a long way to brighten someone’s day.
  • So much Conservative emphasis is on the cause of world problems being the fault of the breakdown of the family. One of the ways families stay connected is through holidays and traditions. As society places less value on the family, society starts to fail.  Whether it’s a biological family, chosen family or coming together as a community— society needs ways to connect that are positive and unite us– giving us strength. Eliminate traditions… eliminate family and a peaceful society is the next to go.
  • Can’t afford to send everyone gifts? Why not a simple, heartfelt note inside a card? This can mean so much more than a gift that will soon be forgotten. A few kind words letting someone know you are thinking of them can go a long way.
  • The Christmas card tradition keeps many people in different industries employed. Authors, artists & designers, sales, marketing, transportation… all benefit.
  • “It’s easier to say Merry Christmas on Facebook.” Yes, it is easier. It takes no effort at all. I’m not belittling the sentiments– I’m saying it isn’t the same thing. AND– not everyone will see it. If that’s your substitution– it isn’t working.
  • “Christmas cards are a waste of money and negatively affect the environment.” Not true. Many cards are made of recycled paper and can be recycled again. The paper industry, by it’s very existence, contributes positively to the environment through replanting and maintaining forests and environmental systems.
  • “Christmas cards aren’t PC.” Really? The celebration of Christmas goes far beyond religion. How many people do you believe are really offended by Christmas cards? If this is a concern of yours: How about a generic holiday card? It’s the idea behind the card that counts. It’s letting someone know you are thinking about them.

Screen-shot-2012-10-27-at-6.24.06-PMSure, a Christmas card can be viewed as a small, meaningless thing.  How about parades? Can we get rid of those next? And Fourth of July fireworks? Do we really need to celebrate birthdays anymore? If you take cards, along with many other small, meaningless things away– what are you replacing it with? What do you have left? We are slowly chipping away at many of the elements that have allowed society to connect and to function successfully for many years. Individually, they don’t seem like much but they are a small part of a whole.

It’s all about living and sharing.

Call, write, visit…connect. let someone know you care.

Here’s an idea: I’ll go one better… you can get rid of Christmas cards but throw an annual holiday party for all your family and friends instead. Is there any better way to connect and express your appreciation than in person? Holidays are for sharing. Nothing is better than being there and sharing an experience. Only, you’ll have to make sure they’ll all be able to attend on the date you select.

Of course, you’ll also have to send out invitations…. which is a card…


Exploring the Fox River Trail

Whether you live in a rural or urban setting, and whether you know it or not; there are some amazing walking and biking trails near you. I found sights, sounds and smells that can dazzle to extremes, just a short distance from my home. I can experience the city, farm and fields, beautiful river and forest views; all in a relatively short distance. The sounds of traffic, babbling brooks, chirping birds… even silence.  Stale city smells, pungent livestock, fresh forest air… are all there waiting for you to explore.

A little color as spring begins to invade Trout Park along the Fox Valley Trail.

A little color as spring begins to invade Trout Park along the Fox Valley Trail.

Last week, I took my longest ride so far, traveling south from Elgin down to the heart of St. Charles. There and back, my ride clocked in at just over 22 miles, round trip. To date, I’ve covered about 16 miles of the Fox River Trail (FRT) between St. Charles and East Dundee.

In total, the trail is approximately 43 miles long from Montgomery to the south, to Algonquin on the north end. The trail links in multiple locations with other Illinois trails branching out in other directions.

Here are some highlights, as well as some tips to help you avoid getting lost and to work around some trail closures. I’m sharing some photos I’ve taken along the path over the past few weeks.


One of the best urban portions of the ride, travels through Elgin along the Fox River passing Walton Island Park.

One of the best urban portions of the ride, travels through Elgin, along the Fox River, passing Walton Island Park.

Pratt's Castle, north of downtown Elgin (1262 Cedar Ave, Elgin, IL) along the Fox River Trail.

Pratt’s Castle, north of downtown Elgin (1262 Cedar Ave, Elgin, IL) along the Fox River Trail.


"Brick Roadway on North Spring Street" (1930's) is the last exposed brick remaining in Elgin.

“Brick Roadway on North Spring Street” (1930’s) is the last exposed brick remaining in Elgin.

Detours. I was naive enough to believe once you were on the trail, you’d stay on a clearly marked trail. It’s not the case. There are some closures and detours you’ll want to be aware of along the trail.

Traveling north from Elgin on the Fox River Trail. There are really only two minor considerations you’ll want to know about traveling north of downtown Elgin. The first, is a pretty simple jog that takes you a few blocks east of the river, around the Gail Borden Library, to allow you to cross near the Kimball street bridge. There are green bike signs that help get you across this busy street. You then have the option of taking the sidewalk around either side of the library until it reconnects with the trail. This is a permanent part of the path. I should note that once you cross Kimball, you should take the side walk south of the library back down to the river or you’ll miss a beautifully maintained section and the Veteran’s Memorial. Otherwise, you just continue straight ahead, passed the library and a large (currently) vacant piece of land, back to the actual trail going north.

The second spot is at I-90 about a quarter mile passed Trout Park. The path is not closed there. I saw one post online stating it was closed.  You are crossing through a construction zone– and there are signs requesting you walk your bike through the short stretch, although most cyclists I’ve encountered, ignore the signs. The bridge that crosses the river at I-90 (taking you off trail) is closed and under construction.

Traveling south from Elgin on the Fox River Trail. A couple miles south of Elgin the FRT is closed. If you’re not paying attention, you’ll suddenly find yourself traveling along the Illinois Prairie path, and not know how you got there, or how to get back on the FRT. Forking off to the west is a closed path that appears to dead end at a train trestle. There is actually supposed to be a bridge

The FRT detours here. The bridge is gone that is supposed to go under the left arch connecting the trail.

The FRT detours here. The bridge is gone that is supposed to go under the left arch connecting the trail.

going under the trestle that connects the trail. This spot tripped me up my first ride. It is not marked as part of the FRT and there are no signs anywhere that instruct how you can detour back to the trail.

The best work-around I found, is to take the Illinois Prairie Path to Middle Street and go west, into South Elgin, go north one block on South Gilbert Street to State Street and then taking the State Street Bridge west, putting you are back on the trail again.

On my return trip, I did investigate the ‘skipped’ portion of the FRT and it is walkable but not easy to ride– up to where the bridge is out. That portion of the path is in extreme disrepair, lots of steep and bumpy, twisting spots that need to be redeveloped– if and when the bridge is replaced.

Seba Park on the west side of the Fox River is currently under construction but you can follow the path through, staying on the trail. From there, the trail is quite beautiful and unobstructed. Following the shoreline of the Fox River, along side a railroad track for some distance, is a nice peaceful ride.

There is one long, fairly steep incline that I find too difficult to ride and walked it instead, when heading south. It’s fun riding north though— but you need to use your breaks.

As you get close to St. Charles, there are a few spots where you have to ride main roads and residential streets between gaps in actual dedicated paths— so you’ll need to use extreme caution if walking or cycling. Some spots aren’t marked, you just continue straight ahead and the trail will become clear when it picks up again. I used the TrailLink app and GPS just to be sure.



Farms, fields and sky along the Fox River Trail and Illinois Prairie Path.

Farms, fields and sky along the Fox River Trail and Illinois Prairie Path.

Where Bridges and Train Trestles Meet. One of the spots where the Fox River Trail and Illinois Prairie Path link.

Where Bridges and Train Trestles Meet. One of the spots where the Fox River Trail and Illinois Prairie Path link.

Biking across the Fox River, north of St. Charles on the Fox River Trail.

Biking across the Fox River, north of St. Charles on the Fox River Trail.

Stunning view of the Fox River.

Stunning view of the Fox River.

Much of the Fox River Trail follows along functioning and unused train track.

Much of the Fox River Trail follows along functioning and unused train track.

Open blue skies.

Open blue skies.

I stopped when I reached downtown St. Charles because I was confused where to go. The map shows the trail forking and following both sides of the river through downtown. You cannot ride your bike on the sidewalks in downtown St. Charles though. The narrow roads and traffic congestion make riding in the streets a little daunting as well. Signs are posted requiring cyclists to walk bikes on sidewalks. Since I was out for a ride, not a walk; I decided to turn back towards Elgin at this point. I found out later, there is an actual riding path on the west side of the Fox River, which after some distance, must cross back over the river to the east side, before heading south towards Aurora.

On my way back, a work crew on the path forced me on a bit of a detour through a small portion of Tekakwitha Woods. I was rewarded with a stunning bridge view I would have otherwise missed.

Just off the FRT in the Tekakwitha Woods.

Just off the FRT in the Tekakwitha Woods.

I’m looking forward to more exploring this summer. My next goal is to ride from Elgin to the northern trailhead in Algonquin. A friend of mine just told me yesterday that north of East Dundee, is a beautiful scenic ride.

There are thousands of miles of trails across the United States and some are bound to be near you. Some you never knew existed. Get out there and explore!

Suggested Links:


On the Road Again: Back On A Bike

I was almost at my six-mile mark, having just crossed a newly constructed, planked bridge– and there was the sign that greeted me: BIKE PATH CLOSED UNTIL SEPTEMBER 2015. Not what I expected to see when I reached IL-Route 25 and Stearns Rd. a week ago. It was my first ride south on the Fox River Trail from Elgin, Illinois. This was an exploratory test run.

I’d ridden north on the trail a few times, going as far as East Dundee. This was my first venture south on the trail. I’d set a goal to ride all the way to the south end of the trail by the end of the summer. Now with the trail closure, it looks like I might have to come up with a new challenge.

Close up of my new ride.

Close up of my new ride.

As a kid growing up in Florida, I rode my bike a lot. We lived in a new, sparsely populated subdivision with plenty of safe road to ride. We also made our own trails, even though it was pretty difficult to ride in the Florida sand and clay. On a rare occasion, I’d leave the subdivision and ride up the main road to the convenience store. Usually, picking up pop bottles along the way to redeem the deposit for penny candy.

Yes, I’m that old.

We lived in three different places when I was in my teens; all within four to five miles of the schools I attended. I didn’t ride my bike to class on a regular basis but sometimes I would ride there after hours or on weekends.

I also really loved to ride my bike after a good rain. I’d ride through puddles with the water and sand splashing; spinning off the tires and spokes– coating my calves and ankles.

That was so many years ago.

I’d only been on a bike a few times since then.

So what’s the sudden interest now?

Exercise. Exploring. A Challenge. Entertainment. Pick one.

Elgin, Illinois is a fairly, bike-friendly city. Downtown there are some bike lanes, many of which, strangely, don’t connect from block to block. The streets aren’t terribly congested most of the time, making them fairly safe and easy to ride. The bonus is that home is only about a half-mile from the Fox River Trail.

I’d seriously thought about getting a bike a number of times in the past few years. I was always afraid I’d end up not riding it enough to be worth the investment.  Then last November, we were at a charity event, anchored by a huge silent auction. One of the auction items was a bike, we bid— and the rest is history. I’m now the proud owner of a 2014 Raleigh Talus 3.0 Mountain Bike.

I was only able to go for a couple very short rides (last fall) before the weather got too cold and icy. My first real ride wasn’t until March— still cold— snow on the ground— at least the roads and sidewalks were clear. Maybe not so ironically, it was also rainy. We’d had a couple of warmer days, so I hadn’t really considered the weather when I went for the early morning ride. Besides the rain, the temperature was hovering around freezing and I hadn’t thought to wear gloves. After a couple miles, frozen fingers and wet with rain, I cut my ride short. Not to mention the burn in my legs from unused muscles I forgot I even had.

Out on the Fox River Trail.

Out on the Fox River Trail.

So far, I’ve only ridden about sixty miles total. I found a great fitness app, Runtastic, that uses GPS tracking to record and map my rides. In addition to mapping and distance, it also records elevation changes, calories burned, time and a lot of other information.

Biking is great exercise and a perfect way to clear your head. It’s also wonderful way to see the city and nearby trails. Riding on two wheels, you see things in a completely different light.

It’s never too late to reignite a passion for an old hobby or activity. It just takes the motivation to get out and do it.

In my next post I’ll share some photographs from my rides, so far; exploring the Fox River Trail.

Savings, Loss or Scam: Is Pet Insurance Right For You?

petvetI’ve spent a lot of time over the past few months looking at pet insurance and seriously considering the pros and cons of it. With two new puppies in the house and having gone through added medical costs in the last months of Roxie’s life, I decided I really needed to investigate the pet insurance options.

Pets are an investment. Pets are expensive to care for; they become valued members of our family. So how can we best protect them and be prepared for emergency situations?

Pet insurance seems like an easy solution, right? Well, maybe. It’s not as affordable as you might think. It also doesn’t cover everything you’d hope it would. In fact, reading through some policies will leave you scratching your head, wondering exactly what it does cover.

Unfortunately, navigating your way through the various policies, coverages and fine print is as complicated for pet insurance as it is for human health insurance. Many options, deductibles, varying premiums depending on the coverage; lots of exclusions and vague language that suggests many of the policies won’t pay out– at least, not the way you would expect. You don’t always get what you pay for.

A Financial Decision

The idea of pet insurance sounds like a good investment… but is it worth it? It’s always a good idea to educate yourself before making such an important financial commitment, no matter how logical it sounds to you initially. Do the numbers, compare and read before you sign.

Coverage could be the best way to go for people on a tight budget, that might not be able to afford a large unforeseen expense. It’s also a good option for people that, by making a monthly payment, will give them a sense of security and peace of mind.

For people that can afford an immediate and unexpected outlay of cash; coverage may not be beneficial. Especially, if your pet lives a long, healthy, incident-free life.

injured-dog-278x218There are two main options to consider first: pet insurance and/or a wellness plan. These are two different protections that do not cover you for the same expenses. Some companies offer one or the other and some offer both options– charged separately. Pet insurance starts with a chosen deductible amount and can cover medical care, surgeries, emergency procedures and some medications– BUT, what is covered depends on the individual policy.  A wellness plan does not carry a deductible (in any of the examples I have found) and can cover many of the reoccurring, yearly costs of preventative care. These can include: health check-ups, vaccinations, heartworm, flea and tick preventatives, spaying or neutering, and sometimes even discounted grooming services. All plans are different, as are the costs. Many I found are $25-$40 a month per pet.

Pet Insurance

Most companies offer plans with deductibles of $0, $100 or $500. The better the coverage, the more it costs. Most companies do not cover preexisting conditions. Yearly wellness and preventative care are not covered by any of the pet insurance policies, from any of the companies I researched. When looking at insurance, make sure you read the complete policy to be sure all your concerns are covered. There are many exclusions you would expect to be covered. Several companies also provide additional coverage (riders) for more specified health concerns, adding to the cost of your plan.

The least expensive plans I could find, providing what I would consider average or basic coverage, was just over $2,000 a year, with a $500 deductible, per pet. Policies easily climb in cost up to around $6,000 a year.

In the long run, most pet owners do not benefit from the coverages. In some cases, the policies are written in a way that the companies could legally avoid any actual payout. It’s legal– but I still consider it a scam. Negligence is subjective. Most policies will not pay for services that are needed as the result of what they consider owner negligence. Many accidents and incidences such as the ingestion of foreign objects, could easily be classified as negligence.

I also found that, except in the most extreme circumstances, most people pay more for insurance coverage than if they paid for medical care out-of-pocket. In most of the cases, this costs pet owners $2,000-3,000 more annually for the insurance, even if minor unexpected medical services were needed.

Is-Pet-Insurance-Necessary-01Wellness Plans

One of the main benefits of a wellness plan is that you pay a monthly premium that spreads the costs of preventative care over the course of the year as opposed to all at once. On average, the cost of a wellness plan is pretty much equal to what you will need to spend each year on your pet anyway. Some wellness plans offer discounts for multiple pets so there could be a savings there. If you have a wellness plan that covers all office visits, you might find you are more likely to be proactive regarding any early signs of possible illness.

Insurance is a gamble. You put out a sum of money now, in the hopes that it will pay off (protect you) in the future. If you carry insurance, pay monthly premiums and actually need medical treatment, then it’s could be worth it.

Important to Note

I’m purposely avoiding too much discussion on specific companies.  I recommend doing a review and complaint search online before you commit to any company.

I do have to point out that where most policies’ deductibles cover annual costs, Trupanion’s deductibles are per incident. I did not even notice that fact until it was pointed out to me in one of the articles I read. Each accident, illness or incident would require you pay a deductible for each, prior to insurance paying for anything.

I found a really good article in Consumer Reports you should look at before purchasing pet insurance. It will help you along the way, give you some idea of what to look for; and help in deciding whether this is the best decision for you and your pets. It compares several polices and gives several incident scenarios that might help you decide.

002qi1cdgy6l5o97izq68Alternative Options

If you are disciplined enough, you might want to consider putting a certain amount aside each month, maybe opening a savings account; to accumulate funds in case of an emergency or to cover future expenses. There’s always the risk you might be tempted to use the money elsewhere; but if you end up not needing to use the funds over the lifetime of your pet– the money is still yours.

I also found a company called Pet Assure that offers a 25% discount program, for an annual fee, on all services. They have rates for individual to unlimited family pets– which could provide a huge savings. There are no exclusions with this plan. The program does require services through participating facilities. There may be other programs out there you might want to look into providing a similar savings.

Our Decision

Michael and I decided that at this point, neither pet insurance nor a wellness plan was the right decision for us. We might sign up for a discount program in the future; but again, at the current time it does not benefit or protect us financially, in a way that we need.

I hope this helps some people considering coverage. Coverage is a personal decision. Never let anyone pressure you into committing to a policy that makes you uncomfortable. The most important thing is that you do the very best you can to keep your furry family healthy, happy and safe.


Getting It Out of My Head

Thinking_ManFrom the moment I wake up every morning my head is full. A song is playing in my head, a current event, my to do list, a dream, a person, a thought, an idea, a wish…. and they all take their turns circulating through, sometimes going head to head– sometimes waiting for their turn to be the focus, front and center in my brain.

There are a dozen things rushing forward that I want to do, can do or should do… a dozen things I want to write about, each one lighting another thought or idea; that new spark taking me down a different road.

“Sometimes I think my head is so big because it is so full of dreams.”
John Merrick

You can probably tell, I don’t get bored too often. I do sometimes get frustrated trying to balance my thoughts and activities with the time I think I have to do them. Many of my thoughts relate to creativity with the back of my brain being filled with hundreds, if not thousands of partially thought out, half-developed ideas. Ideas that I’m not ready to put down on paper yet. Eventually, though, I do want to get them out of my head.

How much can our three pound brain handle? I looked it up. Various sources claim we each have somewhere between 12,000 and 70,000 thoughts per day. If accurate, those are some pretty incredible numbers.

My ideal (and unrealistic) solution would be to hook my brain up to a computer to output all my ideas into different files that I could sort, develop and then publish. I’ve found working on the novel and blog every day this month has helped me to get out of the habit of editing myself so much– as I go. My biggest challenge is getting the ideas out of my head first, fine tuning them later. I think so much faster than I type, so thoughts get lost.

My problem is that I like the details too much. If I can force out the original idea first, I think the important details will be triggered in my brain when I go back to edit and embellish.

I found a supposed, health site where people contribute their own diagnosis’ to people’s questions and there were some pretty interesting responses to this subject. Most suggested that if your head is constantly full of thoughts competing for your focus, you are either ADD or Bipolar. A few suggested it was a positive sign of a high IQ or high-functioning brain capacity. Suggested solutions beyond: seek medical attention, included: smoke pot or drink alcohol; drink caffeine; do yoga or meditate. I had to laugh.

I included the above paragraph, more for amusement than anything. I do want to comment though. That sampling of responses show, what I view as a significant problem in today’s society: label and medicate. Forget understanding, taking responsibility or control; don’t even try to change behavior or learn to harness it– make it a disorder and shove pills down its throat. That’s the answer to everything and it’s pathetic. I’m not putting down or trying to embarrass anyone that needs assistance. It’s just that in today’s society, there is no try when you can alter with medication instead.

Why do we have to consider thinking too much as a problem? Thinking sparks ideas, leading to innovations, actions and results. Not thinking leads to… well, what exactly? Not originality. Not creativity. Not solutions.

I’ll writing more on this later— but right now… something else is invading my brain. <wink>

The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli

The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli

Being Human: A Life Without _____ Is A Life Not Lived

Cloud 1It’s hard to believe it’s getting close to a year and a half since I parted ways with my job.

It’s been quite a roller coaster. I’ve had a lot of changes to get used to, a lot of decisions to make; and most of all, I’ve had to get reacquainted with parts of me I’d forgotten, locked up or ignored.

There have been a lot of feelings going on in my head and it’s not always easy.

It’s called being human.

I’m about as human as they come. I could never be accused of being a robot. I tend to wear my passion for whatever I’m doing, on my sleeve; and as a result, I may come off a little intense and dramatic.

Out in the real world it is expected that you behave with a certain amount of coldness. Sometimes you’ll hear it referred to as: professionalism and decorum. This requires you to bottle things up and not be completely honest. That lack of honesty, my friends, is one of the biggest failures in our society’s increasing isolation. Real communication is becoming obsolete.

Time and time again, I have watched people sit completely stone-faced and not express themselves– when I know they have definite opinions or feelings on the matter. It’s really hard to watch. How do you interact with that? I know, I’ve tried it– how should I say it… in the name of civility… and I usually fail miserably.

One of the biggest realizations I’ve had to face is that the feelings and responses to the things around us aren’t always going to be considered appropriate. We have to be okay with that. I think of all the people that medicate just to avoid feeling and I never want to be in that place.

We can try to ignore and avoid our feelings… even feel guilty about them but then how much are we really living? How much are we really experiencing life? It’s not always necessary to express all our feelings to other people but we at least need to acknowledge them ourselves. Appropriate or not, our feelings are real— if only to us. The people with whom we engage have those feelings too. Everyone deals with things differently… the important thing is that they are dealt with and not ignored.

It’s far too easy to become numb and go through the motions of living.

It can happen for a number of reasons:

  • We’re too busy, obsessed or focused on one thing; ignoring, or refusing to deal with everything else,
  • Afraid to become emotionally involved; of being used or hurt,
  • Lack of self confidence and feelings of inadequacy; fear of being judged,
  • Expectations of professional demeanor, void of expression; always holding your cards close,
  • Purely for self preservation; protecting your self, job, relationships or image,

When we allow ourselves to fall into any of these patterns, we start living a life without. We alienate ourselves and our selves. We may find the temporary protection we need to get through any given situation but if this becomes the way we deal with every day life, something is missing. We can become lost.

op7Tn.jpgBeing human is thinking, feeling and expressing through our experiences.

Life is joy, celebration and happiness— anger, heartbreak and tears. It’s connecting and sharing those feelings with others that make us human.

It’s important to feel things.

It’s important to express things.

It’s most important that we not lose who we are in the daily routine of survival.

Take away these human traits and what do you have left?

A big blank. A life without.


Suicide: Grappling With the Unimaginable

Four years ago the world lost a beautiful, creative, brilliant young girl who touched and forever changed my life.

Her senior year in high school, as the student assistant director, she’d been an important driving force behind our spring musical’s success and such an incredible help to me. She set a new standard for how effective, given the opportunity, student leadership at our school could be.

I saw her only twice after she graduated. We kept in touch online and she seemed to be doing well in college but then suddenly she was gone.

The death of Robin Williams brought back all the pain and grief I experienced back then.

I’ve felt the need to write about this for quite some time; particularly in the past week. (Her birthday.) Knowing the right words to say is another story.

Grappling with the unimaginable.

Insight_Melissa_Grieving-AngelAs a writer, I want to tell stories to share with readers about topics and events that have had an impact on my life. As a writer, it’s extremely difficult not to romanticize, in an effort to engage an audience.

I don’t want to romanticize this topic.

The fact is, suicide is not a solution. All it does is magnifies the pain and sadness, transferring it on to other people.

In 2011, someone in the United States died by suicide every 13 minutes.

It was the 10th leading cause of death with 39,518 reported suicides in the U.S. According to the World Heath Organization, there are over 800,000 deaths by suicide, globally, each year.

i found a list published by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention that they have asked all media and writers on the topic to share:


  • DO include links to treatment services, warning signs, and suicide hotline (1-800-273-TALK (8255).
  • DO include stories of hope.
  • DO monitor comment sections to identify hurtful statements, or people expressing suicidal thoughts.
  • DO contact an expert on suicide to get the facts.
  • DO report suicide as a health issue.


  • AVOID showing videos or photos of the method or location used.
  • AVOID framing suicide in terms of success: do not say committed suicide; do not say suicide attempts are successful or failed. Instead say died by suicide.
  • AVOID romanticizing the death.
  • AVOID describing suicide rates as skyrocketing, or as an epidemic, or other strong terms.
  • AVOID publishing text from a suicide note.
  • AVOID quoting police or first responders.
  • AVOID describing a suicide as inexplicable or without warning.

I realized after reading this list, that telling my story really wouldn’t really help anyone. If anything, I could risk trivializing or making an antidote out of a tragic event.

stages-of-griefFor the survivors of suicide, the long lasting effects can leave them immobilized. Grief, depression, helplessness, anger and guilt are often experienced and difficult to overcome.

Do you know what I really hate? I hate the stigma attached to the following terms: mental illness, mental disorder and mental health.

There is a common accepted belief that you are either normal or mentally ill. I find this extremely offense and inaccurate.

What is normal? In all of humanity, no two people are, or have ever been, exactly alike. So how can we define anyone society as normal?

Not only do we all look, think and feel differently; we also experience different sets of circumstances and react to them differently.

Normal tends to insinuate that there are people that are superior and mentally more healthy than others. It creates a stigma against people that live within any extremes. The need to define or classify us all leads some people to feel marked, separate and extremely alone.

Grappling with suicide: trying to understand or accept, is a long. difficult journey. Searching for answers that don’t exist is incomprehensible.

Here is a list of resources that might be helpful for understanding and coping with suicide and depression:

Under The Spreading Ginkgo Tree: 321 Division Street

Our Ginkgo tree at 321 Division Street.

Our Ginkgo tree at 321 Division Street.

One of the priceless gems of our property at 321 Division Street is our ancient Ginkgo tree. I know it’s definitely over 100 years old (based on an old picture) and would guess it’s actually between 110 and 130 years old. The modern Ginkgo tree is often called a living fossil, a descendent of the species dating back to the Early Jurassic period.

It is well known for its fan-shaped leaves that can be frequently found in ancient Chinese art.

In the fall, I’ve watched all the leaves drop from the tree in one day. When it happens that quickly, it’s a spectacular sight. The species is known to commonly drop all its leaves in 1 to 15 days.

This year, our tree is acquiring much more of the deep golden color leaves than usual. In recent years, we’ve had warmer weather leading up to a hard frost that causes most of the leaves to drop still green.

Ginko leaves turning their fall colors.

Ginkgo leaves turning their fall colors.

The Ginkgo, or Ginkgo biloba tree, grows tall before its branch stretch out wide. Our tree is somewhere around 70 feet tall. The Ginkgo is known to easily reach heights of over 100 feet.

Ginkgo trees are either male or female; the male producing cones with spores that are highly allergenic. The female produces ovules and once pollinated develop into silver green fruit that turn orange when they are ripe. There is a large nut in the center of the fleshy fruit. Ginkgo trees can reproduce asexually as well, which is evidenced by our tree. The nearest mature Ginkgo tree is a block away and is female. We believe it to be an offspring of our tree.

Clusters of Ginkgo fruit ripen on the tree.

Clusters of Ginkgo fruit ripen on the tree.

The biggest drawback about our tree is the fruit. Our Ginkgo produces large quantities (hundreds of pounds) of fruit each year, The fruit  is smaller than a walnut.) Though a few do drop throughout the fall, most remain on the branches long after all the leaves have dropped and we’ve had several good freezes.

The fleshy fruit contain butyric acid, that when ripe and fallen, have a foul smell like vomit. On an unseasonably warm day, this smell can be detected over a block away. This odor only lasts a few days but because the fruit usually drop so late, we often have fruit under fallen snow and have to deal the the smell briefly in the spring as well.

Once established, the Ginkgo tree is quite hardy and resistant to disease and pollution. They do not survive (tolerate) shade though. An interesting fact I found was that six Ginkgo trees survived the Hiroshima atomic bomb (1945) when most every other living thing perished.

Our own tree sustained substantial damage as the result of  bad hail storm a number of years ago, losing nearly a quarter of its branches. We had an arborist come and prune the damaged wood and the tree remains healthy. He also researched and believes it to be one of the three largest Ginkgo trees in Illinois.

Ginkgo and Ginkgo Suppliment Health Warnings

In some cultures, Ginkgo is used in cooking or as a featured ingredient or dessert.

Several years ago, it was one of the most widely-popular dietary supplements on the market. Ginkgo biloba was sold to millions, promising great memory enhancement among other things. In fact, this is completely false. Though a few smaller studies reportedly show benefits in dementia and Alzheimer patients, most studies show no slowing or improvement with consumption. There have been no proven beneficial uses for Ginkgo in other touted areas either, such as lowering blood pressure .

There are also many dangers to ingestion and regular Ginkgo use in some people. Many people are highly allergic. Ginkgo has been studied and shown to be detrimental to some people’s health. Specifically, taking Ginkgo supplements can be harmful to people with blood circulation problems, pregnant women and people taking antidepressants.

Ginkgo can cause bleeding, gas, nausea, diarrhea, dizziness and heart palpitations.

In addition, the over consumption of the seed (meat) can cause poisoning and convulsions. Some people are allergic to just handling the fleshy fruit, much like poison ivy.

So as a general warning, never start a regiment of dietary supplements without investigating them first. Most of the advertised new wonder drugs are marketing scams claiming unproven scientific results. Read the labels, ask your doctor and research online before taking a risk.

Our 100+ year old Ginkgo Tree at 321 Division Street in the fall.

Our 100+ year old Ginkgo Tree at 321 Division Street in the fall.

The GMO Skinny: What You Need to Know about GMO: Genetically Modified Foods

Labels on bags of snack foods indicate they are non-GMOYou’re already eating them and most people don’t know it. Some of the food on your table has been altered to produce toxins— toxins that are entering your body. It’s not on the label and it may not be safe.

GM or GMO foods (Genetically Modified Organisms) are now making their way to grocery shelves, in restaurants and into your home. The biggest concern for consumers should be the results of studies showing the adverse affects of GM foods on the digestive system, liver, kidneys, and reproductive organs of the animals tested. They have also been linked to premature aging. The studies  show the consumption of certain GM foods have caused allergic reactions to other normally non-allergenic foods that didn’t previously exist.

What are GMOs?

To put it in the simplest terms, GMOs are plants and animals that are genetically altered by inserting or splicing the genes of different species with the goal of a specific result. For example, combining the genes of a fish and a potato. Scientists are crossing species barriers set up by nature. They are creating hybrids that would be impossible to occur naturally. It’s also known as Genetic Engineering.

Why GMOs?

The official reasoning behind genetic modification is to produce crops that offer improved yields, enhanced nutritional value, tastes better, have a longer shelf life, and are resistance to drought, frost, or insect pests.

Unfortunately, to date, there is no proof of any increases in the quality of GM foods either in yields, taste or nutritional values over Non-GMO foods. Modified GMO crops that have increased primary pest tolerance, start to be attack more readily by secondary pests, requiring further engineering  and genetic modification. Herbicide tolerance in GMOs, allows and encourages the higher usage of chemical herbicides on food crops to kill weeds, increasing their overall toxicity. The most common used herbicide is Monsanto’s Round Up.

The genetic engineering of plants often requires the alteration of more than one single trait, when that trait fails to completely fulfill its intended purpose or when multiple results are desired. Stacked traits in one particular GM corn hybrid has eight GM traits to alter insect resistance and herbicide tolerance.

gmo-foods-smallGMOs are rapidly changing the natural balance of our ecosystem, causing a chain-reaction effect that cannot be reversed. The environmental effects of these changes may not be felt immediately but will take years to accurately measure and understand. Geneti modification cannot be undone. To better understand this, look at the serious long term affects the Japanese Beetle and West Nile virus are creating after being artificially introduced into other parts of the world other than their origin. They affect all elements of the environment (i.e. plants, animals, humans) directly, as well as the effects caused by the use of new chemicals introduced into the ecosystem in an attempt to combat them.

The genetic engineering of plants often requires the alteration of more than one single trait, if that trait fails to completely fulfill its intended purpose or when multiple results are desired. Stacked traits in one particular GM corn hybrid has eight GM traits to alter insect resistance and herbicide tolerance.

 “Most studies with GM foods indicate that they may cause hepatic, pancreatic, renal, and reproductive effects and may alter haematological [blood], biochemical, and immunologic parameters, the significance of which remains to be solved with chronic toxicity studies.” – Dona A, Arvanitoyannis IS. Health risks of genetically modified foods. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2009; 49: 164–1751

“Most studies with GM foods indicate that they may cause hepatic, pancreatic, renal, and reproductive effects and may alter haematological [blood], biochemical, and immunologic parameters, the significance of which remains to be solved with chronic toxicity studies.” – See more at: http://earthopensource.org/index.php/3-health-hazards-of-gm-foods/3-1-myth-gm-foods-are-safe-to-eat#sthash.Du1Kv9fg.dpuf
“Most studies with GM foods indicate that they may cause hepatic, pancreatic, renal, and reproductive effects and may alter haematological [blood], biochemical, and immunologic parameters, the significance of which remains to be solved with chronic toxicity studies.”
– Dona A, Arvanitoyannis IS. Health risks of genetically modified foods. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2009; 49: 164–1751 – See more at: http://earthopensource.org/index.php/3-health-hazards-of-gm-foods/3-1-myth-gm-foods-are-safe-to-eat#sthash.Du1Kv9fg.dpuf
“Most studies with GM foods indicate that they may cause hepatic, pancreatic, renal, and reproductive effects and may alter haematological [blood], biochemical, and immunologic parameters, the significance of which remains to be solved with chronic toxicity studies.”
– Dona A, Arvanitoyannis IS. Health risks of genetically modified foods. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2009; 49: 164–1751 – See more at: http://earthopensource.org/index.php/3-health-hazards-of-gm-foods/3-1-myth-gm-foods-are-safe-to-eat#sthash.Du1Kv9fg.dpuf
“Most studies with GM foods indicate that they may cause hepatic, pancreatic, renal, and reproductive effects and may alter haematological [blood], biochemical, and immunologic parameters, the significance of which remains to be solved with chronic toxicity studies.”
– Dona A, Arvanitoyannis IS. Health risks of genetically modified foods. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2009; 49: 164–1751 – See more at: http://earthopensource.org/index.php/3-health-hazards-of-gm-foods/3-1-myth-gm-foods-are-safe-to-eat#sthash.Du1Kv9fg.dpuf

GMO labeling is not regulated or required in the United States. Legislation to require labeling is being fought by the major corporations that use GM ingredients in their products. Currently, 60 countries around the world, including the European Union, have very strict laws regarding GMOs, if not completely banned altogether. You can see a list of countries and what is banned: here.

The genetic modification of animals foods is best explained by the wide usage of antibiotics, growth hormones and outright genetic engineering; in addition to GMO feed used in animal production.

Currently, the largest commercialized GM crops in the U.S. include: soy (94%), cotton (90%), canola (90%), sugar beets (95%), and corn (88%). This has resulted in GM ingredients invading 80% of our prepared foods.


The production and human consumption of GM foods is still in its infancy. Very few studies have been done to even begin measuring the effects it  has on people and the environment. The limited studies performed on animals show potentially dangerous and life-threatening consequences.

For More Information:

I highly recommend you download the full GMO Myths and Truths PDF file and read it carefully.

Here’s a detailed list of GMO Health Risks.

Here’s another link: Former Pro-GMO Scientist Speaks Out On The Real Dangers of Genetically Engineered Food.

You can find and download a list of vertified Non GMO Product here.