Category Archives: Health

Couch Potato Curse: Where’s the real danger?

Copyright JC Politi Photography

Copyright JC Politi Photography

I try to eat well. I know that I should exercise, and I frequently do, although certainly not as often as I should. I don’t smoke and I know that being around people who smoke is harmful. But toxic chemicals coming from my couch? That is a little more than my brain can digest.

Two articles in the New York Times this week (Eat Like a Mennonite and  Warnings from a Flabby Mouse) give me pause. They both reference endocrine inhibiters, whatever in the world those are.

Apparently, these are chemicals that can mimic or disrupt hormones and, while the science is still evolving in this area, these chemicals appear to be closely linked to several cancers.

We are always hearing about new things that are bad for us – and frequently, those things have become fundamental aspects of our modern culture.

If it turns out that plastics really are bad for us, just think of all of the things we use every day without even thinking about it that are made from just this material. It boggles the mind.

And then they talk about things like toxins emanating from car interiors, and shampoos, and couches, and cosmetics. It is exhausting.

I live in Colorado. It is unbearably dry here and I have a lotion and some sort of lip product in extensive use at all times. Is this dangerous? And does that mean sunscreen is dangerous? Which is worse for me – wearing sunscreen or not wearing sunscreen?

I don’t have children and can’t imagine trying to work through all of this to make sure one is doing the best one can for a child -just trying to navigate these waters for myself is overwhelming. I know my new year’s resolution is to let it be – and I am trying to do that. But I hope that there are some smart grownups somewhere in some agency who are helping make sure that my chapstick is not killing me.

Suzie chapstick always looked pretty healthy to me, but does anyone know where she is now????

What do you think? How do you navigate all of the health information that comes your way, especially about things that are non-food related? Does any of this worry you? Have you taken any steps to change your eating habits or other lifestyle choices because of this type of information?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading!

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Filed under Culture, Environment, Fitness, Food, Health, Parenting, Role of Government

Homemade Twinkies? Is someone really going to make those?

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The second most read New York Times article right now (after a cool interactive tool that will help you plan your Thanksgiving meal) is a recipe for homemade Twinkies.

While I feel as sad about the news that Hostess is folding as anyone, I am intrigued that there has been such a national outcry about this. And I am more intrigued that anyone would want to make homemade Twinkies.

I find it very interesting how food is linked to our emotions in this country – perhaps in every country.

I have to admit – I believe I have shared this here before – when my sweet gentle giant of a pup passed away in 2010 while I was in Argentina, I had an undeniable craving to head straight to McDonalds and get some salty french fries. They tasted like home to me and I needed that.

I suppose that the multi-national corporations who tempt us with ever bigger portions and even more fat-laden options are well aware of this connection, and in fact work hard every day to make that type of link with their products. It is a powerful force.

But Twinkies? I have to admit to being a little pleased – I know this will be seen as blasphemy by many – that Hostess has struggled. I am not sure that there is a speck of nutritional value in a single one of their products. (Feel free to correct me if I am wrong – it has happened before and will likely happen again).

I am sorry about the lost jobs and I will miss having that guilty pleasure calling out to me from the convenience store when I am on a road trip. But maybe now that I won’t have that temptation, I will actually reach for a piece of fruit or a string cheese instead. Ya think?

What do you think? How do you feel about the liquidation of Hostess? What is your favorite Hostess product? Why do you think people are so distressed that Hostess is going out of business? And what impact do you think the amotional food connection has had on our waistlines and on our pocketbooks?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading!

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Filed under Culture, Food, Health

Greenest Companies in United States: Does Anyone Care?

Copyright JC Politi Photography
Perito Moreno Glacier, Calafate, Argentina

With the silence coming out of both political parties about the state of our natural environment and its future, I thought it would be helpful to share Newsweek’s rating of the greenest publicly traded companies in the United States.

This election has been all about the economy. And the environment has been only tangentially mentioned as a way to boost the economy by investing in clean jobs and clean energy. The campaign talking points have all related to building the US economy.

I know that people are struggling to find work that pays a living wage. And bankers should be brought to justice for the fiscal recklessness that caused the recession.

I understand why candidates are focusing on the economy and I truly believe that both parties are doing their best to come up with strategies to rebuild the US economy.

But I continue to be baffled about the fact that more than a few politicians put their heads in the sand when it comes to the environment. I am no scientist, but I can’t even imagine the frustration scientists must feel when, in the face of overwhelming evidence that climate change exists and that humans have accelerated its progress, the environment is not a key point of discussion on both sides of the political divide.

This is an issue that crosses party lines and transcends global borders. I had a friend I worked with in a women’s rights organization who used to say, “it won’t matter if women have rights if the planet is destroyed.” That really stuck with me.

The current economic struggles are in our face every day and people are feeling the immediate impact of this crisis. The devastation of the environment is a slower burning problem, but no less consequential.

This is why I am sharing the list of the greenest US companies here. We can vote with our pocketbooks.

I hope you will take a moment to look over this list and see if you might be able to swing your support to some of the greener companies and away from the worst polluters.

That is change I can believe in.

What do you think? Have you been struck by the lack of dialogue around the environment in this election cycle? Why do you think that is? Are you more likely to support a company if you learn that they take the environment into account? Why or why not? And what do you think about the future of green jobs in the United States? Do you think we should make investments in this economy? And do you feel that we are ahead of or behind other countries in making these investments?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading!

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Filed under Culture, Economy, Environment, Health, Income inequality, International, Policy, Politcs, Poverty, Role of Government

Hunger Knows No Borders: Poverty at Home and Abroad

Copyright JC Politi Photography

There is an article in the New York Times this week about the increasing number of people living in poverty in Spain.

The article references the fact that the unemployment rate in Spain is over 50% for young people and that over 20% of families in Spain live in poverty. It tells the stories of people who find themselves forced to search for food in trash bins in order to feed themselves and their families.

It is striking to read about how dire the situation is in Spain right now, especially after having just visited the country. We were blown away by the food and the beauty, but this article makes it clear that there is another, much more tragic, story to be told.

As I read this article, I felt like I was reading about the United States. The article spoke of people who had never been on government assistance who are now accessing food pantries or searching through dumpsters for food.

So frequently, we read an article like this and look at it as an interesting, but sad anecdote from a foreign land. But the truth is, we can see the same thing here in our own back yards every day.

Copyright JC Politi Photography

The recession has had far-reaching implications across the globe. The number of people in the United States who are accessing public benefits has sky-rocketed.

Some people complain about the number of people who are accessing government assistance, including food assistance. I don’t understand this.

If jobs are not available and people are hungry, why would we not be grateful to live in a society where people who have hit rock bottom have a place to go to feed themselves and their children? How can we be so sure that we will not be the next family to come upon hard times, through a loss of a job or through a medical emergency that leaves us financially devastated?

I am honestly baffled and saddened by the lack of compassion in much of the United States during these difficult economic times.

What do you think? Why do you think people are so critical of government efforts to support low-income families? Why do you think people are so quick to judge families who have come upon hard times? How can people be so sure that they will not be the next person to need a little help? And how can we reduce the stigma associated with accepting government assistance so that more people can have a bridge to survive their current hardship in the hopes of eventually getting a job and escaping poverty?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading!

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Filed under Culture, Economy, Ethics, Health, Income inequality, International, Photography, Photos, Policy, Politcs, Poverty, Relationships, Role of Government, Stereotypes, travel

Olympics Opening Ceremonies: Boom or Bust?

Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.Nnet

So, what did you think about the Olympics opening ceremony?

The New York Times had an interesting article examining the ceremonies, as I am sure did every paper, but I find the coffee-shop conversations to be more interesting. It seems that the overall perception of the ceremonies was that the event was quirky. And a bit chaotic.

And of course, from the American perspective, you couldn’t miss the lengthy celebration of national health care. In our house, we thought that segment was pretty hilarious.

Personally, I preferred this ceremony to the Beijing ceremonies. I found the Beijing ceremony to be a little creepy.

Copyright JC Politi Photography

I did have trouble following some of the events last night in London, like the text messages with a backdrop of 60’s music, but overall I thought it was fun and visually engaging, with just a sprinkle of humor.

I seem to prefer a little chaos over a robotic show of submission and control.

What do you think? What was your favorite part of the opening ceremony? What did you think of the event overall?  What do you think Danny Boyle could have done differently? And why do you think they had a cover band do a Beatles song when Paul McCartney was there? Finally, what are you most excited for in this year’s Summer Olympics?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading.

If you liked this, you might also like:

Running of the Bulls: Would You Do It? (newsofthetimes.org)

Say It Ain’t So, Lance: For the Love of the Game (newsofthetimes.org)

Romance in Paris: Why Do French Bookstores Continue to Thrive (newsofthetimes.org)

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Filed under Culture, Fitness, Health, Health Reform, International, Peace, Role of Government, Sports

Note to My Readers: Times They Are a-Changin’…Maybe

I am thinking about making a small adjustment to the newsofthetimes.org and would love your thoughts. Some of the posts here have been thrown together at the speed of light, without as much time and attention as I would like to give them.

I couldn’t love blogging more. This has been a fantastic outlet for my creativity and a place to share my thoughts. You all have been more supportive than I ever could have imagined. I have loved getting to know all of your blogs, which have made me laugh and think and smile and cry.

I have been writing every day for the past several months, but I am thinking about cutting back to every other day. I would still do Tunes Tuesday and one photography post a week, but I would be more thoughtful about the news stories I post and this would allow more time for conversation.

One friend told me that she enjoys reading the news stories I post, but we move on to a new topic too quickly for her to join the discussion. Maybe she has a point.

I am torn about this, because I absolutely love spending my mornings writing. But this would give me more time to visit all of your posts and still keep my day job. 🙂

What do you think? I would really welcome honest feedback on this idea. This blog has not felt like a burden in any way – I have loved absolutely every minute of this and it has become an important part of my day, enabling me to reconnect with something deep inside that had not been nurtured lately. So please be honest. Do you think this new format would allow more time for meaningful discussion on the news stories I pick? Or do you feel like daily posts, with a few lighter news items helps create variety that might be lost if I switch to the new model?

Maybe I could just try the new model on for size for a few weeks and see how it feels.

I would really love to hear your thoughts. Thank you so much for faithfully reading and commenting. As I originally imagined, the conversation here is the best part, and that is because of you, so thank you from the bottom of my heart! Your support has made this experience more special than I can say.

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Filed under Blogging, Career Planning, Culture, Health, Love, Music, Photography, Photos, Social Media, social pressures, Technology, Travel Challenge, Weekly Photo Challenge

Friendship Over 30: Why is it so much harder?

One of my favorite BFF’s of all times
Copyright JC Politi Photography

I value the friend who for me finds time on his calendar,
but I cherish the friend who for me does not consult his calendar.

Robert Brault
Why does it get more difficult to make friends as we age? This is the question posed by an article in the New York Times this week called “Friends of a Certain Age.” The article explores the complexities of friendships during different life stages.
We can all probably relate to the fact that developing meaningful friendships as we age is less common, but it seems that people of all ages would like to renew or strengthen friendships and develop new ones.
I have certainly noticed how much harder it is to make lasting friendships at this point in my life.
Even if I have a certain spark with someone that would, in my younger days, have rapidly led to an invitation to a happy hour, this does not happen as frequently.  Now, many of us have other people we need to check in with just to schedule a meet-up.

It can be so complicated to schedule time with friends that I sometimes end up avoiding the entire thing altogether – which means I sacrifice what could have been a beautiful friendship or allow a strong friendship to atrophy, which just exacerbates the problem.

My Baltimore BFFs from my wedding in 2007 – I love you guys!

But don’t we all miss the carefree nature and ease of developing and maintaining friendships we had when we were younger? If we didn’t, blogs and books like MWF seeking BFF would not skyrocket to the top of the bestseller lists. But they do.

I wonder if this is all related to the issues that we have been exploring here on this blog in other posts. Perhaps so much of our time and energy is spent keeping busy with work that we have no time left for friendship. If that is the case, we have lost something precious and sacred and must reprioritize.

What do you think? Have you found it harder to make close friends as you age? Have you found that this goes in waves, where sometimes you have more time and energy for friends than others? Do you have any tips or strategies for people who would like to maintain and strengthen their friendships, but struggle with this? Have you found that people’s choice of partners or their phase in life (married/unmarried, kids/no kids) impacts your ability to maintain friendships?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading.

If you enjoyed this, you may also enjoy:

Do You Prioritize Your Life or Your Work? Maybe It Is Time To Rethink

The Importance of Slowing Down in a Busy Bee Culture

To Connect or Not To Connect: That is the Question

 

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Filed under Career Planning, Culture, Health, Photos, Relationships, Social Media, social pressures, Stereotypes, Technology

Why Are There So Few Women in Math and Science Professions?

There is a fascinating story on NPR this week about the lack of women in math and science fields that is worth a read.

It explores the reasons that there are more men than women in these fields and the reasons that many women do not stay in these fields. The article lays the blame on women’s awareness of stereotypes regarding their competency in these areas.

The author makes it clear that the problem is not all in women’s heads, but rather lays the blame at the feet of the pervasive messages that women hear on a daily basis about their abilities, or inabilities, in these areas.

I find this fascinating. When I was in middel school, I was told I was bad at two things – OK, maybe 3 things – math, science and art. Whether the people who told me these things recognized that they sent me this messages as a teenager or not, these messages stuck with me over the years; in fact, these messages have stuck with me to this day.

I worked in the field of domestic violence for many years and was always interested in the programs that many shelters have for children who have witnessed domestic violence, where they use art therapy to help children heal and cope with their untenable family situation.

As someone who was told that art was not a personal strength, I always felt more stressed by the idea of this type of therapy than soothed. The messages we are told when we are young stick with us.

The story on NPR seems to confirm this and posits the theory that this is one of the main reasons that women, even women in high level math and science professions, do not stay in those positions.

The story points out a fundamental challenge, in which there are not many women in these fields, and women seem less likely to enter these fields because they do not see themselves represented in these professions.

Quite a chicken and the egg conundrum.

What do you think? Have you, or your children, had any personal experiences with being told that you were not good at something? Have you found ways to counter these messages that work for you? Do you have any ideas about how more women could be encouraged to enter the fields of math and science? Or do you think that it is not really a problem to have this field so dominated by men?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading.

 

 

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Filed under Business, Career Planning, Culture, Economy, Education, equality, Ethics, Health, Parenting, Policy, Politcs, Relationships, Role of Government, social pressures, Stereotypes, Technology, Women, Youth Leadership

Are Organic Food Standards a Hoax? The Green-Washing of America

Copyright JC Politi Photography

Do you go out of your way to buy organic foods? Have you put a lot of thought into this decision?

An article in the New York Times called “Has ‘Organic’ Been Oversized” is raising eyebrows this week. The article explores the recent boom in organic food products and takes an in-depth look at the body that regulates what is certified organic and what is not.

In particular, the article examines the National Organic Standards Board, which is the board that decides which non-organic ingredients can be included in certified organic foods.

The article points out the number of large corporations who have been taking advantage of the new market. For example, it surprised me to read:

Bear Naked, Wholesome & Hearty, Kashi: all three and more actually belong to the cereals giant Kellogg. Naked Juice? That would be PepsiCo, of Pepsi and Fritos fame. And behind the pastoral-sounding Walnut Acres, Healthy Valley and Spectrum Organics is none other than Hain Celestial, once affiliated with Heinz, the grand old name in ketchup.      

Copyright JC Politi Photography

But certainly the most concerning portion of the article is the description of the people serving on the National Organic Standards Board.

While there is certainly room for corporations to serve on the board in the slots allocated for those interests, it is troubling to learn that executives from General Mills and other major corporations have served in positions reserved for consumers.

It appears that Congress specifically designed this board to ensure that it would represent a broad range of interests, but the appointments to this board have clearly been corporate-heavy.

Our family buys organic because we are concerned about the hormones and additives and preservatives that are found in most foods today. I understand that buying organic is a luxury, but we feel that it is an investment in our long-term health. This article makes me wonder if we are being duped.

What do you think? Do you go out of your way to buy organic foods? Why have you made the choices you have? Are you concerned about big businesses controlling the organic food standards or do you think that having big business involved is the only way to grow the industry to scale? Where do farmers markets fit into this equation?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading!  

If you liked this, you may also like:

Grist BlogPost: Multinational Food Corporations Thank You For Buying ‘Organic’

Let Them Eat Sat: Who Funds These Studies?

What Foods Are Good For Me This Week?

Who Needs Government Anyway? Except… 

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Filed under Business, Culture, Economy, Environment, Ethics, Fitness, Food, Health, Income inequality, Parenting, Policy, Politcs, Privatization, Role of Government, social pressures

Do you Prioritize Your Life or Your Work? Maybe It Is Time to Rethink

An article on the Harvard Business Review blog called, “If You Don’t Prioritize Your Life, Someone Else Will,” really made me think. I also read a thoughtful blog post on a similar subject over at Truth and Cake called “Save Your Own Ass.”

The concept behind both of these posts is simple: take care of yourself first because if you don’t, no one else will.

The Harvard Business Review article tells the story of a man who attended a meeting the day after his child was born, because he thought he should. While attending the meeting, the man realized that he really should have been with his wife and newborn child instead of at this routine business meeting.

This got me thinking about times when I have felt conflicted between work obligations and home obligations. One of these moments happened just last week.

As many of you know, we had a wildfire directly in front of our house last week. I was scheduled to drive five hours for an all day work meeting last Friday. I felt that I had to go to the meeting, but was concerned to travel so far from home at that moment.

I felt like I “should” make the meeting. My bosses over the years have been very supportive when I needed to bow out of something because of an emergency at home. It is not pressure from my employers that has made me feel that I need to meet my obligations at work, regardless of the situation at home.

I ended up calling into the meeting last week instead of travelling, which I thought was a good compromise. And we were fortunate that the weather and the firefighters helped quell the fire quickly. My colleagues at the meeting were very understanding as, I’m sure, the colleagues of the author of the Harvard Business Review blog post would have been on the day after his child’s birth.

I don’t know what makes these types of decisions more difficult than they need to be. Perhaps at times like these I need to remember to repeat my new mantra gleaned from the sage bloggers at Truth and Cake and the Harvard Business Review: Take care your yourself, because if you don’t, no one else will.

What do you think? What is it that makes us often feel the need to neglect the things in life that are most important, even when it is not necessary that we do so? Is it because we take for granted that the people and things we love will always be there, but work is fleeting? But doesn’t that make it even more important that we tend to our personal needs, lives and loves? Have you learned any lessons about this the hard way or the easy way that you would like to share? Any tips for people who struggle with these types of decisions?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading!

If you liked this, you might also like:

The Freedom of a Vacation: Why Would We Give That Up? 

The Importance of Slowing Down in a Busy Bee Culture

Does Anyone Care About the Lack of Women in Leadership Positions?

Give Me a Break: Why Do the US Jobs Offer So Little Vacation Time?  

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Filed under Business, Career Planning, Culture, Economy, Education, Forest Fires, Health, Parenting, Peace, Relationships, social pressures, Stereotypes, Women, Youth Leadership

The Power of Strengths and Weaknesses: Giving Kids Permission to Just Be

Photo Courtesy of Danny Brown

The old man pointed to a baker standing in his shop window at one corner of the plaza. “When he was a child, that man wanted to travel, too. But he decided first to buy his bakery  and put some money aside. When he is an old man, he’s going to spend a month in Africa. He never realized that people are capable, at any time in their lives, of doing what they dream of.”

“He should have decided to become a shepherd,” the boy said.

“Well, he thought about that,” the old man said. “But bakers are more important people than shepherds.”…

“In the long run, what people think about shepherds and bakers becomes more important for them than their own Personal Legends.”

The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho

 

A New York Times article, “Redefining Success and Celebrating the Ordinary” has been on the list of the most e-mailed articles for some time now. This topic fits with the theme of the last few weeks on this blog, so I thought I would explore this issue further.

The article discusses the tendency, at least in the United States, for people to push their children to excel at all levels, filling their time with activities and events which provide further opportunities to compete with their peers.

I am sure many of you read about a commencement speech earlier this year where the speaker told the students that they were not exceptional. The reactions to this speech were heated.

But perhaps the speaker was just trying to give the students permission to find value and define success differently than their parents and society prescribe. Perhaps the speaker was trying to help students understand that it is OK to have both strengths and weaknesses.

The constant drive to compete is positive in many ways. It can lead to innovation and progress.But at what price? Where is creativity encouraged?

What about the artist who is not strong at math or writing, but can compose a symphony or paint a beautiful landscape? Where is the encouragement for this type of success?

Where is the recognition of people who may not be academics, but build and maintain personal relationships better than most?

Part of the stress many of us feel, where people run themselves ragged at all times and fail to disconnect from work, even when on vacation, seems to come from this drive. People think, “If I don’t stay connected, will people think that I am not a hard worker? Will I appear to lack ambition?”

What are we teaching our children with these messages? Are we teaching our children to develop the same neuroses that we have developed, where the prioritization of work over relationships is sorely misaligned?

This problem has reached epidemic proportions in the United States. It is striking to me, how every speech by a major politician is peppered with statements that the United States is the best country in the world.

There are many areas where the United States excels and there are also areas, like healthcare, where the United States has much to learn from the rest of the world. The US has strengths and weaknesses, just like any person or child. And is there really anything wrong with that?

What do you think? What do you think accounts for people’s relentless drive to be the best and to push their children to be the best? Have you dealt with these pressures as a parent or an employee? Do you have any tips for others who would like to readjust their priorities and goals? Do you feel that this drive alienates potential teammates in a workplace or a social environment? Why do you think this issue has gotten so much attention lately? Do you think the intensity of the pressures have increased recently? And if so, why do you think that is?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading.

 

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Filed under Books, Business, Career Planning, Culture, Economy, Education, Health, International, Parenting, Peace, Relationships, social pressures, Stereotypes, Technology, travel, Women, Youth Leadership

The Freedom of a Vacation: Why Would We Give That Up?

Copyright JC Politi Photography

 

Without the ability to be gay and treat serious things lightly after the serious thinking is done and the decision is reached, I doubt whether any man could long carry the job of being President of the United States.
Eleanor Roosevelt

An article in the New York Times called “Vacation Sabotage: Don’t Let it Happen to You,” is interesting, especially in light of the robust discussions we have had on this blog about the challenges of finding work-life balance.

The article discusses things that we do to ensure that we are unable to relax, even when on vacation.It offers several helpful tips and suggestions.

We all know how this works and this article validates our experience. The first few days of vacation, it can be difficult to unwind. The last few days of a vacation, we dread returning to real life. Hopefully, we can find a few days in between, where we actually relax.

With the onslaught of technology, especially e-mail and smart phones, many of us remain connected even while on vacation. I am guilty of this myself. I don’t want to return to an avalanche of messages in my inbox, so I handle minor things while on vacation.

But I have considered the dangers of doing this. If something significant occurs and I learn about it while on vacation, what happens to the relaxation and disconnection that is meant to help prepare me to handle these crisis in a better way upon my return?

I lived in New York City when I graduated from college. I remember being overwhelmed by the intensity of the city. I thought Central Park would be a refuge from all of that, but I found the intensity still palpable; it like people were intensely relaxing.

I have written much here about the importance of slowing down and finding a balance between work and life. But if we cannot even give ourselves permission to disconnect when we’re on vacation, what hope do we have?

CopyrightJC Politi Photography

The good news in the article is that we seem to view three day weekends and one day holidays differently than we do vacations.

So, this 4th of July, for those of you in the United States, let’s commit to turning off our work messages completely.

Let’s enjoy the heat that slows everything to a snail’s pace and notice the coolness of the water when we swim and the savor the tastes of the food on the grill and a refreshing cold drink. Let’s take time to laugh with family and friends and play with our pets. Now THAT is freedom!

What do you think? Do we feel the need to remain connected when we are on vacation because of the expectations of our employers or do our employers have these expectations because we remain connected on vacation? Do you have trouble disconnecting when you are on vacation? Do you check e-mail when you are gone?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading!

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Filed under Business, Career Planning, Culture, Economy, Education, Health, Parenting, Peace, Photos, Relationships, Social Media, social pressures, travel

The Importance of Slowing Down in a Busy Bee Culture

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There is more to life than increasing its speed.
Mohandas K. Gandhi

An article on the Opinionator blog of the New York Times called “The Busy Trap” is getting a lot of attention this week.

This article explores the notion that the frenetic pace so many of us engage in on a daily basis is self-imposed. While the author’s approach seems a bit self-indulgent and impractical, he has a point.

So many of us rush from place to place or appointment to appointment and collapse at the end of the day in front of the television in exhaustion. It appears that we are encouraging our children to do the same. There must be another way.

While I understand that most of us cannot live lives devoid of professional work, finding a balance within this reality has become my personal quest.

One of the lines that spoke to me in this article was this:

I did make a conscious decision, a long time ago, to choose time over money, since I’ve always understood that the best investment of my limited time on earth was to spend it with people I love.

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My most creative and innovative ideas come, not when I am rushing between meetings, but during times of relaxation, sometimes through exercise or through conversations with friends. I know I am not alone.

Some companies, I believe Google is one, reserve 20 percent of their employees’ time for creative endeavors that interest that particular employee. Some of the most innovative ideas have come from this unstructured time.

We all know this. And yet, we fill our calendars to the brim, feeling inadequate if we have a Saturday evening without plans. In fact, that Saturday evening may turn out be the exact time when you discover the key to your own fulfillment, simply by being, instead of doing.

Some of the secret joys of living are not found by rushing from point A to point B, but by inventing some imaginary letters along the way.
Douglas Pagels

What do you think? What is it that makes us feel the need to stay busy? Do you think this has to do with a general discomfort with being alone? Have you struggled with this? Do you have any tips to help people stop the constant spinning?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading.

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Filed under Career Planning, Culture, Economy, Environment, Health, Parenting, Peace, Photos, Relationships, social pressures, Technology

Broccoli Battles: What are the Long-Term Consequences of the Supreme Court Decision on the Affordable Care Act?

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia

What a week for the United States. I generally shy away from writing about politically divisive issues on this blog, but there is no question that the news of the times this week in the United States was the Supreme Court decision on health reform.

I will not take a position on the merits of the bill here. As I have written previously, I firmly believe the health care system in the United States is badly broken and in desperate need of repair. But I will leave it to the experts to figure out how to do that.

This Supreme Court decision was about much more than just health care. This decision may have placed significant limitations on the future of the federal government to legislate.

While progressives collectively cheered the decision on Thursday and conservatives collectively gnashed their teeth, upon further analysis, I am not sure that these reactions are warranted.

Several recent articles have begun to explore the long-term ramifications of the decision. There will be more to come.

Many of my friends are health care policy experts and I would welcome their thoughts and clarifications here. In my reading of the Supreme Court decision, the Court rejected the use of the commerce clause as a basis for constitutionality and, in effect, punted the Medicaid decision to the states.

Looking through this lens, the decision was not a significant loss for conservatives, especially over the long term. In fact, it may go down in history as a turning point for limiting the powers of the federal government, which is a fundamental conservative principle.

An article in the New York Times goes into some detail about past use of the commerce clause, which has been used to pass legislation ranging from labor protections, to civil rights laws, to the Violence Against Women Act.

If the ruling this week limits the federal government’s ability to use the commerce clause to pass social legislation, this could be a significant gain for conservatives.

The other part of the decision, which has gotten little attention in the media, is the decision regarding the Medicaid expansion. Medicaid is the health insurance program that serves low income families in this country.

My understanding of the Supreme Court decision is that the court decided that the federal government can not take away all of a state’s Medicaid funding if a state chooses not to implement the expansions included in the Affordable Care Act.

The court limited this provision to say that the federal government can take only the portion of a state’s Medicaid funding that would have paid for the expansion, but not all of the state’s Medicaid funding, if the state chooses not to implement the expansion.

In effect, the Supreme Court made this provision, which for many, is viewed as one of the most crucial provisions of the law, a state option.

This pushes the question of whether to expand Medicaid onto state governments, where the issue will likely have to be relitigated in political halls on the state level. This will likely be highly politicized and there is absolutely no guarantee that all states will expand this program.

This could mean that, in some states, people with higher incomes, from 133% of the federal poverty level to 400% of the federal poverty level could be given tax subsidies to enable them to purchase health insurance, but families on the razor’s edge of poverty could go without insurance.

Again, I am not advocating any particular position; I am just trying to lay a foundation for robust discussion. But it seems to me that the Roberts decision may, in the long run, have done more to forward conservative ideals than progressive ones.

What do you think? What was your reaction to the Supreme Court decision? Why do you think Roberts made such a bold move? Do you believe that there will be long term legal consequences to this decision? How do you think this will affect the November election? Will you or your family personally benefit from the Affordable Care Act? Have you already?

I know this is a complex topic, but I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading.

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Filed under Affordable Care Act, Culture, Economy, End of Life, equality, Ethics, Health, Income inequality, Obamacare, Policy, Politcs, Poverty, Role of Government, Women

How to Get More Mileage Out of Your Frequent Flier Miles

While I realize that we are all anxiously awaiting the Supreme Court Decision on health care, which should be coming any minute, I am going to share an article that will help us all get away once the dust settles. Unfortunately, writing about the health care law would feel a little bit too much like my day job.

I have no doubt that I will do that at some point, but for today, I am going to write about travel, my first love. Suffice it to say that we have an intractable health care problem in this country and I hope we find a way for more people to get affordable health care.

With that said, an article in the New York Times about services to help make frequent flier miles more user-friendly intrigued me. In our house, we look for every opportunity to obtain frequent flier miles. Heck, I would even pay a little more for an item if I knew I was getting miles in return.

And we use them. We have even racked up enough miles to fly first class to Argentina – more than once! And I will tell you, for an overnight flight, it is worth every mile. Instead of stumbling to our destination and falling into bed for a nap, we awoke refreshed and ready to enjoy the day.

It can be complicated to use frequent flier miles, as there are often restrictions and blackout dates. The services in this article are meant to help consumers ensure that they can find a way to get the most out of their miles.

I don’t know; I haven’t found it to be so complicated to use miles – perhaps I should have started one of these agencies myself! The agencies charge fees in the ballpark of $150. I thought the point of using frequent flier miles was to save money!

What do you think? Do you accumulate frequent flier miles? Have you had trouble using them? Would you use one of these services? If you have used one of these services, what was your experience? Do you have any exciting frequent flier travel coming up? If so, where are you going?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading.

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Filed under Culture, Health, International, Politcs, travel