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Don’t Give Me Some Sugar

Magazines in a library

We are drowning in misinformation. Boing, boing, boing – our belief system is challenged so frequently we end up with whiplash. There are studies that make us believe one thing. Eventually, those studies are disproved, and we’re supposed to believe something else. We’ve seen it with so many things we ingest, inhale, inhabit. We’re inundated with ads telling us life will be so much better if only we own – or use – certain things. If we question their safety or efficacy, studies are shoved in our face to assure us that all is good and benign and we should all just shut up, close our eyes, and don’t worry, be happy.

We like to hang onto the things that make us feel good. Years ago, it was cigarettes.  cigaretteWhen scientists were attempting to ring the alarm bells as to the dangers of smoking, the tobacco industry funded studies to calm those fears, assuring the public that there wasn’t any real danger and you could just keep puffing away with no ill effects. You were cool and fun if you smoked. Happy, popular people waving cigarettes around were the pictures we were deluged with on TV, in movies, and in magazines. The images of rotted lungs and cancer-ridden bodies were kept well-hidden for years. Big Tobacco had their own “peer-reviewed” studies published in major scientific journals to counter the bad publicity. Is anyone surprised? My guess is, not really.

e-cigNow there’s controversy over vaping. For those who want to smoke anywhere that smoking is prohibited, e-cigarettes initially seemed like a great option. But now we are hearing about their dangerous chemicals and flavorings and the fact that inhaling the vapor both first- and second-hand may be carcinogenic after all. While I don’t know of any current studies that purport vaping is perfectly safe, I’m waiting for that industry to push back in order to keep their profit margins healthy.

antibac-soapRecently, antibacterial soap has been banned. For years, we felt cleaner, even more virtuous, using antibacterial soap instead of plain old soap and water. It made sense, right? We were germ warriors, fighting disease and nasty bacteria while we sang two  verses of “Happy Birthday” as our hands foamed up with antibacterial cleanser straight from the pump, and water. And now, our halos have been tarnished by the knowledge that it soapwas all for naught. A plain old bar of no-name soap has the same cleaning properties as our fancy, expensive, wonderfully scented cleansers. And it’s probably much safer as well.

But to me, the most egregious betrayal has been done to us by the sugar industry. Sugar! Sweet and wonderful sugar. Where would we be sugarwithout birthday cake and chocolate chip cookies and butter pecan ice cream and chocolate?

What happened was almost Shakespearean in the depth of the lies and treachery that pinned our growing obesity and heart disease epidemic solely on fat. Everything changed after these studies seemed to show, without a doubt, that we needed to stop eating fat – immediately. So new fat-freeindustries suddenly appeared – fat-free everything became the rage. The fact that even more sugar was being added to these foods to make them not taste like cardboard, was largely ignored.

A quote found on the NBC News page sums it all up: “Together with other recent analyses of sugar industry documents, our findings suggest the industry sponsored a research program in the 1960s and 1970s that successfully cast doubt about the hazards of sucrose while promoting fat as the dietary culprit in coronary heart disease,” Kearns, Glantz and colleagues wrote. “By the 1980s, few scientists believed that added sugars played a significant role in coronary heart disease, and the first 1980 Dietary Guidelines for Americans focused on reducing total fat, saturated fat, and dietary cholesterol for coronary heart disease prevention,” they added.

dollarsThink of what this means for a moment. Think of all the money you spent on crappy tasting food because you thought it would make you healthy. Think of all the people who developed or increased their heart-disease risks and diabetes risks because they stopped eating fats, but continued to load up on sugar-laden foods. Think of the fact that the people behind industry-funded research don’t give a damn about anything other than the almighty dollar and we are paying the price for all of this greed and corruption. And we are not only paying the price in dollars, but also with our health – and our lives.

Even though I consider myself a realist, this even surprised me. If you can’t trust something as sweet as sugar, who or what can you trust?  I expect politicians to betray me. I expect boyfriends to betray me. I’ve even learned to expect my own body to betray me. But sugar? It’s enough to push me over the edge in search of a bar of chocolate. Or ice cream. Or both.

chocolate

 

Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved

 

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Tough Break

snow.tableIn most parts of the country, this awful winter is starting to loosen its grip, and spring is attempting to make an appearance. Living in the South, it was especially jarring to deal with as many weather events as we had the past few months, consisting of freezing temperatures, snow, and ice. The relief is palpable as we walk outside and see determined little buds pushing their way through the hard ground, and trees bearing welcome blossoms. I do understand that compared to many areas of the country, most particularly Boston which had the most mind-boggling epic snowfall the past few months, we really have little cause to complain. But there are reasons one chooses to live in the South, and weather is not the least of those factors.

So, when schools were closed due to the ice covering most surfaces, I heeded all warnings to be careful. That black ice was sneaky and insidious, and every step outside needed to be taken with concentrated caution. And I was careful – at my house where I hunkered down during the bad weather. But after days of closed schools, meaning no tutoring, things changed by the end of the week, and I embraced the return to making a living.

And then, wham! The black ice got me. I ended up with a spiral fracture of the ankle.castfibula. The pain was constant and it was hard to sleep more than a few hours at a time. The inability to walk or do much of anything for myself was frustrating. And at the time, I didn’t think to ask for details when the doctor told me that he wanted to see me again in 4-5 weeks. In my mind, I thought that meant that in about a month I’d be back to normal. As normal as I can be, anyway.

crutchesThe first thing that I discovered to my shock, was that I have absolutely no ability whatsoever to get around on crutches. Having never broken any bones prior to this, my thoughts about crutches were largely based on the people I’ve seen who seem to get around with the greatest of ease. Younger people. I thought I was in halfway decent shape. How ego-deflating to realize I couldn’t even make it down the driveway in under 10 minutes. Even worse, there’s a step of approximately 10 inches in height from the kitchen into the garage. It was hard enough getting down without toppling over, but nearly impossible to get back into the house. What to do? For over a week, I didn’t even leave my house. But I was getting cabin fever. So I decided to be brave, and at the same time give up any shred of dignity I had left. I put a pillow on a chair by the door, and when I came home from a brief drive that somewhat restored my sanity, I opened the door, yanked the pillow off the chair, and crawled into the house. That went on for 4 weeks. My son couldn’t understand why I couldn’t just hop back into the house the way he demonstrated to me effortlessly. Several times. Insult to injury.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the options available these days when one knee.scooterbreaks an ankle, I have to say that the invention of the knee scooter has been an absolute life-saver. Due to my complete ineptitude with crutches, I would probably be living in bed, under my covers if it weren’t for the knee scooter. But until I got the OK to balance on the fractured-ankle leg, I was unable to get the scooter in and out of the car on my own. Meaning I either had to drive with a companion or be meeting someone at my destination who would do that for me. Or, in the case of my last doctor visit, when a lovely lady in the parking lot took such pity on me seeing me trying to make my way into the doctor’s office using crutches, she went to my car with me and got the scooter out so I wouldn’t further humiliate myself. It was great until I had to get it back in the car by myself after my appointment. No helpful souls were in sight. I ended up almost breaking my nose as the loose end of the scooter swung into the car as I attempted to not fall over. As I said, the concept of dignity has pretty much disappeared from my life.

I went back to the doctor after 4 weeks and was told that things are improving and to return in 3 more weeks. Wait, what? No miraculous healing after 4 weeks? But when will I be normal I asked him, again, assuming that there was  hope I could ever be considered normal. He studied me and asked what being normal meant. I told him that in this case, I meant able to walk again. Well, after 3 weeks of more of the same – except for now being allowed to use the bad leg for balance and apply slight pressure on it – if things continued to improve, I might be able to use the air cast as a walking boot. I once again forgot to ask for how long.

daffodilsAfter almost 6 weeks, there is hopefully a light at the end of the tunnel. With the onset of spring, comes a bit more mobility and freedom. Although things that you never think about are suddenly major obstacles. How do you take out the trash? Vacuum or wash floors? Doing laundry is completely exhausting. Grocery shopping is finally an option, but only one bag per trip, and getting the groceries into the house while on crutches involves at least 3 trips of slowly emptying out the one bag into 3 little bags. I’ve been lucky that I’ve received help from my children, and kind and generous friends. When I’ve felt down, the drive-through window at TCBY has been a lifeline. I didn’t realize until someone pointed it out to me how lucky I was that I broke the left ankle since I still retained my ability to drive. Whew!

My ego has been appropriately humbled. My delusions of fitness and youth are now gone. Reality is harsh and kind of scary, but I am relieved that things do seem to be headed in the right direction. Except, of course, for the times I do topple over or run over my toes with the scooter. Again, lessons in humility.

And on a serious note, I have chastised myself for my bouts of self-pity. Because this is just a glimpse into the world of those who have to live with some sort of disability on a long-term or permanent basis. Everything we take for granted can be daily obstacles for those who can’t take anything for granted. Kindness helps. Patience helps. And empathy,  putting yourself in the shoes of another person who is going through a tough time in whatever shape or form, is probably the best gift you can give to anyone.

 

Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved

 

IT’S PRIVATE (re-post from 10/25/11)

Where are you right now? If you’re my friend on Facebook, you might have posted your current location as your status. Or, you might tell the world what you ate for breakfast, which TV shows you watched, what thoughts you have about the new iPhone, or who is driving you crazy at the moment.

But, heaven forbid, you are a parent with a child over the age of 18 who is in college, and/or is in need of medical attention. Suddenly, steel doors slam in your face the moment you try to get any information on your child. It doesn’t matter that you are paying the tuition/health insurance/doctor bills for said child and are currently living in the poorhouse due to the bills for said child. Suddenly, 18-year-olds are full adults. I am not including those in the military or those who are completely paying their way at this stage of their lives. No, I am talking about the majority of 18-year-olds who are still willingly being supported by Mom and Dad because these days, it would be nearly impossible for them to pay their way on $7.50 an hour when most colleges cost about 10 times more than they did when I went to school (and NO, I won’t say when that was) – and wages certainly haven’t kept up with that kind of inflation.

You may have gone with your child to all college orientations, parent weekends and conferences. But, unless your child signs off that you can find out their grades, the college erects impenetrable forcefields around their information that cannot be breached. But of course, they always manage to find you when it’s time to pay those pesky, ball-breaking bills. Then, suddenly, you exist. You are wanted. Really wanted.

Same with the doctor. You can even be with your child at the doctor’s office, clinic, emergency room (fill in the blank depending on your own experience here). Then the bill comes and, for whatever reason, it’s addressed to your child. It’s well over three figures, approaching four-figure territory. Your child has exactly $15.94 in the bank. You call the doctor’s office to let them know they need to submit the bill to the insurance company, and that you were actually with your child at the time of the illness/incident, so there is no need for all the secrecy.

The scenario plays out as follows:

“Are you the patient?” you are asked in a very suspicious tone.

“Uh, no, I’m the mother. I just pay the bills,” you reply meekly.

“We can only discuss this bill with the patient,” you are told in an almost-hostile tone.

“Well, good luck with that if you want to get paid,” you reply somewhat snarkily. “Because the CHILD who you are calling to pay this bill doesn’t even have enough money to pay for a fancy dinner at a nice restaurant. And, unless you can text, good luck trying to reach my child since this child does not talk on the phone anymore.”

“We DO want to get paid and we must talk to the patient or we will repossess your car, your home, and your life,” the voice threatens.

“Please do,” you plead. “Take it all. Take my bills, car payments, college payments – take whatever you want. Please!”

SLAM! BZZZZZ – the line has gone dead.

Two days later another bill from the doctor shows up in your mailbox – and now they’re charging interest.

Somewhere along the line, common sense was tossed out the window. Yes, if your 18-year-old is paying their way through life, you don’t have a right to try to sort out their medical bills or college issues unless they want your help. But, if they are still on your health insurance, if you are the one paying the bills – and, I’m not saying I necessarily want to know the details of the doctor visit, I’m talking finances here – I feel that if you need to call to straighten out insurance issues or work out a payment plan, why the heck won’t these people talk to you? I know, I know. It’s private.

Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved