Category Archives: Families

Government Policies have Failed the African American Family

Government Policies have Failed the African American Family

In order to fully appreciate what Eric Holder has done this week (by changing the policies of the U.S. criminal justice system) involves a little perspective. For African Americans who have literally experienced centuries of social, housing, education, job and wage discrimination, the need to rely on government assistance has been greater. Welfare Reform and Drug Laws of the 1990’s increased the burdens on African American families because Racial Profiling has disproportionately affected this population. Historically, these laws and policy changes have denied (and still do in most states), those with a felony any public housing, education, welfare/medical benefits. So, you have a growing population of predominantly African American males cut out of support and also threatening their family assistance if they live in the home.

Hence, the further destruction of the family unit, where fathers are pushed onto the streets with no other choice than to repeat-offend and threaten communities. We have failed as a country with centuries of racism and what were well-meaning policies with destructive unintended consequences.

Ending the overt criminal justice disparities is just one step in a long line of steps and policy changes needed to start valuing the African American male in the home and society. We are all losing with the status quo so I am more than thrilled to see a shift in policies.

Of course, the Hispanic/Latino community has also experienced these challenges in past decades and this commentary does not intentionally leave them out. My point is to highlight the deeply entrenched history of African American policy discrimination that will not go away overnight and will not change for the better until we see where we came from first.

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August 14, 2013 · 6:45 pm

The Womanly Art of Listening to Our Bodies

First of all, I need to make a disclaimer. A portion of this post heading is taken from a wonderful and well-respected book by La Leche League I read over 38 years ago, “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding.” I read it during a time when I was preparing for my first child and preparing for childbirth and beyond. This was my first lesson in learning to listen to my body.

This morning, some 38 years later and a lifetime of listening, I was awakened by this thought, “The Womanly Art of Listening to Our Bodies” and how even though the time may not be the best to write this, because I have scholarships to apply for and work to do to prepare for the next semester of grad school, I cannot help but listen to this message and put it out there.

The message is: Our thoughts and feelings (or emotions) are inextricably linked to our bodies! Once we recognize this, the knowledge is immensely powerful. I have been so fortunate to attract mentors and educational opportunities in my life from the days I was a pregnant teen at 15 to my life today, a mother of 3 and grandmother of 8; now the age of 54.

I learned from natural childbirth that “attitude IS everything!” If you think it is pain, it is painful! If you think of it as the process that brings you your angel, then it is manageable.

I learned from 7 years in La Leche League that if you always remember in the back of your mind that breastfeeding is a normal, natural process that mammals have been doing successfully for millenia and trusting this natural process, your milk will come and challenges are only bumps in the road, not roadblocks.

I learned from reading Adelle Davis’ “Let’s Have Healthy Children” that our foods are full of everything we need if we learn to trust the foods that have been provided by nature. We do not have to buy expensive food to nourish our bodies properly. By being more efficient with our food choices, we can bring health to our families within any budget.

I learned from my 10 years working in the field of biofeedback, that the mind and our inner emotions are incredibly powerful and that our body speaks to us continually. Whether we listen or not is the real challenge! When we listen, we reduce suffering and illness and increase our quality of life. When we ignore the signs, we suffer from a variety of ills, including accidents and injuries.

So much more to share and no time to do it right now, but I want to leave you with this thought, please take the time to just be quiet without any outside electronic or other interference at least once every day. Listen and acknowledge and make the little adjustments you know deep down that you will benefit from. Little by little, you will find that the simple adage “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” will improve your daily quality of life, your health and your future!

Until next time,
Granny Pants
(Oh yeah, this photo was taken of me in 2002. I just found it and had to use it to brighten my day. The Yuba River is in the background. Love that place!)

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January 20, 2013 · 6:48 pm

10 Study Skills that Really Matter!

Effective study and lifestyle habits are the real factor in academic success, most often superseding economic, intellectual, or age factors.

Personally, I had to learn how to study effectively because I was not taught or required to study as a child. This list of recommendations is for everyone, young and old. It is based on my personal experiences as a student, teacher, caregiver, mother and grandmother.

1. KNOW YOUR WEAKNESSES– This is the first step to deciding your study strategies. Everyone has some challenges with studying. Most students have multiple challenges. Knowing your weaknesses and admitting them is the first step to getting your study habits into ship-shape so you don’t waste a single minute of your precious personal time studying in ineffective circles that not only rob you of fun, but also rob you of the best grades and opportunities that you deserve. By eliminating your time wasters and over-confidence when you actually need to increase study time, you will actually have better grades, more energy and have more time for the people and activities you love without those nagging feelings haunting you.

2. IF YOU TEND TO PROCRASTINATE– Set up a plan to reward yourself with personal time and activities only after you have finished your work or have studied enough to have a good command of materials. Study your most challenging subjects first when you have the most energy. Save easy study tasks like making flash cards last when you don’t need to think as deeply. Isn’t it interesting how it can be very difficult to study effectively at night when we are tired but we are never too tired to talk to our friends! Use this fact to your advantage.

3. IF YOU ARE EASILY DISTRACTED– Create a private, comfortable and well-lit space with no distractions. Use earplugs or headphones if needed to reduce environmental distractions. Turn off any computer or phone notifications while studying. Notify your parents and friends when you are studying and tell them that you will return their calls/texts or requests when you are finished. Give yourself a 15-minute reward for personal/free time at the end of every hour of non-stop, focused studying. Make sure you get up and move around during this free time to bring the blood back into your brain that tends to become lodged in the bottom after sitting for long periods of time. (A walk around the block during study breaks can do wonders to energize you and increase your memory.)

4. WRITE CLEAR & DETAILED NOTES WHILE YOU ARE IN CLASS & STUDYING & ENSURE YOU HAVE WRITTEN EVERYTHING DOWN NECESSARY –Do not fall into the “I will remember this” pattern. Back-tracking and searching for information later can be a huge time and energy waster! Tools such as highlighting, side notes on the page and colorful tabs can save time later on.

5. WRITE A STUDY LIST EVERY DAY & BREAK DOWN ASSIGNMENTS INTO SMALL, MANAGEABLE TASKS – Do this right after school or first thing in the morning on non-school days. – This will keep you from feeling overwhelmed and prevent you from knowing where to begin. It also makes it easier to check off your priority list and block study sessions which increase the feeling and awareness of your real progress. If you tend to overlook and forget your assignments, check with your instructor after every class to make sure you have all assignments and notes down correctly and thoroughly.

6. ALWAYS HAVE SOMETHING TO STUDY IN YOUR BAG OR BACKPACK – Choose the items you are most challenged with so you can study whenever you can. Flash cards or reading assignments are the easiest things to have handy. Make a copy of a complex reading assignment and have in your bag to read and highlight. Whenever you have an unexpected delay or free moment, pull out your studies instead of your phone and you will have more free time to communicate with friends without stress at the end of the day!

7. ENSURE MAXIMUM COMPREHENSION OF ALL MATERIAL BY USING EFFICIENT TOOLS WHILE YOU READ– Before you read anything, understand, read or write down what it is you are supposed to know from reading the passage or chapter. Read the questions however, not the answer choices! Then as you read the first time, highlight any key points that fit your comprehension goals. If you are not able to highlight, write notes as you read, noting the paragraph or page number. If possible, copy the passage and highlight that. Next, re-read the questions and read the passage again, but this time as you read, write notes on what you think the answers or main points are to the assignment. Then go to the questions and see if any match your understanding of the material. If you need to write an essay, you will then have the best notes possible to create your outline!

8. DO NOT SKIP ANY STEPS OR QUESTIONS & UTILIZE ALL AVAILABLE STUDY RESOURCES UNTIL YOU KNOW A SUBJECT INSIDE AND OUTUnless you are repeating information with an “A” mastery level; not just until you think you have it. Mastery comes from repeating exercises, quizzing, re-reading, re-writing and explaining the subject to others. Much of the frustration of studying comes from the missing pieces of information we pretend we know or don’t need. Then we cannot operate with all of our potential and often struggle unnecessarily. Study resources include materials in all media forms such as audio, visual, study groups, tutors and whatever resources the instructor has recommended. Using all of your senses is extremely important, especially if you are challenged with a subject. The more senses that experience the information you are learning, the deeper the knowledge will go and the less likely you are to forget it because you have it understood in a multitude of layers. Remember that the most effective way to comprehend and remember material is to discuss it with others; hence the study group.

9. BE AT YOUR BEST BY ENSURING YOUR SLEEP, EXERCISE & NUTRITION NEEDS ARE BEING MET – Exercising daily will increase your memory, energize you, keep your immune system strong and prevent insomnia. Getting the right amount of sleep (about 8 hours/night) will also ensure you can think clearly while you are in class, studying and testing. Energy drinks, coffee, tea and/or drugs in the place of sleep, exercise or nourishing meals wear down your immune system, increase insomnia and fatigue, leaving you with less energy and more health problems in the long run. Contrary to popular thought, if you eat snacks with less sugar and/or carbohydrates and instead eat snacks with protein rich snacks, you will have more lasting energy and increased brain functions without experiencing the “carb-crash” which can affect your ability to study properly. A bag of nuts, sunflower seeds, dried fruit or jerky are great things to have on hand at all times.

10. RE-ASSESS YOUR STUDY HABITS AND EXTRA-CURRICULAR ACTIVITIES AFTER EVERY TESTING OR GRADING PERIOD – Set yourself up for success, not for failure. It often takes about 1 ½ semesters to adopt effective study habits that become natural. Commit to your study plan if it is working but re-tool it if it is not. Ask your instructor how much you should be studying each day for each class and arrange your schedule around honesty about how much you need to study instead of denial about how much you need to study. Eliminate any extra activities until you are achieving the grades and knowledge mastery you desire. Remember that exercise, sleep, eating properly and an allotted amount of personal time to enjoy life are not extra-curricular activities but necessary for your health, well-being and good grades!

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Filed under children, Education, exercise, Families, Fathers, insomnia, media, mentor, mother, nutrition, prevention, teaching, technology, teenagers, Writing

STOP! Before you shop for the holidays, read this:

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2011 Holidays for the 99% Across the Globe – Birth of a New Tradition

As the holidays approach, the giant Asian factories are kicking into high gear to provide Americans and other countries with monstrous piles of cheaply produced goods — merchandise that has been produced at the expense of

local labor. This year can be different. This year Americans and other countries can give the gift of genuine concern for their own

local economies. There is no longer an excuse that, at gift giving time, nothing can be found that is produced by

local hands. Yes there is! It’s time to think outside the box, people. Who says a gift needs to fit in a shirt box, wrapped in Chinese produced wrapping paper? Everyone — yes EVERYONE gets their hair cut. How about gift certificates from your

local hair salon or barber? Gym membership? It’s appropriate for all ages who are thinking about some health improvement. Who wouldn’t appreciate getting their car detailed? Small,

locally owned detail shops and car washes would love to sell you a gift certificate or a book of gift certificates. Are you one of those extravagant givers who think nothing of plunking down the Benjamins on a Chinese made flat-screen? Perhaps that grateful gift receiver would like his driveway sealed, or lawn mowed for the summer, or driveway plowed all winter, or games at the local golf course or recreation facility or skating rink. There are a bazillion owner-run restaurants — all offering gift certificates. And, if your intended isn’t the fancy eatery sort, what about a half dozen breakfasts at the

local breakfast joint. Remember, folks this isn’t about big National chains — this is about supporting your home town Americans with their financial lives on the line to keep their doors open. How many people couldn’t use an oil change for their car, truck or motorcycle, done at a shop run by the American working guy? Thinking about a heartfelt gift for mom? Mom would LOVE the services of a local cleaning lady for a day. My computer could use a tune-up, and I KNOW I can find some young guy who is struggling to get his repair business up and running.

If you are still fortunate enough to have a

local bookstore, it may cost a few extra dollars to purchase a book from them, but it will be worth every penny.

OK, you were looking for something more personal.

Local crafts people spin their own wool and knit them into scarves. They make jewelry, and pottery and beautiful wooden boxes and old fashioned wooden toys for children.

Plan your holiday outings at local, owner operated restaurants and leave your server a nice tip. And, how about going out to see a

local play or ballet at your hometown theatre. Musicians need love too, so find a venue showcasing local bands. Honestly, people, do you REALLY need to buy another ten thousand Chinese lights for the house? When you buy a five dollar string of light, about fifty cents stays in the community. If you have those kinds of bucks to burn, leave the mailman, trash guy or babysitter a nice BIG tip. You see, Christmas should not be about draining local pockets so that China can build another glittering city. Christmas should be caring about US, encouraging local small businesses to keep plugging away to follow their dreams. And, when we care about our fellow countrymen, we care about our communities, and the benefits come back to us in ways we couldn’t imagine. Make this the new international Christmas tradition. Forward this to everyone on your mailing list — post it to discussion groups — throw up a post on Craigslist in the Rants and Raves section in your city — send it to the editor of your local paper and radio stations, and TV news departments. This is a revolution of the 99% caring about each other and isn’t that what Christmas is about?

Children’s gifts can be just as inventive and supportive to

local economies from local movie, dance, music or theatre tickets that support teen theatre workers to

local bookstores, classes, fun houses, museum memberships, hair salons, ski resorts, etc.

Please pass this on! I cut and pasted and modified this message so it does not get tracked by whoever tracks our group emails because I generally do not pass on anything from email but this was too good to drop the ball.

Like this idea? You can also “like” it on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-99-Supporting-Local-Economies-for-the-Holidays/273216302721563

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Filed under community, Craigslist, Families, Grandparents, prevention, teaching

The 25 Most Important Things

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The 25 Most Important Things To Pass On To My Children and Grandchildren:

1. Be honest and kind with yourself and others. You will save a lot of pain and suffering while attracting more honesty and kindness into your life.

2. Exercise often and as aerobically as you can because 4-6 days of exercise will:

  • Help you sleep more soundly
  • Keep your immune system strong, thereby reducing sick days and health care costs
  • Prevent injuries
  • Increase your memory and learning capacity
  • Release stress from your body so it won’t impact your health
  • Keep you fit and healthy and toned
  • Increase your options in life and recreation with a working body
  • Decrease anger
  • Balance your hormones and best of all
  • It’s completely free if you need it to be!

3. Eat real food, especially veggies, legumes and whole grains and eat everything else in moderation. Remember that children’s tastes are developed by what is in the house and what they eat and drink in the first few years. Each food is designed perfectly balanced as nature intended to nourish our bodies. Each step from food’s original form is substandard and less nourishing for our bodies. Our bodies are our vehicles for everything we do and want to do in life so they deserve the best!

4. Develop an appreciation for reading because once you can read, you have the entire world and its history and cultures and fields of study at your fingertips.

5. Education is the key to giving yourself the best chance in life but you also have to give your best to get the full benefits. This means sacrificing personal time now, which you will get back later because then you won’t have to work as hard as a person without an education. Education also means experience. Make an effort to travel out of your home country to understand a little about how the rest of the world operates from direct experience, not heresay. Traveling is some of the most valuable education that you can experience.

6. Do at least 1 thing very well in your life! Devote enough time, even before you are an adult, to become an expert at something! When you are an expert at something, you will always have this expertise to fall back on, even if you don’t decide to make it a career.

7. Forgive yourself and others for anything in the past. It does not serve you to carry the weights of blame or regret around. Not only do they weigh you down, they can also make you physically ill. You will be closer to realizing your dreams and personal well-being when you learn to let go.

8. Visualize yourself doing what you dream to do and remind yourself of this vision frequently! Do not let others dictate your future or change your dreams. A delay or detour does not mean destruction; it may just mean a lesson you need to learn before you are prepared to soar!

9. Start small. Make small changes in yourself before uprooting everyone and your own life. Big changes = big risks. Each time you start over it costs in more ways than one. A person can never get ahead by starting over continuously.

10. Practice compassion with everyone, especially with people who aren’t like you. They may need even more than your friends and family. (Remember that compassion is different from enabling.)

11. Practice service to others as a necessary part of your spiritual fulfillment and soul requirements during your lifetime.

12. Express yourself creatively. Creative expression is a necessary part of each person but it is up to each person to find their own and commit to it, even as a hobby.

13. Addictions are the suffering of tortured souls. If you ever become tempted by an addiction or start suffering from an addiction, you may be suffering from a lack of #11 and/or #12. Start with those first for a deeply lasting solution.

14. Time with family is important, things aren’t. “You can’t take it with you.” Be sure to balance your time with yourself and your loved ones and only have things that serve you in your life, not as items of worship.

15. Learn to listen to, understand and trust the real needs of your body and spirit and obey them. You will save yourself a lot of pain, suffering and money if your body does not have to be sick to rescue you from your own deafness. The more you listen and obey, the more you will develop trust in your own intuition to know what is best for you, thereby leading to more effectiveness.

16. With any new plan, life change or strategy, remember the 3-day, 2 week rule. The first 3 days are the hardest, but you should see some improvement by the end of the 3rd. day (or 3rd.time). The habit and adjustment will become a part of your life after 2 weeks of consistency. Do not deviate if you are experiencing positive results. It is often right when things seem toughest that the light of day is approaching, but we need to stick it out so we can reap the benefits. If you do something 3 times and you see no improvement or progress, move onto plan B. This may just mean a small adjustment or a total 360. It depends on the situation. Listen; really listen for the answers on this one.

17. Maintain your financial reputation, regardless of what you earn. Treat personal debts as seriously as others. You will hold your head higher and will have more opportunities to reach your goals when you are respected by others by keeping your word & commitments. Do not waste your precious dollars on unnecessary expenses like late fees, tickets, overdrafts, higher interest rates & deposits from bad credit, etc. Eliminate all unnecessary expenses and you will have more for the things you really need and want, including an emergency fund.

18. Make sure you  get yourself into natural surroundings as frequently as possible. Oftentimes when we don’t feel right it is because we are out of balance. Nothing helps more than a day outside, especially surrounded by trees.

19. Be accountable for your life and ensure your children are accountable for theirs! If you find yourself blaming others and are angry at others for your situation, look in the mirror instead for the solution to your challenges! There is no better way to take back the control of your life than by looking in the mirror and taking responsibility.

20. Clear your head of all responsibilities before you go to sleep at night to ensure a restful sleep & take time out for yourself every day. A neutral book is helpful here (and maybe a notepad to write things down so you can let go of them until morning).

21. Only buy what you need and avoid purchasing what you don’t. The benefits are many, but at the very least you will have more money and less clutter to contend with during your day.

22. Take care not to waste what you can prevent from using. We are the stewards of the earth and can get by with so much less. Remember that everything we buy or use requires energy and resources from somewhere and usually involves polluting the earth, water and sky. Any food thrown away has used precious resources (and money) for nothing.

23. When dealing with children, remember who is in charge and it is definitely not the child! Take care to phrase your language to make children accountable for themselves as soon as possible. Take care to phrase your language to make sure they know that you are in charge, not them (even if you have to fake it).

24. Respect all elders by speaking and treating them with kindness and interest for they have seen and experienced many things you may never see or experience. You too will be an elder someday and will deserve the same respect, regardless of your mental or physical limitations or personality.

25. Treat each of your family members and friends as if they won’t be here tomorrow. This will lead to no regrets if ever they are gone; it will make them feel loved by you because we can never have too much affection and caring from those we love!

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Filed under children, creativity, Education, Elders, environment, exercise, Families, Fathers, Grandchildren, Grandparents, Granny Pants, mother, nutrition, Parenting, prevention, Senior Citizens, teenagers

Who’s My Daddy? (So I can wish him a Fabulous Father’s Day)

My mother went to her grave without disclosing the fact that I even had a different father. She was an airline stewardess with American Airlines in the late 1950’s close to the time she became pregnant with me. I was born in early November, 1958. She worked out of Buffalo, New York. She was also a jazz groupie and hung out with the Stan Kenton crowd in upstate New York.

She put the name Jordan on my later adoption papers (which I received years after her death). I am listed as Christina Jordan on those adoption papers which were filed in Queens, NY in 1962.

She moved across the US to Monterey and lived in the basement of Kalisa’s for a few months when she was pregnant with me.

This very personal information is meant to attract someone who may have known my mother at the time and may have known who the man with the last name of Jordan was. Was he a saxophone player? Was he an airline pilot? Was he actually my father? If the Mr. Jordan she dated around this time was an African American sax player, he is not my father and a name she just put on my birth cerficate to satisfy the name in the box titled, ‘Father.” I need to know this to in order to eliminate his search.

My mother had me when she was around 22; she was born in 1935. Her name: Roanne Milga Lindquist. She was blonde, beautiful and very intelligent.

ANY clues are important!

Thank you and praise those who know their birth parents! You are blessed more than you realize!

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Filed under ancestry, Families, Fathers, Parenting

My Life is Like a Pearl Necklace

bnm(of Itty Bitty Miracles All Strung Together.)    by Christina Ivazes

This story is dedicated to the parents of Joanna Newsom, who nurtured an angel!

 

Although it was obvious there wasn’t much living going on in our living room, I never thought of it as being empty until the morning after that magical night.

The temporary territories we called “home” only contained necessities and usually didn’t include things like couches or coffee tables, and definitely did not include anything decorative hanging on walls. Our family necessities were mattresses, cooking and eating utensils, a few pieces of clothing each and a kitchen table with chairs. As a child, I never questioned the need for more furniture to create the warmth of a home. Our view of what was normal was designed by what we saw and experienced, not by what we did not.

In between homes, my father must have scavenged assorted pieces of furniture quickly to provide us with the basics until we moved onto the next house or apartment. We only carried what we could fit into the trunk of our car and a few toys, though there were still the instinctive and repetitious fights with my siblings over who got the ‘baby spoon’ or ‘baby fork.’ It mattered that whatever it was stood out from the others because in a family of five children, standing out was the ultimate goal and a complete set of matching silverware and dishware was something only Grandmas were made of.

Or perhaps baby spoons and those other coveted objects disguised the fact that there were much deeper terrors in my life. This may also explain why I have guarded a few precious and seemingly insignificant memories, elevating them to the prodigious events of my otherwise tragic childhood recollections.

Something else I should mention is that even though we didn’t have living room furniture in that short-lived Mountain View home in California, we were blessed with two new sets of second-hand bunk beds while we were living there! It felt to me like we had hit the lottery when my parents carried them into our house. I don’t know how they did it. These beds were the first real bedroom furniture for us older kids. One set was made of wood and the other set was metal, which I distinctly remember being painted a pale green. They were each put in a separate bedroom. I remember the thin, green metal railings. I slept on the top bunk because I was the oldest. I must have been about six or seven years old.

Though the arrival of bunk-beds was monumental, it doesn’t compare to the unexpected event that highlights this home like a blazing light in my childhood. And forgive me while I explain a bit more about my father because he was the conductor of this particular event. Daddy was a house painter by trade in those days before he became a chimney sweep. But foremost, he was a musician.

Daddy played the horns. He played trombone, baritone horn, and the trumpet (which he played in the military service). He must have been quite good because when I was older Daddy told stories of two famous brothers who had big bands in the 40’s who were fighting over who would have him in their band. He decided against their offers. He also boasted that Martha Graham had offered him to be her lead musician when she went out on tour, but he turned her down too. Even back then, Daddy’s brilliance was overshadowed by his eccentricities that became the theme of my childhood. Eccentricities that made poverty pale in comparison. Like when Daddy eventually added giant gongs to his instrumentation, but those gongs are yet another story.

Yes, Daddy’s passions lied in his life as a musician. Ironically this same lifestyle, the lifestyle that attracted Mommy to him the night he played at Nepenthe in Big Sur (with Henry Miller in the audience), was where many of their marital problems erupted. As the eldest, I observed and experienced the tensions between Daddy and Mommy more directly than my siblings as Mommy spilled her anger and frustrations onto me in the form of yelling and beatings. All of this going on while Daddy dedicated his evenings to music after a hard day of work.

Though my story takes place in the late 1960’s, Daddy was known as one of the first people to perform during a ‘light show’ for the other counter-cultural Beatniks in San Francisco from the 1940’s. (A light show is a moving picture of swirling food coloring and oil on a projector that is displayed on a screen while spontaneous instrumentation is played in the background, most closely related to the ‘acid jazz’ of our modern era.) Daddy was way ahead of his time with the ‘in crowd,’ so he said, although I never understood any of this stuff until I became an adult. I was just a kid.  I didn’t really understand what he did late at night in the garage with other people that never came into our house, with the exception of this one night.

I recall Daddy asking Mommy for permission to store an item for one of his friends, only overnight. Like a dutiful wife, she complied. Later that afternoon I walked into our stark, white walled living room and saw it. The most beautiful thing I had ever seen illuminated in the far left corner of the room as if it had its own stage lighting. It was a giant, magnificent golden harp as exquisite and curvaceous as a mermaid, as golden as an award’s statue, and as finely strung as if by a hundred angels. I am quite sure I lost my breath. As I moved in to get a closer look, Daddy blurted out in his firm, no messing around manner, “Don’t you dare touch it Christie!” Daddy’s wrath was my biggest fear. He was always the bad guy in every nightmare I had about Mommy and him fighting. The last thing I wanted was for one of those nightmares to become real.

bnj   So, to state the obvious, there was no way I was getting anywhere near that gorgeous instrument; even though I wanted to so bad I could feel it resonating throughout my entire being. I just planted myself on the bare wooden floor in the opposite corner of the room and studied it.

A child’s active imagination is an amazing pool of creative wealth and mine was extremely active in those days. My school report cards were speckled with comments about too much ‘daydreaming in class.’ In this particular moment, my eyes glued to the harp, I was liberated to daydream without teacher retribution. Familiar cartoon images of angels playing harps started racing through my mind. I envisioned full-sized and feather light angels dressed in gossamer fabric playing sweet melodies that drifted off in never ending sonorous threads. The imagined sounds and physical dimensions of this instrument seemed larger than life and much grander than I had ever realized the influence of a harp could be. It sounded luscious. It glowed profusely, filling the entire room with its beauty. It became my refuge, offering me a perfect and tiny, yet infinitesimal moment of peace through my eyes and imagination.

Today, I can only speculate that that was one night where I truly had sweet dreams, instead of the ritual nightmares of Mommy and Daddy fighting. Nightmares that always left me in a urine soaked sweat by morning. But on that following morning I wasn’t wet. Without hesitation, I jumped up and raced into the living room to greet my wonderful new friend.

My heart sank.  It was gone, taking my dreams away with it; taking its golden light from my otherwise dark reality. The living room was no longer a stage. It was just a barren, cold living room again, like the dozens of other barren, cold living rooms throughout my childhood. How I wished I had secretly snuck up to touch and strum those magical strings just once, to leave the room with its real, everlasting echoes of angels. Why didn’t I? I knew why.

But the feeling of its soothing sound and its golden glow beaming from the corner of our gallery stark living room will always sit inside me, illuminating a corner of my mind with magic and surprise. I had been very lucky and I knew it. I had been graced with the potential of the ever appearing surprises life offers when you least expect them. To this day, whenever I see a golden harp, I am transported. That warm glow becomes the present and I thank the harp for offering refuge to the little girl in me and for the proof in the miracles of possibility.

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Filed under childbirth, creativity, culture, Families, Fathers, Grandparents, Granny Pants, mother, music, Writing

Education Reform and the Over-Inflated, Over-Rated 4-year College Degree

by Christina Ivazes  

 The current state of the US economy, our unskilled labor force, the need for educational reform, and the skyrocketing costs of a college education demand we be smart and efficient about solutions that affect and connect all of the above. Perhaps a better strategy is to back away from the ideal that every American should go to college. Yes, we can all agree that every American should have the opportunity to go to college if they choose. However, to give our students and our nation the best educated and skilled workforce, we should not focus on every American going to college, but first, on every American graduating from high school with two years of career training. This pragmatic strategy offers numerous benefits to our country. 

vh   By becoming more efficient and effective in preparing students for the real world and college, the US will save money and jobs. In 2010, The Fiscal Times reports, “just 56 percent of those who enroll in a four-year college earn a bachelor’s degree…Some students drop out because of the trouble paying the cost—the average college debt upon graduation is a whopping $24,000” (Reynolds Lewis). According to the U.S. Dept. of Education Institute of Education Sciences (IES), the cost of a four-year college education is from $18,900 to $35,500 and rising. We also know that these quotes are a low-average and not really what a four-year is typically costing our college graduates, where $50-$100,000 is a more common estimate today in 2011. And graduation does not necessarily equate employment as we see with a glut of unemployed college graduates today weighed down with inflated student loan and credit card debt. There are jobs however, that are immune to outsourcing and which do not warrant an expensive four-year degree.

Secondary and post-secondary vocational and technical training programs are historically lower in cost with competitive salaries to those earned from four-year college degrees. Matthew B. Crawford advocates for the many benefits of trade-based training in his bookShop Class as Soulcraft, “You’re likely to be less damaged, and quite possibly better paid, as an independent tradesman than as a cubicle-dwelling tender of information system or low-level “creative” (53). The Houston Chronicle published an article supporting Crawford’s concept stating, “Mechanics of all types are in high demand and can command a high hourly wage… Many blue collar jobs require training through apprenticeships or vocational training programs and others may require on-the-job training or passing an aptitude test prior to employment” (Nielson). This is not a proposal to eliminate the college track for high school students in America.

Shouldn’t we beg the questions: Why are we so single tracked about how to create a productive & competitive job force? And, shouldn’t we think about downsizing the cost of education along with our lifestyles? The IES reports that in 2008, earnings for an employed four-year college graduate are on average of $55,000/males, $45,000/females per year. Compare the costly four-year college degree with training and apprenticeship (which can begin as a junior in high school) for an electrician who can earn from $34,000 and upwards with no student loan debt with just two more years of post-secondary training for $400-$1000/yr. “Semi-truck drivers…start out making $50,000 annually…and only requires about four weeks of training to obtain a license” (Nielson). Debt free high school training in the trades or technology/health careers can yield from $34,000-$50,000+ per year. Another pragmatic idea Crawford suggests is “even if you do go to college, learn a trade in the summers” (53).    By increasing high school career training programs, we can create a stronger buy-in for students, reducing training costs while also reducing the costs of high school dropouts for our society.

cgh  The costs of high school dropouts are far-reaching beyond the costs of college dropouts. According to the 2007 report The Economic Losses from High School Drop-outs in California, the significant impact from high school dropouts come from lost tax revenue, Medical and Medicare expenditures, fiscal costs to fight crime, prosecute and incarcerate felons, and increased assistance for both felons and their families. “The economic magnitudes are substantial” (2 Belfield, Levin). After deducting the cost of education, the average total lifetime social gains for a high school graduate is $391,910 per graduate in the State of California, with the savings for black males being the highest at $681,130 (Table 18, Belfield and Levin). My point is not to stereotype but to acknowledge that we need to do everything in our capacity to invest in our high school students to become ready employable adults and/or ready for college, not inmates and/or recruits for drug cartels.

Career and technical training can be a ray of hope for all high school students, not just the disenchanted. Crawford makes a strong case in favor of the trades in Shop Class as Soulcraft, including his highlight on their little recognized intellectual merit, “I quickly realized there was more thinking going on in the bike shop than in my previous job at the think tank” (27). With a PhD. he describes a collegiate fall from grace as a blessing because it led him back to his original high school training as a motorcycle mechanic.  Crawford describes his own cognitive journey as well as those of other tradesmen he interviewed. The conclusion is worth a new focal point in our education reform. In Crawford’s view “Given the intrinsic richness of manual work— cognitively, socially, and in its broader psychic appeal—the question becomes why it has suffered such a devaluation as a component of education” (27). Some may view this idea as undermining a college education, but what Crawford is really pointing out is that “Practical know-how… is always tied to the experience of a particular person. It can’t be downloaded, it can only be lived” (162). Children and teenagers have always responded positively to the value of hands-on learning, especially when it has a practical application in their lives.

At the age of 16, a teenager’s cognitive maturity starts him or her on the path towards the reality of the adult world and all that entails. You may wonder what cognitive maturity has to do with a broad-based high school career and technical training program, but if students are struggling in school, have no money or family support for college, many see no future in the value of their junior and senior years. Challenged students need full engagement to prevent them from becoming avoidable statistics. By focusing on Math and English proficiency by the end of sophomore year, juniors and seniors can take core subjects and science classes with their half day of training courses to ensure they are ‘college ready’ at graduation. This schedule does not limit a student’s education, it enhances it by making it relevant; it prepares the student both for life and for college should they choose to attend.

 cvb  Though career and technical training in high school is not the solution for every student, it can serve a healthy percentage of our labor force. Some model programs in the US illustrate the potential of every high school, such as the Howard High School of Technology in Delaware.  The 2010 report by the Delaware Department of Education declares, “Howard has a high graduation rate (97 percent) and daily attendance rate (95 percent) and a low serious infraction rate….In addition to an academic program, Howard students choose one of the following career pathways: finance and business; carpentry; computer network administration; cosmetology; culinary arts; dental assisting; electrical trades; engine technology; legal administrative assisting; medical assisting; nursing technology; public service; or structural steel detailing.”  This richly diverse program serves a variety of student and community needs. It is a model that deserves replication.

There are still many questions to address in more detail before programs like Howard can be implemented effectively across America.  Questions like: How will we pay for this?  How can we make a solid case for the benefits of high school career training that will not be sabotaged by budget cuts every time state and federal revenues fluctuate? How can we refocus dollars from punitive institutions to education so we can create a higher skilled work force, reduce high school dropouts and prison populations while also reducing student loan and credit card debt? The answers to these questions and are necessary for the design of lasting and effective education reform that will strengthen our economy and society.  Of course, to change the current system, we may also have to challenge for profit college and prison industries that have benefitted by the shrinking of high school career education in the U.S., but it’s a challenge worth taking up.

Work cited

Belfield, Clive R. and Henry M. Levin. “The Economic Losses From High School Dropouts in California.” University of California, Santa Barbara: California Dropout Research Project Report #1, August 2007. PDF.(Table 18) Web. 7 April 2011.

Crawford, Matthew B. Shop Class as Soulcraft. New York: The Penguin Press. 2009. Print.

Delaware Department of Education. “Delaware Partnership Zone: Howard High School of Technology.” PDF. 2010. 21 April 2011.

Nielson, Lisa. “Highest Demand Blue Collar Careers.” The Houston Chronicle. 2011. Web. 7 April 2011.

Reynolds Lewis, Katherine. “High College Dropout Rate Threatens US Growth.” The Fiscal Times. October 28, 2010. Web. 22 April 2011.

 Wei, Christina Chang. “What is the Price of College?” U.S. Department of Education. December, 2010. PDF. (Table 1). Web. 7 April 2011.

 

 

 

 

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MY LIVING WISHES – PART 1

 fufMY LIVING WISHES FOR MY ELDER YEARS (Inspired and influenced by all of the precious elders in my life and those who have cared for them.)

TO ALL OF MY FAMILY MEMBERS,

There will be a day, when I may stop doing things for myself, but they will still be important for me to do.

Who will do them?

Who will make sure I carry them out?  

I will need you to help me do the things that are essential to my health and wellness and state of mind. I will need to be reminded to do them or even have you do them with me, so I can maintain a quality of life that all seniors deserve to have. If for some reason you are not taking care of your own needs, please don’t limit mine. Use my deep down (though not always stated) desire for quality of life to lift you up with me. This is what you did for me when you were a child. You motivated me to care better of myself and now is the time for me to return the favor.  Throughout my life I have also  worked to make sure all I care for have their core needs met for health, wellness and a joyful state of mind. Can you be there for me as well? 

Here is what I ask from you at the very least:

  • I NEED MY LOVED ONES TO HAVE ALL OF MY CONTACT INFORMATION ON DOCTORS, CAREGIVERS, NEIGHBORS, ETC. Perhaps a master list that gets sent to everyone in my family will be the best way to handle this! Also, please make sure I have a copy of this list myself in my wallet or purse and on my refrigerator. (If it can be laminated this is even better!) 

 

  • AS MUCH NATURAL LIGHT AS POSSIBLE. Even if I want to stay inside and close the blinds, don’t let me! Make sure I get outside in the daylight every day for at least ½ to 1 hour. If it is raining, make sure I have all of the blinds open so I get enough natural light! This will help my sleep cycles and other body functions to balance. I need exercise, fresh air and natural light to thrive!    

 

  • PLEASE HELP ME EXERCISE EVERY DAY, especially if I am ever inside without the ability to take a walk. Have me use the stairs as much as possible; have me stretch and dance and do toning exercises. Take me wherever you can to get me walking briskly and move every part of my body in every way possible every day.  

 wer

  • PLEASE MAKE SURE I GET PLENTY OF VEGGIES, FRESH AND COOKED. I need to eat a lot of whole grains and legumes and fresh fruits. I may get lazy and not want to cook for myself. I will need you to cook good food for me! I don’t want a lot of fattening foods or breads or pastas or sweets. Of course, I love these foods and will gladly eat them if they are served to me, but they will be so bad for me. I need for you to take the lead and make sure I am getting the best, especially that oatmeal every morning. A nice pot of homemade soup is something that will help me stay healthy too. P.S. Please don’t microwave the nutrients out of my food (once in a while is ok, but not every day).  nkn
  •  
  • I NEED TO TAKE A SHOWER OR BATH AT LEAST 2-3 TIMES A WEEK. If I get lazy and don’t want to bathe, make sure I do anyway! This is a big issue that I need for you to monitor. Don’t take my word for it! I need to have personal hygiene handled. (Check my fingernails and toenails and give me regular manicures and pedicures-at least every 2 weeks.)  
  •  
  • I NEED MY SHEETS AND TOWELS AND CLOTHES WASHED ONCE A WEEK. Don’t take my word for it. (I may say I have handled things just to keep things easier for both of us.) Make sure my living space is clean and that I have fresh air and sunshine coming into my room.
  •  
  • READ TO ME PLEASE! Because you know how much I hunger for a good story, please find out what my favorite stories are today so you can read them to me when I can’t read to myself!  I adore a clever and beautifully written sentence and find so much joy in hearing them! You can also read me my own writing and journals (or your writing). This may be fun for both of us. I love great movies of course, but I should never stop experiencing the value of good literature.

 

  • I NEED TO EXPERIENCE NEW THINGS ALWAYS. Get me out to museums, live performances, especially great singing and dancing! I love all kinds of new things that are happening from all walks of life. Take me to cultural activities and to neighborhoods for ethnic food and experiences so I can feel connected to the world’s people and feel like I am traveling again. If this is not possible, please let me watch movies set in other cultures. I am a child of the world and need to feel this always.

 

  • I NEED TO HAVE REMINDERS OF MY LOVED ONES. Show me pictures and videos of all of you children and grandchildren and future great-grandchildren. I want to see you as you were when you were babies and as you have grown. 

 

  • I NEED TO SEE AND HUG MY LOVED ONES. Please make sure I have contact with all of you, my loved ones, as much as is possible, even if it is not convenient for everyone! Families are never convenient, though they are necessary! You can just sit me in a corner to observe the goings on of the family and I will be happy if that is all I am capable of.  

  cvb

  • I WANT SOMEONE TO LISTEN THE STORIES OF MY LIFE. Ask me to tell you my stories for as long as I am able. I have so many to share and want to know you are curious about my life. I just may surprise you with one you haven’t heard before!   

 

  • I NEED PEOPLE AROUND ME TO HAVE A LOT OF PATIENCE WITH ME. Please, please, please humor me when I repeat myself.  If you really want to help me feel as normal as possible, pretend that whatever I say is the first time I have said it or asked it. I don’t need the humiliation that comes from realizing my memory is failing me.

 

  • PLEASE TREAT ME WITH RESPECT ALWAYS! Do not ridicule me, tease me, or show your frustrations about my shortcomings as I age. I want to feel that you respect me and do not look down on me for aging. I also want to know that you still respect me for all of the years I have on you, no matter how much I may not show it.

 

  • REMIND ME TO STAY POSITIVE, not pessimistic because we all know that attitude is everything! I may need to be coaxed at times to remember that everything is OK and that there is nothing to worry about.

 

  • MAKE ME LAUGH! Throw humor and laughter into my life whenever possible; even if it is a funny YouTube video or email someone writes.

 

  • I WANT TO BE ABLE TO ENJOY THE LITTLE PLEASURES IN LIFE. (in moderation of course) like a small piece of dark, dark chocolate or a buttery piece of anything! Oh how I hope I never have to stop enjoying the taste of a perfect cup of dark roast coffee or a perfect ½ glass of red wine. If for some reason I can’t have these things in the future, can you find other things that are almost as good so I can have those little pleasures please?

 

  • I NEED TO HAVE MY BRAIN STIMULATED. Involve me in playing games when you can. I love them so and love to keep my mind active.  Even the simplest game will be okay but don’t dumb me down because I may be able to handle more than you think. Be creative with me please!    dnf

  

  • I WANT TO BE REMINDED OF WHAT I HAVE CREATED IN MY LIFE. Show me the things I have created in my life, like family projects, accomplishments, crafts, structures, writing, etc.

 

  • I WANT TO BE CONNECTED TO FRIENDS (even if I can’t do it by myself or pretend I don’t want to) I may be afraid of making a fool of myself because I have changed but don’t let that stop me! (Maybe you can keep me connected to everyone on my Facebook page for me if I am not able and show me photos.)

 

  • I WANT TO KNOW THAT MY BELONGINGS WILL GO TO PEOPLE THAT APPRECIATE THEM. If I get close to death and no one in the family wants my precious things, please find someone who will appreciate them who understands me.

 

  • IF I AM ABLE TO TRAVEL, GET ME OUT OF THE HOUSE ONCE IN A WHILE. Take me to travel with you when you can. I really am a good travel partner and may still be so when I am older.  I love ‘good’ anything, wherever it may be and whatever it may be (that could even mean rap music or the latest music or dance craze or performance art craze)!  

 

  • DON’T LET ME ISOLATE MYSELF! I will always need to be around people on a regular basis; even those who are my age! I may act or say that I don’t, but deep down, I do. Help me with this.      cgh

 

  • HAVE ME WRITE WHENEVER POSSIBLE BECAUSE IF YOU DON’T USE IT, YOU LOSE IT! Have me write in my journal for as long as I can hold a pen and write anything!!!!! It will help me keep my mind alive and create a record of my life up to the very end.

 

  • I NEED TO SEE THE DOCTOR FOR REGULAR CHECK-UPS. Please make sure that they check everything.  However, if a doctor prescribes any medication or treatment for me, ask them if it is necessary and if there is another option. If you don’t like what they say, get a second opinion. I do not believe that God’s plan is that we should automatically be medicated in our old age and I need you to advocate for me to be without medication if at all possible and to find other solutions based on the cause of my ills, not just the symptoms!

 

  • DON’T DOPE ME UP ON MEDICATION JUST TO MAKE ME EASIER TO BE AROUND! In the long run, you may end up dealing with the side effects of the medication that are even worse than me being without medication.

 

  • ENSURE I HAVE BEAUTY IN MY LIFE. Bring me to see things of beauty: flowers, trees, nature.  I need to stay in touch with life in order to connect with my own will to live.  

 

  • I NEED TO FEEL USEFUL for as long as I am able. Give me things to do so I feel like I am contributing, but don’t work me too much! Even the littlest task can make me feel useful. sdc

 

  • RESPECT MY WISHES FOR DEATH, funeral, burial, belongings and any monetary distribution!

 

  • SHARE MY CARE WITH OTHER FAMILY MEMBERS AND MAKE SURE YOU GIVE YOURSELF PLENTY OF PERSONAL TIME SO YOU HAVE MORE PATIENCE WITH ME!

 

  • THIS MAY SEEM LIKE A LOT, BUT IT IS ACTUALLY WHAT YOU NEED TOO, SO HOPEFULLY AS YOU MAINTAIN MY QUALITY OF LIFE, YOU WILL DO THE SAME FOR YOURSELF!

Thank you loved ones for caring for me and being patient with me to the very end! I know it may be taxing, so once again, remember to divide up the duties so not one of you takes it all on! Remember that the ones who are doing the caregiving have their own needs too and that they need a break. That is where each one of you come in! I love you all and so appreciate who you are to me. I hope you will do the same for me!   PART 2- HOW I WANT TO BE TREATED- THE NITTY-GRITTY DETAILS (Coming Soon).

 Love, Mom, Christie, Grandma, Granny Pants

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Personal & Home Hygiene Guide

This Personal & Home Hygiene Guide is for anyone who may need a little more encouragement to ensure they are maintaining a healthy environment. Feel free to copy and print as needed.

 

Personal & Home Hygiene Guide

  • Proper Personal and Home Hygiene is not only good for our health, it also helps others be more comfortable around us, especially in a public or work environment. Proper hygiene helps reduce illness, infection and the spread of disease. Neglect of personal hygiene can interfere with our lives in ways we may not even be aware of. Please review the points below to ensure you are following the best practices for personal and home hygiene.
  • Bathe– At least 2-3 times a week. Take care to clean all of the cracks with soapy water: behind the ears, inside ears, under arms, between toes and entire genital area & anus. The body is continually sloughing off dead skin. Moisture can linger in those cracks, giving bacteria the perfect warm, wet environment to grow. Any foul odor usually signals bacteria. A good soap and water cleaning and drying should eliminate odor. If odor persists after proper, regular cleaning, consult a physician.
  • Wash hair at least every two to three days and ensure hair is combed out because matted hair can house small insects like fleas and lice.
  • Trim your nails. Keeping your finger and toenails trimmed and in good shape will prevent problems such as hang nails and infected nail beds. Feet that are clean and dry are less likely to contract athlete’s foot.
  • Brush and floss. Ideally, you should brush your teeth after every meal. At the very least, brush your teeth twice a day and floss daily. Brushing minimizes the accumulation of bacteria in your mouth, which can cause tooth decay and gum disease. Flossing, too, helps maintain strong, healthy gums. The bacteria that builds up, causing gum disease can go straight to the heart and cause very serious valve problems. Unhealthy gums also can cause your teeth to loosen, which makes it difficult to chew and to eat properly, he adds. To maintain healthy teeth, visit the dentist every six-months for checkups and cleanings.
  • Wash your hands. Washing your hands before preparing or eating food, after going to the bathroom, after coughing or sneezing, and after handling garbage, goes a long way toward preventing the spread of bacteria and viruses. Keep a hygiene product, like an alcohol-based sanitizing gel, handy for when soap and water isn’t available. If you have an open cut or area of broken skin on your hands, clean and cover with a band-aid and/or use rubber or latex gloves to protect yourself and others when cleaning or when preparing food.
  • When using the bathroom if you have trouble cleaning thoroughly after a bowel movement, you can use wet wipes to make sure you have cleaned entire area thoroughly. Again, any foul odors signal the presence of bacteria that can lead to infections and spread bacteria to others.
  • Wash towels, wash cloths, clothing & bedding regularly. Towels (in kitchen and bath), wash cloths, sheets & clothing should be washed at least once a week. Socks and underwear should be changed with clean pairs daily. Blankets should be cleaned every six months or sooner if stains or smells are noticeable.
  • Shampoo carpets regularly. Ideally, carpets should be shampooed every six months if there are children or animals present and every year for general cleaning to prevent bacteria, odor and/or insects or bugs from getting too comfortable.
  • Mop floors & clean toilet and sink areas. This should be done once a week or more frequently as needed. When cleaning toilet, remember to clean outside of toilet and floor around toilet. If there is ever a urine smell present, cleaning is needed with an anti-bacterial cleaner (bleach or ammonia or disinfectants). *Never use bleach and ammonia products together because the chemical reaction can create a poisonous gas.
  • Keep all countertop areas and surfaces clean & corners free from clutter. All surfaces where food is prepared and/or served should be wiped down thoroughly every day. Take care to store food items in sealed containers to prevent the attraction of bugs and rodents. Put any lose particle of food in trash immediately as well.
  • Remove household trash from inside home to an outside, sealed area. This should be done at least every few days or daily if there is highly odorous food like meats and fish. These foods in the trash will attract flies if not removed from inside the house on a daily basis.
  • Sleep tight. Get plenty of rest — 8 to 10 hours a night — so that you are refreshed and are ready to take on the day every morning. Lack of sleep can leave you feeling run down and can compromise your body’s natural defenses, your immune system.
  • Get sunlight, fresh air & exercise every day. Exercise keeps the immune system strong, muscles toned and organs supplied with oxygen. Sunshine also strengthens the immune system and the bones and helps regulate sleep cycles.
  • Open blinds & curtains to let natural light into your home. Certain bugs and dust mites can only live in a dark environment so letting the sun and natural light in is not only good for your brain, it is good for your home health too!
  • Eat a variety of fresh foods. Fresh vegetables and fruits and whole grains support organ and digestive health and strengthen immune systems. A healthy body will reduce health challenges.

If you have any additions or suggestions for improving this list, please comment below. I will be using it for an independent living program for people with mild disabilities. It is based on my experiences in the areas where the needs for proper hygiene are the greatest and because I could not find a resource like this anywhere. I will be happy to provide a PDF if you request it.   Granny Pants

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