Monthly Archives: September 2014

MORNING GREETINGS…COURTESY OR CONFUSION

“Good morning” just doesn’t seem to be enough these days.   In addition to “Good morning,” we regularly hear “How ya doing?” or “How’s your day going?” or some other appendix that makes me feel dumbstruck and wonder “How do I answer that?”

You see, I was never a morning person.  Even now, I wake usually between 4-5am, but I don’t really feel awake enough to talk to anyone (wife included) ‘til after breakfast, which is usually about 7:30 or so.

Like most teenagers and college students, my preference was to stay up late or half the night and sleep most of the morning.

When I began my working career in NYC, I stayed up to watch the great Steve Allen show from 10:30 to midnight and then struggled each morning to get to the office by 9am.

The only break in this pattern was when I worked for the Electric League in Phoenix.   At least once or twice a week we had breakfast meetings and I had to pick up my boss, Dick Reucker, at 6:30am.  Dick was definitely a morning person and he chatted to me all the way to the meeting.

I was reminded of this morning ritual reading a recent blog from Glenn Geffcken.  He talked about the morning greeting dilemma.  Either not knowing how you feel early in the morning or not sure if anyone really cares.  That’s me!

Here’s what Glenn had to say:

“When we greet people in an elevator, down the hall or across the street and we ask “How are you?” there is an expectation that they will answer “good” or “well,” and in return they will ask how we’re doing.  But, do we truly care how they are doing?  Do they truly case how we feel when they ask us how we’re doing?  Blurting out the typical responses would seem to suggest that we don’t care too much; that we’re just exercising an expected social behavior or cordiality.

If upon emerging from my home on a beautiful sunny morning my neighbor says “Good morning” and asks how I’m doing and I say, “I’m kind of pissed off this morning but, yes, it’s a beautiful morning,” I think my neighbor would not likely know how to respond to that.

Language becomes like a habit in that we are expected to ask people how they are doing and that they will ask us how we’re doing, and in doing so we fall into a habit of not being honest with our emotions.  We say we’re good even when we’re not, and we ask them how they’re doing when we don’t really want to know the truth of what they’re going through.  Sharing real emotions with others requires us to be more fully present and in the moment.  It also requires us to muster our compassion for people we may not know very well.  And, it requires us to set ourselves aside for the moment and empathize.

In my Navajo teachings, I have learned just a few things about their language.  I say just a few things, as their language is very complex.  They speak in metaphors and stories.  It takes many more Navajo words to say things than in English.  They can talk for hours to convey a few simple meanings; but they don’t go around asking people off the bat how they are.  Their greeting is a simple “Yateh,” or hello.  They don’t have a word for goodbye as they don’t believe in goodbyes.  They simply say “Hagoneh,” which essentially means “See you later.”

What if instead of saying, “Hello, good morning, how are you?” we said, “Hello, good morning, it’s good to see you” instead of asking for a polite and maybe not so honest reply.

Sounds like a good idea to me, but maybe morning people wouldn’t agree!

YATEH

Glenn blogs and hosts seminars on The Art of Balance.  He can be reached at ggeffcken@yahoo.com.

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WHY I STAYED OUT OF ELECTED POLITICS

As a young boy, my interest in current affairs and the influence of politics was sparked by the beginnings of World War II, almost as much as my infatuation with my new Schwinn bicycle.  Not sure how much I really understood about all that was going on, but I found it all intriguing.

On into high school and college, my interest continued and I became more and more concerned about the disparity of wealth and poverty.  I was a very committed liberal.

Around 1958, I moved with a wife and three infants from New York to Phoenix, Arizona.  Had a rough time getting established, but finally caught hold about three years in when I went to work for the Electric League and became active in the Phoenix Jr. Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees).  This was a large organization of about 500 members, who were very active and respected in the community.

I took part in the Labor Day Fishing Derby, the 4th of July fireworks show at the racetrack, was chairman of the Christmas party for underprivileged children (8,000 pairs of shoes and all kinds of toys and goodies).  I was on the Board of Directors and then treasurer.  Including the annual rodeo we sponsored and weekly dinner meetings in our own building, we ran on a budget of $500,000 plus a year.

Following a stint in a statewide model legislature, I proposed and became chairman of a state project to hold a model constitutional convention.  This came about as the result of a meeting with the governor, who suggested several outdated operational problems in the Arizona Constitution.

The project to produce a model constitutional convention involved working with professors at the two state universities who produced kind of workbook analyzing the current constitution and offering a series of alternatives.

We had about 60 or more delegates from all over the state for a weekend conclave in Phoenix.  It was a very successful showcase and led to an ongoing project to lobby for some constitutional changes.

The annual rodeo at the fairgrounds was a major undertaking.  The Jaycees built all the chutes and fencing, handled all the ticket sales and contracted for all the livestock.  They also produced an extravagant parade to kickoff the program on opening morning.

Part of the Jaycee membership were gung-ho, dedicated rodeo enthusiasts.  It was their main reason for being a Jaycee.  They went to other rodeos in Calgary and around the state.

Although I participated in the rodeo and was a parade marshal in charge of one of the divisions, in charge of ticket sales and performed several functions over the years, I was not part of the “rodeo group.”

I know this is getting to be a long story, but suffice it to say, I was very active and involved.

Now we were coming up to our annual election and John K was running.  Nice guy, had been around a long time but had not really been terribly active.

A number of my friends convinced me I should run.  I did and lost.  I was not terribly upset.  I knew it was a long shot.  By the way, John K later became mayor of Phoenix.

The next year I ran again and was seemingly unopposed until late in the game whcn a few of my supporters made some cocky comments which annoyed some people.  They convinced Ed W, one of the rodeo group, he needed to run against me.  Ed, too, had been around a long time but had never done much of anything—never been a chairman and never been on the board.

Elections were a big thing in the Jaycees.  They used the old pull lever voting machines from the county.  The results the night of the election were on two machines.  I won by a small majority.  On the third machine, I got swamped by the rodeo group and lost the election.  Ed became president.

I don’t think anyone in Jaycee history had ever run for president and lost twice—besides, being crushed!  I realized I was never comfortable making phone calls and buttonholing people, asking them to vote for me.  I just hoped people would know my record.  In politics, that’s not enough.  I was not a very good campaigner.

I realized my strengths were in marketing promotion and direct mail; they were not being the out-front spokesman, campaigner and politician.  I thought I could be a good campaign manager.  In the next few years I approached two bright, articulate, young men and offered to work with them pro bono to create a political future for them.

They each declined, which turned out to be a good thing.  Larry S became an obstinate gadfly, so obsessed with the failure he saw in the FAA that he could focus on nothing else.  Mark W, another bright, good-looking lawyer, got involved in an extra-marital affair and some questionable ethical practices with client funds.

It was time for me to take the skills I had and employ them to further my own career and entrepreneurial ambitions.  It all worked out for the best.

My career and my business benefited from the Jaycee experiences and I have many fond memories and appreciation for that time in my life.

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MENTAL HEALTH CRISIS – PART IV – THE TWO ILLNESSES THAT HIT CAREGIVERS THE HARDEST

In this post, we’ll try to address the two areas which are probably the most emotionally disturbing to the victims as well as the caring community; suicides and children.

1.  CHILDHOOD MENTAL ILLNESS

Perhaps no other segment of the mental illness population creates more emotional distress for us than what seems to be a substantial increase in those issues affecting children; eating disorders, ADHD, autism, et al.

Almost 13% of teens in a recent study admitted to a suicide plan, up from 11% just five years ago.  Is childhood mental illness really on the rise or is it being over diagnosed?  The evidence seems to say yes and yes.

Consider the comments of Allen Frances, who chaired the task force for the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,” the standard for mental diagnostics, by the American Psychiatric Association.  He feels strongly that the increase is a fact explainable through overenthusiastic diagnoses and increased societal pressures.

The definitions have expanded and the pressures on our children have grown immensely; do well in school, go to college, be popular with peers and gain approval of parents.  The bottom line is there are more children dealing with mental health issues than ever before.

Before stimulant drugs such as Ritalin, Concerta andAdderall began their rise to popularity in the 1970s, treatment for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) focused on behavioral therapy.  As concerns build over the mounting dosages and extended treatment periods that come with stimulant drugs, clinical researchers are revisiting behavioral therapy techniques.  Whereas stimulant medications may help young patients focus and behave in the classroom, research now suggest that behaviorally based changes make more of a difference in the long term.

Other research has examined the role of behavioral interventions not only for school-age children, but also for their parents.  Parents of children with ADHD tend to exhibit more parenting-related stress and difficulties than do those of non-afflicted offspring.  After training parents in stress management and giving them behavioral tools to help their children, psychologist Bill Pelham of Florida International University saw significant improvement in their children’s behavior, such as the frequency of classroom disturbances.

There is a high degree of correlation between ADHD and learning disabilities.  Some kids act out and do not give a full effort because the work is too difficult for them.  Almost 70% of people in jail have an undetected learning disability.

Where Does it Start?

The concept of ghosts in the nursery refers to the relationship between a parent’s early, usually conflicted experiences of the parenting they received during their childhood and their own parenting style.  Grounded in the psychoanalytic tradition, this concept suggests that parents may relate to their own children based on vague representations of the parenting they received during their own childhood.

In other words, a parent’s reaction to her child is often mediated by unresolved issues from her relationship with her own mother.

2.  SUICIDE—THE ULTIMATE MENTAL ILLNESS

More than 90 percent of people who commit suicide have a diagnosable mental disorder—most commonly a depressive disorder or a substance abuse disorder.

Four times as many men than women commit suicide.  However, women attempt suicide two to three times more often than men.

Writing in the N.Y. Times, David Brooks addressed this problem, saying:

“Between 1999 and 2010, the suicide rate among Americans between 35 and 64 rose by 28 percent.  More people die by suicide than by auto accidents.

When you get inside the numbers, all sorts of correlations pop out.  Whites are more likely to commit suicide than African-Americans or Hispanics.  Economically stressed and socially isolated people are more likely to commit suicide than those who are not.  People in the western American states are more likely to kill themselves than people in the eastern ones.

Some people commit suicide because their sense of their own identity has dissolved.  Some people do it because they hate themselves.  Some feel unable to ever participate in the world.

In her eloquent book “Stay:  A History of Suicide and the Philosophies Against It,” Jennifer Michael Hecht presents two big ideas that she hopes people contemplating potential suicides will keep in their heads.  Her first is, “Suicide is delayed homicide.”  Suicides happen in clusters, with one person’s suicide influencing others.  If a parent commits suicide, his or her children are three times more likely to do so at some point in their lives.  In the month after Marilyn Monroe’s overdose, there was a 12 percent increase in suicides across America.

Her second idea is that you owe it to your future self to live.  A 1978 study tracked down 515 people who were stopped from jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge.  Decades later, Hecht writes, “94 percent of those who had tried to commit suicide on the bridge were still alive or had died of natural causes.”

“The causes of suicide are complex, and are often a result of anguish driven by mental illness.  Suicide is a tragedy and one that the caring community is working to prevent by funding research on the brain, partnering to design effective interventions, and supporting those who have suffered a loss.”

Susan Bacon, who worked on skid row for many years, said, “I could not believe the number of elementary school kids who were suicidal.  Many felt they were a financial burden; and if they died, it would help the family cut expenses.  So sad”!

What are the most common warning signs?

A warning sign does not automatically mean a person is going to attempt suicide, but it should be taken seriously.  The warning signs that we pay particular attention to are:  a prior suicide attempt, talking about suicide and making a plan, giving away prized possessions, preoccupation with death, signs of depression, hopelessness and anxiety, increased drug and alcohol use.

If someone suspects that a friend or family member is considering suicide, what should they do?

There are three very important things to do if you notice the warning signs for suicide.  The first thing is to always show the person that you are concerned about them—listen without judgment, ask about their feelings and avoid trying to come up with a solution to their problem.  Next, ask directly about suicide—be direct without being confrontational; say, “are you feeling so bad that you are thinking about suicide?”  Finally, if the answer to your question is “yes” or you think it is yes, go get help—call a crisis line, visit the school counselor, tell a parent or refer the teen to someone with professional skills to provide help.  Never keep talk of suicide a secret!

In our next blog on mental illness in October, we’ll attempt to outline where we are today and what has happened to the mental illness care system.

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THE REAL IMPASSE TO IMMIGRATION REFORM

Why is this problem so hard to resolve?  It’s not nuclear science.  Here’s a quick rundown of the motivation each party brings to this impasse.

With a new added influx of an estimated 57,000 plus minor children being ferried into the country by coyotes, we don’t send them back; and we are setting up camps to warehouse them, creating an added crisis to the 11 million already here.

Why are conservative Republicans so hostile to granting a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants?

First, their strict constructionist philosophy says they broke the law, they should be punished, not rewarded.  Second, they’re sure most of those new citizens will vote Democratic.  Third, unless the border is fixed or controlled, we’ll have the same problem in another 10 years.

These positions all seem reasonable, but they don’t solve the problem.  You cannot deport over 11 million people.  It is totally impractical.

On the other hand, the Open Border Crowd on the other side of the aisle has a differing view.

The Democrats (and the Catholic church) do not worry too much about fixing the border.  They want to provide the easiest way possible to get all the illegals to citizenship as soon as possible, because the Democrats want the votes and the Catholics want them in their churches.  Compassion is very secondary and their smoke screen.

As has been said many times, “The illegal alien problem is partially the fault of the U.S. government itself because for decades they didn’t stop people from crossing the border.  It let them come right over.  And for decades, it did not track down visa violators, didn’t care to.  So America itself is to blame.

Writing in the N.Y. Times, David Brooks outlined a number of interesting facts about our immigrant population.  “In survey after survey, immigrants are found to have more traditional ideas about family structure and community than comparable Americans.  They have lower incarceration rates.  They place higher emphasis on career success.  They have stronger work ethics.  Immigrants go into poor neighborhoods and infuse them with traditional values.

“When immigrant areas go bad, it’s not because they infected America with bad values.  It’s because America has infected them with bad values already there.  So the first thing conservative opponents of reform are trying to restrict is social conservatism.

“The evidence about assimilation is clear, too.  Current immigrants enter this country because they want to realize the same dreams that inspired past waves.  Study after study shows current Hispanic immigrants are picking up English at an impressive clip, roughly as quickly as earlier immigrant groups.  They are making steady gains in homeownership, job status and social identity.  By the second generation, according to a Pew Research Center study released earlier this year, 61 percent of immigrants think of themselves as `typical Americans.’

“Far from segregating themselves into their own alien subculture, today’s immigrant groups seem eager to marry into mainstream American society.  Among all newlyweds in 2010, 9 percent of whites married outside of their racial or ethnic group, as did 17 percent of blacks.  But an astonishing 26 percent of Hispanics and 28 percent of Asians married outside their groups.  They are blending into America in the most intimate way.

“Generation after generation, the children of immigrants are gradually better educated and more affluent than their parents.

“Current reform proposals would increase high-skill immigration.  Opponents of reform are trying to restrict an infusion of people most likely to start businesses and invent things.

“Finally, opponents of reform are trying to hold back the inevitable.  Whether immigration reform passes or not, the United States is going to become a much most cosmopolitan country than it is now.  The country will look more like the faces you see at college commencement exercises and less like the faces you see in senior citizen homes.”

WHAT SHOULD BE DONE?

Here is a sensible and sane immigration plan to deal with the 11 plus million human beings:

  1. All of them—must register with the federal government within six months. If they do not, it’s a felony.  They will be detained and deported.
  2. The borders of the United States must be upgraded so illegal entry becomes extremely difficult. That must be verified by Congress.  This is the key sticking point for Republicans.  The Democrats are not anxious to do it.  Undocumented aliens themselves must pay a fine and apply for citizenship.
  3. But they wouldn’t be given preferential status. It will take a while.  Along the way, they would have to learn English, pay taxes, and not receive any welfare.  They would, however, be given the right to work as many foreign nationals are doing right now.
  4. A controlled guest worker program should be put in place and evaluated as well as adjusted annually to reflect the needs of the American economy.
  5. Once this immigration reform is put into place, no other illegal aliens would ever, ever be put on a citizenship track. No more illegal intrusion.  If you’re caught, you’re detained and deported, period. That’s got to be in any new law.

Based on recent comments, it would appear that Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush would support such a program.  I’m not sure how many of the other Republican perspective presidential nominees or how many Democrats would be willing to accept reason and compromise with the key issue of securing the border.
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