12 Ways Americans Solved Safety Prolems

February 15, 2018 (The Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, the deadliest school massacre in our history, cries out for us to look at the big picture and examine how our country handles health problems.)

Americans have a history of looking a problem straight in the eye and taking action to solve or lessen the problem. These are a handful of examples:
    1. Sports safety equipment has evolved so fewer athletes are injured.
    2. Tooth decay, sometimes leading to abscess and sepsis, affected quality of life and sometimes led to death. Toothbrushes, modern dental care and fluoride have led to better dental heath.
    3. Houseflies used to homes and spread deadly microbes. Screens were invented.
    4. Drivers could not see the edges of their lanes which often led to fatal accidents. Bott’s Dots were invented and used on roads to help motorists see boundaries and stay in their lanes.
    5. Years ago, contaminated milk was killing children. Pasteurization of milk changed this.
    6. Too many accidents were happening in work places. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration was formed to reduce these accidents.
    7. Some toys can kill children. The consumer Product Safety Commission was formed to oversee this problem and recall toys that could kill children.
    8. Before stethoscopes, doctors put their ear to the patient’s chest to listen to the heart. Now they use stethoscopes for better heart hearing.
    9. Years ago, patients who had to have legs amputated or teeth extracted suffered great pain during these procedures. Anesthesia was invented.
    10. Children used to suffer from whooping cough (I did) and it was especially life-threatening in babies. Babies and children now are vaccinated with DTaP to prevent this disease.

    11.  When so many people were being killed in automobile accidents, seat belts and airbags were invented and legislated.
    12. Current problem: “When a gunman killed 20 first graders and six adults with an assault rifle at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, it rattled Newtown, Conn., and reverberated across the world. Since then, there have been at least 273 school shootings nationwide. In those incidents, 439 people were shot, 121 of whom were killed.” (NYT, 2/15/18)    Solution? Send thoughts and prayers and listen to the NRA?

    The Death of Laurel Cemetery

    Google satellite map showing my childhood home and the location of the former Laurel Cemetery.

    When I was a child, I lived near a cemetery with a history. From my back yard at 3410 Lyndale Avenue, I could see houses on Elmley Avenue, the street boundary of our approximately four square block neighborhood nestled between Belair Road and Edison Highway.

    Beyond Elmley was a piece of land that we called the “colored cemetery” in the days before school integration. I never knew its real name until today. Looking out at the cemetery property from Elmley alley, it was at first difficult to see that it was a cemetery but if you looked hard, you could see tombstones, mostly leaning precariously or pieces scattered about. Amid these broken reminders of past lives was scattered debris of beer cans, glass shards from whiskey bottles, pieces of clothing, shrubs and vines in the process of choking out everything that had once been.

    My sister and I had a delineated half-block area we were allowed in and then a little more as we grew older and more responsible. Though the cemetery was not far away, we were not even allowed near it. Once my younger sister and I gave in to our morbid curiosity and wandered to the alley overlooking the cemetery. Some neighborhood kids had told us there were parts of skeletons sticking out of the ground there.

    In those days, all the neighborhood mothers used to stand at their doors and shout their children’s names when they wanted them to come home. And the children would shout back, “Coming!” Apparently our mother had done this and she panicked when we didn’t answer. Frantically she began searching and found us in the Elmley alley looking for bones in the land in front of us. I think she spanked me all the way home. (My younger sister escaped it because I was older and should have known better.)

    Our mother told us the old cemetery was a dangerous place where snakes, rats and possible dangerous people waited to pounce on us. There was talk about a man exposing himself to a child who had ventured into this forbidden area.

    And then one day there was a little girl’s body found among the weeds and trash in the cemetery. One of my friends lived on Elmley and she could see the dying cemetery from her back yard. After the child's body was found, my friend's father was arrested as he walked home from work. He had been wearing his work clothes which had spots of red on it, so he was suspected of murder. Immediately my mother said I was not to go anywhere near my friend’s house. In fact, I was not to have any contact with her. It turned out that her father was a painter and had red paint on his work clothes. He was released after much embarrassment to his family.

    A few years later, we learned that the cemetery would be dug up and the bodies moved elsewhere. I remember hearing the grinding of heavy machinery and wondering about the process. The next thing I remember is a brand new Two Guys store near our house. Now there is a Food Depot in that spot.

    Long ago, I saw everything through a child’s eyes and did not think about the lives of those who had been buried there and their families who loved them. All I knew was that where my family was buried looked nothing like the overgrown place that we knew as “the colored cemetery.” Today I read the story of this cemetery (link below) through different eyes.


    Age As Insult?

    A three-letter word, old, so often elicits a reaction. Laughter…denial…insult...

    Certainly, Donald Trump, a year and a half younger than I am, sees that word as a pejorative term. It's a shame that our culture ascribes negativity to old and positivity to young.

    As a child, my parents taught me that asking someone their age was rude, especially if that person were female. Perhaps there was a connection with the card game Old Maid? Or maybe it was a fear of where old falls on life’s continuum—near the end where there is no continuing? It could be about stereotypes of the elderly as bumbling and weak, worthy of laughter in cartoons.

    When I taught seventh-grade, one day a student in my class raised his hand and boldly asked me how old I was. Without hesitation, I said, “I’m 55.” The class giggled. To them old was something to be laughed at when talking about adults. Another student spoke up, “No grown-up has ever answered that question like you did.”

    This was an opportunity for a teaching moment. “Why did you laugh? Old is something that happens to everybody. It’s neither a good nor a bad word. It just is. Although you may not believe it, you will be 55 one day too--at least I hope so. And I am not ashamed to tell anyone my age. It’s just another life fact.” 

    I had traveled to Japan as a teacher in the Fulbright Memorial Teachers’ Fund and explained to my students how another country actually celebrates their elderly citizens. Respect for the Aged Day is actually a public holiday which is held on the third Monday of September every year.  

    Of course, age brings its challenges to all of us and is accompanied with loss on various levels. However, old is also the accumulation of many past and continuing rich experiences. If I denied age, then I would deny the journey.

    Mr. Trump, you are old. Embrace your age.

    86,400 Seconds

    Yesterday I lived 86,400 seconds and I am always grateful for all these seconds.
    • Driving early morning with my husband from Pasadena to the Whirligig Festival in Wilson, North Carolina.
    • Walking around the festival in a small town and admiring the festivity, color, imagination and creativity.
    • Meeting people on the street—a local Baptist minister and his wife, a couple who traveled to the festival all the way from Alaska because they love whirligigs.
    • Listening and watching the whirligigs in the park and admiring their construction by folk artist Vollis Simpson.
    • Returning at night to see the light schemes, find the light buttons and find the stars on the pavement which indicate the best spots to see the colorful reflections. 
    • Ending the night in our hotel bed next to my husband of 37 years.
    In another month, I’ll be turning 73 and I appreciate more and more the wonderful seconds that fill my life each day. A gift.
    Read more about gifts every day: http://www.blurb.com/b/7302623-365-gifts-on-turning-70?ebook=591764

    Why Do You Take Pictures?

    Photography involves more than the mere transfer of an image from retina to film or media card. It is a visual outgrowth of personal involvement and a vehicle of fulfillment thought creating.

    I make photographs because, as a human, I am compelled to communicate. In the process, a part of me becomes merged with a greater world.

    There is always a suggestion of control—something in the push of a button steals a second of eternity. Every time the image is captured, there is a smug illusion of omnipotence. And I suppose there are “intimations of immortality.” Each of us wants to leave behind some part of our uniqueness. The purpose of life is to matter—to have it make a difference that we have lived at all. 

    Maybe it is conceit which makes us believe that no one else can express the world in quite the same way that we do. The paradox is that we believe our vision is unique through our eyes but, at the same time, universal through shared feelings.