My Chart Plus Aggravation + Confusion

By Loretta Wrobel    

May is my birthday month, and one of the unavoidable traumas as you age is that you are forced to dance with the medical system more frequently each year. You cannot avoid it. The body does get tired and breaks down and doesn’t operate as it used to when you were younger. Fortunately, I have been fairly healthy for most of my long existence on this planet this time around. However, as I pass into yet another decade, I witness my ailments multiplying, not life threatening, but needing attention. Consequently, I am compelled to go to the computer and sign on to My Chart Plus.

Initially, it seemed to be a great invention. You just have a short period of learning to navigate the system and voila, you are contacting medical personnel and getting test results and getting reminders of appointments. What a sense of safety and comfort. That is until the system runs into an error or a blip or you can’t remember your password. 

I am feeling quite smug and knowing help is just a few clicks along the way. Sending a message seems quick and you get fast results—until you don’t. I have waited for more than a week and a half without any return response. That leaves you with one alternative, Calling. This is an anxiety inducing experience, as you need to give all sorts of information and are not connected to the department you want. You have to know what number you want or the name of who you want to speak to. All of these detours take more Time. Finally, when you reach the appropriate office, you get a time frame of two to six months for an appointment.

Here is a lengthy saga of what I experienced recently. I call a clinic for an appointment and I am told I had to have a referral from my doctor. My doctor, meanwhile, had given me the number of the clinic. I use my chart to notify the office for a referral. I do get a response within a few days, asking for what kind of a referral. Finally, I get a notification that the referral has been made. I do not call the clinic back, since I was told they will call me and it could be up to three weeks. I finally get a return call two months later. My appointment is set for three months in the future. I guess they are very busy.

However, that is not the only shock. Here are my instructions. I have to go to pick up my test results and bring it myself to the clinic when I go. I have to contact my doctor’s office for them to fax blood test results to the specialty clinic. I say, “Just get it from my chart plus.”  The reply “Oh no, as this is a different group and we don’t have access to your medical chart.” I thought the whole purpose was to have coordinated health care where medical personnel could see all of your health history to provide better care. 

What happens next? Well, I sign onto the other healthcare system. Wrong, as I don’t have an access code from their medical insurance. Next step is a shot in the dark. I return to my home page for my chart, and—surprise– I then see a link to the other healthcare system. OK I am riding high. I have solved this puzzle. Not so, as there is a problem loading the information. Check back later. I go back three times and no success. However, on the fourth attempt, I am successful. What a puny reason to be elated. Nonetheless I am. I am driven to feel great about a successful link in. These are the times we live in. No wonder depression and anxiety are on the rise!

This is our highly advanced medical system that functions some of the time and doesn’t much of the time. I used to believe, when I heard horror stories about what happened, that it was just a glitch. A friend reports that after a three plus hour test on her gallbladder and pancreas, the results are negative. Why has she been in severe pain? No answer. 

We are getting sicker along with our medical systems. We need to create some loud action. No one should have to wait for a critical test for three months. Nobody should be denied a treatment because of a denial by the insurance company. 

Next comes the reality of the remuneration that the head, the CEO–chief executive officer, receives from their insurance company. We all know such an excessive amount of salary, bonuses, and benefits are absorbed by the rest of us. We are just trying to take care of our bodies. It is no secret that yet again we are dealing with Corporate Greed. 

All of us are struggling as our rates for insurance increase, our coverage decreases, plus our services are often not timely and require longer and longer waiting periods. This is not a sustainable path. And it means we have to wait longer and longer to get even simple tests or services. For older folks how long can we wait? How do we take care of ourselves?  Why does it always get back to this: The sane choice is not available. 

Healthcare is a fundamental right. As citizens, we deserve appropriate and speedy healthcare to keep ourselves functioning in this dysfunctional system or at best unwieldy system. Perhaps the healthcare companies have expanded too far, with too many mergers, or the desire for profit has taken top seat? 

Healthcare needs to remember their goals, not to accrue fatter profits but to bring greater health to the populations they serve. It seems like an easy fix. We need to take back control. My own doctor, not an insurance company employee, sitting at a desk in some home office somewhere on earth, is the appropriate resource to make decisions regarding my care. Good health is not for profit! We need to pressure our insurance companies to stand up for state-of-the-art efficient healthcare that is affordable and available to every person. It is attainable, and we deserve the right to be as healthy as possible. May your next experience with the medical system be smooth and navigatable. I wish you top quality healthcare and health, especially as we move towards November elections!!!

Mother Nature Bolt

By Loretta Wrobel    

It happens every spring. Sometime in March I am outside, and “bam,” the sense that spring is happening overtakes and overwhelms me. I am instantly washed over with a flood of excitement and anticipation. Usually, the sky has some welcoming blue and the sun is out or flickering between clouds. This year it occurred a few weeks ago, while I was outside hanging clothes.  (Yes, I hang my clothes outside, as I never got into the habit of using a dryer, because I absolutely love the fresh air smell of outdoor-dried clothes!) I stop and breathe deeply, and my whole being feels the thrill of another spring slowly coming on. Often it is the sound of birds, the feel of the air, and the sense of the impending unfolding as my dear sweet mother earth stretches and begins to wake up.

In Connecticut it is a back-and-forth event. Often the following day, it appears that spring vanished and winter has returned in full force. However, I know this is just a tantalizing trick that nature plays. Spring does not approach rapidly, but with slow forward-looking steps and lots of backsteps into winter chills and snow. Not that I would want to do away with the essence of winter. Without the intensity of winter and the time for resting and rejuvenating for our plants, the magic and power of bursting forth would disappear. Plus, how could the skiers, ice skaters and snowperson builders manage without winter!

As I gaze around my yard, I begin to visualize what will appear first. Where will the first crocus rise up with its exciting vivid color? When will the snow drops display their dazzling white teardrops in my yard? I love the first glimpses of spring, as each day I can run outside to search for what has popped out overnight. As spring progresses, it becomes impossible to keep track of every sprouting green, as the plants swing into full gear and my mere brain can’t keep up with the rapid growth that mother nature orchestrates.

My focus switches to a deep appreciation for our precious earth, that she keeps us full of wonder and awe. Such a multitude of growth—green is everywhere, along with flowers, blossoms, buds and leaves that surround us with beauty and gratefulness for the continuing persistence of mother nature. My head shakes in profound honor as nature manages to keep up the grand act of resurgence. Each spring it occurs, regardless of what damage we cause by not staying mindful of the uniqueness of our fragile planet. 

As the days lengthen, and the temperatures moderate, it is the perfect time for quiet corner residents to walk around peering at skunk cabbage with its exotic purplish sprouts mysteriously erupting from the marshes. This low-growing plant starts slowly and then rapidly becomes widespread. The name is indicative of the smell emitting from the leaves. However, as my eyes delight in the curious shape, I view the abundant array of waste that has accumulated along our roadways and trails during the winter months. The unsightly mess we humans create is horrifyingly disrespectful of the magnificent display that mother nature is presenting to us.  Why are we continuing to throw trash, litter, and our ubiquitous nips out of our car windows, as we whiz past all this marvelous growth, oblivious to the five-star show all around us?  

Viral Hope

By Loretta Wrobel

Daily, all of us are exposed to violence, senseless acts and trauma. When we attempt to inform ourselves, we continue to ingest an abundance of negativity, harmful acts and terror. As a person having lived nearly eight decades, I sometimes lose all hope and can easily move towards despair and devastating sadness for our present world, as I witness constant cruelty and prejudice.

Somehow, the coruscating book, Viral Justice: How We Grow the World We Want by Ruha Benjamin, fell into my hands. And I was infused with hope and exhilaration.  Ruha’s words spoke to me instantaneously, as she shared her personal experiences and discussed how minor shifts in choices can have a gigantic influence on our lives.  There are extreme issues existing in our world and it hardly seems that what each one of us does is going to matter. Ms. Benjamin demonstrates with numerous examples from her own life and the lives of her family and friends that small changes work!

The author focuses on mutual aid and collective healing. There is an energy that builds when people come together and work toward a more creative and practical solution. If you are on the receiving end of an injustice, you know what you need to transform your life. Often the individuals who are designated as the problem solvers, by our patriarchal, racist society don’t have any experience with the problem and may not be in a good position to devise a solution.  

Viral Justice means we acknowledge the truth and work towards repairing the past and ongoing issues. One effective tactic is to support grassroots groups, because they have intimate knowledge and a strong passion to transfigure our society to a just and fairer system. I love the simple demand clearly announced by Ms. Benjamin ,“Nothing about us without us!”   

Ruha talked about the lack of trust in the medical establishment by people of color, mainly due to the history of Black people being unknowingly used as research subjects. She reported on the success of advocates going door-to-door to educate minority communities about healthcare, and to teach people to understand healthcare as a right. Quality and consistent healthcare is essential for everyone. This truth is empowering to many Black and brown people. 

Ms. Benjamin discussed LeeAnne Walters, an environmental activist from Flint, Michigan. This committed and fierce woman exposed the issues of lead in the water in her town of Flint. She led a citizen’s action group that demanded the Flint water be tested, and exposed the toxins residing in the public water system. She is a self-taught problem solver. She exposed the fact that 1 in 6 homes in Flint had dangerous lead levels in their water that exceeded EPA safety standards. She did not waver in thinking that the issue was too big to tackle, and her desire to protect her family and her community energized her. A tremendous role model for all of us in today’s world.  

The author offers many suggestions for how to begin to solve many of the seemingly unsolvable issues front and center in our racist society. She encourages residents to organize media protests over unjust and discriminatory practices. She suggests using the power of barbers and hair salons to educate their communities regarding healthcare issues and delivery of services. Community-driven health institutions that include midwives, doulas, health justice advocates, and mental health advocates could help repair our broken healthcare system. She challenges white people who hold power to use their privilege to push for systemic change, particularly in areas of medicine, education and government. She questions, “What are scientific and medical institutions doing to demonstrate their trustworthiness to Black communities?”  What is possible when we work together? For example, what if we had a more expansive approach to public health rather than a rigid system driven by profits? If medical schools addressed racial justice in their curriculum, how would that change our healthcare system for everyone?

Ruha talked of the value and benefits of a Universal Basic Income. A four-day work week with paid vacation, guaranteed sick leave, and disability accommodation are basic to the move from an unjust and unhealthy society to a system that promotes wellbeing for all its citizens. Her assessment is that private accumulation and institutionalized greed are the culprits. In 2020 around 40 million people lost their jobs, while the billionaires experienced a ten percent increase in their wealth! That statistic really exposes who we are as a culture, and what is important in our flawed worldview.

The disempowerment of workers was another topic that Ms. Benjamin focused on in her book. The phenomenon of the gig worker, where the advantages are setting your own hours, working parttime, and being your own boss, are truly outweighed by the disadvantages of receiving no benefits. This is a colossal obstacle, because if you don’t work, you don’t get paid. If you are sick, you can’t work so you don’t get paid. You lack medical insurance. You don’t have any guaranteed income. If you have more expenses, you must seek out more work. Plus, there are no pension plans or any guarantee that you will have work. In today’s world, benefits are vital, especially if you have a family. If you are an Uber driver, deliver food, work in the food service industry or other low paying jobs, you can’t afford to only work parttime. In academia the university makes out, as the adjunct faculty earn no benefits and usually get paid a minimal amount per course. There is no guarantee the course will be continued and you will continue to have an income. In the university system there are 1.8 million faculty that have no benefits, and these individuals are responsible for the bulk of the teaching and functioning of the system with only a pittance of financial reimbursement for their efforts, and no power within the system. A sad commentary on the corporatization of academia. 

I recommend taking the time to peek at Viral Justice to inspire you to use whatever skill set you possess to make a tiny but important change within our dysfunctional institutions and systems. It is best to start where you are, with the issues that impacts you. By reimagining work and redistributing wealth, we can turn toward democratization of our economy and society. It involves shifting what we value, and placing caring over cutthroat competition. We need to be educated consumers who do not fall for the manufactured scarcity. We can then build on a society that welcomes all to use their creativity and skills to find meaningful work that supports themselves and their families without exhausting their bodies. By working together, we can create astounding solutions to today’s overwhelming, burning matters and questions. Be revitalized by perusing Viral Justice, and become immersed with Viral Hope!!

Our Relationship to the Land

By Loretta Wrobel

As we begin a new year, a question nags me. How many years can we continue to live in an unsustainable manner where we view land as property, land and the non-human beings that reside on it as commodities, and land as capital to be used up without regard? In 2024 I will welcome my 80th birthday. I tremble when I remember in 8 short decades how my world has transformed.

The looming presence of dramatic climate change, with the devastating results– flooding, incessant forest fires that pollute our precious air, and the drying up of important water sources that leave us questioning about our survival. I was listening to an old talk given by Robin Wall Kimmerer, botanist, professor, author, and citizen of the Potawatomi nation, speaking of her mourning the extinction of the once prolific passenger pigeons on the occasion of the centennial anniversary of their disappearance. She offered during that speech that we were losing an average of 200 species every day due to climate change. Other sources indicate we are losing 150 species daily. I add to my long list that rapid acceleration of the loss of species is occurring due to the effects of climate chaos. And again I am concerned about the future of our world.

Robin Wall Kimmerer was talking nearly a decade ago at a Bioneers Conference in 2014, comparing the eradication of the passenger pigeons to the relocation of her ancestors from the forests of Michigan to Kansas during the Trail of Death. Both of these events happened because land was needed, and the original peoples, as well as the birds, were viewed as stopping progress.

Ms. Kimmerer goes on to present us a blueprint for sustainability that is as relevant today as it was 10 years ago, when she initially discussed the wisdom of the Honorable Harvest. The relevancy is not surprising, as she is sharing ancient wisdom passed down from generations of her tribal people. This clear elaboration of ancient ways that indigenous peoples refined and verbally passed on over many generations reflects a path of sustainability. This world view is simple yet complex. It is a model that indigenous peoples followed, since they viewed the land as sacred, home, sustainer, ancestral wisdom, source of knowledge, and the residence of nonhuman relatives.

For us in our highly advanced technological culture, these tenets may be viewed as foolish or primitive. I was impressed when I heard her list these core beliefs, and pray that our generation of young people will see the truth and begin to practice these life-sustaining and endurable practices.

She enumerates ten key principles that allow me to feel hopeful. Here is a method of shifting from our capitalist, unsustainable, disrespectful and destructive course to a sustainable, healthy, and respectful philosophy. Adopting these beliefs can stem the out-of-control flow down the presently well-worn road to extinction that so many now extinct creatures have traveled. We desperately must do this for all living species.

The teachings of the Honorable Harvest are grounded in the reality of our utter dependence on the lives of other beings. The understanding that knowing the ways of the ones who take care of you, such as the plants that surround you, can help you thrive. Our young children can identify over one hundred corporate logos and a much smaller number of plants, average around ten. What does this show us about what is paramount in our society?

As we attempt to embrace these principles, the manner in which we impact our environment will be transfigured. Here is a list of these rules of sensible and compassionate living that Robin Kimmerer sees as a methodology to stop the destruction of climate change: Never take the first one, ask permission, take only what you need, listen for the answer, minimize harm, use everything you take, be grateful, share with others, reciprocate the gift and take only that which is given.

A book can be written about each of these commandments that appear as straightforward and easy. However, for the average person living in America today, these ten principles represent an extremely monumental stretch of thinking, acting and being. For example, when we take only what we need, we stop producing mountains of waste and we keep our houses free from excessive clutter. Instead, we in our western culture accept the idea that more is best. The more we possess, the happier we will be. So goes the mistaken assumption. We all experience the folly of that myth and still buy into purchasing more and more.

One of my favorites is share with others. Pause and imagine living in a sharing culture. How could our daily life be different if we operated on sharing rather than collecting and hoarding our commodities? What kind of world would we create if the status of an individual was counted by the degree of sharing and not by how much money, houses, or cars they possess? It is refreshing to consider how a switch in beliefs and thinking could alter an entire culture.

If you are still in the dark about what is given, consider the sun, whose energy rises each day and is shared freely with everyone. We have the wind, the ocean waves, and the forests. There are abundances of elements and species that allow us to be alive and breathing. Do we remember to thank all of these beings that are always there for us? “Saying thank you” is just accepting our interdependence, and releasing the erroneous idea that we are totally independent and self-reliant.

When we acknowledge that what is broken in our world is our relationship to the land, we are moving on the healing pathway. The deeper we understand having a positive connection to our earth is essential for our wellbeing, the more our chances for survival increase dramatically. Also, the wellbeing of all species on this amazing and diverse planet is vital to our continued existence. All life is intertwined. By vowing to remain committed to the belief that the welfare of other species is necessary to our continued healthy existence, we can invest in the strenuous work of changing how we relate to plants, soil, air, water, and to each other. May we see the sageness before it is too late. We have many ancestors with the answers for us, if we make the intelligent choice to pay attention. First peoples learned by observing, giving thanks, and honoring the land and nonhuman species. Can we follow their lead to combat climate change? I pray we will.

Year End Blues and Hopes

By Loretta Wrobel

As December rolls around, I am struck by the sadness I feel because the days end so quickly. I barely turn around and night has descended, the lights are on and there went another day. I am a creature of the light and when the light diminishes, I start to feel myself diminishing. I find myself holding my breath until Winter Solstice arrives with the promise of longer days. This gives me such joy that each year I can be seen jumping with pleasure on December 21, the first day of winter. Bliss, because I have survived another dark cycle. 

The other reality is that this time of year begs me to address how the past year has influenced me and what the new year holds for our human race. I know I have been dragging as the year progressed with ongoing reports of war and endless violence. The concept of peaceful resolution seems to be out of our reality in 2023. Will 2024 be different? The concept of peaceful dialogue has vanished as a strategy for resolving conflicts. 

I do not dwell and labor over the many bombings and incessant violence that appear to have overtaken our planet. Conflict spreads as rapidly as the COVID virus, and can be found everywhere. It is so easy to become numb and overwhelmed by the latest news from anywhere in the Middle East, Ukraine, or in any state in our Country.  It feels that conflict in all continents around the globe are constantly escalating. 

Imagine my surprise when I came upon pearls of wisdom right when I craved them.  I was reading the book, On Time and Water, by Andri Snaer Magnason, and read a chapter detailing his visit with the Dali Lama in 2010. A dear friend gave me the book to read, as it discusses climate change and the drastic changes happening in Iceland. The writer is Icelandic and the book has a variety of messages. He talks about his grandparents and their relationship to the then numerous glaciers in Iceland. He learns from their stories and he writes about all the high-speed changes that have occurred within the last half century.

He meets the Dalai Lama, is entranced, and secures an invitation to meet the Dalai Lama again at Dharamsala in India. The report of the Dali Lama’s message is so uplifting and hopeful, it flabbergasted me. It was the intensely profound message I was seeking. I was shocked and pleased to find this enthralling answer that led me to a greater understanding as to what was weighing me down in our present world.  

The Dali Lama spoke about the reality that without peaceful dialogue, no issues can be solved. When force is implemented, there is a winner and a loser. Under that scenario there can be no permanent or even longstanding solution to any conflict.  Can we as humans begin solving the ubiquitous conflicts not by escalation of force but by constructive dialogue? This wise, holy man shared that the twentieth century was characterized not by engaging in negotiations, but by using greater violence. He expressed his belief that this twenty-first century will focus more on emotions and teaching warm-heartedness.  

As we become aware and expand our compassion, we are better prepared to listen and work on/out mutual solutions. The Dala Lama explained, “Ethics and compassion must be taught on a secular basis, otherwise it will cause problems in multireligious, multicultural communities.” He adds, “Secular doesn’t mean disrespect for religion, but rather respect for all religions.”  

A simple truth and so very difficult to practice in our world of such diversity and disparity among the innumerable groups, countries, races, and religions on our planet today!

This wise soul went on to elucidate the critical fact that we need to build real trust that comes from an abundance of compassion and respect. Trust is not generated with economic power or weapons. It is based on openness, vulnerability, and honesty. All of these come from warmheartedness. We need to educate ourselves and each other to graduate from the old-fashioned method of solving issues with guns, bombs, and power over. With an abundance of love, forgiveness, and forbearance, we can collectively tackle our conflicts without destroying each other.

This approach is easy to talk about and so very complicated to achieve, since we are creatures of habits and patterns. The old ways are hard to let go of. When we view history, we totally understand that these ways are always a failure. In looking back at the two World Wars, 1914-1918 and 1939-1945, we acknowledge how tragic it was with lives lost and devastation in several countries.  Such catastrophic destruction in such a short period of time. We should have learned our lessons.

It is never too late to start a new path and a new approach to viewing the issues/conflicts confronting us today. Continuing to seek materiality is a fool’s journey; it is unquenchable. The more we acquire, the more we are driven to strive for more. The enlightened vision is to strive towards better mental health, meaningful connection and nurturing ourselves. This we can continue to develop without negative impacts. When the central point is to move on a roadway that we can control, we stand a reasonable chance of reaching the goal. All of us can commit to attaining the goal of enhancing our friendships, improving our health, and making sure not to shortchange ourselves. If we can make that commitment to ourselves, we improve dramatically. And it doesn’t stop there, because we will positively influence all of the people we encounter and lessen the huge amount of negatively and hostility in our world. 

I now have found a new year’s resolution for myself in our new year of 2024. What about you? Are you ready to take the plunge and let go of the unsuccessful and destructive ancient methods? You decide!

Power in Interracial Friendship

By Loretta Wrobel

Learning from each other is a dynamic method of discovering how each of us is shaped by our experiences. By developing interracial connections, we can all expand our mindset by knowing individuals from different races and backgrounds. Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray, two talented authors, explored the powerful friendship between Mary Mcleod Bethune and Eleanor Roosevelt in their spectacular book, The First Ladies.

The writers focus on the intense and deep relationship between Eleanor Roosevelt, First Lady, wife of President Franklin Roosevelt, and Mary Mcleod Bethune, known as the First Lady of the Struggle. These two pioneers, in pushing us towards racial equality, gained insight and profound respect for the different lives they lived, as they carved out a unique and transformative partnership/friendship with each other. They accomplished this challenging feat during a time of prohibitive Jim Crow laws that addressed interracial relationships. In the 1930s and 1940s it was forbidden for white and Black people to share a meal, attend a concert together (concert halls were segregated), or become close friends. These two activists became fast friends, disregarding the societal restrictions that our racist world demanded, and launched a multitude of significant events that moved the needle on civil rights. Eleanor was able to take advantage of her proximity to the President and his trust in her expertise and wisdom on political matters. She helped Mary secure a federal appointment, furthering the cause of equal rights, by giving people of color an access to and a forum to bring racism to the forefront. 

Eleanor Roosevelt at her core was for equal rights. However, her experience growing up white in a privileged family and having her uncle, Theodore Roosevelt, in the White House, gave her a vastly different perspective. Mary, who grew up struggling in a segregated world, knew the pain and suffering of living as an oppressed minority. This struggle did not stop her, as she became president of a college in Daytona, Florida! This happened in the early 1900s, which was no small feat for a Black female in America. In 1904 she opened Daytona Literary and Industrial Training School for Negro Girls that later became Bethune Cookman University. What a role model she provided for young Black women growing up in the beginning of the twentieth century!

This book details the beginnings and successes of this most influential partnership between two feminist pioneers. Ms. Bethune was older and more seasoned, when she met Ms. Roosevelt, who was naïve and totally unaware of how individuals are traumatized by racism. The First Ladies chronicles the education of Eleanor that transformed a clueless woman into a staunch advocate for civil rights, based on what she heard from her dear friend and patient yet truthful teacher Mary. Coming from such opposite life situations as Mary and Eleanor, their views and opinions could have created stressful and hurtful encounters. However, these special and insightful activists together surmounted the potential for disagreements, by listening to and respecting each other and allowing their passion to work for equal treatment. In this manner they moved through any momentary anger or negativity.  These two brave warriors faced those challenging conversations, speaking their truths, even when each knew it could result in anger, hurt feelings, and confusion.

The story of their seemingly improbable relationship survived the potential misunderstandings, and resulted in both women being able to use their different skills, diverse connections, and access to power by clever and innovative means. Eleanor constantly approached her husband, encouraging him to speak up and out about racial matters. Mary used her power as the revered leader of oppressed people. I fell in love with both Amazonian women from the first words to the final words. I felt it enhanced my passion because I listened to the audio version of the book. The authors did a mighty fine job of demonstrating the change in both women as they listened, acquired knowledge, and laughed throughout their long-term relationship. They supported each other, as they suffered through disappointments, particularly around personal issues. They schemed and connived to expose the horrors of a racist society, and together they devised solutions. They refused to be denied, and continued to fight for greater minority representation in Roosevelt’s cabinet. They stood up courageously for dismantling the hierarchy of patriarchy.  

The beauty and grace of this loving interracial partnership was pure delight. I was rooting for them, and celebrating their joy and relief, when the administration acknowledged that our country would function better if all peoples were treated equally. This book about two women and their work to move our Country past the traumas and pain of segregation was, in fact, co-authored by a white woman and a Black woman. While Victoria and Marie were writing the book, they were engaged in the ongoing hard and difficult decisions regarding their own interracial relationship. The book is a primer for the importance of having interracial friendships and partnerships to truly understand the disastrous effect of oppression and discrimination on all of us. When you hear from a minority person about how racism impacts their everyday experiences, it is no longer undercover. When the white friend trusts and listens to how privileged their existence has been, she gains a profound understanding of how racism damages everyone. Racism also wastes the talents and skills and expertise of the oppressed people.

I recommend taking a smart hint from these two authors and reaching out to a person of color to develop a clearer understanding of what it is like to be Black in America. This book is as relevant now in 2023 as when our two heroines walked around the White House in the middle of the last century. I have great respect for Eleanor and Mary for taking the risk and becoming allies, which enabled them to work together on creating a more just and civil world. And kudos to Marie and Victoria for fearlessly using their interracial relationship in writing this book. By embracing this model of interracial sharing, we can work together to finally end the evils of racism. 

And did I mention that this book moved me—shedding tears, feeling rage, and laughing uproariously at the fun that Eleanor and Mary had, especially sharing their love of desserts!!!  

How Far Have We Traveled?

By Loretta Wrobel

As I perused the paper, a headline grabbed my attention. It was a news flash from the US Open on August 28th in New York.  The opening ceremony was honoring Billie Jean King, as nearly fifty years ago, she defeated Bobby Riggs by outsmarting and outplaying the loud-mouthed Riggs who screamed that no woman was clever enough and sharp enough to beat him. Fifty years later, people still talk abut that match that was witnessed by over fifty million in the US and millions more worldwide. 

What those crowds witnessed was a shift in perspective. It became the birthplace of a societal shift that drew women not only to the tennis courts but also to the legal courts, board rooms and medical schools. Women began to see possibilities of all manner of success in fields not seen as realities for women. This life-transforming event happened in 1973. 

It was during the era when women were beginning to crack the long-time glass ceilings in all fields, as they gained strength and inspiration from not only the women’s movement, but all the mass movements of the 60’s and 70’s–civil rights, LGBTQ+ and antiwar demonstrations/protests. It was a grand time for women to dream their wildest fantasies and reach their highest goals.  

I remember those open, free, and phenomenal years, when all possibilities were on the table. When in college at UConn, the sports arena was mainly for the male species with females confined to the stands to oooh and ahhh over the feats of their favorite male players. Part of the thinking during that era was that women had a hard time running the whole length of a basketball court due to their weaknesses. No one cared to bother with the reality of most female existence. Everything they achieved and accomplished was in addition to carrying and birthing a child, nurturing that child (children), maintaining a house, plus whatever they accomplished outside the home. 

Along came Billie Jean with her star skill set and her brilliant strategies. She won the match, plus the admiration of millions of women who could now pursue their dreams. If Ms. King could do it, why couldn’t they?

This amazing tennis star already had been instrumental in forming the Women’s Tennis Association earlier in 1973. King recounts that throughout her life women have approached her, thanking her for the inspiration she provided. Just ponder that one special match proved life transforming for so many.  It opened doors. Although those doors are still today not totally ajar, much progress has been made.

In Connecticut we have seen the success and popularity of the UConn Women’s basketball team that has so many devoted followers, not just females. Young women have role models to emulate. They have opportunities to learn how to become better players when they are young. We have a successful WNBA team, The Connecticut Sun, that made the playoffs again this year. We celebrate this achievement. In my college years I never would have thought this could happen, even if 50 years had elapsed!

Billie Jean King will turn 80 in November, so she is just a bit ahead of me. She continues to be active, and is supporting the new Women’s Professional Hockey League. Barack Obama told Ms. King that he saw the famous match and it influenced how he raised his daughters. What an endorsement for being in the right place at the right moment in history.

Who would have even imagined that this Battle of the Sexes still holds interest and is remembered after half a century! Truly this was a watershed moment. This one sports/political happening had a profound influence on not only women, but everyone who witnessed this out maneuvering of a boasting man  

by a crafty, talented, and courageous woman.  

I am in awe of the lasting significance of this well publicized contest that led to such a dramatic shift of the mindset of people in recalibrating the societal expectations of what a woman can do and how competent she is. Billie Jean demonstrated that physical agility and smarts is not confined to the male sex. It reinforced the notion that women are equal to males in their abilities to accomplish what they dream. It validated the tenets that the second wave of feminism was shouting about, during those radically changing times.

I feel proud to clearly remember what a victory for all women Ms. King scored that fateful day in 1973. I am also aware that we are still working on achieving equality in so many ways, not just in the sports area. We have a long way ahead but we are moving in the right direction and must not lose our focus. Historical change crawls slowly forward and old patterns struggle to stay alive, even when they have surpassed their usefulness.

For example, in 2023, Black Women’s Equal Pay Day does not occur until        July 27th. That means that Black Women must work all those months extra in order to earn the same salary that white males earn.  I see this as a very shocking reality that must be rectified in our country.

The next issue that Ms. King is addressing is aging. As a nearly 80-year-old woman, she is expected to slow down and be quiet and not raise any sand. Forget that one, this is not your average person who accepts what her fate is. She says, “We are not done yet. I’m not done yet.” I love that response from this trailblazer, who knows that it is never too late to carve new paths. She continues to work for equality and to acknowledge loudly and clearly that her work is not done. She is busier than ever and knows there is still much to do and she is on board to do it.  What a classy woman with such ferocity and ability to stay on target. Good follow-through on any court. 

What is Your Awe Quotient?

By Loretta Wrobel

The dictionary defines awe as “a feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear or wonder.” Another definition is “the feeling we get when in the presence of something vast that challenges our understanding of the world.” These descriptions evoke a deep emotional reaction in me. I was captivated by this concept as I read the book by Dacher Keltner, titled AWE: The New Science of Everyday Wonder and How It Can Transform Your Life. A 2023 book that gives a new wrinkle on how to exist and thrive in our present world. The author of this book focuses on the wonder, creativity, and collaborative dimension of awe, not on the other side of awe that features horror and fear.

I believe I have always been aware of awe, and never paid conscious attention to how frequently or when I have been exposed to awe. Often, we brush that experience aside and continue rushing through our packed and frenzied day. What unlocked my heart and cleared my mind was the suggestion to pause and digest my awe encounters on a regular basis and remember the feelings the experience evoked.

We exist in a world that is crammed with awe events, if we choose to witness them. What I understand is that standing in the middle of a mind-boggling awe event, I can absorb and feel it or I can zoom past it totally, not acknowledging the depth of what I felt or how it changed my mood.  When I remain unconscious as to what is before me, it is as if it has not occurred. 

Dacher Keltner writes, “Awe begins in encounters with the eight wonders of life” and “the experience of awe unfolds in a space of its own,” where a person feels good. He believes that we as humans can witness occasions of awe in everyday life. Awe can be everywhere, such as in the arts, especially music, in nature, in birth and death, and in many ordinary happenings that leave us profoundly open, elated, and feeling connected to a larger community.  Asking ourselves how we process this information gives us a start to open to the curiosity and beauty of awe. 

What impressed me was Keltner discovered that people who are awake to awe experiences exhibit behavior that is more connecting, and demonstrate a greater sense of community! If we stop for a moment, we all have felt the body awareness of awe with chills, hair standing on end and/or goose bumps. We are all aware of the whoa or ahh moments. However, do we consistently pay attention and record these times in our consciousness?

If the awe moments were to become more conscious in our ordinary day-to-day lives, would our feelings, emotions, and mental health be positively magnified? Studies have shown that when we are surrounded by nature, our blood pressure is lower, we express feelings of happiness, and we are more likely to engage in behavior that reflects kindness and a greater thirst for social connection. The author reports that after experiencing awe, participants are less depressed and not as lonely. Could we enhance our mental health by tuning in to the awe that surrounds us?

Keltner talks of the myriad examples of wonderment in our world, from witnessing acts of courage, strength and overcoming obstacles, to walking in a forest or standing next to the ocean. The health benefits of being in nature are well documented by many researchers. The Japanese developed forest bathing to promote mental stability and decrease stress. Forest bathing is simply being present in nature sans all our high-tech devices. The author discusses the biological need for awe.  We are hardwired to be soothed by our awe exposure to guide us in feeling our joy at being alive on this mysterious planet.  He quoted the poet Wadsworth as saying, “O there is a blessing in this gentle breeze.”

The author mentions the ability we possess to be awestruck by music. Music provides an opportunity to be connected to each other as we move with the beat. Music can energize us, calm us, anger us, inspire us, or allow us to feel serene and at peace. As humans we can connect and bond in the musical experience and develop a powerful sense of connection and community. Social movements have coalesced through the strength of a song or march. The Women’s Liberation Movement in the 1970’s and 1980’s was propelled forward by women’s music that provided direction, permission, and joy, supplying the foundation for a radical life altering community of empowered women. 

Who has not attended a sporting event and cheered along with the crowd for the home team? I remember being in Madrid at a bull fight and getting swept away with the ritual, celebration, and passion. I was shouting “Ole!” with all the other attendees and felt part of the group. I would not have guessed in advance that I would become one with the crowd at such an event.  It was a magical time, as I felt like a Spaniard and cheered along boisterously with everyone else, being overwhelmed by feelings. I can still reminisce and be back there during that extraordinary event, although it is more than a half century ago. That is the ultimate awe experience. 

How can we begin to integrate this awesome news so we can all benefit during these frustrating and scary times? We can increase our ability to love, operate from a humane perspective, and react with tenderness to our world. Awe can shift and shape our daily encounters and put deeper meaning in our lives. We can become better community members and more compassionate people in a world that continually challenges our patience, generosity, and sanity. Can we learn to develop our awe awareness so at the end of each day we are grateful for our astonishing, enhancing, mystical, beautiful, and breath-catching times? Let us become worshippers of celebrating and honoring awe whenever we feel, sense, smell, or see it.  

Our Latest 2024 Issue is Released

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June  2024 Issue

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