Thursday, October 29, 2020

Health insurance--re the most difficult conversation I've ever had

Roughly a year before I retired last December, a former co-worker and I were talking about health care,  and they made it clear that they thought that only those who could afford to pay for their own health insurance should have any health insurance at all.  Since I had to work with this person every workday, I  forced myself to remain as civil as possible, which was not an easy task.  I politely pointed out that many hard-working people didn't make enough money to pay for health insurance and their employers  didn't provide it, and that one of those people was the spouse of the person in the next cubicle.  But they were not swayed by my logic.  

As you can well imagine, the person in the next cubicle was even more upset than I was.  Neither of us could quite believe that our co-worker didn't understand that they were basically saying that people who couldn't afford to pay for health insurance could just drop dead.

Monday, October 26, 2020

We voted yesterday

Go vote!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I am absolutely livid that we felt it necessary to put our health at risk by voting in person--our neighborhood is currently in a "yellow zone for COVID-19," and we're both over 70--just because we're afraid that Emperor Donald will try to get as many paper and/or mail-in ballots declared invalid as he possibly can.

Friday, October 23, 2020

"Parents of 545 children still not found three years after Trump separation policy"

See here.

I remember reading (and/or hearing, on the television news), a few years ago, that the U.S. federal government didn't seem to have any plan for reuniting separated children with their parents--they didn't seem to have set up any system for tracking which parent was the parent of which child and/or where each parent and child were.  It was pretty shocking at the time, and still is, and I thought that this result was inevitable.  I wish I didn't have to say "I told you so."  :(  My government could have avoided this tragedy simply by setting up a database, but the folks in charge didn't give a _ _ _ _.  This outcome was so predictable that I don't know whether to cry or scream.  :(

Sunday, October 18, 2020

"Metabolic mayhem" vs. the American obsession with weight

Warning #1:  Long post.

Warning #2:  This post is full of what some call TMI, or Too Much Information, which seems to refer to topics not always considered appropriate for public discussion--because I think it's high time that we started talking publicly about these things.

First of all, let me explain the term "metabolic mayhem," which I've been using with my friends for years--I believe I coined that term, but I wouldn't swear to it.  When I use the term, I'm referring to just about any problem that affects digestion and/or nutrient absorption.  It can affect organs and glands as disparate as the intestines and the thyroid--there's been some talk about a "brain-gut connection," as well.  It can include problems as relatively minor as occasional acid reflux and as major, and potentially life-threatening, as a peanut allergy, diabetes, Crohn's or colitis.

Here's a joke that I've often shared with friends:  "The fastest way to lose weight is to get sick."  The problem with that joke is not only that the joke itself is less funny than sick, but that it's indicative of  an attitude that's typical among many Americans, and, I think, among many others raised within "western culture"--the notion that thinness is more important than wellness.

When I first started having problems with my digestive system and was trying to find a "treatment" diet (as opposed to a weight-loss diet), I remember reading a distressing tale about a woman who was in much worse shape than I am.  She would eat very little at work, and would turn down almost all invitations, because all she could do at night was go home and eat and then spend most of the evening on the toilet--her body was so bad at absorbing food that nothing would stay in.  Yet her co-workers complimented her on her slim figure.  They had no idea that she wasn't thin by choice, but, rather, her size was the result of a very serous health problem.

Here's another thought regarding weight:  Which comes first, the "medical" illness or the psychological one?  Is it just me, or is it hard to get a straight answer regarding whether eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulima, or binge eating have an emotional cause or a physical one?  (Some folks have described eating disorders as a brain disease.)  I've read reports of children as young as seven or so going on diets because they already think that they're too fat.  Is the obsession with weight a major cause or partial cause of these types of eating disorders?

No matter what the cause(s), eating disorders are no joking matter.  They can result in overall health problems, depression, and even suicide.  😢


And what if you happen to have an opposite type of eating disorder?  

Yet we discriminate against people who are considered heavier than "normal" in both our attitudes--disrespect and/or disdain, for example--and our actions.  Some folks don't wish to spend time with and/or pay attention to people who are "overweight."  Even health care is affected by a poor attitude toward people with "weight issues:"

"Ask almost any fat person about her interactions with the health care system and you will hear a story. . . .: rolled eyes, skeptical questions, treatments denied or delayed or revoked. Doctors are supposed to be trusted authorities, a patient’s primary gateway to healing. But for fat people, they are a source of unique and persistent trauma. No matter what you go in for or how much you’re hurting, the first thing you will be told is that it would all get better if you could just put down the Cheetos."


The results of discrimination against fat people can be literally deadly:


"“It borders on medical malpractice,” says Andrew (not his real name), a consultant and musician who has been large his whole life. A few years ago, on a routine visit, Andrew’s doctor weighed him, announced that he was “dangerously overweight” and told him to diet and exercise, offering no further specifics. Should he go on a low-fat diet? Low-carb? Become a vegetarian? Should he do Crossfit? Yoga? Should he buy a f_ _ _ing ThighMaster?

“She didn't even ask me what I was already doing for exercise,” he says. “At the time, I was training for serious winter mountaineering trips, hiking every weekend and going to the gym four times a week. Instead of a conversation, I got a sound bite. It felt like shaming me was the entire purpose.”

All of this makes higher-weight patients more likely to avoid doctors. Three separate studies have found that fat women are more likely to die from breast and cervical cancers than non-fat women, a result partially attributed to their reluctance to see doctors and get screenings. Erin Harrop, a researcher at the University of Washington, studies higher-weight women with anorexia, who, contrary to the size-zero stereotype of most media depictions, are twice as likely to report vomiting, using laxatives and abusing diet pills. Thin women, Harrop discovered, take around three years to get into treatment, while her participants spent an average of 13 and a half years waiting for their disorders to be addressed."


For those of you who have access to Facebook, I recommend that you read this eating disorder & mental health awareness post by Kerry Marie Conboy, and see this post and music video by Eliana Light on being kind to oneself and others about weight.


What, exactly, are we doing to our bodies and souls, and those of our family and friends, by obsessing over weight?  Does this really make us healthier people, or does it just leave us hurt, upset, and/or depressed, and perhaps avoiding the health-care system to our own detriment?  

Why can't we just be comfortable with, and happily enjoy, whatever body we have?

And how can health-care professionals help us stay healthy no matter what we weigh?


The floor is open.  I'd particularly love to read comments by health-care professionals and/or those affected, directly or indirectly, by the battle between "metabolic mayhem" and the American obsession with weight.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

The "pro-life" approach, standing on one foot

I'm just copying this verbatim from a comment that I posted on Facebook:


"The "pro-life" approach is an interesting combination of sexism and a refusal to acknowledge that "it takes a village to raise a child." Basically, what the "pro-life" proponents are saying is that the only person responsible for a child in any way is the mother. As long as the child is still in utero, the only one "taking care" of the baby is the mother. But the minute the baby is born, suddenly the child needs health care, perhaps daycare, and an education. All of a sudden, the child's care requires money. So, yeah, "follow the money" right out of any interest in ensuring that the baby, once born, is actually cared for."

Monday, October 12, 2020

Post-holiday round-up

Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur

As a general rule, I have few kind words for our cantor.  His voice was never great--he only thinks he sounds like Yossele Rosenblatt--and it's gotten noticeably worse since he entered his seventies.  He was fine as our baal koreh (Torah reader) and chazzan sheini (assistant cantor), but the minute he was hired as our cantor, he changed overnight from someone who just stuck to nusach, which is a type of synagogue singing for which one doesn't necessarily need a great voice, to someone who now had "official permission" to show off his non-existent skills in chazanut (operatic-style synagogue music), and he's been inflicting this on us for more than 25 years.  He's also gotten faster and faster in leading services in recent years, causing some of our synagogue members to stop singing along with the prayers because they can't keep up.  His enunciation is atrocious--a serious sin in the eyes of this foreign-language graduate--and he has little interest in learning or teaching new Jewish music.

But this year, since our synagogue couldn't afford a high-holiday cantor, our "regular" cantor lead the High Holiday services with very little help. By the end of Yom Kippur, he looked decidedly the worse for wear.  That was quite a job, and I congratulated him for it. 


. . . was just plain strange.  Instead of trying to squash our entire congregation into a family-sized sukkah under the open skylight in the synagogue lobby to make kiddush, our shul had a tiny sukkah with only one chair and only one person allowed in at a time.  We were forbidden to eat in the sukkah, and the only way we could make a b'rachah in the sukkah was to walk over to the nearly-deserted synagogue building at whatever random time we could get there.  

Meanwhile, back at the apartment-house, I had to walk across the living-room and bring up the Zoom on my own computer just to avoid bonking my husband on the head with my lulav during Hallel.  As for the Hoshanot, where were we supposed to walk--around my husband's laptop?  Can it get any weirder?

Sh'mini Atzeret/Simchat Torah

These were the days on which we missed being in our synagogue building the most.  Normally, on Sh'mini Atzeret, we would distribute Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) booklets to enable our congregation to do our part--our minhag (custom) is for the cantor to chant the first and last chapters in Hebrew, while we congregants take turns reading the other chapters in English.  But only five people on the Zoom had copies of Kohelet at home, so we bored everyone by having just the five of us take turns reading.  On the plus side, at least our favorite 98-year-old was "there" to lead the English readings that she always reads during Yizkor.

We did the best we could to make Simchat Torah lively despite the current circumstances.  My husband (the acting rabbi) and I co-led our infamous "favorite hits" version of the P'sukei D'Zimrah section of the Morning Service.  We regaled the Zoom crew with such gems as the Torah-service version of Gad'lu LAdoshem Iti and the Birkat HaMazon (Grace After Meals) version of  Yir'u et Adoshem in  Psalm 34, not to mention Psalm 136 sung to a lively version of Areshet S'fateinu from Rosh HaShanah, and many more beauties, from as much of Louis Lewandowski and Salamone Rossi as we could sing with only one tenor and one alto :) to Nava Tehila and Joey Weisenberg--you name it, we sang it.  :)  For Hallel, we forewarned the cantor that we were taking over Min Hameitzar, and sang a not-too-disastrous rendition of Deborah Sacks Mintz's version.  As for Hakafot, we sang Atah Horeita up to the point at which the Torah scrolls would be removed from the ark, then attempted to play Chava Mirel's new Ana in lieu of actual Hakafot.  And, of course, we ended the service with our annual Adon Olam to the tune of "Old MacDonald Had a Farm," an idea borrowed from the years when we celebrated Simchat Torah with the West Side Minyan.

All told, we did pretty well over the holidays, under the current dubious circumstances.  We hope to be back in our synagogue building by this time next year, but if not, we now know that we can manage.

Here's wishing all of you good health!

P.S.  I wasn't sure whether my younger readers would know "Old MacDonald Had a Farm," so I asked a younger person, namely, our thirty-something son.  His response?  "Yeah, I know it--I just heard you sing it in Hebrew the other day."  I'm not sure how often he's heard it in English.  :)

Thursday, October 08, 2020


We stay off the television for half a day, and THIS is what happens?  Our son has been saying, for over a year, that the United States was heading toward another civil war, but we thought he was being hyperbolic. Now, we're beginning to wonder.  Thirteen domestic terrorists were arrested for plotting to kidnap and murder the governor of Michigan to foment a civil war?!!!

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