Are you contagious?

Contagion is the second most popular movie on Netflix this year as people turn to this 2011 thriller for some combination of information and escapism. I watched this movie when it first came out and remember it as absolutely terrifying. But not for the reason you might think.

Yes, the physical effects of the virus that spreads rapidly across the globe are devastating and graphic (it is portrayed as exponentially more lethal and dangerous than the coronavirus.)…


That’s Weak

Over the last two weeks, I have spent more time on my back than on my feet. I cannot recall a flu that has hit so hard and lasted so long.  While there were the usual aches and pains, nothing has been more persistent and debilitating than the constant state of fatigue and weakness.

There is a helplessness that goes with such weakness. You have no strength for much of anything — to stand, to walk, to eat, to read, to watch, to work, to talk. …


Healthy people’s problems

I’m sure you’ve heard the term or made a joke about  “first world problems”, “rich people’s problems” or “white people’s problems”.  All are used, sometimes offensively, to diminish the seemingly insignificant issues that more privileged groups face.
 
My guess is that you’ve never heard or used the term “healthy people’s problems” – unless perhaps you or a family member has suffered through an all consuming health issue. …


What does a child feel?

We’ve all been there. Seemingly out of nowhere, a child just loses it.  These meltdowns have an almost surreal beginning, leaving us wondering, “Where the hell is this coming from? “  They quickly escalate into an exorcist-like demonic possession. What else can possibly explain what is being spewed from the mouths of babes?  The litany of complaints, grievances, and injustices fly out like one speaking in tongues.…


Are we measuring the right things?

This morning, like most, I stepped on the scale. This routine measurement is designed as a nudge to guide that day’s eating.  If I’m happy with my weight I might indulge more than if I’m bummed that I packed on an extra pound.

It also acts as a proxy for what kind of shape I’m in. The idea that if I am below a certain weight  (no I’m not telling) it indicates that I’m good health.…


A Labor, then Love

In 1894, Labor Day became an official federal holiday.

The year before a different kind of labor inspired a 26-year-old nurse to become one of the most important social reformers the country has ever known.

Lillian Wald was teaching a homemaking class on the Lower East Side when a little girl burst in begging for someone to help her dying mother.  She had struggled in labor before giving birth but was now badly hemorrhaging blood.…


The Drive

It was my first experience driving on the left side of the road.  A task made more challenging by the vehicle Enterprise had given us. Their self-proclaimed party van could seat eight comfortably and still have room enough for four suitcases and five backpacks.
 
The roads seemed incapable of holding both this van and the oncoming traffic – which apparently consisted exclusively of campers, busses and eighteen wheel trucks 
 
They say that the drive from Edinburgh to the Isle of Skye is majestic but I couldn’t tell you, as my eyes were exclusively focused on the road five feet in front of me every minute for four hours. …


You’ve got some nerve

Several years ago, I pinched a nerve in my neck. Unbeknown to be, this was cutting off signals that extended down through my left arm. When I finally went to see my doctor, we discovered that I had lost 50% of muscle strength in my left triceps.
 
My muscle had atrophied and there was some question as to whether that strength would ever be recovered.…


The Storm before the Calm

On a recent podcast, Kevin Bacon told a story about what it was like to act in a movie directed by Clint Eastwood. (It’s starts around the 1:49 mark)

On most movie sets, he described a pre-shoot experience marked by commotion, noise and stress. 

People chaotically running around, barking “quiet on the set” and “rolling” and then slamming down the slate board that marks the scene as loud as humanly possible before the director screams “action.”…


Could this be the best way to reduce stress?

While watching the Red Sox get shellacked by the Seattle Mariners on Opening Day, I grew so stressed that I decided to hit pause, record the rest of the game and turn my attention to something, anything else on TV.

Appropriately enough, the documentary One Nation Under Stress was on HBO. My first inclination was to take a hard pass. The title itself sounded stressful. Upon second thought, I decided I would watch for a few minutes and an hour later was glad I did.…


What will you see when you listen to this?

Ira Glass has said “audio is the most visual medium.”  He was referring to the ability of gifted storytellers to paint pictures in our minds using the intimacy of their voice as a brush and words that provide color and form.

Another way to interpret that phrase is the ability to help us hear something that changes the way we forever see the world.

Throughout most of my life, this largely happened via music. Gifted


What Does It Take to Save a Life?

This week buried beneath the din of politics and conflict was a brief article in the New York Times featuring an 81-year-old Australian man who was donating blood for the last time in his life.

He started giving blood as a young man – a way of paying back those who had donated the blood he needed to survive surgery as a 14-year-old boy.

He would go on to give blood every few weeks for over 60 years.


It’s In Your Blood

The phrase goes back to the 1600’s, predating the field of genetics by almost 300 years.

The idea that how we act is literally running through our veins is often seen in expressions of negative emotions like animosity (bad blood), anger (my blood is boiling.), fear (blood run cold), cruel (cold blooded) and vengeful (out for blood).

Beyond colorful idioms, there is more truth to the idea than we may realize.…


Do Children Cry Happy Tears?

This weekend my youngest daughter and I went to see the new movie Coco. The movie is a multi-layered parable about how family connections transcend time.

The penultimate scene shows a boy singing a lullaby to his great-grandmother who suffers from dementia.  The song, Remember Me, was written by her father and they would sing it together each time he said goodbye to her when she was a little girl.

What Does “The Environment” Mean To You?

Several years ago, linguist George Lakoff was asked to do a study of language used to communicate about environmental issues, including what was then called global warming.

In his analysis, he discovered that there was a part of speech that was largely absent…. pronouns.

We say the environment not my environment, the water supply instead of ourwater supply, earth instead of our planet.

The implications were huge.


Maybe You Could Be President Someday…

This phrase has probably been uttered to hundreds of millions of American children over our country’s 240 year history.

Yet during that time only 44 people have actually held that job.

It is no wonder that when we tell the stories of our Presidents we marvel at the individual efforts and the hard work that must have been required to ascend to our highest office. Yet consider how many other factors, like these, had to fall in place when you hear their extraordinary individual tales:

Money helps.…


Can You Afford This?

Recently I was in a pinch and had to quickly buy some pasta sauce to make dinner for my family. I could have gone to the local grocery store where I normally shop but it was just a little out of my way. Instead I stopped by the gourmet store in town and picked up sauce that cost a ridiculous $10. For the convenience of saving 5 minutes I paid double of what I would normally.…


Would You Prefer to Be Healthy or Smart?

What would you say is more important for your success? Your health or your education? We asked Americans which five-year-old is more likely to be successful — one with access to a good education but no health care, or one who has access to a great doctor but poor schools?

People overwhelmingly chose education by a margin of four to one. But consider this:

  • If a child is sick with untreated asthma, he or she will miss school and opportunities to learn.