WAVE GOODBYE TO THE HANDSHAKE

Wave goodbye to the handshake.

The handshake is history.

It’s tough to say goodbye to this common form of greeting—a greeting that conveys warmth and welcome in our culture.

We love the genuineness of a handshake.

More than just a greeting, the handshake is also a part of our commercial discourse.

We pride ourselves on sealing a deal with a handshake. “Let’s shake on it,” we say.

But with the spread of Ebola, it’s time to find a stand-in for the handshake.

We’ve all heard the mantra from health professionals: “Avoid touching your nose, mouth or eyes during cold and flu season.”

But not much has been said about the dangers inherent in the everyday handshake.

It turns out that bacteria can be spread through the tiny cracks and breaks that most of us have on our hands.

Ebola can be transmitted to the blood stream through these miniscule openings.

According to the American Journal of Infection Control, the popular fist bump may be an alternative to the handshake since only a small amount of sweat is available for transmission.

But like it or not, the fist bump can still spread a small amount of germs—about a tenth of what’s involved in handshake.

A small risk may not seem like much unless you’re unlucky enough to fall ill.

So, while better than the handshake, the fist bump may not be the perfect solution.

So what’s a person to do?

How about raising the lowly elbow to the status of a greeting gesture?

Could we adopt the elbow bump to greet someone?

Readers, let’s hear from you.

What will you do to avoid spreading germs?

Depending on how well you know the other person, how about a hip bump?

Let’s shake it up a little as we say goodbye to the handshake.

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AIR RAID DRILL

It’s hard to believe it was 70 years ago.

It was 1944. WWII was in full swing, but battle fronts were far from U.S. shores.

Along with my parents and younger brother Walter, I lived in the safety and tranquility of suburban Long Island.

But tranquility is not the stuff of nine-year-old play.

Without TVs, computer games or smart phones, we amused ourselves outdoors—seeking adventure in fields, woods, ponds and treetops—coming home mainly for lunch and dinner.

Our serenity was interrupted from time to time by the Civil Defense air raid drills and blackouts which began in 1942 and continued until the War’s end.

We nine-year-olds considered ourselves pros in the arena of Civil Defense.

The morning after a nighttime air raid drill, details of the drill were recounted—or, more often, made up—by our group of friends.

One-upsmanship was a vital ingredient during these morning debriefings.

Because I was a worry wart, my parents assured me that these were simply drills—not the real thing—so I soaked in details as though I were investigating a crime scene in a Nancy Drew novel.

I love the stealthy look of the wartime dark shades that hung in our upstairs windows—just waiting to be yanked down in case of enemy attack.

I carefully inspected the half-moons of black paint on our car’s headlights—meant to minimize car headlights during an attack.

One air raid drill stands out in my mind. My younger brother had used the bathroom in the middle of the night and left the light on.

Being sound sleepers, none of us heard the 3 a.m. knock on the door by the local Air Raid Warden.

The next morning my parents received a stern scolding from the Warden who pointed out that ours was the only house in his ward with light glowing from a window.

We felt we’d shirked our duty in the war effort.

As I look back on the innocence of my life in 1944 and the horror of what was going on in the rest of the world, I am humbled.

Now, 70 years later, news on TV brings scenes of bloodshed, suffering and destruction into our living rooms.

Air raid drills have become the real thing—no longer an exercise to be talked over the next morning.

When will we ever make the world a safe place for children?

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THE 1976 BIG THOMPSON FLOOD

I don’t usually post articles in this blog that have appeared in the print edition of the Reporter Herald. But I’ve had so many comments about this article that thought I’d run it for readers who might otherwise have missed it.

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It’s July again and memories of the 1976 Big Thompson flood resurface as they do every year at this time.

Back then, I was a therapist at the Larimer County Mental Health Clinic. The day after the flood, I was asked to help at the temporary morgue at Loveland Memorial Hospital.

My job was to ask survivors for physical descriptions of missing family or friends so bodies could be identified. “I don’t know how to do this, but I’ll give it my best shot,” I said to myself.

One story in particular stays in my mine—that of the first gentleman to come to the morgue—Bob Graham

Bob told me his two-year-old daughter Lisa was missing in the flood. “I’d just bathed and dressed her in her night clothes when the flood hit,” he said.

As Bob described his daughter I could almost smell the sweetness of a freshly bathed two-year- old. I thought to myself, “A toddler wrapped in a bath towel is Heaven itself.

I started to tell Bob that someone would contact him when we have more information when he said, “But there’s more.”

Bob went on to tell me his wife, Beverly, his nine-year-old daughter, Teresa, and his mother, Clara, were also missing.

“This can’t be happening,” I thought as Bob told me about his family—taken away in a split second.

Looking back, I wonder, “Why didn’t I wrap my arms around him when he told me his story? Why didn’t I wrap my arms around every person who came looking for missing family or friends?”

Over the years I’ve wondered how Bob was doing. I reached him by telephone last month. After re-introducing myself, I blurted out something about hoping I’d been compassionate when I interviewed him 38 years ago.

It’s clear this phone call was about my own healing as much as it was to get in touch with Bob.

Since the flood, Bob remarried and has children and grandchildren from his second marriage. He is now retired and living in Greeley.

It takes courage and trust to embrace life after a loss of such magnitude—but that’s what Bob has done.

Since our initial phone call a month ago, Bob and I talked several times. Bob recounted the horror of the 1976 Flood. “We had no warning—but I knew we had to get to higher ground,” he said.

“Beverly and the children only about 50 to 60 feet from the house when I started back to get some jeans.”

“As I approached the house, the first surge pf debris—parts of a brick building, cars, rocks—came down a narrow gorge.”

“Somehow—with the strength you have in emergencies– I hoisted myself onto the roof of our house—barely escaping the deluge.”

It was this surge that took his young family.

Bob spent the night on the roof of the house, as mud, parts of pick-up trucks and propane tanks roared down the gorge. “Boulders bounced like giant bowling balls as they came down.”

“The propane tanks made an eerie noise, whistling and bubbling as they submerged and emerged in the water,” he recalls.

In one of my recent phone conversations with Bob, we talked about day-to-day things. Bob told me that he and his wife Michele were remodeling their kitchen.

What is more renewing than a new kitchen—with all the life giving meals, love and laughter it will hold?

Yes, in spite of the losses he endured, Bob went on to build a love-filled life. It’s what we do with our pain that is transforming.

One way we can all honor those lost in the 1976 flood and those who survived is by attending the annual Big Thompson Flood Memorial Service held every year on July 31st.

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GETTING READY FOR WORK

If my Dad were still alive, today would be birthday.

While I no longer imagine that I can pick up the phone and call him, I still see him clearly in my mind’s eye. But it is the face of his waning years that I see.

And I can hear his voice. But it is his weakened voice that I hear.

I want to remember the face and voice of my young father—the father who was only about 30 when I first recall watching his early morning ritual.

I was about three when I began watching Dad get ready for work.

I followed him from room to room during this process. I watched him lather his face with a shaving brush and shear paths in the snowy field on his face.

Next I’d look on in awe as he put on his shirt and tie—as he took a necktie from his closet, folded it in loops and turns until it was just right.

After a leisurely start, Dad generally realized he was running late and might miss the train to work

He and Mom had set the clock 15 minutes fast to see if that would hasten things along, but that didn’t help.

On days when Dad was running later than usual, Mom poured his coffee into a saucer, stood by the door—and Dad sipped a bit of coffee as he ran to catch the train.

When I was able to read the comic strips, I remember Dagwood Bumstead memorializing this coffee in a saucer routine.

A child’s sense of pride came over me. I was proud to have a dad who had something in common with a beloved comic strip character.

As ordinary as these rituals seemed, they gave me a grounding, a sense of security—a good way to start the day.

Watching my Dad prepare for work—the same simple ritual five days a week—gave me a grounding in a world in which I—as a small child—had very little control.

Dad’s ritual was a security blanket I could carry in my head.

What rituals do you remember from your childhood? I’d like to hear from you.

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THE MOTHER’S DAY NECKLACE

I’ve been wearing my Mother’s Day necklace for a couple of months.

My white plastic pendant is more of a device than a dazzling bit of bling bought at Zales.

But if I should trip over my own two feet and fall unconscious, this device will bring help—even without my pushing a button. Diamonds can’t do that!

Yup, I’m wearing the “HELP, I’VE FALLEN AND CAN’T GET UP” MEDICAL ALERT DEVICE.

I’ve spent a good part of my life tripping over sidewalks and walking into walls so it make sense for me to wear the device.

But even surefooted folks can fall.

I became painfully aware of this sad truth when my hubby fell in the garage this past Jan 31st. Bill lost his balance while giving his chainsaw a vigorous yank to get it started. This momentum landed him flat on his back on a cold garage floor.

With one leg totally immobile, he was unable to move. He shouted and called to no avail. From his prone position, he finally grabbed a shovel and began banging.

Happily settled in the house, with all the doors and windows shut to keep out the cold, I was oblivious to Bill’s travail.

At about noon, I peeked into the garage, to see what Bill wanted for lunch. I found him lying on the floor.

“Didn’t you hear me yelling? Call 911,” he said.

Bill had already been on the floor for 30 minutes before I found him.

What if I hadn’t been home?

What if I’d hadn’t found him for another couple of hours?

Would he still be alive—given the cold temperatures and the dehydration that can occur cold weather?

The next few hours featured an ambulance ride, surgery, a hospitalization. Next came 16 days in Northern Colorado Rehab Center.

“I can’t let this happen again,” I said to myself.
While Bill was hospitalized at McKee, I picked up a pamphlet about Banner’s LifeLine medical alert system.

Within days, the system was installed in our home—with one pendant for me and one for Bill.

And I will enjoy a Mother’s Day with peace of mind—for me and Bill.

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UNEXPECTED DETOUR

THIS IS PART THREE IN SERIES “OFF ON ELDER ADVENTURE.” PART ONE APPEARED IN THE PRINT EDITION OF THE REPORTER HERALD ON FEBRUARY 7, 2014. PART THREE APPEARED IN IN MY BLOG ON FEBRUARY 8, 2014.

My reporting on the Elder Adventure came to a screeching halt a few weeks ago when one of our tourists—my husband Bill–took a detour into Medicare Land.

This spur of the moment venture—so captured my mind and heart—that the Napa Trip—took a back seat on my reporting agenda.

The trip to Medicare Land was simplicity itself.

No travel plans needed for this journey.

No on-line search for best departure times. No worrying about what to pack. No Disneyland serpentine lines before boarding.

Once on board our travel vehicle, we were spared mobs of passengers trying to cram oversized luggage into overhead bins.

No elbow-to-elbow seating. The interior of the transport vehicle was spacious and clean.

As for oxygen? We didn’t have to listen to a canned speech about how to put on an oxygen mask. The attendant kindly put the mask on Bill.

The travel industry—especially the airlines–could pick up a few tips from Medicare Land officials.

And off we sped—Bill in the back of the ambulance—me alongside the driver—to McKee Medical Center to have Bill’s shattered femur bone repaired.

Not the trip we’d planned. But life has a way of detouring the best made plans and sending us on further ventures.

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COMPLAINT DEPARTMENT

THIS IS PART TWO IN SERIES “OFF ON ELDER ADVENTURE.” PART ONE APPEARED IN THE PRINT EDITION OF THE REPORTER HERALD ON FEBRUARY 7, 2014

DAY ONE: 4:45 p.m. Lobby of hotel in Napa.
Claire: “One of our tourists has a complaint.”
Bill: “I’d like to throw in my two cents about why the other Elders got lost in the rental car lot.”
Claire: “What’s your concern?”
Bill: “First off, they went to the National Car Rental Counter. Our rental was with Alamo.”
Claire: “It’s an easy mistake. The rental counters are right next to one another. I think they were trying to be helpful by getting some maps.”
Bill: “Well they got everyone confused.”
Claire: “Hold on a minute, Bill. One of the other elders has something he wants to say.”

Stay posted for the next episode of the Elder Odyssey

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SYMPATHY, TOWELS AND HUMOR

My nephew, Tim, called just as I was going out the door.

“Can’t talk right now,” I said. “Am going to the get my hair colored. I’m going to be young and beautiful again.”

“Good luck with that,” Tim said.

After he took his foot out of his mouth, Tim tried to make amends.

“Let me rephrase that. I hope you have a good trip to the beauty parlor.”

And quite a trip it was!

I love getting my worked on–nothing to do for a totally relaxing hour, while gray magically turns to brown.

Then a little blow drying, a touch of the curling iron, a gallon of hair spray and I’m set to go.

My Helmet Hair, as Bill calls it, will stand up to the strongest Colorado wind, without moving a single strand.

I paid my bill, tipped the hair stylist and walked out the door into the late afternoon sunshine—Helmet Hair in place—ready to face the word.

What I wasn’t ready for was the panel of snow that slid off the metal roof of the beauty shop onto my new hairdo.

Stunned, squished, and snow clad, I went back into the beauty parlor and just stood there—hopeless and helpless—like a small child who fallen in a snow bank.

I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry.

A lot of life rests on thas decision—do we laugh or cry?

I decided to laugh. After the staff and I figured out that I was OK—other than being stunned—we all decided to laugh.

What made the whole venture meaningful and gratifying was the attentiveness of the staff who rushed at me with towels, sympathy and humor.

My stylist, Sherri, had been on her feet for at least 6 hours, yet she didn’t hesitate to repair the damage to my Helmet Hair.

Our hair stylists and others to tend to us are blessings in our lives. My thanks and gratitude go to Sherri.

She’s one of the people who brighten our days.

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BEST WISHES FOR A ‘ALE AND HEARTY NEW YEAR

Happy New Year to All,

It’s been said that the eyes of the world are on Colorado today
as the new marijuana laws take effect.

The spotlight on marijuana allowed another substance to slip under the radar. It was delivered by the U.S. Postal Service to our home yesterday.

The package came from our daughter Claire, who recently sent us an already assembled bee hive.

When Claire sends a gift it’s not generally something you can find at your local Target.

If this latest item hadn’t been clearly labeled, it would have taken me half the day to identify it.

Here’s some hints.

1. You can purchase than an ounce at a time.

2. It’s said to have some medicinal value—so far just taking a whiff of it has cleared out my sinuses. O.K., I admit I inhaled.

3. Apparently driving with this substance in your car is OK, though it would be tough to drive while using it—unless you want to distract other drivers—and would get you arrested as faster than you can say “pot.”

4. It’s relatively cheap to purchase—about a dollar an ounce.

5. You can make this stuff at home, and there’s no limit to how much you can manufactured.

6. It’s filled with B Vitamins and other nutrients.

7. One look on the internet suggested this concoction is trendy in some circles.

Now here’s the clincher. This product comes in the following scents: Pabst Blue Ribbon, Corona, Sam Adams and Guinness.

Yup, you guessed it. It’s beer soap!

In a world plagued with problems, beer soap is a reminder that good things still exist.

May all my readers be ‘ALE AND HEARTY during the New Year.

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TEARS FROM THE WATERS OF THE BIG THOMPSON

This is the last in the series of reflections on the 1976 Big Thompson Flood—but not the last in memories.

Unlike the 24/7 coverage of Colorado’s recent flood, news of the 1976 flood trickled in slowly.

In 1976, TV stations generally signed off around midnight, or at least after the Johnny Carson show. No weather channel. No Jim Cantore.

Just a buzz of black and white “snow” after midnight.

Often the first information about the flood came from radio or telephone conversations.

One friend of mine—a mother with an infant and two toddlers—first learned of the flood when a neighbor knocked on her door at 4 a.m. Sunday August 1st to let her know that the water supply for county residents was unsafe.

As a mental health worker, the magnitude of the disaster hit me when I began working at the intake desk at the temporary morgue set up at the old Loveland Memorial Hospital.

At 5 p.m. that evening, one of the workers in the morgue emerged with a hand written note.

He asked me to call a woman in another state to let he know that her sister’s body had been found.

Cemented in a strange numbness after four hours at the intake desk, I placed the call to convey the bad news.

I hate to say it but it seemed a little easier to deliver terrible news by phone than to look into the searching uncertainty in the eyes of those who still held hope of a loved one’s survival.

I still think about that woman and hope she had someone to turn to after hearing the news I delivered.

Much of what happened in the days and weeks after the flood are less vivid than the events of the first two days.

Once in a while, when I run into a friend who worked at the clinic with me we talk about our experiences. We each carry with us some tears from the waters of the Big Thompson.

And we were the lucky ones. I hope we were at last a little useful to those who came our way.

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