Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Nurses are needed now!

#OnThisDay in 1901, the United States Army Nurse Corps was established by Congress as a permanent organization. Passed as part of the Medical Department under the Army Reorganization Act it allowed nurses to be appointed to the Army for a three year period, however, they were not commissioned as officers. The Act did allow for nurses to renew their appointment as long as they had a "satisfactory record for efficiency, conduct and health." Dita Kinney was appointed the first Superintendent of the Army Nurse Corp in 1901 and held the position until 1909. (Photo Credit: Library of Congress) #womenshistory. Read our grandmother's World War I diary -- start here

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Boomers and Millennials lead charge on medical marijuana

What are you going to do when you retire, Mike?

Go south of the border and get stoned all the time.



Not really. I've been retired almost two weeks and I have yet to get in my car and drive the 45 miles to Marijuanaville (a.k.a. Fort Collins). Greeley is just as close. I hear they're setting up a dispensary in Wellington, which is even closer. Thing is, once you get into Colorado, marijuana abounds. But I had to ask myself an important question. Once I was stoned, what next? As a 20-year-old stoner, my options were unlimited.  I could hang out with friends, sit around listening to music, go to a concert (if anyone was lucid enough to drive), eat a bag of Fritos, get laid, nap. As a 65-year-old stoner, only the last one is realistic. I have Cheech-and-Chong-style visions of me, wrapped in a pot cloud, driving my old guy car at 10 mph down a Colorado highway, getting busted by The Man. I'd get thrown in the clink, and then have to call to the wife.

It's a bummer, man.

Who is this?

Your old man, man.

Why you calling me man, old man?

I got busted down here in Colorado. Driving under the influence of Purple People Eater. Stoned. Immaculate, as Jim used to say.

Call Jim -- maybe he'll bail you out.


Recreational marijuana -- not for us geezers.

Medical marijuana is another story. We oldsters suffer from many maladies. To name them all would take too long. Some of them, however, could be eased by the THC in ganja. When my father in Florida was dying from cancer and not eating, my brothers and I joked that we should get him high so he'd get the munchies. Problem is, we were adults then and didn't want to break the law. And all of our sources had grown up too and were getting high on real estate and not pot. I just heard this morning that Florida has enough signatures to get medical marijuana on its ballot. Rejoice all you old surfers who can no longer paddle out to the line-up. Help is on the way for aching joints.

Any Wyomingite interested in signing our own medical marijuana petition should come out the the Democratic Party POTluck FUNdraiser this Sunday, Jan. 31, 5-8 p.m., at Joe's house in Cheyenne at 3626 Dover Road. Some amazing brownies will be supplied by yours truly and my Dem cohorts. Bring a dish to share, if you are so inclined. We'll also talk about House Bill 3, Rep. Jim Byrd's effort to begin the decriminalization process. It's doomed in this legislative session. But as Kerry Drake wrote in his Tuesday WyoFile column:
It’s not legal to toke up in Wyoming yet, but the day is coming sooner than many might think. 
Read more at http://www.wyofile.com/column/wyoming-will-eventually-benefit-from-medical-marijuana/

I don't have any stats, but anecdotal evidence shows that the over-65 crowd of Baby Boomers and those in the Millennials cohort are most likely to support medical marijuana. The old and the young -- finding common cause at last.

See you Sunday at Joe's house.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Never too late for a wellness class

Chris and I are attending a wellness class at the YMCA.

The class uses a text entitled "Living a Healthy Life with Chronic Conditions." It outlines self-management tools based on "an ongoing series of studies conducted at Stanford University School of Medicine." Stanford, founded by robber baron Leland Stanford, is known for many things. It helped spawn the computer revolution, trained numerous NFL players and sponsors a kooky marching band (go you Cardinal!). And I have nothing against robber barons -- with them we wouldn't have Stanford's Wallace Stenger poetry fellowships, the many Carnegie libraries that taught generation to love books, and Grand Teton National Park (thanks Rockefeller family). Our current crop of high-tech billionaires seem to be trying to follow in the footsteps of their elders, although our grandkids will have to judge their legacies.

I'd be lying if I said the book's Stanford connection didn't impress me. There are some elitist bones in my body. But the book is a good and helpful and logical. We all need self-management skills when it comes to our health. Too often, we don't sail our own ship, health-wise, and that leads to many problems down the line -- heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, asthma and, as the book notes, "other physical and mental health conditions." Notice that latter term -- mental health conditions. The book stresses links between physical and mental health. Very important. You really can't have one without the other.

Pages 8-9 lists the management skills recommended for an array of chronic conditions. Categories include pain management, fatigue management, breathing techniques, relaxation and managing emotions, nutrition, exercise and medications. Notice that "medications" is last? I did. I take a boatload of meds for my heart disease, but also pay attention to the other categories, especially exercise and nutrition. I would like to wean myself off some heart meds. This is a challenge, as the drug lobby is adamant we use its products and never get off of them. Out docs are complicit in this strategy. They may also need this wellness class.

The series of six classes are led by two women who were trained in the process. Each class involves note-taking and brainstorming and action plans. We often choose partners to work on action plans. Our workshop leaders call during the week to check up on our progress, or lack of it.

Is the class worth it? Not sure, as I'm only halfway through. I probably will miss the last two sessions, as I'm getting a new knee Feb. 3. Takes a good month to get back in the action. But wellness is important and I wish that I'd taking it seriously sooner. At 65, I have several chronic conditions: heart disease, arthritis, depression. A better lifestyle would have spared me the heart condition. Arthritis and bad knees show the wear-and-tear of time, and many years of basketball and running. Depression runs in the family.

I'd like to sum up by saying something memorable about living life to the fullest. Must be a gazillion quotes and thousands of memes on the subject.

Here's one: "Be here now," coined by writer/philosopher Ram Dass for his book of the same name..

Here's another: "One day at a time," something I heard once or twice at Twelve-Step meetings.

"So it goes" from Kurt Vonnegut.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

So what else was going on 100 years ago?

Sabino Osuna, "Felicistas in the YMCA," ca. 1910-1914, photograph, courtesy of Sweeney Art Gallery and Special Collections Library, University of California, Riverside. Part of the Mexico at the Hour of Combat: Sabino Osuna’s Photographs of the Mexican Revolution, , now at the UNM Maxwell Museum of Anthropology in Albuquerque.

Chloe Courtney is one of the excellent writers and art historians who write for Adobe Airstream: Art, Music and Film from the West. She penned the following review in A2's Nov./Dec. issue. It caught my attention for several reasons. One, the photo is startling, with its group of gunman by the window of a YMCA in Mexico. Second, my wife works for the local Y, and I spent some time imagining a group of revolutionaries or counter-revolutionaries using the Y as a gun emplacement against... who, liberals streaming over the border from Colorado? Third, my grandfather, Raymond Shay, was with Pershing on the Mexican border, allegedly there to keep Pancho Villa and his irregulars on the southern side of the demarcation line (more about this in future posts). Finally, it alerted me to an excellent exhibit in the Rocky Mountain region that I may travel to in my retirement. If I can get there before it closes on Jan. 31.

Here's a snippet of the piece entitled "How to View the Mexican Revolution:"
In the photograph “Felicistas in the YMCA,” snipers crouch near a window in a rubble-strewn room and train their weapons on the street below, and yet, the title informs us, this violent scene takes place in a former community center.
The photograph appears in the exhibition Mexico at the Hour of Combat: Sabino Osuna’s Photographs of the Mexican Revolution, on view at the University of New Mexico’s Maxwell Museum of Anthropology. It defies an otherwise chronological and thematic structure following the revolution and developments in Osuna’s photography. Located at the entrance of the exhibition, the image reveals a curatorial strategy to make the subject of the Mexican Revolution accessible for a US viewership. Some Americans may not recognize the names of revolutionary leaders Pancho Villa or Emiliano Zapata, but they know the YMCA, and likely experience the shock of seeing a familiar community center occupied by gunmen.
Mexico at the Hour of Combat shows, for the first time, a group of documentary photographs from UC Riverside Libraries Special Collections and Archives. This collection comprises 427 glass negatives of Sabino Osuna’s documentary photographs of the Mexican Revolution, 56 of which have been selected for inclusion in the exhibition.
The show includes compelling portraits of key figures of the Revolution, as well as powerful documentation of the brutal violence of the war, and images constructed to craft a new Mexican identity. As a whole, the exhibition importantly works to combat the under-representation of Mexican arts in U.S. cultural institutions, and seeks to draw attention to the Mexican Revolution as an important player in our understanding of revolution and resistance today. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

An arts administrator retires

I enjoyed my retirement party.

Friends and coworkers gathered to see me off Friday with munchies and cake. My colleague and ace baker Rachel made the cake, a chocolate confection that melted in my mouth as I licked the frosting off of my fingers. I recommend that you look up Laramie's Red Chair Bakery on Facebook. 

It's the people. Always. You work side-by-side with humans for years and then, suddenly, they're gone, or you are, and you cease to see each other every day to compare notes, complain about the state of the world, and seek solace when life goes off the rails. A workplace is a family, with all of it wonderful and dysfunctional attributes. On retirement day (R-Day) you tend to remember the warmth and wonderfulness and forget about the stressful times. Arts workers tend to be a tight-skit subculture, possibly because we work in an arcane field and possibly because the arts draws temperamental people. Am I moody and strange? You betcha. But I am also congenial and collegial. I read recently about a group labeled extroverted introverts. They are introverts who welcome the Great Big World in short bursts, and then have to retreat to marshal their emotional forces. That's me. As a writer and reader, I require plenty of alone time. But, as an arts administrator and communicator, I have to deal with people -- in my case, everyone in the state of Wyoming. As a political animal, I am charged to do the same thing. Now sometimes, I am forced to admit to myself that "I hate the living," the phrase made famous by the woman coroner in "Men in Black." Yes, the living can be a pain. They also are a source of joy. Introverts learn how to strike a balance or we will go crazy (and sometimes do). 

How did I end up working in the arts? Glad you asked. When I attended graduate school at the ripe old age of 37, my intention was to get an M.F.A. in creative writing and teach the subject in the hallowed halls of academe. When I left the corporate PR world for grad school, my coworkers gifted me a bull whip for my students and advised me that my very un-corporate attire of tweed jackets with elbow patches would serve me well. My boss told me that it was too bad as I was leaving, as he had selected me as his next project. My boss, you see, was bored as his most recent "project" had been shown the door a few weeks earlier. Who said there was no dark humor in the corporate world?

In academe, I discovered a wonderful coterie of like-minded people with whom I could share my creative vision. I also learned how to teach in a college classroom. The bullwhip was out – drat. I was challenged by a new generation of students raised on Ronald Reagan and Mario Brothers and anime. As an extroverted introvert, I discovered people skills. I was volunteered for the university's fine arts committee. I liked hanging out with professional writers and arranging their readings and workshops. I assisted Etheridge Knight with a poetry workshop at the county slammer (Etheridge had experience in the joint). I hung out with Larry Heinemann and Gwendolyn Brooks and Joy Harjo and David Lee. I learned how to write grants, although my first attempt was a failure. I discovered that there were such things as state arts agencies and that Colorado had one. I applied for the Colorado Arts Council’s (now called Colorado Creative Industries) roster and received my first assignment, which was a gig in a school in a windswept eastern plains town. Had I remained in my home state, this would have prepared me for life in the high prairie of Wyoming. And that’s where I landed a job as arts administrator with the Wyoming Arts Council. I was unqualified, but was hired anyway, thanks to Joy Thompson, who immediately left for another job. Fortunately, my new colleagues were patient and taught me the ropes. I wrote successful grants to the National Endowment for the Arts. Two years later, I was hired for a two-year gig by the NEA. As assistant director of the literature program, I learned tons about the national arts scene, and carried that back with me to Wyoming.

What does one say about a career? It included triumphs and terrible failures. When I set off for grad school, family in tow, my one-and-only literary agent, Ray Powers, advised me to just stay at home and write. I didn’t listen. I knew myself enough to know that I would not thrive as a lonely writer tapping away at home. I struggle with depression, and life in my basement office was a recipe for disaster. I lacked confidence in my ability to make a living as a fiction writer. How would I support my family? My memories were haunted by my father and his problems as a bread-winner. Yes, he had nine children to support but he also had a wife with her own career as a nurse and hospital administrator. She always yearned to write a book about her “damn hospital,” which was part “Peyton Place” soap opera, part Paddy Chayevsky’s lunatic asylum of “The Hospital.” She died too young and never got the chance to write that book.

Did I make the right career choices? I was a newspaper reporter and editor, a PR guy, a freelance writer and an arts administrator. I remain a fiction writer. People are complicated beasts and I am no less so. I am dubious when people say they have no regrets. How can you live a long life in a complicated world and not have regrets? In the end, all fuel for the creative fire.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Dems hold POTluck FUNdraiser Jan. 31 in Cheyenne

This invitation comes from Kathleen Petersen, president of the Laramie County Democratic Grassroots Coalition: 
The Laramie County Democratic Grassroots Coalition is sponsoring a POTluck FUNdraiser to kick off the election year of 2016. It will be on Sunday, January 31, from 5-8 p.m. at 3626 Dover Road, Cheyenne.  
Bring your signature food dish to enter into a contest to win GREAT prizes, which include three months membership at the YMCA, a free haircut by Joe Corrigan or a bottle of wine. The winners will be decided by attendees buying tickets to vote on their favorite dish. There will also be a 50/50 raffle.  
Our local legislators will bring us current legislative information, and a representative from NORML Wyoming will do a presentation about the petition initiative for medical marijuana (the petition will be available for signing).  
Grassroots Executive Board members will provide the desserts, which include their own special brownies. Also, if you haven't joined the Grassroots Coalition for this year, bring your membership money.
If you need a ride to the event, or need further information, contact Kathleen, 307-421-4496. Plan to come out and start our new year off right. 
See you Sunday, Jan. 31, It promises to be a fun and fact filled evening.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Great War in publishing

I spent the past couple months immersed in World War I.

My first task was to reformat my paternal grandmother's World War I diary for Blogger. For those of you unfamiliar with blogging platforms, Blogger is the grizzled old man of the Blogosphere. Me, in other words, a member in good standing of Seniors Wildly Indignant About Nearly Everything (SWINE). To this, I give a tip of the hat to Al Capp, who first coined the term in his L'il Abner comic strip, although the original SWINE was about "Students" and not "Seniors." Of course, the students of that era are now the retired cohort. See how things work out?

WordPress is the corporate middle manager of the web. Anyone who is anyone uses WordPress because it is so damn good, flexible yet complicated. There may be an up-and-coming (hipster) platform of the blogging world but what do I know -- I'm 65 and ready to step away from the workaday world.

My grandmother's WWI diary was first transferred to MS Word by my sister Eileen Shay Casey in Winter Park, Fla. In its original form, the diary was a tiny, battered notebook, held together by a strip of duct tape. Eileen was challenged to read the tiny handwriting, but did a wonderful getting it into e-shape.

From there, I broke it into nine sections, and then cut-and-pasted it into Blogger. To make sure that it appeared with the proper formatting, I had to lay in the copy in the html protocol, and then go back to the editing controls and reformat. This became important later on when I uploaded the blog posts to the Shared Book site (also known as blog2print) and created a print book of the diary entries. This is a publishing platform for bloggers, one I've used on several occasions. It's not the best way to publish your deathless prose (or poetry). But it is a way to print things such as diaries, family histories, memorials, etc. In my day job as Literary Guru for the State of Wyoming, I'm often asked, "Hey Mike, how do I publish my book?" I reply, "Have you written it yet?" The answer often is "No, but...." There's the rub. Wannabe writers often jump right to publishing before they actually write the book. This is putting the cart before the horse, as my Iowa grandfather might have said.,

There are many publishing platforms these days. Your challenge (and mine) is to find the right one.

But back to World War I. While formatting Grandma's (we called her Mudder) diary, I researched the history of medical units, army bands, the Meuse-Argonne Offensive and a score of other topics. I have read widely on the war. But I keep going back to its creative writing. The war itself lasted four years and a few months. The U.S. was involved about a year and a half, but wasn't engaged in combat until the war's last year -- 1918.

As a writer, I can only grasp the global span of the war through the eyes of those who were there. And what a group of writers were engaged in the struggle. Ernest Hemingway, Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, Erich Marie Remarque, Jaroslav Hasek, Vera Mary Brittain. Their influence can be traced to the writers of all subsequent wars, all the way up to the current troubles in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Some historians have belittled the experiences of the war's tormented poets and writers. Not everyone saw combat in the trenches -- and told the tale in gruesome realism. To base your view of the war on Owen's "Dulce et Decorum est" is understandable but unrealistic.

But war is a human story. Regular folks are cast into big events. Their experiences are those events as experienced in the heart and mind of one person. How else can we understand? Some poets celebrated the heroics of The Great War: Jessie Pope (from a distance), Rupert Brooke, Joyce Kilmer. Some of them also died (Brooke and Kilmer). What were they thinking as death's icy fingers gripped their hearts?

We don't know. But we do know what other hearts experienced. Those people included my paternal grandmother, Florence Green Shay of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps. To read her diary, start at http://hummingbirdminds.blogspot.com/2015/11/part-i-mudders-world-war-i-diary.html.