Category Archives: Opinion

Hydraulic Fracturing and Health Concerns

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(Please note:  I am in no way an expert in the field of hydraulic fracturing, but did spend a few months researching and working on an argumentative research paper for a college course and thought I would share it with you along with some of what I learned along the way.)

Hydraulic Fracturing and Health Concerns
As human beings there are two basic elements that we need for survival; oxygen and water. Industrialization put these precious resources in harm’s way by polluting our air and leaking toxic chemicals into our water. Currently one of our growing threats to clean air and fresh water is hydraulic fracturing. Since first being introduced in the late 1940’s, hydraulic fracturing has grown exponentially, especially in the last two decades, yet long term environmental and health effects are still unknown.
Hydraulic fracturing, which is commonly known as fracking, is an effective method of drilling for natural gas that is located in the earth. During hydraulic fracturing water that is mixed with sand and a variety of chemicals, is highly pressurized and used to break through sandstone and shale in order to reach natural gas deposits thousands of feet within the earth. The hydraulic fracturing process consists of two main parts: “well development and production” (McKenzie, Witter, Newman, Adgate 79). The first step in well development is preparing the drilling pad. Second comes the actual well drilling process. The final step in well development is the completion process. During the completion process the fracking fluids, along with natural gas, is brought back to the surface, then the newly drilled well is capped off so that the natural gas doesn’t escape. At this point the natural gas can be harnessed for use by being transported through pipelines and by tanker trucks.
Fracking fluid contains 99 percent water mixed with sand or silicate materials and a 1 percent chemical concoction. The sand or silicate helps to hold the cracks that are formed during the drilling process open. The chemicals used in the fracking fluid “includes acids, solvents and corrosion inhibitors” (Tollefson 146) that help keep the well from plugging up as it is being drilled. This mixture of fracking fluids is drilled into the ground at an average 9,000 pounds per square inch. As the fracking fluids are going into the ground it breaks the shale open so that natural gas can be released. Each new natural gas well takes an average of 2 to 5 days to frack and uses an average of 4.4 million gallons of fracking fluids (State Impact Pennsylvania). Each well can be fracked up to ten times while each drilling pad can have as many as 28 wells on it (The Endocrine Disruption Exchange). Once a well is completed the fracking fluid is then brought back up to the surface and stored in pits or large tanks until it can be treated.
The following infograph is a visual example of how the hydraulic fracturing process works.

hydraulic_graphic_1_1000
Granberg, Al, Schmidt, Krista K. “Infographic: What Is Hydraulic Fracturing?” ProPublica 3 Aug. 2010. Web. 2 March 2014.
In our continuous search to find a cleaner and greener energy alternative natural gas has become a shining star. Coal has been used for many years, but is not clean burning. According to studies natural gas burns “about 40 percent cleaner than coal” (Harder). Robert Howarth, biogeochemist, ecosystem scientist and researcher from Cornell University argues that once the methane emissions from hydraulic fracturing are added in “natural gas could be twice as dirty an energy source as coal” (Harder). On September 16, 2013 the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reported that “significant leaks of heat-trapping methane from natural gas production sites would erase any climate advantage the fuel offers” (Lovett). Though natural gas is cleaner burning than coal, the environmental impact, if large drilling companies don’t follow regulations and watch drilling emissions, could be catastrophic. Large drilling companies have a long way to go until natural gas is a viable “clean” energy alternative.
Although hydraulic fracturing has been around since the 1940’s, it wasn’t until recently that the industry has boomed. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency hydraulic fracturing has grown by eightfold in the past decade, and is expected to account for almost half of the United States’ natural gas production by 2035. In 1990 there were only around 269,000 natural gas wells in the United States, by 2010 that number had risen to nearly 500,000. It is estimated that from 2012 until 2035 there will be 17,000-35,000 new natural gas wells drilled per year. This continued growth is helpful for our economy, but is drawing health and environmental concern.
As hydraulic fracturing becomes more prevalent so does public concern. Environmentalists, researchers and the public are concerned about the environmental and health effects of hydraulic fracturing as many of the chemicals used during fracking have been linked to health issues. Methane has been found in drinking-water sources near drilling sites and air emissions from hydraulically fractured wells have been shown to contain volatile organic compounds. Methane is a very powerful greenhouse gas which diminishes the ozone layer. VOCs or volatile organic compounds have been classified by the EPA as toxic and hazardous air pollutants, which have direct links to human health issues including cancer. In the United States the largest polluter of VOCs is the natural gas and oil drilling industry (“The Future of Fracking”). Regulations are in place and new regulations are being introduced to help make hydraulic fracturing as safe as possible for the environment and human health, but even with the regulations there is no way of fool-proofing hydraulic fracturing so that it is 100 percent safe.
For many years air emissions in relation to hydraulic fracturing went unregulated. Federal and state governments have been creating new rules and regulations that drilling companies need to follow to help keep emissions and contamination at a minimum. The EPA announced new air pollution regulations in 2012 that all drilling companies will need to comply with or face possible fines. The new regulations require that drilling companies follow a green completion process, which is estimated to reduce the amount of air emissions by 99% coming from fracking sites. Environmental Health Perspectives, a monthly journal that publishes peer-review research about health and the environment, published an article called “The Future of Fracking: News Rules Target Air Emissions For Cleaner Natural Gas Production” that explored emissions and regulations in great depth. The article states that drilling companies need to “capture the targeted emissions” during the completion process when fracking fluids flowback and methane come back up prior to capping the well off. Natural gas drilling companies will be required to start capturing the methane that comes back up the well with the fracking fluids once the well is complete. The new regulations require that drilling companies be green compliant by January of 2015. Drilling companies are encouraged to complete the green completion process or be green compliant voluntarily prior to January of 2015. Devon Energy is a large drilling company “that has been using green completion equipment for more than half a dozen years” (“The Future of Fracking” A272+). If drilling companies do not adhere to the new regulations by January 2015 they will be required to flare (burn off) the emissions coming off the wells. The EPA has estimated that once the green completion process is in full swing it “will result in reductions of 190,000 tons of VOCs, 11,000 tons of hazardous air pollutants and methane equivalent to 18 million tons” (“The Future of Fracking” A272+). Since the preindustrial era the concentration of methane in the atmosphere has gone up almost 160 percent (Lavelle). The regulations however are only aimed at newly drilled wells, as they do not apply to existing wells. Many older wells have been shown to be producing a large amount of air emissions as they are leaking or were not capped off correctly. Many states are being proactive to ensure their air quality doesn’t suffer due to hydraulic fracturing by making sure the new regulations are followed.
Colorado is a leader in air emission research and model in groundbreaking regulations. At this time Colorado is the sixth-largest producer of natural gas in the United States. Colorado “has seen a 450% increase in natural gas production” (“Putting The Heat On Gas”) since 1990. On February 22, 2014 the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission approved new regulations that require drilling companies to “fix persistent leaks from tanks and pipes” (Oldham). Andarko Petroleum Corp., Encana Corp. and Noble Energy Inc. are three large drilling companies that worked with environmentalists in Colorado to back the new rules. The new rules require gas drilling companies to “monitor leaks from equipment at drilling pads, at tanks and at compressor stations” (Gold). The Department of Public Health and Environment in Colorado estimates that by monitoring leaks from equipment, tanks, compressor stations, processing plants and limiting flaring, VOC emissions may be reduced by as much as 34% per year (Gold). Lisa McKenzie, Ph.D., MPH, and researcher with the University of Colorado Denver spent three years studying air emissions from natural gas wells in Colorado and found that people living within half a mile of a drilling site were exposed to hydrocarbons such as toluene, xylene and benzene which is a known carcinogen (cancer causing agent). Families living close to wells suffered from difficulty breathing, headaches and sore throats. The hydrocarbons coming from the natural gas wells have been linked to respiratory and neurological issues (McKenzie, et al). Lisa Mckenzie said “Our data shows that it is important to include air pollution in the national dialogue on natural gas development that has focused largely on water exposures to hydraulic fracturing” (University of Colorado Denver). With hydraulic fracturing continuing to grow, related air emission health concerns will also continue to grow. Continuing to research, regulate and keep the public informed are all steps that will need to be taken to help lessen the effects of hydraulic fracturing air emissions.
Along with air emission concerns are concerns with ground water contamination linked to hydraulic fracturing. A large amount of methane emissions appear to be coming from leaking natural gas wells. Much of the contaminated groundwater comes from well casings leaking and seems to occur when natural gas wells are drilled near shallow drinking water aquifers (Aldhous). Duke University chemical engineer named Robert Jackson, in a study done in Pennsylvania, found that methane levels in drinking-water from water wells that were within a mile of fracking wells contained a six times higher concentration of methane than water wells further away from fracking sites. Robert Jackson “found methane in 115 of 141 shallow, residential drinking-water wells” (Fischetti 21). Some families who have leased their land to oil and natural gas drilling companies have experienced fizzing or hissing water, water that has a strong odor, discolored water, and water that they can light on fire (Lavelle). Fracking experts have found that gas wells drilled on the Marcellus Shale have a higher percentage of leaking wells than “oil and gas wells drilled into other formations” (Fischetti 21). Large drilling companies argue that there is no way that their drilling can be causing the contamination in drinking-water as they drill thousands of feet into the ground and far below water aquifers, yet the families experiencing contaminated water never had a problem prior to the hydraulic fracturing in their areas.
Large oil and natural gas drilling companies are exempt from the Safe Water Drinking Act, which means that many of the chemicals that are pumped into fracking wells are not monitored or have very little regulation. In 2012 eleven states required natural gas drilling companies to disclose the chemicals they used during hydraulic fracturing and nine more states were in the “process of adopting” the same disclosure regulations (Kulander). Many drilling companies have started to report the chemicals they use during fracking to online chemical-disclosure registries. FracFocus is one of these online registries and thus far over 500 drilling companies have reported the chemicals they use (Tollefson). According to FracFocus Chemical Disclosure Registry they identify close to 60 chemicals that are “commonly” used in hydraulic fracturing (FracFocus). FracFocus currently has 62,887 well sites registered on their site. Some of the chemicals used have been linked to endocrine disorders, birth defects and cancer. The Endocrine Disruption Exchange has identified over 600 different chemicals in fracking fluid (TEDX). Scientists hope that eventually a database of all fracking chemicals will be available so that they can do further research and in time develop greener methods and alternatives that will lessen the environmental and health effects of fracking (Tollefson). Having open knowledge to the chemicals being used during hydraulic fracturing will also help in diagnosing illnesses and coming up with a treatment plan for related illnesses.
Although there are state and federal regulations that large drilling companies have to adhere to, there are also a lot of loop holes in the system. Hydraulic fracturing is exempt from many clean air and water acts. “Without restraints from the Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, Clean Air Act, and CERCLA, the gas industry is steamrolling over vast land segments” (TEDX). Unfortunately there are some major loop holes in the reporting system which makes it very hard to document all of the used chemicals. Some of the issues that come with reporting the chemicals used in fracking is that not all states have disclosure laws and often times in the states that do have disclosure laws the laws only require disclosure for public lands and much of the drilling is happening on private land. Another huge loop hole in the regulation and documentation of chemicals used in fracking is “trade secrets” otherwise known as a chemical mixture produced by large drilling companies that they consider their intellectual property, which can contain a large variety of chemicals (Tollefson). As stricter regulations and guidelines pertaining to hydraulic fracturing continue to develop, many of the loop holes will hopefully disappear.
Even with evidence showing that the chemicals used during hydraulic fracturing and air emissions from wells are causing health issues for people living nearby there are still those who argue that there is not enough evidence directly linking hydraulic fracturing to the health concerns. Peter Aldhous, Ph.D. and freelance journalist states “evidence that fracking poses serious risks to human health or the environment, beyond the pollution associated with fossil fuel extraction is scant” (Aldhous 8). McKenzie and her research team state “further studies are warranted, in order to reduce the uncertainties in the health effects of exposures” (McKenzie, et al, 86). As advances in research, continued studies and overall chemical identification increases, so will the knowledge of long-term health effects of hydraulic fracturing.
Documentaries have opened many people’s eyes to the dangers, both health and environmental, wise of hydraulic fracturing. Gasland and Split Estate both show how hydraulic fracturing is effecting the people living nearby. Families tell stories of their water being contaminated and flammable due to methane, illnesses and even deaths in animals living near contaminated water sources. Headaches, rashes, difficulty breathing, and burning eyes are just some of the symptoms described in these documentaries that the families have been experiencing. Both documentaries show large drilling companies paying families off and having them sign non-disclosure paperwork so that they are not allowed to tell their stories to the media. Drilling companies argue stating that the stories told in these documentaries are extreme cases and are very rare (Gasland, Split Estate). Natural gas drilling companies and hydraulic fracturing has a negative image in media and the public’s minds. Documentaries like Josh Fox’s Gasland that show drinking water out of the faucet starting on fire due to being contaminated with methane does not help big oils image. The oil and natural gas industry haven’t helped their image by trying to fight federal drilling regulations and opposing disclosing the chemicals they use while fracking. Not only does the industries fight against regulatory legislation give them a negative image, but a “lack of public data” continues to fuel distrust (Harder). Not all large oil and gas drilling companies are trying to keep their chemical usage private or fight legislation. There are many large drilling companies that are complying with regulations and working with environmental groups to help lessen the impact of hydraulic fracturing.
Although, there are some major concerns linked with hydraulic fracturing in relation to the environment and health issues, there are some very positive aspects of hydraulic fracturing. Large oil and natural gas companies provide over 9 million Americans with jobs. Oil and natural gas also “contributes more than $86 million to the Federal Treasury every day” (API) which helps economic security and growth. The expansion of the oil and natural gas industry throughout the United States has helped make America less reliant of foreign fuels. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration the United States was importing close to 60 percent of its petroleum in 2005. By 2011 the percentage of petroleum imported went down by 15 percent, largely in-part to oil and natural gas production growing in the United States (EIA). Oil and natural gas are huge contributors to our economy and job growth. Without having oil and natural gas production the United States would be completely reliant on imports of petroleum from over-seas, our job market would suffer, as would our economy.
With the cooperation of natural gas drilling companies, diligence of environmentalists and the concerned public, and further research, hydraulic fracturing has the potential of being a safe and clean method of harnessing natural gas. The long term goal is clean energy, at this point natural gas has the potential of providing a clean energy source. Other energy options that are safer for the environment and health of the public need to also be considered. Wind and solar power have both also proven to be very good sources of energy that have smaller environmental footprints than natural gas production. In the end having a reliable source of energy that is safe for the earth and its inhabitants is the goal.

 
Works Cited
Aldhous, Peter. “Drilling Into The Unknown.” New Scientist 213.2849 (2012): 8-10. Academic Search Premier. Web. 6 Feb. 2014.
American Petroleum Institute. American Petroleum Institute. API, 2013. Web. 29 Jan. 2014.
The Endocrine Disruption Exchange. The Endocrine Disruption Exchange. TEDX, 2014. Web. 27 Jan. 2014.
FracFocus Chemical Disclosure Registry. FracFocus Chemical Disclosure Registry. FracFocus, 2014. Web. 27 Jan. 2014.
Fischetti, Mark. “Fracking And Tainted Drinking Water.” Scientific American 309.3(2013): 21. Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection. Web. 8 Feb. 2014.
Environmental Health Perspectives. “The Future Of Fracking: News Rules Target Air Emissions For Cleaner Natural Gas Production.” Environmental Health Perspectives 120.7 (2012): A272+. Environmental Studies and Policy. Web. 2 Feb. 2014.
Gasland. Dir. Josh Fox. HBO Documentary Films, 2010. Film.
Granberg, Al, Schmidt, Krista K. “Infographic: What Is Hydraulic Fracturing?” ProPublica 3 Aug. 2010. Web. 2 March 2014.
Gold, Russell. “U.S. News: Colorado To Tighten Drilling Rules—Democratic Governor’s Move Follows Votes In Four Localities To Ban Fracking.” Wall Street Journal, Eastern Edition ed. Nov. 19 2013. ProQuest. Web. 16 Feb. 2014.
Harder, Amy. “A Fracking Mess.” National Journal (2011). Opposing Viewpoints in Context. Web. 29 Jan. 2014.
Kulander, Christopher S. “Shale Oil And Gas State Regulatory Issues And Trends.” Case Western Reserve Law Review Summer 2013: 1101+. General OneFile. Web. 30 Jan. 2014.
Lavelle, Marianne. “Fracking For Methane.” National Geographic Magazine Dec. 2012: [90]+. Natural Geographic Virtual Library. Web. 1 Feb. 2014.
Lovett, Richard A. “Study Revises Estimate Of Methane Leaks From US Gas Fields.” Nature 16 Sept. 2013. Nature News. Web. 2 Feb. 2014.
McKenzie, Lisa M., Witter Roxana Z., Newman, Lee S., and Adgate, John L. “Human Health Risk Assessment Of Air Emissions From Development Of Unconventional Natural Gas Resources.” Science of the Total Environment 424 (2012): 79-87. Web. 5 Feb. 2014.
Oldham, Jennifer. “Colorado First State To Clamp Down On Fracking Methane Pollution” Bloomberg Sustainability 23 Feb. 2014. Web. 3 March. 2014.
“Putting The Heat On Gas.” Environews 115:2. Feb. 2007. Environmental Health Perspectives. Web. 14 Feb. 2014.
Split Estate. Dir. Debra Anderson. Red Rock Pictures, 2009. Film.
State Impact Pennsylvania. “How Much Water Does It Take To Frack A Well?” NPR 12 March 2013. Web. 4 Feb. 2014.
Tollefson, Jeff. “Secrets Of Fracking Fluids Pave Way For Cleaner Recipe.” Nature 12 Sept. 2013: 146-147. Web. 2 Feb. 2014.
United States Environmental Protection Agency. “Regulatory Impact Analysis: Final New Source Performance Standards and Amendments To The National Emission Standards For Hazardous Air Pollutants For The Oil And Natural Gas Industry.” United States Environmental Protection Agency. EPA. Apr. 2012. Web. 29 Jan. 2014.
University of Colorado Denver. “Air Emissions Near Fracking Sites May Pose Health Risk Study Shows; Sites Contain Hydrocarbons Including Benzene.” ScienceDaily. 19 March 2012. Web. 3 Feb. 2014.
U.S. Energy Information Administration. U.S. Energy Information Administration. EIA, 2014. Web. 29 Jan. 2014.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Open Letter to Ann Coulter

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An Open Letter to Ann Coulter.

THANK YOU John Franklin Stephens for your wonderful heartfelt letter!!

Please take the time to learn more and educate others by going to http://www.r-word.org/

Aging Independently & Doctors Know Best?

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  Dorothy was born the day after President Calvin Coolidge declared the Statue of Liberty a national monument.  Dorothy has lived through Lindbergh’s nonstop flight across the Atlantic, the stock market crashing, the development of plastic, WWII, Pearl Harbor, the A-bomb, tv becoming the next big thing,  Alaska and Hawaii becoming states, the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy’s assassination, the British Invasion, hippies, a man on the moon, the endangered species act, introduction of the world-wide web, 9-11, and all of the moments in history in-between. 

     Dorothy was married.  She gave birth to 5 children, but was only able to raise 4 of them due to one passing away while being born.  In her 40’s Dorothy decided to stand-up for herself and divorced her husband who she believed was stepping out on her (a story in itself), this left her to raise her youngest child independently, he was 12 years old at the time.  Dorothy raised her children, worked full-time, maintained a home, was an active member of the community and a very independent woman.  Dorothy lived through the untimely death of her oldest son.

     After all of Dorothy’s children were raised and moved out on their own she became an empty nester.  Dorothy never remarried or even considered remarrying.  Dorothy spent almost four decades living independently after her children moved away.  Her youngest child always lived close and was able to help with tasks that she was no longer able to do on her own like putting the dock in and taking it out, mowing the lawn, shoveling the snow, fixing the roof and so on.  A few years back Dorothy slipped and ended up laying on the floor of her home for almost 13 hours before her son came to check-in on her.  She did not break anything, or even get hurt, but her son decided that for her safety she should live with him…this also helped him because their homes were almost 35 miles apart and fuel prices were on the rise.

     Dorothy lived with her son for a few months, she was doing well and slowly starting to adjust to her new living situation.  Not too long after that her son got married and the household became three (well, 4 with the dog).  Dorothy’s sons new wife had worked in health care for many years and having her help was very appreciated.  The home was large and everyone had their own space, so there was still a feeling of privacy and independence.  A year later Dorothy’s son got a job in a different state and Dorothy was offered the choice of finding a nice assisted living facility in the area or moving out-of-state too.  Dorothy had no interest in living in a facility and decided to move with the family.

     The new home in the new state was not handicap friendly.  Dorothy uses a walker and physically is unable to manuever stairs without assistance.  In the new home the three bedrooms were upstairs, so the family set up the livingroom as Dorothy’s bedroom.  Her bed, dresser, lift chair, television, everything in one convenient place…a living bedroom.  At first Dorothy seemed to be comfortable with the set-up, but soon her family found that she was spending very little time in her bed at night which was causing increased edema in her legs.  Dorothy’s mood slowly worsened and she overall seemed very unhappy.  Her family sat down and talked with her and Dorothy explained that she had been independent her entire life and that she wanted to have her own apartment and be independent again, she explained that lack of privacy from not having her own bedroom was really wearing on her. 

     After months of searching the perfect little affordable apartment was found.  The apartment was close to her son and daughter-in-law’s house so that they could stop in and “check” on her everyday (at least once a day).  Dorothy’s apartment was decorated with paintings that he father had done, antique family furniture, and other wonderful things from her past that made her happy.   Dorothy was happy to have her own bedroom and her family soon noticed that she was actually sleeping the whole night through in her bed, and even taking a nap now and then during the day in her bed.  The swelling in her legs decreased significantly, her mood increased significantly.  Dorothy enjoyed feeling like she was independent again.  After a lifetime of being fiercely independent, being able to have that feeling of independence back was exactly what Dorothy needed. 

     Everyday Dorothy’s family comes in and preps her breakfast and lunch for the next day, they make her a wonderful hot supper and spend quality time visiting with her.  They make sure her home is clean, laundry is done, assist her with bathing, do all of her grocery shopping, assist her with making sure bills are paid, and in assisting her with all of these things Dorothy has the belief that she is living independent.  Yes, she gets a lot of help, but loves having her privacy and alone time.

     Due to a different family member attempting to cause some trouble a few months back Dorothy has been being visited by a social worker monthly and has been forced to go have a physical.  Dorothy comes from the school-of-thought that if it isn’t broken don’t fix it, so getting her to go to a doctor’s appointment when she was not sick was like pulling teeth.  This last Monday Dorothy went to her unwanted doctors appointment.  The doctor was shocked that a senior woman of 87 years old was not on any prescribed medications, that all she takes is a daily multi-vitamin.  The doctor did a basic once over on Dorothy and encouraged her to get booster shots.  Dorothy agreed to the booster shots, but strongly refused to get the $300 shingles shot that medicare does not cover.  The doctor told her that she needed to get a pap-smear, mammogram and other tests and Dorothy immediately stood up for herself and told him “No, I don’t want those tests.”  The doctor spent less than ten minutes all together with Dorothy and during that time encouraged her to “move to an assisted living facility” at least four times, Dorothy was not pleased with his pushing and said “I am happy where I am.”

 

This gives you the back story and brings me to my points and questions.  I am the daughter-in-law who has worked in health care for over eleven years.  I’ve worked in group homes, nursing homes, hospice, in-home, etc. and the one thing that has rang true through all of my experience is that the majority of the people I have worked with have one long-term goal and that is to be INDEPENDENT.  Yes, in some situations there is no chance of the person living independently, but in other situations, like Dorothy’s, the person can have their own apartment and live mostly independent.  We believe that Dorothy currently has assisted living being that we help her with the majority of her daily tasks, but she feels independent because she has her “own” apartment and her family is coming over to “visit”…she would hate knowing that someone is getting paid to go in and spend time with her and help her.

As people age and become seniors they need to feel like they are still productive members of society and that they are needed.  When we take away their freedom of choice, their basic tasks that they are capable of doing and their independence, they will then feel useless and that is a feeling that none of us enjoy.  Look at the amount of seniors who get put in nursing homes and forgotten.  I’ve worked in a nursing home where you could see how depressed the residents were because their families had not called or visited in months, and when they finally would it would only be for about half an hour at a time…the residents would feel like they weren’t needed or wanted and that was why their family “stuck them in a home”.

If an individual is getting to a point health wise where they need the professional nursing care an assisted living facility or nursing home is probably a really good choice.  If an individual is getting to a point where they are a safety risk to themselves or to others an assisted living facility or nursing home will probably be the best bet again.  I personally do not believe that if an individual is in overall excellent health (for their age)\and is not a risk to themselves or others that they should be forced into a home.  It is almost like todays social service and medical system believes that once people reach a certain age that they should automatically be placed in state care of some sort, which I find ridiculous.  Why is it that the “system” trys to take seniors rights, choices, and freedom away?

Dorothy has been independent, strong-willed and a very private person her entire life.  She enjoys spending quiet time alone watching sports and doing puzzles.  She enjoys spending time with people when they come over to visit.  She enjoys feeling like a productive member of society.  She enjoys helping fold her own laundry.  She enjoys choosing when she want to go to bed or take a nap.  She enjoys choosing what she wants to eat for breakfast and eating when she is hungry, not when someone else tells her she is.  She enjoys going through her closet and picking out her own outfit for the day.  She enjoys being able to dress herself.  Now imagine if she was in a facility of some sort, where they schedule meal times, pick out and help you dress, and take those little freedoms and choices away?  Dorothy always says the same thing when the idea of a nursing home is brought up and that is “I will die before I go to a nursing home.”

Do you have senior loved ones that you’ve had to make the hard choice of finding an assisted living or nursing home for?  Did they get to help make the decision or was it made for them?

Do you have senior loved ones that you are caring for?

Have you thought about what you would want for yourself and your family when you become a senior and need assistance, both minimal and extensive?

Do you feel like todays seniors are getting their rights and freedom taken away and not having any say in it?

At what point do you think seniors should receive more assistance?

Is our medical system just out to make money?

Is our medical system recommending tests, shots, exams and so on that aren’t really needed?

Do you think that a doctor can know what is best for you or for your loved ones when he/she has only known you/them for less than 15 minutes?

How do you think our medical system should change to actually get to know you and your loved ones before they start making recommendations and choices for you/them?

What are some of the flaws you see in our medical system?

What are some of the flaws you see in our social services system?

Would you want your rights to be taken away once you become a senior?

Do you trust your doctor and their opinions?

When the time comes what living arrangements would you prefer?  Do you want to live in a nursing home or assisted living facility?  Do you want your family to care for you?

With the amount of abuse that you hear about on the news would you feel safe living in a facility or having a family member live in one?

Do you advocate for yourself?

Do you advocate for your loved ones?

Do you encourage your loved ones to advocate for themselves?

What changes can be made to our medical system to make it better?

How would you feel if your freedom, choices, independence was taken away?

Emotional Chords and How We Play Them

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We all have emotions.  Happy, sad, angry, miffed, excited…all emotions.  We feel emotions in different situations, around different people and in different ways.  Sometimes it purely depends on the situation as to how you will react emotion wise, other times it depends on the day.  Example:  That movie or commercial that always pulls at your heart-strings–sometimes when you watch it you feel that emotional connection and respond by really thinking about the theme and acknowledging it, other times you see it and end up bawling for 15 minutes (and no, not the cute cry…the ugly cry, snot and all).  How we chose to process those emotions is where things sometimes get a little tricky.

The following is an emotion wheel that I thought would be fun to use pictures of our dog Doc showing some of the different emotions.  Pets are always great at helping people regulate their own emotions and studies have shown that pets are also great therapy.

 

Doc emotions through pictures.

When something happens in your life that does strike an emotional chord, learning how to react can be a real challenge, we have to learn how to play those emotional chords.  Yesterday a friend of mines young son was at school and injured himself during gym by running into the corner of a wall.  Joe’s injury required that he get 5 stitches in his temple area.  Joe did not cry, nor did his mother, yet when she contacted me about his injury she explained how hard it was for her to stay strong and not to cry so that Joe would be able to stay brave.  It is hard seeing someone you love hurt or in pain and in some situations the best thing that you can do is play your own emotional chords very softly so that the other person’s emotions do not escalate.  My friend did a perfect job keeping her own emotions in-check because they helped her son stay calm.  Later in the evening when Joe’s father arrived at home Joe showed that he had a great sense of humor about the injury by jokingly telling his dad that “he took on the whole class” and that the cut was all he got out of it 🙂

Part of our way of dealing with our own emotions depends on how we chose to look at life.  If you look at life and think that the world is out to get you and that life in general sucks, you emotions will also portray that.  If you try to stay upbeat and positive, even when life hands you the occasional lemon, your emotions will portray that.

Our emotions and moods also rub off on those around us…or other people’s emotions can rub off on us, sometimes for the good, sometimes for the bad.  I have one friend that stands out as always being happy (well, 98% of the time at least).  He has a great sense of humor and loves to make other people laugh and have fun.  If you are in a funk of a mood that day, within just a few minutes around him your entire day will brighten and your emotions will be uplifted.  A smile and a laugh really help in keeping emotions in-check.  On the other hand I have a friend who is always a “Debbie-Downer” she is either mad, angry, ticked-off or irritated all of the time…gosh, imagine how much stress that puts on your body to be feeling those emotions all of the time.!?  Even when something super positive happens in her life, rather than being happy and excited that it will happen, she choses to look at it and say “well, it wont last.”  Your life and emotions all come down to your own choices.  Chose to be happy, chose to be sad…it is all up to you.  Yes, sometimes people are actually not able to control their own emotions which can lead to depression and other health issues, but counseling & some medications (depending on each individual situation) can really help balance out the different emotions.

Years ago I had a friend that would call me in tears at least three times a week and tell me the horrible things her then boyfriend (now husband) would say to her when they were fighting or arguing.  After a few months of this I finally stopped her in the middle of one of her venting sessions and told her that the next time she called me she needed to tell me at least 3 positive things that he said or done for her before she started telling me about all of the negative things.  This made her stop and actually look at all of the positive things that he said and did, which helped her not focus on the negative things as much.  A few months later their arguing and fighting had lessened and their communication had opened.  After one of their arguments where he had said something horrible to her she finally asked him why he says such mean things to her when they fight and his answer was “you hurt my feelings so I just wanted to say the meanest thing I could think of so your feelings would hurt too.”  This made her realize that there were two sets of emotions in the relationship, and when she only focused on hers and he only focused on his their relationship sucked, but when they took the little time to focus on each others emotions their relationship became much stronger.

This leads me to think of a variety of questions, that hopefully also make you think:

Have you ever said something to just purposely hurt someone elses feelings?

How often do you stop to think about how your emotions affect the people around you?

Do you let other people’s emotions rub off on you?

How do you stay positive in a negative situation?

How do you stay strong when your emotions are tested?

How often do you just stop to think about other people’s emotions?

On days when you are sad have you found anything that helps make you feel emotionally better?  An emotional outlet that works for you?  Reading, baking, exercise, pet therapy?

How do you choose to play your emotions songs?

Do you find that little things often times “get” to you?  If so, how do you deal with them?

If you could choose three negative emotions to work on how you react to them, what would they be?

If you could choose three positive emotions to use more and make stronger in your daily life, what would they be?

Have you ever been so emotional that you have said or done something you later regret?

Have you ever transferred your emotions about a situation or about yourself onto someone else?  Example:  You are mad because you got in a car accident and you yell at the other driver, a few days later you realize that it was your own actions that caused the accident, so really the person you were mad at was yourself, yet you took it out on the other driver.

Have you ever let your own emotions hold you back in life?

Do you help others when they are on an emotional low?

Are their people in your life that you can look at and say “Susie is always happy” or “Jake is just a downer”?  How do you let their examples mold the emotions in your life?

As you have aged have you become better at controlling your own emotions?

Do you think that television is affecting the emotions of generations of young people?  Does seeing people get angry, scream, swear and turn a table over teach young people negative emotions or negative ways of dealing with their emotions?

Who are the three people in your life that you admire the most for their emotions and emotional support?

 

 

 

 

A Variety of Friendships

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I read somewhere a while back that “The secret to friendship is being a good listener” which got me to wondering, how many of us know when to just listen and when to give advice?

Often times I find that all I want is to have my friend(s) listen without giving their two cents.  Yes, your two cents are important to me, BUT I do not need advice about every-single-little-thing.  Please tell me that someone else has a friend or friends that do the same thing.  Does your friend(s) advice to you ever feel like it is their way of judging you or just being argumentative?  Seriously, just be happy for me…be supportive…be understanding…be my friend.  I did a little brainstorming and thought of a few different kinds of friends that I either have or have had in the past and thought I would share.

There is a variety of friendships:

1. BEST FRIEND:  That person that you have known for years (and if not for years it sure does feel like it).  You can say anything to, do anything with, and be your true self around and know that they are going to reciprocate and not be judgemental of you.  Yes, they may pick on you some, but that is part of your friendship…you know each others limits and you respect those.  You can tell when that person needs to vent, just visit or be goofy beyond belief.   This is the friend that you never need to feel embarrassed around as they have probably lived through the majority of your most embarrassing situations with you.  You are comfortable being vulnerable around eachother…be it tears or expressing insecurities.  They know your deepest darkest secrets…and if they don’t know all of them right now, eventually they will.  This friend knows when they need to just listen and when they need to add their advice.  You may not see or speak to them as often as you would like, but you know they are always there for you no matter what.  They have made your life and world a happier place just by being part of it.

2. A FRIEND WHEN IN NEED:   We all have that person (some of us more than one) that as soon as you see their name on your caller id or that you’ve received an email from them the first thought that goes through your mind is always “What do they want/need now?”  This is the person who you don’t hear a peep from for months on end and then out of the blue they contact you and the conversation always starts the same:  “Hey Sam!  How have you been?  I haven’t talked to you in ages.  I missed you.”  Then not to long into the conversation, usually within the first 5 minutes the person will finally get to the point:  “Well Sam, I called to catch up and see if you could possibly lend me $350 for new tires on my car?  I promise I will pay you back as soon as I get the money.  I really need the new tires or else I will not be able to make it to work and will lose my job.”  The question, the promise and the guilt-trip all rolled in to one…the friend when in need is an expert at these.  The hard part is being a strong enough person to say NO.  True friends don’t just want to be your friend when they need something.

3. LIVE-FOR-YOU-I-AM-ALWAYS-RIGHT FRIEND:  This is a friend whom you respect, enjoy spending time with, enjoy chatting on-line & through texts and wish nothing but the best for, yet somehow always find them giving you advice about how to live or how they would live every little aspect of your life.  Example:  SAM:  Hey Susie, I am going for a walk to the antique shop later.  SUSIE:  That is great.  If I were you I would watch the weather ahead of time to make sure you don’t get rained on and then I would take Grand Avenue to the antique shop.  SAM:  Oh, I was planning on taking Main Street because it is closer to my house and takes me right to the shop.  SUSIE:  I wouldn’t take Main Street, Grand is better.  Seriously Susie, why can you not just be happy that Sam is making a healthy life choice and walking to the antique shop?  Why must you always make Sam feel like he isn’t making the right choices (according to you)?  You are both adults and having your own thoughts and opinions are healthy and normal…let Sam have his own thoughts and opinions without making him feel like they are wrong.  Everyone  was raised differently, so they approach situations in life differently, so what works for one person does not always work for the other person.  Respect each others differences and don’t try to change the other person.  Nobody is ALWAYS RIGHT!!!  What works for you, your family and your life does not always work for others…accept that, respect that, live with that.  Also, remembering that it is YOUR LIFE and you need to make your own choices, and in some cases, mistakes…even if that friend has already lived through it and made the mistake they should respect you enough to let you experience it for yourself (and yes, in some cases they can say “I told you so” at a later date, but that is life).

4.  TEXT FRIEND:  This is the friend who you LOVE to text.  400 texts messages back and forth in one day is not out of the norm and it actually becomes one of your favorite daily routines.  Biggest problem with text friends is that often times when it comes to actually talking to each other or spending time with each other you realize that you really don’t like each other as much in person as you do through technology.  Having a good text friend or two is always a good thing, especially if you just want to chat real quick and not feel obligated to spend time with each other.

5.  FRIEND EVERYWHERE BUT IN THE CAR:  Many years ago I was friends with a girl that I had met through a work situation.  We texted, talked on the phone, emailed, went out to movies & meals together…it was a BLAST until I got us concert tickets to a concert that was 200 miles away.  It was our first and needless to say our last road trip together.  Within 15 minutes of getting into my car she said “Jake asked me if I was planning on bringing some pot down for the concert, but I wasn’t sure what you would think so I just left it at home.”  The look on my face was probably pure shock as I knew her as a police officer, not a pot head…and I was just dumbfounded as to what to say.  I did decide to thank her for chosing not to bring illegal drugs into my car and jokingly (yet was 100% serious in my head) said “If you had brought it I would have had to drop you off along side the road and go to the concert by myself.”  Mind you this was the first 15 minutes of a 200 mile trip (one way), so the next few hours seemed to take much longer than they should have.  During the concert she complained the entire time due to the people in front of us standing and her not being able to see over them.  By the time  the concert was over and we got in the car she continued to complain because she didn’t know any of the songs, yet, when I had asked her weeks earlier if she liked the band she stated that she “loved them” all I can say is that I am very VERY thankful that she slept the majority of the way home.  A week later two other friends and I drove down to the same venue for a different concert and it was a fantastic, fun, and hilarious trip that I will never forget—they were excellent road trip friends 🙂  When I was growing up my mom would always say “If you want to see if you will work as a couple go on a 500 mile long road trip together in the summer.  If you haven’t fought the entire trip or killed each other along the way you have a good relationship” I think that this is also true for friendships.

6.  THE LIAR FRIEND:  No true friend will lie to you, yes they may sugar coat a few things, but they are doing that to help protect your feelings.  I had a friend (please note HAD) a few years back to was the most OCD person I have ever met.  She had 3 different address books, all of which had the same exact addresses, phone numbers, etc. in them.  She kept each address book in a different location and when I asked her about this she said “If I have them all in different places I will never lose anyones contact information because there is always a back-up” and this made sense.  I witnessed her put my email addresses, street address, home phone number and cell phone number into all three address books PLUS into her cell phone.  I called and left her a message one day and she never returned my call, about two months later I received an email from her requesting my phone number because she had “lost it”…okay, I gave it to her, we talked and everything was great.  Not too long after that the same thing happened again, she “lost” all of my information….this happened 4 separate times and at that point the big RED FLAGS went up in my mind and told me that she isn’t being completely honest with me.  She must have forgotten showing me her 3 separate address books and that I witnessed her putting my info into all of them, I don’t know.  It just got to the point where I had to question the friendship itself and ask myself “Is this friendship worth me getting my feelings hurt because she keeps lying to me?” and the answer was NO.  So, the next time she emailed me and said that she had “lost all of [my] information again” I sent her an email back that nicely explained that I didn’t think our friendship was working and for both of our sakes we should probably bring it to an end…she never responded back, but also never contacted me again saying that she “lost” my info 🙂

Some friendships are healthy, some friendships are toxic…figuring out which is which and separating yourself from the toxic friendships is the only way to be happy in your friendships.  It is hard to close a door on a friendship, but sometimes you have to ask yourself if it is a mutually respectful friendship or if one of the parties is benefiting more from the friendship.

How do you make friends?

Are your friendships equal?

Do you have friends that take advantage of you?  If so, are they truly your friends?

What cues, verbal and non-verbal, do your friends give you when they just want you to listen and when they want you to give them advice?

Do you have a “best” friend and what makes them a “best” friend?

Does your spouse count as a “best” friend?

Are animals friends?

How important are friendships in your life?

Is it ever appropriate for a friend to lie to you?  If so, when?

What is the hardest part about maintaining a healthy friendship?

Have you ever had to break-up with a friend?

How much value do you put on your friendships?

What is the best way that you have found to end a toxic friendship?

What is the best advice you’ve ever received about friendships?

 

5 THINGS: The Appreciation Experiment.

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5 Things: The Appreciation Experiment. Find at: https://www.facebook.com/Appreciate5#!/Appreciate5

In 2010 a friend of mine started posting 5 Things that she appreciated that day on her facebook page and the feedback she got from her friends was amazing.  This prompted her to start the 5 Things facebook page where anyone and everyone can post the 5 things that they appreciate, big, small and everything in-between, they are also able to read what other people are appreciating.  5 Things founder Sarah M:  “My days are often brighter when I take some time in the morning to reflect upon what makes me happy.  It is all too easy to get caught up in deadlines and “have-tos” and “just-gottas” and yes…even the sneaky “yeah-buts.”  Sarah realized that taking those few minutes a day to reflect can really help people slow down and take notice of what is truly important to them.

Far too often in todays rush-rush-technology-driven-work-harder-do-more-make-more society we overlook all of the little things in our lives that are so important.  We literally take the majority of our lives for granted.  How many of us take the time to be thankful for electricity when we are watching our favorite movie, writing a blog, hitting the snooze button in the morning?  Not many, because that is just one of the things that we have all gotten so accustom to having that we barely notice it is there anymore…but we sure do notice when it is gone.  Many of us are in overall good physical health, but how many of us acknowledge how thankful for that health we are?  We take advantage of being able to see, hear, smell, speak, taste, feel, touch, walk, dance…until something happens, something unexpected…an accident, an illness, a fall…whatever factor that takes a portion of your health away, and typically it is not until that factor happens that we finally start to realize how much we appreciate(d) that part of our health…and if we are lucky we will heal and regain that part of our health back and be able to hopefully appreciate its importance of it for the rest of our lives.

Thinking about appreciation, gratitude and thankfulness brings to mind a whirlwind of questions.  Each question will have a different answer for each person.  Each question may have one answer today and then a year from now a completely different answer.  Life changes, the things that we love and care for change, the things we find important change, yet we should always be able to come up with a list of things that we appreciate in life.  The following are just some of the questions that I came up with that I think everyone should stop, think about and take notice of:

How many of the daily things that you take for granted would you notice and miss if they were gone?

What in your life do you put the most value on?  Family?  Friends?  Pets?  Material items?  Money?  God?

What makes us happy?

If you only had 5 minutes to take the “important” things out of your house what would they be?

Can money every truly buy happiness?

Do you appreciate the things in your life that you waste?  Food?

What would you do if you lost everything?

What would you miss most if you lost everything?

Who would you thank if you knew today would be your last?

How many of the people in your life actually know how much you appreciate them?  How do you show them?

Does your spouse/significant other feel your love and appreciation for them?  Do you thank them?  Compliment them?  Remind them?

5 Things:  The Appreciation Experiment encourages you to stop and take just a few minutes out of your day and share the 5 things you appreciate.  They may be little things that you are appreciating at that moment like your morning cup of coffee or big things that you appreciate every day of your life like your spouse and children.  You may be looking out your window at the time and be glad to see the sun shining and hear bird chirping.  Whatever it is at that moment that you appreciate…SHARE.  Being able to read the things that others appreciate can also shed light on some of the things you’ve been accidentally overlooking.

TAKE TIME OUT OF YOUR DAY TO APPRECIATE!            https://www.facebook.com/Appreciate5#!/Appreciate5

 

 

 

 

What dogs can teach you about stress and life.

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This morning I had an interview, which as we all know can be a pretty stressful situation.  I went into the interview remembering that the very worst thing that can happen is that I don’t get hired and that I did not lose anything by trying.  The interview seemed to go very well and I was informed that a decision would be made within the next couple of days.  I then got home and started revisiting the interview and remembering things I should have said and questions I should have asked, but I didn’t.  So why am I worrying about it now after the fact?

This then got me to thinking about how people deal with stress in their lives.  Some people turn to addictions such as drugs, alcohol, and shopping to help them deal with stress…which all of these in the long run really are not dealing with the issue that caused the stress at all.  Others take a healthier approach and exercise, meditate, and vent to friends to help deal with their stress.  I personally have always been a huge fan of animal therapy.  Studies have shown that when a person is petting an animal they are in that moment…that moment of just them and the animal and petting…they are not thinking about the bounced check at the bank, the dry cleaning that needs to be picked up, the horrible demanding boss, all they are thinking about that furry critter that wants its tummy rubbed.  You are mindful in the moment and just taking it in.  I then decided to spend some time with my dogs and it helped.  My wheels were turning after this and I thought “maybe I have some pictures of the boys that will help add some humor  and insight to stressful situations” and here we are:

No matter how tiny you feel compared to the stress in your life, if you keep your head up, eyes open and a positive outlook things will always get better.

Always remember to make time for fun. Watch your favorite show, go bowling, hang-out with friends, whatever it is that floats your fun boat...DO IT! Making sure you laugh often while doing it will not only help your mood but the moods of those around you. Remember the word SMILES and the word STRESS both have the same amount of letter in them and the more you smile the less stress you will feel.

Take a break from technology. As a society that is ALWAYS connected with internet, cell phones, computers, text messages, television and so on, it can be hard to take a break and get away from the stress in life. Make time for yourself and literally ONLY YOURSELF. Turn off the tv, radio, cell phone, computer, and all of those other distractions and just take 5 minutes (or more if possible) for yourself....breath, stretch, doodle, paint, bake, do whatever you need to do to relax and enjoy your technology free time.

Be silly! Laughter is always the best medicine, especially when it comes to elevating your mood and taking your mind off of stress. Do something silly and make yourself laugh. Dance around your house like Mr. Bean, make up a silly song and sing it on the spot, play dress-up...whatever you choose to do remember you are just being silly and trying to make yourself laugh (you can choose to do this step alone, or with an audience--sometimes having an audience for your silliness will make the laughter more contagious).

Some problems are big. Some problems are little. Most things that you look at as a problem or a stress now will not be important 5 years in the future. Don't worry about the things you can't change.

All those little things in life that just tick you off are just that....LITTLE THINGS. Don't let yourself get all snarly because of little things that you usually have no control over...it isn't a good look. Also, don't let other peoples stress/moods/negative interactions dictate your mood and day. Somebody cut you off on the way to work? Fine. They must have been in a bigger hurry than you and they are just wasting gas and losing money by driving erratically.

Never underestimate the power of sleep. Sleeping plays a huge factor in the way that we deal with everyday stress in our lives. If you are stressed out and sleeping poorly because of it, you will then be tired the next day which will cause more stress...it is a vicious circle. Try to remember that those things you are thinking about instead of sleeping will still be there the next day and staying awake all night thinking about them will not make them go away. Seriously, how much of the stress in your life can you solve by staying awake all night worrying about....NONE!

Play hard. Many of us only have two days a week off and those two days are usually packed full of things that we have written on a To-Do List. Make sure to put something you enjoy doing on that weekend To-Do List. Schedule time for play, life doesn't always have to be work and To-Do Lists...if you don't finish everything on your To-Do List this weekend there is always other weekends.

Look stress straight in the eye and say "I can deal with you." Avoiding some stress for a while is good, but you can not avoid all stress forever, so step up to your stress and let it know that you are stronger than it will ever be.

No matter how big of road blocks life sends your way, you are always strong enough to work your way through it. It may be a road block that takes a day to overcome or a year (or more) but you will always make it through.

Don't take life too seriously. If you are serious, worried and stressed all of the time just imagine how much of life you are missing out on. Big issues now will seem like tiny specks of issues in the future. Plus many of the big things you are stressed about now you will look back on and just shake your head and laugh wondering why you let it get to you so much.

Try not to wake-up on the wrong side of the bed. Each day that you wake-up, take a big breath in and are able to greet the day is a blessing. If you can start your day with a smile and share it with others it will help brighten the world around you.