I Received a Pulitzer Prize

Growing up in a wealthy family in New Orleans with everything she ever wanted, 71-year-old Carol Pulitzer never worried about money until a decade ago, living alone in North Carolina with two marriages behind her, she realized her money was running out. “I was practically down to nothing and felt fear like I had never felt before. This was Carol’s “wake-up call,” she remembered.

Today, back home in New Orleans, Carol is “much happier” living without much money. “Money was just always a burden,” said the talented writer and artist, who recently self-published two illustrated books,  one fiction, the other nonfiction, all super- short stories, many based on her experiences.

And, as you’ve probably guessed by now, Carol’s had remarkable experiences, some of them downright devastating, including the accidental deaths of her daredevil brother when he was days away from his 21st birthday and her 26-year-old son, Nick, from drugs.

When my Nick set sail at 26 a giant hole took up residence in my heart. At the time of his passing I cursed God, then I begged God to let me off the wheel of life, and then finally Nick intervened and gave me the gift of knowing life rolls on after death, Carol writes in her story MY NICK SETS SAIL from her book MOST LIKELY TO SUCCEED: A COLLECTION OF VERY SHORT ILLUSTRATED NONFICTION WITH RECIPES  

Interviewing Carol was an experience in itself, because she’s witty, wise and, most of all, thought provoking. Meet Carol.  

TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR CHILDHOOD

“I had a really sad family.  My sister is three years older and is mentally disabled. It’s so hard, so hard, to have a disabled member of your family. My older brother was the light of the family. He always went fast…motorcycles, planes, cars…and was just wild, but everyone adored him. Like a mad scientist, he refurbished a World War II plane that hadn’t been used in the war because of a design flaw, but he died flying that plane. So full of life that he burned out fast. My family was just blown to bits.  I was this young, vital girl and everyone in the house was crying. It was just terrible. I ran away from the situation as soon as I could, enrolling myself in boarding school in Memphis, TN.”

YOU CAME FROM A WEALTHY FAMILY.  WHAT WAS YOUR ATTITUDE ABOUT MONEY AS YOU GREW UP?

“Although both my parents were orphaned, by the time I was born, my father and his brother owned a hugely successful necktie business. Although being rich defined me, I never felt the money was mine and I did everything in my power to throw it away. I dated only men without money.  I paid for everything, so I’d blown all my money by the time I got older.

Carol’s gorgeous silver hair, post straightening iron

“I could have done great things with the money that was handed to me.  Renovated houses, created a business, helped others. I never really took charge of my life, it took charge of me. It just took me so much longer than normal people to wake up, grow up and develop coping skills because I didn’t have to. When you’re young, you look good, your body is in great physical shape, but mentally you don’t know what you’re doing. Then it all gets reversed. You look in the mirror and see the years, you buy pants with elastic waists, but you have so much more wisdom.”

WHAT DID YOU DO AFTER BOARDING SCHOOL?

I went to the University of Texas and then I came home and went to Tulane.  I liked the idea of school more than I liked school. It was the 1960s and I was partying and doing LSD. Not smart. When I look back at the access I had such incredible libraries and instructors at the University of Texas, but I wasn’t even thinking about that. I really think they should defer college for four years, have all kids work in some kind of service first”

DID YOU WORK AFTER COLLEGE?

The girls in our family weren’t allowed to work in the family business, and the boys weren’t allowed to do anything but work in the family business, a lose/lose situation. But I forced my way into the business after my dad died, but I wasn’t welcome and it was a bad situation. Then I got a design job at a boy’s knitwear company in New York and after that went to the NY Restaurant School since I’d always loved to cook and had restaurant fantasies. I’ve also done a million things to earn some money, including illustrations for magazines, product lines like decorative garden stakes, and a line of cocktail napkins, but I didn’t really make much. Although I’m grateful I didn’t have the constant stress of needing to earn money to live, I would do it all differently if I had a do over.”

TELL US ABOUT YOUR TWO HUSBANDS

“Jimmy, the man who would become my second husband, was my boyfriend when I was a junior at Tulane.  A real adventurer, he went around the world on a freighter after he graduated. The story 1972 is loosely based on him.

“While Jimmy was off traveling, I met a beautiful man at a summer party in New Orleans who was about to go off to Harvard grad school to study linguistics. I wound up driving to Cambridge, where we married and lived for four years.  It was a starter marriage. The story Bad Honeymoon is about the ‘honeymoon’ in Paris that I took with my ex-first husband after not seeing him for 40 years. Even though I love the city, the trip was not good.  

As it happens now and again, an ex-husband appeared in my inbox … this one after 40 years. So much had been forgotten, for instance that he could be both mean and weird. That didn’t stop me from accepting his invitation to meet in Paris at a 4-Star hotel so he could give me the honeymoon he hadn’t been able to afford as a graduate student.

“Jimmy and I eventually got back together and moved to California, where we married, had our son Nick, and lived for 20 years. He was a writer.  I’m not a fan of marriage. I like living alone.”

AND YOUR SON NICK?

“Nick was 14 when Jimmy and I broke up and he went back and forth between us, but spent more time with his father. Just like me when I was young, he never followed the rules. And, he couldn’t stand me telling him what to do. I was the bad cop with him, the one who said no. He adored me but resented me at the same time. He died almost four years ago.”

WHAT DID YOU DO WHEN YOUR MONEY STARTING RUNNING OUT?

At Mardi Gras with Chris Owens (right) and her husband. In her 80s, Chris has been stripping on Bourbon Street for over half a century, and she’s still going strong at her own club

“When I was down to practically nothing, I came back to New Orleans where you can live really cheaply back then, and I just started living in a new way. While I was catching up on the city, since I hadn’t been back for about 30 years, I came across a website called ViaNoLaVie and sent them one of my stories, which I had never shown to anyone. They accepted it, so I started writing for them about food, art, and interesting people who pass through the city. It was a great reentry into New Orleans for me. When my mother died a couple of years later, she left me with enough money to get me out of hot water for a few more years. I live modestly now and have no desire to buy things.”

WHEN DID YOU DECIDE TO WRITE YOUR TWO BOOKS AND WHAT DO THEY REPRESENT TO YOU?

“Books carry me away. I’m a fool for books. I wrote and illustrated my first story when I was 30 and living in New York.  I’ve written stories my entire adult life and never showed them to anyone. I just did them. At 71 you don’t have much more time to waste, so I said If I can do these books, I can die happy. Then self-publishing came along and made it possible to create my books exactly as I envisioned them, with lots of illustrations and irreverence. I never had a desire to be published by a traditional publisher, where you hand off your baby and lose all control. Writing LITTLE THEATRE and MOST LIKELY TO SUCCEED is all I ever wanted to do so I feel like I scratched a 40-year itch.

“I’ve also compiled books since 1973 on cooking, art, and my son Nick, which has stories of him growing up with lots of pictures and funny things he said that I otherwise would have forgotten. I think of these projects as family heirlooms. I believe everyone wants to make a mark. All the chemicals in the universe came together to make you, so it would be a shame to disappear without a trace!”

WHICH DO YOU PREFER, ILLUSTRATING OR WRITING?

“I prefer pots of color, brushes and the big messes of making art, but I’m happier with the results of my writing even though the process isn’t as much fun. I love short-short stories because you find out what happened and how it turned out at the end so quickly.

WHAT IS ONE OF YOUR FAVORITE STORIES?

“I really like MY UFO which is about the insane thing that happened to me one night in New Mexico.

My eyes snapped open at 3 am exactly, I walked to the dresser, picked up my flashlight and left my room at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House in my pj’s and indoors-only slippers down a path I didn’t know existed, out into the New Mexico desert, flat open shrubland hooded by Mt Taos.

I looked up into a sky that made no sense. There were no stars other than 6 dripping diamond-shaped clusters of fat lights very low in the sky. Like Van Gogh’s Starry Night, the rest of the sky was navy and black swirls all in motion!

BTW, LOVE YOUR HAIR

“Thank you. Hair is a big thing, isn’t it? I was white haired by the time I turned 40. I get compliments on it everyday. If you have to go gray, this is the gray you want to go.  I always wanted a straight bob with bangs like Buster Brown. I finally discovered the straightening iron.”

WORDS OF ADVICE ABOUT FOLLOWING YOUR PASSION

“Do it!  I’m running about 30 years late but I managed to do what I was sent here to do.”

 

The M Diaries

My long-time, 60-something, married friend (I’m calling her M, not her real name) met a new man about six years ago. Within two years, she left her emotionally abusive husband (she’d been married 37 years), found a full-time job (she hadn’t worked during most of her marriage, while she raised four children), and moved into a one-bedroom apartment (after living in a big, beautiful house for decades.)

M was happy in her new life.  She loved her boyfriend, her work and her new home.  But, unexpectedly, she lost her job about six weeks ago at the struggling company. Still unemployed, she feels like she’s losing the footing she’s worked hard to establish during the last few years.

M was inspired by a New York Times article she recently read about author Julia Cameron, who wrote The Artist’s Way, A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity in 1992, which has sold over 4 million copies. One of the seminal “self-help” books, The Artist’s Way proposes that absolutely everyone is creative and gives us the tools to release our “inner artist” in 12 weeks. That’s how long “it takes for people to cook,”  Julia told The New York Times.

Julia Cameron / Photo: kripalu.org

An avid reader, M couldn’t wait to read the book and start following Julia’s central advice to write three pages, by hand, the first thing every morning about absolutely anything that pops into your mind. The exercise is called “Morning Pages,” and I asked M to share some of hers with me.  She generously agreed.

I admire M’s determination to put her intimate thoughts on paper, especially during this stressful period in her life. Too many of us are so busy running around we don’t take the time to think about what we’re really about.

Day One: M’s “Morning Papers”

“Week 5, still jobless!  What to write to fill up three pages?  Always had something to do. House, kids, friends, job.  Void now of anything. Wake up at 6 am everyday – the day is long, stretching out beyond.  I need a job! Resumes have been sent – no replies. Waiting for unemployment checks to start.  Signed on with Medicare and Social Security. I’d rather have my job. Or any job. Work is good.  Work is healthy. People to meet, energy used, brain power required. I want to write a book. I’ve always wanted to write a book.  But first I have to fill three pages every morning, which seems impossible. Is it?

“This is day one of the ‘Morning Pages.’  I’m trying my best to fill up page one – how will I get to page three?  If I had a job I wouldn’t be doing this. I’d be drinking my coffee, reading emails, checking Facebook, listening to the news in the background, looking at the time, planning on when to take a shower, wondering what to wear, what the weather forecast is, checking the weather on my phone.  

“Make my bed, procrastinate about getting into the shower, hair needs washing, but I’m lazy.  Will wash tomorrow. Text my daughter, ‘Good Morning Bella.’ She loves getting a morning greeting.  

“Why did I lose my job?  I loved my job. I loved going into NYC.  I loved the kids I worked with. I loved the people I met.  I have to fight the tears and depression. There’s so much to be depressed about.  I am not a depressive person. I’ve always woken up happy. The glass is always half full!  Waking up on the wrong side of the bed doesn’t mean a thing to me. There are so many things I can do.  Jack of all trades, master of none. The thing I love to do most is cook. Cooking is relaxing. It’s art.  It’s passion. It’s creative. Food is comforting. Enjoying a meal with the person you love is beautiful. Eating alone is lonely.  Living alone is lonely. Watching TV alone is lonely. Never lived alone until three years ago when I moved into this apartment. But having a full time job meant I was only alone at night and on weekends.  

“Now I am alone 24 hour a day – seven days a week.  The exception is a few hours on the weekend, when my boyfriend comes over or if I’m invited to my daughter’s or a friend’s on a Saturday night.  Single people are not invited to couples’ dinners. Friends. Now that’s a word that has really taken on new meaning for me. I had so many friends.  My phone was always ringing, my door always swinging with someone dropping in. I know friends come into your life at different times and leave. But, the friends I’ve lost gave no reason for the their exit from my life.  A life that is so far from the one I had.”

Combat Dry, Crepey Skin All Year

Crepe Erase® compensated FabOverFifty with an advertising sponsorship to write this post. Regardless, we only recommend products or services that we believe will help you. All insights and opinions are our own. —Geri Brin

When my skin began to resemble the aging leather on my favorite dining chairs, I knew I had to take action. Stretching, sagging and cracking aren’t great on a chair, but it’s certainly not the look I wanted on my body. Today my skin feels soft and supple for the first time in years, even throughout the relentless winter cold. My legs, my arms, my hands and my neck–all sensationally smooth. I’ll tell you about my remarkable discovery in a moment. Maybe I should use it on the chairs, too!

Dry skin is common in later life, when our glands naturally produce less oil.

And, the overheated air we use to keep our homes comfy during the winter makes the problem worse! Think about my chairs or a favorite pair of leather shoes that’s stretched out and cracked after years of wear.  Like leather, our skin has countless pores that absorb or release moisture. Overheated indoor air and low humidity can draw moisture from the top layers of our skin, causing it to dry up and possibly crack, especially on our elbows and feet. What’s more, our skin loses its wonderful foundation of collagen and elastin, making it loose and saggy.

I’ve slathered on dozens of lotions and body creams–drugstore to high end–over the years, but not a single one provided hydration or softness that lasted for more than a couple of hours. And, they never did a thing for the crepiness I sadly started to see.

As editor of a popular website, I’m often invited to try out beauty products for everything from my head to my toes.  One brand–Crepe Erase®—stood out because I’ve seen the actress, Jane Seymour, talk about it on TV. Almost 68,  Jane has been a Crepe Erase® fan for years, and looks amazing. That’s an excellent endorsement right there!

The formula features TruFirm Complex, an exclusive blend that includes three plant extracts, to help reinforce our skin’s netting, so the skin can appear tighter and firmer, and helps it look like it did when we were younger. Crepe Erase® also contains seven powerful hydrators, including coconut oil, shea butter, cocoa butter, olive oil, beeswax, cassava and Vitamin E, which absorb quickly and work to visibly soothe and renew the skin.

Crepe Erase® is the #1 Anti-Aging Body Treatment System for Dry, Crepey Skin*

(*Based on Crepe Erase® sales data & IRI & NPD sales data for 2017.)

The Essentials Kit includes only two simple steps:

First, I grab my bottle of Exfoliating Body Polish when I shower, to lift away dead, rough surface cells and make my skin feel smoother and look more radiant. (By the way, avoid taking long, hot showers because they’ll dry your skin even more!) After the shower, I massage the Intensive Body Repair Treatment, with the TruFirm Complex, into the crepey skin on my neck, chest, arms and legs. The Body Polish has a lovely, fresh scent, and the Repair Treatment absorbs quickly and isn’t even the tiniest bit greasy.

As I said earlier, the skin on my body hasn’t felt this smooth and hydrated in many years, even during last winter, when a long stretch of brutally cold temperatures froze the pipes in one of my bathrooms! I’ve learned that the more consistently you use skincare products, the better the results. I’ve been treating my skin to Crepe Erase® for almost two years, and it’s paid off when I need it most!

Crepe Erase® isn’t a glorified body lotion. Trust me, it feels like I’ve tried them ALL.  If my word isn’t enough, look at these superb results from a 4-week Crepe Erase® clinical study, not to mention the extraordinary before-and-after images they revealed on QVC.

98% EXPERIENCED IMPROVEMENT IN EVENNESS OF SKIN TONE ON THEIR DÉCOLLETÉ.

90% SHOWED IMPROVEMENT IN THE LOOK OF SKIN FIRMNESS ON THEIR ARMS.

88% OF WOMEN EXPERIENCED AN IMPROVEMENT IN THE LOOK OF SKIN ROUGHNESS ON THEIR LEGS AND KNEES.

{Based on average results of a 49 person evaluation by an expert clinical grader}

Results will vary

Crepe Erase® is so confident that you’ll love its products, it invites you to use them for 60 days, and, if you’re not satisfied, you can return the containers–EVEN EMPTY–for a full refund, less s&h! This offer assures me even more that these are quality beauty products. Plus, the line is incredibly reasonable in the first place!  

What’s more, we’ll send you our 4-in-1 Eye Renewal Capsules, a $38 value, as a free thank you gift.

and save on Crepe Erase + get FREE SHIPPING today!

Have I Been Living Under a Rock?

If you’ve never heard of FabOverFifty stand-up comedian Jim Gaffigan (he’s 53 and from Indiana), check out one of his one-hour, one-man shows.  You’ll laugh out loud, whether Jim is ruminating about being the parent of pale kids, explaining milk trends, bemoaning baths, extolling fried bread, even reporting on his wife’s brain surgery (it was benign). A master of observation, Jim sees the humor and absurdity of everything from ketchup packets to traveling internationally.

Jim and his wife, Jeannie, also wrote and executive produced The Jim Gaffigan Show, a sitcom that ran on TVLand for two seasons, where he starred as a fictionalized version of himself as a comedian raising five children in a two-bedroom New York City apartment. (He really does have five kids and the whole family did live in a two-bedroom apartment.)  And, he’s been on Broadway, in movies and on commercials.

I didn’t think I was living under a rock, but based on the success of this guy, perhaps I have been. Anyway, for those of you who don’t know Jim, you’re in for a treat.

Nominate An Inspiring Woman You Know

Heather Lee. Photo: Chris Kidd / www.seniorsnews.com.au

Heather Lee, a 92-year-old woman in Australia, holds five world and eight Australian records for racewalking, trains at least three days a week, walks at least 10,000 steps on a typical day, and likes to be a role model for “women in their middle years who are putting on a few pounds or thinking of slowing down,” she said in an interview in The New York Times. “Age is no barrier to anything, really,” Heather stressed.  

Reading about nonagenarian Heather I thought about all the ordinary women in every single city and town across the United States, and all over the world, who are doing extraordinary things.  For themselves. For their families. For their communities.

  • Maybe she’s a grandmother who stepped in to raise her two young grandchildren when their parents couldn’t.  
  • Perhaps she’s serves or cooks lunch twice a week at a homeless shelter, or reads every day to sick children who are living in hospitals for months on end.
  • Or she’s returned to school for a degree after decades raising her own children as a struggling, single mother.

Just as Heather’s story inspired me to get my body moving and shaking, I’d love to ‘meet” other exciting and passionate women who are rarely recognized for their undertakings and accomplishments. 

      1.   Please nominate one woman like this who you know.  She could be a co-worker, a relative or a woman from your community.

     2.   Write a short description of what the woman does that inspires you.  The only stipulation is that she be at least 45 years old.

 

We will choose one woman each week to interview and introduce to the FabOverFifty community. What a wonderful gift you’ll be giving to her! And what a wonderful gift she’ll give to us all.

Nominate An Inspiring Woman You Know

A Fab Film From the Forties

If you’re a devotee of old films, you’ve undoubtedly seen many of the movies from the 1940s, which was considered the Golden Age of Hollywood.  It’s A Wonderful Life with Jimmy Stewart (1946), Casablanca with Humphrey Bogart (1942), Citizen Kane with Orson Welles (1941), and Miracle on 34th Street with Maureen O’Hara (1947) are among the masterpieces produced during the decade.

I’ve been a fan of old movies since I took a fascinating film course as an undergraduate at New York University, then continued enjoying them at The Museum of Modern Art, which offers a spectacular film program. And, now that we have access to extensive film libraries right in our living rooms, it’s always fun to discover a wonderful old movie, even if it’s not considered a masterpiece, such as Penny Serenade (1941).  Starring Cary Grant and Irene Dunne, it’s the story of husband and wife Roger and Julie Adams, whose marriage begins with adventure, joy, boundless love, and great promise, but soon faces heart wrenching tragedy and loss, which threaten to break them apart.

film screenshot (George Stevens Prod. : Columbia Pictures)

Known for his comedic acting and flawless timing, Cary Grant played this serious role of a risk-taking newspaperman so well he was nominated for an Academy Award (but lost to Gary Cooper for his role as Sergeant York.) Beautiful Irene Dunne played his strong and sympathetic wife with subtlety and grace.

Penny Serenade is the perfect movie to watch on a cold winter night during the Christmas holidays. Wrap yourself up in a cozy throw, with a cup of homemade cocoa (or a glass of Merlot!), and enjoy!

Getting Intimate on Facebook

Carly, 47, has breast cancer that recently metastasized to her brain.

Debbie’s husband, the love of her life, succumbed to brain cancer after a long struggle.

Peter has been learning to walk again ever since a cab ran him over and almost killed him.

Roseanne lost her teenage son to a rare genetic disorder.

These are real people, although I’ve changed their names, and I know them all. Besides having unfortunate circumstances in their lives, they share something else: They give voice to their grief, fear, anger, loneliness, challenges and triumphs on Facebook.

Carly asks for help getting to the hospital for treatment, graphically details her illness, and complains when she doesn’t think others understand her travails.

Debbie talks about how deeply she misses her husband and shares countless memories.

Peter chronicles his rehabilitation progress and explains what it’s like “living” in a wheelchair.

Roseanne keeps her son alive by raising awareness for the disease that took his life.

These are the OTHER FACES of Facebook, not the countless faces of those who talk incessantly of their joyous, rich, stylish, successful, and perfect lives. These other faces aren’t crying out for joy, but are reaching out for solace, for company, and to vent fear, frustration, or anger.

While the supercilious set successfully attracts legions of adoring fans who gush over their flawless lives, do those beset by crises and tragedy derive the solace they seek?

When Carly talks about her intensely painful headaches or her vomiting episodes following experimental chemo treatments, do the solicitous comments on her Facebook page relieve her?

When Peter recounts how he laboriously walked onto the cruise ship for a vacation, do the cheering comments help urge him on?

When Debbie tells her followers how lonely she feels lying in bed without her soulmate, do her public pronouncements abate her loneliness?

It can be exciting or cathartic to share our successes or setbacks with those we love. But, what drives so many of us to not only to overshare, but to overshare with more people than need or want to know about our lives?

Communication back in the day was pretty easy to interpret, such as the intimate correspondence between famous lovers Abelard and Heloise during the 12th century, or between Ronald and Nancy Reagan in the 20th. Facebook communication is another matter, a complicated issue that anthropologists undoubtedly will be studying centuries from now.

The Weaknesses of Power

I am going to stick my neck out and write about someone in the political news, but my thoughts have nothing to do with politics.

The person is 52-year-old Michael Cohen, the man who yesterday was sentenced to 36 months in prison for crimes he committed while working for Donald Trump.

I won’t go into detail about his crimes. He admitted to them and he is going to pay for them. I’m writing because his greed and his arrogance led him to act illegally in the first place, and now he says he’s “truly sorry” and promises he will “be better.”

Michael Cohen, right, arriving at federal court, with his children Jake and Samantha Photo Julio Cortez / AP

As I watched Michael Cohen walk into the courthouse with his wife, son and daughter, I momentarily felt sorry for him, but when I returned to my senses, I thought of the despicable things he’s said and done to enrich himself as well as to protect his boss, to whom he was “blindly loyal.”

“Blind loyalty” led him to “darkness,” Cohen told the sentencing judge, and “it will be my life’s work to make it right.” What causes “blind loyalty” and makes someone go from cunning and calculating to conscience-stricken and contrite? And would these same people become contrite if their deceptions, lies and illegal acts were never discovered? Is someone contrite before a judge because they hope to be judged less harshly, or because they really do feel that way deep in their souls?

The judge said that Michael Cohen lost his “moral compass somewhere along the way,” but did Michael Cohen ever have a “moral compass”?

Donny Deutsch, a former ad agency executive, and a friend of Michael Cohen, said on TV that it’s understandable to be swayed by all the trappings of power. It may be, but when power is abused, it can start setting traps for you. All it takes to end the ride is to get caught in one of them.

Look at Harvey Weinstein, Scott Pruitt, Richard Nixon, and Bernie Madoff. Their lies, schemes, and elaborate coverups eventually backfired. Once they were caught, there was no turning back. They didn’t only lose their power; they lost their dignity, and, in the case of Madoff, his freedom and his family. One of his sons committed suicide. 

Michael Cohen reportedly will be in a minimum to medium security prison, starting in March, but he claimed during his sentencing, “The irony is today is the day I get my freedom back. I have been leading a personal and mental incarceration ever since the fateful day that I accepted the offer to work for a famous real estate mogul whose business acumen I greatly admired.”

Yes, life can be ironic.

Isn’t it Time to Face the Brutal Facts?

I don’t know how April Pipkins does it.  Maybe her religion sustains her. Maybe she’s just in shock, and it hasn’t fully sunk in yet. I don’t know how April Pipkins even manages to get a coherent word, no less sentence, out of her mouth, considering her 21-year-old son was murdered in cold blood on Thanksgiving night by a police officer who mistakenly identified him as the gunman who shot two people in an Alabama mall.

Emantic Bradford Sr. and April Pipkins, left, parents of Emantic Bradford Jr., right. (NBC/AP)

April and her lawyer have been making the rounds of TV shows the last few days to voice their outrage at how her son, “EJ”, was slain. Reportedly (I say reportedly because the police keep changing their stories about the sequence of events), EJ was at the scene of a dispute between two people at the mall, and was fatally shot as he was running away and holding a gun. The initial police report indicated that EJ was indeed the killer, but was subsequently revised.  The shooter is still at large. “‘We regret that our initial media release was not totally accurate, but new evidence indicates that it was not,’ the police said, adding that the conclusion was based on interviews with witnesses and ‘critical evidentiary items,’” according to an article on www.nytimes.com.  

“‘He saw a black man with a gun and he made his determination that he must be a criminal,’ said civil rights attorney Ben Crump,” in another article online. “‘There’s a murderer on the loose largely because police rushed to judgment.’”

EJ received a general discharge from the United States Army in August, and was licensed to carry a firearm, news reports said. Perhaps he openly held his gun if he thought he could use it on the real perpetrator, and maybe he was fleeing if he thought he was going to be a victim himself.  We will never know. We’ll only get the officer’s side of the story.

Whenever I hear about the circumstances surrounding shootings such as this I don’t know what to think. Police officers feeling threatened on one hand; innocent, often unarmed victims on the other.  A man shot in the back in California earlier this year was carrying a cell phone, for instance. Clearly, these kinds of incidents are happening far too often, and law enforcement across the country must figure out a way to stop them.

This is a chilling report about police violence, which underlines what I’m saying. Consider some of these statistics:  

  • Police killed 1,147 people in 2017, most by shooting.
  • Most killings began with police responding to suspected non-violent offenses or cases where no crime was reported.
  • 89 people were killed after police stopped them for traffic violations.  
  • Police killed 149 unarmed people.  
  • Police recruits spend seven times as many hours training to shoot than they do training to de-escalate situations.

The last fact undoubtedly contributes greatly to precipitating the first four. Please know that I am not anti-police.  But when anyone, in any profession, is poorly trained, he or she is more likely to make mistakes, sometimes horrendous mistakes. And a shooting obviously has far greater consequences than making a typographical error in an article, or baking a cake that doesn’t rise properly.  

De-escalating a situation so it doesn’t get out of hand usually is the right approach, but it takes understanding, discipline and emotional intelligence to employ the tactics to make that happen. Most of us could use lessons in the subject.  

Just What the Doctor Ordered: It Ain’t Necessarily So!

It sounded crazy to me when an administrator in the ophthalmologist’s office said I needed an EKG and blood tests before I could have laser cataract surgery.  I might not be a doctor but I know an EKG isn’t considered the best diagnostic test for heart disease.

“That’s nutty. I’m not running to have an EKG. I didn’t need an EKG when I had lumpectomies on my breasts and had general anesthesia. Why would I need it for 15-minute cataract surgery with local anesthesia? Forget it, I’m cancelling the surgery,” I said, getting up to leave.

“Wait a minute. I’ll check with the surgery facility,” the administrator said, as she promptly picked up the phone.

“No, you don’t need it if you’re just having routine cataract surgery,” she announced after the call, not the least bit bothered that three minutes earlier she had told me I did need it.

“That’s good. Now other patients will be saved the time and expense, too,” I said, feeling as if I did my good deed for the day. As it is, Medicare doesn’t pick up the total cost of laser cataract surgery, so I’ll be paying quite a bit out of pocket.

Flash forward about five days, I get a call from my “regular” doctor’s office. “The ophthalmologist’s office said they require a CBC (Complete Blood Count), which we didn’t order when you had blood tests a few weeks ago. We’ll email you a prescription for it,” the nurse explained. (Note: A CBC is a blood test used to evaluate your overall health and detect a wide range of disorders, including anemia, infection and leukemia, reported the Mayo Clinic website.)

Here we go again, I thought, Googling “Is a CBC necessary for routine cataract surgery?” Nope, it definitely isn’t, I learned from many websites of major New York City eye surgery practices.

Back on the phone with the ophthalmologist’s office. “Hi Darlene (not her real name).  It’s Geri Brin again. I’m the woman…” Before I finished identifying myself, she knew exactly who I was. I guess no one had ever questioned the need to have an EKG before.  

“I’ve read that none of the major laser cataract centers in New York require a CBC,” I announced.

“That’s what the surgery center said you need,” Darlene answered, “but you can call yourself and ask.”  After the EKG incident, I’d have thought Darlene would have wanted to call herself!

Sure enough, the center confirmed that routine cataract surgery doesn’t require a CBC either.

I called to tell Darlene the latest news. “Hi Darlene. A CBC isn’t necessary.  I’d recommend that you call the center to hear it yourself so you don’t tell patients they need this test, too.”

Moral of the story: I don’t care how much you love and trust your doctor—any kind of doctor—just make sure to double check everything you’re told.  We’re living in an age when doctors want to protect themselves from malpractice suits; plus, the more tests they order, the more they’re likely to be reimbursed by insurance companies.

Think about costs incurred by the thousands of patients of this one ophthalmologist who unnecessarily had EKGs and CBCs.  No wonder our healthcare system is broken.