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“Pharma” Advertising — It’s Everywhere, It’s Everywhere!

Soap BoxYup, it’s another Soap Box Day. But I can’t help it. This has to be said. I’m sick of pharmaceutical advertising. I can’t get away from it. It shows up in the most unlikely places, even on the bottom of my WordPress “stats” page. That’s right. At the bottom of my page there was an ad that read:  “Get a colonoscopy–Choose Well.”

REALLY?

Take a look below. Aurora Healthcare must have been on a tight budget. Just look at this guy. He’s reading the Sport’s page with a half smile on his face. Is he amused by what he’s reading?  I know he wouldn’t be smiling if he took the “prep.” Perhaps he thinks he’s doing a good thing by having this test, but he hasn’t got a clue of what’s coming. Or perhaps he has just eaten his last meal and preparing for the two-day fast  The ad doesn’t talk about the cramps and the hours of trotting to the bathroom to get ready for the doctor to probe his backside. And what it the be “IT” all about?  You have to agree — this is a pretty stupid ad.

Now, don’t get the wrong idea. I am not minimizing the importance of this procedure. I know from personal experience how important it is to have this test–I’ve had to have several of them. They may have saved me from colon cancer, but an ad? Geez.

I’m also uncomfortable with ads about erectile dysfunction, “and the ability to be ready when the time is right.”

Or how about the ads for products to get your going when you have constipation or stop you going when you have diarrhea. Yicks!

Isn’t anything private any more? Are pharma companies and medical facilities so incredibly greedy that they have to ADVERTISE this stuff?

After all when did it become vogue for everyone to play doctor beyond taking an aspirin for headache or a cough suppressant when you get a cold? The whole idea of this direct drug advertising has created a culture of people who believe taking a pill will solve anything! But not without the fine print. I’m sure you are as accustomed to the following pharmaceutical CYAs as I am.

“Until you know how this medicine will affect you, you shouldn’t drive or operate machinery.”

“Side effects may include next-day drowsiness, dizziness, headache, or irritability.”

What’s even more perplexing is these medical ads for private stuff are everywhere. On television, radio, magazines, newspapers and now apparently even on the WordPress.com website pages.  I wonder what moron genius placed this ad? I’d like to see the justification for that ad spend. Perhaps they think all bloggers are over 50?

No Credit for Credit Bureaus

Soap BoxI’ve climbed onto MY SOAP BOX for today’s post, so if you don’t want to read my rant opinion, stop reading right now.

Last night on 60 Minutes (one of my favorite television programs), there was a story about a woman who found an error on her credit report. (It was reported that there are over 40 Million mistakes in credit reporting.) Like a good, responsible person she took great care to keep her credit in good status. Like we are all instructed, she checked her report often. When she found an error, she took action right away and called the bureau to report the mistake. She followed their instructions to get the error corrected, and after several weeks, nothing was done. That’s right, NO ACTION was taken. And as the story goes, this is the norm, not the exception.

Most Americans know credit scores have become the most important number in their lives. It has become a barometer of personal responsibility and character, which is totally ridiculous.

But, nonetheless, this woman in the story pursued her quest to get the error on her report fixed. She  eventually fought for YEARS with no satisfaction. I kid you not–SHE FOUGHT FOR YEARS!  She proved to the credit bureau that another woman with a similar name was responsible for the trouble. The error was indeed an error, and yet, the credit bureau did nothing to rectify it. In fact, when she requested a copy of her report, it was different from what the lending institutions received!

The other part of the story is these matters are not handled  handled by employees in INDIA. Yup, that’s right. People completely on the other side of the world are expected to fix these American boo-boos. And they probably could take care of the problem, IF THEY WERE GIVEN THE AUTHORITY TO DO SO.

See the vortex?  See the fraud?

The credit bureaus have turned out to be real-life “Big Brothers” — and corrupt ones at that. They control our lives in a way that no other agency does. This one arbitrary number affects rates everything financial and more. It affects rates you can get on loans. It affects credit card rates. It’s taken into consideration when you apply for insurance. And recently, it even affects your ability to get a job!  In addition, most people don’t realize that cellphone and cable companies, as well as landlords use the scores as part of customer background checks. Believe it or not, one late payment can cost a person thousands of dollars over the following five to 10 years because credit card companies base interest rates on credit scores.

These credit agencies are worse than organized crime! A loan shark might break  your leg to get his due, but after he’s taken his pound of flesh, it’s done. I love this one comment that appeared on the CBS blog: “The credit rating agencies will symbolically break every bone in your body, harvest your organs for sale to the highest bidder, and leave your carcass to the vultures to be picked clean.”

What was the end result for the woman in the 60 Minutes story? She ended up SUING the credit bureau and settling for a large amount of money. I’m happy for her. She deserved whatever she was awarded. But here’s the logic behind the settlement: The credit bureau finds it easier to deal with the problem this way instead of just  fixing the error in the first place!

What I wanted to know is what genius  bean counter decided that ONE LITTLE NUMBER is the determinant that we are a good people?  Who sees such vivid black and white in our complex gray world?  What about people who have earned a good wage for a long time, paid their bills on time, and managed their credit responsibility for years, who have fallen victim to an economic downturn and unemployment and underemployment for the past several years?  Personally, I’ve watched my 700+ credit score plummet over the past three years. It’s disheartening to know that in the eyes of the credit world, I am just a step above a felon.

So, I’ve decided to join the apathetic millions who don’t concern themselves with this ONE NUMBER issued by these fraudulent agencies who are too lazy to fix mistakes for good people. It really doesn’t matter. I’ve fallen into this credit black hole and have little recourse to solve the dilemma. My choices are–to die or pay cash.

A Little Storm is BIG News

Oak Trees In the Snow at DawnToday I’ve been struggling for a suitable topic for my blog. Usually when my feet hit the floor in the morning, I have some inspiration, but when I rose today, my head was only filled with thoughts of my mundane chores of feeding the critters and making coffee.

When I hit a dry spell, I turn to the Internet to spark my imagination. But this morning, I found no sparks to light my fire. The only option left is to I talk about the weather.

Today we’re bracing for a  BIG storm of four to eight inches of the white stuff . For any native Wisconsinite, this is just a winter hiccup. Anything less than eight inches is hardy a concern. But not according to the news media. In their eyes, everybody should rush to the grocery store for provisions to hunker down and wait out the blizzard.

Four to Eight inches! In Wisconsin! Come on!

When I turned on the television this morning reporters were stationed around the five-county area to report on the situation. (I don’t recall it even snowing in any one of the reports.) One reporter picked up a handful of snow that was evidently on the ground from a previous storm and showed how it was wet enough to make a decent snowball. Then there were stories about the readiness of the snow-plowing equipment and the abundance of salt to spread on the icy roads. They turned  a usual thirty- minute broadcast into a twenty-minute weather report, the rest of the news is squeezed into five measly minutes, and the sport’s report is lucky to get one minute of air time. (I know. I know. This doesn’t add up to 30 minutes, but don’t forget we have to have commercials to pay for this nonsense!)

Honestly. I laughed out loud!

Then I got angry. Why does the news media seem to be dedicated to scare everybody? No wonder we live in a culture of fearful people. Blowing such a minor storm out of proportion is a perfect example of how “news” promotes fear at all cost. I’m sick of this ridiculous reporting.  Come on, people! Get some perspective!

The only thing the television station proved was they have enough talented reporters to make a story out of NOTHING!

 

When Coffee Gets Cold, The World is a Dark Place

woman, computer and coffeeI’m a coffee drinker–a hard-core, black as it gets coffee drinker. I’m not a “coffee snob” who insists on the finest blends at the swankiest coffee houses. I’m just a person who loves the rich aroma and warmth of a hardy blend. The only thing I insist on is I be allowed to drink my brew in a mug–not one of those paper cups with the cardboard finger protector wrapped around it. How uncivilized!

Even though coffee stains my teeth, promotes bad breath, and gives me the shakes when I drink too much, I must have it. You see, it’s the fuel that powers me every morning. It turns the key in my ignition. It’s the spark that lights my fire! Well, you get it, right?

Even on hot summer days, which are a welcomed thought when temps are frigid as they have been for the past week, I have to have my morning cup (or two). I can’t think of anything more pleasant than reading a good book on my patio under an colorful umbrella with a full mug of the brew.

Now that I’m writing full-time, I believe my cup of coffee is the one thing that signals the beginning of a new day. When I’m writing, I lose track of time, forget what day it is, and usually stay in my jammies until noon. But with coffee in my favorite mug, I’ve got the world by the tail. I’m ready for whatever the day brings. . . that is, until the brew turns cold.

My coffee turning cold is the biggest hardship of this career. As I focus and create my lines, my brew sits abandoned. In revolt, of me neglecting it, the hot brew turns into iced as a punishment for my neglect.

I’ve tried an electric cup heater thingy, but all that does is make the coffee muddy and bitter. Yuck! I’ve tried putting it in a carafe, but it does not stay hot for long periods of time. The best solution for keeping  my cup of inspiration hot has been my husband, who asks me several times a morning if I could use a warm up.

My practical side assures me writing is like all jobs; there will be a part of it I don’t like and would rather not do. Having my coffee turn into an iced beverage before my eyes is the drawback of focusing, like all writers must. I lose time as I transport myself to other surroundings and time periods, I guess I can’t expect my coffee to wait for me as I do my exploring., but if somebody could come up with a device to let my coffee transport with me, he or she would be a millionaire.

Until then,  ‘ll just have to grin and gulp it. It seems to be the only answer.

 

WARNING! There’s a “Hugger” the Loose!

hugsI’m a “hugger.” Yeah, I’m one of those gregarious nuts who reaches out and hugs people. Whether I’m saying “hello” or “goodbye,” if you’re in my world, you’ll probably get a hug from me. You see, I have this belief most of us suffer from “hug deprivation.”  Think about it. During the day, don’t you touch a machine more than any other human, right?

I’ve made hugging is my personal quest.

I attribute this trait from  my Italian heritage. When I was a child, I was expected to greet my aunts and uncles with a kiss and a hug when we entered their homes; we had to repeat the process when we left. It didn’t kill us. We didn’t think anything about it. It was normal. Our family greeting was a sign of love and respect. And if you didn’t do it the minute you stepped foot in an elder’s home, you’d get a clip on the back of the head with a parent asking, “Hey! You forgot something!”

Hugging is more than a gesture of greeting, though. It’s a human need. Our skin is our antennae that “feels” the world. We feel love through hugging. We feel acceptance through hugging. Even good chemicals that save us from heart disease are released when we hug each other. We NEED HUGS. And I’m not just talking through my liberal, touchy-feelly self, either. If you don’t believe me, take a look at all the studies out on the Internet. (And we all know that everything on the Internet is true.)

But seriously, this simple act of hugging has physical and emotional healing power. Here’s a list I edited from Kathleen Keating “Hug Therapy”:


– it feels good; it’s natural–even organic!
– it cures loneliness and depression
– it overcomes fear
– it opens doors to feelings
– builds self-esteem (WOW, SHE actually hugged me!)
– fosters altruism (I can’t believe it but I actually want to hug that old son-of-a-gun!)
– slows down aging (huggers stay younger longer)
– helps curb appetite (We eat less when we are nourished by hugs and when our arms are busy wrapped around others we can’t pick up a fork.)
– eases tension
– provides stretching exercise (if you are short)
– provides stooping exercise (if you are tall)
– it strengthens your immune system
– offers a healthy, safe alternative to alcohol and other drug abuse (better hugs than drugs!)
– affirms physical being and a connection with another human being

That’s a pretty long list, wouldn’t you say?

If you’re not a hugger, give it a try. Get comfortable reaching out to others. It’s been my experience if you hug a person who isn’t used to the activity, the next time you’re together, they will initiate the hug.  If they are a hard-core, non-hugger, it may take more than one hug to get the ball rolling. But it will be worth the effort for both of you.

 

Gray Days are Good for Something

gray winter dayI hate Winter. It’s full of highs and lows; worst of all, it’s full of  slippery roads and sidewalks, not to mention its extremely long, dark days.

On top of that, January means it’s time to take down the Christmas decorations. I told myself I had to leave them up until Ken’s parents came up from Chicago . . . but that was just an excuse. They came during the day, so there was no good reason for me to leave the lights up that long.

Today, I’m mourning having to put away the inside Christmas decorations. This is when I cry. I know that after the colored lights, ornaments and garland is packed away until next December, it will look plain and dull in my living room. I feel like something beautiful has died.

From now until April, I”ll endure the doldrums of winter. The cold makes it necessary to bundle in layers every time I leave the house. The snow makes a mess of the roads and travel treacherous. Oh sure, the white blanket on the ground and the ice that makes the trees looks like Waterford crystal is pretty–but wait. Mother Nature’s a cagey one. She  lulls us into a state of wonder . . . and then Wham! Reality strikes. Lift that shovel! Try to balance on that ice! And in a few days, put up with a dirty residue that makes everything sooty and disgusting.

In my opinion, Winter is just for children. I remember days when I’d play with the neighborhood kids, having snowball fights, building snowmen and sliding down hills on sleds. And then of course, Winter is also for those grown-up children who enjoy scooting from bar to bar on their snowmobiles. There are still others who look forward to taking their lives in their hands as they tear down the slopes on two skinny skis.  But for the rest of us, the gray days of the winter months we must endure.

Because I’m a born optimist, I always try to find a glimmer of light in every situation, so I know I will use these dull, quiet, gray days to write.  In fact, today, I’m trying out Dianne Gray’s technique for fleshing out a character by having a friend interview “Stephania”  to see what I don’t know about her. It’s a positive step to fill in the blanks to make her character more interesting.

If I don’t uncover any deep secrets Stephania has been hiding from me, spending time with a friend is always a great way to spend a gray Winter day.

Words, Words and More Words–What is Really Being Said?

Shut upOne of the young bloggers I follow is a college student named Amelia. She suffers from Cerebral Palsy, but the girl has it going on. Like so many other people I’ve met through the blogging world, she’s amazing.

This morning I read one of her posts and found it almost poetic. It was about words. Here’s the link if you want to give it a read. It truly is brilliant. Go ahead and read it: http://lifeintheblueridges.wordpress.com/2012/11/29/reflecting-on-words/#comment-4636.   I’ll be here when you’re done.

Oh good, you’re back . . .

Amelia’s post got me to thinking about how many times in my day I even think about words.  Okay, okay, I think plenty about words when the “right” word is on the tip of my tongue, and I can’t spit it out into my manuscript.  So, for all the writers out there who are struggling with finding the “right” word, you are exempt from thinking about words because I know you’re exhausted. For everybody else, ‘fess up! Do we even give the words we speak a second thought?

In our hurried world, I don’t think so. Consider the sports casters who fill air-time with constant gibberish. Or how they babble prophecy about things that haven’t happened yet.  Or how about reporters standing outside in nasty weather and are telling us how terrible it is?  Or Congressmen and Senators on Face the Nation  and other programs like it, who “talk over each other” and rarely say anything?

Do you see what I mean? I truly believe people have become so accustomed to this constant blathering, they don’t know how to shut-up and words have become white noise. We must stop. These essential communication tools shouldn’t suffer this fate. We can’t let words lose their punch because we use too many of them.

Think before speaking. Rewrite what is written. Maintain word integrity.  Words praise. Words compliment. Words express love. And they spew hate.  They’re soothing, but vicious They build up; they tear down. They hurt. They heal. They wound and destroy. They guide our head and hearts. We can’t let over use dilute them.

Think about what Shakespeare said: When words are scarce they are seldom spent in vain.

I’ll shut up now.

Giving is Forever

Santa and childrenI can remember when I was a child WAITING for the night that Santa Claus would bring me the gift that I had been dreaming about all year — or at least since my birthday in July. Yes, it was a magical time for a little girl. A time that all children should have a chance to experience. Even the fact that Santa NEVER brought me a Lionel train set could be overlooked because he did bring me ice skates.

The sad fact is, this miracle of an elf coming in the night to shower presents on eager children with big dreams isn’t worldwide. There are children who go to bed hungry on Christmas Eve and most of us don’t even give them a second thought. There are poor children living on our city streets with their mothers, who would just be thankful for one safe night in a warm comfy bed. Other children wish for enough food to fill their extended tummies. Orphanages are filled with children who just wish someone would love them. In still other places, girls dream to have an education.  Wouldn’t it be great if the Jolly Ol’ Elf could grant these children their Christmas wishes?

I’m always excited when God touches the lives of people who are like Santa. Like Oprah who started a school in Africa, like Bono who contributes to 32 charities to fight poverty and hunger. Angelina Jolie is the Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR. She and Brad Pitt also founded the Jolie-Pitt Foundation to fight poverty in rural areas. Then there’s George Clooney who made the world open its eyes to the genocide going on in Darfur. This list of Celebrity Santas goes on, too. Bill and Melinda Gates have created a foundation to enhance healthcare and reduce extreme poverty worldwide, while in America, it expands educational opportunities and access to information technology.  Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Ellen DeGeneres, Scarlett Johnansson, Justin Timerlake and many others. They all have given their famous names and a lot of their money to make the world better.

So, what can we do? After all most of us don’t have enough money to do such grandiose gestures. How can we make a difference?

It’s easy. Let God touch your heart and find out. Then listen and wait. Before too long, you’ll feel a tug at your heart that won’t leave you alone. Don’t ignore it because this is what you’ve been waiting for. It’s your way to be Santa any time of the year.

When the Unthinkable Invades a Neighborhood

parents and childrenWhen you’re a child, if you’re lucky, you have parents who protect and love you. Your only job is to be obedient and succeed at school. The downside of being a child for me was I was told how to do everything. I wasn’t even in charge of my own feelings. When I was proud of an accomplishment, I was told not to “get a big head.” When I was sad, I was told I had nothing be be sad about. My mother told me how I should be feeling instead of how I truly felt.

As I remember this about my childhood, I sincerely hope the parents in Connecticut, who are lucky enough to have surviving children, after the horrendous shooting in an elementary school, are wiser than my parents were. I hope they will listen to their children. They can’t FIX anything right now. All they can do is care and listen. No one can fathom what these kids suffered after the madness swept into their safe school. No one can understand why a 20 year old child would go into their school with guns blazing. How does a child recover from such an unthinkable act?

Nobody has a manual which teaches parents how to help their children through such a meaningless assault. Many of these children are too young to verbalize their fears; they may act out in ways their parents don’t understand; they may even start wetting the bed again.

My heart breaks for all of them. I am ashamed I live in such a gun-crazy society where these insane event have become common place. No, I am not going to rant about guns, I’m too sad to do that just now. But I believe this violence has got to stop. This cruel act is the summit of a society gone wrong, where mentally ill people can get guns and take innocent lives.

The only thing that will bring this community through this unthinkable loss is love and listening. I think that’s why God gave us two ears and only one mouth. And after the media hype is over, the rest of us need to start LISTENING to each other and put the guns down.

 

 

Know Any “Nice Guys?”

working togetherHave you ever wondered why people believe that “Nice Guys Finish Last?” I know I have. Today, it’s almost a prerequisite  a person must be a crook or a psychopath to be successful.  Maybe not a clinical psychopath, but at least a person who has no trouble laying people off before Christmas. These people would rather sell their soul to the devil than to ever fail.

Do we really relish these people destined to end up on the “American Greed” television program? Do we want to know about people who cheat and steal? Perhaps we feel vindicated when a bad guy gets what he or she deserves. But it baffles me why selfish, mean bastards always seem to end up on the top of the world, able to enjoy all of the wonderful things money can buy.

I think Nice Guys “finish last” because they don’t CARE about finishing FIRST. They’re too busy working to worry about the news media. They don’t need publicity to do what is right. They have a special gene which dictates they must make things better, make people feel good about themselves, and make the world a better place.  They don’t get angry, they get to work. They treat others fairly. They are tough in all the right ways. They care about their communities and don’t need the notoriety. Most nice guys I know would rather work quietly behind the scenes, instead of standing in the spotlight.

I liked nice guys. They’re strong people with principles. They’re genuine and caring. You don’t have to guess what they’re thinking; they will gladly tell you. They don’t let petty injustices get the best of them. They have courage to do what is right. They get up everyday, work hard and win the respect of those around them. They are the heroes of the world.

Oh, and one more thing — nice guys aren’t always male.