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Let’s Be Honest


When is the last time someone asked you how you were doing? I’ll wager it wasn’t that long ago. Most of us have friends, family members, coworkers, and even acquaintances who’ll ask that question often. The harder question might be… when was the last time you responded honestly?

After a late-night chat with an old friend, I posed this question on my personal Facebook page… When was the last time you honestly told someone how you are doing?

I had asked my friend how she was doing. Not much uncommon in that. Most of us ask the question often, offhandedly with good intent but don’t typically get more than a canned response to it. This time though the answer was rare, raw and honest. She let the flood gates open, pouring out the truth of how she really was doing.

It hurt to hear. But, her honesty allowed me to be there when she’d been alone and in crisis for months. Even now I think of that conversation and wonder how long it had been since she let go, let herself be truly honest.

So, I pose the same question to you – dear reader. When was the last time you answered this question honestly or were there to hear someone when they did?

This world is a place of great gifts, of wonder and joy. It will also push us to our limits, even break us. But, if we allow, it can also open the doors to our shared humanity. How do we tap into that?

Be open. Be willing to speak your truth and listen to the longing for connection in others. We have all been given a spark of empathy and a boundless capacity to care for one another.

The point to this post? Ask the question and be there to hear the answer. Know that if you’re being asked how you’re doing, that person doing the asking cared enough to ask and values you enough to listen.



Health Is A Human Right

What comes to your mind when you hear someone talk about human rights? Food, education, safety, freedom of expression, the ability to pursue happiness these are things most of us can agree are, or should be, the right of every human. But what are we missing there? Heath. Is health a human right too? 

It’s been a little over five years since I retired most of my packing cubes leaving the travel writing gig on a back burner to take a position as the director of a functional medicine practice. I jumped in heart-first with the bulk of my medical experience limited to being a patient, parent, and caregiver. I’ve learned so much in such a short time and one of the most heart-wrenching lessons learned was that here, in the United States, the system leaves many behind. 

It is with that knowledge in hand that I’ve partnered with Providence Saint Joseph’s to continue to share stories, news, statistics and the faces of Medicaid.  What I hope we all get out of this post (and previous ones) is the understanding that yes… health IS a human right.

So, who or what is Providence Saint Joseph Health? Yes, they are a healthcare organization but their mission reaches far beyond the number of beds in hospitals. In the last year or two, I’ve learned so much from the work they do. I have seen the impact of that work through the people I’ve met who have honored me with allowing me to tell their stories. 

At Providence St. Joseph Health, our mission calls us to be agents of radical change for health. We’re to be a source of healing love and a beacon of hope … in the world, within each of the communities we serve, and for every person we encounter – especially those who are among the most poor and vulnerable in our society due to social conditions…”

Many of us understand that Medicaid is a government program that assists the disabled and those with low-incomes to obtain medical care. But that is a one-dimensional understanding. Veterans, children in foster care, senior citizens, those with complicated medical needs, and even expectant mothers are covered by this program. Medicaid also serves those seeking help with mental health issues that often aren’t covered by private insurance. The program plays a key role in helping to battle the opioid crisis as well. I firmly believe that understanding is the bedrock of change.

The stories below are those of real people, beneficiaries of Medicaid;  

Twenty-three years ago, a boy in Alaska was born 10 weeks early to parents who could not afford his care without Medicaid. Today, he’s a bright young teacher ready to change the world.

In California, Medicaid helps sustain the daughter of a public relations executive. Born with a rare (1,000 in the world) condition, this bright young girl requires care at a cost that eclipses the means of her two professional parents.

A young man in New Mexico manages depression and addiction through the help of Medicaid and is now on the path to rebuilding his life.

A hard-working Montana couple found themselves both facing challenging times between jobs and relied on Medicaid to help get back on their feet.

As a social media expert in Oregon searched for a new job, she needed Medicaid to help her successfully manage her Type II diabetes.

After learning her husband had dementia, a heart-broken spouse in Texas relied on Medicaid to provide him the skilled nursing home care he needed before he passed away.

An energetic 50-year-old woman in Washington experienced a catastrophic stroke, and, since her commercial insurance ran out, Medicaid has been a lifeline to help rebuild her life.

You may know someone who has a child with a rare, complex medical condition. I do. My younger brother needed life-support equipment as an infant. Equipment my young parents – a college student in grad school and a waitress- couldn’t afford it on their own. 

Maybe someone in your neighborhood lost their job and is struggling to make ends meet. This happened to my family in the 80s when the state of California went bankrupt and my dad lost his job. 

I volunteer to help fellow veterans on a regular basis who, despite having served their country, did not qualify for VA healthcare. Many have no private insurance. 

These are our stories. They highlight our commonality and reflect our own humanity. Could you shake hands with any of them and not agree that their health is important and not something they should have to choose over things like food, education, safety or even happiness? 

When we understand what it is that Medicaid means for so many, then we can take up the cause. We can be the change we want to see in the world by helping others understand and then reaching out to our leaders to make sure they know that Health is a human right. 

Want to learn more? Visit the Provident Saint Joesph’s website to get to know the faces of Medicaid .

This post is part of a paid partnership with Provent Saint Joseph’s Health. It is a topic I am passionate about and that I feel we all need to understand. If you have questioned their website is an excellent resource as is your state’s own Medicaid website.


It’s Okay to Overcook the Turkey

thanksgiving

This is a classic post from a bygone era. One where I used to post daily… sigh. Last night, as I sat with a warm dog on my lap and a snoring teen on the sofa next to me, a blinking cursor mocking me, I just couldn’t find words to write. That brought me to my blog archives looking for inspiration to break this writer’s block. I found this post and even years later it still holds so true. I hope you’ll find some inspiration or at the very least a message that it is STILL okay to overcook the turkey. 

 

Hands down, Thanksgiving is my husband’s favorite holiday. Why wouldn’t it be?  Let’s do the math.

Meat + Potatoes + Football x Pie {nap} = bliss (repeat) <— this is a formula for man holiday awesome

Me? I’m not the biggest fan. Why?

In my world Thanksgiving means weeks of planning, days of cooking, decorating, stressing and a history of storied foremothers to live up to. All of this for 20 minutes of pigging out, followed by an immediate dispersal to the sofa for the ensuing tryptophan coma.

Or am I missing something here?

Last night we got a call from my Mother-in-law. My husband’s Uncle passed away. He was elderly, but that didn’t really lessen the blow. It seems that this week is a favored time of year for fate welcome members of my family to their seats at the grownups table in the sky.

This got me thinking about my complicated relationship with this holiday.

My mom is the queen of the holidays. Before there was a Martha Stewart, there was my mom… with a tenth of the budget and a million times more personality.

Mom grew up with little to no family to speak of, bounced around from home to home, until she landed with the aunt and uncle who raised her. I think creating a Rockwellian holiday for her kids was her way of filling the need that no one ever took care of for her. I really was lucky to have that growing up.

That said, those perfect holiday decorations, meals and themes, sure are hard to recreate. Trust me, I’ve spent many years trying to. So many, I think I’ve missed out of much of the joy I could have been having with my family.

The funny thing is, as perfect as mom’s Thanksgivings were, my favorite parts were the odd things, the imperfections. The folklore of my family, the part that matters most to me are the things like…

My mom being famous for her strays. Where some people might a leave little turkey out for the neighborhood alley cats, her turkey always attracted the extra person to the table. I couldn’t tell you the name of many of them, where they came from or where they are now. They came, they ate, they left.

The year mom got so uptight dad couldn’t take it anymore so he let her have it in the face with a scoop of mashed potatoes (I’m sure I remember this wrong, but it’s how I recall it). The ensuing food fight was epic.

The other fights, those too are part of the tradition. One of my brothers is notoriously cantankerous, and it isn’t a holiday until he reminds us all of that. I’m usually the one who takes that bait, being a bit overly dramatic myself. Once the tension breaks, it’s like the best spa day ever.

Dad always does something wrong. I don’t think he even tries to fight it anymore. In fact, I suspect he secretly plots a new way to piss mom off every year. Most of us secretly root for dad, though we all know mom will win in the end.

Family is such a complicated thing, and I certainly can attest to that with my family.  You love them, even when you have a hard time reconciling all of your other feelings for them.  Sometimes our thankfulness for family comes in the form of thanks for showing us how we don’t want to do things. Sometimes it is a gratefulness for them allowing us the room to have our own imperfections.

This Thanksgiving I won’t be pressing linens, shining glassware or insisting that everyone dress for dinner. I might even opt for paper plates to make cleaning up easier. I give even myself permission to over-cook the turkey, just like mom does… and be completely okay with that.

In lovingmemory of Aunt Donna and her doll houses, Uncle Bill and the first time I ever learned about Cambodia, Aunt Paula and her sweet potato casserole, Aunt Carrol and Tryon Peake, Zio Serafino and fresh zeppole with honey

Giving Back: Verizon Military Mom

Giving back is something most of us can agree is an important part of living a fulfilling life. From the simplest gestures of kindness to monumental acts of gratitude our shared humanity grows richer and more meaningful. That meaning is why I’m proudly partnering with Verizon for the third year to show thanks through their Verizon Military Mom program.

I can still remember stepping off the CatB flight and onto the tarmac in Rota, Spain. I was 19. It was hot and humid even though the sun was near setting.

This was the first time I’d been so far from home and there wasn’t exactly a welcoming party waiting as I walked into the nearly empty terminal. All I wanted to do was turn tail and head home to my mom. I’d never doubted my choice to join the Navy… until that moment. What I wouldn’t have given to be able to pull out a cell phone and call my mommy. But, it was the early 90’s and cell phones were still just a Star Trek fantasy.

Over the course of my time in the Navy letters and rare phone calls, care packages and VHS tapes from home got me through. Most days we were too busy to think too much about home, but home was always there thinking about us. What military moms do is truly a special thing. It ripples through the relationships of those we hold dear and those who serve beside us.

Flash forward a few decades and my eldest son would be the one to serve on foreign soil. He’d get there not by plane but onboard a ship as a member of a Marine Corps wing unit. I was a wreck even though – or maybe because I knew- what he’d be doing. Six months or more at sea and in other countries was almost more than this momma’s heart could take… but I’m a Military Mom. I am part of a long line of strong women who support those who serve. Plus I technology has my six.

While he was deployed our Verizon connection paired with our smartphones (I’ve bought the man-child no less than four phones since he joined the corps) kept us connected in a way my mother never had. I can’t imagine how hard it must have been for her!

We texted photos and pictures using the Whats App. He recorded videos for me and I’d get huge “dumps” of them when he’d get somewhere that had wifi. I’d even follow along using news alerts setup to see where his carrier group was. The highlight of his tour for me was “going” to Sydney, Australia with him. I got to see so much of the world because we were connected. I also got to see gorgeous views of Sydney harbor from the hotel room he got just so he could sleep in a normal bed on shore leave!

On that deployment, he also went through one of the hardest things those who serve face. He lost Marines from his unit. It was heart-wrenching as a mom to know he was going through this. As a veteran I felt it even deeper as those men were my shipmates too – we may have served in different eras but we are all part of the same family. To be able to be there for him, on a call, via text, in a video I could record and send him, was priceless.

This month Verizon is saluting and giving back to moms like me, moms who do so much more than I do, for our service to those who serve. They recently honored 15 military moms with $1,000 shopping sprees to get technology that will help keep them connected to their loved ones and their extended military families.

One truth I left my military service knowing was that not one single person, in any branch of the military, serves alone. Our loved ones, friends, families and our military moms serve along side us. A huge thank you goes out to every single mom out there that gives so much so that we may all have what we do. And to the team at Verizon, thank you for recognizing the service and strength of these women!

Plan Your Next Trip with Instagram

Instagram Travel Planning Instagram has always been great for making mouths water. It’s a great place to daydream about far off places too. But can you use it for Instagram travel planning? Yes! Here is how I’m using it to plan our trip to Iceland. 

Instagram Travel Planning

Step One – Follow the Right Folk

There seem to be nearly as many junk accounts on Instagram as there are stars in the sky. Look out for perfectly shot photos that are so amazing they’d easily be found in the top travel magazines. That’s not to say that there aren’t completely legitimate Instagram accounts out there that take amazing photos, but just to keep an eye out. If a “gramer” posts that they’re lounging in the crystal blue seas of Tahiti one day and two days later they say scaling Machu Picchu, it’s a safe bet they aren’t actually doing those things and may not be the best resource for your Instagram travel planning.

Quality accounts that are actually the resource you’re looking for usually are also great story tellers. That personal connection to the photo and the story that goes along with it is why I follow these types of accounts and also why I find them the best resources for using Instagram to plan trips.

One of my favorites – both for his photos, stories, and honest take – is Matt Long of @landlopers

 

As the owner of three Siberian Huskies it’s always with mixed feelings that I approach dog sled experiences. On the one hand I love being around dogs almost more than anything else but part of me worries about whether or not the experience is an ethical one. With dog sledding the only real way to know is by visiting and almost right away I knew that Valentijne Beets’ company Bear Hill Husky was the real deal – no one cares THAT much about their dogs if they don’t treat them well. Located right outside of Roveniemi, Bear Hill has dozens of Alaskan Huskies in their kennel and it was 5 of these hard working dogs that took me out into the chilly woods of Finnish Lapland today. I love dog sledding because of how quiet it is. Mushing through the snow, the dogs clearly love running more than anything else and the only noise is their fierce panting. It’s a beautiful way to be a part of nature without loud motors or anything else around. It’s also one of the best ways to experience the amazing landscapes in northern Finland without leaving a trace. #nbeFinland

A photo posted by Matt Long (@landlopers) on

 

 Accounts that curate content from others, I’m on the fence about. These accounts tend to be fairly high up in searches because they get tons of likes and interaction. Who doesn’t like to  be featured? It’s awesome. Why they aren’t my favorite though is the lack of story. Often it’s just the where and who of the photo. You can always track back to the original post and draw inspiration and information from there. 

Step Two – Hashtag Searches

Yep, this is the most obvious place to start. Search for the place you’re planning to visit. Not all of what comes up in that search is going to be what you’re looking for. Um, bikini-clad babes standing in the middle of a fjord don’t really help much. There will be some good stuff in there though. Keep a list of things that spark your interest.

Narrow your search with hashtags for the cities you’d like to visit. This is a great way to find unique things off the beaten path as well as get a feel for how crowded {in my book that’s the measure of whether it’s worth it or not} popular places may be. 

 

#ship in the #frozen #fjord at #Akureyri #iceland. My first post with @ambercharrison

A photo posted by keV (@macrotech2) on


Step Three – Click on the Location

Next to whom you follow this is one of the best tools for Instagram travel planning. Actually, it may be even more important because the results you’ll be getting will span a spectrum of experiences.

For example one of our favorite places to eat in Washington, D.C. is Le Diplomate. When you click on the location in this photo I took of the world’s most amazing profiteroles, you can see where the restaurant is located on the map Instagram provides. Say your goal is to stay as close to those profiteroles as possible, you can plan your stay in that area.

 

Great way to end a lovely meal. Profiteroles, cafe Vietnamese, and my guy at @lediplomatedc

A photo posted by Lara DiPaola (@dipaolamomma) on

Some locations listed are simply the cities. Which is great too! We’re pretty familiar with New York City, my husband being a native. That said, it’s a BIG place… big apple if you will. A city that is always changing, adding new things to experience.  

I found one of our more unique stays through Instagram – the Hotel Bellclaire where Mark Twain once lived. It’s off the beaten path in a great residential area that’s a short walk to Central Park and pretty much across the street from the Beacon Theater.

Step Four – Stalk Brands

Airlines, hotels, attractions and even your favorite luggage brands are almost all on Instagram. Why should you follow them, they rarely follow back? One word – SAVE. Many of these brands will post information on discounts, special offers, flash sales and from-time-to time even offer exclusive deals to their followers on Instagram.

So when you start planning your next getaway look beyond the booking sites and tip websites, dig in and start Instagram travel planning.