Wednesday, September 28, 2011

"Why I Used To Hate English, Or How I've Become a Bird in Words Flying Mighty High!!"

By Bethzaida Rivas

I can’t tell you the specific moment I started to hate English, but it might have been the third grade, when I had this really mean teacher named Ms. Pet-tra-zel-li. I don’t think I’m spelling it correctly, but I still remember how to pronounce her name after all these years. Why? because the way she taught English was just Petrifying.

She always gave us a list of vocabulary words and made us look for the vocabulary words in the dictionary, which I never understood. That’s why they invented the dictionary, right? We would sit in our dull, depressing classroom and look up all twenty words that laid before us on our sheets and write definitions in our notebook.

Sounds like an easy task, but it wasn’t and I often dreamed about lunch coming and rescuing me from my misery. So when we wrote the definition down we had to put the definition into a sentence. Doing this part of the task upset me very much. I never could put the stupid word into a sentence correctly and this always annoyed me. How was I supposed to do this if I didn’t know how to pronounce half these long, pointless words and I never knew if I used the stupid word correctly to begin with? The thing that really annoyed me the most was it had to be the definition that dear Ms. Pet-tra-zel-li had in her notebook and not the definition you had. So if the two did not match up, Game Over for you and you had to do the walk of shame and misery all the way back to your wooden seat. This pointless and endless process went on for about three days, no not really, more like the entire school year.

As I started to move forward during my elementary days I started to dread English more and more. When I approached fourth grade, fifth, and so on, every teacher I had emphasized the importance of writing book reports and pointless essays about your life story etc. I remember this one time I read the book The Titanic and instead of writing a book report I ended up writing a ten page summary of the book. The stupid teacher Ms. Tell (her name really was Ms. Tell, I promise this is the whole truth and nothing but the truth.) But anyways she couldn’t read past the second page because her square, pale face and small, ugly eyes didn’t allow her to.

Don’t get me wrong, teachers always told me I had the ability to turn a piece of writing what was dull, lifeless, and uninteresting into a work of art. I did enjoy writing and when I felt like it. But I never liked writing when I was forced to produce work because there was never any fun in that. As I started to approach high school I just didn’t care about the writing process anymore. There were too many rules, structures, and formats to follow when it came time to writing Document Based Essays, Thematic Essays, and so on. I never could remember all the rules and definitions for when it was appropriate to use semi-colons, dashes, and all those other fancy punctuation.

I never understood why I couldn’t write the way I spoke and in plain English. If I wanted to write a run-on sentence or a sentence fragment that was my problem not anyone else’s. When I approached high school my English skills were horrendous, or so they said. Every time a teacher assigned me an essay, it was like teaching a dolphin how to sing opera. I swear I had writer’s block or a mental impairment that kept words from being processed in my mind. To start an introductory paragraph took me hours and when it was done all I had to show was five long sentences that barely took up half a page.

As my high school career progressed I had to remember and identify a whole new set of terms and definitions just so I could read and analyze long boring stories. I never got an A on any English essays I composed and I always felt like my writing skills were inferior to those of my peers. Even when I graduated valedictorian I had to write a graduation speech and the process was long, painful, and unbearable.

When I handed my English teacher the results after so many trial and error experiments I thought it was horrible, and lacked emotion. Curiously she thought my speech was the best piece I had written thus far.

But now that I’m a freshman in college I do have to say that I think I have rediscovered my passion for writing again. Since I have to use journals a lot in my English class, writing is starting to grow upon me now. Everywhere I go I have this urge to write down my thoughts and feelings. Recently, class was cancelled and suddenly I had this urge to write in my journal -- I ended up writing four pages!!

I enjoy going to my English class and I actually enjoy writing essays, well not essays on books so much. (Last week we had to write an essay on a book called Flight by Sherman Alexie -- you know, the kind with a thesis and quotes to support your claims.)

That wasn't fun. But I like writing essays with interesting prompts and stories. I like to write these personal essays that require you to use your imagination. In other words, I love to BLAB on and on about myself.

I have always disliked English for the simple fact that you have to write in a structured way and you have to remember so many rules and complex terms.

I like to write the way that I think and feel without any lines, borders, or rules to follow. I like my writing to be free from judgment, ridicule, and red marks written all over my paper by a mean teacher.

English once cast me to the abyss of the earth, but now it shines its ray upon me like I'm a bird flying mighty high.

Bethzaida Rivas is a freshman at the University at Albany, State University of New York, where she hopes to major in criminal justice. Born and raised in the Bronx, she is the first of five siblings to attend college. She was valedictorian of her high school class. Her dream is to join the Marines and become a General one day.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

In The Belly of the Beast, Eluding Cops in Central Park!!

By Xavier Castillo

Moving swiftly through branches and bushes, it feels like I’m in a forest full of creatures that are eager to eat me alive. Wait, that’s exactly where I am, I slap myself repeatedly to keep the mosquitos from sucking all the blood from my skin. How did I get myself into this?

We all agree that if we see the cops, we will run in different directions -- if you get caught then you get caught. All that is running through my mind is I don’t want to get arrested tonight. Trespassing is a serious offense, but I am just trying to get home.

Ducking into the shadows every time a car light flashes by, footsteps have never been as loud as this, neither has my heart beat.

“Looks like we’re going to make it across," I say relieved. Just then a cop car pulls up behind us.

Is there anything more beautiful than a day spent with friends?


This is the last time we will get to hang out before we all go our ways and leave to college. The streets of upper Manhattan let out an aroma of concrete, pizza and basketball. The east side is busy with couples walking their dogs and children on bikes in the humidity, the summer time. I get to my good friends Danielle’s house at 6pm and some of my other good friends are there too. We all drink soda like its alcohol and we’re a miserable husband on a Monday evening.

It is particularly hot this day, not a good day for running, or any movement of any kind for that matter. But we don’t care; we start to play Dance Central on Xbox in the midst of all the laughter. The girls do their thing, boys retaliate. It is the funniest thing to ever happen, but we are not laughing because it is actually funny, it is a mix of nervous laughter and sad laughter.

Truth is we don’t know what the future will hold for us, and if we could ever survive without each other. Of course pizza is plentiful, it's summer.

The sun settles down and so do we, it’s been a great time. My best friends Josue and Irving are by my side as well as my other friends gathered around the couch. Soon we realize that we have lost track of time, it's 4 a.m. and we’re all tired. The three of us leave.

Our conclusion is that the buses aren’t coming anymore and it would take hours for a train to come. We were so tired.

That's when the idea comes, “Let’s walk through Central Park, back to the west side.” The idea freaks me out; I knew it is very much illegal.

We do it anyway.

Paranoid, we all walk as quickly as possible. Hearing footsteps must be normal when you’re a bit scared. We are terrified actually, but we’re all guys so we’ll never admit it. We all decide to run at the sight of cops, but the ironic thing is, to cross to the west side we have to pass a police precinct inside the park. We stop in front of it trying to decide what to do. We do it anyway. Now we’re walking quicker than we were before, there are rows of empty police cars and trucks parked on either side of the long path; we are in the belly of the beast. Not a sound has been made, “This is too easy.” I say. Just then a police car pulls up behind us, and drives past us slowly.

Up ahead there is a police truck pulling up in front of us. We play it cool. We know that there is no running now, we pretend to look casual. Sure we’re just a couple of kids taking a nice stroll in Central Park at four in the morning, no big deal. A cop gets out of the truck and starts to walk towards us. My heart is racing. All I think about is how mad my mother would be if I get arrested tonight, my heart beats faster. The cop looks us up and down, and then walks past us. Further up, another police officer did the same thing. Maybe they think that no teens would be stupid enough to walk around the park at night so perhaps we are supposed to be there? Either way we we’re free, the next left turn is the west side, our destination.

We make it without having something insane or dangerous happen, but I’m just glad to have spent the day with these idiots. I call them my friends.

Writer Xavier Castillo is a freshman at the University at Albany, State University of New York, majoring in psychology. A Dominican-American, Castillo celebrates his 18th birthday today, on the 25th of September!! He was raised iin Washington Heights in upper Mahnhattan and went to LaGuardia Arts, a specialized high school for students who love the arts and the performing arts. Besides writing, he paints and sketches, creates digital designs, and does sculpture. Ironically, while he studied visual art, he came out of high school loving to sing, and now he sings all the time. Says Castillo: "I love to be creative in every way possible, and I love to express myself."

Friday, September 23, 2011

Meeting That Famous Wine Man, Ernest Gallo

Note to readers: In part eight of "The Journey We Take Together," writer Susan Prisant continues the story of her life with her husband, Sandy, whose early career in advertising and PR included working for California-based Ernest Gallo, a giant in the wine-making business! To find earlier episodes in "The Journey We Take Together," go to the Search function on MyStory and type in Susan's name.

By Susan Prisant

We returned to America on the SS France and settled down near the family in a historic Long Island village, Roslyn. This was an idyllic place where homes were still preserved from the 1600’s. Settled on a hill with a very large duck pond and winding paths through a park at the center.

I’d always wanted to live there. Now we were going to. We’d found one of the historic trust homes alongside the park and moved in immediately.

Sandy had worked in advertising after journalism and now he wanted to open his own “shop” with a colleague. They did very well. A few years passed and all was going as we hoped. Just before we were leaving on a skiing holiday out West with Joe (Sandy's father), Sandy got a phone call out of the blue. Ernest Gallo of the Ernest & Julio Gallo Winery wanted to see him. Sandy, naturally flattered, was not interested. But Joe said: “No. Go. You’ll only be two hours away from Heavenly Valley and you’ll be back at the lodge for dinner.”

So we left Heavenly Valley one morning. Sandy was only thinking of the skiing that he would be missing with his father. We drove through Eastern California and arrived in a town called Modesto. It didn’t look much better than an abandoned mining town. My God, was it ugly. We went straight to the winery— a Hollywood castle rising up a very green hillside, with peacocks strolling together, showing their turquoise and midnight blue plumage.

Inside, the foyer was an atrium full of nature. Trees that were grown in the tropics, lots of ponds with Japanese fish, like Koi. They were so large they looked make-believe.

Sandy was whisked away to meet Mr. Gallo. I was left sitting there. After a few hours I was ready to pull out my hair. Finally, Sandy returned with his ushers. They said to us: “We’ve arranged a hotel for you and your wife; please return tomorrow at 9 a.m."

We arrived at the hotel, slightly numb. What was happening to our vacation? The hotel was kind of like a Holiday Inn Express. We gather it was the best lodging at the time in Modesto.

The next morning someone from the winery called to say that a lady would be coming to take me to lunch. “OK”, I thought, “I’ll kill an hour.”

But after lunch, instead of driving back to the hotel, the lady began driving me around town, pointing at houses and saying,

“What do you think of that one?”

Bewildered but from New York, I said, “I have no intentions of living here.” A typical real estate agent, she kept on going. Finally she drove up to a mini-mansion when I showed some sign of interest. The deal was closed for her. But not for me.

It was all orchestrated. The company was putting out feelers that morning to Sandy. We drove back to Heavenly Valley and sat down with Joe to discuss what could be a once-in-a-lifetime possibility . Besides its weight in gold, Sandy would be working for one of America’s self-made billionaires.

When we got back to New York, the phone calls from Modesto started. Gallo was on the hunt. Within a few weeks, Sandy had an offer he couldn’t refuse. We were leaving the family again. This time it seemed harder. Gallo flew us to Modesto first class, with our pet rabbit Cedric in a paper bag and two cats by our feet. We moved into our mini-mansion, but one day later, Ernest sent Sandy on a business trip for two weeks. Boy, was I alone.

The phone rang. “Hi, I’m Rich. I work for the winery. My wife and I will pick you up and bring you to our house.” And that’s the way it began.

We soon understood that Ernest was cherry picking a few MBA’s and marketing gurus from across America. They came with their wives and girlfriends and we quickly formed a clique--big city boys suddenly down on the farm

We were really close. Most evenings were spent together, playing tennis and barbecuing. These guys became some of the best friends of our lives.

There was a catch to this seeming paradise: people didn’t leave Gallo of their own free will; they were pushed. And it could happen any time. The first few years were memorable for the work and friendship. But by the third year, some fell out of favor with Ernest and our circle began to dwindle.

Ernest taught us about an approach to life and work that was based on utter commitment. Unnatural commitment and focus on what he considered important. One day we met in the hall, Sandy was wearing a suit with an expensive tie. He’d begun talking to Ernest about advice for a trip to Latin America. Ernest’s eyes brightened. He grabbed hold of his tie, held it straight out and said, “See this tie?” I got a half-dozen of these in the airport in Costa Rica. Only 50¢ each and look how strong they are.”

He urged Sandy to yank on it. “Feel the strength,” he said. What could Sandy say? Here was the owner of the second-largest privately held corporation in America with a 50¢ cravat, prized for its tensile strength, while the foolish subordinate was standing there with a $25 all-silk version.

That was Ernest Gallo. His perspective on everyday things was simply different from most people. He was able to look at every problem, every opportunity, a little differently.

There are very few of these men. If you ever meet one, you’ll know it. The impact of this entrepreneurial giant, on our lives and our career, spanned decades.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Journey We Take Alone? -- Part 15

By Alexander "Sandy" Prisant

In the latter half of the last century, America had the power, but we also had the pain. Our first military defeat -- in Viet Nam. High profile assassinations. Watergate. Funny elections.

But we could always say ‘Thank God for modern medicine.’ In this one field, it seemed we could mostly agree we saw the advancement of civilization. Real progress. For mankind. The advances in research and the doctors who made them, right back to Jonas Salk. And by reflection, the doctors who treated us. This one group of people, regardless of your politics, made us proud and confident.

I’ve been impossibly fortunate to have a half-dozen close relationships with physicians who cared. And delivered.

When I was breaking free from New York in my late 20s, I had offers on the West Coast. My nephrologist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine sat me down for an unusual conversation. “We think it’s okay for you to go, so long as you’re under the care of one of these nephrologists.” He handed me a typed page with details of three doctors -- one at UCLA, one in Seattle and one at Stanford.

With an offer in hand to work for Ernest Gallo near San Francisco, I had the good fortune to draw the man at Stanford. Dr. Norman Coplon was a Professor of Medicine and a major player in the Kidney Foundation. But he was also an easy-going man from Syracuse with a ready smile and a wide repertoire of one-liners. Walking down the halls of Stanford Hospital with him, you’d see nurses take one look in his direction and collapse in hysterics. There is nothing aloof about Norm.

He quickly proved his medical skill, bringing my blood pressure under control in a way the top dogs in New York had failed to do. We had a wonderful ritual. One Saturday morning a month, I’d drive to Palo Alto from the San Joaquin Valley to have a check-up, draw blood and play tennis. Norm was ruthless; he’d often draw blood from my tennis arm.

It led to a burgeoning relationship between our families. Finally, the Coplons became our West Coast family.

As we began to travel and live overseas, Norm stayed by our side. When we first bought a home abroad in a very trendy neighborhood, Susan suddenly was hit with a terrible eye inflammation. We felt fortunate to be near the famed Moorfields Eye Hospital. We rushed Susan there, only to be told: “you must live in a depressed area with lots of construction dust. You must move.”

We went home to book a flight back to America for real care and called Norm for a referral. It was 4 o’clock in the morning in California. “Put Susan on the phone,” he said. Despite the pain, she calmly described every tree around our house.

“Go down to the pharmacy and get this stuff—you won’t need a prescription or a flight to the US.”

And by the next day, Susan’s eyes were nearly over the allergic reaction. Cured by a kidney doctor.

For several years, we lived a small village in Southern Italy. I kept a picture on the shelf above my bed, right over my head. It was Norm as a young doctor with chunky cheeks, thick, black-rimmed glasses and his smile. He was a Peter Sellers look-alike, taking his mother’s blood pressure.

I was pretty far away from any serious help in those years. Having Norm looking down on me each night helped get me through.

We continued to get care from six or eight time zones away well into the 90s. But we would still fly back to the US for the big stuff, like that triple by-pass in 1995, which set off a string of events. It was a lesson in how deeply integrated everything is in our bodies.

By then, it was already known that the contrast dye used in my angiogram was potentially harmful to the kidney. And because I was a prized patient, I was always given early access to new hypertension meds. A mixed blessing. I was effectively a guinea pig for several drugs. They all were beneficial until 1996 when Norm introduced me to an early Ace Inhibitor. This drug, combined with the contrast dye a few months before, sent my battered original kidneys into terminal decline.

But Norm was still there. “You’re going to get a transplant,” he declared. “We’ll take a kidney from your brother.”

When it comes down to the inevitable, even after years, the idea of asking anyone for a body organ is daunting. “Don’t worry,” Norm said.

A few weeks later, my wife, brother Marc and I were having a regular dinner at the Coplon’s. Just as we sat down, Norm announced: “Marc, your brother is having a transplant later this year and you are donating a kidney.” Marc was speechless. The table was speechless. Then somebody started passing the soup and that was that.

The Coplons kept my kidneys going for 20 years, sat by me in ICU for my first heart surgery, cured all manner of ailments from across the globe and interceded to directly arrange a kidney transplant.

Norm Coplon practiced at a time when doctors were deeply engaged in people’s lives—to every one’s benefit. The end of that era came when the insurance industry thugs imposed a new universal computer billing system. Norm could no longer be what he was—board certified and practicing for decades in both nephrology and internal medicine. Now he was told that he had to choose. He could only have one billing code in their system. The professor must throw away half his life’s work.

Norman Coplon, proud and accomplished, thought it over. He quietly closed his practice, took early retirement and went home to build a vegetable patch on a hillside.

To the detriment of us all.

Writer Alexander Prisant, who lives in Florida with his wife, Susan, has been writing about the serious health challenge he faces with his lifelong kidney ailment which now threatens his life.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Noted Spiritual Teacher is Here to Tell You How To Get Happier!!

By Judith England

Stop for a minute and ask yourself a simple question: what makes you happy? If you're like most people, you will realize right away that it isn't things. It's the people you love. It's the special places you go. It's the wonderful but fleeting experiences of life itself.

But much of the time we act as though it is stuff that makes us happy.

We live in a culture that loves more. More money, more stuff, more trips to the mall. More stimuli, more speed, more of everything! We move so quickly from one experience to the next, never in the present moment. It seldom seems to be enough.

It seldom seems to make us happy.

Sharon Salzberg, a New York Times best-selling author and one of the nation's leading spiritual teachers, has devoted years of thought to this and other questions. On Sunday, September 25th, she is coming to Albany to give a free lecture on the subject "Real Happiness," also the title of her new book. The lecture, which begins at 5:30 p.m., will be held at the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Albany, 405 Washington Ave., Albany. Salzberg will explain the benefits of meditation and answer questions. The event is free, but donations are welcome.

For more information, go to

In Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation, Salzberg offers a simple and workable recipe for finding peace of mind. She gives an antidote for the illness of "more," a step-by-step meditation practice and a challenge: Try it for five minutes a day, for 28 days. After that, you'll be hooked! Why? Because it doesn't take long to feel the benefits of stopping and breathing. It takes no time at all to realize that a daily meditation practice deeply enhances one's quality of life and living, regardless of what that life might look like.

As Salzberg writes: "We might not be able to change the circumstances of our lives, but we can change our relationship to those circumstances."

Here are some thoughts Salzberg shared during an interview for the Times Union's Holistic Health Blog:

Q: How would you respond to people who considers themselves too busy to "just sit" and meditate?

A: I find that reaction very interesting. I often say that if most of us were told, "Here's this activity you can do 20 minutes a day and it will really help your friend," most of us would jump at the chance. But framed as "It will really help you," suddenly we are too busy; it seems selfish, not worth doing. I'd say start with just 5 minutes of formal practice each day, and add a few fun things -- like not answering your phone on the first ring, but letting it ring 3 times, and breathing; have one cup of tea or coffee a day without multi-tasking at the same time -- no checking email, having a conversation, listening to the news at the same time. These things really are fun when put into practice.

Q: In your new book, you speak about the life events that led you to explore meditation. In all your years of personal practice as well as teaching, what are some common threads that trigger a person to try meditating?

A: Very often, as in my case, some kind of unhappiness or discontent leads one to explore meditation. Sometimes it is an intense curiosity about life, a wish to live not just on the surface of things that brings one to that exploration. And these days, with so much research going on, often people are motivated by seeking better health, less stress and real help with all kinds of concerns, including ADHD, addiction, and a long list of conditions people find limiting or depleting.

Q: If meditation is about simply "being with" all that we are -- sensation, thought, emotion -- wouldn't it promote a sort of passive acceptance of our life, rather than an invitation to grow and change?

A: I think that's the common misperception, and it is easy to see why -- the words we tend to use to describe meditation can well imply passivity, but it's not what actually happens. If we learn to simply be with our experience, that's the beginning of the process of insight. If we are struggling against our emotions, our bodies, there's not a lot of learning that can happen. If we are overcome and defined by all of our changing states, there's not a lot of learning that can happen. As we learn to be with all of our experience, we are creating the space we need to make choices out of clarity and wisdom.

To close our chat, I asked Salzberg to share a favorite quote. Her response: "The door of possibility has been opened -- the door to authentic and accessible happiness. Welcome. Come in and sit."

Writer Judith England, who writes the Holistic Health blog for the Times Union, is a certified Kripalu yoga instructor and a massage therapist. This article appeared first in the Times Union. Read more about Salzberg's book, "Lovingkindness," on the Huffington Post.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A Sister, Remembering Her Little Brother

By Judith England

I’ve heard it said that the relationship between siblings is the closest one – at least in terms of genetics. Same parents contributing to the mix that finally turns out to be a child.

And yet, no matter how close two people are in the genetic code – they still need to be discovered, and rediscovered - and always remain part mystery.

What I know about Lon is my memories of him:

The surprise new baby in the house with two grown (or almost grown) children.

The inventor of words that became part of our family’s secret vocabulary. Things like “lily” for typewriter, “keenie” for pencil, “hooie” for coffee.

The annoying little brother who’s first question to my dates would be :”Do you have a vacuum cleaner?” If the answer was “Yes”, this allowed him the next question: “What kind is it?”

I remember the day I got married, September 17, 1966, Lon was just five. The house was in turmoil with bridesmaids, and photographers, and hair and makeup. Where was Lon? Sitting on his bed reading a book, looking like an angel in his little Eton suit. Mom was giving him the old “hurry up” and he wasn’t having any of it. Never lifting his eyes from the page he dismissed her saying:” I’ve GOT to finish this!”

That was Lon - always a different drummer.

There were longer periods without Lon around as I got involved with work, and a home and new husband. Lon got older. And despite the 16-year difference in our ages, we got closer.

As he grew from a teenager to a college student there was a strong connection. We shared a love of music, arts, good food, bad jokes, cheesy grade-B movies and the puzzling questions of the world and life. There were many visits that found us to be the last two people awake in the house, well past midnight, talking about things deep and dark and inscrutable.

I remember, too, noticing that at the same time we were strengthening our connection, there was something hidden and troubling inside him. The pull of closeness was matched by another pull, moving him further away. Was it sadness? was it distress? - I had no words for it – just that unsettled feeling.

Lon lived with me for a couple of years while he was finishing up at SUNY in Albany. We had some good times then, I even became his official barber, trimming his hair in the backyard. My boys loved him.

I watched him start his life as a husband and father. He took amazing pictures of his children – ones that could only be taken with the eye of someone who loved them truly and never stopped viewing their lives as a miracle.

There was an outstanding family cruise – probably one of Mom’s last major trips before her health failed. Dad thought it was important that we all get together to share the adventure – and he was right. We laughed – a lot.

But the darkness kept coming back for Lon. It was as if there was a gulf between us, one that got wider and wider until I couldn’t reach across it any more.

It’s really hard for me to say “goodbye” to Lon. It seems like just the other day he was a little boy, a college student, and a young father. But I have to remember that everything has a beginning – a middle – and an end. Our lives are no exception.

I hope that Lon has found peace now. I’m grateful that he was my brother, and will try to keep alive in my memory all the best parts. But what I hold most dear is the gift of Suzanne and their wondrous children in my life.

I promise to do my best to keep them close, and to be a sturdy support on which they can always depend.

Writer Judith England, a massage therapist and certified yoga instructor, writes the Holistic Health blog for the Albany Times Union. Her brother, Lon C. England, passed away this past summer.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Bonny & Justine: From the Backyard to the Big Competition in Texas!!

By Bonny Curless

It’s hard to describe the way I feel when I am riding my horse, Justine.

One word comes to mind: FREEDOM. Freedom from all the stress and strain that life sends our way. Freedom too, to be exactly who I really am.

I’ve had Justine – she’s a Morgan horse – for 15 years, ever since she was a six-month-old filly. Over the years, we’ve developed a partnership and bond that is incredibly powerful. We are mentally, physically and emotionally connected, and sometimes when I’m riding her, it feels as if we are one.

Justine gives me her strength of body and spirit to carry us wherever “we” want to go. We love to explore the world around us as we travel up and down hills, through meadows, across water and bridges. The flow and movement of her body as we traverse the undulating ground together is medicine to my soul. The sky is the only limit when we are together. We feel we can go anywhere and be free!

I have been passionate about horses for as long as I can remember. I am a third- generation horse-crazed female. It all started with my grandmother. And then it hit my mother. And now it’s me. I have had many wonderful opportunities to learn from and play with many different horses in my life – horses of all types, styles, sizes and personalities! Yes, horses have personalities just like people!

I began studying Parelli Natural Horsemanship in 1999 when I realized that my horse partner Justine needed ME to become a better leader for her and so I began the journey of becoming a better horseman. Currently, I am a Level 4 student in the Parelli Natural Horsemanship program.

I also joined ACTHA (American Competitive Trail Horse Association) in the beginning of this year in order to honor “Justine” for her patience in teaching me to become a better horseman. Justine’s favorite thing to do is go on a trail ride! Little did we know that would end us up competing in AFTHA’s reality TV show in Texas!!

Back in April, ACTHA held auditions across the country looking for finalists for the reality television show, "America's Favorite Trail Horse." More than nine hundred contestants tried out for the finals and of that group, 100 horse and rider teams were selected to attend the finals at Franklin Family Ranch in Austin, Texas.

JUSTINE AND I were chosen as one of the 100 horse and rider teams
to attend the finals!! Can you IMAGINE how excited we are? Please remember -- I am just a small town girl riding her backyard horse having fun!

The trip to Texas for the final competition was an experience of a lifetime. I had only nine days to prepare and pack for horse and human to go on the trip (of course I was working my 9-5 job seven of those days). The trip itself took a total of nine days -- three days traveling 2,000 miles to Texas, three days "competing," and then another three days traveling 2,000 miles back home to New York!

Whew! What a whirlwind of a trip! But, the GREATEST thing is that the relationship between Justine and I just got even better and stronger! She trusted my leadership in everything I asked of her and she stayed happy and healthy the whole trip! Sooooo coool!

Justine and I will be in episode #11, scheduled to air on November 22nd. Our number is 225.

Here is the promo that the American Morgan Horse Association wrote up for our episode:

"Justine" and her rider, Bonny Curless, have been together since Justine was only six months old. Now, 15 years later, Bonny says that Justine’s greatest talent has been helping her to become a better horsewoman. ‘She is the greatest teacher I’ve ever had and she’s made me a much better person,’ Bonny says. Both have lived their entire lives in their hometown of East Berne, New York.

Viewers will have the ability to vote for their favorite trail horse at after each episode and $5,000 will be awarded to each episode winner. Voting will open for 48 hours after each episode has been aired. The finale will feature all of the episode winners and will award $50,000 to the top three horses of the entire series.

ACTHA's mission is to showcase the wonderful attributes of the great American trail horse, granting these horses the recognition that they so richly deserve. ACTHA also maintains a registry open to all breeds and has a point designation system assigned to each horse for its lifetime. The registry adds to the horses’ value and distinction. The group also promotes the humane treatment of horses.

Justine and I invite you to watch the series and we thank you for any support you can give us.

It has taken me almost 12 years, but I have also begun a journey toward becoming an Instructor in the Parelli Natural Horsemanship program. If Justine and I lucky enough to end up as finalists in AFTHA’s reality TV show, the money will be used so I too can “help make a better world for both humans and horses.” (Pat Parelli)

This has been the most incredible journey!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Seeing Red is Now an EBOOK!!

Bookshelves -- you remember them, don't you?

They stood about four feet high. They were made out of wood, or metal, and we used to put those old-fashioned things we call paper books side by side on them?

Well, according to an article in The Economist this week, bookshelves are on the way out. According to the magazine, furniture giant IKEA is "promoting glass doors for its bookshelves." Why?

Simple. "The firm reckons customers will increasingly use [bookshelves] for ornaments, tchotchkes and the odd coffee-table tome—anything, that is, except books..."

Nobody really expected the electronic book business to boom as fast as it has. But it turns out that the publishing and bookselling businesses are largely in the same boat as newspapers, that is, they are swimming upstream against an electronic tsunami!

According to The Economist, sales of e-books in the first five months of 2011 exceeded sales of adult hardcover books.

"Amazon now sells more copies of e-books than paper books," according to the magazine.

And obviously, bookstores are taking it on the chin. "The drift to digits will speed up as bookshops close. Borders, once a retail behemoth, is liquidating all of its American stores."

So, well, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize we authors better step up to the ebook plate. I spent this past summer getting Seeing Red into ebook form, and it is now available on all electronic book readers. So Kindle holders, and Ipad readers, and Nook-ites, you can now purchase a copy of the novel.

Meanwhile, I've just had a wonderful reader contact me from Sweden to say how much she enjoyed reading Seeing Red. Dorothy Stage, who lives in Molnlycke, Sweden, a short distance from Gothenburg, emailed to say:

“I have finished reading Seeing Red as part of my summer reading. It´s a book that I couldn´t put down until the end. As always, I love your fantastic use of color, especially when the describing beautiful scenes in Spain. The characters are very strongly portrayed. It’s almost like the reader knows them as individuals. I´m glad that the book had a happy ending. It was a wonderful read filled with many of the people and things dear to your heart. I felt closer to you after reading the book. Please, do write many more!"

If you enjoyed Seeing Red, as so many of you have -- here are more reader reactions -- I hope you will tell your friends, and let them know they can now buy the electronic version!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Lifting Hope Out of Horror -- on that day!!

This article also appears today on the Huffington Post.

By Claudia Ricci

This is a story about nightmares and dreams come true.

This is a story about how life can be filled with sadness and disappointment, and sometimes, bad things -- things that are so bad that the word "evil" doesn't even begin to describe the horror.

But this is also a story about how out of the bad and sad and disappointing things, and yes, even the evil and horrible things, we can find goodness and happiness and fulfillment in helping others.

Like many stories, this one begins at different times and places.

It certainly can begin in New York City on September 11, 2001, when life in America was ripped free of its bearings. A day all of us can still see ten years later, so clearly. We close our eyes and we recall with great pain, the silver glint of airplanes, the cornflower blue of the clear September sky, the roaring orange flames, the billowing black smoke and shattered glass, the people injured, killed and running, the two gargantuan towers collapsing into crowded streets.

It also begins a week later, when a remarkable pre-school teacher in Great Barrington, MA, sitting quietly in religious services, heard something.

"It was like the top of my head was lifting off," recalls Andrea Patel. "Suddenly, words began to pour into my head, words with cadence, words with page turns, words that swam around and around and around inside of me."

Andrea -- who had never written a book before -- went home and wrote the words down. And then she put them away. A couple of weeks later, she found them again. She showed them to a writer friend, who was deeply moved. The writer friend told her that she had to do something with the words.

But what?

Soon the words were calling to her again. Soon the words were swimming faster in her head. But this time they were accompanies by illustrations. Like the words, the illustrations demanded to be expressed on paper. In simple form. "I needed to try to begin to make sense again of the world at the most basic level with a pre-schooler's understanding," Andrea says.

Within days, Andrea found herself busy shredding pieces of colorful tissue paper. She refused to use scissors or any other objecct that could be construed as a weapon. While her pre-schoolers were napping on their mats, she ripped tiny pieces of tissue by hand and began to construct her illustrations.

Before long, she had a book. A book she referred to at that point, simply as "September 11th." The book was missing only one illustration, however. An illustration of the World Trade Center tragedy, the twin towers collapsing in flame.

Andrea says that she couldn't bring herself to do that terribly upsetting illustration in the presence of her three-year old students. So one Saturday afternoon, sitting with a box of Kleenex, she sat down at home and using a straight edge, constructed an image of the two towers in flames.

Before we go forward with Andrea's story, we need to take a little detour in order to tell another story. A few years before Andrea wrote and illustrated her book, I finished writing my first novel, called Dreaming Maples. Two different New York literary agents loved the book. Each one, at different points, was convinced she could sell the book to a publisher. Each one tried, sending out dozens and dozens of letters, but alas, neither succeeded.

I took so many rejections on that first novel that I thought I would fall apart. But at some point in 2001, I decided what the heck, maybe I will just go ahead and publish it myself. At the time self-publishing wasn't nearly as popular as it is today. There weren't dozens of self-publishing companies out there ready to snatch up your manuscript. I decided to start my own small publishing company to get my novel into print.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was driving up to Williamstown, MA to meet my cousin, an artist and painter named Pat Rotondo. She had very generously offered to do a painting for the book's cover. When I left my house about 9:45 a.m., the second tower had just fallen, and I was bawling. When I pulled into the parking lot at the Clark Art Institute at 11 a.m., my cousin was sitting calmly on a bench in front of the museum, waiting for me. She was smiling.  She hadn't heard the gut-wrenching news about what was happening to New York City, where she had lived and gone to art school.

As the fires raged in New York and Washington, D.C., my cousin and I walked around the Clark in a state of shock. We kept asking what everyone else was asking, how is that humans are capable of such horror? And yet, staring at the paintings, we had the images of human wonder before our eyes too. At one point we stood before a Renoir painting called "The Blonde Bather," where a key scene in my novel takes place.

Later that day, in the parking lot of the Clark, my cousin took from her car the painting she had done for the cover of my book. More tears poured, as I stared at one of the most beautiful and haunting images I'd ever seen. That day the dream of my publishing company, Star Root Press, started to seem real.

Not too long afterward, Andrea's story and my own started to converge. It was a Saturday in November, the weekend before Thanksgiving, when she phoned me at home. Andrea and I belong to the same synagogue in Great Barrington and the rabbi there had suggested Andrea call me. "Rabbi Zecher said that you'd started a publishing company," Andrea said.

I laughed. "Yeah, well, I have, but I wouldn't call myself Random House." She asked if I'd look at the children's book she'd written about September 11th. I told her I would, but I hardly expected to do more than that. The next day, in temple, she handed me a box with the illustrations and writing inside. By the time I reached the last page, I was wiping my eyes and shaking my head in amazement.

I knew what I had to do. I told Andrea that I wanted to publish it. And if it were humanly possible, I said we would have the book out in time for the Christmas holidays -- which was a month later.

Miraculously enough, we did it. The next three weeks were crazy. Andrea and I worked harder than we'd ever worked before. And we found people to help us. People worked miracles for us. People worked miracles for on that day. There was the photographer, Mark Schmidt, who photographed the book's illustrations in a matter of days. There was the graphic artist, Bonny Curless, who spent 18 hours one weekend designing and typesetting the book.

And then there was the printer, Michael Ryan, who bumped press schedules and drove final proofs 80 miles round-trip to my house so that we could make our scheduled publication release date the week before Christmas.

Because of all this, Andrea and I were able to drive 450 copies of the book, hot off the press, to New York on Christmas Eve day. We donated the books to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Services, where volunteers brought them immediately to the big white tent at Ground Zero, and to the three family service centers in Manhattan where families of the victims were receiving assistance. Part of our plan included donating a portion of all book sales to a scholarship fund set up for the children of September 11th victims.

Within six months we had sold nearly 3,000 copies of the book. Moreover, early in 2002 we learned that PBS' Reading Rainbow had selected the book for review and promotion. The nationally-televised book show for children had praised on that day for its uplifting and redeeming message about the tragedy, which suggests to children (and adults) that “sometimes bad things happen in the world. But there will always be good things in the world too. You are one of those good things.”

In conjunction with the Reading Rainbow promotion, which was aired in different television markets across the nation, a major West Coast publisher acquired the rights to produce a hardcover version of the book.

Ten years later, that hardcover version is still for sale on The simple message of Andrea Patel's book continues to move people. Continues to offer hope. As on that day suggests, despite the bad things that happen in the world, each of us can always do something to make the world a better place.

"You can help by sharing. You can help by playing and laughing. You can help by taking good care of the Earth. You can help by being kind to people. Yes. Whether you're three years old, or thirteen years old, or thirty years old, or one-hundred-and-three years old, you can help."

Meanwhile, in April, 2002, I published my first novel, Dreaming Maples. In part because of all the attention Star Root Press attracted because of on that day, sales were brisk and the book did very well.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

"AMPS (Amputees) Just Wannna Have FUN!!" Watch the Video!!

By Tyler Carter

When I was a year old, I had my right leg amputated below the knee due to a birth defect called fibular hemimelia. Ever since my amputation, I have tried to live my life the best I can. I ski, play, tennis, skateboard, and participate in all kinds of other physical activities. I don't let anything get in my way. Though I participate in many different sports, my favorite and most important is alpine ski racing. I am very serious about it and I am currently training hard for the 2014 Paralympics in Sochi, Russia.

I also have a passion for film. It started about three years ago with a film that I made of my travels to Park City, Utah for some ski races. Looking back on it, I guess the film was pretty bad. But hey, it was my first video. It featured footage that my dad and I had shot, with pictures, and music to go along with it. From that video, I refined my skills and I have made many more. But they were all the same thing. Different place, different stuff but the same idea.

So recently, I started thinking and I decided that I needed to strike out in a new direction and do something different. A music video! But I didn't know what to do. Then I heard "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" on the radio. I thought about it for a while and then it hit me: what about "Amps Just Want to Have Fun?"

That idea snowballed into the music video you see here. I wrote the lyrics and knew I had something good.

I had two main reasons for making the video. The first was that I just wanted to try and do something that I had never done. I wanted to make something that was huge, bigger than any of my other videos. The second reason was that I wanted to show people that amputees and anyone else with a disability can do anything that they want to, as long as they put their minds to it and give their best. I have seen individuals with disabilities do amazing things -- things that people without disabilities can do, and more. I just wanted to show it all on film.

As for future films, I don't want to give too much away but yes I do have some things planned for the future. I intend my next music video to be as good as "Amps Just Want to Have Fun."

This is not my last music video. Far from it.

Tyler Carter, a senior at Brandywine Heights High School, lives in Topton, Pennsylvania. His website can be found at He is training for the 2014 Paralympics with the Adaptive Ski Foundation in Windham, N.Y.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Teaching Yoga to Any Body, Including Amputees!!

By Jo Kirsch

“You’re not going to catch me trying to wrap my foot around my head.”

“Yoga? No way. I don’t bend like that.”

“Me? Do yoga? You’ve got to be kidding.”

These are some typical comments people make when presented with the opportunity to practice yoga. However, in the last few years people of varying ages, abilities and disabilities seem to be more receptive to the idea.

“Adaptive yoga or just yoga is awesome,” said Tyler Carter, a 17-year-old alpine ski racer who is a below-the-knee amputee. “I was a little skeptical at first but love it now. It is calming, relaxing, and a great way to end the day.”

It is this quality of relaxation that not only attracts people to yoga, but turns them into long-term beneficiaries.

“The stress release and calming effect are the biggest benefits,” said Adaptive Sports Foundation (ASF) Race Team member John Eckbold, a mono-skier born with spina bifida. “I feel some physical improvement, but the mental aspect is what I notice the most.”

Many people are motivated to try yoga for physical reasons. They hope that practicing yoga will relieve body pain, increase flexibility and improve strength. Most, however, come to find the mental and emotional benefits equal to or greater than the physical benefits.

“Adaptive Yoga has impacted my recovery tremendously by increasing my strength, balance, flexibility and pain tolerance,” said SFC Diane Cochran, US Army Retired. Diane sustained a spinal cord injury while serving in Afghanistan. She regularly attends women’s and summer events for wounded warriors at ASF. “When I do yoga I find myself doing things like walking down a hill instead of using my wheelchair. As an added benefit, I find that I am more focused and at peace,” said Diane.

Last winter, Tyler and John both attended an ASF race camp for alpine skiers with disabilities. At the end of each day, a mat or chair yoga class was held for participants.

“It was a little challenging at first trying to adapt and adjust some of the poses, but once we did, it felt really good,” said Tyler. “I think adaptive yoga provides people with disabilities a sense of accomplishment, a feeling that they can do whatever they want and that no one can hold them back.”

Determining what type of yoga to teach a group of individuals with physical and cognitive disabilities can be challenging. At ASF we teach a combination of breathing techniques, yoga postures and a deeply rejuvenating practice called Yoga Nidra, which means focused sleep. Yoga Nidra is a guided relaxation practice where the body and the mind relax at a very deep level and healing and destress occur.

After one of these sessions at ASF, Russell Dean, MS, LMHC, said “I haven’t felt that relaxed and pain free since the last time I had anesthesia.” Russ, a Vietnam veteran with back injuries, is the Wounded Warrior Project’s Manager of Project Odyssey, a health and wellness program for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans with PTSD.

To insure success, a yoga teacher must evaluate her students and determine what combination, type and level of yoga practice is appropriate. What are the student’s abilities and disabilities? What are the students’ goals? Flexibility and injury-avoidance? Strength? Focus? Relaxation? Centering? Stress-relief? The goal is to introduce practices that individuals can incorporate into their lives on an on-going basis.

Whether a yoga class is geared towards able bodied or disabled students, adaptability is key. By learning to pay attention to your body and mind, a practitioner learns when and how to adapt to poses. With proper alignment and mindful attention, you will experience increased levels of energy and feelings.

The key to all of this is the creation of a set of tools you can access to bring not only your physical being into balance, but your life into balance as well.

For example, when you pay attention to your breath, whether in a yoga class or while going about your day, you tune into your state of being in that moment. Quick, uneven, short breaths often indicate high levels of anxiety or stress. The general yoga instruction is to practice a slow even breath: a long inhale followed by a long exhale. This practice generally increases calmness and reduces anxiety and stress levels on and off the mat.

“By utilizing the relaxation and breathing techniques I’ve learned at ASF I have been able to gain more control over my anxiety and stress,” said Matt Bonchi, SSG US Army Reserve. Matt was injured by a Vehicle borne Improvised Explosive Device (IED) in June 2006 and again in January 2007. “Since the first Warriors in Motion event I attended at ASF, I have been able to use these techniques to relax and get a full eight hours of sleep, without medication, for the first time since 2006.”

Everyone experiences ups and downs in life. How we deal with these changes defines our state of being. Yet it is not only how we deal with these experiences but how we interact with them and learn from them. By cultivating awareness of yourself and paying attention to your thoughts and feelings, you learn to listen to and trust your intuition.

The fast pace of life and the stresses we endure often keep us from taking the time to slow down, tune in and listen. So often we are defined by what we do, our jobs, our abilities and our disabilities. We allow those external things to define us and we lose track of who we are. By practicing yoga – postures, breathing and meditation – we give ourselves the chance to slow down, pause, and take a moment to feel what is going on inside and get back in touch with who we are. By practicing yoga we can just be.

Jo Kirsch is a Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT) who has met 500 hour standards; a certified Professional Ski Instructor; and the Marketing and Development Director for the Adaptive Sports Foundation, based in Wyndham, New York. This piece appears on ASF's blog.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

SUSAN RESPONDS: The Journey We Take Together -- Part Six

By Susan Prisant

I never thought the Walls of Jericho would come tumbling down. Sandy seemed so invincible. He was very successful professionally. He was always sure of himself and he attracted people like bees to honey. He took care of me as if I was a princess and made me laugh with astonishment at his antics.

We had an appointment to see Eddie, his cardiologist. I remember kissing Dr. Anderson hello. Sandy went into the cath lab for an angiogram. He needed two stents. It was decided that they would do one of then and the other a week later. Over the weekend in between we went hiking with the family, not having a care in the world.

When we returned for the next appointment, Sandy Coplon, the wife of our nephrologist, came to sit with me. It didn’t seem strange, as they are friends and we were staying at their house.

I had no idea that the walls were starting to crack. He was in surgery, and time was passing. "Last time we came, he was done by now," I was thinking to myself. More time passed. Now I was saying to my friend Sandy: “Something is wrong.” I started pacing back and forth, thinking, ‘Eddie, Eddie.’

The door opened. Eddie came out and held me. He said, “Susan, Sandy has to have an emergency bypass; I’ll take you to him to kiss him good-bye.”

The Walls of Jericho came tumbling down. I walked over to Sandy like nothing was wrong. I kissed him and said, “I’ll see you in a while.” They wheeled him away and I practically collapsed to the floor.

Thank God, Sandy Coplon was there. I called my brother-in-law with the news. He came to the hospital. We all went outside. In the garden I smoked what felt like 100 cigarettes. The waiting was so hard. My mind was running. It’s not fair; how could Sandy die? I can’t live without my partner, my best friend. No one could console me. It was too scary for all of us.

Seven hours passed. Then I saw Eddie walking over to me. His face didn’t show signs of grief.

“He’s okay, Susan.” We held each other tightly. No other words were necessary.

And my mind shouted, "He’s alive! He’s alive!”

It was another two hours before I could see him in the ICU. I will never ever forget what I saw. He had a large plastic breathing tube coming out of his mouth and he was connected to so many monitors that you couldn’t even get close to him. I wanted to hold him. I needed to hold him. I wanted him to know that we’d made it. But he was still under deep anesthesia; so I just sat down and stared at his face.

After a while, the curtain opened and there stood Norman—Sandy’s friend and nephrologist for 20 years. He walked slowly, his eyes fully attentive. He ever so lightly picked up Sandy’s wrist to take his pulse, as he had a thousand times before. Tears were swelling in his eyes and his thoughts were far off. When he came back to earth and saw me, he gave me a bear hug in a way only Norman could. “We’ll see you later back at the house,” Dr. Coplon said and left us.

It was another two hours before my best friend opened his eyes with a quick flash of surprise. The clock on the wall faced him.

It was nearly 6pm. I could see his brain calculating that over nine hours had passed since I’d kissed him good-bye. He then took in all the monitors and the blue tentacle snaking down his throat. He pointed at it vigorously -- he wanted it out. I called the nurse, who explained that it was too soon to remove anything. Naturally, Sandy wasn’t going to let this decision lie.

He was pointing more vigorously now, looking to me to do something. The nurse interrupted this manic behavior between the two of us.

“If you can write down what you want…” she said and brought back a large pad. She didn’t know Sandy had only five words for her. He took the pad and wrote in large letters: “Take this fucking thing out!” as he pointed vigorously at the breathing tube.

The nurse read the note, stood there laughing, then pulled the privacy curtain open and yelled out so everyone in ICU could hear, “I have a live one here.”

Susan Prisant is a Florida-based writer who is composing a series of articles called "The Journey We Take Together." This piece is a direct response to a piece by her husband, Sandy Prisant, who is awaiting a heart and kidney transplant.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

The Journey We Take Alone? -- Part 14

By Alexander "Sandy" Prisant

You start coming out from under the deep anesthesia. First your eyes start to open. They work. Then you haphazardly try to move an arm, your head, and your lips to speak. And none of that works at all.

You’re strapped in and breathing through a machine and taped up 32 ways against Tuesday. So you go back to your eyes, which work. Mounted over the foot of the bed is a clock. Those big, easy-to-read hospital clocks. You’re a little dopey, but you slowly realize it says three minutes to six. The last time you were conscious, you think, was about 8:45 in the morning.


Now you’re not dopey; you’re stunned and scared and reflexively lurch to get up. But all the medical machinery holding you down keeps you down.

And for some reason there is no pain at all, even though you are already suspecting you’ve been filleted like a flounder.

You look along the bed rails and see two comforting faces in the antiseptic intensive care unit—my wife Susan and a Stanford nephrologist friend with tears in his eyes, Dr Norm Coplon. Norm was there to fight for every one of my organs for three decades. They were waiting to welcome me back to life. It was Palo Alto, California, 1995.

This is what happens when you have a Coronary Arterial Bypass Graft, known in the trade by its acronym: CABG. Veins have been sliced from other parts of our body to replace clogged ones serving the heart. Inside me, they had to replace three of the five major ones. So it was a triple CABG.

Usually there is a build up of disease over weeks or months or years, leading to a smooth, well-planned surgery. For me it’s almost never been like that. I was innocently going for an angiogram to see how my own heart vessels were doing. I was relaxed, in the hands of one of America’s leading cardiologists. I’m in awe of him as a physician, but I love him even more as a human being.

Dr Edward T. Anderson is a rock, an Ivy League/California star who has saved my life more than once. But first of all, he’s a damn good friend, a man we all just call “Eddie”.

Seconds after Eddie put me under sedation for the angiogram, he realized that a vessel he stented a week before had begun to unravel—actually shred.

Now there was no time for strategy—just action. From the cath lab, Eddie phoned upstairs to his sidekick, the nationally-recognized cardiovascular surgeon Vince Gaudiani.

Thank God. Twice. Vince was there. And the phone was free.

And that’s how a procedure that only has become the norm in our generation was done for me: On exactly five minutes notice. Across six hours. Three times over.

While I was oblivious to all this, my wife and family spent a mortifying day, in agony. It’s the way these things work. Dr Coplon’s wife sat numbly with Susan for all those hours. Once again, the patient suffered least. Once again we learned that sometimes medicine works.

There are those who’d also say once again it just wasn’t my time yet. And they were right. Vince and Eddie joined the band of saviors, back to my birth, who refused to give up on me.

Not all doctors are like that. So choose your specialists carefully. Judge them as people as well as physicians. Some day your life will probably depend on them.

My brother, a healthcare executive, tells me that they say in the industry that God gives us about 50 good years; after that we’re on your own.

That triple CABG jumped up and bit me in my fiftieth year. The decade and a half since have brought one challenge after another.

Writer Sandy Prisant, who lives in Boynton Beach, Florida, is awaiting a kidney and heart transplant. His series of articles about his lifelong struggle with a congenital kidney ailment -- called "The Journey We Take Alone?" -- began appearing in MyStoryLives in March. Meanwhile, his wife Susan is writing a series called "The Journey We Take Together." Stay tuned for Susan's next piece, which tells the story in this post from her point of view. To find earlier installments in both series, go to the Search function on this blog and type in their last names. To be notified when new installments appear, become a Subscriber by sending us your email.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Don't Tax the Rich, Take it From Poor People!!

There's only one way to solve the nation's budget deficit.

Take all the money from the nation's poor people!

If you haven't seen comedian Jon Stewart's segment on taxing the poor, in order to close the budget deficit, it is absolutely worth your time.

It's hilarious and right on the money, the poor people's money!

Instead of taxing the rich, Stewart says he has a better idea: we should just take half of all the money that poor people have.

"The government could raise $700 billion by either taking half of everything earned by the bottom 50% or by raising the marginal tax rate on the top two percent," according to the Daily Show's promo.

Raising the income tax rate on the top 2 percent of Americans would raise an estimated $700 billion over ten years. But Stewart points out that taking HALF of what the bottom 50 percent of Americans make would raise the same amount.

"WE NEED TO TAKE ALL OF WHAT THE BOTTOM 50 PERCENT HAVE," Stewart says. "It's the only way to make a significant dent."

Don't worry about the poor, Stewart says. Poor people are defined as a family of four making $22,350. Quoting Fox News, Stewart says 99 % of the poor have refrigerators.

"You FOOD-CHILLING mother_____!" Stewart says.

As Stewart tells his audience, the "free ride for the poor" is over.

Thank you, Jon Stewart, for making us laugh at a time when we might otherwise cry.