It’s time to get your flu shot

Besides hospitals and health clinics, local pharmacies and supermarkets are giving free flu shots. Acme was even announcing a discount on groceries!

Prevention is critical to maintaining good health

Flu season officially begins each October 1st. And, in case you might have forgotten, the obvious ‘free-flu-shot’ signs are everywhere to remind you.

I noticed the other day my local Acme supermarket in the Rehoboth Beach is offering a 10% discount on your grocery bill, up to $200, if you get your free flu shot at its pharmacy.  Now that’s great PR.

Emily Knearl, section chief of the Office of Health and Risk Communication with Delaware Public Health, said all flu shot programs in Delaware, whether at a supermarket, pharmacy, clinic, or through a hospital, are strictly regulated by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  So, you don’t have to worry about your safety if you get your shot at a convenient location.  There are lots of convenient locations.

Besides local pharmacies, Delaware Public Health has clinics all over the place. You can check out the state’s flu clinic schedule at http://www.dhss.delaware.gov/dhss/dph/index.html or you can find out by calling (800) 282-8672.  Beebe Healthcare in Lewes also is offering free flu shot clinics, as well as free shots at the hospital in Lewes every Monday through mid-November.

If you do not live in Delaware, you can find the nearest flu clinic by visiting https://www.cdc.gov/flu/. Emily explained that under the Affordable Care Art (Obama Care), we all get shots for free, whether our insurance pays or the government pays.

Flu shots are important!

One thing I learned while working in public relations at a hospital is that flu shots help prevent flu. CDC estimates that your risk of getting sick with flu drops from between 40% to 60% if you get the shot (Yes, some people get it anyway, and no, it doesn’t give you the flu).

The incidences of flu usually peak in December and January.

People with compromised immune systems (and with chronic illnesses that include cardiovascular disease, COPD, diabetes) can get seriously ill if they get flu. And, people die of flu. Last year, 15 people died of flu in Delaware. A few years ago, nearly 30 people died of flu in Delaware.  In fact, the CDC estimates that somewhere between 12,000 and 56,000 people in the United States have died of the flu since 2010.

Of course, there are people who cannot get the shot because of allergies to eggs and some other ingredients. You know who you are, or should find out if you are concerned. But the majority of us have a better chance to stay healthy this winter if we get the shot.

I’m not trying to scare anyone. I realize there are the believers and disbelievers. I’m a believer in vaccinations. I am old enough to remember when a boy in my class at elementary school had braces on his legs that had been damaged by polio, and when I had to stay in my room for a week as a young child with measles because the doctor was worried about my eyes.

I spent two weeks in isolation as a parent when my one-year-old son got mumps! He was so sick that he had convulsions. I dipped him in a cold bathtub and that helped.

A few days ago, a woman in her 60s told me she doesn’t get the shot because it gave her the flu when she was 14 years old. I didn’t want to argue with her because I felt it was rude, and hope she doesn’t end up suffering this winter.

It’s never too late in the season to get the shot, though earlier is better. It takes about two weeks before it is effective. I got mine at Rite Aid a few days ago before I heard about Acme’s discount.

While this season’s flu hasn’t shown up yet in the United States, it has been creating some issues in Australia, where there has been two-and-a-half times more lab-confirmed cases this year than last. Flu hits Australia before the North American continent so U.S.  health officials are predicting higher numbers here, too. Nothing is for sure.

A new vaccine formula is made every year to target the flu anticipated to hit. The CDC also is NOT recommending the flu nasal spray, which doesn’t seem to work.

You can get all the details about this season’s flu by checking the CDC website https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/flu-season-2017-2018.htm.

Other helpful tips to avoid getting sick this winter are:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly and often
    • Wash your hands before you eat
    • Wash your hands before you eat after you have gone to the bathroom, touched handrails, handled money, picked up library books, and pushed the cart at the grocery store.
    • Keep your hands away from your face
  • Cough into your arm rather that into your hands
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Get enough rest, think positive, and smile

 

 

 

A 92 year old’s secret to longevity

Sara is wonderfully optimistic and at 92, is still a bundle of warmth and energy

“Finding my own peace in the midst of chaos.”

At 92 years old, Sara Sherman drives a car, walks to the shops around the corner from her home on Santa Monica, California, and flies across the country to visit family.

Sara is an inspiration. She is soft spoken, witty and knows more about healthy eating than anyone I know.  In the 1980s, she earned her PhD in clinical nutrition. She was ahead of the popular trend of gluten-free, whole grains, fiber and ‘shopping the edges of the supermarket.’

I wanted to find out her secret of longevity and happiness so that I could share it. I sent her a list of questions as she said it would be easier for her to answer them in writing than it would be to over the telephone.  Included here are the questions and her answers.

Question –   To what do you attribute your health and longevity?

Sara –  I am not sure. I am still discovering why. My father died at 85. He was always active, but believed in cat-naps, and laughter. I have tried to follow his example in both, and try to see the humor or benefit in most situations.

Question – What life practices do you think are the most important?

Sara –  Being a nutritional counselor, I know what I eat is important. But I also know that what I put in my into my thoughts is much more important that what I put in my mouth.

Question – What has brought you the most joy in life?

Sara – That’s easy — the relationships with the people that I love – more joy than anything I could have in the bank or in my possession.

Question –  Please tell us about one of your most favorite experiences.

Sara – It was the one year traveling alone in Greece where I had no one else to please and no one to advise me. I was able to focus on my own intuition. That resulted in one year of amazing changes and wonderful growth.

Question – How have you sought joy and peace?

Sara –  The old-fashioned way! I work at it. I have learned I have a choice in the way I feel. I first have to become aware of my negative feelings so that I can work to change my thoughts, which ultimately changes my feelings. I call it, “Finding my own peace in the midst of chaos.”

Question – How do you handle grief?

Sara –  Healing from grief involves forgiveness. That’s really important. First, I must find a way to forgive myself for whatever my mind can imagine. We all do the best at any time. I find journal writing about my grief and loss and regrets eases the pain. Part of the pain goes into the book, making it feel heavy. Or, I put the sadness away on an emotional shelf.  Then, I take it out it bits and pieces when I feel able.

Question –  Do you get anxious? If so, how do you handle it?

Sara –  Of course I do but I have learned to become a monitor of my thoughts. For 10 years after my father died, I heard (imagined I heard) his voice over my left shoulder, commenting or advising or asking me questions. Gradually, I replaced him, becoming the monitor of my own thoughts, looking for the gifts in what is happening, knowing that anxiety or peace is my choice.

Question – What makes you laugh?

Sara – Life makes me laugh. The older I am, the more fun I have, the more I realize almost everything we worry about never happens.  Everything else is very temporary, working itself out if you believe it will.

 

 

Man on the bench

I was inspired to write this piece through the participation in the Rehoboth Beach Writers Guild Art in the A.M. monthly event. The assignment was to write 300 or fewer words about one of the pieces of art chosen for the month. The photograph by Angie Moon inspired my imagination.  Since I am using her photograph on my website, I also am including a link to her website: http://www.angiemoonphotographer.com

My piece represents a subject of my book Black Market Baby, which I am in the process of completing.  It does not represent Angie’s theme. 

He dropped his head into his right hand, sinking deep into his thoughts.  He was no longer aware of the lovely garden around him, or of the rigid wooden bench upon which he sat. He didn’t feel the warmth of the sunshine, or hear the cry of the cardinal as it welcomed spring.

He pictured the young woman where they had just met by the pond.  Their favorite spot.  The place they knew they would find each other in the afternoons.  He could still hear her voice and see the tears in her eyes. Pregnant.  She was pregnant.  What were they to do, she asked him.  Fear swelled from within him. He didn’t know what to tell her.  Let me think, he said. Let’s meet tomorrow.

He walked away from her as she sat holding back her sobs. He couldn’t console her because he was too afraid himself. What to do.  He couldn’t marry her. He was married. She was so young and so beautiful. Young, alone, and pregnant. What had he done?

He walked through the park and past the daffodils that had begun to shrivel and die. He didn’t notice them. He didn’t notice the boy on the bicycle who nearly ran him over or the couple walking hand in hand. He didn’t notice the toy boats in the pond and the geese snapping up the breadcrumbs dropped by a woman wearing a shawl.

What to do.  He had always wanted a child, and now there was a child he could not have.  He had married after the war, but no children would come from that marriage. He could not turn for advice to his mother, his father, or sisters who had died by the Nazis hands. Tomorrow, he thought, I will call my friend Zalmon tomorrow. He will know what to do.

 

 

My dog King is slowing down

On Monday morning, March 20, 2017, King, my 87-lb Akita mix, decided he no longer wanted to go down my stairs.  Now that is serious because all of my living space in my condo is on the second floor. The first floor is only a foyer.

I tried to coax him. I commanded him. He reluctantly walked down and stumbled on the last two stairs.  He was fine once he got outside and started his normal routine of looking for the squirrels. I usually let him run after them because he never catches them, and it gives him such joy.  But I knew that this sudden fear of the stairs signaled a new stage in his aging process. He is going to be 12 years old on May 1, and in people years that’s somewhere in the 80s.

I called the vet immediately and got an appointment for the afternoon.

From one day to the next, it seemed, he no longer galloped up the stairs to beat me to the top. That was one of his favorite things to do, too. I had a trainer in who said he shouldn’t do that, especially when guests arrive. He’d stand at the top of the stairs and look them in the eye. And since he looks something like a red wolf, friends started avoiding my place. So, I worked hard making him stay at the bottom while people climbed up and went into my living room.

Those images are memories. I hadn’t noticed the change as it occurred so subtly.  Now, he can’t run up the stairs anymore. It’s as if it happened over night. He used to drag me around the condo development. I had to use two hands on the leash to hold him back when he would see a squirrel or a rabbit.

Monday afternoon we got to the vet. The tech brought us in a room and interviewed me, just like in the doctor’s office. Then his vet, who he has known since I adopted him four years ago, came in. She has been expecting some aging issues and assumed he was suffering from arthritis pain. She had an x-ray taken and sure enough, he has arthritis in both hips and in his back. I guess it hit the tipping point and now the pain is too great for him to comfortably balance himself on the stairs.

So, I got Rimadyl, glucosamine tablets, and a $110, two-section halter called a ‘helpemup’ that has handles on the shoulders and hips, and lots of padding. It has been over a week now and the result is that he happily goes down the stairs when I am firmly holding the handle on this shoulders. He seems bouncier so I am hoping that the pain is less. Dogs, after all, rarely complain about pain.

He is on a diet as he still likes to eat but is not exercising like he used to. Our 4-mile daily walks have been cut to 2 miles as he just doesn’t want to walk as far as he used to. For the first time since I have owned him, he won’t be doing my synagogue’s annual 5k walk with me. I am sure it will be too much for him.

He still loves the beach, and we still walk there as often as our schedule and weather allows.

 

A Walk on a Winter’s Day

Walking near the ocean brings peace of mind. I’ve never been able to understand why. A quiet winter’s day, when few people are around, is the best time of all. On this particular afternoon, I walked along Lewes Beach with my dog King. No one was around. The tide was out and this conch shell came into view.

Initiating a new path

Susan Towers reading at the Rehoboth Beach Writers Guild event
Susan Towers reading at the Rehoboth Beach Writers Guild event

Life is made up of the mundane, of memorable events, crises, transitions, and then, hopefully, self-discovery that leads to our personal growth and continued fulfillment. Even as we take actions that redirect our lives, we wait and wonder what will happen next. Change in life is so predictable, in fact, that accomplished author Gail Sheehy, in 1976, published the book Passages that delineated what happens to each of us according to our age.

 Passages presented a hopeful message =  Crisis gives us the opportunity to be creative and to find a new and better path for ourselves – the Library of Congress deemed it one of the most influential books in modern times.

As a 20-something married to a non-monogamous Norwegian and living thousands of miles from family, I read the book with enthusiastic anticipation to find out what more could happen in my life and how I was going to make the most of it, or create something different.

In 2000, when my employer’s CEO was escorted from his office, I enthusiastically read Spencer Johnson’s Who Moved My Cheese? for some new direction in my career – and life. Johnson also promoted creative thought. As the company spokesperson, I interpreted a probable pending layoff as a motivator to be creative.

Today, the road map in the face of constant change seems to be captured in the concept of ‘mindfulness.’   Mindfulness means we should think about what we do in the moment, to experience its importance, and to listen to our hearts. It requires us to practice healthy behaviors and to be true to ourselves.

For me, mindfulness has initiated a different sort of transition. Unlike the others, which were initiated  from the outside, this one comes from my desire for personal growth and accomplishment.  I have chosen, in the not to distant future, to leave one career path for another.  I anticipate this journey to be exciting and challenging, and one that  I surely will never forget.

The Next Bend: An adventure a mother shares with her adult son

Climbing over the dune, we head for the sun-faded kayaks lying in the beach grass. The Delaware Bay is flat, tide out with the sandbar exposed. It is a perfect warm, July morning to journey into the Great Marsh nearby. We can leave Lewes Beach and within a half hour find ourselves surrounded by the natural beauty of the marsh, so different from combed sands where people already have begun to set up their umbrellas and settle into their canvas chairs, surrounded by ice chests and beach bags. I look forward to experiencing an adventure in a place I have never been. I think of the photographs I have seen of the salt marsh, and how I will be able to relax and breathe in the clean air and see egrets and herons, or even a hawk or an osprey.

My son Michael and I prepare for our kayak adventure. We don’t see each other so often anymore. He’s grown now and lives far away, having no interest in living in this Delaware coastal town.  As for me, I long for the days when I would cheer for him in high school football games. I long for the days when his baseball caps lined the bookcase in his room, when milk cartons were left on the counter, and when my grocery list was pages long. It seems only yesterday that he was a teenager, asking me to edit his English papers. Now he is past 30, and only occasionally seeming to need me.

I tighten my life preserver and notice he isn’t wearing his. He says he doesn’t need it, the strong and competitive swimmer that he is. It’s a beautiful day and there are no waves in the Broadkill River. How can I argue with him? Even if the kayak he is borrowing capsizes, he would only have to climb back on again. We both have our water bottles and the lunches we packed, but we forgot the bug spray and flip flops.  I think we should be okay.

We drag the kayaks into the shallow water, and pull them along until we clear the sandbar so we can climb board and begin to paddle.

I had promised Michael that the marsh would be a special place to visit, as peaceful and breathtaking as the Sierras in which we camped when he was a child. He isn’t completely sold, but instead would like to kayak to another beach up the Delaware River and relax in the hot sand.

Once we leave the beach, he paddles ahead of me as he circles the jetty into the Roosevelt Inlet. The water in the inlet churns from the wake of boats coming in and out from the Bay. I feel my heart pound in anticipation as I realize that I have to make it across the chop before another boat comes. The entrance to the Broadkill is on the other side of the inlet. I take a deep breath and push my thighs tightly against the side of the kayak to keep it afloat as I begin to paddle as hard as I can. The rough water invigorates me. I am no longer afraid as the waves lap against the side of my kayak. Water sprays in my face as the bow of my kayak slaps across the swells to continue its forward motion.

Michael already has moved into the Broadkill, though I am gaining on him. The tide is coming in strongly and I feel it pushing me along.  Michael’s yellow kayak bobs and sways like a plastic container for a few moments as he waits for me. Then, once I am near, I see his muscular arms drive he paddles into the water. As I look around, he seems oblivious to the red-winged blackbirds shouting at him as he passes their nesting hideaways. Instead, he focuses on the bend coming up. Humidity hangs in the air and he begins to swat at black flies swirling around his head. I had not thought about the black flies. I am familiar with them as they always show up on Lewes Beach when the wind comes off of the marsh. But somehow, I had not considered that we would be entering their territory if we kayaked in the middle of the river. I wish I had not forgotten the bug spray.

“An adventure happens when something goes wrong,” says Michael, raising his voice so that I can hear him over the sound of the water. He continues to swat at the flies.

“Don’t say that. This isn’t a movie,” I answer back. Why is he being so dramatic, I think to myself. I want to capture some special moments that I can squirrel away with those I have of us and his brother Lars camping in the Sierras. In those days, he and Lars set up the tent and collected firewood as I set up the stove, unpacked our camping shower and put our food away in the bear box. Hiking and camping in the mountains was something the three of us had shared, following new trails and taking in new panoramas.

I look around to see the tall grasses of the marsh stretch toward a hazy, tree-lined horizon far away. It is so beautiful. I feel as if I am in a painting.

“What do you think is down there?” says Michael, focusing on the next bend. The current continues to carry us forward and the paddling is easy. I am in the moment. I see an osprey in flying above us.

“What are you looking for?” I ask.

“There’s got to be a beach, or something,” he says.

“There are no beaches, Michael. This is a marsh.”

I am beginning to think that we should have kayaked up the Delaware River. There are beaches along the banks and Michael does not seem to be appreciating the marsh. Suddenly, a deafening sound of a motor breaks the stillness. I know a boat is going to appear from around the bend and I begin to panic. We are in the middle of the river.

“There’s a boat coming,” I shout. “Get out of the middle of the river.”

“There’s plenty of room for a boat,” he shouts back. Typical, I think to myself. He never listens to me.

A good-sized fishing boat, maybe 35 feet, planes toward us. I can see the bottom of the bow above the wake. I gasp and paddle as fast as I can toward the muddy, mucky bank. Michael barely breaks his stride, continuing to maintain his position. Just as I imagine him run over by a drunken fisherman, the boat slows, dropping into the water. The fisherman had cut his engines so as to avoid us and to make sure that we were not overturned by his wake. He even waves, and I immediately feel guilty for suspecting his drunkenness. Michael waves back.

“Hey mom, look at the heron. It’s over there on the bank.”

So Michael is aware of the beauty of our surroundings. The lanky, majestic bird stands in the grass of a small tributary to our left.  The feathers on the back of its head bristle as it comes to attention, watching us.

“I want to see how close I can get,” Michael says. “I want to see what it looks like when it takes off.”

He paddles into the tributary where the current has slowed. He barely touches the water with his paddle, sending the kayak forward.  I watch him watching the heron.  I can see he is enjoying the moment. I feel a sense of joy knowing that I have given my child a love of nature.  The heron moves away from the bank, keepings its eyes focused on Michael. Then, as if there was a signal sounded, it flaps its expansive wings and rises into the sky. The cumbersome take-off morphed into a graceful flight. We both watch in awe.

With the heron gone, Michael turns back into the main channel. I follow.

“Let’s see if we can find somewhere we can tie up the kayaks and walk around,” he says.

I am dubious. Even as he speaks, he keeps swatting black flies. If he is getting bitten in the water, I can only imagine what will happen if we were on the marsh. Black flies are troublesome, and their bite can be painful.

“Over there. There are some trees over there,” he says, and increases his speed. Sure enough, there is a stand of evergreen trees. I assume they had been planted by a farmer. There is some cultivation in the marsh. We can see remnants of an old dock as we grow closer. Broken pieces of wood stick out of the water next to the bank. We pass the wood and find a small inlet. Old fence posts stand along the bank and into the water.

“Let’s tie up here,” Michael says. “There’s a flat spot. I can see it.”

We find a place along the bank where there is a bush large enough to tie our lines around. Michael maneuvers his kayak as close to the bank as he can. He jumps out of the kayak and stands in the mud, then climbs onto the bank, which at that point is quite steep. Quickly, he pulls his kayak out of the way so I can get mine into the same position.  He then reaches down to help pull me up onto the bank, too.  As he secures the kayaks, I grab our sandwiches.

“The ground is sharp. Watch out!”

Michael hops as if walking on hot pavement. I haven’t moved yet. Instead, I am trying to figure out where it is safe to walk for my bare feet. I see a patch of ground that looks as if it has been mowed. We are standing at the end of a gravel road. Dead grass lies around the area, but young stalk-like blades of wild grass poke through. I carefully walk on my toes, one foot at a time. I take off my life vest and throw it on the ground.

“Michael, sit on a corner of my vest.”

He manages to get to my vest and sits down on one side of it. I sit down on the other. He digs through our makeshift lunch bag, and pulls out two peaches and two cheese sandwiches. Just as we begin to enjoy the serenity and sweetness of the peaches, the attack starts. A swarm of black flies descend upon us. I have never seen anything like it. I gasp at their intensity.

“Oh shit,” Michael shouts. “They bite. Look. Blood. I’m bleeding.”

I don’t think I’ll ever forget the dance he does to get back to the bank, swatting flies and trying to find a safe place to put his feet. They are not biting me, but a few still hover around my legs.

“Let’s get out of here,” he says. So much for tranquility. The marsh loses its beauty as I grab my things and try desperately to get back to the kayak. I slide down the bank into the black mucky mud. My hands and legs and feet are filthy, but I forget to be worried about what sharp objects might be in the water. I just want to get back into the kayak and away. Michael is moving fast, too, and both of us are trying to untie the line so that we can begin paddling toward the middle of the river.

As we finally begin to paddle, I realize that we are going against the current. It is as if the marsh does not want us to go. I hadn’t expected the current to be so strong. We have to increase the pressure of our paddle strokes. Michael lets me move ahead, though at first I do not realize why. The wind from the ocean slams into our faces as we come around the next bend. I push my paddles into the water, but the wind joins the current to push me backwards.

“Michael, we’re not going forward,” I shout. I put my head down as if I were swimming. My breathing increases. My legs, which until now had been quiet in the kayak, push against the sides of the kayak as I force my shoulders forward. I am not sure if Michael is in front of me or behind.  I feel alone against the current and the wind.

“Good work, mom,” I hear Michael from behind. I realize he must have fallen back to make sure that I am going to be able to make it without help. The day before our trip, he had purchased two ropes and put one on each kayak. It was for safety, he had said.

I hear another motor boat approaching, but I can barely look up. This time the boat doesn’t slow down. In a plane, it passes us and its first deep swell throws us toward the bank. A couple more swells are heading toward us. I brace myself.

“Hold on mom. Face the kayak toward the wake.”

I had been kayaking in the Delaware Bay for five summers and so a wake here or there normally wouldn’t bother me. I had learned how to balance by rotating my hips and pressing my legs against the sides of the kayak. I also regularly worked out in the gym so I was prepared to work harder with my upper body if I had to. But Michael wasn’t thinking about that. I see his body tense as he maneuvers the swells. He is worried about me.

“Mom, are you okay?”

“I am. Really.”

“Do you have enough water? Do you want to stop?”

“Keep going. Really. I’m okay.”

We decide to stop for a few minutes anyway, and make our way to a low-lying muddy clearing. Some sand is interspersed in the mud. As we approach, we see what seems to be hundreds of baby horseshoe crabs in the shallow water. We beach our kayaks and take a few minutes to walk amongst them, making sure we don’t step on them. The marsh is teaming with life. We are awestruck again, and find a log to sit on. For a moment, we forget about the black flies, which have seemed to have forgotten about us, too.

“Mom. I’ve never seen anything like this.”

The tall grasses surround us and the water gently laps on the tiny spot of sand. The little horseshoe crabs glide around us, oblivious to our presence. No one else is around.

“Are you ready to go?” Michael asks.

“Yes,” I say. It is time to head back. We have been gone much longer than we had planned, and still have a good way to go.

Our journey back to the beach takes two more hours.  My arms are shaky and my legs are numb, but I keep going. I fight back the fear that I might not make it, that I’ll have to stop again. I only have a bit more water left, as I take a swig every once in a while.

Then, just as we reach the mouth of the river, I feel the tide change. Suddenly, it no longer fights me. It begins to pull me toward the inlet. Michael starts to laugh.

“Do you feel that mom? The tide is going out and carrying us along with it.”

I am surprised to feel how much easier it is to get across the inlet and back to the beach. I lose my balance as the kayak hits the sand, but I still manage to climb out and pull it ashore.

“What a great trip mom,” Michael says.

It’s a trip I always will remember, a trip I can squirrel away with hiking in the mountains, high school football games, and baseball caps all in a row.

 

 

Rehoboth Sunrise on a Glorious December Day

RB sunrise December 2015I get energy from a sunrise. This one was glorious. Impossible to describe. I took some earlier photographs before the sun was visible above the horizon. I liked this photograph the best because I could see the sunlight in the spray that came from the breakers. I am truly going to see if I can get up early enough tomorrow morning to make it back to the beach. It’s only 5 miles away.