Love without limitations
My brother, Jimmy, did not get enough oxygen during a difficult delivery, leaving him with brain damage, and two years later I was born. Since then, my life revolved around my brother’s. Accompanying my growing up was always “go out and play and take your brother with you”. I couldn’t go anywhere without him, so I urged the neighborhood kids to come to my house for some out-of-control kid-centered fun.
My mother taught Jimmy practical things like how to brush his teeth or put on belt. My father, a saint, simply held the house together with his patience and understanding. I was in charge outside where I administered justice by tracking down the parents of the kids who picked on my brother, and telling on them. My father and Jimmy were inseparable. They ate breakfast together and on weekdays drove off to the navy shipping center every morning where they both worked-Jimmy unloaded color-coded boxes. At night after dinner, they would talk and play games late into the evening. They even whistled the same tunes. So when my father died of a heart attack in 1991, Jimmy was a wreck, beneath his careful disguise. He was simply in disbelief. Usually very agreeable, he now quit speaking altogether and no amount of words could penetrate the vacant expression he wore on his face. I hired someone to live with him and drive him to work, but no matter how much I tried to make things stay the same, even Jimmy grasped that the world he’d known was gone. One day I asked, ”You miss Dad, don’t you?” His lips quivered and then he asked, “What do you think, Margaret? He was my best friend.” Our tears began flow.
My mother died of lung cancer six months later and I alone was left to look after Jimmy.
He didn’t adjust to going to work wi thout my father right away, so he came and lived with me in New York City for a while. He went wherever I went and seemed to adjust pretty well. Still, Jimmy longed to live in my parents’ house and work at his old job and I pledged to help him return. Eventually, I was able to work it out. He has lived there for 11 years now with many different caretakers and blossomed on his own. He has become essential to the neighborhood. When you have any mail to be picked up or your dog needs walking, he is your man.
My mother was right, of course: It was possible to have a home with room for both his limitations and my ambitions. In fact, caring for someone who loves as deeply and appreciates my efforts as much as Jimmy does has enriched my life more than anything else ever could have.
This hit home a few days after the September 11th disaster on Jimmy’s 57th birthday. I had a party for him in my home in New York, but none of our family
could join us because travel was difficult and they were still reckoning with the sheer terror the disaster had brought. I called on my faithful friends to help make it a merry and festive occasion, ignoring the fact that most of them were emotionally drained and exhausted. Instead of the customary “No gifts, please”, I shouted, “Gifts! Please!”
My friends-people Jimmy had come to know over the years-brought the ideal presents: country music CDs, a sweatshirt, one leather belt with “J-I-M-M-Y” on it, a knitted wool hat and a cowboy costume. The evening led up to the gifts and then the chocolate cake from his favorite bakery, and of course the ceremony wasn’t complete without the singing.
A thousand times Jimmy asked, ”Is it time for the cake yet?” After dinner and the gifts Jimmy could no longer be restrained. He anxiously waited for the candles to be lit and then blew them out with one long breath as well all sang “Happy birthday”. Jimmy wasn’t satisfied with our effort, though. He jumped up on the chair and stood erect pointing both index fingers into the air to conduct us and yell ed, ”One…more…time!” We sang with all of the energy left in our souls and when we were finished he put both his thumbs up and shouted. “ That was super!”
We had wanted to let him know that no matter how difficult things got in the world, there would always be people who cared about him. We ended up reminding ourselves instead. For Jimmy, the love with which we sang was a welcome bonus, but mostly he had just wanted to see everyone else happy again.
Just as my father’s death had changed Jimmy’s world ov ernight, September 11th changed our lives; the world we’d known was gone. But, as we sang for Jimmy and held each tight afterward praying for peace around the world, we were reminded that the constant love and support of our friends and family would get us through whatever life might present. The simplicity with which Jimmy had reconciled everything for us should not have been surprising. There had never been limitations to what Jimmy’s love could accomplish.
Iron and the Effects of Exercise
Sports medicine experts have observed for years that endurance athletes, particularly females, frequently have iron deficiencies. Now a new study by a team of Purdue University researchers suggests that even moderate exercise may lead to reduced iron in the blood of women. "We found that women who were normally inactive and then started a program of moderate exercise showed evidence of iron loss," says Roseanne M. Lyle, associate professor at Purdue. Her study of 62 formerly inactive women who began exercising three times a week for six months was published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. "Women who consumed additional meat or took iron supplements were able to bounce back," she notes. "But the new exercisers who followed their normal diet showed a decrease in iron levels."
Iron deficiency is very common among women in general, affecting one in four female teenagers and one in five women aged 18 to 45, respectively. But the ratio is even greater among active women, affecting up to 80 percent of female endurance athletes. This means, Lyle says, that "too many women ignore the amount of iron they take in";. Women of child-bearing age are at greatest risk, since their monthly bleeding is a major source of iron loss. Plus, many
health-conscious women increase their risk by rejecting red meat, which
contains the most easily absorbed form of iron. And because women often restrict their diet in an effort to control weight, they may not consume enough iron-rich food, and are liable to experience a deficiency. "The average woman takes in only two thirds of the recommended daily allowance for iron," notes another expert. "For a woman who already has a poor iron status, any additional iron loss from exercise may be enough to tip her over the edge into a more serious deficiency," notes the expert.
Exercise can result in iron loss through a variety of mechanisms. Some iron is lost in sweat, and, for unknown reasons, intense endurance exercise is sometimes associated with bleeding of the digestive system. Athletes in
high-impact sports such as running may also lose iron through a phenomenon where small blood vessels in the feet leak blood. There are three stages of iron deficiency. The first and most common is having low iron reserves, a condition that typically has no symptoms. Fatigue and poor performance may begin to appear in the second stage of deficiency, when not enough iron is present to form the molecules of blood protein that transport oxygen to the working muscles. In the third and final stage, people often feel weak, tired, and out of breath — and exercise performance is severely compromised. "People think that if they're not at the third stage, nothing is wrong, but that's not true," says John L. Beard, who helped design the Purdue study. "You're not stage 3 until your iron reserves go to zero, and if you wait until that point, you're in trouble."
However, most people with low iron reserves don't know they have a deficiency, because traditional methods of calculating the amount of iron in blood (by checking levels of the blood protein that transports oxygen) are not sufficient, Beard states. Instead, it's important to check levels of a different compound, which indicates the amount of storage of iron in the blood. While active,
child-bearing age women are most likely to have low iron stores, he notes, "Men are not safe, especially if they don't eat meat and have a high level of physical activity." (An estimated 15 percent of male long distance runners have low iron stores.) Beard and other experts say it's advisable for people in these groups to have a yearly blood test to check blood iron reserves.
If iron levels are low, talk with a physician to see if the deficiency should be corrected by modifying your diet or by taking supplements. In general, it's better to undo the problem by adding more iron-rich foods to the diet, because
iron supplements can have serious shortcomings. Supplements may produce a feeling of wanting to throw up, and may be poisonous in some cases. The best sources of iron, and the only sources of the form of iron most readily absorbed by the body, are meat, chicken, and fish. Good sources of other forms of iron include dates, beans, and some leafy green vegetables. "Select breads and cereals with the words 'iron-added' on the label," writes sports diet expert Nancy Clark. "This added iron supplements the small amount that naturally occurs in grains. Eat these foods with plentiful Vitamin C (for example, drink orange juice with cereal or put a tomato on a sandwich) to enhance the amount of iron absorbed." Clark also recommends cooking in iron pans, as food can derive iron from the pan during the cooking process. "The iron content of tomato sauce cooked in an iron pot for three hours showed a striking increase, the level going up nearly 30 times," she writes. And people who are likely to have low iron should avoid drinking coffee or tea with meals, she says, since substances in these drinks can interfere with iron being absorbed into the body.
"Active women need to be a lot more careful about their food choices," sums up Purdue's Lyle. "If you pay attention to warning signs before iron reserves are gone, you can remedy the deficiency before it really becomes a problem."
Where Principles Come First
The Hyde School operates on the principle that if you teach students the merit of such values as truth, courage, integrity, leadership, curiosity and concern, then academic achievement naturally follows. Hyde School founder Joseph Gauld claims success with the program at the $18,000-a-year high school in Bath, Maine, which has received considerable publicity for its work with troubled youngsters. "We don't see ourselves as a school for a type of kid," says Malcolm Gauld, Joseph's son, who graduated from Hyde and is now headmaster. "We see ourselves as preparing kids for a way of life — by cultivating a comprehensive set of principles that can affect all kids."
Now, Joe Gauld is trying to spread his controversial Character First idea to public, inner-city schools willing to use the tax dollars spent on the traditional program for the new approach. The first Hyde public school program opened in September 1992. Within months the program was suspended. Teachers protested the program's demands and the strain associated with more intense work. This fall, the Hyde Foundation is scheduled to begin a preliminary public school program in Baltimore. Teachers will be trained to later work throughout the entire Baltimore system. Other US school managers are eyeing the program, too. Last fall, the Hyde Foundation opened a magnet program within a public high school in the suburbs of New Haven, Connecticut, over parents' protests. The community feared the school would attract inner-city minority and troubled students.
As in Maine the quest for truth is also widespread at the school in Connecticut. In one English class, the 11 students spend the last five minutes in an energetic exchange evaluating their class performance for the day on a 1-10 scale. "I get a 10." "I challenge that. You didn't do either your grammar or your spelling homework." "OK, a seven."
"You ought to get a six." "Wait, I put my best effort forth here." "Yeah, but you didn't ask questions today." Explaining his approach to education, Joe Gauld says the conventional education system cannot be reformed. He notes "no amount of change" with the horse and carriage "will produce an automobile".
The Hyde School assumes "every human being has a unique potential" that is based on character, not intelligence or wealth. Conscience and hard work are valued. Success is measured by growth, not academic achievement. Students are required to take responsibility for each other. To avoid the controversy of other character programs used in US schools, Gauld says the concept of doing your best has nothing to do with forcing the students to accept a particular set of morals or religious values. The Hyde curriculum is similar to conventional schools that provide preparation for college, complete with English, history, math and science. But all students are required to take performing arts and sports, and provide a community service. For each course, students get a grade for academic achievement and for "best effort". At Bath, 97% of the graduates attend four-year colleges. Commitment among parents is a key ingredient in the Hyde mixture. For the student to gain admission, parents also must agree to accept and demonstrate the school's philosophies and outlook.
The parents agree in writing to meet monthly in one of 20 regional groups, go to a yearly three-day regional retreat, and spend at least three times a year in workshops, discussion groups and seminars at Bath. Parents of Maine students have an attendance rate of 95% in the many sessions. Joe and Malcolm Gauld both say children tend to do their utmost when they see their parents making similar efforts. The biggest obstacle for many parents, they say, is to realize their own weaknesses. The process for public school parents is still being worked out, with a lot more difficulty because it is difficult to convince parents that it is worthwhile for them to participate. Of the 100 students enrolled in New Haven, about 30% of the parents attend special meetings. The low attendance is in spite of commitments they made at the outset of the program when Hyde officials interviewed 300 families.
Once the problems are worked out, Hyde should work well in public schools, says a teacher at Bath who taught for 14 years in public schools. He is optimistic that once parents make a commitment to the program, they will be daily role models for their children, unlike parents whose children are in boarding schools.
One former inner-city high school teacher who now works in the New Haven program, says teachers also benefit. "Here we really begin to focus on having a fruitful relationship with each student. Our focus is really about teacher to stud ent and then we together deal with the…academics. In the traditional high school setting, it's teacher to the material and then to the student." The teacher-student relationship is taken even further at Hyde. Faculty evaluations are conducted by the students.
Jimmy DiBattista, 19, is amazed he will graduate this May from the Bath campus and plans to attend a university. Years ago, he had seen his future as "jail, not college".
DiBattista remembers his first days at Hyde. "When I came here, I insulted and cursed everybody. Every other school was, 'Get out, we don't want to deal with you. 'I came here and they said, 'We kind of like that spirit. We don't like it with the negative attitudes. We want to turn that spirit positive.'"
Five Famous Symbols of American Culture
The Statue of Liberty
In the mid-1870s, French artist Frederic Auguste Bartholdi was working on an enormous project called Liberty Enlightening the World, a monument celebrating US independence and the France-America alliance. At the same time, he was in love with a woman whom he had met in Canada. His mother could not approve of her son's affection for a woman she had never met, but Bartholdi went ahead and married his love in 1876.
That same year Bartholdi had assembled the statue's right arm and torch, and displayed them in Philadelphia. It is said that he had used his wife's arm as the model, but felt her face was too beautiful for the statue. He needed someone whose face represented suffering yet strength, someone more severe than beautiful. He chose his mother.
The Statue of Liberty was dedicated on an island in Upper New York Bay in 1886.
It had his mother's face and his wife's body, but Bartholdi called it "my daughter, Liberty".
Before all the different types of Barbie dolls for sale now, there was just a single Barbie. Actually, her name was Barbara. Barbara Handler was the daughter of Elliot and Ruth Handler, co-founders of the Mattel Toy Company. Ruth came up with the idea for Barbie after watching her daughter play with paper dolls. The three-dimensional model for Barbie was a German doll — a joke gift for adults described as having the appearance of "a woman who sold sex". Mattel refashioned the doll into a decent, all-American — although with an exaggerated breast size — version and named it after Barbara, who was then a teenager.
Since her introduction in 1959, Barbie has become the universally recognized Queen of the Dolls. Mattel says the average American girl owns ten Barbie dolls, and two are sold somewhere in the world every second.
Now more than sixty years old, Barbara — who declines interviews but is said to have loved the doll - may be the most famous unknown figure on the planet. Barbie's boyfriend, Ken, was introduced in 1961 and named after Barbara's brother. The real Ken, who died in 1994, was disgusted by the doll that made his family famous. "I don't want my children to play with it," he said in 1993.
Grant Wood instantly rose to fame in 1930 with his painting American Gothic, an often-copied interpretation of the solemn pride of American farmers. The painting shows a serious-looking man and a woman standing in front of a farmhouse. He was strongly influenced by medieval artists and inspired by the Gothic window of an old farmhouse, but the faces in his composition were what captured the world's attention.
Wood liked to paint faces he knew well. For the grave farmer he used his dentist, a sour-looking man. For the woman standing alongside him, the artist chose his sister, Nan. He stretched the models' necks a bit, but there was no doubt who posed for the portrait. Nan later remarked that the fame she gained from American Gothic saved her from a very boring life.
The Buffalo Nickel
Today, American coins honor prominent figures of the US government — mostly famous former presidents. But the Buffalo nickel, produced from 1913 to 1938, honored a pair of connected tragedies from the settlement of the American frontier — the destruction of the buffalo herds and the American Indians.
While white people had previously been used as models for most American coins, famed artist James Earle Fraser went against tradition by using three actual American Indians as models for his creation. For the buffalo on the other side, since buffalo no longer wandered about the great grasslands, Fraser was forced to sketch an aging buffalo from New York City's Central Park Zoo. Two years later, in 1915, this animal was sold for $100 and killed for meat, a hide, and a wall decoration made from its horns.
Fourteen-year-old Sam Wilson ran away from home to join his father and older brothers in the fight to liberate the American colonies from the British during the American Revolution. At age 23, he started a meatpacking business and earned a reputation for being honest and hard working. During a later war in 1812, Wilson gained a position inspecting meat for US Army forces, working with a man who had signed a contract with the government to provide meat to the army. Barrels of meat supplied to the army were stamped "EA-US", identifying the company (EA) and country of origin (US).
According to one story, when a government official visited the plant and asked about the letters, a creative employee told him "US" was short for "Uncle Sam" Wilson. Soon soldiers were saying all Army supplies were from "Uncle Sam".
After the war, a character called Uncle Sam began appearing in political cartoons, his form evolving from an earlier cartoon character called Brother Jonathan that was popular during the American Revolution. Uncle Sam soon replaced Brother Jonathan as American's most popular symbol. The most enduring portrait of Uncle Sam was created by artist James Montgomery Flagg in his famous army recruiting posters of World Wars I and II. That version — a tall man with white hair and a small white beard on his chin, a dark blue coat and a tall hat with stars on it — was a self-portrait of Flagg.
I have never seen Mrs. Clark before, but I know from her medical chart and the report I received from the preceding shift that tonight she will die.The only light in her room is coming from a piece of medical equipment, which is flashing its red light as if in warning. As I stand there, the smell hits my nose, and I close my eyes as I remember the smell
of decay from past experience. In my mouth I have a sour, vinegar taste coming from the pit of my stomach. I reach for the light switch, and as it silently lights the scene, I return to the bed to observe the patient with an unemotional, medical eye.
Mrs. Clark is dying. She lies motionless: the head seems unusually large on a skeleton body; the skin is dark yellow and hangs loosely around exaggerated bones that not even a blanket can hide; the right arm lies straight out at the side, taped cruelly to a board to secure a needle so that fluid may drip in;the left arm is across the sunken chest, which rises and falls with the uneven breaths.
I reach for the long, thin fingers that are lying on the chest. They are ice cold, and I quickly move to the wrist and feel for the faint pulse. Mrs. Clark's eyes open somewhat as her head turns toward me slightly. I bend close to her and scarcely hear as she whispers, "Water." Taking a glass of water from the table, I put my finger over the end of the straw and allow a few drops of the cool moisture to slide into her mouth and ease her thirst. She makes no attempt to swallow; there is just not enough strength.
"More," the dry voice says, and we repeat the procedure. This time she does manage to swallow some liquid and weakly says, "Thank, you."She is too weak for conversation, so without asking, I go about providing for her needs. Picking her up in my arms like a child, I turn her on her side. Naked, except for a light hospital gown, she is so very
small and light that she seems like a victim of some terrible famine. I remove the lid from a jar of skin cream and put some on the palm of my hand. Carefully, to avoid injuring her, I rub cream into the yellow skin, which rolls freely over the bones, feeling perfectly the outline of each bone in the back.
Placing a pillow between her legs, I notice that these too are ice cold, and not until I run my hand up over her knees do I feel any of the life-giving warmth of blood.When I am finished, I pull a chair up beside the bed to face her and, taking her free hand betweenmine, again notice the long, thin fingers. Graceful. I wonder briefly if she has any family, and then I see that there are neither flowers, nor pictures of rainbows and butterflies drawn by children, nor cards.
There is no hint in the room anywhere that this is a person who is loved. As though she is a mind reader, Mrs. Clark answers my thoughts and quietly tells me, "I sent ... my family ... home ... tonight ...didn't want ... them ... to see ..." Having spent her last ounce of strength she cannot go on, but I have understood what she has done. Not knowing what to say, I say nothing. Again she seems to sense mythoughts, "You …stay …"
Time seems to stand still. In the total silence, I feel my own pulse quicken and hear my breathing as it begins to match hers, breath for uneven breath. Our eyes meet and somehow, together, we become aware that this is a special moment between two human beings ... Her long fingers curl easily around my hand and I nod my head slowly, smiling. Without words, through yellowed eyes, I receive my thank you and her eyes slowly close.
Some unknown interval of time passes before her eyes open again, only this time there is no response in them, just a blank stare. Without warning, her shallow breathing stops, and within a few moments,the faint pulse is also gone. One single tear flows from her left eye, across the cheek and down onto the pillow. I begin to cry quietly. There is a swell of emotion within me for this stranger who so quicklycame into and went from my life.
Her suffering is done, yet so is the life. Slowly, still holding her hand, I become aware that I do not mind this emotional battle, that in fact, it was a privilege she has allowed me, and I would do it again, gladly. Mrs. Clark spared her family an episode that perhaps they were not equipped to handle and instead shared it
with me. She had not wanted to have her family see her die,yet she did not want to die alone. No one should die alone, and I am glad I was there for her.
Two days later, I read about Mrs. Clark in the newspaper. She was the mother of seven,grandmother of eighteen, an active member of her church, a leader of volunteer associations in her community, a concert piano player, and a piano teacher for over thirty years.Yes, they were long and graceful fingers.