He Said / She Said with Robin and Shawn

Dear HSSS,
My 17-year-old daughter got a texting-while-driving ticket. I swear she always has that cell phone in her hand, and I’m afraid someday she’s going to get into more trouble than just a ticket. I want to make sure the message gets through and that she learns a real lesson from this. What are your suggestions on driving the point home? ~Susanna in Pleasanton

He Said: By now everyone knows that texting while driving is waaay wrong so your teenage daughter can’t use ignorance in her defense. She endangered her life and the lives of others on the road, so in this situation there’s only one sure-fire way to drive the point home with your teenager…. temporarily take away either her car or her cell phone. I recommend taking away her driving privileges because if you take away her phone, she can easily get a new one without your knowledge. About 3-4 weeks should do it, and let her know if this happens again, the car disappears for a year.176967464

She Said: Man, that’s harsh, Shawn, but desperate times call for desperate measures, and we don’t want to wait for something worse to happen before taking it seriously. However, if zero tolerance isn’t your parenting style, Susanna, then start with making your daughter pay the ticket, of course, and then imposing the phone check rule every time she uses the car. You’re looking for the time stamp, which may indicate if she was texting while driving. Do it regularly at first, then without notice now and again. It’s a hassle for everyone, but the inconvenience should break this dangerous habit.

Dear SSHS,
I’ve realized that one of my best friends has turned into a “fair weather friend.” He only calls me when he needs something but doesn’t pick up the phone or return messages when I call him, even if it’s just to say hello. We’ve been great friends for 15 years, but now I feel the friendship is going down a one-way street. What’s the best way to let him know this friendship is no longer working for me?
~Darren in Dublin

She Said: I hear your pain, but let’s not be hasty. You’ve been friends a long time, and those relationships can be hard to find. Your buddy may have no idea how insensitive he’s being. A good friend will tell him, and the best way to begin is by making the problem yours rather than accusing him of wrongdoing. Explain that you feel bad when he only calls for a favor and that it hurts when he doesn’t return your calls. Then ask if he was aware this was happening? If not, and he apologizes and aims to fix it, that would be better than abandoning the friendship. If he really doesn’t seem to care about the one-way street, then maybe it is time to let it go.

He Said: Welcome to the club, Darren. We’ve all had a friend like this in our lives, one who doesn’t value the friendship the same as the other. These people can feel like a cancer, really weighing you down. Robin has a point that communicating your concerns is the first step to solving problems in any relationship, but I would keep this friend on a very short leash. If you’re still unsatisfied with the friendship once you’ve gotten to the bottom of the issue, it’s time to cut him loose. Friendships can run their course, and life’s way too short to waste driving down that one-way street.HeSaidSheSaidgraphic

Robin Fahr and Shawn Shizzo host Conversations and He Said/She Said seen daily on Tri-Valley TV, Channel 30. Send your questions to www.AskHeSaidSheSaid.com.

The Spirit of the Old West Corralled at Blackhawk

Danville’s Blackhawk Museum, which exhibits some of the world’s rarest classic automobiles, has acquired an extensive private collection of American West and Plains Indians historic artifacts for a new permanent exhibition titled, “SPIRIT OF THE OLD WEST,” to open in late fall.

This vast collection of Western and American Indian artifacts has remarkable historic importance. The all-encompassing collection is representative of Plains Indians and the Pioneering Settlers that will take viewers through a portal to the past of America’s Old West history.

Among the rarest objects in the Plains Indian collection are authentic mounts of a 19th century American eagle, a massive Plains buffalo, as well as bear and wolf specimens. Indian Tribes revere Mother Earth, nature, and animals, all of which have sacred significance in their animist cultures.

The extensive exhibit of American Indian and Settler artifacts will offer educational insight into the “Wild West’s” rich past and promises to be one of California’s most popular attractions for adults and school children. Museum docents will bring history alive for visitor tours, adding to the learning experience.

The Blackhawk Museum is presently accepting applications for interested volunteer docents, an integral part of the museum experience, who will share their knowledge on guided tours for children and adult visitors. After training, the docents will bring history to life by guiding tours and children’s hands-on activities to enhance the early California experience.

The multiple exhibits on display will explore how one culture waned while another thrived due to the momentous treks westward in search of land, riches, and a better life. The pioneers’ arduous westward journeys across America were to be one of the greatest migrations in human history as men, women, and children trekked through rivers and across unchartered wilds in unwieldy wagons.Teepee Close Up 0001

“Excitement is building for the upcoming Spirit of the Old West exhibition, and has already generated great interest among educators,” David Behring said after making a recent presentation to the county’s school principals. “I envision field trips early next year”, Behring added about the exhibition space designed by the Pleasanton-based Dahlin Group.
Ken Behring, founder of the Blackhawk Automotive Museum in 1988, negotiated the acquisition of the “Fick Collection” assembled by Jerry Fick’s American Indian family over many generations. “There is no other American Indian collection of this scope in California; I made the decision to bring it to Blackhawk in less than a day,” stated Behring.

Among the premier collection of American Indian memorabilia in “The Spirit of the Old West” installation are rare 18th and mid-19th century feather headdresses. The iconic “eagle feather bonnets” are cultural treasures inherent to Native American cultures. The plumage tells that “feather bonnets” were only presented to the bravest warriors, and each feather represented a courageous deed.


The Plains Indians were made up of several indigenous tribes, their migrations spanning many Western states, and consisting of multiple sub-groups; Arapaho, Lakota, Crow, Cheyenne, Blackfoot, Apache, Pawnee and others.
Among the artifacts of historic significance spanning several disciplines of their cultural identity are; eagle feather bonnets, buffalo horn headdresses, cradleboards, lances, war shields, feathers, porcupine quills, and bead-embellished buckskin garments, ceremonial pipes, bear claw necklaces, moccasins, tools, points, tomahawks and Indigenous Peoples’ stone tools dating to circa BC 8,000.

The Culture of the Old West will be contextualized in the heart of the museum exhibits that will include all aspects of the human presence in the West; Early Reservations of Plains Indians 1860-1910; Cowboys; Homesteading Settlers/Pioneers; Cavalry/Military firearms and weaponry; Trappers and Wagon Trains.Topo Buffalo Hill

To guarantee attention to the historic synergy between Indians and Settler Pioneers, the new installation will ricochet between both cultures by featuring sections dedicated to American Indians and the Migrating Settlers. On the left side of the 27,000 square foot upper gallery, the American Indians will be thematically featured with an authentic tipi and accoutrements.

On the right side a covered wagon, “Prairie Schooner” will highlight the chronology of the Pioneers’ westward expansion and focus on the intrepid determination of people seeking opportunity and a new life.

The exhibition will highlight historic objects affirming the region’s tumultuous history, and the First Peoples’ forced dispersion into scattered reservations, and mythologized Wild West folklore.

No amount of storytelling or Hollywood movies could ever convey the sheer drama of what actually happened, portray stark hardships, or tell of the families’ anguish on the westbound wagon trains who buried their children along the way. When we hear the docents’ tours and see authentic artifacts that belonged to those very people we may better imagine their stories as we travel to the past.Medicine Hoop 0001

And many more stories will be told through the collection of 19th century photographs that portray Plains Indians, the pristine mountains, and untrammeled wilderness of the American West as it was before the settlements, and before the scars of mining and farming.

Historic themes of the ever-migrating and intrepid tribes on our ancient landscape, and the subsequent interaction during the westward expansion of heroic cowboys, pioneers, and cavalry legends will evolve to a visually-rich and tangible 21st century experience at the Blackhawk Museum.

To anchor the history of American Indians and the Old West, a 140 foot long centerpiece of three-dimensional topographical dioramas will visually portray their life in miniature and enhance the 18th to 20th century experience. Momentous events will highlight America’s Western history, including the turning point of Custer’s Last Stand at the Battle of Little Big Horn, the discovery of gold, and the impact of the transcontinental railroads.


Ken Behring not only founded the Blackhawk Museum, but also developed the world-class Blackhawk residential community over 40 years ago. With forward-looking vision and strong philanthropic ideals, he strove to add to the historical culture of the San Ramon Valley.

Behring spearheads the construction of thirty Natural History Museums in China to promote them as places of learning. He built the Blackhawk Museum to showcase a world-class auto collection, and partnering with the Smithsonian, also featured art, science, and history. “I like to stress leadership qualities; societies cannot survive without it. The American Indian Chiefs were great leaders too, their people revered them,” Ken Behring made his point by referring to the words of Crazy Horse, Sioux Chief; “A very great vision is needed, he who has it must follow it as the eagle seeks the deepest blue of the sky.” TTP0279 (2)

The Behring Family believes in philanthropic leadership and with close affiliation to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC, succeeded in bringing President Abraham Lincoln’s iconic top hat to the Museum. Behring’s leadership radiates across our nation; the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History is named to honor the philanthropy of the Kenneth E. Behring family.

In 1975 when Behring bought approximately 5000 acres of prime Danville land to develop Blackhawk, he donated a large parcel to Regional Open Space and Mount Diablo State Park with the objective of preserving the rich history of the San Ramon Valley.

In keeping with his philanthropic works, Behring founded the Wheelchair Foundation and has nearly met his lofty goal of donating one million wheelchairs to people in need of mobility all over the world.

San Ramon Valley bustled in mid-19th century, the catalyst being the Gold Rush when Easterners flocked here by the thousands. When news radiated that rich gold deposits were in the California hills; first came the wagon trains, and then came the trains. Intrepid families came in search of riches and a new life, and thus begun the evolution of the American West.

Trekkers from Eastern cities or ghost towns like Deadwood, Dakota settled in California; bankers and bakers, frontiersmen, buckaroos, vaqueros, gunslingers, gunfighters, trappers and cowboys. When wagon trains encountered the Indians along the way, cultures clashed and the harmony of the plains was disrupted forever. We will learn how the cultures clashed, the ways of the Wild West, and how it really was way back then.

Ken Behring and family have brought “The Spirit of the Old West” to the Blackhawk Museum to share with historians, teachers, children, and those who yearn to take a long glance back into Wild, Wild West history.
We may not hear all the thrilling stories of the pioneers, gold seekers, gunslingers, or American Indians, nor encounter the ghosts of Billy the Kid, General Custer, Wild Bill Hickok, Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp, or Kit Carson, but we may learn about such American Indians who compare to Chiefs Joseph, Cochise, Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull, Geronimo or Black Hawk.

America’s “Spirit of the Old West” will come alive with the historic exhibition of antique artifacts and memorabilia at the Blackhawk Museum featuring American Plains Indians, settlers, cowboys, and gold seekers who became linked to the land and built the Wild, Wild West thus earning a major role in California’s mystery, myth, and history.

Info: Blackhawk Museum, 3700 Blackhawk Plaza Centre, Danville California. 94506 925.736.2280. www.blackhawkmuseum.org/ email: info@blackhawkmuseum.org

The Prospective College Road Show

Oh, to be a high school junior living along the I-680 corridor. A typical East Bay high school junior is between 16 and 17 years old, has probably just come into possession of a car and is undoubtedly thinking about their college options. Life is good and they have the world in front of them. I acknowledge that their class load, friends, work, extra-curricular activities and issues with parents (forgive us for loving you so much) can be a bit challenging, but if they play their cards right, in two short years they’ll be heading off to the college of their choice. College selection ranks as one of the most important decisions a young person is asked to make. A college degree positively impacts a person’s self-esteem, employability and earning potential. Not to mention, it serves to eventually sever the financial umbilical cord from parents.483345071

My family and I are planning a visit to the University of Arizona and Arizona State. Kacy H., MVHS Class of 2016

A great many families will be incorporating college campus tours in their upcoming vacations. Our family, who will be heading to Texas for Thanksgiving, has already scheduled school visits at Southern Methodist University, Texas Christian University and Baylor University. Call us odd (everyone else does), but ever since we visited Harvard University while in Boston about ten years ago, our family has tried to incorporate a campus tour whenever and wherever we’ve been on vacation. So far we’ve seen Georgetown in Washington D.C., University of South Florida near Tampa, Boise State in Idaho, Columbia and NYU in New York City, and the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. In past trips to Texas, we’ve been through Texas A&M, Rice, and University of Texas in Austin.

Then there were tours of Fresno State, Cal State Northridge, UCLA, Pepperdine, San Diego State, UCSD, and University of San Diego, during numerous adventures in Southern California. We’ve even done day trips to CAL, Stanford, and UC Davis locally. Sadly, we missed Oxford when in England last year, but knowing they don’t have much of a football program, it probably wouldn’t have made our short list.

Needless to say, we’re well stocked when it comes to hoodies, t-shirts and flannel lounge wear with college logos.

I’m going to tour Ohio State. Conner B., MVHS Class of 2016

When planning to visit a college or university it’s best to book a tour in advance. The traditional campus walking tour usually takes about 90 minutes and begins in the university administration building or student union. In most cases, a student volunteer will lead the tour and answer questions. It’s a chance for high school students to view the school’s various academic and athletic facilities, observe classes and experience campus life from the safe confines of an organized group. It’s a lot like a safari jeep ride through a wild animal park.

Somehow, every tour ends at the Student bookstore. Truthfully, the best part of a prospective college campus tour may be the quality time parents get to spend with their children. As self-assured as your high school junior may seem at home, most are a little overwhelmed when walking a college campus for the first time.

I want to visit my dad’s alma mater, Stanford, as well as the Ivy League schools (Princeton, Yale and Harvard). Conner S., SRVHS Class of 2016

Interesting enough, a lot of kids will have a tough time getting into their first choice of colleges. From what we’ve seen, the UC system requires an 8.0 GPA and a perfect 2400 SAT score (plus ace the extra credit questions) to be worthy of consideration. At the same time, there are some highly desirable out-of-state schools where acceptance is just as tough. My guess is, colleges in Minnesota might be the exception, where 7 of the top 10 coldest weather college campuses are located. The University of Minnesota—Morehead (Ranked #1 coldest campus)—might consider eliminating academic requirements for California kids all together, as an incentive to increase applications. Unless I’m mistaken, their brochure tag line reads, “Just pack warm clothes.”178732888

I’m looking forward to touring Pepperdine, Cal Poly SLO, USC, and Chapman. Jasmine D., MVHS Class of 2016

My friends and I agree that most of us would have trouble finding a college that would accept us (outside of the Minnesota schools) given our mediocre high school grades. I’m happy to report that kids today take their high school studies so much more seriously, due in large part to the competitive nature of college admissions. If memory serves me, the toughest class I had my junior year was an English class where we read such tame literary masterpieces as The Count of Monte Cristo and The Scarlett Letter. Unless I’m mistaken my daughter’s class is currently reading War and Peace, The Bible (for literary purposes) and the collective works of William Shakespeare. Math and sciences were my scholastic kryptonite. I may have stumbled through Algebra I and Geometry, but I truly had to grovel for a passing grade in Biology. My little girl is already trudging through chemistry and Algebra II. I knew my collegiate future was going to be at the local community college (Foothill JC) followed by a state school (CSU Northridge), so in my mind there was no point in pushing myself. Given the choice between trigonometry and photography, taking pictures won every time. Sadly, film developing is a lost art. It’s not uncommon for today’s high school junior to be a student athlete, enrolled in several AP classes, a member of a school club, and involved in at least one community service project.

I can’t wait to visit Scripps Institute at UC San Diego. Ally A., SRVHS Class of 2016.

My wife and I encourage our high school junior daughter to think big and we want her to attend the college of their choice (within reason), but that means buckling down with their studies. Allow me to say, I am crazy proud of how hard both my girls work to bring home good grades. To say I’m a little envious about their future is an understatement. To be a high school junior with a world of opportunities in front of you would be surreal. I try and explain to my daughter that it’s different in other parts of the bay area, state and country, where economics play a significant part in your advanced education opportunities, but for most along the I-680 corridor, attending college is a forgone conclusion.

I never even visited Fresno State before committing to go to school there. It was close enough to home for my parents not to object and it had the major I wanted. Julie C., Marina High School Class of 1979.

Flick Nation Review: Boyhood

As we leave behind a mostly forgettable (raccoons excluded) Summer and transition into (cue trumpets) prestige season, a number of awards contenders will attempt to salvage in quality what the 2014 box office has thus far lacked in quantity. If festival buzz and early reviews are to be trusted, The Imitation Game, Gone Girl, Foxcatcher and Birdman will be among the acclaimed films we’ll see going for the gold between now and year’s end. And I look forward to each and every one.

But we have already seen the most profound and important film of the year: Richard Linklater’s, Boyhood. By now the story of the film is well known. Shot over a nearly twelve-year period, Boyhood traces the fictional life of a boy through the ages of 6 to 18. For the first time, over the course of a singular fictional film, we see the actors aging naturally along with their characters. Since its debut earlier this year at Sundance, Boyhood has amassed one of the most ecstatic and unanimously positive critical responses of the 21st century. It’s been hailed the movie of the year, the decade, and the new millennium.

When Linklater came to town in July to do promotion, we had the opportunity to have him as a guest on Flick Nation Radio; the next evening, he and I did a series of Q & As following the SF premieres of the film. It was certainly an honor to support him and the film and share in the excitement, and as always he was a very forthcoming and thoughtful interview. Like his films, Linklater is a man without pretension, and our discussions of Boyhood, and his career, illuminate one of our very best directors at the pinnacle (so far) of his career.MAT_4110 (2)

Typically, he was modest regarding the high praise for Boyhood, even stating that he thought it would be a hard sell, “Because I thought you couldn’t describe the movie properly, but it was right there in front of me. The concept of the movie is a description of the movie. You can’t separate the content from the structure.”

He even downplayed the immense challenge of creating a film over such a long time span. “I felt the film gods were with us. All these magical things that happened along the way occurred to allow this film to exist. You can go through life thinking ‘what if what if what if’…but the odds were that we’d all be here twelve years later, and we are.”

I expressed my surprise that Boyhood offers none of the expected beats, the big moments one would expect in this kind of film—we’re aware that they’ve happened but we’re not seeing them. Was it a conscious choice to keep those big events off screen?

“Or are they that big a deal?” he explained. “The big beats, the first kiss? I had every year to weed through the obvious ideas, the bad ideas, things that didn’t really fit this movie. I was getting rid of things I felt were represented in other films, that have been done to death. I thought, ‘I have nothing so say about that, but I do have something to say about these other areas.’”

Most directors know every shot, dramatic beat, and line of dialogue before they start shooting – at least they should. But the sheer unpredictability of such a prolonged on-again, off-again production would certainly reveal potentially calamitous problems lurking up around the bend – was that something he grappled with?

No. In fact, for him that was the cool part. “Think of all the special things that were going to happen if you look at time and the unknown as your collaborator, in a positive way. How interesting it will be to see these kids grow up, to collaborate with their future selves. You had to make your relation with time in a certain way in that it was something positive and something exciting to look forward to.”

Linklater has always been a very confident filmmaker; with Boyhood he has achieved a cinematic transcendence, vividly manipulating time and inducing memory through sheer suggestion, evocative symbolism, and narrative intuition. This is the realm of deep jazz, high art, and creative genius. Consider Pet Sounds and Sgt. Pepper, two pop music masterpieces also concerned with the passage of time—both projects began as ruminations on childhood. And let’s not forget that Pulp Fiction, perhaps the most influential film of the last twenty years, was also a meta-statement on freeing cinematic narrative and the potential of film to alter time.

And there is an even more apt analogy: I believe Richard Linklater’s Boyhood is the cinematic equivalent of Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, (the seven-volume literary masterwork also known as Remembrance of Things Past). A critique published by Harper in 1949 summarizes this seminal work, which, along with James’ Joyce’s Ulysses, became the definitive statement of Psychological Realism in 20th century literature: “Unfolding without plot or crisis…Remembrance is great art distilled from memory itself; the structure determined entirely by moods and sensations evoked by the illusion of time passing, or seeming to pass, recurring, or seeming to recur.”

This could have been extracted from nearly any review of Boyhood. Now, I am not suggesting that Linklater’s refreshingly realistic dialog is stylistically akin to Proust’s filigreed prose, simply that they both evolved the potential of their art by communicating this mystery, this ineffable aspect of our lives, our relationship to lost time. Linklater’s description of what he really wanted to explore with Boyhood? Proustian, indeed. “How the memory attaches to certain things and forgets others—it’s a mystery. The one relationship we have our entire lives is ourselves to our previous selves. We’re stuck with that. That makes up who we are, and how we process the world, and the narrative of our own lives. I think in this movie I was trying to replicate what it feels like to go through life, through time.”

Linklater’s commitment to collaborating with his own future self, and succeeding, is a model of creative filmmaking, heralding a new approach to narrative structure and redefining the concept of Life as Art through Cinema. What Linklater accomplished with Boyhood is in league with the great triumphs of the art world: creating a piece that is at once a bold leap forward conceptually and also the apotheosis of his previous films, bringing into focus and deepening an entire body of work.

If you take his Hollywood movies (School of Rock, Fast Food Nation, Bad News Bears) out of the mix and focus on his personal films, it is apparent that Linklater has been exploring the territory of time and memory throughout his career, from an impressive variety of angles and perspective: Slacker, Dazed and Confused, Waking Life, The Before Sunrise series, now all coalesce into a sustained study of our relationship to these mysteries. Boyhood both synthesizes and elevates his prior efforts, and solidifies his cinematic canon; one I suspect will remain as sturdy in that genre as In Search of Lost Time has proven in literature.

So, as we race towards awards season, other films will feel more powerful. They will tell more dramatic stories. They will have the big beats. The big actors. The big scores. They will be in your face, telling stories of love and war and death and outer space and criminal enterprise. They will entertain the hell out of you. But none will rattle your memory cage quite like Boyhood, and none will strike such a delicate, poetic balance between life and art while boldly going where no filmmaker has gone before. Boyhood is not about irony, surprise, or retribution. It is about truth. It simply rings true. The truth is the entertainment.

Linklater humbly concurred, “I think it couldn’t help but resonate with everybody’s life, because there is such a commonality. Yeah, it’s set in Texas, but it could be anywhere.”


Steve Wagner is a writer and co-host for Flick Nation Radio (www.flicknation.net). He was co-host and executive producer of the San Francisco (KGO/ABC Ch. 7) television program Filmtrip, and was the featured film critic on KFRC Classic Rock FM 99.7 and KKSF Talk AM 910 in San Francisco. Steve has contributed articles on film, music, and popular culture to numerous magazines and has interviewed over 300 actors, directors, screenwriters, and musicians. Steve is a regular contributor on The Talk Pod www.thetalkpod.com


9 Realities of Caring for an Elderly Parent: A Love Story of a Different Kind

Every day, 45 million Baby Boomers are taking care of their elderly parents. That’s a daunting statistic, especially when you consider most are holding down a job, caring for their own children, and completely unprepared for the stark realities of end of life issues. There are handbooks on what to expect when you’re expecting, but nobody wants to talk about what to expect when the roles are reversed – when the parent becomes the child – and it can happen so suddenly.

Stefania Shaffer, author of 9 Realities of Caring for an Elderly Parent: A Love Story of a Different Kind suddenly found herself a statistic when she received a phone call from her seemingly healthy, alert and buoyant mother, requesting that Stefania come for a long-overdue visit. By the end of the first weekend, it was evident Mom could no longer manage to be in her home by herself; the house was in ruins and so was Mom. It was enough to make Stefania uproot her own life to fulfill Mom’s wish to live out her years remaining in her own home. Shaffer imagined they would have fun until the end when she would go to sleep with a smile on her face. “Death is very clever,” says Shaffer, “and I should have been more creative in my thinking. It was five years from my arrival, when my mother died at my side.”16. Shaffer-9 Realities coverLARGEtif

Like most sudden caregivers, Stefania didn’t know what she was agreeing to when she took on the job of caring for her elderly parent. If only someone had shared with her the realities this job would entail. In her second book, 9 Realities of Caring for an Elderly Parent: A Love Story of a Different Kind, Stefania offers a playbook to prepare the adult child for each of the nine realities essential to managing this journey, from de-cluttering the family home to grief counseling for the adult orphan.

Although it tackles a difficult topic, the book is as entertaining as it is helpful, sharing the touching and often heart-wrenching anecdotes and invaluable lessons learned from a daughter caring for her mother as she approaches the end of her life. This surprisingly funny, compassionate, and daunting account of what to expect if you are the adult child coming home to care for your elderly parent is a step-by-step companion for all who find themselves in charge of a parent’s well-being, making it an essential playbook for the millions of baby boomers about to face the toughest challenge of their lives.

ALIVE Magazine: What were the thoughts that led you to share your experience caring for your elderly mother?

Stefania Shaffer: I could not escape the nagging feeling that I wished someone had sat me on a stool to share with me the realities of what goes into caring for an elderly person. There was a lot to manage even before my mother fell into decline. The constant worry of what if the next fall resulted in a head injury or a broken hip really made me aware of how fragile seniors can be. It never occurred to me I would be dealing with home repair issues typical for old houses, plus shuttling back and forth to doctor appointments, and more importantly, spending years sleuthing through 85 boxes in the garage to figure out where her assets were. I finally felt compelled to demystify what goes on behind the scenes of elder care so other Baby Boomers will know upfront what lies ahead.

AM: What were some of the most surprising realities you learned, aside from home repair?

SS: I learned that seniors are on rosters of rotating doctors that require nearly weekly appointments for some kind of check up. Whether it is for a hearing appointment, or bone density test, or blood work, or eye doctors, it is constant running, much like what I imagine moms do for kids with after school extra-curricular activities. I learned that a bed bound person requires diapering, something I hadn’t done since I was a babysitter for kids in our neighborhood thirty years earlier. I learned that without long-term health insurance, the night nurse duties fall to you. I also learned that not everyone wants to visit your elderly parent when they are sick because it is too painful—for the visitor. Some people expressed to me that they just wanted to remember my mom the way she was before her decline. But hearing is the last sense we lose before death, so patients know who has come to visit.

AM: What is the biggest problem that elders face, in your opinion?

SS: Elders who cannot see very well, or hear very well, or are unsteady in their balance are particularly vulnerable, but they can still feel fiercely independent, as my mom did. Ninety percent of elders in surveys through AARP research will say they want to remain in their own home, but if they do not see well enough to cook, or hear well enough to answer the door or telephone, it can be very isolating. It is also very taxing to maintain upkeep on a decades old home. A senior needs regular contact with someone who is laying eyes on the scene inside to determine what the senior is eating, what kind of condition they are living in, and what kind of personal care they need. A senior who no longer drives is even more reliant on a steady stream of supporters.

AM: How would one be able to determine if their parent is still safe in their own home?

SS: There are specific warning signs in a checklist from the Aging Solutions website with the top ten questions you need to know the answers to if you want your senior to be safe at home. Chief among them, does your elderly parent turn on the stove and walk away? My mom would take naps while pots sizzled and hissed melting upon burners hours later. Does your elderly parent know how to exit the house and return? Does she know how to make an emergency phone call? Is your elderly parent able to prepare meals? My mother was spoon-feeding herself from a jar of Ragu and calling that dinner. Does your parent look clean or is she wearing a threadbare robe with coffee splatters and Ragu drippings all up and down the front? These are things you will not know if you are long distance or not within those walls. There was a lot my mom was trying to hide from anyone who wanted to visit, so she would wait on the bench outside for her friends.

AM: What are the first steps to take as the adult child coming home to care for an elderly parent?

SS: Step 1: Check to see what legal documents are still not in order. The starter kit of four includes: an Advanced Health Care Directive, a Power of Attorney for Finances, a Will, and a Trust.

Step 2: Determine how safe the home is by looking for tripping hazards, sharp corners on tables in case an elderly parent falls down, and analyze the meal prep pattern and medicine routine. Is the elder able to see well enough to self-medicate or will he accidentally overdose because he can no longer read labels?

Step 3: Know where the assets are held. Many seniors hide money in the house. I wish that all of our assets had been in one place, with a tidy little bow around them. I would have avoided the scavenger hunt I endured for years gaining access to many different safe deposit boxes, and poring through two hundred empty cartons of checkbook boxes after the first one I un-lidded had fifty dollars tucked away.

AM: How did you share the role of caregiving with your siblings?

SS: I wish our family had even roles and worked out a schedule with alternating days of caregiving. I found that once my siblings got comfortable with the fact that I was there, they knew they didn’t have to be. Some families are able to really pull together in a crisis. My siblings were limited in what they could do, and fortunately, I suppose, they entrusted the job to me.

AM: What made you think you could do this job instead of putting your mother in assisted care?

SS: I had no idea what I was saying yes to. Looking back, no one says yes to Firefighting or Nursing or the ARMY without asking a few questions up front about what a typical day at work is like. I would have still said yes, but I would have known better what the job entailed. Organizing and planning has always been my strength, even from an early age when elementary teachers would allow me to help them after school.
I have also gained experience from tackling classrooms and donation centers that were dumpsites until I overhauled them by purging and reimagining a thoughtful staging space. I also knew my mother’s words were ringing in my ears from a lifetime of hearing, “If you put me in a home, that will be the surest way to get rid of me.” I wanted to fulfill her wish that she remain in her own home.

AM: Looking back, how did you manage day to day, not knowing how long the decline would last?

SS: The scariest part was wondering if she would outlast her money. I was so grateful to have the support of an incredible Hospice team and then my mom’s health took an upswing, which meant Hospice was preparing a temporary exit. This was my greatest fear because I had no idea how to care for a bedbound mother whose entire life’s goal was to die in her own home. My focus became to make sure she did not die alone. I became overanxious about following through on every idea I had to make her more comfortable. I never procrastinated because I never knew if today would be her last day. It got to the point where I was afraid to turn my back to go down the hall for fear she would be gone when I returned moments later.

AM: Your mother, in essence, became your child. What kind of mother would you be?

SS: I would have been a very nervous mother. Maybe this is how most first-time mothers are with newborns. From the beginning, my sense of urgency revolved around her falling and breaking a hip. Then my anxiety ramped up when warning signs began to appear for onset dementia; I did not know how I would be able to care for someone with Alzheimer’s. Then, trying to protect her from her horrible hallucinations that left her petrified made me cry because there was nothing I could do to help. In the end, I comforted her with reminders that she is home, she is safe, and I am here. It’s all I kept repeating to try and soothe her. I am so grateful I did it. It was my privilege. But, I don’t think I will ever again have the kind of energy required to give to someone else in that same way.

AM: What are you most grateful for after spending the last five years of your mother’s life together?

SS: I am so grateful I came home. We needed to mend a rift. I am so grateful I got to see all the qualities my father always said made him fall in love with her. I discovered her sense of humor and wish I was half as funny. Had I not come home, I never would have met the man who became my husband, whom she affectionately termed her “Son-in-Love.” Those years of our pairing were what built our bond as the Three Musketeers. I am so grateful I got my wish that she not die alone. I am so grateful I have no regrets.

AM: What would you say to a busy adult who is faced with the same prospect of moving back home?

SS: Get ready for the single hardest job you have ever known. It will be what Hospice nurses will liken to post-traumatic stress syndrome for war-torn soldiers who saw the worst of the battle from the frontlines. When you are the on-site caregiver, it is a completely different experience than being the relative who pops in from afar on occasion. Be prepared to take the brunt of family members’ emotions because death and money bring out the worst in family dynamics, even for families that are not fractured to begin with, like mine. If you are part of the “sandwich generation,” wherein you are simultaneously raising children at home while caring for an elderly parent, be prepared for marital strain, which is true for those of us who weren’t also taking care of children at home. Get organized. Preparation prevents regret. This will be your greatest privilege.22. Headshot-smiling DSC_9677 copy
9 Realities of Caring for an Elderly Parent is available on Amazon and at www.stefaniashaffer.com

OUTSMART Unhealthy Sugar Cravings

It’s October and here we are again—the month when Halloween candy temptations are lurking around most every corner. Oi vey, if you’re like me, with a giant “sweet tooth” that dates back to early childhood, then this time of year can be really challenging. To avoid giving into sugar cravings (and gaining excess weight), how about you join me in gearing up with tools to help you OUTSMART unhealthy temptations? 452217645

So, instead of simply drumming your fingers trying to decide if you should visit the Halloween candy bowl…again… you might consider adding EFT “tapping” to your “self-care” tool kit. Now, in case you’ve not heard of it—or seen it featured on Dr. Oz’s website—EFT stands for Emotional Freedom Technique.

The good news is, EFT is a simple tool to learn, and for many people, this technique is a powerful way to reduce unhealthy food cravings (and stress). EFT consists of gentle fingertip tapping at specific places on the body that align with a person’s acupuncture meridian points. So, the acupuncture meridian points are stimulated without the use of needles.

To give you a bit of historical background, Stanford engineer Gary Craig developed EFT to assist people in reducing or clearing emotional pain and negativity that may have fueled their fears and self-destructive behaviors. Now, after teaching clients how to use EFT on themselves for the past ten years in my private practice—I must admit—I am a big fan of this tool. For this reason, I often teach EFT to people who want to release habits such as overeating, nail biting, or cigarette smoking.

For instance, I taught EFT to Carey (a thirty-year-old woman) whose medical doctor referred her to me after Carey’s weight escalated to an unhealthy level. During our first session, Carey confessed (while staring at the floor) that she’d been eating fast food—a super-sized cheeseburger, fries, and a shake—multiple times throughout her week (for the past several years). Then, most every evening after supper, she’d watch TV while nibbling foods…that were drenched in sugar, salt, and fat.

I explained to Carey that overeating high levels of sugar, salt, and fat can create addictive cycles. For example, former U.S. Food and Drug Administrator David Kessler, M.D., explains how foods high in sugar, salt, and fat alter the brain’s chemistry by creating a release of powerful chemicals, such as dopamine and natural pain-killing substances called opioids. Surprisingly, these are the very same chemicals that are released when people are addicted to alcohol, cigarette smoking, and drugs.

After Carey gained a clear “intellectual understanding” of why her unhealthy food cravings had gotten out of control, we addressed her junk-food addiction during three EFT sessions. Between sessions, Carey used EFT on her own. As a result, Carey was pleased to see her weight begin to go down, while her self-esteem…began to go up!

In addition to weight loss, when doctors or psychologists send referrals to me, I often teach my clients how to use EFT for the following personal challenges:

• Stress

• Anxiety & insomnia

• Public speaking fear • Cigarette smoking

• Life transitions: Career change or empty nest

Finally, if the idea of adding EFT to your stress-reducing “repertoire” sounds appealing, then call or email me today. After all, you might be surprised to find that EFT’s tapping—to release pent-up emotions and OUTSMART unhealthy sugar cravings—is much more productive than reaching for the alluring Halloween candy! In fact, after experiencing the gifts of EFT, you just may be happy that…you let your fingers do the “tapping!”

Trina’s Upcoming Events:

1) Managing Emotional and Compulsive Eating: A one-evening workshop for women & men—at John Muir Women’s Health Center in Walnut Creek. Learn how to tame your “Inner Critic” & connect with your “Inner Motivator!” Thursday, Oct 16, 6:30-8:30 pm. Fee: $40 (includes self-hypnosis for weight loss: 2-CD set). Register today: (925) 941-7900 option 3.

2) Weight Loss Groups: INSPIRING groups are now forming! Receive holistic, leading-edge tools (EFT and self-hypnosis) while getting heartfelt support from Trina. Get ready to “lighten up”—from the inside out—and have some FUN in the process…after all, belly laughs DO burn calories! Email for details: info@TrinaSwerdlow.com

Trina Swerdlow, BFA, CCHT, is a Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist, an author and artist. She has a private practice in downtown Danville. You can reach her at: (925) 285.5759, or info@TrinaSwerdlow.com.

Certified Clinical Hypnotherapy services in California can be alternative or complementary to licensed healing arts, such as psychotherapy.

Name and client details changed to protect confidentiality.

Little Red Wagon

I’m a sucker for a feel good movie. I’m even a bigger sucker for a “Purpose Driven” movie. The Little Red Wagon is a docudrama based on the story of an eight year old boy who dedicates his life to helping children rendered homeless by Hurricane Charley. In this inspirational drama based on actual events, Zach Bonner learns that you can’t put a price on life’s greatest gifts.LittleRedWagon_1sht

After hurricane Charley barely misses Zach’s home but devastates many others nearby, he’s dejected by the images of the families whose lives are uprooted by the disaster. Deciding to do something about it, Zach uses his old trusty wagon to collect essential items to help them get back on their feet. When the media spotlights Zach’s benevolent endeavors, the selfless boy seizes the opportunity to launch his own charity, dubbed the Little Red Wagon Foundation.

Later, Zach encounters a widow and her son who were rendered homeless and vows to draw attention to their plight by embarking on a cross country walk. Despite his single mother’s trepidations about the journey and his teenage sister’s growing resentment over being stuck at the center of the media circus, Zach sets out on a journey that will transform not just his own life, but also the lives of everyone he encounters.

Zach Bonner is often called the kid with the heart of gold. His passion to aid the more than 1.3 million homeless children in the United States warranted him receiving the prestigious Presidential Service Award in 2006.

Through his foundation, Zach did many “walk projects” to raise money and awareness. His “My House to the White House” journey showcased the plight of the homeless and in 2010 Zach walked 2,448 miles from Tampa, Florida to Los Angeles, California. Zach is now 16 years old and still striving to abate the suffering of homeless children.

Little Red Wagon is an amazing story about an incredible young man and the family that supports him. They walk with him, nurse and feed him along the way and manage the “Zach Tracker,” his GPS device so his supporters can follow him.

I highly recommend this DVD for its social value alone. It’s a great teaching tool for kids, teens and adults. Zach could teach us all a thing or two about love and charity. In my humble opinion, it’s never too early to start showing our children the habit of helping others.

So, sit down with the kids or the grandkids, or grab someone else’s kids, and watch Little Red Wagon. Maybe the flame of passion for helping others that once burned brightly within you will be rekindled as well. Your life will be changed as you help to change someone else’s life.

As always, I welcome your comments at chastings@rockcliff.com.

ALIVE: More Than a Magazine

Next month we will celebrate our anniversary—nine terrific years of unique content that you won’t find in any other lifestyle magazine. Nine years of providing advertisers with a magazine with an unmatched shelf life. What do I mean by “shelf life,” and why does that matter to advertisers?”

The other I picked-up a perfectly good copy of the November 2009 ALIVE (our Tanzanian Connection issue) in the lobby of a local business. They were keeping it because they really liked the cover and the content. Some advertisers in that issue, which no longer appear in current issues of ALIVE, are still benefiting from their ads in that issue—now, five years later. And this is not uncommon, as we frequently discover copies of ALIVE that are several years old, still in circulation, so to speak.

If you’ve been reading ALIVE for any time at all, you’re probably aware of the fact that we offer a number of other 91407072services, outside of the magazine itself. It’s likely that you know we also publish books—ALIVE Book Publishing (www.AliveBookPublishing.com), but do you also know ALIVE offers a number of other media-related products and services?

How about website design and maintenance, search engine marketing (SEM) and search engine optimization (SEO), and social media management? And then there’s video production and cable television advertising on Comcast. ALIVE can handle all of these as stand-alone services, or in economical, bundled marketing packages.

Did you also know that ALIVE is partnered with an exciting new website and mobile application called The Talk Pod? If you haven’t already explored the site, be sure to do so—it’s amazing… and it’s free! (www.TheTalkPod.com and find “thetalkpod” in the Apple App Store).

And, speaking of “apps,” that’s another service we offer—mobile application development. ALIVE can create and launch a customized mobile application for you, again, either as a stand-alone product, or as part of a comprehensive, bundled marketing package.

The sign on our building says it all: Magazine, Web, Video, TV, Book Publishing. Whether you own a business or are simply an individual with a message that you’d like to communicate—remember, ALIVE is much more than a magazine!

We Just Can’t Stop Talking the Problem of Domestic Violence

I’m trying to make sense of an email I have gotten. This guy was pretty unhappy with the media and had picked me to vent, as well as probably other people in my business. He had been hitting in The Talk Pod and on the fill in programs I’ve been doing on Talk 910 in the Bay Area. He couldn’t understand why, we the media, and me in particular continued to talk about domestic violence in the NFL. He said that these were a few isolated incidents and that they had been taken care of, and that Ray and Janay Rice were married for goodness sake. And that it, domestic violence I’m assuming he means, goes on all the time in our society.491959925

Well I’m going to answer you publicly. The only question is whether I should be nice, or shout… You have answered your own question, you Neanderthal, without knowing it. I think I’ll be nice and try to explain again.

As we learn more and more about domestic violence in the NFL, we learn we need to do more there. Harry Edwards, the famed, sociologist and consultant to the 49ers for over twenty years, says he warned the league that domestic violence would be the issue that could tarnish the league in years to come. So here we are… years to come is now. He actually sat down with Roger Goodell about eight years ago and repeated himself. Nothing happened. And it appears, Goodell even held on to evidence in the Rice case until the very disturbing videos were made public.

Furthermore, there is a another report saying there have been 56 domestic abuse allegations against NFL players since Goodell became commissioner.

Another report, ESPN, says the arrest rate for domestic violence among NFL players is over 50% higher than the national average.

It is a confluence of power and celebrity, the nature of the game, the lingering affect of concussions and alcohol. Edwards says alcohol, not steroid rage, or any other drugs is a chief cause of abuse issues in the NFL.

When you look at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention figures that one in three women in the United States have been victim to physical abuse, it is stark and nauseating. When you put in the multiples in the NFL, it is atrocious. It is unacceptable.

What is going to change the paradigm? For the NFL, sponsors, decline in revenue. It started to happen to the NBA Clippers during the Donald Sterling affair. It should happen now. It has already started, it should continue.

This is not a one time, short attention span issue. We live in a world where we watch international atrocities with horror. We have a serious problem within our borders, within one of our favorite pastimes, and within one in three abused women’s lives in our homes.

We cannot stop talking about it. We have to start doing more about it. We need to start helping the abused and those abusers. We need to stop turning the other way. It is not acceptable for partners to physically abuse each other. We can’t stop talking about it and working on it, until it stops……period.

Only that makes sense.

Ed Baxter is a regular contributor to TheTalkPod.com.

Stamps In My Passport

When putting together these brief travel vignettes for ALIVE, I try to share some small interaction with people of other countries – cameos that you, my readers, might have experienced. Or, at least ones that you might be able to identify with. I hope over the years I’ve been successful with this policy. This month, however, I plan to deviate and use an unusual style to highlight a new difficulty that is developing for us – the regular international travelers. The problem we face has a plus and a minus factor. I hope you’ll be able to identify with the two extremes and maybe share the method you’ve used to circumnavigate the problem. Oh, I forgot to identify the problem, so here it is: Where in the world can we go these days to assure a safe and comfortable, yet affordable trip?Untitled-1

The other day while watching a news broadcast, the host flashed up a map of the world with countries represented by various color combinations. The countries where fighting exists between varying religious factions came up red. There were quite a few. Certainly the Middle East was covered in red. The Israel/Palestine area is in turmoil. The Sunnis and Shiites are battling each other, making Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq areas to avoid. Pakistan, never much of a tourist site, can be included here.

So what about Africa? Well, the red was a bit muted and came out pink. But with the incidence of Ebola, the western part of the continent is not an option. Egypt is struggling to regain tourists, but there is still constant fighting between the Muslim Brotherhood and other factions. The so-called “horn” is being run by wild men, and a few other spots showed up pink as well.

Asia appeared with both Thailand and Myanmar a faded pink, having just undergone ruler changes and occasional uprisings. South America revealed the lightest shade of red on Venezuela, and a couple of other nations displayed rosy blotches

I could go on, but I think you get the idea. In fact I’ll bet you might be able to add some countries to the list that I’ve omitted. But, I did say in my introduction that there is a plus and a minus. Let’s focus for a minute on the plus.

Air travel to any place in the world has become easier. Sure, the inspections at the airport generate frustration, and the lines go on forever. We older people can keep our shoes and jackets on which helps a bit. Both passengers and inspectors have years of experience now, so this passage seems almost routine. Flights in general are more comfortable these days as well. In most cases you can travel directly to your destination, and often the flight time is shorter as the planes are a bit faster.

So where does all of this confusion and uncertainty leave us? Well for one thing, if you are traveling abroad pick a country or an area that is currently stable. Or the converse – avoid areas that are at war, in revolt, or going through some other turmoil. Next, hunt for areas where history, art, or scenery will give you pleasure. The topics transcend time, and difficulties may fade into the background. Many works of art have given locals and tourists pleasure for centuries. The sights enrich your life and may give you stories to share.

Me? I’ve made a selection for my next offshore excursion. It will remain a secret until next month when it will become a story in ALIVE for you to read, and hopefully enjoy.