By Rob Tucker
This year, once again I had the pleasure of serving on the Rotary Club of Des Moines college scholarship committee. One winner is chosen from each of Des Moines' six high schools — East, Hoover, Lincoln, North, Roosevelt and Scavo — to receive an $8000 scholarship. If you're doing the math, that's $48,000 in scholarship money.
Teammates Kelly Sargent, Mark Lyons and I have been responsible for selecting the East High winner for at least the last 10 years. School counselors narrow the field to four semi-finalists, and we reviews their applications, transcripts, activities, personal essays and in the last step of the process, interview them to select the winner.
Invariably, it's a rewarding and heartening undertaking to visit with these exceptional young people, but the flip side of that is that they're each and everyone so deserving that it makes our job very difficult.
Normally we would have interviewed the four finalists at East High on a given day, but since classes at all Des Moines public schools were canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, the interview process was a bit more challenging. Mark persevered, however, contacted our finalists and set up Zoom interviews, and it all went smoothly.
Our three runners-up were Jasmine Dao, Sunya Hardi, and Rachel Puok, who will each receive a $100 gift Target gift card to buy items they might need for college. The winner of the $2000 a year ($8000 total) scholarship is Priscilla Macias.
Priscilla plans to attend Iowa State University to pursue a degree in science. She ranks eighth in her class of 469 at East with a weighted GPA of 4.23. Her school activities include cross country, National Honor Society, Science Bound and Link Crew which gives incoming freshman advice on acclimating to high school. She also serves as class secretary.
Outside of school, Priscilla works 16 to 20 hours a week at HyVee to contribute to the income in her single-parent household. She mentioned in her application that her parents endured a difficult domestic dispute a couple of years ago. When we asked her how she dealt with that, her answer was “I just persevere.”
Good advice for all of us today.
Rotary Club of Des Moines scholarship winners
Top row from left to right: Nicole Marinero Cea (Lincoln), Jessica Cruz Hernandez (Hoover), Ruth Bropleh (North). Second row from left to right: Priscilla Macias (East), Emily Adams (Scavo), Nyana Robinson (Roosevelt)
By Kelly Sargent
Perhaps you've heard of Juneteenth, but like a large swath of the citizenry, you may not know much about it. Here's a primer.
Juneteenth is an unofficial — and in some states an official American holiday observed on June 19. Also called Liberation Day, Black Independence Day, Freedom Day, and Jubilee Day, it commemorates the 1865 adoption of the Emancipation Proclamation in the last remaining state to which President Abraham Lincoln's proclamation and executive order applied.
Although President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863 declaring slaves free people, it didn't actually end slavery since it only applied to the 11 states at war with the Union. As the most remote of the Confederate states with only a small presence of Union troops, Texas simply chose to ignore it.
Lincoln recognized that it would require amending the US Constitution to abolish slavery and permanently emancipate the millions of men, women and children enslaved in America, and worked toward that end. In April of 1864 the US Senate passed a proposed Constitutional amendment banning slavery, but it languished in the House of Representatives. Nine months later the House barely passed the amendment with the required two-thirds majority, and the next day, Lincoln approved a joint resolution of Congress submitting it to the state legislatures for ratification.
Meanwhile, in spite of General Robert E. Lee's surrender of his Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox on April 9, 1865, the Civil War wasn't over. Other contingencies of Confederate troops remained active including Colonel Rip Ford in Texas, and the necessary number of states had yet to ratify the 13th Amendment.
Juneteenth, marks the day that Union Army Major General Gordon Granger asserted Union authority and read an official order in Galveston, stating in part: “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves."
The first celebration of Juneteenth took place the following year, 1866. What began as local church gatherings evolved into larger community events that spread across Texas and throughout the South. Juneteenth is now celebrated in most major US cities, and 48 of the 50 states recognize it in some way, but only Texas has designated it as a state holiday . . . so far.
Yesterday New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order making it a paid holiday for state workers, and an ongoing campaign to declare Juneteenth a Federal holiday has recently gained renewed momentum.
Happy Juneteenth everyone. Black lives matter.
By Erin Tucker and Kelly Sargent
As of May 20 each state that had imposed a stay-at-home order has begun lifting restrictions on businesses and public spaces. The COVID-19 pandemic is by no means over, though. World-wide, cases top 5 million, and according to the WHO, the last 24 hours was the worst day yet for new infections. In the US at least 17 states have recorded an unmistakable upward trend of average new daily cases.
That's why doctors, epidemiologists and infectious disease specialists continue to recommend social distancing and staying home as much as possible until the rate of infection drops more significantly.
Since we're all spending more time at home than usual, Tucker Law team member and movie buff Kelly Sargent has agreed to share a list of her favorite lesser-known, light-hearted classics to help take your mind off the avalanche of scary news. You may be familiar with some of her selections, but there are also probably at least a few you've never heard of. Several of these movies are free on YouTube, the others are available through rental or subscription services
The Gold Rush 1925 Available on Amazon Prime Video
You might be surprised to discover that a silent movie can be this charming, but The Gold Rush is a true cinema classic: pure gold, if you'll pardon the pun. Charlie Chaplin as the Little Tramp, a character he made famous in a series of movies, heads north to join the Klondike gold rush where he's forced to share a small cabin with another prospector and a fugitive when they're trapped by a blizzard. Finally freed, he meets and falls in love with a beautiful barmaid, but many a missed connection must be overcome before they can be together.
The Gay Divorcee 1934 Available on Amazon Prime Video, Vudu, iTunes and YouTube
I recommend any of the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies — Paul and I own all of them — but this one is our favorite. In addition to the iconic duo of Ginger and Fred, it boasts a stellar and hilarious cast including Edward Everett Horton (narrator of Fractured Fairy Tales on The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show) and the marvelous Eric Blore. Betty Grable even makes an appearance.
The plot revolves around Mimi Glossup played by Ginger who wants to divorce her absentee husband. However, since it was an era in which couples couldn't file for divorce without cause, Mimi's many-times-married aunt (Alice Brady) cooks up a scheme to create cause by hiring a professional co-respondent with whom Mimi can fake and 'accidentally' get caught in an adulterous relationship.
Fred's character is an American song and dance man who becomes enchanted with Mimi when he briefly meets her on an ocean liner on the way to England and gets tangled in the subterfuge. It all becomes a muddled mess until the butler (Eric Blore) saves the day, but not before many laughs are provided by Erik Rhodes.
Of course there's non-stop dancing and singing; the classic Night and Day, a campy rendition of The Continental — which may be the longest song and dance number in recorded history; you may want to fast-forward part of the way through it — and a goofy number by Betty Grable called Let's K-nock K-nees. You can't watch this and be un-cheered.
Topper 1937 and Topper Returns 1941 Topper available on YouTube; Topper Returns available on Amazon Prime Video
There are three Topper movies: Topper, Topper Takes a Trip and Topper Returns based on the comical supernatural novels of Thorne Smith. All three star Roland Young as repressed banker Cosmo Topper who's persistently haunted by friendly but annoying ghosts. Mrs. Topper is played by Billie Burke, who incidentally appeared as the Good Witch, Glinda in The Wizard of Oz three years before.
The last in the series, Topper Returns, is the one we like best. Gail, played by Joan Blondell, is murdered (it's not gruesome but slightly scary) after being mistaken for her rich friend (Carole Landis) with whom she's staying. Gail's ghost-self enlists Topper's help to find the murderer. Also notable in the cast is Eddie "Rochester" Anderson. If a murder as part of the plot, doesn't sound like a good time, opt for Topper, the first in the series, in which Cosmo is haunted by the mischievous ghost married couple played by Constance Bennett and Cary Grant.
Miracle on Morgan's Creek 1944 Available on Amazon Prime Video, Vudu, iTunes and YouTube
After an all-night send-off party for the local WW II troops, small-town girl Trudy Kockenlocker, played by the irrepressible and in my opinion, irreplaceable Betty Hutton, wakes up after suffering a blow on the head to discover that she's married, and in the fullness of time — pregnant.
The problem is that Trudy can't remember who she married. She thinks his name might be Ratzkywatzky or something like that. She has a fuzzy memory of both using fake names so the marriage record won't be any help. She can't even bring to mind what he looks like, let alone how to get in touch with him.
Norval Jones, a local boy played by perfectly-cast Eddie Bracken, who's been in love with Trudy for years, steps in to save her good name. A thousand complications ensue along the way, no small number of them supplied by the town constable who also happens to be Trudy's father. He's played by William Demarest, who later owned the role of Uncle Charley in My Three Sons. We think this is one of the all-time funniest movies, and if you don't become a huge Betty Hutton fan before it's over, there's something wrong.
The Inspector General 1949 Available on Amazon Prime Video and Tubi
Starring the multi-talented, amazing Danny Kaye, this is a classic mistaken-identity film that inspired many subsequent movies. After Georgi (Danny Kaye) get fired from a traveling medicine show for telling the truth about the utterly bogus 'medicine' being sold, he wanders into a strange town and is picked up on a vagrancy charge.
The corrupt mayor of the town which has recently found itself under the supervision of the First French Empire, mistakes Georgi for the inspector general whom he and his in-cahoots council believe to be traveling in disguise. Fearing that the inspector will discover that they've been stealing the town's tax money, they keep trying to kill him to no avail. If you've never taken advantage of the opportunity to be entertained by the chameleon that was Danny Kaye, this is a good place to start.
The Producers 1967 The 1967 version available on YouTube; 2005 version Available on Amazon Prime Video, iTunes and YouTube
I'm referring to the 1967 version starring Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder, not the 2005 remake with Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick. Either version will make you laugh, but the 1967 version scores a 90% with critics versus 50% for the later one.
Down and out Broadway producer Max Bialystock (Zero Mostel), has been reduced to romancing rich, older ladies in order to pay the bills. Max sees a ways out of his financial difficulties when his new accountant Leo Bloom (Gene Wilder), mentions that if Max found investors for a production that ended up being a flop, he could legally keep all the rest of the backers' money beyond expenses. The costs would be minimal if the show folded right out of the gate, so Max and Leo put together what they're sure will be the worst play ever made, but of course things don't work out the way they'd planned.
Making Mr. Right 1987 Available on YouTube
John Malkovich plays scientist Jeff Peters who invents a lifelike android. In fact Jeff has made Ulysses an exact physical replica of himself. Endowed by his creator with the ability to learn to mimic and reciprocate human emotions, Jeff's goal is for Ulysses to get so good at relating to people that he can charm the Congressional powers-that-be into funding Jeff's research — something Jeff himself isn't capable of.
The problem is that Jeff can't teach Ulysses to feel because he's a misanthrope devoid of emotion, so he brings in public relations expert Frankie Stone (Ann Magnuson) to give Ulysses lessons. She does such a good job that things get very, very complicated. Laurie Metcalf, who later became famous in the TV sitcom Roseanne, plays a colleague with the hots for Jeff.
Earth Girls are Easy 1988 Available on Amazon Prime Video, Vudu, iTunes and YouTube
A musical-comedy-science-fiction movie, Earth Girls Are Easy is based on a 1984 song of the same name by comedian, singer-songwriter Julie Brown. The plot centers on events that transpire when a space ship containing three aliens crashes into valley girl Valerie Gail's swimming pool.
Valerie, played by Gena Davis, Candy Pink played by Julie herself, and the staff at Candy's hair salon try to help aliens Jeff Goldblum, Damon Wayans and Jim Carrey blend in by giving them make-overs. In the process Valerie falls for Jeff's alien self — apparently in real life too since they got married the following year. It's fun to see Jim Carrey in one of his earliest roles.
The Man Who Knew Too Little 1997 Available on Amazon Prime Video, Vudu, iTunes and YouTube
This is the most mainstream of the movies listed, the one you're most likely to have seen, but I can't resist including it because it's just so funny. It's one Paul and I can watch again and again and never become inured. Bill Murray stars as Wallace Ritchie who hails from Des Moines! as the quintessential, naively-ignorant American traveling abroad for the first time. In London to celebrate his brother James' (played by Peter Gallagher) birthday, he inadvertently gets in the middle of a Soviet espionage plot to detonate a bomb at a British and Russian state dinner. Along the way Wallace falls in love of course. It's the perfect laugh-out-loud sendup of the spy movie genre.
Waking Ned Divine 1998 Available on Amazon Prime Video, Vudu, iTunes and YouTube
When someone in the tiny village of Tulaigh Mhór, population, 52, wins the Irish lottery, best mates Jackie O'Shea and Michael O'Sullivan devise a scheme to figure out who the winner might be, intent upon currying favor with the newly-minted, multi-million-pound neighbor and getting a slice of the pie. After concluding through a process of elimination that the lucky person must be Ned Devine, they pay him a visit and find him dead from the shock of having won. Since Ned is the only one who can claim the prize, Jackie and Michael hatch a plan for Michael to impersonate Ned, but not before the whole town wants in. If you've never seen an old-ish naked guy riding around on a scooter, now's your chance.
Saving Grace 2000 Available on Amazon Prime Video, Vudu, iTunes and YouTube
The marvelous Brenda Blethyn stars as Grace Trevethen whose late husband jumped out of a plane without a parachute. She finds herself left with their manor home on the Cornish Coast but no life insurance proceeds and a crushing load of debt her husband had been secretly amassing.
With creditors after her and foreclosure imminent, she's faced with the prospect of losing everything. When Grace, who is liked by everyone and happens to have a green thumb, is asked by a friend to tend a few sickly plants, she discovers she's actually nurturing marijuana — and learns how much they're worth! A few clippings plus her ability to scale up seem like the solution to all her pressing money problems. Eventually the whole town inadvertently comes under the influence including a pair of delightful LOL-LOLs (laugh-out-loud little-old-lades) who have some "lovely lovely" for sale. The film also stars Martin Clunes of Doc Martin fame and stand-up comedian and former talk show host Craig Ferguson in early roles.
Elvis Has Left the Building 2004 Available on Amazon Prime Video, Vudu, iTunes and YouTube
Although Elvis Has Left the Building didn't garner much attention at the time, we swear by this little-seen, laugh-out-loud farce with its sparkling cast, enough so that we bought the DVD.
Harmony Jones, played by Kim Bassinger, is a top-selling Pink Lady cosmetic saleswoman whose life was forever touched when at seven years old she met the King. Although Harmony has been extremely successful in her career, what she really wants is to meet a nice man to marry and settle down.
In the process of making back-to-back appearances at Pink Lady events near Las Vegas, Harmony encounters a series of Elvis impersonators in hotels and on the road because there's an Elvis impersonator convention taking place in Las Vegas. A string of unlikely but fatal accidents befalls first one Elvis impersonator who happens to be her vicinity and then another and another and another.
Harmony becomes convinced that she's somehow karmically killing them, so when she meets Miles who seems to be the man she's been hoping for — played by John Corbett of Northern Exposure and My Big Fat Greek Wedding fame — but whom she mistakenly believes is an Elvis impersonator, she tries hard to ditch him in order to spare his life. Kim is never not 100% believable, Annie Potts who's always spot on, plays her best friend Shirl, Denise Richards, Sean Astin, Angie Dickinson also makes appearances, and Tom Hanks has a 20-second cameo as 'mail box' Elvis.
House Bunny 2008 Available on Amazon Prime Video, Vudu, iTunes and YouTube
Playboy Bunny Shelley Darlingson, played to perfection by Anna Faris, has lived a life of luxury at Hugh Hefner's mansion. Disaster strikes when Shelley turns 27 and is deemed too old to be a Bunny. Kicked out into the real world, she wanders onto a college campus and becomes the housemother at a failing sorority made up of geeky, awkward girls who view her as the answer to all their problems. If anyone can teach them how to attract boys, surely a Playboy Bunny can.
Anna's rendition of Shelley feels like an extension of the classic, archetypal, blonde, comedic leading lady with flawless timing à la Carole Lombard, Betty Hutton and Ginger Rogers who've been, I think, an under-appreciated mainstay of cinema since the first moving picture flickered on screen. Emma Stone and Tom Hanks' son Colin also have starring roles.
By Kelly Sargent
As the number of novel coronavirus cases has risen — as of April 13, 2020 nearly 2 million confirmed cases and 120,000 deaths worldwide; almost 600,000 cases in the US and 23,000 deaths — doctors have recognized more potential warning signs than those first identified. In addition to taking as many precautions as you can, such as frequent, thorough hand-washing and physical distancing, monitoring your health and those of loved ones is vital. Here's a more comprehensive list of possible symptoms.
The World Health Organization reported that 88% of individuals infected with COVID-19 experienced a fever. But what temperature qualifies as having a fever? The 98.6 degree Fahrenheit benchmark we've grown up memorizing as 'normal' was arrived at in the mid-1800's, and it's been gradually dropping throughout the population ever since. It's now the exception rather than the rule. In fact 75% of us have a normal body temperature lower than that, so it's important to know what 'normal' is for you. My husband's, for example, runs steadily at about 97.7. Most adults are considered feverish when their temperature hits 100 F. Fever often elevates in the late afternoon or early evening which makes that an ideal time to check.
2. Difficulty breathing
Although shortness of breath isn't usually an early symptom of coronavirus infection, it's an extremely serious one. Medical experts say that it's important to seek medical attention if you can't breathe deeply enough to take in a normal breath or if you experience persistent pain or pressure in your chest. Some patients have reported feeling as though a tight band was bound around their upper chest constricting their ability to fully inflate their lungs.
3. Dry Cough
A persistent cough is another prevalent warning sign, but doctors say that it's not just any cough; it's not a tickle in your throat or the urge to clear your throat. It's a dry cough that feels as though it emanates from underneath your sternum deep inside your chest.
4. Chills and body aches
In journalist Chris Cuomo's case, he was shaking so violently from the chills he had that he chipped a tooth, and his body aches were so severe that he felt beaten up. It may be difficult for those with less pronounced symptoms to distinguish coronavirus chills and achy muscles and joints from flu symptoms. One gauge: if your symptoms don't improve after about a week, but get worse instead, it may be a sign that you're dealing with the coronavirus and not the flu.
5. Inability to wake up
The CDC warns that sudden confusion or the inability to wake up to full alertness, especially in conjunction with other critical signs such as bluish lips and fever, has a high probability of being a medical emergency. Call 911.
6. Digestive issues
In the initial months of the coronavirus pandemic, diarrhea and other digestive symptoms didn't seem to be warning signs. But as the infection has spread yielding more cases and more data, a study revealed there was a subset of milder cases for which the initial symptoms were digestive issues and didn't include a fever.
7. Pink eye
Researchers from China and elsewhere found that about 1% to 3% of those infected with COVID-19 had conjunctivitis, a highly contagious condition also known as pink eye. Conjunctivitis isn't a case of everyday bloodshot eyes. A nurse on the frontlines of the residential nursing home in Washington state where dozens died at the onset of the US outbreak said her coronavirus-infected patients looked almost as though they had red eye shadow on the outside of their eyes.
8. Loss of smell or taste
The American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery issued a report saying that losing the ability to smell, called anosmia, or the ability to taste are also potential warning signs of COVID-19. Anosmia in particular has been seen in patients without any other symptoms who test positive. Analysis of milder cases in South Korea reported that in 30% of patients the major symptom was a loss of smell, and in Germany more than two-thirds of confirmed cases had anosmia.
9. Extreme fatigue
A World Health Organization study found that nearly 40% of patients out of nearly 6000 COVID-19 cases they analyzed, had experienced extreme fatigue. Chris Cuomo said he was so exhausted that he would he would take what he thought was a 10-minute nap when it had actually been three and half hours.
10. Headache, sore throat and congestion
The same WHO report also found that almost 14% of the confirmed COVID-19 cases they analyzed suffered headache and sore throat, and 5% experienced nasal congestion, symptoms that can be difficult to distinguish from a cold or flu, so consider the totality of how you're feeling — and don't panic.
Be especially alert to the more common and serious symptoms as you monitor your health and that of those you love, and until this is behind us, stay home as much as you possibly can and be careful!
By Kelly Sargent
Together, we're all trying to stay safe and well as we collectively weather this global pandemic. In addition to taking as many precautions as you can, such as physical distancing to avoid infection and frequent and thorough hand washing — monitoring your health as well as those of loved ones is vital.
Recently new coronavirus warning signs have been released. Here's a list of those you've already heard about and the new, less prevalent symptoms.
The World Health Organization reported that 88% of individuals infected with coronavirus experienced a fever. But what temperature qualifies as having a fever? The 98.6 degree Fahrenheit benchmark we've grown up hearing as 'normal' was arrived at in the mid-1800's, and it's been gradually dropping across the population ever since. It's now exception rather than the rule. In fact 75% of us have a normal body temperature lower than that, so it's important to know what 'normal' is for you. My husband's, for example, runs steadily at about 97.7. Most adults are considered feverish when their temperature hits 100 F. Fever often elevates in the late afternoon or early evening which makes that the best time to check it.
A cough is another warning sign: 68% of those infected. But it's not just any cough. Dr. William Schaffner from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine says it's not a tickle in your throat or the urge to clear your throat. It's a dry cough that you feel in your chest.
With coronavirus, shortness of breath can occur with or without a cough and can be a significant and dangerous warning sign. Doctors warn that you should seek medical attention if your chest gets tight or you start feeling as if you can't breathe deeply enough to get a good breath. The CDC also lists persistent pain or pressure in the chest, bluish lips or face indicating a lack of oxygen, and any sudden mental confusion, lethargy or inability to rouse as serious conditions that warrant calling 911 immediately.
Three new potential warning signs
The American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery issued a report saying that losing the ability to smell, called anosmia, or the ability to taste, known as disgeusia, and conjunctivitis, a highly contagious condition also known as pink eye, are also potential warning signs. Anosmia in particular has been seen in patients without any other symptoms who test positive for COVID-19.
Conjunctivitis isn't a case of everyday bloodshot eyes. Chelsey Earnest, a nurse on the frontlines of hard-hit Life Care Center in Kirkland, Washington, said her coronavirus-infected patients looked almost like they had red eye shadow on the outside of their eyes. Data from elsewhere indicates that it's a much rarer indicator, but it could be one more sign to seek medical attention if you also have other tell-tale symptoms.
In the meantime, self-isolate as much as you possibly can. Make no unnecessary trips and keep washing your hands thoroughly — at least 20 seconds, making lots and lots of lather.
By Kelly Sargent
We all touch our faces multiple times an hour without even realizing we're doing it . . . scratching little itches, brushing hair out of our field of vision or crumbs off fromour lips or rubbing our eyes. That’s a problem when there’s an extremely infectious disease on the loose.
When we’re out in the world, at work or shopping or any public place, we touch all sorts of things scores of other people have touched before we got there. The microbes they left on the doorknob, light switch, handle, elevator button, shopping cart, card reader or whatever it was, are transferred to our hands, and from our hands to other parts of our bodies, particularly our faces.
Face-touching is a hard habit to break because we all do it so unconsciously, but we should try to minimize it as much as we can. The CDC says that In addition to frequent, thorough hand washing (click here for the proper technique) and social distancing, not touching our faces — in particular eyes, nose and mouth — is another important precaution we can take to avoid being infected with the coronavirus.
Here are some tips to help minimize that involuntary, face-touching reflex.
— Identify triggers. For example if you tend to rub your eyes because they’re dry, try using moisturizing eyedrops. If wearing contact lenses makes you more disposed to rubbing your eyes, consider switching to glasses.
— Keep a box of pop-up tissues within sight and easy reach. When you get the urge to rub your nose, scratch an itch or any other face-touching activity, use a tissue to do it.
— Apply strongly-scented lotion or essential oil such as lavender or eucalyptus to your hands. Your nose will tell you when your hands are getting close to your face.
— Keep your hands busy doing something else. If your work leaves one or both hands free for stretches of time, for example when you’re talking on the phone, get a stress ball, fidget-spinner or some other hand-held object to keep your hands occupied.
— Breathe. Anxiety and stress tend to make anyone antsy and restless. Meditation or focused breathing can help you still your body and mind.
— Keep washing your hands! If you forget and rub your nose or your eyes, if your hands are freshly washed, you’ll be fine. No need to obsess. Just be thoughtful and careful.
By Erin Tucker
We’re all living in a new reality that’s for sure! I’m referring of course to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. As we’ve been urged and encouraged, it's important for all of us to take care of ourselves and support one another until this passes.
Since government has advised the public not to gather in groups larger than 10 and make only absolutely necessary trips out for food, prescriptions, gas or medical attention, we’re all probably spending a lot more time at home.
In light of that, we’ll be posting a bit more frequently, sharing useful tips and perhaps a suggestion or two to help you pass the time.
As you heard and read over and over again, one of the most effective preventatives is washing your hands. But as you’ve also been couseled, you need to not only do it often, and you have to do a thorough job if it.
Here’s the hand-washing technique that health care professionals are taught to use:
By Kelly Sargent
Every four years there's a presidential election in the United States. Here's what also happens every four years: we get an extra day in February.
These quadrennial years known as leap years just happen to coincide with election years. Oh joy; one more day to be subjected to campaign ads.
This extra day is called a leap day and is added to February because it's the shortest month of the year. The additional day is necessary in order to make our calendar year match up with the solar year.
It takes the Earth 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 45 seconds to go around the sun, but the Gregorian calendar we use only contains 365 days. If we didn't add an extra day every fourth year, we would lose almost six hours a year. After 25 years our calendar would be off six days, and after a hundred years, we'd be off by 24 days.
Not every country uses the Gregorian calendar, though. Afghanistan, Iran, Ethiopia and Nepal have their own. Bangladesh, India and Israel use both the Gregorian and their own, and Taiwan, Thailand, North Korea and Japan use modified versions of the Gregorian calendar.
Because leap day is an every-four-year oddity, it's not surprising that superstitions, rituals and traditions have arisen around it. In Scotland it used to be considered unlucky to be born on leap day. In Greece segments of the population believe it's bad luck to get married not just on February 29, but the whole of leap year. It gets even more dire: Greek couples who separate and divorce during leap year allegedly will never find happiness again. Yikes!
On a brighter note, according to tradition it's permissible for women to propose to men on leap day. I've never understood why women have to wait for men to propose in the first place, but that's another story.
Irish legend claims that we have St. Brigid to thank for that window of opportunity. Born in the year 451, she supposedly complained to St. Patrick that women had to wait too long for marriage proposals, and he obliged by giving women one day to turn the tables and propose.
In some places leap day is known as Bachelors’ Day. Hypothetically, 1000 years after St. Brigid altered the rules, Margaret, Queen of Scotland, enacted a law that required any man who refused a marriage proposal from a woman on leap day to pay a penalty. In the upper classes, the reparation was purportedly a dozen pairs of gloves for the spurned woman to use to hide the embarrassment of not wearing a wedding or engagement ring.
We've never been asked to pursue recourse for nonpayment of 12 pairs of gloves, but if a statute exists supporting the claim, we'd be game to try. Happy leap day.
By Kelly Sargent
If you're like many of us, you may have made New Year's resolutions — and already broken them.
You're not alone. According to University of Scranton psychology professor John C. Norcross who has studied resolutions for decades, about 40% of Americans will make New Year's resolutions, and six months later 60% will have failed.
But hey, that means 40% will still be on track in June. Not bad. Here are some tips to help you beat the odds.
1. Turn down the heat
Do yourself a favor and take the pressure off by not making January 1 a do-or-die start date. Good for you for aiming for personal improvement, but the start of the New Year isn’t your one and only opportunity to set goals. You can resolve to alter your habits and improve your life at any time. Putting so much emphasis on an arbitrary date just adds to the stress already inherent in change.
2. Set realistic goals
In resolving to make changes in your life, it’s crucial for you to take your own individual personality and inclinations into account. You’re the the person who’s embarking on this new course, not someone else or some fictionalized version of yourself — so don’t set yourself up for failure by making resolutions predicated on forcing yourself to do things contrary to your nature. In other words, don’t resolve to run a marathon if you hate running! Making the activities in pursuit of your goal as enjoyable as possible will help you stick to your plan. If your goal is to get more aerobic exercise and find running monumentally boring — which I do, try taking up tennis, racquetball or something else that involves constant motion.
3. Make your goals specific and measurable
In his book Atomic Habits James Clear pointed out that people often think they lack motivation when the problem is really a lack of clarity. If you want to eat better, resolve to add a fruit or vegetable to your lunch every day or limit fast food to once a week. If your goal is to finally write that book you’ve been talking about for years,, and I'm talking to myself now . . . break it down to a specific, realistically-attainable goal of writing one page a day. Without a clearly defined and measurable objective, how can you tell if you’re getting anywhere? And if you can’t see progress, you’re much more likely to give up.
4. Pursue change one step at a time
If you’re embarking on a major lifestyle overhaul that involves multiple course corrections: let’s say you decided you want to cut down on your sugar intake, reduce alcohol consumption, get more exercise and spend less time in front of the television. Instead of taking on all of those challenges at once, try focusing on one goal a month or every quarter. For example, step one: spend a month adapting to your new limit of two glasses of wine a week. Step two: Stick to the new alcohol limit and add 20 minutes of weight-lifting a day for the next month. Step three: Continue adhering to the new parameters you've adopted over the last two months and cut sugar consumption to one donut a week . . . and so on. Layering change is easier than trying to take on multiple resets all at once.
5. Forget perfection
It’s impossible not to make mistakes from time to time . . . to have a lapse in will- or won’t-power once in awhile. As a matter of fact, the quest for perfection in itself probably isn’t healthy. Besides, if you were capable of being perfect, you wouldn’t have to be making resolutions in the first place, so do yourself a favor, and don’t turn your pursuit of improvement into an all or nothing exploit. Accept at the onset that you are going to have off days and lapses, and above all, don't confuse temporary setbacks with failure. Your goal is steady progress. If you suffer a lapse, put it behind you immediately and go right back to checking off the specific, measurable, incremental steps that will lead to the long-term improvement you're after.
Well, that’s it for today from your friends at Tucker Law. Now I’m off to put in my half hour of cardio followed by writing one more page of my book.
By Kelly Sargent
Few months offer as many celebrations as December. With permission from and thanks to WorldStrides, here's a look at some of this month’s holidays from around the world.
Arguably the most widely known of December holidays, Christmas traditions vary around the world. While Americans celebrate with Christmas trees, visits from Santa Claus, and dreams of snowy landscapes, Christmas falls during Australia’s summer, where it is popular to go camping or to the beach over the holiday. Some Australians decorate a “Christmas Bush,” a native Australian tree with small green leaves and flowers that turn red during the summer.
In England, Christmas traditions are similar to those in the United States, but instead of leaving milk and cookies for Santa Claus, children leave mince pies and brandy for Father Christmas.
In Iceland, capital city Reykjavik turns into a winter wonderland with its Christmas markets, and for the children there’s not one but thirteen Santas, known as Yule Lads. One arrives each night in the thirteen days before Christmas, leaving small gifts in shoes left in window sills.
Hanukkah, or Chanukah, is an eight-day Jewish celebration that commemorates the re-dedication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem following the Maccabean Revolt. Those who took part in the re-dedication witnessed what they believed to be a miracle. Even though there was only enough untainted oil to keep the menorah’s candles burning for a single day, the flames continued to burn for eight nights.
Also known as the Festival of Lights, Hanukkah begins on the 25th of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar. Celebrations revolve around lighting the menorah. On each of the holiday’s eight nights, another candle is added to the menorah after sundown. The ninth candle, called the shamash (helper), is used to light the others. Typically, blessings are recited and traditional Hanukkah foods such as potato pancakes (latkes) and jam-filled donuts (sufganiyot) are fried in oil. Other Hanukkah customs include playing with dreidels and exchanging gifts.
Kwanzaa was created by Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966 after the Watts riots in Los Angeles. He founded US, a cultural organization, and researched African “first fruit” (harvest) celebrations. From there, he combined aspects of several different harvest celebrations to form the basis of Kwanzaa.
The name Kwanzaa comes from the phrase “matunda ya kwanza” which means “first fruits” in Swahili. Each family celebrates Kwanzaa in its own way, but celebrations often include songs and dances, African drums, storytelling, poetry reading, and a large traditional meal. On each of the seven nights, families gather and a child lights one of the candles on the Kinara, then one of the seven principles, values of African culture, is discussed. An African feast, called a Karamu, is held on December 31.
Only recognized in a few countries, Boxing Day originated in the United Kingdom during the Middle Ages and is celebrated on December 26. It is so named because it’s the day when the alms box, collection boxes for the poor often kept in churches, were opened and their content distributed, a tradition that still takes place in some areas. It was also the day servants were traditionally given the day off to celebrate Christmas with their families.
Boxing Day has now become a public holiday in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, among other countries. In England, soccer matches and horse races often take place on Boxing Day.
The Irish refer to the holiday as St. Stephen’s Day, and they have their own tradition called hunting the wren in which boys fasten a fake wren to a pole and parade it through town. The Bahamas celebrate Boxing Day with a street parade and festival called Junkanoo.
However you and your family celebrate (or don’t) all of us at Tucker Law wish you every good thing.
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