Dad Turns 99

Born October 14, 1914, Carl Mesle turns 99 today.  He was born in Sherrill, NY.

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During World War II, dad served in the military. After completing his training as an intelligence officer, he was fortunate to have a position working in the Pentagon.  As thankful as Mom was to have him in a safe location instead of fighting overseas, dad felt it was unfair that he got to stay home in the safety of the Pentagon while his friends had to go into battle. It was that mentality that drove him to serve his community, to take care of the people who needed help.

After leaving military service, dad worked first, as a professional Boy Scout leader, serving under H. Roe Bartle, before accepting a position as a minister in the Community of Christ Church.

His life has been spent in service to his church and to his community.  As he describes it, “I dedicated my life to my church until I turned 65 and then embraced the charitable community.”  (Of course, his faith, and commitment thereto, have never wavered.)

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Until age related frailties limited his ability to actively participate in life outside the Groves, he participated in the activities of Troop 223 of the Boy Scouts; served on the Board of his neighborhood association, and—the list goes on.  He only gave up his prolific writings when his vision failed him.

He has been recognized by many of the numerous civic and charitable organizations he loves and has supported–the Boy Scouts, McCoy Neighborhood Association, the Heartland Foundation, the list goes on.  Perhaps my favorite, is his recognition  received at the Truman Library where he was, I am sure, thrilled to share the stage with former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.  But he was so gratified by his recent recognition from members of the Independence African-American Community for his commitment to civil rights.

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He has never smoked, consumed alcohol or illegal drugs.  He exercised regularly until his body refused to cooperate.  Even today, he attends daily devotions at the Groves, expressing thanks for the good in his life and the faith that has sustained him.

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Our family is fortunate to experience our mother’s gift of love and dad’s dedication to his faith, his values and his community.  Members of his family and friends who have been a part of his life for up many years shared his birthday with him.

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Meg and her cousins could not have better role models than mom and dad.  Watching their lives so far, I am happy to report that the “apple/s don’t fall far from the trees”.

Happy birthday, dad.  Love ya

Sheila’s Passion For Health

Last Christmas after Meg and I told friends about our new blog at a holiday party, Sheila promised to become our first “follower”.  We didn’t know anything about followers, but we figured it out, her blog on healthy living became the first blog I followed.  I have read her blog faithfully ever since.

Sheila is truly passionate about healthy living, not just for herself, but for those around her.  She talks about obesity as an epidemic and wants to help others live healthier lives as she documents “my journey to better health”.  Her blog describes her commitment exercise, eat well, savor life.  Consistent with her theme, she recently changed the name of her blog to “Livliga Live Vibrant Blog”.  Livliga, translated from Swedish, means to live vibrantly, in an energetic, dynamic or lively fashion.

Sheila has now created a line of Livliga dinnerware products designed to help us “right size” our food portions.  Believe me that when she talks about her commitment to healthy living, portion control, and her dinnerware, her enthusiasm fills the room.  She describes her dinnerware as providing “a great reminder of what the right amount of food really looks like”.
Until recently the Executive Director of the Denver Affiliate of the American Heart Association, she takes health seriously.  She is an evangelist, of sorts, in her advocacy for eating healthy foods with appropriate portions for weight control. In addition, and this is where her passion for health has taken an unusual twist, she believes, and causes us to believe, that how food looks on a dinner plate is critical to our sense of satisfaction.  Food that is appealing and visually “fills a plate” gives us the ability to decrease the amount of food we need to feel full.

Important as her message is about portion control, Sheila wants us to be happy as we diet.  Her blog regularly features great recipes for foods that are appealing to our senses of taste, smell and sight. If we are eating less, she wants to be sure we are eating well.
Trust me when I tell you that after reading Sheila’s recipes for mustard sage grilled chicken, grilled salmon and flank steak, I really wanted to try them.  Her photos of prepared from her recipes look wonderful.  A right sized portion of her chicken, according to her post, is only 286 calories.  With a tasty Mediterranean lentil salad, the dinner counts is still only 492 calories.  Healthy, tasty and diet friendly, what more can we ask.
If  Sheila has anything to say about it, we will live healthier, feel better and enhance the overall quality of our lives.  Her mantra may well be described as “Eat thin, live vibrantly, Livliga!

Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s “Chasing Life”

Sanjay Gupta’s book Chasing Life, published in 2007, presents a compelling picture of the ways in which each of us can improve the quality of our lives by diet, significant exercise and other healthy life choices.  Gupta’s focus is on “extending our healthy and active lives longer” while compressing the death process.  He reminds us that chasing life means lowering our risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.  He also guides us toward health habits that reduce our risk of developing Alzheimer’s and cancer.

Much of the information in his book is information we really already know, even if we try to ignore it:  a diet of junk food reduces the quality, if not the length, of our lives.   Life decisions such as failing to wear seat belts and bicycle/motorcycle helmets increases the likelihood of serious injury and death.  Tobacco kills.  And we have all heard the statistics on obesity.

But if you go beyond the extremely obvious to the merely obvious, he has more to say.  Meeting our daily requirement of vitamins, like vitamins A and C, magnesium, fiber C, really is essential.  Fish is far healthier for us than beef.  Supplements are not all created equal.  Grain, is a great source of fiber. I love granola because it is high in fiber and includes healthy grains, nuts and olive oil. Meg likes to add dried fruit.

Not so obvious is that long-term reduction of our calorie intake, even if we are not overweight, has significant health benefits.  It can extend our productive lives–helping us to avoid significant disease. In addition, regular exercise, walking, jogging, bicycling and stretching, is essential to remaining in good shape.  Physical fitness increases our life spans, and at least as important, helps us to become biologically “younger” and happier.

There is so much more information included in Dr. Gupta’s book about aging and health.  He even includes a section on the impact of happiness in encouraging long and healthy lives.  I encourage you to study his book and adopt the life style he espouses.  In keeping with healthy living, take a walk, play tennis, golf, or be like Meg and run miles every day.

Our family didn’t need Dr. Gupta to tell us about health.  Our dad is the most health conscious person I know.  He spent the last 97 years of his life avoiding alcohol, tobacco and caffeine, limiting his sugar, eating a healthy diet, , and exercising daily.  At age 95, he was invited to throw the first pitch at a Kansas City Royal’s game.x  He practiced his pitch before the big day and even got the ball to the plate, if not over it.  Quite a testament for living a healthy life.  Gee dad.  Dr. Gupta would be proud of you.

For most of the rest of us, we need someone we admire to prod us along, encouraging to make healthy decisions in our lives.  So, I encourage you tomorrow to take a walk or a run.  As a reward for your efforts, have a healthy bowl of fruit, instead of ice cream and water instead of wine or beer.  Not the way most of us spend our evenings.  But a whole lot healthier.

Is this just a little too bland for your lifestyle?  Do you need something more exciting than–water?  How about a glass of 100 % grape juice.  You can put it in your favorite wineglass and feel as festive as your friends.

Here’s to your health.  Here’s to a long and happy life.

_________________________________________________________________________________xOn August 30, 2010, dad was invited to throw the first pitch at a Royal’s game.  He is the oldest Eagle Scout  an event honoring Eagle Scouts.  He was the oldest Eagle Scout in the Kansas City area and was among those given a Kauffman lifetime achievement award.  we all attribute his good health and longevity to the care with which he has lived his life.

I am grateful to the Independence Examiner for the photo of dad. He had lots of family in attendance and we have similar photos.  But this one is better.  I have no idea why it appears in “google” with an All-Star game logo at the bottom.

Impact of Health Issues on Poverty in Rural Iowa, Guest Author, Sherry Mesle-Morain

Biography:  Sherry Mesle-Morain received her undergraduate degree from Tufts University, her Master of Education Degree from George Washington University, and her Masters in Social Work from Smith College School for Social Work.  She began her career in financial aid for students at Nazareth College in Pittsford, New York.  After raising two children she returned to academia at Graceland University in Lamoni, Iowa.  She retired as the Director of Financial Aid Services for the university.  Since her retirement she has focused on volunteer activities in Lamoni and, as she says found that people suddenly thought she could do anything.  Her volunteer work with the Community Financial Support Coalition (FSC) guided her thinking to the subject of this blog.

Impact of Health Issues on Poverty in Rural Iowa

Life is good.  Or, I should say, my life is good.  I have a family I love and who loves me.  We are kind to each other.  I have more than plenty to eat and I have nice clothes to wear.  I can afford the gas to drive to Atlantic to see my daughter and Kansas City to see my dad, my sister and my son.  And I have energy to serve my community and to have fun. Not everyone in my small town in Southern Iowa is so blessed.

The City of Lamoni has some generous citizens who contribute to the Lamoni Community Financial Support Coalition (FSC), the mission of which is to provide modest emergency financial assistance to citizens in need—shifting the balance, so to speak.  My stewardship with the FSC is to interview those folks who have requested financial assistance from our small pool of funds.

I began to sense that major medical issues were a primary factor in the lives of the people I meet with, but I know that hunches are not truth.  Then I realized that I had the raw data to do a small statistical analysis of the reasons these good folks are in need of help. Of the 32 people seen, 75% of them or their children had medical issues that ate up their resources and/or kept them from working, at least temporarily, whether full-time or part-time.  Their time off work was anywhere from a couple of weeks to a full year.  One of the things that surprised me when I talked to people who had medical issues was that they took seriously their responsibility to pay their outstanding medical bills.  Many used up their savings paying their bills and others were on payment plans that kept them in poverty.  Some were on Medicaid, which relieved them of constant payments, but they still faced the fact of having no income because of their health issues.  Occasionally someone had gone several days or a week without taking vital medications because they would not get paid for another week and could not afford to pay for their prescriptions. Four women were unemployed because of maternity leave.  They not only could not work during those few weeks, but they also did not have paid maternity leave.  And, of course, when they do go back to work they have to figure out-child care—who will provide it and how will they pay for it.  This is a huge expense that eats up their minimum wage earnings.

Just a few days after I did this analysis I heard a news story on National Public Radio of a national study showing the same results.  Both my analysis and the NPR story of April 20, 2012, by Jennifer Ludden verified my observation.  There are three points Ludden made that I would like to share with you.

1)   Two-thirds of women with young children now work.  Nearly half are their family’s primary breadwinner.  (Of the women I interviewed the majority were living with the fathers of their children, men who were either underemployed or unemployed.  These are serious issues, but that is a subject for another day.)

2)   Because so many companies do not offer paid sick leave or paid vacation, a mother who stays home to care for a sick child is at risk of being told not to return to work.  If it is mom who is sick, she is in the same spot.  She doesn’t get paid to stay home, so she can either care for her children herself when she is sick, or she can put them in day care and go to work sick so as to afford the child care.

3)   Having a baby is a leading cause of temporary poverty.  Many women with no maternity leave end up quitting their jobs to care for a baby.  When they lose those needed jobs it is very hard to get back into the workforce.

While on the national level we have the necessary and intense discussions as to how to address unsolvable problems, how to manage the social safety net, and how to see to it that everyone gets health care, the people who request assistance from the Lamoni Community Financial Support Coalition are in real and immediate need: of diapers and wipes, of formula, of heat and water, of a place to live, of medical care, of gas to get to work and to medical appointments.  The needs do not stop and they are real.

I am amazed at the resilience and optimism of these folks.  But from time to time they need a helping hand to shift the balance in their favor.

Please note: the views expressed by guest authors are not necessarily those of the primary authors of Shifting the Balance.  We do believe it is important to encourage the free flow of ideas and to promote collective action and compromise.  In order to keep the country “in balance” we believe we should work together, and that means sharing and respecting ideas, including those that may be different from our own.