Mask Not What Your Country Can Do For you

CALLING ALL SEWERS

What will this country do if we run out of masks? I think we are all getting a little antsy at home so maybe we can use this time to do some good. As a retired nurse, I feel helpless at home. I thought about going back to work, but as a senior citizen I’m in a high risk group, and I have a large local family to think about, so I’ll be taking a break from my book and opening up my sewing room for a bit. If you are like me, you have tons of extra fabric sitting around. If not, you can order supplies online and have them delivered. There are multiple sites that show you how to do it. The first one is on the Joann Fabric website and they provide a video on how to make them. They’re simple but you need to make your own (easy) pattern. If you are looking to sew en masse, these would be OK. Just be aware they won’t be much protection against COVID 19 because they don’t have a filter. https://www.joann.com/ . The next one is the one I think I will use. They look a bit more time consuming but still easy. They have a pocket to put a filter in, a bendy tie for across the nose, and the mask goes under the chin. I haven’t tried to buy filters yet so I’m not sure if they will be available, but if not, a heavier fabric is, again, better than nothing, I think. For all of them, the recommendation is a heavier, non-stretch fabric like denim, duck cloth, burlap, etc. https://www.properfitclothing.com/product-page/flu-mask-pattern-download. This next one is fashioned like the N 95 respirators. I did not watch the entire video yet, truth be told, but you can check it out. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FSeDlVxQx1k.

There are other sites, too; this is just a sampling. Surf and see which one you like best. The CDC goes back and forth on what is acceptable, but if nothing else, they might at least protect the nose and mouth from the juicier coughs and sneezes.

And here is my next brainstorm for non-sewers. You can start laughing right now. I don’t see why we couldn’t fashion masks out of panty liners. They are made of thick, waterproof material and are soft. We could attach elastic or fabric ties to them with a couple of stitches. It certainly wouldn’t provide the coverage or protection that an N 95 or surgical mask would, but it would be better than nothing if we run out. And that’s all I’m going to say about that!

Ladies and gentlemen, use this time at home to help your community and your country and please, stay safe.

Men Can Be Victims, Too.

This is the third article in my Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence series The first one can be found here and the second here.

Based on surveys, the facts are that most sexual offenses are committed by men against women.  I understand that is not acceptable to hear for some people, so to them I offer a challenge: Be a part of the solution. Help to fix those statistics. Don’t complain about a perceived injustice and then offer no solution. Facts are facts, but facts can be changed, and peer pressure works. Go for it.

Back to business now. What may not be quite as evident is that men are abused, too, both physically, emotionally, and sexually, by women. These disruptions of domestic harmony are referred to as Intimate Partner Violence, or IPV. As far as sexual assaults are concerned, statistically, 9.4 % of women in the United States have experienced a sexual assault, and of those, 51.1% were at the hands of an intimate partner. There are no statistics on how many men experience sexual coercion by an intimate female partner, due to their reluctance to admit the incident ever happened; but we know that it does. According to 2018 statistics, 85 % of domestic violence cases are women, and 15 % of cases are men. Looking at it in a different way, 35.6 % of all women and 28.5 % of all men report being abused, in some way, by an intimate partner.  I’m not a statistician but I am trying to be fair and report it from different angles. There are sets of statistics on incidence of events that have been broken down further into different categories and are quite interesting to review, so please check out the links. Whether it is a woman that is being abused or a man, everyone matters.

IPV, which can be in the form of physical or sexual violence, psychological aggression, or stalking, is a very real and concerning global problem. Society still dictates, openly or more subtly, that men must be the alpha presence in the house, and they should never be shown to be weaker than a woman. Men may be embarrassed; may worry that they will not be considered credible; or may worry that their female counterparts will tell a different story, expecting to be believed over the man, which does happen. Even in this burgeoning age of equality, some unwritten, antiquated standards persist, making men reluctant to report assaults by females.

Men are more likely to use physical force to maintain control over their partners, so injures to women are generally more severe than those that men sustain. Women are not exempt from using violence, but when they do resort to it, it usually consists of throwing things at their partners, kicking, biting or spitting. In extreme cases, a woman may attack a man with a lethal weapon in his sleep, sometimes after years of sustained abuse, so she does not have to face physical retaliation. 

More frequently, however, women use verbal and non-verbal methods to coerce. They can verbally abuse men at home, belittle them in front of friends, family, and colleagues or on social media. Mom may threaten to not let Daddy see his children if he leaves her or reports her to the police. If she controls the purse strings, she can damage their financial situation and run up credit cards. A woman could destroy her domestic partner’s belongings or threaten to harm their children or pets. She can be possessive, unreasonably jealous, suspicious, or spread rumors about him.

It is not doubted that both men and women can use manipulative behaviors or physical force to gain power and control over their domestic partners, but data shows that men are more violent, women more verbally manipulative. There are, of course, exceptions to every rule; these are not absolutes, but that knowledge is there.

The consequences of Intimate Partner Violence extend past the couple involved. Victims (survivors), of domestic violence are at risk for long term health issues such as depression, PTSD, residual effects from physical injuries, and anxiety. These effects have the potential to result in loss of productivity at home or at work, relationship problems with others, financial difficulties related to mental health care, lost wages from time off work, health care, and possible legal costs. If there are children involved, things can be scary and complicated for them, too.  

These can be frightening times, but no one needs to go through them alone. Man or woman, you are of value to your family, your friends, and yourself. Seek help at an Emergency Room if needed for treatment and/or documentation of the incident, call the Domestic Violence hotline at 1-800-799-7233., and enter ongoing counseling to help you cope. But whatever you do, get out and get help. I have heard the complaint that there is no place for men to get help and that is not true. The hotline is for everyone. This link speaks to violence specifically against men. There is help for anyone who chooses to want it. Please want it.

Tell Me Why?

This is the second in a series on Sexual Assaults

For the purposes of this series, perpetrators of sexual offenses will be referred to in the masculine gender, as the majority are committed by men against women, but this is not the only scenario. Since it would be cumbersome to try and incorporate all the possibilities into the articles, it will be written as men against women, with no offense to the male population intended. This is not in any way indicative of men’s behavior in general, just speaks to a small segment of the population.

We are complex, each with our own brains, genetic make-up, and life experiences, all of which work together to form unique characteristics, but do you ever wonder what thought processes drive the decisions we make preceding each action we take? Every decision has a reason, from something as simple as deciding what to wear in the morning all the way up to the complexity of deciding to commit a crime. No matter how minor, all actions serve a purpose. This is the reason we analyze the thoughts and behavior of criminals, to see what makes them “tick”. (“Criminal Minds”, anyone?)

Up until the 20th century, it was believed that if a man was overstimulated, he would lose control in the presence of a woman, effectively absolving him of all responsibility in a non-consensual encounter. It was around this time that the feminist movement was born, directing more attention to women as victims instead of contributors to the situation, and research into this type of crime found a voice. In 1979, psychologist Nicholas Groth published his book Men Who Rape, a compilation of information gleaned from studying several hundred rapists incarcerated throughout the Massachusetts penal system. He concluded from his studies that the motivations behind sexual assaults had less to do with sexual desire and more to do with sadism, anger, or the desire for power. He called them “pseudosexual acts” and said that they constitute “sexual behavior in the primary service of non-sexual needs.” Although his conclusions were based on empirical evidence, this important research laid the groundwork for further studies into the minds of rapists, and his conclusions persist today.

Sexual assaults are acts of violence, not sex. Perpetrators feel they are entitled to another person’s body regardless of consent. Many start young, around college age. Certainly, rapists are not confined to the college population, but a college setting is ripe for these encounters to occur. Alcohol is flowing, inhibitions are inhibited, and peer pressure is overwhelming. Alcohol and drugs are often used as a means of incapacitating women, and men are more likely to commit sexual assaults if they are surrounded by those who approve of, and even encourage, the behavior

Rapists’ backgrounds are diverse, but there are some commonalities among them. Most, but not all, are unrepentant, and therefore more likely to repeat their crimes. They may attempt to justify what they did without taking responsibility, blaming the victim because of her clothes, alcohol, drugs, being out late, her behavior, or an archaic belief that “no” really means “yes”, etc. In their minds, it’s never their faults. They may even admit to non-consensual sex, but either do not know, or will not admit to themselves, that what they did was defined as rape. They may associate with others who either have committed sexual assaults or who are supportive of this behavior.

Some men have anti-social tendencies and have little regard for the laws and social norms. These people are not deterred by the threat of punishment, or even believe it will come to that. They may be self-centered, manipulative, less empathetic, and have a low regard for women.

Studies continue into this subject, including a new project on the rape culture in Hollywood. Since the #MeToo movement started in 2017, multitudes of complaints have come out of Hollywood about sexual assaults. The deadline for submissions ended on April 30th, but papers were being solicited for information on any aspect of sexual assault in Hollywood. Awareness of the scope of this problem and continued study into the psychological factors that lead to these crimes are essential to reducing the numbers of victims and the rehabilitation of offenders.

Have I Been Raped or Not?

FOR MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY

This is a repost of one I wrote for http://www.agoracosmopolitan.com/news/health/2019/05/13/13745-have-i-been-raped-or-not.html

This article will be the first in a series. Sexual assault is an intricate subject that deserves discussion at each level, not have information lost to the restrictions of one submission. The information comes from research and from my own experiences as a SANE. (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner).

She put on her sexiest outfit, got all dolled up and took an Uber to her favorite nightclub. Music, dancing, lights, drinks, and friends. What a perfect night. She ran into an old boyfriend who offered to buy her drinks. It was nice to see him again, so when he offered to drive her home, she accepted. She was a little tipsy but she wouldn’t have to pay for an Uber. Instead of taking her home, though, he stopped at his place. He said he had some coffee and wanted to sober her up before taking her home. While sipping her coffee on the couch, the advances began. She welcomed them, at first, but he kept going farther and farther, and she wasn’t ready for that level of involvement. She kept saying “No”, but he didn’t listen to her. She was still a little drunk, he was strong, and he forced himself on her. She never told anyone. It couldn’t have been rape, she thought, since she knew him; she went home with him willingly; and she was wearing provocative clothing. She had also reached orgasm, so she figured she had wanted it and had brought it all on herself.  Who would believe her, anyway, nice man that he was? She felt ashamed; she was worried about her health and pregnancy; her trust in him, and men in general, was shattered; and she kept it all inside.

The things she mentioned can be contributing factors in a sexual assault, but she was wrong on one major detail: She was raped. None of those other details matter: not the clothes; not the alcohol; not the fact that she knew him; not because she went home with him; and not even because she reached orgasm, which was very confusing to her. She said “NO”, and “NO means “NO”, every time.

Sexual assaults occur worldwide, and more so in developed, more prosperous nations. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 35% of women globally have experienced some type of sexual assault. Statistical results by country are probably not accurate because not all rapes are reported in the same way in each country; some countries have lax laws; some don’t keep statistics at all; and some only report rapes perpetrated by men on women, which is not always true. Statistics are not important, anyway; it’s the acts themselves that need to be considered.

A sexual assault has occurred when one person bestows unwanted behavior or sexual contact on another without explicit permission. “No”, or a variation of it, is the only word that needs remembering, even it is uttered during previously consensual activity. It’s understandable that some men may not want to stop in the heat of passion before completion, but, whether they like it or not, if they continue after she (or he) says any variation of that word “no”, and there has been penetration of any kind, it is considered rape in a court of law. The FBI defines rape as “penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” Outside of this, there are various levels of assault, ranging from inappropriate behavior or touching all the way up to rape, with different levels of punishment for each. The fact is that the level of assault makes no difference. “NO” means “NO”. Period.

Next: “The Psychology of Rape.”

Affairs of the Heart Are Not Always About Love

This article has been re-posted from my content on http://www.agoracosmopolitan.com/health.html

“9-1-1. What’s your emergency?”  No one wants to be on the calling end of that one, and yet cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains the #1 Killer for both men and women alike. Myocardial Infarction, or MI, is the clinical term for a heart attack, which may be mild to fatal, and nothing to mess around with. A heart attack occurs when a clot forms around loosened plaque buildup in one of the main arteries that provides blood supply to your heart and occludes it, preventing the heart from receiving the oxygen carried by the blood. The area of the heart that is fed by the damaged vessel dies from the lack of oxygen, and a heart attack has occurred.

Previously considered a man’s disease, women were excluded from studies for many years. When they finally were included, it was shown that men were twice as likely to smoke as women, which further solidified the fairy tale that it was a man’s disease, since smoking is such a big risk factor. Women were traditionally given fewer diagnostic tests and less aggressive treatment than were men, and as a result, developed worsening cardiac problems from inadequate care.

Thank goodness that has changed, well, mostly. It seems that, even now, physicians are less likely to prescribe medications or give post-MI instructions about quitting smoking to women than to men prior to discharge. It appears we still have some work ahead to close the gender gap when it comes to heart attacks.

The mechanism is the same for men and women: blocked arteries to the heart that deprives it of oxygen, causing tissue death. The symptoms are the same, the most notable being chest pain that may or may not be accompanied by shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting, back pain, unexplained fatigue, dizziness, pale color, sweating, radiation to the left (mostly) arm or to the neck, jaw, or shoulder. The chest pain may be a pressure, aching, burning, or “heavy” sensation, or just feel like indigestion, which is why many don’t seek help. The disparity between men and women, and there seem to be differing opinions on this, is that, although women also have classic chest pain, they can also have more subtle symptoms, as those noted above, instead. They are also more likely to have a silent MI, having no symptoms at all.

There are physical differences that can affect the way women experience heart attacks. One is that their hearts are smaller, and they tend to have small vessel disease instead of blockages in the larger coronary arteries. They can still have MIs, but the problem with this kind of CVD is that upon cardiac catheterization, the blockages don’t show up because only the larger arteries are visualized, and patients are sent off with a “clean bill of health”, with unseen dangers in the heart left unidentified.

Women are generally about seven years older than men when they have their first heart attack. This is because premenopausal women still have a good supply of estrogen, which is heart-protective. After menopause, that supply diminishes along with the protection. Endometriosis, polycystic ovary disease, diabetes and high blood pressure complications of pregnancy, and oral contraceptive use, especially if a smoker or overweight, are all risk factors exclusive to women.

This is an extremely important subject, not only for older men and women, but for young people, too, as it is on the rise in younger age groups. Please do your homework. There is so much to know, and you can start with the links in this article. Everyone should know the signs and symptoms of a heart attack. Learn, get help, and save that muscle.

Elderberries Rock Against the Flu, but Why?

Re-posted from my entry on  http://www.agoracosmopolitan.com/

Baby-boomers, you may remember your moms and grandmas making you drink elderberry tea when you were sick.Well, your elders had it right.This berry has been used for culinary and medicinal purposes for thousands of years.  At one time, it was even used as a protection against witches, and at another, its effects were thought to be the power of the devil. To modern society’s credit, these beliefs and fears were put to rest. It seemed, though, that we had forgotten about this time-honored remedy for physical ailments as an ever-increasing number of chemical cures and treatments for illnesses were discovered. Thankfully, though, elderberry has become the subject of extensive studies in recent years and found to be effective against several disease conditions.With the current push toward healthier living, we are beginning to understand the value of some of these ancient remedies and are looking at elderberry as a safer alternative to medications, such as Tamiflu, for treating the flu.

The elderberry plant, or black elderberry, is native to Europe, Africa and Asia. It belongs to the Sambucus family of plants and is also known as the European Elderberry or by its scientific name Sambucus nigra. All parts of the elderberry plant are potentially usable, but the raw fruit is known to contain sambunigrin, a chemical that can produce the toxin cyanogen. Additionally, the seeds contain cyanide. Harm can be prevented by heating the plant, which destroys the toxins. Don’t worry about over-the-counter elderberry products, as the processing used in their manufacture destroys toxins, also. Elderberry may have the rare side effects of mild indigestion or hypersensitivity to the plant, both of which are common with the ingestion of any food or drug.

Since the late 1990’s, elderberry has undergone many controlled trials, and has subsequently been proven to reduce the severity and duration of symptoms against the flu if taken within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms. That sounds much like the facts found in Tamiflu’s product information, doesn’t it?  But how does it do this?

Plants contain phytochemicals, chemical compounds produced to protect them from the invasion of foreign substances. The phytochemicals in elderberry prevent proteins in the flu virus from adhering to tissues, particularly in the respiratory tract, by inhibiting the virus’s production of neurimididase. This enzyme is what facilitates the attachment of the virus to cells. Without it, the virus can’t get in to infect them.

Assisting phytochemicals in the elderberry plant are anthocyanins and flavonoids, substances that are responsible for the antioxidant properties that boost immune systems. They do this by blocking pro-inflammatory cytokines, chemicals in the body responsible for inflammation.

In addition to being used against the flu virus, elderberry is used for wound care, inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, the common cold, and allergies. It is thought to prevent or shorten the duration of herpes outbreaks and is also known to have antibacterial properties as well as antiviral ones. Studies continue to determine more about the exciting prospect of elderberry use in the fight against cancer and even AIDS.

European elderberry is the only variety known to have these healing properties, so make sure the product you buy is made from European elderberries and has Sambucus nigra listed as the active ingredient. The recommended form is elderberry extract and It comes as a syrup, lozenge, gummy, and capsule. As a bonus, the FDA considers elderberry products to be safe when used as directed.The next time you are sick, discuss with your doctor the possibility of considering elderberry extract as a holistic option against cold and flu symptoms.

Immunizations: Not just for Children

When we hear the word immunizations, we immediately think of childhood vaccines. These vaccines are what keep our children healthy and prevent epidemics of serious illnesses. Like children, adults also require immunizations. Probably the one with which most people are familiar is the “tetanus shot”. This vaccine is a combination of tetanus and diphtheria. Tetanus is a serious, sometimes fatal, disease of the brain and nervous system caused by bacteria that enter the body through a break in the skin. Diphtheria is a potentially serious bacterial infection involving the respiratory tract. An adult version of the childhood dTP series, Tdap, was introduced in 2005, providing coverage for pertussis (whooping cough) as well. Pertussis is a highly contagious, potentially fatal, bacterial disease of the respiratory system that is increasing in prevalence in the United States. Accordingly, the Tdap vaccine is now recommended as a one- time booster for adults, reverting then to Td for routine boosters every 10 years.

The Varicella, or chicken pox, vaccine, began to be used in the US in 1995. It is recommended that adults who have no credible history of having chicken pox either have immunity verified via a blood test or receive a series of two vaccinations 4-8 weeks apart. This vaccine is particularly important to those exposed to environments where transmission is possible, such as medical workers and non-pregnant women of childbearing age. The virus does not leave the body once it heals after the initial outbreak; it hides in nerve cells and an infection can reoccur later in life in the form of herpes zoster, more commonly known as shingles. It is not the same strain of herpes virus that causes the sexually transmitted disease, but it can be very painful and have long term effects. It can occur in young people, especially the ones with weakened immune systems, such as those with diseases of the immune system, are on chemotherapy, or who take steroids regularly but most commonly affects older people as their immune systems begin to weaken. In 2006, a vaccine for shingles, Zostavax, was approved for adults 50 years of age and older and is recommended for ages 60 and above. A newer vaccine, Shingrix, is now the preferred product for the prevention of shingles, although Zostavax is still available.

The MMR vaccine provides immunity for measles, mumps, and rubella (German Measles). Although the incidence of these diseases has been dramatically reduced since the vaccines became available, some people remain at risk. Adults who were born on or before 1957 and have not had the diseases or those born after that who have not been immunized are at risk for contracting these potentially serious viral illnesses. They should have at least one dose or two for those more at risk such as college students and healthcare workers. As with varicella, a blood test is available to determine immunity if you have had the disease in the past.

A flu shot is advised annually for people of all ages. Of the multiple strains of the influenza virus, only the three (for trivalent), or four (for quadrivalent) that are expected to be the most virulent or prevalent for that year are chosen to be combined into the one injection. Bear in mind that you can still get another strain of the flu even if you have had a shot, but you may not get as ill as you would have without the vaccine, and you should be covered for the strains used to create it.

Other vaccines for adults provide protection against meningitis, pneumonia, hepatitis A and B, and the human papillomavirus. Available since 2006, the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, Gardasil, has been recommended for females, and now for males. Strains of this virus are responsible for cancers of the reproductive system, head and neck, and for genital warts.

Some of these vaccinations may be a bit uncomfortable temporarily but remember, the diseases themselves are much, much worse. You can’t protect yourself from all the illnesses in the world, but if you can prevent even some of them, then why not? Vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate.

For more information on communicable diseases and vaccines, go to www.cdc.gov.