“You cannot prevent the birds of sorrow from flying over your head, but you can stop them nesting in your hair.”

- Proverb

A flock of birds fly next to a tree at sunset

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Monday Hearts for Madalene

Page Hodel creates beautiful hearts as a tribute to lasting love
Handamde heart made of twigs surrounded by pink and white flowers

Sweet memories surround my heart

It’s an honor for SevenPonds to share with our readers the story of the Monday Hearts for Madalene project, a true account of the power of love in the midst of death. The project’s origins take us to 2005: the moment Page Hodel encountered Madalene Rodriguez and fell “instantly, dizzyingly in love with her.” The couple’s first meeting was electric, and Page felt inspired to do something unique for the woman who captured her heart. So, she began leaving handmade hearts – made from flowers, leaves, and other materials – on Madalene’s doorstep. The hearts became a ritual, and they were there to greet Madalene as she left for work every Monday.

“To start her week with a visual reminder of our beautiful love.” Page Hodel

Just seven months later, Madalene was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and passed away on June 20th, 2006. But Page’s love for her hasn’t ceased, and she continues to make a heart for her every Monday in celebration of her life.

If you would like, you can also receive Page’s “Monday Hearts for Madalene” by emailing her at page.hodel@gmail.com with “subscribe” written as the subject. Images of the hearts can also be purchased in her beautifully compiled book, Monday Hearts for Madelene. Please also visit her website and Facebook page. A portion of all sales will go to the Women’s Cancer Resource Center in Oakland, California (www.wcrc.org). See more Monday Hearts for Madalene here.

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“My Dad’s Hands” by David Ketter, a Father’s Day Poem

A man remembers something special about his father

On June 18 of this year, the third Sunday of the month, the United States celebrated Father’s Day. Father’s Day was first observed throughout Catholic Europe on March 19 during the Middle Ages. As time passed, people began to celebrate Father’s Day on and off in March or May in different parts of the world.

Hands planting in the garden

Credit: worldbulletin.net

The United States did not take notice of a day to honor fathers until it was established as a counterpart to Mother’s Day in 1908. Still, the idea might have faded away had it not been for the insistence of a woman named Sonora Smart Dodd from Spokane, Washington. Her father had raised her and her siblings. So each year, she pushed the pastor of her church and other churches in the area to celebrate Father’s Day.

The idea eventually took hold across the nation. In 1966, Lyndon B. Johnson issued the first presidential proclamation honoring fathers. In 1972, Richard Nixon finally signed Father’s Day into law.

The role of fathers in the lives of their children has always been less straightforward than the roles of mothers. Through much of history, fathers acted as the breadwinners while mothers provided the rearing and the nurturing. Some children went days without seeing their fathers. It has only been in the last few decades that the role of the father in child rearing has grown  more personal.

My Dad’s Hands,” a poem by David Ketter, seems to have been written in a time when children and their fathers were just learning how to begin to relate to each other. It tells the story of how the narrator, looking at his own hands, remembers his dead father’s hands.

Introverted older man

Credit: Quietrev.com

Here is one stanza:

“I remember them well, those old gnarled hooks,

There was always a cracked nail or two.

And thanks to a hammer that strayed from its mark,

His thumb was a beautiful blue!”

The narrator then goes on to remember how the hands of his friends’ fathers always seemed cleaner and displayed less damage. Thinking back, he is proud of the evidence that his dad worked so hard. He reflects that,

“Thinking back, misty-eyed, and thinking ahead

When one day my time is done.

The torch of love in my own withered hands

Will pass on to the hands of my son.”

We express love in many different ways. Working hard for the benefit of your family is one of those ways. The author of “My Dad’s Hands” powerfully portrays the love and admiration he felt for his own father and the love he feels for his children.

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The Stunning Pebble Art of Nizar Ali Badr

A Syrian artist captures the devastating effects of war in heartbreaking detail
Nizar Ali Badr working with stones at his home in Syria

Nizar Ali Badr
Credit: syriancreativehavens.com

Nizar Ali Badr is a sculptor who lives and works in Lattakia, Syria. For over three decades, he has collected pebbles from the Mediterranean seacoast at the foot of Mount Zaphon and turned them into miniature sculptures depicting scenes from his homeland. During years past, he glued the tiny, richly colored pebbles to cards to preserve his work. But today, in the midst of Syria’s six-year civil war, glue has become too expensive. So he photographs his works to preserve them. And then, like so many of the lives they represent, they are gone.

“…when I create a stone sculpture,” Ali Badr says, “I know with certainty that there is nothing there to hold it together. It will, undoubtedly, be destroyed in time… Because of this, there is an ephemeral character inherent in my work that requires an ability to let go of attachment to material items and to understand the temporal nature of all things in life.”

Sculpture of a women holding a dead loved one by Nizar Ali Badr

Credit: Nizar Ali Badr via BBC.com

That’s a sentiment that has served the sculptor well for the past six years, as he has been forced to bear witness to the devastation of his homeland. Today he works alone in his studio, his “museum” as he calls it, with no electricity. “Being alone makes me feel aligned and peaceful,” Ali Badr explains. And though he lives in poverty because of the war, he never tires of his work. “My inspiration comes from my profound love for the Zaphon stones and for my homeland Syria.”

And it’s apparent that Ali Badr’s connection to the stones and pebbles he uses to make his art is profound. In ancient Syrian culture, Mount Zaphon, also known as Djebel Al Aqra, was the home of Baal, the god of mountains, storms and rain. It is a sacred place, and the place that gave birth to young Nizar’s dream many years ago.

Pebble art depicting fleeing refugees by Nizar Ali Badr

Credit: Nizar Ali Badr via BBC.com

“…My dream [was] to reach people’s hearts and deliver a message. As my passion for stone sculptures evolved, I heard the call and the cry of the stones,” Nizar says.

“The cries came out of the uterus of the holy Syrian land. The stones screamed so loudly that all resounded…the cries of the needy, the oppressed and the fugitives,” he goes on.

And, indeed, Ali Badr’s work speaks volumes to the vast suffering of the Syrian people. Despite their simplicity, the sculptures are imbued with so much raw emotion that their impact is devastating. There are images of refugee families, bent under the weight of their belongings as they flee their homes. There are images of mothers comforting their children and neighbors holding each other in despair. And there are images of violence and death. 

Scultpure showing dead and headstones by Nizar Ali Badr

Credit: Nizar Ali Badr via BBC.com

There are also images that depict happier times — children playing under a tree or flowers in a vase. Perhaps they are Ali Badr’s way of staying connected to a time when life was not so difficult. Or maybe they are a prayer for the future. It’s hard to know.  

One thing is certain, however. And that is Ali Badr’s commitment to communicating the vastness of Syria’s suffering to the rest of the world.

“My human message is the spreading of happiness, amity and love,” he explains. “Inside of the war, destruction, death, migration, exodus, chaos, poverty, injustice, there are screams and yells of human beings as pain and suffering gripped them. Through my creations one can hear the stones screaming and yelling in desperate imploring: ‘Stop killing human beings, stop destruction, do not abandon your humanity!'”

Regardless of one’s political affiliation or beliefs, it is impossible to look at the work of Nizar Ali Badr and not feel the same way.

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How Can We Protect Seniors from Elder Abuse?

An interview with Helen Karr, an attorney who specializes in advocating for the elderly: Part Two

In the second portion of this two-part interview, SevenPonds speaks to Helen Karr, a former supervisor of beauty salons who now advocates for the elderly community. At age 65, Karr went back to school to become an attorney after hearing about and witnessing the mistreatment of her elderly customers. Now retired at 83, Helen Karr has worked as the Elder Abuse Special Assistant in the San Francisco District Attorney’s office offering advice to seniors about how to protect themselves against fraud and scams. Helen also was instrumental in having the month of May designated as Elder and Dependent Adult Abuse Awareness Month in California.

Helen Karr, elder abuse specialist

Credit: sfgate.com

Kristen: Are elderly women typically targeted more than elderly men?

Helen: At one time, women were more likely to be targeted. But one must take into account that women live longer than men and there are more women living alone than men.

Nevertheless, one of the first cases I ever worked on involved an elderly man who was tricked out of his inheritance from his wife. The man had just lost his wife after caring for her for many years. He often took checks and coins to deposit at the bank and befriended a woman who was a bank teller. He told her his entire story.

The teller then began pretending to be his wife. She transferred all the money in his savings account into her name. She even moved into his home when he was put into an assisted living facility. But no one in the home would believe his story. It took a trip to the hospital for him to inform anyone of what had happened to him. And even then, he was placed on a psychotropic drug and sent home.

Senior man and woman walking together. Even couples can be victims of elder abuse.

Credit: wisegeek.com

Then, two weeks before he died, an ombudsman went to see him, and he told her his story. She believed him and she called the police. That was the first case I worked on.

All states have adult protective services. It is somewhat different from Child Protective Services because an elder can’t be taken out of home. They can also be really isolated and unable to reach anybody unless they have some way to reach the police themselves.

If a child is stealing from their parents, they need help too.

Kristen: Can you talk a little bit about the Victim Services Elder Abuse Senior Volunteer Program?

Helen: I worked with the Victim Service staff at the DA’s office, where we provide assistance to all elder or dependent adult abuse victims over 65 years old by bringing culturally and language-appropriate services directly to those in need. We help elders cope with the trauma of victimization and provide an orientation to the criminal justice system. We also accompany them to court, assist with property return, and provide them with resources, referrals, and extensive information.

I also started a senior volunteer program in San Francisco, where I trained older advocates in the center to see the signs of elder abuse. I also gave them the tools and knowledge to help those who were being abused. Many people don’t want to go as far as talking to agencies, but feel comfortable talking to other seniors. That’s why I did it.

Kristen: Do you know of any national programs that assist the elderly in the same ways that you do?

Helen: No, but I know there is the Elder Care Locator through the U.S. Department of Aging. You can also call (800) 677-1616, which is a hotline that will direct you to the Area Agency on Aging. The National Center for Elder Abuse is also a helpful resource, but no national service has people go out into the community and work the way I did.

Kristen: Can you talk a little bit about the types of financial abuse that you see? Are there any cases that you find particularly common? 

Helen: Sure. There are many types of financial abuse, including plain theft. But mainly I see types where someone close to an elder steals money and property from them. In my opinion, elder abuse usually happens within the family, or by a paid caregiver. It rarely involves a stranger.

An elderly woman giving money to someone with their hand out may be a victim of elder abuse

Credit: aginginvestigator.com

One instance I remember was about a couple who moved into the wife’s mother’s home. Originally the house was in the name of the mother. But the wife came in and put herself down as the owner of the home. Then they kept her mother isolated in one bedroom where she would have to walk outside to go to the bathroom. Eventually they evicted her.

Another example that stuck with me was of a young man who moved in with his grandmother while he attended college. He got mixed up with drugs and began to ask her for money. He wanted her to put his name on her checking account. As the situation worsened, the young man locked his grandmother in her room and sometimes did not feed her. He even threatened her, saying he talked to her doctor and that he would help put her away. By some miracle, the woman was able to walk out of the house one day. She took money, got a cab, and took the cab to the doctor’s office where my friend was a patient. She overheard the woman’s situation and helped her to see the doctor. Then she helped the woman escape from her situation. It truly breaks my heart.

Kristen: Have you seen more seniors targeted/defrauded by phishing scams?

Helen: No, at least not when I worked in the District Attorney’s Office. But I have been out of the business for about a year now, so it could very well be an issue I haven’t witnessed. Either way, I make it my mission to get out there and explain all kinds of elder abuse dangers to anyone who will listen.

Seniors are often targeted because they are usually home during the day and/or live alone. Scammers will call acting like friends of the family and try to get the elders to be their friend. Some even go far enough to tell them one of their children got into an accident, and then ask for money for medical expenses. People are more aware of consumer fraud than elder abuse, but both are equally prevalent.

An elderly woman at her laptop could be a victim of elder abuse

Credit: seniors.lovetoknow.com

Kristen: How can those who are elderly or are caring for elder persons protect themselves or their loved ones?

Helen: Well, people need to be educated. They need to understand what it is, and know the signs of abuse if or when someone is trying to take advantage of them. They can always call the police, if not other numbers or hotlines for help. I encourage the community to be more aware of and talk about elder abuse. Although many people don’t want to use the word “abuse” when describing their situations, it needs to be used and acknowledged as such.

Kristen: Thank you so much for your helpful insights!

Helen: You’re very welcome.

Did you miss Part One of our interview with Helen? I so, you can catch up here.

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A New Study Links Fried Potatoes and Early Death

Researchers look for connections between fried foods and mortality

Uncooked potatoes inside of a brown wooden boxThe American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has some bad news about French fries. A recent study by the National Research Council in Padova, Italy, found a possible link between fried potatoes and early death. According to the study, people who eat fried potatoes, such as French fries, hash browns or potato chips two or more times per week are more than twice as likely to die early compared to their potato-avoiding peers.

Researchers hypothesize that the link between fried potatoes and early death comes from trans fats used to prepare them. Trans fats increase LDL, or “bad” cholesterol and decrease HDL, or “good” cholesterol. This, in turn, increases a person’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

Hash browns sitting on a plate, which have been linked to fried potatoes and early death

Credit: flickr.com

In addition, a chemical called acrylamide could cause health problems in people who eat too many fried potatoes. The chemical compound forms when starchy foods are cooked at high temperatures (usually during the frying, roasting or baking process). As the starchy food browns, acrylamide levels increase. Some animal studies link acrylamide to cancer. So, in theory, the higher a person’s exposure is to the chemical, the higher their cancer risk may be.

Observational Study Not Proof

But before you throw out your weekly breakfast of hash browns and eggs, remember that this study was small and observational. Researchers only found a correlation between fried potatoes and early death. They didn’t consider other factors that may have led to these deaths. They simply looked at the behavior patterns of their participants and noted any similarities in the people who died. Fried potatoes were just one similarity that many of them shared.

A professor at the Institute of Environmental Medicine, Susanna Larsson, told CNN that the link between fried potatoes and early death could be a sign of a larger health issue: a poor diet overall. People who eat fried potatoes more than twice per week could also be eating other unhealthy foods. The entire diet rather than just the potatoes may be to blame.

A pile of french fries sitting on a plate, which have been linked to fried potatoes and early deathFor instance, if someone eats hash browns twice per week but otherwise maintains a nutritious diet, they might not experience a higher risk of health problems such as cancer, diabetes or cardiovascular disease. To prove that point, Larsson recently conducted her own study. And she found no link between potato consumption and early death as a result of cardiovascular disease.

Obviously, the National Research Council needs to do more studies before putting the blame on fried potatoes for these early deaths. Other factors, including obesity, poor nutrition or lack of exercise may have also played a role. And while there may be a real link between fried potatoes and early death, there’s no definitive proof as yet.

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