Tag Archives: mother’s day

Hundreds march across New York bridge for stricter gun laws

Hundreds of people carrying photos of loved ones killed by gun violence marched across the Brooklyn Bridge on May 7 to rally for stricter gun laws and chanted demands for action.

The fourth annual march, held on the eve of Mother’s Day, was organized by the group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

“We are going to stand up and fight until our last breath because if we lose our children we have nothing left to lose,” said the group’s founder, Shannon Watts.

Natasha Christopher knows that pain all too well. Her son, Akeal Christopher, was shot in Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood in June 2012 and died days later, on his 15th birthday.

“Gun violence destroyed my family,” Christopher said. “Nothing will ever be the same. But I’m here today to say that I have turned my pain and anger into action.”

The marchers, who went from Cadman Plaza in Brooklyn to City Hall in lower Manhattan, said they wanted stricter background checks for gun purchases and a ban on assault rifles.

“They keep saying we have good, strong gun laws, but for me, I don’t believe these laws are really that strong,” Christopher said.

Marchers, as they crossed the bridge, shouted, “What do we want? Gun sense!”

Oscar-winning actress Julianne Moore was among the crowd that rallied before the march. She said she was spurred to get involved to advocate for stronger gun laws after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, where a gunman killed 20 children and six adults in December 2012.

“We’re really pushing for more gun safety regulations,” she said. “It is not an anti-gun movement. It is not a partisan movement. It is a safety movement.”

Other speakers at Saturday’s march and rally included Barbara Parker, whose daughter Alison Parker, a broadcast journalist, was shot and killed on live television in August 2015 by a disgruntled former reporter. Parker, whose daughter died alongside video journalist Adam Ward while working for Roanoke, Virginia, TV station WDBJ, said U.S. officials need to do more to enact a policy that background checks be performed for all gun sales.

The National Rifle Association, the nation’s largest gun rights lobbying group, opposes expanding background checks. The NRA says many people sent to prison because of gun crimes get their guns through theft or the black market and no amount of background checks can stop those criminals.

Under the current system, cashiers at stores selling guns call in to check with the FBI or other designated agencies to ensure customers don’t have criminal backgrounds. Some lawmakers want to expand such checks to sales at gun shows and purchases made through the Internet.

Walking with my mother in her heart-breaking decline

All life cycles have watershed moments, times when another bridge has been irrevocably crossed. In the life of a child, that moment is often a joyful one. But for an elderly parent, life proceeds in reverse, leading often to sorrowful conclusions. 

My mother Liz, who is 93 years old, reached one of those watershed moments one night three years ago. 

We had moved my mother from Milwaukee to a senior housing complex near our Madison home five years earlier. My wife Jean and I had visited her twice that Sunday to address various issues. She seemed strange, but we weren’t yet seasoned enough to understand what was wrong.

After her third call, we returned to find Mom sitting in her nightgown on her bed, with three television and cable system remotes and three cordless telephones alongside her. We realized that something was happening.

Jean began to remove the clutter, which snapped Mother out of her stupor,

“Don’t touch those,” she said anxiously. “Those are my phones!”

Some were her phones, and some weren’t. Due to their similar shape and color, she could no longer tell the difference. We bundled her up and took her to the nearest emergency room.

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More than 10 million adult children over 50 care for aging parents, according to a 2011 study by the MetLife Mature Market Institute. Baby Boomers comprise the majority of caregivers. The number of parents cared for both physically and financially by their kids has more than tripled over the past 15 years.

Not surprisingly, daughters tend to provide more care than sons and suffer more financially because of it. On average, the amount of lost wages, pension dollars and Social Security benefits for women forced to leave the workforce early to provide care totals $324,044, according to the study. Men suffer less financially, but it still costs them an average of $283,716 in aggregate salary and benefit losses to care for elderly parents.

A disproportionate number of boomers caring for parents are gay and lesbian, according to John George, health care administrator for Saint John’s On The Lake, a retirement community of 330 residents on Milwaukee’s east side.

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Upon reaching the hospital that Sunday night, my mother was diagnosed with dehydration and a urinary tract infection, both of which accounted for her confusion. But we would soon discover she also suffered from transient ischemic attacks, often called TIAs or “mini-strokes.” Those would lead to more dire consequences. 

TIAs are caused by blood clots that come and go in the brain. Some are relatively harmless, while others can be precursors to larger, fatal strokes. A series of TIAs followed by a large stroke killed Mom’s older brother Harold decades earlier. We felt that a similar outcome was possible, if not imminent, for her.

While doctors worked to get her situation under control, we made arrangements to move Mom temporarily to a nursing home for rehabilitation. A former RN, my mother had worked at Sunrise Care Center on Milwaukee’s south side until she was almost 86. We thought she’d be comfortable with the transition.

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Transitions to some level of assisted living are often the most difficult things for families to cope with, according to Elaine Dyer, a registered nurse and administrator for the Jewish Home and Care Center, a 160-bed retirement community also on Milwaukee’s east side. Large families often have the hardest time agreeing on what should be done with an elderly parent.

“When there’s more than one child, there’s always more than one opinion,” Dyer says. “As caregivers, we need a point person whose guidance we can rely on, and that person needs to be the patient’s health care power of attorney in order to make the right decisions.”

Dyer’s own mother was a resident at the Jewish Home until she passed away from Alzheimer’s disease last October, and the administrator is acutely aware of how hard the “little losses” of cognitive decline can be on family members.

“Watching cognitive decline is harder than watching physical decline,” Dyer says. “The elderly begin to lose the abilities you gain as a child, including swallowing, talking, walking, bowl and bladder control.”

In terms of providing care, Wisconsin’s 323 nursing homes serve only about 5 percent of the state’s population over 65, Dyer says. The surprising statistic is mostly due to finances. Owing to the recent financial recession, admissions to skilled care facilities have declined over the past four to five years, because too many families need their parents’ Social Security checks to make ends meet.

And then there’s the cost of putting those parents in a skilled care facility.

“The cost for nursing home care is $8,000 to $10,000 a month, and even the wealthiest person who has saved for it could one day run out of money,” Dyer says.

But before that happens, adult children should make sure they understand what their aging parents want and then make those ultimate decisions based on that guidance, she adds.

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Mom spent two weeks in the nursing home, eventually returning to a variant of her former self. But we knew that bridges had been crossed and things would never be the same again.

During my mother’s nursing home stay, we found her an assisted living facility on Madison’s west side. We moved her out of her senior apartment, disposing of furniture and other things she no longer needed. During the grueling two-week process, we discovered clues to her cognitive failure that weren’t previously apparent.

Dozens of unopened bottles of generic acetaminophen and countless file cards and paper scraps with duplicate addresses and phone numbers she didn’t want to forget filled nooks and crannies. We discovered boxes of junk mail — her “bills” as she called them — including some stored in the unused dishwasher. We found cash in the refrigerator.

Mom appeared to be settling in nicely to her assisted living facility, making new friends and regularly eating a healthy diet, something she had also stopped doing in her apartment. There were even activities and outings, but over the course of two years we could see that she had started slowing down.

When construction began on the facility’s new addition, we saw her confusion and anxiety increase. A series of three UTIs in as many months seemed to send her to the moon and back again — not to mention the hospital — on a regular basis. 

George notes that a change in a senior’s environment can result in “transfer trauma” and a large percentage of sufferers are usually dead within a year. When her strange behavior continued, we began to wonder just how long her future would be.

My mother called me on the telephone last week. 

“Mike? This is Grandma,” she said. “If you are out can you stop by? I haven’t had a working phone all day.”

And so, once again, it begins. I don’t want to spend Mothers’ Day at the hospital this year, but maybe just having one more Mother’s Day anywhere is the best I can hope for.

TV remake of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ shifts to Paris

Wiry Zoe Saldana got a kick out of wearing a huge fake belly as she played a young, pregnant wife on the Paris set of the remake of the classic horror tale “Rosemary’s Baby.”

“Every time I wear the really big ones, it breaks everybody’s heart whenever we’re doing all those stressful scenes, so I am milking that, I am really milking that,” the actress quipped as she sat in a hospital room used as a filming location.

Saldana is Rosemary Woodhouse in the two-episode remake of Ira Levin’s 1967 book, which director Roman Polanski also turned into an unforgettable 1968 film. The four-hour series directed by Agnieszka Holland also stars Patrick J. Adams, Jason Isaacs and Carole Bouquet and will air on NBC on May 11 – Mother’s Day in the U.S. – and May 15.

Saldana and Adams play an American couple who settle in Paris near posh French neighbors, Margaux and Roman Castevet (Bouquet and Isaacs). Then newly pregnant Rosemary begins to worry that the Castevets have malevolent plans for her baby.

Holland, a Polish director known for her work on HBO shows “The Wire” and “Treme,” said the plot of “Rosemary’s Baby” follows the novel, except it’s set in Paris instead of New York and shows more “blood.” Fans of the original may wonder how that is possible.

“It has more adventures. It has more blood,” said Holland, a three-time Oscar nominee. ” It is, you know, a contemporary American TV series, so you need some meat inside.”

Moving the story to the French capital isolates the main characters more than the book and increases the tensions, according to Adams, a Canadian actor known for his role as Mike Ross, an up-and-coming New York lawyer in the TV series “Suits.”

“The sense of being alone in a place can be so terrifying. I think it really ends up putting Guy and Rosemary in a difficult position because they don’t know anybody,” Adams said.

Holland said the series explores the tensions between the happiness of giving birth and the sometimes-shocking psychological and physical changes that pregnancy brings about in women.

“It’s interesting to see how this acceptance (of the baby), even if it’s something very painful, is coming,” she said.

Saldana, who starred in James Cameron’s “Avatar” and the two “Star Trek” films by J.J. Abrams, said playing a pregnant woman took both a physical and emotional toll.

“The moment I put the belly on, my body just feels really tired,” she said. “I just allow myself to be sort of like an open vessel, where emotions just come in and then they go out.”

Bouquet, a French film star, praised Holland’s filming style and her relentlessness on the set.

“She does whatever she wants with the light, I must say,” Bouquet said. “I mean it’s exquisite the way she shoots, you know, and she gets exactly what she wants. She won’t give up.”

Polanski’s “Rosemary’s Baby” starred Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes and won Ruth Gordon an Oscar for best supporting actress for her performance as Minnie Castevet.

Saldana said she was grateful for getting to play the same part as Farrow but added that she and Holland tried to give Rosemary their own touch.

“It is a gift to be able to play a role that another actress, a very iconic actress, played and found a very special way to make it authentic,” she said.

On the Web …


Women to march to D.C. in Mother’s Day campaign

Women from around the country will join in the Poor People’s March from Baltimore to Washington, D.C., on Mother’s Day weekend.

The 41-mile march is in the tradition of the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign and makes demands for jobs, justice and an end to police brutality.

The final stretch of the march will take place on Mother’s Day and will be led by women from the OUR Walmart worker’s rights group and the mothers of victims of police killings.

Mother’s Day is on May 12 this year, the date that Coretta Scott King led the kickoff of the Poor People’s Campaign in 1968.

“We hope to make change so we can better things for everyone,” said Barbara Kauffman of Baltimore. “All type of things are going on that should not be happening, but they are. This march covers a lot of things, not just one area. The rich man gets richer, the poor man gets poorer. We want equality.”

Another march organizer, Kay Adler of Baltimore, said, “I’m a volunteer with the Baltimore All Peoples Congress, also a member of the Southern Poverty Law Center in Birmingham, Ala., and a member of BRAIV – Black/Red/American Indian Voices. We’re marching from Baltimore to D.C. to accomplish reviving Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream and vision. We are marching for the rights of all people, because if there is no justice, there cannot be any peace.”

Student Zaina Alsous of Raleigh, N.C., plans to march because, “as young people, it’s very important to engage in these powerful mass demonstrations to help carry on the rich organizing legacies that we’ve inherited.”

On May 11, marchers will gather at about 10 a.m. at Biddle Street and North Montford Avenue in Baltimore.

The march steps off at about 11 a.m., with walkers taking Route 1 as far as the University of Maryland for a rally that night.

On May 12, marchers will leave Hyattsville, Md., for D.C., reaching the Justice Department on Pennsylvania Avenue at about 2 p.m. and Freedom Plaza at about 3 p.m.

Marchers will return to Freedom Plaza on May 13 for a demonstration.

The march is endorsed by the AFL-CIO and other labor groups, OUR Walmart, the All Peoples Congress of Baltimore, the Peace House in D.C., and a Occupy groups.

HRC partners with Marc Jacobs for T-shirt

The Human Rights Campaign has announced a new partnership with gay designer and activist Marc Jacobs for the Little Marc Jacobs children’s line of clothing.

HRC and LMJ are selling T-shirts that offer a modern family take on an old tradition – one parent telling a kid to go ask the other parent. The T-shirt slogans read, “If Mom says no, go ask Mom” and “If Dad says no, go ask Dad.”

Constructed of 100 percent organic cotton, the infant and toddler T-shirts are available in unisex sizes.

But there are only 200 available online at shop.hrc.org, at HRC stores in Provincetown, Mass., San Francisco and Palm Springs, Calif., and Washington, D.C. and at the Marc Jacobs store in New York City.

The shirts, retailing at $35 each, raise money for HRC.

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HRC seeks ‘Moms against NOM’

The Human Rights Campaign has launched a Mother’s Day campaign, encouraging women across the country to take a stand against the National Organization for Marriage by joining Moms Against NOM.

Participants don’t need to do much – just jump on the Web, download the Moms Against NOM graphic and post it to their Facebook timeline.

HRC describes NOM – which was active in the passage this week of the anti-gay marriage amendment in North Carolina and is funding anti-gay campaigns in at least four other states this year – as “a rabidly anti-LGBT organization propagating a homophobic agenda that endangers the rights of all American families.”

For more, go to HRC’s website.

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Modern family: Lesbian couple planning birthdays of two sets of twins

Same-sex couple Laura Cavin and Sheri Green each conceived twins from the same set of eggs and anonymous donor sperm through in vitro fertilization.

All four children – Brianna, Derrick, Anthony and Cason – were conceived on the same day and technically are quadruplets, even though the two sets of children were born two weeks apart.

The women, wanting to have children, are patients of Dr. Craig Sweet, a reproductive endocrinologist and medical director of Specialists in Reproductive Medicine and Surgery in Fort Myers, Fla.

At the time, Green was almost 35 and Cavin was 24.

They decided Green, who wanted biological children, would provide her eggs and Cavin, who wanted to experience pregnancy, would carry the child.

Though Cavin conceived identical twins from the transfer of a single embryo that split, the first attempt ended at 24 weeks gestation because of a rare condition of twin-to-twin transfusion, where one twin was not getting enough blood while the other was getting too much.

The couple went back to Sweet, who was born in Milwaukee and grew up in Shorewood, Wis., to try another time.

Again, Green produced an abundance of eggs and high quality embryos, according to Sweet, who said a decision was made that each woman would carry two embryos.

“The chance that all four transferred embryos would implant and grow was less than 2 percent, so we were all amazed when the improbable occurred,” Sweet said.

Cavin delivered Briana and Derek on May 9, 2011, and Green gave birth to Anthony and Cason on May 23, 2011.

Sweet said, “They are a family connected through genetics, reproductive medicine and the love these two women share with each other – an amazing modern family.”


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