October 1, 2015

Recommended Readings

Today I want to share a few articles I recently read and liked.

This first story appeared in the May 14 issue of The New York Times Magazine. Written by Robin Marantz Henig, it's a deeply felt work. Here's how it begins:

The Last Day of Her Life

When Sandy Bern found out she had Alzheimer’s, 
she resolved that before the disease stole her mind, 
she would kill herself. The question was, when. 

Sandy Bern, a Cornell psychology professor, found out she had Alzheimer's a month before her 65th birthday. She quickly decided “I want to live only for as long as I continue to be myself."

Over the next several weeks, Sandy told those closest to her about her diagnosis and her plan to end her life before she became incapable of doing so. No one in that inner circle tried to talk her out of suicide; they knew how fierce she could be once her mind was made up.

All they asked was that she promise not to choose a method that would be particularly disturbing — using a gun or jumping off a bridge into one of Ithaca’s famously beautiful gorges. Sandy had contemplated both of those options, but she didn’t want that sort of death either. “What I want,” she typed in her journal in an emphatic boldface font, “is to die on my own timetable and in my own nonviolent way.”

I was talking recently with a friend whose husband is in the early stages of Alzheimer's. She said he seems happier now than he had ever been -- a development not unusual among Alzheimer's patients. As the Bern narrative continues, it almost becomes a suspense story as the once strident Bern begins to mellow, and you wonder if she'll abandon her suicide plan

Here's  an excerpt from the article describing some of what was going on as Bern mellowed:
At one point, as Bern's power fades, her daughter, Emily, gives birth to Bern's first grandchild. Little Felix makes Bern think there might be some things her new self is better at than her former. 
She told Emily that her "new brain" might actually make her better suited to being a grandmother than her focused, hyper- analytical "old brain." She seemed to have found a way of being that she liked, content to sing silly songs and make nonsense sounds for hours on end. 
Emily, liked her mother this way too. As a child, Emily wanted to wear her hair long and take ballet lessons; Sandy, ever vigilant about gender stereotypes, nudged her to cut her hair and play soccer instead. But now Sandy didn't seem to care about such things. Emily thought that her mother was taking pleasure in life in a way that the old Sandy could not have anticipated – – and she found herself hoping that the joy her mother took in Felix might make her reconsider her intention to end her life quite so soon.
I hope these few paragraphs will encourage you to read the full story. Click here for that.

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Here's a story from The New York Times "Week in Review" for Sunday, September 18. Titled "A Toxic Work World" and written by Anne-Marie Slaughter, it offers another example of how the U.S., which used to be No, 1, now falls near the bottom of most of quality-of-life rankings in the developed world.

Can Only the Young and Childless Truly Succeed in their Careers?

For many Americans, life has become all competition all the time. Workers across the socioeconomic spectrum, from hotel housekeepers to surgeons, have stories about toiling 12- to 16-hour days (often without overtime pay) and experiencing anxiety attacks and exhaustion. Public health experts have begun talking about stress as an epidemic.

The people who can compete and succeed in this culture are an ever-narrower slice of American society: largely young people who are healthy, and wealthy enough not to have to care for family members. An individual company can of course favor these individuals, as health insurers once did, and then pass them off to other businesses when they become parents or need to tend to their own parents. But this model of winning at all costs reinforces a distinctive American pathology of not making room for caregiving. The result: We hemorrhage talent and hollow out our society.

To continue reading, click here,

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Yep. Another piece from The New York Times. This one deals with the crisis in higher education. Author Adam Davidson presents lots of useful facts and analysis without apparent bias. Great read.

As someone who graduated from the New York State School of Industrial and Labor Relations (part of Cornell University), I was intrigued by the historical bits about why public university systems are generally stronger in the Southeast and West than they are in the Northeast, home of the Ivies. The private schools apparently lobbied against state support for higher education back when these systems were being set up in the Northeast.

Lots of  fascinating information provided under this heading: 

Is College Tuition Really Too High?
The answer depends on what you mean by college.

 Click here for the full story.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for the articles and information you find. I often print them out or bookmark them. I'm sure they will come in handy, especially the article about the Last Days :) if I find PD too depressing later. I've not had it more than a year yet and so far am fine with no symptoms since the sinemet eliminated them for now. I think reading PD blogs in my email box are like being in a support group. Writing your blog is probably very good for you to do as it is for "us" to read so keep doing it please.