April is National Social Security Month It’s National Social Security Month. This year we’re highlighting some of the time-saving features of having a “my Social Security” account. Once you create an account, you’ll see that we already have your work history and secure information to estimate what you could receive once you start collecting benefits. With your personal “my Social Security” account, you can also: Request a replacement Social Security card; set up or change direct deposit; get a proof of income letter; change your address; check the status of your Social Security application; and get a Social Security 1099 form (SSA-1099). For over 80 years, Social Security has worked to meet the changing needs of the American public. Today, you can apply for retirement, disability, and Medicare benefits online, as well as take care of other business. Knowledge is power. You care about your friends’ and family’s future, so encourage them to create a “my Social Security” account. Celebrate National Social Security Month by learning what you can do online anytime, anywhere at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount. Vonda VanTil is the Public Affairs Specialist for West Michigan. You can write her c/o Social Security Administration, 3045 Knapp NE, Grand Rapids MI 49525 or via email at email@example.com.
MY HAPPY BIRTHDAY… Thank you all for the birthday wishes last week, cards and phone calls too. Even we septuagenarians enjoy the birthday fuss. Amy and Billy Loshbough, et all, took us to Moo’s Place for Saturday Chinese dinner and then Anne lit up 73 candles on the cake she baked and we had cake and ice-cream and presents at our house to cap off the celebration. Then the kids and grandkids and great-grandkids drifted off just in time for my after-dinner nap.
SPRING SPRUNG? The month of March may have gone out like a lamb, but it was a frozen one. Sunday morning dawned 28 and the day never got much warmer. This week’s Big C forecast promises more springtime weather with warmer temperatures and sunshine for the weekend and beyond. I can handle that. Monday, I celebrated my recently passed birthday by buying my annual fishing license. At $11 it is a steal. Of course that is the senior citizens discount. The younger fishermen have to shell out $26 bucks for the same even though we are all fishing for the same fish.
NO WHOPPER, IT’S THE TRUTH… Just before closing time Monday, Anne calls me. “I’m pretty tired, can you stop at Burger King and get us a couple Whoppers and French fries?” Sure, I reply. Ten minutes later, I close up, Fire up the Jimmy and I am on my way. I’m actually day dreaming about the odds of getting stopped by two trains going in opposite directions, if I was going to McDonald’s in Hartford. MCDONALD’S? I was just a driveway away from my own when I came out of my daydream. By then I was at my stop. In one fluid motion I pull into my driveway, I see that Anne is not at the door or window waiting for dinner and so I turn around and retrace my route to downtown Watervliet and then out to the BK. Happily there was only a single car ahead at the drive-up order window. It only took a couple minutes to order two Whopper Juniors and a large French fry, stop off at the pay window and hand over six bucks and some change. In return I get some change and a handful of napkins. With a smile and a have a nice day the cashier waved me forward for the dinner I just paid for. As I moved to the pickup window, the car driver ahead collected his order and moved off. This is great, I thought. During the short wait, I busied myself putting the change down and securing the napkins so they wouldn’t blow all over when I hightailed it home. Those chores done, I but the Jimmy in gear and headed for home. I caught the Red Arrow/ Main Street traffic signal just turning green and saw smooth sailing right up the hill past the cemetery. Thanks to spring break there was no mass exodus from the high school or middle school parking lots. Now I could see ahead all the way to the railroad crossing, there was no flashing light and screech of whistle to warn me to slow down. On turning into my driveway, I saw the garage door was up, inviting me in to dinner. DINNER! In one fluid motion I killed the engine and opened the door and reached for the bag of burgers and fries. Shoot, they must have bumped off the seat and onto the floor when I “two-wheeled” the right turn onto Red Arrow (just kidding officer). It would be kinder for that to be the explanation of the missing bagged dinner. Disgustingly it was my own inattentiveness and distracted ordering that made a simple errand into three round trips, as I told Anne. Did you get a receipt she asked? No, all I got was this handful of BK napkins I said heading out for trip #3. I rehearsed what I say to the drive-up order girl. “Remember me, I just bought two Whopper Juniors and large fries. You gave me these napkins but I drove off without my order.” The cute girl was no longer at the window, my grandpa charm wouldn’t work with the teenage boy asking what he could do for me. I babbled something, evidently enough to make out my problem and move me forward to the pick-up window. I inwardly cringed at the thought of the staff giggling at the foolish old guy who drove off without picking up his order. Happily it was easy. The gal at the window brightened up as soon as I mentioned two Whopper Juniors and a large fry. And in seconds I was on my way home with dinner for two. The rest of the evening was uneventful.
Thanks for a fabulous party Dear Editor, A huge thank you to everyone who came to my 80th birthday party! It was so heartwarming to see the huge response from so many of my friends and relatives. Also a huge thank you to my beautiful family who worked so hard to put it on. The food and decorations were fabulous. I’m a very lucky and blessed person! I love you all. Thanks again! Pat Snow
April is Autism Awareness Dear Editor, April is more than a 30-day salute to rainy forecasts, the Easter bunny and allergies. It is also Autism Awareness Month, a full 30 days representing the mystery, complexity and diversity behind the cognitive disorder. But for more than 3.5 million individuals in America, autism is a part of their lives 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. And with that, are more than 3.5 million families who dedicate their lives to understanding, supporting and caring for a loved one with autism. One of those individuals is my 16-year-old brother, Michael. Writing this column has been a struggle, with a lot of backspacing and long stares at a blank page, because there are not enough words, let alone space on the opinions page, for me to adequately express to you all the extraordinary role my brother has played in my life. The lump in my throat that gets harder to swallow with every “see you later,” and every smile, laugh and hug he gives me with each “hello, again” remind me of how lucky I am to have Michael as my younger brother and inspiration. For my parents, my siblings and me, Michael’s happiness is the first thing we think about when we wake up in the morning and the last thing we reflect on before we go to sleep. Sacrifice is an old friend we have become well acquainted with in the Hodorowicz family, but it is something we welcome with open arms and full hearts. My brother has taught us that real wealth in life is love, a richness that is completely immeasurable. It was not the easiest lesson to learn, but it is one that I am grateful we all enrolled in – even though it wasn’t exactly our choice. Autism is a six letter word that is no stranger to our vocabulary. Autism Awareness Month is a step in the right direction toward making it a familiar word and comfortable subject for all of society to adopt. From my own personal experiences, I have a few things that I want to make you aware of this month to remember every day after. The first thing you should know: Autism is not something an individual outgrows. There are many mysteries and unanswered questions that accompany autism, but one thing I do know is this, autism is not a phase, or like your favorite pair of shorts when you were a kid that you eventually outgrew and had to leave behind with your youth. It is something you grow with. Michael’s behaviors are something we adapt to and accept. When Michael, my siblings and I were younger, autism used to mean that my brother had to wear the same red shirt to bed every night. No exceptions. No red shirt? Then no shirt at all; and no bed time either, for that matter. Now, it means exactly six pancakes every morning. It means if there is a bunny outside in the backyard, we stake out on the couch together and watch it eat the grass. It means singing “Old McDonald Had a Farm” with Michael while he plays piano and we do not stop singing until every animal gets their credit. Yes, that means even zebras, rhinoceroses and sharks. The second thing you should know: Every day may not be easy, but every day is worth it. There will be good days and there will be bad days. There will be days where a barefoot Michael will follow a caterpillar in the backyard, both racing against the setting sun in the summer. There will also be days where Michael will get upset and the root of the problem will require more digging than usual. But every day brings us closer to each other and to my younger brother. Every day our patience is tested, our understanding is deepened and our love is magnified. Some days, I wish I could just have a peek into his brain and see what he is thinking. But that wonder pales in comparison to the warmth I feel in my heart whenever he asks for a “squeeze” (that is a term Michael has coined for a tight embrace followed by a roar that makes lions sound like mice) or when he gestures at one of us to watch him play piano or point out the cat across the street. The last, but far from least, thing you should know: Autism does not define an individual. The following is one of my favorite quotes I associate with this month and my younger brother: “There needs to be a lot more emphasis on what a child can do instead of what he cannot do.” To put it simply, Michael is a man of few words. But he is also a wizard when it comes to electronics. He is also a great swimmer with a love for water that could make any fish look like an outcast. He is a high school student. He is a brother, a son and a friend. Imagine how different the world would be if we considered using those qualities to define him and other individuals who find themselves in the same boat, constantly overlooked. Do yourself a favor: Open up your minds and hearts, care and be aware. Carole Hodorowicz
Mueller investigation has uncovered many crimes and other questions Dear Editor, We must question the competence of this president and administration when such a large number of Trump’s campaign and administration officials have either pleaded guilty or been convicted of felonies for bank fraud, money laundering, tax evasion, campaign finance violations, and lying to the FBI/ Congress. Trump’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort, was sentenced to 7.5 years; Trump’s deputy campaign manager, Rick Gates, is awaiting sentencing for “conspiracy against the U.S.”; Trump’s national security advisor, Michael Flynn, is awaiting sentencing for making “false statements to the FBI”; Trump advisor, Roger Stone, was indicted for allegedly lying about his efforts to contact WikiLeaks during the campaign and tampering with a witness; and Michael Cohen, Trump’s lawyer, pleaded guilty for violating campaign finance laws. Cohen indicated Trump directed him to do so. Mueller’s investigation also indicted thirteen Russian nationals, three Russian companies and twelve Russian intelligence officers related to propaganda and hacking of emails in efforts to influence the 2016 election to help elect Trump. William Barr’s summary indicates Mueller’s report did not specify that Trump or members of his campaign conspired with the Russian government in Russia’s election interference. However, the report (contrary to Trump’s claims) did not specifically exonerate Trump of guilt for the crime of Obstruction of Justice. There are also numerous, additional on-going investigations that are looking into alleged crimes by Trump and his organization. The public requires full transparency and release of the actual conclusions of Mueller’s full report, not simply William Barr’s four-page report interpretation. There is still much to learn. Is Trump guilty of obstruction or other crimes? How do we explain Trump’s placement of so many dishonest individuals in key administration positions: corruption, complete incompetence or both? Either way, our country deserves better. Ken Peterson, Buchanan
Children’s Advocacy Center plans for Child Abuse Prevention Awareness month April is Child Abuse Prevention Awareness month and the Children’s Advocacy Center of Southwest Michigan has several events planned to spread awareness in our community. To kick off the month they will be “planting” a pinwheel garden (which is the national symbol for child abuse prevention) as a staff, outside of their office to represent the children they serve. They are also offering several “Darkness to Light – Stewards of Children” trainings throughout the month of April. These are free and open to any adult interested in learning more about recognizing, preventing, and responding to cases of child sexual abuse. The trainings run two hours and will include group discussion, a workbook to take home, an informational video, and a certificate of participation (two hours of CEU will apply to some professions, e.g. Social Workers; please visit http://www.d2l.org/education/stewards-of-children/ to find out which professions accept these CEUs). These trainings are very informative for anyone who works with children or is just interested in better protecting the children in their life. The dates for these trainings are as follows: Thurs. April 11, 9-11 a.m.; Wed. April 17, 9-11 a.m. and 6-8 p.m.; Mon. April 29, 6-8 p.m. Call or email at least one business day in advance to reserve a spot in the training (space is limited), 269-556-9640 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For anyone that cannot attend training, but still want to help the center in their mission to prevent child abuse, consider joining them on Thursday, April 18 from 6-9 p.m. at Journeyman Distillery in Three Oaks MI for their “Spring Spirits” fundraiser to help support their Abuse Prevention Program at the CAC. Tickets are $50 ahead of time or $55 at the door and include appetizers and drink tasting pairings! For more information or to purchase tickets please visit: https://www.swmichigancac.org/events/ Finally, April 25 is National Child Abuse Prevention Awareness Day. On this day they are asking everyone in our community to wear something blue to represent Child Abuse Prevention Awareness! They will be asking local schools to participate in this event by posting photos of their staff and students in their blue colors to their social media pages and tag the @Children’s Advocacy Center of Southwest Michigan on Facebook!