10-17-2019 Letters and Commentary

The long view

I walked alone past the small storefronts and restaurants. Inviting aromas from a Greek restaurant wafted out their open door. The bright sun was out again after a rainy Philadelphia morning. A request had gone out to help with Alex, the son of a coworker.

Headed to Children’s Hospital to give blood, I prayed for his healing as I walked. Alex was dying of Wilms Tumor and had needed many blood transfusions. He was four. Alex ultimately did not survive his battle with cancer.

I have a lasting memory of that lunchtime walk, including the memory of a shimmering, clear, bright reflection in a puddle left by the morning rain. The puddle reflected the blues and whites of the sky above. As I moved along, a thought came to my mind, “Even the puddles reflect the sky.”

Joe is 84. I always ask, “How are you doing, Joe?” His unfailing response, “I’m on the top side of the grass!” Once he added, “The number of my days was determined in eternity past, and I will live no more and no less.”

So why did Alex have so few days and Joe so many? Jesus, referring to children once said, “Of such is the kingdom of Heaven.” There are lots of kids in Heaven.

We don’t understand the reasons for our number of days – why one has so many, and why another has so few. But do we have to understand in order to have faith? Faith that in spite of the intense pain of loss, still looks up, or at least while looking down, sees a reflection of the sky in the puddles?

Jesus Christ provided a way whereby we can look forward to a time when there will be no more pain, or tears of mourning, and no more death. That’s the long view – for Alex, for Joe, and for us.

TO VAPE OR NOT TO VAPE? Why is it still a question whether “vaping” is harmful to users? Vaping is using a device that vaporizes a chemical concoction and the user inhales the vapor. I think it was developed as a tobacco substitute product.

As a matter of fact, there’s a commercial running on television that suggests the process is a safe and beneficial product for those wanting to quit smoking but can’t.

I would suspect the hapless smokers who can’t quit is outnumbered by vaping users who are hooked on a product that already has proved harmful to its users.

Why can’t the Federal government take a page from its hugely successful anti-smoking campaign of regulations and taxes, to save the lungs of millions of Americans.

I’m not sure what it was that woke me up Sunday morning but the pale blue light kept me awake for a while. Had it been a couple months later I would’ve attributed the glow to winter snow on the ground. Compared to some of the lights in the past week with heavy rain and howling winds it was kind of spooky.

Saturday and Sunday were quintessential fall days replete with bright sun and cool temperatures. It brought me back to memories of taking the kids to a cider mill in Rochester Michigan for cider and donuts. Sometimes there would be a couple carloads of family and friends and kids heading back home all with sugar and cider highs.

When we came to Watervliet we continued the tradition with trips to Jollay Orchards pumpkin patch and other farms offering pumpkins, donuts, and cider. Hopefully we will be able to tagalong with the great-grandkids this year.

GROSS… Afternoon Cosy-FM radio DJ, Spencer Rivers, talking Monday about finding a stinkbug on his pillow at bedtime, “that’s gross”.

Sunday, I took a jacket off its peg in the garage and when I put an arm in a sleeve several stinkbugs fell out. That is gross as well.

As much as I enjoy the tastes and smells of fall, there’s some things that I wouldn’t miss at all, including stink bugs, mice, beetles and lady bugs all seeking a warm spot to winter in.

Understanding Social Security Spouse’s Benefits

Marriage is a tradition that exists on every continent and in nearly every country. Having a partner not only means creating a family unit, it means sharing things like a home and other property. Understanding how your future retirement might affect your spouse is important. When you’re planning for your retirement, here are a few things to remember:

If you’re married, your spouse could be eligible for up to 50 percent of your full retirement age amount, if your spouse is full retirement age when they take it. If your spouse also qualifies for a benefit on their own work history, we always pay their own benefit first and then look into additional spouse’s benefits. Their own full retirement amount must be less than half of your full retirement amount in order for them to file on your record. In addition, they cannot receive spouse’s benefits until you, the worker, also files (except for divorced spouses).

Also, keep in mind that if you file for a reduced retirement benefit and pass away first, the survivor benefit will also be reduced.

Knowing how your finances affect your spouse’s benefit can help both of you avoid future impacts on your incomes. We have decades of experience, and the information to go with it. Access a wealth of useful information and use our benefits planners at www.socialsecurity.gov/planners.

Vonda Van Til 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 vonda.vantil@ssa.gov.

Job well done!!!

Dear Editor,

Congratulations to the Coloma High School band for their performance at the marching band festival at Paw Paw High School on 10/9/2019… and for a Division 1 rating. Each and every one of them did an awesome job and sounded great!! CONGRATULATIONS to the entire band!! and Mrs. Thomas… for an exceptional job!

Diana Olmsted

University of Michigan professor to discuss health equity

Professionals in medicine, allied health fields, social work, as well as government leaders and community members are invited to attend a free seminar, “Weathering and Health Inequity: Letting the Epigenome Out of the Bottle Without Losing Sight of the Structural Origins of Population Health.” The seminar features keynote speaker, Arline T. Geronimus, ScD, on Tuesday, Oct. 22 from 1 to 3 p.m. in the Howard Performing Arts Center at Andrews University, located at 4160 E. Campus Circle Drive in Berrien Springs. The event is part of a three-year series entitled, “Community Grand Rounds: Healing the Trauma of Racism.”

A professor at the University of Michigan School of Public Health and Institute for Social Research and member of the National Academy of Medicine, Dr. Geronimus originated the concept of “weathering” to explain her observation that African American women’s health declines in early adulthood as a result of their cumulative exposure to socioeconomic disadvantage. This concept is now widely seen as critical to understanding the sources and mechanisms of racial and ethnic health inequity. During her presentation she will discuss weathering and the ways that structurally rooted biological and psychosocial processes shape health inequities in our society.

Community Grand Rounds is a collaborative effort between Spectrum Health Lakeland and The Todman Family Foundation. Preregistration for this event is required by visiting www.spectrumhealthlakeland.org/cgr.

Free seminar to discuss changes during menopause

Community members are invited to join obstetrician and gynecologist Ashley Dupuis, DO, for a free educational seminar titled, “Menopause: Navigating the Change.” The seminar will take place from 6 to 7 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 24 at Baymont by Wyndham, located at 1555 Phoenix Street in South Haven.

During the seminar, Dr. Dupuis will discuss the early years transitioning up to menopause, what to expect, and specific symptoms like vaginal dryness, hot flashes, mood swings, irregular periods and more. Those in attendance will also be entered to win a full spa makeover, valued at $100, from BellaNova Women’s Health Medical Spa.

“During the months or years before menopause, a woman’s body gradually begins to change. It may be helpful to understand these changes and what symptoms can be treated,” said Dr. Dupuis.

Preregistration is encouraged; walk-ins are welcome. For more information, or to register, call 26-.927-5361 or visit bellanovahealth.com/menopause.

VBRGS welcomes Adam Oster

Community Engagement Librarian, Adam Oster, from the Library of Michigan will be the featured speaker at the October meeting of the Van Buren Regional Genealogical Society on Monday, Oct. 28. The program entitled “Family History Research through the Library of Michigan” will teach the basics of researching a person’s family history using the Library of Michigan’s vast collection of resources.

Oster will take members and guests through the process of reviewing vital records, the census, and other useful documents. Attendees will also discover online resources from the Michigan eLibrary for accessing genealogical material as well as search strategies for navigating both print and digital records.

The meeting will begin at 7:00 p.m. at the Van Buren Conference Center, 400 South Paw Paw St. in Lawrence, and is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served.

The Van Buren Regional Genealogical Society welcomes anyone with an interest in genealogy and local history. For more information on the society please visit their website at vbrgs.org, find them on Facebook at VBRGS Southwest Michigan Genealogy, or email to VBRGS@yahoo.com.

Gov. Whitmer urges families to develop and practice a home fire escape plan

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer recently proclaimed October as Fire Prevention Month to help emphasize this year’s National Fire Protection Association theme: “Not every hero wears a cape. Plan and practice your escape.”

“I urge Michigan families to develop a home fire escape plan – and practice it, especially in the dark, with the entire family,” said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. “It is vitally important to know two ways out of every room in case of fire. Home fire escape planning saves lives.”

Recent statistics on fire fatalities in Michigan indicate that a majority of fire deaths happen overnight, specifically with fires starting in the living room or bedroom.

“We have as little as two or three minutes to escape the house from the time the smoke alarm sounds,” said Orlene Hawks, Director of the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, in which the Bureau of Fire Services is housed. “A fire escape plan can save your life and the lives of your loved ones.”

“Having working smoke alarms in every bedroom and on every level of your home – as well as closed bedroom doors when you are sleeping – are the best defenses against fast-moving fires and can cut a family’s risk of dying in a home fire in half,” said State Fire Marshal Kevin Sehlmeyer.

Michiganders should be sure to check the smoke alarms for their elderly family members and identify any fire hazards in their home and help correct them. It is also important to watch out for careless smoking, as smoking is the leading known cause of residential fire fatalities in Michigan since 2017.

Here are tips to make your home more fire-safe: Install smoke alarms on every level of the home and inside every sleeping area. Check the alarm by pushing the test button every month. Never smoke in bed; keep lighters and cigarettes away from children. Never leave cooking unattended. Keep the stove and burners clean and free of grease while you cook to avoid the potential for a small kitchen fire that can get out of hand quickly. Never leave candles unattended; place them in sturdy holders on uncluttered surfaces, keeping them at least a foot away from anything that can burn, including curtains, bedding, furniture, and carpeting. Have fireplaces, chimneys, wood stoves, and coal stoves inspected annually by a professional – and cleaned if necessary. Never leave a fire in the fireplace unattended. Use caution when using space heaters; never leave them unattended, keep them at least three feet away from anything that can burn, and place them on a hard-nonflammable surface, like a ceramic tile floor. Replace frayed extension cords; do not overload extension cords. Never overload electrical outlets; plug only one heat-producing appliance into an outlet at a time. Major appliances should not be plugged in using extension cords and plug strips. Plug appliances directly into the wall receptacle (same goes with space heaters). Keep clothes and other items three feet away from gas water heaters. Clean the dryer lint screen after each load – lint is extremely flammable. Have fire extinguishers in the home and know how to use them. Make sure all doors and windows leading outside open easily and are not blocked by clutter. Sleep with your bedroom door closed to limit fire spread. Closing the door before dozing can save lives by reducing toxic smoke levels and slowing down the spread of fire and smoke into sleeping areas. Make sure you close the bedroom door behind you if you escape a fire by going out a window. This slows down the spread of fire and smoke.

“Fire can happen to you,” said Sehlmeyer. “With these practical and essential preventive measures, people can help avoid fires in their homes and also be better prepared if a fire does occur.”

MI Prevention – a statewide fire safety campaign through the State Fire Marshal, the Bureau of Fire Services and Michigan’s fire safety organizations is working to reduce the number of fire deaths, injuries and property loss in Michigan. In order to protect the health and safety of high-risk populations in targeted areas, over the course of the last eight months MI Prevention has installed 21,384 smoke alarms and 6,455 carbon monoxide detectors in homes free of charge and is educating consumers on safety practices. Consumers can find more resources and safety information at the MI Prevention website: www.michigan.gov/miprevention.

Last year, 139 Michigan residents were killed in 108 residential fires, and fire departments throughout the state responded to approximately 13,745 home fires, according to state fire departments’ data gathered through the National Fire Incident Reporting System.

“The downward trend in residential fire fatalities is encouraging,” said Sehlmeyer. “But I still urge Michiganders to be diligent in practicing fire safety all year long.”

The Michigan Bureau of Fire Services joins the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and other state and national organizations in recognizing Fire Prevention week and is extending educational outreach efforts to fire departments and the public during the entire month of October.

The NFPA has been the official sponsor of Fire Prevention Week for more than 90 years, making it the longest-running public health and safety observance on record. For more information about preventing fires and staying safe, go to the NFPA official Fire Prevention Week website at www.firepreventionweek.org.

“Rise Up” workshop celebrates disability history & pride

Disability Network Southwest Michigan is hosting a free workshop titled “Rise Up! Disability Resistance, History and Pride”. Many people, even within the disability community, are unaware of the depth of disability culture and its history. There is a lot of stigma and feelings of shame around disability identities. Family, friends, and human service professionals often have a lack of knowledge about disability history and struggle to find ways of supporting disability pride.

This workshop includes discussion and activities that expand awareness of disability history and support the journey to disability pride. The workshop will be held on November 21 from 9:30 – 11:30 a.m. at Disability Network Southwest Michigan, located at 2900 Lakeview Avenue in St. Joseph. The workshop is free; however, pre-registration is required by contacting Miranda Grunwell at grunwellm@dnswm.org or (269) 345-1516 x 120. When registering, indicate if you require an accommodation to participate in the workshop.

This workshop is also being offered in Kalamazoo and Lawrence; visit Disability Network online at www.dnswm.org for full schedule details. These are fragrance free events – please do not wear any scented products.

Budget cuts impact over 9,000 Michiganders with disabilities

State funding to Michigan’s 15 Centers for Independent Living (CILs) was shifted to keep state department programs afloat after budget tensions resulted in vetoes and funding reallocation. The funds account for 25% of the CILs’ state funding which has served as a stable funding source for eight years to provide supports and services to people with disabilities.

“Our CILs support people with disabilities to live independently and achieve economic self-sufficiency,” said Diane Fleser, Chairperson of the Disability Network/Michigan board of directors. “We are changing lives and communities and our services have a great return on investment. Last year alone, our services resulted in $41 million in taxpayer savings.”

Disability Network/Michigan is the organization that promotes the collective interests of the 15 Centers for Independent Living in Michigan. The CILs were slated for a $1.5 million increase in funding for the fiscal year 2020 state budget. That increase, and an additional $2 million, was removed and redistributed in the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services budget. Critical services for over 9,000 people with disabilities across the state are now in jeopardy.

Joel Cooper, President and CEO of Disability Network Southwest Michigan, said, “Many people with disabilities depend on our organizations to help them achieve their goals to find jobs, move out of nursing homes, regain skills after acquiring a disability and transition out of special education into adulthood. These cuts are devastating to the people we serve and their families.” Collectively, Michigan’s CILs serve around 40,000 people with disabilities per year. In addition, they educate, on average, 80,000 people in Michigan about disability with the goal of creating more inclusive and barrier-free communities.

The Center for Independent Living program is federally-established in the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended in 1978. The Act is currently embedded into the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014. The CIL program is established and operated by people with disabilities. A majority of both staff and governing boards of each of the 15 Centers for Independent Living is people with an array of disabilities, ranging from wheelchair users, people who are blind, staff who have mental illnesses and employees who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. The impact of these cuts will result in the lay-off of 33 employees, many of whom have disabilities. CIL services slated to be cut include mobile outreach to rural communities, crisis services, voter accessibility work, Census 2020 efforts, emergency preparedness, outreach to help people move out of nursing homes and occupational therapy to help people facing nursing home admission remain in their own homes.

All of these service cuts come with real consequences. For example, a nursing home stay costs Medicaid, on average, $87,000 per year; whereas, providing services in the home costs, on average, less than $15,000 per year. Failure to ensure voter accessibility translates into the disability voice not being heard during the 2020 elections. Obtaining a complete count of Michigan’s citizens is dependent upon the 2020 Census community-based efforts. Michigan is facing a loss in federal funding and a congressional seat if our population drops, making this count highly critical. “A decline in CIL efforts will have a real impact on Michigan communities and people with disabilities. The loss of these funds will ultimately lead to higher costs for the state,” said Sara Grivetti, Chief Executive Officer of Disability Network/Michigan.

Disability Network/Michigan will continue their advocacy efforts with the Governor’s office and the Legislature. Until funding is restored, the outlook for people with disabilities served by the Centers for Independent Living is uncertain.

Find out more about the Centers for Independent Living at http://www.dnmichigan.org/.

Petition to end dismemberment abortion exceeds halfway mark

Dear Editor,

We have officially surpassed the halfway point in the petition drive to end dismemberment abortion: more than 200,000 signatures to end dismemberment abortions have been received at the Right to Life of Michigan office. This is half our goal of 400,000 signatures. A total of 340,047 valid signatures are necessary to initiate legislation to ban the late-term dismemberment abortion procedure.

The signature count of over 200,000 does not include signatures thought to be invalid. At the Right to Life of Michigan office, we are hand checking and counting each signature so that we exclude as many invalid signatures as possible from our final count.

Additionally, the count only includes petitions received at the Right to Life of Michigan state office—not the total number of signatures gathered by volunteers, as not all petitions gathered have been turned into our office. Petitions with signatures dated in July continue to be received daily. It is important to turn in completed petitions as soon as possible because of the time it takes to check them.

As of Friday, September 27, 31,721 petitions have been received and counted. More received petitions remain to be counted and more than 300,000 petitions have been sent from our office and are currently circulating in the field. Each petition has spaces for eight signatures. If each petition was returned with eight valid signatures, that is enough to collect over two million signatures.

The first signatures were collected for this effort on June 26, 2019. The 180-day window to collect signatures ends on December 23, 2019, but we hope to reach our goal before this date to be sure we have time to check each signature.

Right to Life of Michigan will give volunteers 14 days’ notice before a deadline to send in all collected signatures. Volunteers will continue collecting signatures at least through October and likely into November.

This petition drive has been hard work for the Right to Life of Michigan staff and our many volunteer circulators, but this effort couldn’t be more worthwhile. This horrific practice of dismembering children must be removed from Michigan. We are extremely grateful to everyone who has advocated for and signed this petition, and we look forward to submitting 400,000 signatures from people who stand against this abuse.

More information about the petition drive as well as a petition material request form can be found on the petition drive website, www.michiganvalueslife.org.

Catherine Kinsey

Education and Events


Right to Life of Michigan

Michigan crop yield predictions: Setting all the wrong records in 2019

As Michigan farmers head to the fields between unrelenting rainfall events, many unfortunately will discover new record-low yields, if projections in the latest USDA October Crop Production Report for the state are realized.

Based on conditions as of October 1, USDA’s National Ag Statistics Service (NASS) says Michigan farmers will be bracing for a rough harvest, due to extremely variable crop conditions, wide-ranging stages of crop maturity and muddy fields.

Michigan corn production, forecast at 270 million bushels, is down 9 percent from last year — the lowest production for the state since 2004 if realized. According to Michigan Farm Bureau Field Crops Specialist Theresa Sisung, while USDA expects per acre average corn yields to actually increase by 2 bushels from 2018 levels to 155 bushels per acre this year, there were 250,000 less acres actually planted due to rain delays in May and June.

Michigan 2019 soybean production was pegged at 75.7 million bushels — a 31% decrease from 2018 and the lowest since 2008. Yields are expected to average 44 bushels per acre — down 3.5 bushels from a year ago. The reduction in planted and harvested soybean acres was even more staggering than the reduction of corn acres, according to Sisung. “Planted soybean acres for Michigan in 2019, was down 580,000 acres, while harvested acres are expected to be down by 590,000 acres — that’s a 25.5% reduction from 2018,” she said.

While farmers were anticipating dismal yields, Sisung said the October report is a sobering reality check on the overall impact of weather challenges that have plagued the 2019 growing season.

“Unfortunately, Mother Nature can still make matters worse – much worse,” Sisung said. “Virtually every farmer in the state is watching weather forecasts 24/7, hoping for relief from above normal rainfall and a very late killing frost to allow many of these delayed crops to mature as much as possible.”

According to Sisung, the weather-related challenges in 2019 are reflected in all major Michigan row-crops and forages, with reduced yields, reduced acres and overall reductions in total production.

Michigan sugar beet growers anticipate a yield of 27.5 tons per acre, down 1.6 tons from last year. Total production is forecast at 3.99 million tons – a reduction of nearly 7% from 2018.

Michigan dry bean growers expected their crop to yield 2,100 pounds per acre, a 300 pound per acre decrease from last year. Total production, at 3.93 million hundredweight, is down 15% from last year.


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