What You Didn’t Know about Grandma

Life is full of “which is worse” scenarios. There’s the “death by fire” or “death by ice.” Here it is in the poem “Fire and Ice,” as could only have been written by the great American poet Robert Frost:

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

The political parties have us vying for which is the worse social problem and no, it is not Planned Parenthood. I’ll tell you straight out I’m going with opioid addiction. The biggest threat to our nation. The biggest threat to our people. That’s right, the fact that many people don’t want to acknowledge even exists. And this is why it’s so dangerous.

One of my more morbid hobbies is collecting headlines that deal with opioid addiction and drug overdoses. I’ve been doing it for years, the pile is getting higher, but recently it’s been a real jackpot.

It wasn’t always that way. In the beginning, I collected the rare articles of addicts who had fought through their addictions and made it. Addicts who had ultimately gone to college and gotten major degrees in major universities. One black American from an inner city who went on to graduate from Harvard Medical School. If I can dig the article out from my ever-growing pile, I’ll add the link here. There were articles about homeless who had gone into halfway houses and used that as a place from which to stabilize their lives, which included finding steady work and thus having a stable and proud income.

I clipped and sent these articles to send hope to a young relative of mine who was an addict and always feeling darkness. “See? You can do it too.” I’d like to think my hobby made a difference, helped this relative make good choices, but it seems like it did not. And now I cannot find the articles, even online.

Several years ago I would talk to a lot of my friends about this problem, and this pain of mine. On days when my relative was being arrested, or days when he was being released from prison, or days when he was beginning rehab and there was hope, I would sit in my seat during religious services and cry to myself. I’m not sure if anybody ever noticed my red eyes or my irregular breathing. If they did, they sure didn’t say anything. A few would tell me an aside about a relative who was an addict if I brought up the topic.

A few years back, my stepson died of an overdose of legally prescribed painkillers, shocking us all. He was a pleasure-seeker but he was not an addict. So my headline search and article clipping widened to include deaths by legally prescribed painkillers for things like, quite simply, pain. You know, those pain centers that are everywhere? Particularly in Florida?

Within the last few years, several parents in my community have lost a young adult child. Some of the parents have been brave and willing to confront this public epidemic. Others have not.

A few years later, after I was already personally grappling with this problem, the headlines expanded to include elderly adults who had been bankrupted by their addict children and grandchildren. I knew about this from personal experience, too.

The Untold Cost of the Opiate Epidemic: Elder Abuse

The headlines have continued to change over the years. In the last election, people started to care about the problem of “solving” the problem by throwing people in jail or prison. Were we creating solutions? Or new problems for even more people? A few times I sat in at a drug court. I saw young hopeless male adults. Five or so young adults would stand in front of the judge, who would ask them if they were on anything at that time.  I saw them, in unison, lie. Five No‘s. I saw a pained grandmother as the judge would approve this one for drug court and that one – her grandson – to return to jail.

In the months and years after that, I started seeing headlines about large and small towns that were creating drug courts as a new approach.

This recent headline shows where we’re going, as a nation:

Life Expectancy in U.S. Declines Slightly, and Researchers Are Puzzled

Get the subheading:

African-American men gained 0.4 year of life expectancy in 2014, to 72.2 years.

My monthly AARP magazine is getting into the act, too, and not just about elder abuse by those seeking to get grandma’s retirement money in order to fund their heroin addiction. Once a place to find articles about cell phones and travel destinations for seniors, this 2011 headline was a first:

Boomers on Drugs

It’s a national issue now because of the attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which includes attempts to eliminate – just when America is acknowledging this deeply entrenched and growing problem – American’s ability to get detox and rehab not just for the rich, who can afford private pay rehab stays, but for the poor and middle class who cannot. The people who care about this are elderly, farmers, veterans.

About six months ago I sat at a forum in my town for high schoolers, the goal of which was to open up a discussion about opioid dependency and provide referrals for those who needed them, and so on. A few audience members asked questions, and the oldest was about 90 years old and he had become an addict after radiation treatment for cancer. Whoever we are, we are at risk. There is no safe corner.

Yes, this is no longer a problem that white Americans or educated Americans, and so on, can ignore, thinking erroneously that this is “their” problem and not “our” problem. There is no way to hide from this situation.

Sadly, my morbid hobby continues and my pile continues to grow. Urban, rural, east coast, west coast, white, black, young, old, rich, poor, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, we are one nation, drug addiction and opioid overdose does not discriminate, and neither should we.

More to follow.

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We Go Solar in Ten Easy Steps: The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread

“It’s the best thing since sliced bread,” our gardener wrote when I told her we were going solar. I loved solar and was excited about our impending conversion, but wasn’t this a bit of an exaggeration?

We live in a town where our Mayor has been pushing energy efficiency, and for a while, at least, initiated a partnership between the City and a company that installed solar that let us retain the energy credits – this is really important – and the phone number was available right from City Hall website.

STEP ONE: We make the call!!

STEP TWO: Sunlight Assessment – A young man came out to our home with a very large sun meter at the end of a pole that extends telescopically. He extended the pole and placed the meter portion in various spots along our roof to measure how much sunlight we would get in each and which spots maximized the use of the sun’s light. The process was pretty quick, and very clean. We could see the meter and see for ourselves. Yes, sunlight, indeed! And that’s where the tree is shading that portion of the roof. It was very very neat!

STEP THREE: Signature and Legal Commitment – We received a fat packet from the company that showed all the charts and numbers, tax credits, how long it would take until we are paid back on our initial investment, etc. We look it over. All it takes it a signature to make that commitment. This is HUGE!!! WE SIGNED and faxed it back.

STEP FOUR:  Engineers, Design and Approval of Design – Shortly thereafter, a different department began coming up with a plan for how the panels would be arranged. When done, it was sent to us for approval. Also, the company needed to come out once more to check the structure of our roof to make sure it’s strong enough to hold the weight of the panels so a few emails go back and forth. We emailed them some engineering drawings of the attic that provides measurements and information on the beams, and so on, including obtaining a permit with our City, and a little while later we were approved. We are approved! No going back now. We were heading into the 21st Century.

photo 17STEP FIVE: Electricians – Out came the electrician, first. He worked in the room where the electrical boxes are kept. Pretty soon the light below would be operating off the sunlight that we have captured.

Meanwhile, another electrician was working on the outside of our home, and drilled a hole that goes in to the basement where our electrical panels are. This line will run from the panels into the circuitry.

These electric lines, encased in metal, go all the way up to the roof and would eventually connect in to the panels! They did a nice job of hiding the casing by shielding it on the inside of the rain downspout.

photo 13
STEP SIX (Next Day): Roof Panels Installed – We are really lucky. Mid-November in New England should be cold, if not snowing,  but it was neither. It was warm and sunny. Another entirely different crew came. Their job was to install the panels on the roof. First, they set up little solar panel mounts that serve two purposes: They keep the panels in their fixed position, and they transfer the power from the solar panel down the side of our home, and into the grid.

panel docksEvery bit of space available
Panels got installed on the top of our dormer, a perfect place, being relatively flat. The panels cannot even be seen, and they catch the sun as it burns its way from east to west, from sunrise til sunset.

Here we are showing off a solar panel! Here is a really nice guy on the work crew to the right!

Panel and Crew MemberWith the mounts mounted, and the electrical wiring complete, the panels began their journey up up up to their permanent work site, where they would face and harness the energy of the sun and pass it along to us, and to other households in our grid (ISO New England), which includes all of New England. Our panels are on the east side of the home and even with that we collect plenty of energy.

panel up
“Welcome to the 21st Century,” my husband said. And I begin to realize that this is the best thing since sliced bread. I imagine how early man must have felt when he discovered how to create fire for his own domestic use. How to harness what exists naturally for the betterment of our lives and mankind overall. It only took how many years to develop the technology to do this? But it’s here, and it’s on our roof!

STEP SEVEN: City Electrical Inspection – The city electrical inspector came out to our home to make sure that all the electrical work had been properly done. He talked electric stuff and the only thing that I understood was “Everything is labelled correctly.”

Here he is, hard at work:electrical inspection for our solar panels

We pass! A little orange card goes on our window that he signs, indicating we’ve passed the electrical inspection. Next week, the building inspector would come out, sign off, and take the card with him.

STEP EIGHT: After the electrical inspector left, he notified our energy company that we’d been approved and to drop off a NET METER at our home. What is a net meter? Because during the hours of sunlight we are sending energy into the grid, it will actually run backwards during daylight hours! During the evenings, when we need to pull the energy from the grid, it will run forward. The meter will reflect the net amount of energy we’ve consumed.

STEP NINE: Net Meter Installed – Our energy supplier came by and dropped off a net meter and installed it. He locked the handle in the “OFF” position.photo(2)

Our city’s building inspector approved the overall, that is, that the panels do not affect the integrity of the roof, etc.

STEP TEN (SEVERAL DAYS LATER): Power ON – Somebody from SolarFlair came out. He unlocked the handle and let me FLIP THE SWITCH! This is far more exciting than Times Square on New Year’s Eve. It’s not just a new year, it’s a new era!

NetMeter Solar OnWhere are electrical panels are, he shows me the breakers, what to do, what not to do, and we look on my computer at the internet-based program that will supply my household with information about our energy production. On screen, I can see the panels have gone from black to blue, meaning they are generating electricity from the light of the sun, as we talk. On a bright sunny day, they will be very light blue.

I write everything down to tell my husband.

Next: Flip out!!