Thursday, September 6, 2007

Only the Lonely

Loneliness and High Blood Pressure

While it’s long been known that married men live longer than those who live solo, a new study finds that being lonely may literally break your heart.

Researchers at the Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience and Department of Psychology at the University of Chicago found that lonely people are more at risk for heart attack and stroke, because chronic loneliness could increase their systolic blood pressure number by as much as 30 points. An earlier study that concluded lonely people’s blood vessels constrict more than do those in people who aren’t lonely when the person is under stress.

In the latest study, 229 randomly chosen people of various ethnicities, ages 50 to 68, were studied. Factoring in body mass index and smoking, researchers analyzed the subjects’ answers to a survey, and concluded that the prolonged stress of loneliness may be as likely to increase blood pressure as does acute stress.

While the study, funded by the National Institute on Aging (, stops short of saying loneliness causes high blood pressure, researchers say lonely people may benefit from therapy that teaches them positive coping strategies and social skills.

Simply being alone, however, is not synonymous with loneliness. Loneliness, the researchers say, is related to an overall feeling of unconnectedness, of being unable to sustain relationships either because the lonely person expects too much – or avoids involvement altogether.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Science Finds the 'Fat' Gene

Newsflash! Researchers have found the “fat” gene! Overweight people are predisposed to gaining weight in much the same way that kids born to brunette parents are likely to have, gasp!, brown hair.

As early as 2005, the low carb craze had begun to ebb. Diets lose their luster when a body’s pre-set clock reverts back to a predestined weight, and dieters lose interest in self-deprivation.

As evidence, there are the food banks that report big increases in donations from manufacturers of Atkins Diet products. It’s pretty easy to find discounted South Beach diet products, too, despite the lure of the diet’s promise to re-set the body’s insulin clock and make pounds melt away.

Science has reaffirmed that many people genetically programmed to have weight problems have a chromosomal glitch. One that deprives them of normal amounts of dopamine, the feel-good drug released by the brain in response to stress.

The World Health Organization ( estimates that 1.6 billion adults worldwide are overweight and at least 400 million adults are obese. Sadly, I myself have always struggled with my weight. I come by it honestly. My grandfather was portly; grandma was stout; mom was a bit broad in the beam; Aunt Mabel was downright fat and my brother, well, he takes after grandpa.

Nonetheless, with the attendant health issues frequently associated with being overweight – diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis – beginning to manifest their unwelcome selves, I’ve been walking more and eating less.

It’s working. Sort of. Slowly.

I once saw a fat girl on Dr. Phil pointing out that it’s not like you can just “kick” a food addiction. After all, you do have to eat. With other stuff, you can give it up and rid your life of all traces of that which tempts you.

The journal Science reports what researchers call the first clear evidence that a common gene causes some people to gain weight while others don’t. Those studied who have two copies of a variant of the “FTO” gene were 70 percent more likely to be obese. Seventy percent!!!

As always, researchers say they hope their discovery will lead to improved means of preventing and treating obesity. Translated, that may mean they’ve patented their discovery, and a deep-pocketed drug company will buy the rights to develop a drug that will turn off the genetic trigger.

Meantime, it seems to me it might be time to table the fat jokes. It doesn’t seem quite kosher to make fun of people for something they’re born with and just can’t help. Besides, the Centers for Disease Control ( has released an obesity study that says it’s not nearly the killer we’ve always thought. Not as terrible for your health as, say, chronic smoking.

It would be great, wouldn’t it, if everybody accepted everybody for who they are, not what they look like? As Martin Luther King Jr. said, for the content of their character? Hm. What a concept.

Read Carol's columns at Contact her at

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Surviving Hepatitis C

By Carol Bogart

Five years ago, a woman named Sally in Seattle called me in Ohio to talk about her Hepatitis C. She was, as I recall, nearing 70 and a retired teacher. Her niece, an adult lawyer, had taken me to lunch to talk to me about her. She said Sally was the dearest sweetest woman; one whose husband was gone, had not had children, and was now alone.

I was a columnist for the local newspaper and had been writing about my own Hepatitis C. For a year, I endured a clinical trial that was very much like chemotherapy. The niece told me Sally was afraid to have a liver biopsy, and wondered if I’d mind if her aunt called me.

As a result of my weekly column, many people you would never suspect to have this “dirty” disease often linked with injecting illegal drugs had come forward to either get tested and start treatment, or to simply thank me for giving voice to a condition about which so many are ashamed.

Like me, Sally had no idea how she’d gotten Hepatitis C. A diabetic, she wondered whether she’d been infected during a blood draw to check her sugar. I wondered whether it was a single acupuncture session for my herniated disk. I don’t remember, either, how Sally found out she had it. That I did was a lucky twist of fate.

I was symptom-free in 1995 (the liver is an “uncomplaining” organ) and covering a terrible story for a Cleveland television station. It was about a paramedic who, coming home from work, had flipped the light switch, not knowing that in the basement, the leaking furnace had filled the house with gas. A small spark from the switch triggered an explosion that blew him out the door into his backyard, burned over 75 percent of his body.

As the videographer and I swung into the parking lot at Metro Health Center, paramedics, firefighters and cops filled the waiting room and halls. Throughout the night, it was touch and go as their friend and co-worker needed so many transfusions that the hospital was starting to run out of platelets.

Two days later, the firefighters staged an emergency blood drive. I urged the TV station’s assignment editor to let me cover what was to me a poignant human interest story: the coming together as one of those whose occupations so often put them in harm’s way.

The first person I interviewed was the paramedic’s dad, a retired firefighter and, usually, self-contained stoic man. Now, with his son hovering at death’s door, he could barely hold back his tears. I talked, too, to the paramedic’s partner on the ambulance, a man so broken up he could barely speak.

When I learned that the paramedic’s blood type was O-negative, the same as mine, I set my reporter’s notebook aside - signing up on the spot to donate blood, despite my lifelong fear of needles.

God moves in mysterious ways.

Two weeks later, a letter from the Red Cross arrived. It said in bold capital letters across the top: “THIS IS NOT A LETTER ABOUT AIDS BUT … .” I was informed that my blood had tested positive for Hepatitis C and had been discarded. I was never again to give blood, the letter said, nor was I to be an organ donor. I thought about the organ donor sticker that had been on my driver’s license for many years.

A visit to my internist confirmed the diagnosis.

The paramedic made a slow recovery. I might have died but for that decision to give blood. That’s not to say I instantly started treatment. I didn’t. In 1995, despite country singer Naomi Judd’s success with Interferon for her Hepatitis C, for many, it meant terrible side effects, but no eradication of the virus. I had a young boy at home. I decided to wait until medicine could offer something better.

By 2001, though, I was feeling very fatigued. Regular monitoring of my liver enzymes – a barometer of how much damage the Hep C is doing in your liver – found that they were getting worse. My son was now 16. It was time.

Like Sally, the idea of a liver biopsy terrified me. It was, however, required of those who wanted to take part in a clinical trial being offered by the Cleveland Clinic. For the first time, those with Hepatitis C had a shot at a new “combination” therapy – a three-drug treatment it was hoped might up their odds of surviving what some call a silent epidemic.

The day of my biopsy, I was grateful to my doctor, head of the clinic’s gastroenterology department, for coming in early to hold my hand as the “routine” procedure was performed. I would later assure Sally it really wasn’t all that bad. When asked afterward if I needed pain relief, I truthfully answered, “No.”

The result, though, was pretty scary. Stage 3 liver fibrosis (scarring): bridging and portal. One stage away from full blown cirrhosis. I’d be starting the trial just in time.

For a year, I injected Pegylated Interferon into fatty tissue in my tummy once a week and took Ribavarin and Amantadine capsules every day. I lost 60 pounds and handfuls of hair and, by the 10th month, once failed to recognize a friend I saw at Kroger’s. At the same time the drugs were attacking the virus, healthy stuff was dying, too.

At night, I ached so much I couldn’t sleep. In the last month, the side effects were so bad that, with the approval of my research nurse, I started cutting back the dose of both the Interferon and the pills. It was either that, or just stop taking everything altogether.

I’d been getting the meds and supplies for free thanks to the clinical trial – a good thing because, otherwise, I couldn’t have afforded to get treated. Pegylated Interferon alone costs a fortune.

Once a month I’d drive the two hours to Cleveland to have eight vials of blood drawn to monitor my liver enzymes. I wasn’t allowed to take Advil during those 12 months (an anti-inflammatory, it could have skewed the results) – but that meant no relief for my osteoarthritis.

As I was going through my clinical trial, two very close friends were enduring what would prove to be their final unsuccessful round of chemotherapy – one for breast cancer, one for leukemia. We told each other that which we didn’t tell those we loved: We were in so much misery, we really didn’t care if we died, but we worried what would happen to those we left behind; in my case, my 16 year old son. My friends, farm wives, had both been married for more than 40 years.

Dolores and Shirley finally decided: No more chemo. One after the other, they passed away. At the end of my treatment, my blood work came back “clean.” No trace at all of the Hepatitis C. My enzymes were back to normal.

Every six months, I get the liver panel done. To date – and it’s been four years – I remain Hepatitis free. I’m a Type 2. Ninety percent of the Type 2s in the clinical trial had the same result. For Type 1’s, who are more resistant to treatment, the success rate was 60 percent. In the ’90s, when I was first diagnosed, Interferon, the sole drug available at the time, cleared the virus in only 10-15 percent of those treated for Hep C. I felt like a living miracle.

Sally, after we talked at length several times, did have her biopsy and started treatment. She’d waited too long. She died.

Dr. William Carey, my gastroenterologist, warned me often that the longer I waited, the more opportunity the virus had to “replicate” and become stronger.

Hep C is a quiet killer. Health officials estimate 4.1 million Americans are infected. Many are unaware. If you think there’s any chance you might have it, get tested. It could save your life.

For information on testing for Hepatitis C, contact your state or local health department.

Carol Bogart is a freelance writer/editor. Read her articles at Contact her at

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Buy a NBD Car to Discourage Car Thieves

When the phone first rang, I thought it was the alarm and felt around for the snooze button. Four a.m. typically finds me sound asleep.

Eyes still closed, I fumbled the receiver off the hook. "Hullo?" I mumbled.

At first, hearing police scanners in the background, I thought it was the news desk at the TV station I was then working for in Denver. A deep male voice asked, "Is this Carol Bogart?" I was now awake. "Yes," I said warily. "This is the Denver Police Department," he informed me. "Do you have a Camaro?"


"I don't know," I said. "Do I?"

The last I'd looked, my brand new cream-colored Berlinetta with charcoal trim was parked in the lot behind my high rise – a well-lit lot in a good-neighborhood. I'd parked it and its predecessor there without problems for a couple years.

It was gone.

A band of juvenile thieves had stolen four sports cars that night. Mine was stripped and every single thing in it stolen. These punks had smashed the overhead light so they could dismantle my dash undetected. Then, my low-slung car suffered lots of undercarriage damage during the high speed chase, sailing airborne over every bump in the road, landing again and again in a spray of sparks.

The police came and picked me up to go get it so I could drive it to the dealership for repairs. It sat idling some distance from my apartment. The kid who stole it was in the back of another cruiser as I walked toward my car. When I looked at him, he glared. The police couldn't turn my car off because the steering column had been stripped. Once off, it couldn't be restarted.

The cop had been telling me my Camaro had been in not one, but two, high speed chases. An alert officer had noticed the four teenage thieves lined up at a light around 1 a.m. in these brand new sports cars. They were in the left turn lane – but none had turn signals. This struck him as suspicious.

When he tried to pull them over, the four late model Camaros and TransAms shot through the light and the chase was on. The cop called in backup, and the four were finally pushed to the curb in a residential neighborhood.

The kid driving mine jumped out, ran, circled back, got back behind the wheel, and took off AGAIN!!!! The officer told me he'd had the pedal to the metal. "How did it do?" I asked, trying to keep the pride out of my voice. The cop shot me a wry look.

"Not as good as he hoped," he answered.

Carol Bogart is a freelance writer/editor. Read her articles at and her column at Contact her at

Sunday, July 29, 2007

War's Unseen Wounds

Soldiers with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Some months back I struck up an e-mail friendship with a 59-year-old Vietnam vet and he told me he has PTSD. I drew a blank. "`PTSD'? What's that?" I wondered.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, he explained. "Ohhh. THAT." That I knew. Or so I thought. Years earlier, a psychologist told me rape victims frequently suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Makes you jumpy, she said. Prone to startle easily if, say, someone blows their car horn.

Beyond that, though, I've learned I really didn't have a clue. Didn't realize just how badly war's terrors can insinuate themselves into the souls of 18 and 19 year olds. Kids who watch buddies blown apart or burn to death, and wonder, minute to minute, if they'll be next.

Some, exceptionally sensitive like my friend, are consumed with guilt that men under their command were killed, but they made it back alive. Such relentless guilt and unremitting pain often seeks relief in alcohol or drugs. Even sober, the PTSD brain's capacity to feel goes numb – to keep the pain and guilt at bay.

The result: Destroyed marriages, estranged kids, lost jobs. In the case of far too many: Suicide.

At night, tangled feelings may re-emerge, manifesting as fitful sleep laced with frightening dreams. Panicked, drenched in sweat, the sufferer no longer sleeps. PTSD, the enemy lurking in the shadows.

For some, war's gory images are tattooed on their minds, the flashbacks an endless loop that constantly replays. Normal human interaction becomes something to avoid. That which is loved will someday die. Having lost emotional resilience, they have no faith they would survive.

In Washington, legislators are revisiting just what we, as a country, should do for veterans who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The Wounded Warrior Assistance Act calls for better PTSD screening of those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Such traumatized soldiers, it's agreed, should not be sent back into combat.

If their civilian lives start to fall apart, VA and Dept. of Defense mental health professionals need to coordinate the soldier's care. Now, too many solders in emotional agony aren't getting the help they need.

If their PTSD prevents them from functioning normally, such soldiers need prompt financial help, without the added stress of seeing their disability check blocked by the VA.

Some estimates are that as many as 15 percent of the soldiers returning from Iraq have PTSD. Others suggest that all of the returning vets have it to some degree.

It does not serve this country well to have allowed a man like my Vietnam vet friend to fall through the cracks. Although brilliant, he struggles daily to transcend the hand our country dealt him. Forty years after Vietnam, he's still in combat: battling for his VA pension.

If you believe, as I do, that this country's wounded warriors from all wars deserve our steadfast gratitude, you can write your representatives in support of the Wounded Warrior Assistance Act. Go to and fill out the on-line form. Be sure to include your zip code. The site's sponsors will forward your letter to those who'll want your vote in the next election. To learn more about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, visit

Carol Bogart is a freelance writer/editor. Read her columns at and her articles at Contact her at

Monday, July 23, 2007

Footloose and Free

Becoming a "city" dog was a big adjustment for a dog who spent the first 11 years of his life chasing woodchucks in the soybean field. Since moving to California from our Ohio farm, Dodger grudgingly adapted to walks tethered to a leash. Feeling sorry for him, hoping he'd just nose around in the leaves at his feet, I once unhooked his collar when we were almost home from our evening walk. He was off like a shot.

A nice young man collared him just after Dodger narrowly missed being clipped by a car. As I rushed up to retrieve my errant canine, I apologized. "Every time I let him off the leash," I said, "he abuses the privilege." Nodding as he released him, the man said, "Don't we all."

Because Dodger had always enjoyed fetching a stick thrown into the pond and creek at the farm (he's part lab – and a host of other breeds), when we first moved to California, I took him to a nearby lake late in the afternoon, hid him behind a bush and unhooked his leash. Then, I pitched a green tennis ball as far as I could out into the water. Joyfully he brought it back to me time after time. Finally, weary, I told him, "One more time and it's time to go."

I threw the ball.

Dodger swam and got it – brought it back to shore on the diagonal and trotted off down the beach. No amount of whistling, promises of treats or threats of violence could dissuade him. He had his eye on a big black dog at the top of the hill. A legal dog on a leash.

As I rounded a bend on the walking trail, hot on his heels – an elderly man seated on a bench lifted his cane in an unkind way and said sternly, "Dogs have to be on a leash here." I lifted my guilty hand around which the leash was wrapped, said, "I'm trying," and kept on going.

I understood what was in Dodger's mind. Only a month before we moved, his best friend since puppyhood had been put to sleep when hip dysplasia left Bo no longer able to get up. The two had been inseparable for more than a decade. From a distance, to Dodger's aging eyes, the big black dog at the top of the hill looked like Bo.

Although the dog's owners were unfazed by Dodger's hopeful sniffing, I quickly attached leash to collar and led him to the car. And that was it. No more outings off the leash for Dodger.

We've played many a "bring me the ball" game in the confines of the living room, but, of course, it's not the same.

Recently, with Dodger sprawled in the back seat, I went to restock the bags of birdseed. First I stopped at the bank, and then decided to try a different route than the usual. The exploration drew me back to an area I remembered where, without Dodger, I had once stumbled upon an off-leash dog park.

I'd read about such parks. Most of what I read said the dogs and owners who use them are regulars, all know each other, and there are few to no encounters of the snarling kind. Not certain how Dodger would behave with a bevy of strange dogs, I hadn't chanced it.

The weather was so nice that I was in the mood to spend a little time outdoors. Cautiously I led him into the park – on a very tight leash. Boisterous smiling dogs bounded up, made his acquaintance and bounded off. The fenced in area even had a wide perimeter of woods and trails. After a few minutes, I turned him loose. I've rarely seen him so excited.

The young dogs seemed to understand that Dodger is a codger and didn't try to include him in their rough and tumble doggie games. The park was, though, littered with well-used tennis balls. As I gripped a gritty, drippy surface to throw one for Dodger, I thought, "yuk." Tennis balls thrown in living rooms stay relatively clean. This one, I couldn't let go of fast enough. In his limping gait, Dodger chased it down, picked it up – and stopped. Brow furrowed he promptly spit it out. "Bleghhhh!!" his expression seemed to say.

Mostly, he just meandered. In and out of the woods, occasionally wending his way back for a reassuring pat to where I was seated on a picnic table. While he meandered, I watched a large yellow swallowtail butterfly dip up and down across the open space, and a hummingbird buzz a nearby tree trunk, sipping out hidden moisture.

A dog loped up to an owner seated near me, leash in mouth, as if to say, "OK, let's go." I decided to retrieve my must-now-be-tired dog.

This time, Dodger made no move to lope away. Tired, yes. Tired, content and happy.

Today, my dear old dog, now 15, is living out the remainder of his life with a friend who manages a wildlife habitat in the California Delta. No more leashes. Free to roam wherever his nose may take him. A farm dog again - at last.

Carol Bogart is a freelance writer/editor. Read her articles at Contact her at

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Rural America - A Simpler Time

As a kid growing up on a farm, fireflies, bright stars at night and homegrown vegetables and fruit were just a given. For many generations, farming figured large in our family.

My dad grew up on an Ohio dairy farm. As a small boy, he perched on a stool in a darkened barn, keeping my grandfather company each morning as he milked the cows.

My Aunt Nettie, 87, still mows the paths between fruit trees in orchards that have supplied fruit for Gerber's apple sauce for half a century.

After dad went into business for himself at age 50, he found and bought a farm for the three of us when I was 10. The first thing he did was clear a space between the house and barn for a big garden, one that proved productive with its well-drained sandy soil.

At harvest time (Ohio growing seasons are, of course, much shorter than those here in California), mom and I would pick and put up the produce.

She made jams, jellies, tomato sauce and juice, dried corn and frozen vegetables from scratch. Many a late summer/early fall day would find mom, my Aunt Mabel, gramma and me sitting around the gatelegged kitchen table – shelling peas, peeling peaches, snapping beans – and just "visiting."

The sugar content in just-picked corn means a taste treat it's impossible to duplicate. As little as two hours between picking and putting it on the table can make a difference. Homegrown tomatoes have a sweetness and texture all their own as well.

Other crops, like potatoes, aren't quite as touchy, but one of the season's treasures are the tiny new potatoes hidden amongst the big ones. Harvesting potatoes, a root crop maturing under the plant in a mound of dirt, is fun. A potato fork is placed carefully just at the edge of the mound so as not to spear any as they're uprooted. Mom used to braise the marble-to-golf-ball sized baby potatoes in butter, sprinkle them with parsley and dole them out democratically at dinner. They were coveted by all.

I still have the last lidded glass Ball jar of dried corn mom put up in 1988 (she died in 1989). I keep it as a memento of my childhood. Drying corn dates back to the days before refrigeration. With sharp paring knives, Gramma, mom and I would slice the kernels off the slightly cooked ears of cooling corn, careful to scrape the ears so as not to waste any of the sweet core of the kernels or milky liquid.

On the stove, placed across the burners, were mom's ancient tin corn driers. Water boiled in the hollow space in the bottom of the driers. The kernels were spread across their wide flat tops. Long after gramma had gone home and I'd gone to bed, mom was up throughout the night, checking on the dehydrating corn, turning it every two hours or so to make sure it didn't scorch.

The result was a carmelized corn that, when rehydrated with milk, salt and butter, has a unique, nutty taste – one prized by three generations of Bogarts. I expect my gramma learned how to dry corn from her mother, who may have learned it from my great-great-gramma Fell – who may have learned it as a girl in Scotland.

These idyllic memories are a reminder that not so long ago, food wasn't bought in stores. We sowed and reaped and lived off the land.

Carol Bogart is a freelance writer/editor. Read her columns at Contact her at

Friday, July 13, 2007

Sushi – the New Health Food?

I remember the first time a Denver friend suggested we go out for sushi. Not wishing to appear unadventurous, I acquiesced – but had zero idea which of several disgusting uncooked options to order.

"Try the California Roll," she said. "Everybody likes that." So that's what I ordered. And was immediately turned off by the bitter seaweed it was rolled with. Yuk, I thought. How on earth can anybody eat this stuff?

It was instantly clear that requesting a fork would brand me as singularly lacking in sophistication, so I listened intently as my friend demonstrated and explained the proper use of chopsticks. When, eventually, I could pretty adroitly use this new utensil to pick up a single grain of cooked rice, I felt very worldly. Fast fact: "Sushi" is vinegared or seasoned rice – not fish.

Today, I do like maguro (raw tuna), and wasabi (Japanese green horseradish), and I'm especially fond of the blush-colored pickled ginger (which there never seems to be enough of). That's it, though. Nothing else. Mike, my son and I, once included a friend of his when we went out for sushi, and were highly amused when, thinking it was safe to order soup; he was presented with a dish that contained a raw egg. He would have been much happier with a cheeseburger.

Recent research indicates that sushi has health benefits. Besides being low in fat, cholesterol and calories, raw fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which lower the risk of blood clots and decrease triglyceride levels, meaning it's healthy for your heart and may even have benefits for Type II diabetics. CNN reports there's a new study that says people who ate just one serving of fish a week dramatically reduced their chances of cardiac arrest.

That seaweed I hate is rich in micronutrients – in other words, nutrients needed only in miniscule amounts, like iron, manganese and zinc. It also, like all plants, contains phytochemicals, which may help prevent everything from colds to cancer. One caveat: both seaweed and soy sauce can be high in salt. Not good for pregnant women or people with high blood pressure.

The flip side is that raw anything can harbor bacteria, and some fish is high in mercury.

Now here's a personal anecdote. Some years back when I was diagnosed with Hepatitis C and had no idea how I'd been exposed; a paramedic friend asked whether I eat a lot of sushi. I said yes. By then, and for several years, my son and I had been going out for sushi at least once a week.

"That's probably it, then," he told me. He pointed out that if a sushi chef, while cutting slices of, say, maguro, nicks a finger tip, a drop of virus-contaminated blood can contaminate the uncooked fish.

Not too appetizing, is it? Even so, I'd by lying if I told you I gave up sushi. MSG (monosodium glutamate) is often used to keep such foods fresh. Some studies say MSG's addictive. Personally, I think it's the pickled ginger.

Carol Bogart is a freelance writer. Read her columns at Contact her at

Sunday, July 1, 2007

When Kids Are Cruel

Saying No to Bullies
By Carol Bogart

Her name was Gina and she was deaf. She was also the prettiest girl at church camp. Camp Premauca (Presbytery of Maumee camp) in Michigan was a popular camp for Presbyterian adolescents from Michigan and Ohio.

My parents started sending me when I was 12. By 14, I could hardly wait for the two weeks spent with peers at this camp for boys and girls. The boys were particularly of interest.

There was the usual jockeying for the attention of the cutest boys, but the summer Gina showed up for camp, none of us other girls had a chance with any of them. All the boys were united in their desire to win points with this petite raven-haired girl with friendly dark brown eyes.

Two sisters from Dayton, both with perfect hair and nails and purses, were especially peeved. They were accustomed to being the center of attention.

The year before, I'd had a rough start with them myself. The older sister cut in on me during a square dance, shoving a broom at me to replace my partner.

By the end of camp, though, they'd decided I was okay and welcomed me into their mean-spirited circle.

I was an insecure farm kid and the antithesis of "cool". I sang in the church choir, was secretary of youth fellowship, and occasionally was called upon to do readings in church because I had a good voice that carried. Later, after being the only student at our rural school to compete in the state speech tournament, I would be named outstanding senior speaker. This indirectly led to my 12 year career as a major market TV news reporter/anchor.

But at 14, I was boy-chested, gawky and easily influenced by two girls who were so much more "with it" than I was.

So when they commenced to torture Gina with grapes in her bed and shortsheeting her sheets and applying Vaseline and saran wrap on and under a toilet seat when they saw her headed for the lavatory – while the three of us occupied the only other stalls – I went along, but felt bad for Gina.

Gina talked funny because she was deaf. Her parents, though, understood her perfectly when, two days into camp, she called, in tears, begging them to come and get her.

One of the counselors confronted the three of us. The Dayton sisters shrugged, tossed their hair and stifled giggles. I said, "Where is Gina?"

When the counselor took me to her, Gina's big brown eyes welled up with tears. Quietly, I sat down beside her. Sad and guarded, she lifted her quivering chin to meet my gaze. "Gina," I said, "don't go home. We've been being mean because we're jealous. You're so pretty. All the boys like you. You didn't deserve it and I'm so sorry. Please stay."

A small smile played across her face and Gina nodded.

For the remainder of the two weeks, I had nothing more to do with the Dayton sisters. I hoped maybe one of the boys at camp would like me, but if not, I was happy to see Gina get so much attention. Eventually, she struck up a romance with the cutest boy at camp, much to the oldest sister's consternation.

It seemed as though the rest of the campers, too, no longer thought the Dayton duo was especially cool. Just mean. They were avoided at the mess hall, at the pool, at what we disparagingly called "Leech Lake" (because it was so full of leeches). A camp full of teenagers collectively decided that these were two girls needed to pay attention to the lessons learned at evening vespers.

Carol Bogart is a freelance writer. Read her columns at and her articles at Contact her at

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Transcending Tragedy

Surviving a Tornado's Devastation
By Carol Bogart

Reading recently about the lives lost in a little Kansas farming community of 1400 with homes, businesses, churches and schools scattered like kindling across the plains, I was reminded of the tornado I experienced not long ago in Ohio.

Kansas is known as "tornado alley" – but Ohio has its fair share as well. When a wag quipped, "May the earth stay still" upon learning of my plan to move to California, it crossed my mind that the destruction I'd witnessed after that tornado looked pretty much like the pictures I'd seen after California's Loma Prieta earthquake in '89.

Nature's power is hard to fathom until you witness it first hand.

I remember exiting a supermarket, following the young man who would load my groceries into my trunk, when I noticed that the air seemed unusually balmy for Ohio. "Nice weather," the young man remarked. "Not," I remember saying, "if it's a tornado." I somehow had a sense of the change in air pressure.

As soon as I had the groceries put away, I went out on my deck and looked at the sky. The clouds had converged to form a dense, low, angry black solid line.

It seemed headed in the direction of the county in which I had a farm for sale.

Sure enough, that's where those clouds swirled themselves into a funnel and turned into an F4 tornado. F4s are bad.

My farm was spared. Other "century" (100 year old or older) farmhouses and barns were not. One elderly man, worried about his herd of cows, stood in the doorway of his big, built-by-hand barn and watched as it collapsed around him. Tops were ripped out of the many large trees around his Victorian brick farm house. Forty years earlier, he'd planted each tree as a small sapling. All of it … gone in an instant.

Mennonites from Pennsylvania came and rebuilt his barn. They would comment that they'd never seen anyone control a herd of cows with a whistle.

Another family made it into their storm cellar – and for a long three minutes – the tornado passing over them sucked out every breath of air.

One young couple thought their cat was gone for good, only to find it weeks later, still huddled inside what was left of a single wall.

Most amazing, perhaps, was the young boy – 9 – home alone who remembered what the mother he'd just lost to cancer told him to do during a tornado. Putting his small dog in a carrier, he pulled all the cushions from the couch and covered himself with them when he lay down in the bathtub, far from windows that could implode and turn into hundreds of missiles of shredded glass. When his frantic father finally made it through mountains of neighborhood debris in search of his son, his house had but one room left standing: the bathroom where boy and dog were cowering.

People mourned the loss of their family photos. They wondered how they would do their taxes with all their records gone. One grandma shed tears thinking about the antique cookie cutters the tornado swept away. That year, the grandkids would not be making Christmas cookies.

Despite the loss of so many precious things, each told me the same thing: "We're alive. We're safe. We have each other."

It was all that mattered.

Carol Bogart is a freelance writer. Read her columns at Contact her at

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Life Lessons in Everyday Places

Supermarkets: A Good Place to Study People
By Carol Bogart

Being a journalist, I am, as you may know, a trained observer. Each week (or every other), my big outing, generally, is going to the grocery store. During these outings I've noticed something: who else is there shopping depends on the day of the week and time of day.

For example, I try to avoid Saturdays unless I'm in a mood to be social.

On Saturdays, harried parents with one to three kids in tow do their grocery shopping. Aisles are often crammed with carts designed to look like cars.

You will also find shoppers who don't understand supermarket etiquette, such as, no, it's not OK to park your cart squarely in the middle of the aisle while you bend over scrutinizing which of seven types of soup to buy.

This is called being an aisle hog.

Other shoppers don't like it.

The correct etiquette is, when you know you need a minute on a busy day, squeeze your cart flush to the shelving and load from the front, not the side.

This is called courtesy.

Anyway, if I'm in an all-the-time-in-the-world sort of mood, occasionally I shop on Saturdays on purpose just because I like people.

Shopping on Friday evenings is a favorite – provided I get to the store by 8:30 or 9. Not too many people shop on Friday night. You're in, you're out, you're done.

I try not to, however, shop on Fridays after 10 p.m.
Friday night, 10 p.m. or later, is when you're most likely to find unsavory characters roaming otherwise deserted aisles.

They may or may not have a cart.

And then there's the parking lot issue.

Studies show parking garages, public restrooms, elevators and parking lots are where you're most likely to encounter your local ax murderer.

One time when I was at the store I noticed a girl, maybe 7 or 8, by herself admiring the roses in the plant section next to produce. Just as I started scanning around looking for her parents, an irate dad came charging up and gave her a swat. She was startled, embarrassed and offended.

I was shocked. He'd slapped her hard on the back of her bare leg before even speaking to her.

As they turned to go, he loudly berated her for all the time he'd spent looking for her. I wondered whether he would tell her the story of Adam Walsh, son of America's Most Wanted host John Walsh. Six-year-old Adam wandered away from his mother in a Florida store. His head was found floating in a canal.

I understood the father's worry, but not how he'd expressed it. The child's body language said it would be awhile before she forgave him that public humiliation.

A recent supermarket excursion brought me in contact with a young man who, the first time I noticed him, sort of scared me. I think maybe he has Tourettes. It's not that he spews profanities. He just sort of – barks. Off and on. Once in awhile. Not on purpose.

As I parked my car that Saturday (I was feeling sociable), I heard him barking while he collected carts.

Some time back I'd concluded he was harmless so just ignored him.

As I checked out, he was bagging.

The cashier asked me if I wanted help.

Since I'd loaded up on Purina-on-sale for Pumpkin, the world's fattest cat, and my arthritis was bothering me, I said, "Sure."
The young man followed where I pointed. With nary a bark, he loaded my groceries into my trunk and told me, "Have a nice day."

I looked up to thank him, and in his eyes, saw the sort of guile-free friendliness you often find in those with Down Syndrome.

After that, whenever I saw him, I stopped and talked with him a bit. If he made involuntary sounds, I heard them as reminders to not be so judgmental.

Carol Bogart is a freelance writer. Read her columns at and her articles at Contact her at

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Night a Hooker Hijacked My Son

No, It's Not Paranoid to Lock Your Car Doors

The other night I rescued my son from a crack whore who jumped into his car at the gas station just after he paid for his gas.

He totally didn't know what to do. He was supposed to bring me back the credit card and the gas station's only five minutes away. When he'd been gone a half hour, I called him on his cell phone – and could hear what was clearly a young-ish female refusing to get out of his car and refusing to let him drop her off anywhere but some bad neighborhood where, no doubt, her pimp would have jumped in the car with a gun and robbed or killed him.

Luckily he wasn't very far away. I said, "Mike, you're in a very dangerous situation there. Just come back here."

So he told her he was going to take her to his "parents" house because they'd know what to do, and he didn't. He'd already told her his "dad" was a "cop." In fact, I am a single mom and I live alone.

I heard him ask her if she wanted him to take her to the police station. (When she'd unlocked his car door through the open window and jumped in the car, she'd been all frantic and said her boyfriend was after her and was going to hurt her. "C'mon baby," she berated my bewildered son. "We gotta go go go!"). No, she told him. She had no interest in being dropped off at the police station.

After I instructed him to come back to my place, I went outside to wait on the back steps to my apartment building, cell phone in hand. On two wheels, he came screeching into the parking lot next door. From inside his car, I could hear this hooker carrying on. I was in Mama Rambo mode. Charging across the parking lot behind my apartment building, I headed for his car. Mike leaped out, putting some distance between himself and whatever was about to happen.

As I got to within about a foot of the car, I could see that the window on her passenger side was still down. Cold and clipped, I ordered her to, "Get out of his car!" She didn't budge. "Ah'm sorry," she began, gesticulating wildly, "I took some f_ _ _ed up sh_ _ … ."

I cut her off.

"RIGHT NOW!!" I said, a threat implicit in my tone. The cell phone in my hand made it clear I could easily call 9-1-1.

The door swung open and she stepped out, in her stiletto heels, tiny tight skirt and great big hair.

She stopped, and acted lost. I pointed toward the corner. With zero sympathy, I said, "Turn right at that stop sign. Keep walking. You'll end up back at Chevron." She tottered away with one backward glance – but saw my crossed arms and kept on walking. And we didn't hear another peep – after all that noise she'd been making in the car with Mike!

Mike, meanwhile, was about as rattled as I've ever seen him. He told me, "Good job, mom. You were scary!" "Car doors," I said. "Lock them. Always."

Carol Bogart is a freelance writer. Read her columns at and her articles at Contact her at

Thursday, June 7, 2007

When Ronald Reagan Died, I Cried

He Once Took Pity on a Rooky Reporter
By Carol Bogart

Turns out former President Ronald Reagan kept a diary throughout his two terms in office, a daily diary that notated his thoughts on everything from world leaders to his occasional belief that we tottered on the brink of Armageddon. Excerpts are now published in Vanity Fair magazine.

Even had I not had a personal encounter with then-presidential candidate Reagan in the late '70s, I would have felt an affinity for the man who would later openly announce he suffered from Alzheimer's – just about the time I was losing my dad to the mind-robbing disease.

My experience with Reagan began when the assignment desk at the TV station I worked for in Atlanta sent me to cover his scheduled news conference at Peachtree Plaza. Our assignment editors tended to be Johnny-Come-Latelies – and the joke at our station was, "If it's news today, it's news to us."

This track record held true when I entered the ballroom in which Reagan had been scheduled to speak, only to learn the news conference had ended 10 minutes earlier. Radioing the desk, I said simply, "We missed it."

The assignment editor – probably fearing for his job – informed me that if I didn't interview Ronald Reagan, my employment would be terminated. I'd been a TV news reporter for exactly 15 months – 13 of them sentenced to Scranton, Pennsylvania. Now there's nothing wrong with Scranton. It sits within easy driving distance of the Big Apple and the lovely Pocono Mountains. However, back then (and perhaps now), this old coal mining town rolled up its sidewalks at 10 p.m. Not many fun things to do for a fun loving anchorette just out of college.

So, I was pretty darned excited when I landed a job in the "New York of the South." Atlanta was oh-so-cosmopolitan. So what if every damn street was named Peachtree this and Peachtree that and I spent my first months there in utter confusion – particularly since the native tongue sounded nothing like the English I'd grown up with in Ohio. It took awhile for me to understand that PO-leese meant police, and that Pontsduleeun was Atlanta-speak for Ponce de Leon – a major thoroughfare nicknamed "PDL" (which is easier to say than Pontsduleeun).

I'd had that Atlanta dream job for all of two months when the assignment editor threatened my livelihood should I fail to land the Reagan interview.

What to do.

Desperate, I approached the clerk at the front desk and asked him for the phone number in Reagan's room. Going to a house phone by the elevators, filled with trepidation, I dialed it.

Mr. Reagan answered on the second ring, sounding rushed and impatient. I explained who I was, and just told him the truth. I was a new reporter, we'd arrived late for his news conference and, swallowing tears, I said, "If I don't interview you, I'll lose my job."

He told me he was about to leave for Hartsfield Airport, headed to another campaign stop, but that if I promised I wouldn't take more than 5 minutes, he would come down.

I promised; he did; I turned in the taped interview – and not only did I not lose my job, the following year other stories I'd done were awarded double Emmys.

Throughout the years of Ronald Reagan's presidency, all politics aside, I always remembered his act of kindness toward a scared, green kid – when he needed to catch a plane.

Carol Bogart is a freelance writer. Read her articles at and her columns at

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Off-Roading in the Rockies

"Take a mental picture - you'll never see this again"
By Carol Bogart

Some years back when I won the inheritance lottery, I promptly invested in a Range Rover. It was a great deal. The Denver dealership was selling 10 "at cost." As the Colorado dealership supplying Aspen movie stars, it had won top sales honors nationwide. The $29,000 Rovers were the prize.

Soon after, the new owners were offered an opportunity to go offroading – a smart move on the dealership's part, designed to hook the owners on Range Rovers for life. It involved a caravan of 8-10 new Rover owners offroading to the top of a 14-footer - no roads, just trails through the forest, driving up over boulders, fording a creek, crossing fallen trees. It was remarkable what that car could do.

They lined us up with me and the two 4-year-olds sandwiched between all the other SUVs - with a grandfather and his 6-year-old directly behind us. The rest of the drivers seemed to be guys in their 30s.

As we neared the peak, all the forest fell away - and we were high enough to look out across snow-covered peaks that were down below us. By that time, I was just about paralyzed with terror. I told the two boys: Take a mental picture, because you will never see this again.

Even skiing, I'd never been up that high.

They'd outfitted everyone with walkie talkies so as to "talk us down" the steep, rock-strewn backside of the peak. When it was my turn, the guy downslope said, "Are you ready?" Strangled with fear, I gurgled, "No." Meantime, all these other SUVs were backed up behind me.

He said, "There's no other way down. You have to do it."

As I remember I put it in first, as instructed, and started down, and it felt as though that rover was vertical. I stopped breathing and edged my way past and around the rocks as he told me, "A little bit to your left. Now cut it right!" and so on. The angle was such that I couldn't see what was in front of me at all.

Meantime, in the back seat, Nicky - Mike's best friend - moaned, "I want my mom." Mike, also 4, whispered, "I want my mom, and she's RIGHT HERE!" Then we all stopped breathing again for a few minutes. Pretty soon, though, Nicky burst out, "I'm scared as a pig." Big pause. "I'm scared as a living hell." If I hadn't been busy having an aneurism, I'd've had to laugh.

Finally the trail leveled out a little and eventually we got to a narrow hardpack dirt road that wound around the mountain, headed down. It was so narrow that you had to drive with your passenger side wheels up the slope a little, with the car tilted to the left. The view from my window was open air, out over an abyss. No guardrails of course. We were petrified.

About halfway down there was a clearing where we stopped and had our box lunches.

The grandfather came up to my window and said, "Have you ever done anything like this before?" Still in semi-shock, I shook my head no. "Ever plan to do anything like this again?" he asked.

I looked at him like he'd lost his mind.

Carol Bogart is a columnist at Contact her at

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

When Mom is Also Dad

At our house, Father's Day is bittersweet. Since my father passed away, my son and I no longer have a beloved patriarch for whom to buy a heartfelt (or funny) card. I have been a single mom for as long as my son can remember.

When Mike was tiny, I enrolled him in Montessori. That first June, after my work day as an anchor/reporter at a Denver television station, I arrived to pick him up from school. Mike, not-quite-3, was not his usual bubbly self.

Buckling him into his car seat, I gently cupped his chin and lifted his downcast face. "Michael, honey," I asked, "what's wrong?"

Small voice quavering, Mike told me that all the other kids were making Father's Day projects. Since he didn't have a dad, he said he didn't know what to do.

The next morning, I took him to school about 10 minutes early. Once he was engrossed in the "Continents, continents, do you know your continents?" puzzle, I spoke quietly to his teacher.

"Miss Liz," I said, "Mike's never known his dad. And when the other children are doing their Father's Day present, he feels confused and sad. I was wondering if there might be some way to help him feel less left out."

Miss Liz was a very kind woman who truly adored Mike. She knew his story: His dad had relinquished all rights to Mike when Mike was a year old.

A year or so before becoming pregnant with my one and only child, at age 35 I'd had a fertility work up. The specialist told me it was not likely I would ever have children without exhaustive treatment and intervention and maybe not then. Mike's conception was a happy miracle to me.

Arriving to collect him from preschool the afternoon after I'd spoken to Miss Liz, my little boy bounced into the car beaming. "You look happy," I said. "What's going on?"

"Can't tell," he said slyly. "It's a secret."

Making his breakfast that Sunday, I looked up from scrambling an egg to find his small self standing in the doorway to the kitchen, hands hidden behind his back. Shyly, but with a radiant smile, Mike produced an object clumsily wrapped in construction paper and said, "Happy Father's Day, Mommy."

From then on, each year it was sort of our own little tradition, but when he left for college, I wasn't sure whether he'd remember. His freshman year, the Saturday before Father's Day I checked the mail. No card. "Well," I thought, trying not to be disappointed, "that's OK. He's just distracted with all the new things he has going on right now."

The next morning I was in that fuzzy state just before waking when the phone rang. "Hello?" I mumbled. Without preamble, an equally sleepy 19-year-old voice said, "Happy Father's Day."

I once read something about mothers (and it applies to fathers, too) that touched me. The author, anonymous, wrote it as a letter to mothers from God. When I clipped it, Mike was about 4. With money inherited from my parents, I had stepped away from my TV news career to be a stay-at-home mom.

"You are a mother because that is what I have called you to be. Much of what you do is hidden from the public eye. But I notice.

"Your influence upon him is greater than you think and more powerful than you will ever know. I bless him through your service and honor him through your love. Your child is even more precious to Me that he is to you. I have entrusted him to your care to raise him for Me. What you invest in him is an offering to Me.

"You may never be in the public spotlight, but your obedience shines as a bright light before Me.

"Continue on."

Happy Father's Day to all you dads and grampas – and to all you single moms.

Carol Bogart is a freelance writer. Read her columns at Contact her at

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Running With the Wind in that Pasture in the Sky

By Carol Bogart

I spent most of my life believing my 4-H horse, Ringo, ended up at a glue factory and my parents lied to me about it.

We didn't have running water in the barn and after I left for college, taking care of him was a pretty big chore.

One of dad's partners had a farm outside another rural community near ours. He said he'd pasture Ringo so he could graze. (My horse was broken winded and couldn't eat dusty hay.) The man had a 10-year-old daughter who fell in love with Ringo. One morning, a big wind storm kicked up and knocked down a fence in the pasture.

Ringo and a mare took off cantering up the middle of State Route 224 – a 4-lane, very busy truck route.

A semi came up over the hill and hit them both. The mare was killed outright. Dad went, and said Ringo's guts were hanging out and dad thought he couldn't possibly survive.

The vet came though, and patched him up, and that girl spent every night in his stall. Applying ointment. Making him get up on his feet.

In about mid-August, Dad called and said she'd asked him if she could buy Ringo. She'd saved up all her babysitting money, and instead of buying clothes for school, she wanted to buy my horse.

I told him to tell her to buy her school clothes, and that Ringo and his tack were hers.

About a year later, her dad got out of farming. My folks said that a "family with three girls" had come and gotten Ringo. But when I wanted to go see him to say goodbye, they wouldn't take me. Dad felt bad for the man's daughter, and he thought that, before he got rid of Ringo, he should have called us to see if we wanted to take him back.

I never believed it, though. I knew he was broken winded. That about all he was good for was petting. I was sure the man had sold him to the glue factory.

In 2001, when, as it happened, I was working for the paper that community, I wrote a column about it. The day it was in the paper, I heard from the vet who'd patched Ringo up. He said he still vividly remembered the scene on 224 when he first arrived, and how terrible it was.

Then, I got an email. From one of three sisters who had rescued a big bay horse from a pen full of pigs. Muddy. Covered with burrs. She wondered if I had a photo of Ringo.

I found one of me riding him when I was 16 and sent it to her. She emailed me back a photo of her kissing the soft oatsy-smelling nose I knew so well.

She said he lived for another 13 years, and even though he died in winter when the Ohio ground was frozen solid, her dad got out the backhoe and dug a grave. Now, that resting place is marked with a woodburned 'Ringo' sign – the one that always hung above his stall at the county fair. I'd kept it for more than 30 years.

Maybe the original girl who'd saved up all her babysitting money to try to buy a big bay horse read the follow up column I wrote, and knows that the horse we loved was adored 'til the day he died.

Carol Bogart is a freelance writer. Contact her at

Monday, May 21, 2007

If Dogs Have a Heaven

Don't Believe Everything You Read About Rottweilers
By Carol Bogart

"Bo's here! Bo's here!" As the announcement came over the PA system at Fairview Health Systems in Cleveland, people in white coats swarmed the lobby, each hoping for just a minute with big Bo. Bo, a Rottweiler who made weekly rounds, was a canine success story in more ways that one.

He'd been a breeder dog for his first year and a half of life. When I got him, it was clear the puppy mill must have mistreated him terribly to try to break him of his gentle spirit (not a quality in high demand from those who wanted Rottweilers as, say, guard dogs for their drug stash). In the beginning, if I reached out to pet him, he flinched. If someone he didn't know entered the room, he cowered behind a bed.

It was so sad.

Housebreaking him went more slowly than usual because I never raised my voice to him, just hustled him outside if I caught him in time. I knew if there was any chance of re-establishing his trust in people, I had to be consistently patient and kind.

Over time, he became a dog that loved attention, and dedicated every waking moment to pleasing me. When Bo was 3, Fairview started its pet therapy program. Dogs had to be certified by the Delta Society, and of more than 200 that "auditioned" – just 20 made the cut. Dogs, they said, "with halos."

The audition was scary for Bo. He had to accept being left alone in a gymnasium full of strange people and dogs while I went out in the hall, out of his sight, for three minutes. Before I left, I turned to him and said, "Bo, sit." He sat. And, "Bo, stay." His eyes looked worried and unhappy, but he never moved an inch.

They signed him up, gave him a silly pink T-shirt to wear, and he began to make his "rounds" – laying his big block head in the laps of children who'd just had their tonsils out, bringing a measure of comfort to an elderly woman whose husband was having heart bypass surgery, and even becoming a turning point for a 19-year-old schizophrenic in the psych unit who never reacted to anything – until Bo sat on his foot and leaned against his knee week after week.

Although the youth didn't acknowledge him and, in the beginning, would turn and walk away, each time, I would say, "You can pet him. He'd like that."When we'd been dropping by weekly for about three months, there came a day that the young man briefly, without directly looking at Bo, reached out and touched him once on the top of his head. I knew it was a break through. I said, "It's nice that you're so gentle with Bo. Bo's had a very bad time of it and when he was a young dog, people hurt him very much. So it's nice of you to be so kind to him. He's easily frightened."

The following week, the young man's hand rested on Bo's head, and he stood looking at him – for just a moment. Again I told him how much it meant to Bo that he was so kind. The next time we went, he knelt down and looked Bo right in his eyes and said, "You're a good dog, Bo." Then, he immediately got up and hurried away. I was worried. I thought maybe it was too much intimacy too soon. I had never pushed when he'd failed to engage in the beginning. As I'd done with Bo, I had tried to gauge when he might be ready for more interaction by the cues he gave.

Just as I was about to ask one of the attendants to check on him, the young man came rushing back. In his hand was his drawing from that morning's art therapy session. Again, he knelt down in front of Bo … and showed it to him. I remember it was a picture of a locomotive.I said nothing else. I knew this relationship was between the young man and Bo.

When we returned the following week, we learned the young man was so much better, he'd gone home. I always took Bo a little early each week because the staff loved him so. Once, one of the other human pet partners (a little jealous of Bo's popularity, I think), said, "These dogs are here to help the patients." I said, "Don't you think it helps the patients if the staff is a little less stressed?"

Bo loved everybody. Shared his big, big heart with each and every one who needed a little lift. And enriched my life in ways impossible to measure.Big gentle Bo. A dog with a halo.

Carol Bogart is a freelance writer. Read her columns at Contact her at

Friday, May 18, 2007

Homework Help for the ADHD Child

By Carol Bogart
Tags: disability education health parenting

Mike was excited when he started first grade, but sometimes he came home looking sad. His brain was not the same as other children's. He has ADHD -- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

Since his disability doesn't show and its symptoms are annoying, he got in lots of trouble. If he wasn't paying attention when the teacher gave out homework, he didn't have any to turn in. Sometimes he blurted things out in class. Fidgety, he resharpened his pencils again and again.

As his mom, I tried to be patient, but it was hard when Mike didn't listen, especially since I have ADHD, too. Science has found the genetic marker for the disorder. A PET scan can watch a brain as it "works." The ADHD brain is clearly "different."

Mike was diagnosed when he was 4. I tried to keep in mind what his doctor told me about making sure he was looking at me when I told him something, and about not telling him too many things at once. But finally, after years of disappointing parent-teacher conferences, I was frustrated -- tired of seeing my bright boy get bad grades because he didn't do his work.

In the 10th grade, he had a big math project to do. I went to Wal-Mart and bought every supply I thought he could possibly need and laid them out on the table. He stalled. Things were the wrong color or the wrong size or ... . The excuses kept on coming.

Finally, I blew up.

"Mike!" I said. "Just get started!!"

He'd never had an assignment like this one before. He was supposed to make a design -- maybe a star -- for his geometry class using string and tacks, and then write down the angles. He didn't want me (or his teacher) to be mad, but he didn't know what to do. Everybody said, "Get started," but how?

Mike hesitated, then, hoping maybe I would understand, softly asked, "What does 'get started' mean?" The anger drained out of me. Tears filled my eyes. I thought of all the times he'd had been yelled at -- at school, at home. I sat down beside him. "Cut your poster board to fit the cork board," I told him kindly. "Then glue it on. Decide where you want to put the points of your star and tap in the nails."

Pretty soon, the project was well underway. Colored string was being woven around the nails, and a star was taking shape against a black construction paper background.

With the ADHD child, or any child who struggles, what I learned was: Take the time to show them a place to "get started" that isn't brand new and scary. Start with something they've done before that guarantees success. It will give them the confidence to tackle something new. And always -- smile at them for trying.

Carol Bogart is a freelance writer. Contact her at