Tag Archives: children

Transitorily Yours

June 15, 2017 by
Photography by Amy Lynn Straub

As a millennial in the midst of fatherhood, there’s a range of interesting observations and surprising lessons I’ve taken in along the way.

I somehow evaded having a child throughout most of my adult life. As it turns out, I was terrified at the thought of being a progenitor. But now that I’m in the process of fatherhood with my 17-month-old, I’m here to say—it’s not that bad. In fact, the first lesson I learned came when I realized that fathering is actually quite a bit more enjoyable and easygoing than I thought it would be.

The second is that while the breast-feeding, co-sleeping, and full-time co-parenting strategy has observationally been of great benefit to our child, I’m convinced that my baby already came into this world packaged with her sassy wit, charming curiosity, and giggle-box antics. Knowing that makes my job simple: Love her, keep all her limbs intact, and equip her to be the person she’s predestined to be.

Thirdly, it’s pretty f@#%ing weird when a complete stranger tells you they want to eat your child. It happens a lot.

You’re walking through the grocery store, an old lady passes by and starts to geek out on your kid (normal). But then you’ll hear a line like, “She’s so absolutely adorable I could just eat her!”

What?

Truthfully, I’ve had the same thought thousands of times. Every day. I look at my daughter and I get this emotional reaction that I just can’t seem to process, so an urge comes about where I just want to dive into her sweet little rosy cheeks or nuzzle and gobble on the neck rolls. And because we relate to such statements, we just accept them as culturally permissible forms of endearment.

But if you think about it from another angle, it actually sounds like we’re sugar-coating the urge of cannibalism. Like, you really want to tear chunks of a child’s face off with your teeth?

No, of course you don’t. So how did our culture land on this odd expression?

Well it turns out there’s such a thing as “cute aggression.” It comes down to a fundamental biological feature of our humanity: Sometimes our brain can’t seem to process an overabundance of an emotional reaction, and so we balance ourselves out with a negative expression.

Have you ever responded to something insanely cute or arousing with a “grrr” sound? Had the urge to squeeze something? Tears of joy?

That’s all cute aggression. Yale graduates Rebecca Dyer and Oriana Aragon came up with the term via their research. They observed hundreds of people and recorded their emotional responses upon looking at pictures of cute babies. What they found is that while folks would express a desire to care for and protect a child, they’d also mention that they’d like to eat them up as well. The more a person elicited this aforementioned type of aggression, the quicker they were able to come back to a normal state of emotion.

The researchers surmised that from an evolutionary standpoint, our body yearns for emotional homeostasis. If we expend too much energy on emotional highs and lows, it’s taking away from our ability to get other tasks accomplished (like staying alive).

Dyer and Aragon pointed to instances in other cultures of this type of expression, such as with the Phillippines’ Tagalog people, who use the word “gigil” to mean “gritting of teeth and the urge to pinch or squeeze.” Or for folks that use the Farsi language, it’s common to compliment a baby by saying that you want to “eat their liver.”

These are also called “dimorphous expressions,” which occur when two juxtaposed responses come from the same situation. This means that negative emotions also can be met with seemingly opposite reactions, such as laughter. We see this in our culture with nervous laughter, or hysterical laughter that comes with a particularly desperate moment of sadness.

There’s a bunch of research that talks about how our brain’s release of dopamine is cross-wired with our pleasure and aggression centers, but I’ll let you Google search all this if you wanna get in deeper.

The important and odd thing to note is that from how we experience food, sex, and celebratory moments, cute aggression or dimorphous expressions are incredibly revealing of how humans express ourselves in a wide range of circumstances.

With that in mind, when a stranger at the grocery store is having a pleasure/aggression brain meltdown at the sight of your child, just know that it’s not about cannibalism. They’re just working through something so that they can get back to picking out some celery sticks.

This column appears in the July/August 2017 edition of Encounter.

To share your life perspectives—or whatever—with Brent Crampton and Encounter, email millennials@omahapublications.com.

 

Standing Bear Pointe

February 5, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Sprawling and quiet in northwestern Omaha, Standing Bear Pointe is tucked a stone’s throw away from the intersection of 144th and Fort streets. Commuters undoubtedly pass by the neighborhood each day, likely giving little thought to the homes, the people, and the stories that live just beyond the stately stone entrance and large trees that open Standing Bear Pointe to the outside world.

It’s possible that many find their way to Standing Bear Pointe quite literally by accident, looking instead for the neighboring Saddlebrook or Hillsborough neighborhoods. That’s exactly how Shelley Callahan found her future home, nestled in a neighborhood that, some 10 years later, she says she and her husband could reside in forever.

“Even if we won the lottery, we probably wouldn’t leave the neighborhood,” she says.

As an image consultant, Callahan had traveled all around Omaha meeting with clients. A wrong turn one day brought her unexpectedly to Standing Bear Pointe. At the time, she and her husband, Ty, had been shopping for a new home; but even after a two-year search, nothing had felt quite right.
Until Standing Bear Pointe.

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“I was drawn in by the size,” she recalls. “They were all custom-built homes, but with a uniqueness.”

The neighborhood’s approximately 125 completed homes (and its more than 480 residents) have easy access to the Standing Bear Lake Recreation Area: the water, the green space, the mature trees, and all that Mother Nature and her four seasons could offer within the boundaries of a suburban setting.

The couple returned to the neighborhood soon after their first visit, spending a mere 15 minutes walking through one of the homes for sale. It didn’t take long for them to decide that it would be the home where they would raise their future children.

“It was this feeling!” she says excitedly of their home. Something about the house itself and the nearby residences were all the confirmation they needed to stay for good.

In the 10 years since, the Callahans have welcomed two young sons—Montgomery and Marshall—and a 10-year-old fox terrier named Sam. But more than that, the family has developed deep connections with their fellow Standing Bear Pointe neighbors. Many of the residents moved into the neighborhood, raised their children, retired—and never left.

She cites the mixing of generations that has created such a strong sense of community among her neighbors. Unlike the stereotype of today’s subdivisions, where residents pull into their garages each night without paying much mind to their neighbors, Standing Bear Pointe, Callahan says, feels a lot like family.

The older families have bonded over the years, rearing children, retiring, and welcoming grandchildren—even great-grandchildren. The younger families also raise children together, often developing relationships through carpooling to school, walking the streets on Halloween, and visiting each other’s homes throughout the week simply to say hello. They have bonded during the annual block party and neighborhood garage sale, the impromptu backyard picnics that occur with little planning yet leave behind deepened friendships and fond memories.

“It takes time to develop that kind of neighborhood,” she says. “There is a culture of Standing Bear Pointe. It’s safe with a small-town feel.”

And while Callahan and her neighbors are a mere two minutes away from a Baker’s Grocery Store, Target, and the other modern conveniences that come with living in an urban environment, they find themselves routinely visited by wild turkeys, foxes, and even deer.

“Seeing the animals never gets old,” she says with a grin.

Homes in Standing Bear Pointe often sell fast, Callahan says. (Omaha annexed the area in 2015.)

New neighbors are routinely welcomed and join the family this community has created. Callahan points to a young man, a bachelor, who used to lived next door. He and the Callahans quickly became friends with a story to share: Shelley and Ty introduced their neighbor to his future wife. The couple eventually married.

“We truly feel blessed to have found this neighborhood,” she says.”

Visit standingbearpointe.org for more information.

standingbear3The Ponca Chief and the Area’s Name

Standing Bear Pointe and neighboring Standing Bear Lake are named for the Ponca leader Chief Standing Bear.

In Omaha in 1879, Standing Bear successfully argued that Native Americans are “persons within the meaning of the law.” The court decision came after Standing Bear and followers escaped from forced relocation to Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma).

Standing Bear had sought to bury his late 16-year-old son on their ancestral land, near Ponca Creek and the Niobrara River. The federal government’s removal of the Ponca (also known as “The Ponca Trail of Tears”) took place in 1877.

The 1879 case, Standing Bear v. Crook, lasted just 12 days. Judge Elmer S. Dundy in the U.S. District Court in Omaha ruled that Standing Bear and other Native people were lawfully allowed to enjoy the rights of other Americans. OmahaHome

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Hungry for Answers

October 12, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

How will the relocation of ConAgra Foods’ headquarters affect local philanthropy?

Short answer: No one knows for sure. What is certain is that ConAgra Foods will continue its charity work in the Omaha area, and it will persist in fighting hunger (the company’s signature philanthropic cause).

The relocation of the headquarters of the Fortune 500 company—founded in 1919 as Nebraska Consolidated Mills—is well known. But Chris Kircher, vice president of corporate affairs and president of the ConAgra Foods Foundation, says many people have got it wrong about how many jobs will be lost.

“ConAgra will retain a large presence in Nebraska,” says Kircher. “Only 300 jobs are moving to Chicago. Our presence in this area is about 2,100, still three times the size of the Chicago operation.”

With 1,200 employees on its riverfront campus, Omaha remains ConAgra’s largest office location. This is good news for the nonprofit groups that count on ConAgra employees for their history of generous volunteer assistance.

ConAgra1ConAgra’s downsizing is occurring at an increasingly competitive time for the food industry. More competition and lower revenue streams have driven change within the company. The corporate transformation has real implications for ConAgra’s philanthropic footprint.

“We are in the process of divesting and spinning off businesses. We announced (it) early on as part of the transformation efforts selling our private brand label,” says Kircher.

“When you are a smaller company, that’s going to affect every functional area, including the foundation.”

Annual giving has been in the area of $10 million, he notes. A good portion of that is local. Add to that in-kind donations.

“The question is ‘will that $10 million still be available?’” says Kircher. “It’s safe to assume we’ll continue to be engaged in hunger locally and continue to support the Food Bank for the Heartland in a big way.”

People also misconceive how active ConAgra has been in Chicago for some time. “About three-fourths of our retail food business has been headquartered in Chicago before we announced these changes. Only one-fourth of the retail food business was in Omaha.

“Management is moving that quarter of the retail food business up to the three-fourths of business that was based in Chicago already. After we get done with investiture and spin-off, that will be our biggest business. A lot of functional areas will still be in Omaha.”

ConAgra is not suddenly leaving their partner nonprofit organizations without support. Many local groups received what Kircher calls “an exit grant.”

“We have explained we aren’t going to have the same kinds of resources as in the past.”

But if the cause has to do with hunger—especially child hunger—ConAgra will look for a way to help.

“We will continue to support the Food Bank for the Heartland and hunger-focused initiatives,” says Kircher. “It reflects one of the primary philanthropic avenues we’ve had a long time and will continue to have.”

Visit conagrafoods.com/our-commitment for more information. B2B

Marisa Miakonda Cummings

August 26, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

I would like to begin by introducing myself. My English name is Marisa Cummings. My Omaha or Umoⁿhoⁿ name is Miakonda or Moon Power. I was given my Buffalo Tail Clan name by my great-grandmother, Edith Walker Springer. My father is the late Michael Cummings, or Stampeding Buffalo. My father’s mother is Eunice Walker Mohn, or Buffalo Tail Clan Woman. My grandmother’s parents are the late Charles Amos Walker, or White Chest, and the late Ida Springer Walker, or New Moon. I am an Omaha woman. I am a Buffalo Tail Clan woman of the Sky people. I am the oldest child of eight children. I am the mother of four children.

As I wrote the paragraph to introduce myself, I was mentally translating from Umoⁿhoⁿ to English. The Umoⁿhoⁿ language is a beautiful conduit of culture. Self introductions are very important in our community. One must know who they are to know where they are going in this life. Language allows us to express ourselves to one another as human beings, to talk to the Creator, and express ourselves through song and ceremony. As language is a conduit for expressing thoughts and feelings, and relaying cultural knowledge, it is essential that our Umoⁿhoⁿ language is revered and preserved for our future generations. We must preserve our language to talk to our Creator through our ceremonies as we were instructed to do in our language.

Marisa3My grandmother grew up hearing Umoⁿhoⁿ spoken as the primary language at home; it was her first language. She has told me about her parents waking well before sunrise and praying in Umoⁿhoⁿ in the kitchen. Her father, Charles Walker or Mongaska, was taken to Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Carlisle was a military-style school founded in 1879 by Capt. Richard Pratt under the authority of the U.S. government with the founding principle that Native Americans were a vanishing race and their only hope for survival was assimilation to white mainstream culture. The first thing done was to cut off the children’s sacred hair. The second step was to make them stop speaking their traditional language and converse in English. My great-grandfather came back to the reservation after his stay at Carlisle and remained fluent in both Umoⁿhoⁿ and English. He served on our tribal council for over 25 years. My grandmother’s mother, Ida or Metexi, was sent to Genoa Indian Industrial School in Genoa, Nebraska. She also returned to the reservation and spoke fluent Umoⁿhoⁿ. Both of my great-grandparents survived assimilation and Indian boarding schools and retained their Umoⁿhoⁿ language in daily practice in and outside of their home.

Tragedy struck when my grandmother was 10 years old. Her mother passed away and left eight orphaned children. Her father decided to send her, at age 14, to Haskell Indian School in Lawrence, Kansas. There was no more playing in the timber, no more collecting wild plums and gooseberries. She was alone. She said that she often wondered what she did wrong. Was her father angry with her? Why would he send her away? My grandmother graduated from Haskell and moved to Sioux City, Iowa, with the courage to start a life for herself.

My father was born in 1955. He was considered a “half-breed,” as his father was a white man. However, his grandfather, Charlie Walker, took pity on him and gave him the Umoⁿhoⁿ Buffalo Tail Clan name Te-Nuga-Na-Tide. My father was an incredible man. He received his master’s degree from Iowa State University and went to work for the corporate world. He always instilled in me the power of education and the importance of coming back to help the people with the education I received. I was raised to be of service and make a difference. My father also raised me like a first-born son. He made me tough, taught me to always speak up and use my voice, to be courageous and strategic. He told me that women have a strong place in leadership and that Native women will be at the front of the movement to bring back language and culture. He was very proud when I graduated with a degree from the University of Iowa.

Marisa1As a young woman, I was always interested in our language. I would ask my grandma and great-grandma to tell me stories. I would sit at their feet or at the kitchen table in my grandma’s trailer while I asked one question after another. I think she got tired of me at times. I still am always asking questions of my grandmother. How do I say this? Do you remember this? She is the matriarch of our family. I am blessed that my children can be close to her and experience her unconditional love and knowledge.

In 1978, the Indian Religious Freedoms Act was passed. Our ceremonies, songs, and dances were no longer illegal. We could legally pray in the manner the Creator intended for us to pray. Yet, so many of the songs, ceremonies, and teachings were no longer practiced. In my life journey, I have rediscovered my love of ceremony. I enjoy collecting and preparing medicine. I love that I have the ability to be a lifelong learner of culture and ceremony, but in order to make that true connection, I must relearn a language that is rooted in my DNA. I believe that we can relearn our sense of true self and heal both individually and collectively.

My children have been born in a generation where our ceremonies are being revived and practiced. My children have been exposed to ceremonies, songs, dance, and love of our way of life. As I embrace our ceremonies and language, I know that I am also healing those who went before me. As I heal, I give reverence to ancestors whose hearts broke when they saw English replace Umoⁿhoⁿ in their homes, those who watched alcohol replace ceremony, and those who witnessed government commodities replace our sacred foods. As we revive our sacred way of life, we renew and honor all of those who went before us.

Visit omaha-nsn.gov for more information. Omaha Magazine

Keeping Clean, Fighting Cancer

September 22, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Fighting cancer is tough enough on its own. Add to that the rigors of daily life and the experience can be beyond overwhelming.

Imagine having cancer while needing to clean up after youngsters.

“I was 34 years old with two small children, ages 2 and 5, when I was first diagnosed,” says Amber Blohm. “I needed to concentrate on keeping myself healthy and spending as much time with my children as possible.”

She had neither the time nor the energy for cleaning, but she also did not have money to pay a professional service.

Blohm happened upon an ad in which a cleaning company offered free cleaning services to women with cancer. In short order, the staff of Pink Shoe Cleaning Crew became her new best friends. “They really were a tremendous help through our family’s most challenging months,” she says.

Started in 2010, Pink Shoe Cleaning Crew is a small residential and commercial cleaning business. Last year, the company partnered with the nationally recognized nonprofit Cleaning for a Reason, an organization partnering with maid services across the United States and Canada to offer free, professional house cleanings to improve the lives of women undergoing treatment for all types of cancers.

Women can connect with Cleaning for a Reason easily through the company’s website or their doctor’s office. A woman needing services will be matched with a local cleaning company, such as Pink Shoe, who will then reach out to the requestor.

Allison Helligso, owner of Pink Shoe Cleaning Crew, says her experience with the national organization has been rewarding and deeply emotional.

Her company offers four monthly cleanings through the partnership. “These are women who were busy living their normal lives when they were hit with an illness that robbed their health, energy, and time from them,” she says. “While we can’t make them feel any better, we can, in a small way, help them through their journey by helping them make their home the clean and healthy place it needs to be.

“These women have so much gratitude and appreciation for the service we provide that it feels humbling and is such a pleasure to be able to help them in this way,” Helligso explains.

PinkShoe

Lord Acton Said it Best

August 14, 2015 by

This article appears in July/August 2015 60-Plus.

I’ve never owned a video camera of any kind. Okay, so I’ve just been reminded that my cell phone gizmo has such a device, but having never used it I still qualify as a video virgin.

Sony introduced the first consumer camcorder in 1983, the year my youngest child was born. This made our family a prime target for being an early adapter in what became something of a video mania. Almost overnight a populist paparazzi were born where every dad (Why was it always the dads?) at every kindergarten holiday program was armed with a cinder-block-sized camera that instantly made him some kind of Fellini wanna-be.

I refused to join the Betamax Age because my makeup is one where I want to remember things the way I want to remember things—not necessarily how they actually happened.

Ample video of my kids’ childhood years exists from the cameras of extended family members, and a couple of clan get-togethers have been marred when some idiot got the bright idea that we should all watch old videos together. I’m sure any good shrink would have a field day getting inside my head, but the experience of viewing those picnics and parties and plays unfold on screen was…well, “disturbing” is not at all too powerful a word.

It’s not that I am a dispassionate stoic. For whatever weird reason, being confronted with a filmed retelling of events rearranges my mental furniture in an unsettling, almost visceral way.

That tyranny of memory has only grown over the years, and we’ve all witnessed the rise of the camera-obsessed malady I’ll call the Fear of Missing Out Syndrome. In a sickness typified by living vicariously through a viewfinder, it’s as if film, and only film, is capable of proving, even to ourselves, the existential reality of a person, place, or thing.

“I saw Pope Francis!” “I saw President Obama!” “I saw Garth Brooks!” people exclaim.

No, you didn’t. You saw only mere pixels while struggling to center a celebrity’s image on your camera. You had exactly the same experience I had when I saw almost identical footage on CNN or the local news, except that my experience was better in that it was rendered by seasoned videographers on professional equipment. You were there, but you weren’t there.

Just check out the June 15 Sports Illustrated cover online. Get my point?

Our society has become one of dim imaginations reflected in the even dimmer glows of electronic gadgets.

As some dude named Lord Acton once claimed, “History is not a burden on the memory, but an illumination of the soul.” I kinda dig that Lord Acton guy, even if his name sounds like a super-classy moniker for a faux-British-bad-guy rassler on WWE.

At least according to his lordship, I don’t have an almost pathological relationship with memory. I have an illuminated soul.

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J.E. George Boulevard

July 3, 2015 by

This article appears in July/August 2015 Omaha Home.

If you’re looking to experience a small-town parade in the middle of Omaha, look no further. This summer marks the 65th annual J.E. George Boulevard Fourth of July Parade. The parade was founded in 1950 by residents Bob and Lu Adwers.

Children don festive costumes in the Americana theme, dress up their dogs, and grab wagons, tricycles, and other forms of transportation for a joyous display of patriotic pride.

Breakfast

J.E. George Boulevard is a stately, tree-lined thoroughfare just north of Memorial Park. It gets its namesake from early Omaha real estate developer John Edward George. According to the Douglas County Historical Society, he was a member of the city planning commission who played a big role in the St. Mary’s Avenue grading project.

League of Women Voters of Greater Omaha President Peggy Adair participated in the parade for her first time last year. “I’m from west Omaha and I love this. It’s like old home. It just makes you smile to be here,” she says.

CapitolCostume

Many local politicians also join in the fun by marching in the parade wearing brightly colored campaign slogan tees and passing out stickers.

Each year there is a grand marshal and special guests invited. Past grand marshals have included longtime J.E. George Boulevard resident Barbara Raffensperger and Godfather’s Pizza founder Willy Thiesen. Past special guests included TV personalities Bill Randby and Gary Kerr, and radio personality Tom Becka. The J.E. George Navy Band has also been a popular attraction of the parade since the 1980s.

Each year Sandy Wray of Elkhorn attends the parade with her sister, Terry Price. Price is a J.E. George Boulevard resident who is active in the community and serves as the Neighborhood Watch point person. “I think it’s just great that we honor our country,” Wray says.

BandMolacek

“It’s a good way, I think, for the kids to learn some traditions about our country and keep that alive instead of thinking it’s just a way for them to party.”

The parade begins to assemble at 9:30 a.m. at the corner of J.E. George Boulevard and Western Avenue. The parade begins at 10 a.m. and moves south down J.E. George Boulevard, ending with a celebration at Memorial Park. Prizes are awarded at the baseball diamond for best costumes and floats.

Joe Pepitone of Bloom Companion Care has been emceeing the parade for more than five years. “All of the kids have a great time. It’s really important that they get a chance to showcase their hard work, putting together their floats and their costumes, and get a prize,” Pepitone says.

“It’s really all about the kids,” he reflects.

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Through A Glass Brightly

June 24, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

This article was published in the May/June 2015 edition of Omaha Magazine.

Halfway through our interview, Therman Statom apologizes. He didn’t anticipate our conversation
lasting so long, and he has an appointment at Children’s Hospital he doesn’t want to break.
The internationally renowned glass artist has been working on large-scale cloud pieces for a new
pediatric wing, and although he’s technically completed them, an 8-year-old girl is contributing the finishing touches. “She has cancer, and her father says she used to hate going to the hospital,” he explains, “but now she can’t wait to come” because of this project.

That’s why we take an hour-and-a-half break. The young girl is meeting Statom to talk about the project, and he doesn’t want to cancel or keep her waiting. That commitment to children defines much of the artist’s career. He may be acclaimed for his airy glass houses, chairs, and ladders, but it’s his passion for making a difference in young people’s lives for which he’d prefer to be known.

That passion goes back to his own formative years growing up in Washington, D.C. Although the son of physician, he was a typical “problem child,” going through high school after high school. Unlike most troubled kids who had run-ins with the law, however, Statom did something different: he hung out at the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art. “The Smithsonian was like a home to me. It was like an extra room in my house. It’s where I found myself,” he recounts. “I was there so much, I got befriended by a curator, and he got me a job mixing clay.”

That job triggered an interest that eventually led to his attending the Rhode Island School of Design in the early 1970s, where he pursued clay as an artistic medium. “In clay I made a bunch of ugly pots. They were all brown,” he laughs. “Then I started blowing glass, and I went from very traditional to really exploring. Glass was immediate. You didn’t have to fire it two or three times. You could go into the studio and have something the next day.”

He soon discovered a particular talent for working in his new material. Statom created an arced sculpture out of clear glass cones, which earned him advanced standing at the school and enabled him to graduate early. From there, he went on to earn his MFA in 1978 from the Pratt Institute School of Art and Design, where he made the jump from blowing glass to working with sheets of it. “I didn’t want to be limited,” he explains. “It’s about exploring and questioning creatively and the actual act of making. It’s about challenging yourself and learning as an individual. I have a real interest in that.”

That interest prompted him to push the boundaries of glass as art, often using the material in unexpected ways. “I like to paint on translucent surfaces,” he says. “I consider myself a painter, and I think of glass as a canvas. If I had it my way, I’d paint on air.”

For years, museums have been taking notice of Statom’s unorthodox approach, and today his work is in the permanent collections of, among others, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, GA, the Cincinnati Art Museum, and the place where it all began: the Smithsonian, which features one of his signature painted pieces in the Renwick Gallery at the American Art Museum.

For as important as his own creative success is, however, Statom isn’t interested in his identity as an artist. “You don’t do anything unless you’re actively making a difference,” he emphasizes. “It’s not just narcissistic. It’s about making kids happy here and now. You have to engage. I’m more intrigued with helping people.”

To that end, he’s worked with children through a broad range of organizations, including a children’s hospital in Norfolk, VA, and the U.S. Department of State’s Art in Embassies program, through which he’s led workshops in such far-flung places as Mozambique and Turkey. Closer to home, he’s worked with the Omaha Public School’s Native American Indian Education Department, Kanesville Alternative School in Council Bluffs, Yates Alternative School in Gifford Park, and even local
Girl Scout troops.

No matter where he works with kids, the goal remains the same: to affect change in children through art. “I have kids who claim that activities in art save their lives,” Statom says. “That’s pretty big.”

Another hour into the interview, Statom glances at the clock. “It’s time to go,” he announces. There’s another girl he doesn’t want to keep waiting—his daughter. She’s about to get out of school, and just like the little girl at the hospital, he has no intention of keeping her waiting.

ThermanStaton

Sensitive Information

April 22, 2015 by

As spring cleaning season is underway, many households in 2015 are finding one less thing they have to get rid of—paper records.

Digitally storing sensitive information, such as medical records, is becoming a popular choice for families, but it also exposes them to the risk of having their Pandora’s box opened if their computer is hacked.

As a result, not everyone is down with digital record keeping. The Boy Scouts of America recently requested that troop leaders don’t keep digital copies of scouts’ medical records. According to a statement on the BSA’s website, the BSA is “not ready to address” the risks associated with digitizing records, namely the loss of privacy and data if someone was to steal those records.

But this doesn’t necessarily mean that parents shouldn’t keep digital copies of their own children’s records. Most hospitals now have some kind of Electronic Medical Records (EMR) system, and take care to make sure that their patients’ information doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.

Dr. Dana Zanone, medical director of informatics for all of CHI Health Alegent Creighton Clinics, has seen firsthand how much an efficient, secure, EMR system can have an impact on her patients and their families.

“I have one lady that has nine children, and one of her children is disabled. One day when she was in our office we actually signed her up and all of her children, and gave her proxy access so she could keep track of all their medical records and information,” says Dr. Zanone.

All CHI Health Clinics use a system called Epic, the largest EMR system in the country. Epic also has a patient portal called MyChart, through which patients can access their medical records on any computer.

But easier access for patients also means easier access for hackers, at least in systems that aren’t prepared to handle a large amount of patient information securely.

Anthem, the nation’s second-largest health insurance company, announced on Feb. 4 that its systems were hacked, compromising sensitive medical and demographic information for as many as 80 million customers.

But Dr. Zanone insists that Epic and most government-certified EMR system are safe from an Anthem-like hack.

“We have multiple servers, so your ability to get in and extract
that amount of data would be, I would think, almost impossible,”
says Dr. Zanone.

If parents are still worried, she suggests they ask their doctor if he or she uses a government-certified EMR system. Some clinics will use a system that they created themselves, which often contains fewer firewalls and security precautions.

Dr. Zanone also says that any health care providers that require you to submit medical information via text or an unsecure email, or any health care portal that stores your password should be cause for concern. Finally, if you do want to keep a personal copy of your medical records, Dr. Zanone recommends storing it on a hard drive, rather than your computer.

“In your healthcare information is a lot of your demographic information, which almost always includes your Social Security number and your insurance information,” says Dr. Zanone. “That can easily be used for identity theft, and you need to be very careful about that.”

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Canine Calamity

April 9, 2015 by

Originally published in March 2015 Herfamily.

I never had a pet as a child.

Okay, so I did at the age of 9 or so have an ill-fated and short-lived guardianship of a turtle whose name I’ve long forgotten, but I’ve never been a pet person.

My mother abhorred the idea of anything furry dwelling in her home, and I was pretty much fine with that. The feeling carried over into adulthood, and my three now-grown children probably felt super-lucky just to have had the brief company of a single pet, a (clean and non-slobbering) feline named Scribbles.

Viral videos portraying cats and dogs doing whatever it is that cats and dogs do have never appeared on any of my playlists. And to be frank, people who describe their little quadruped cuties as their “children”…well, kinda creep me out. I have no innate aversion to cats, even though I take them to be whiskered sociopaths of evil intent, but I have never been at all comfortable around dogs of any make or model.

Before the hate mail begins, please allow me at least a shot at redemption.

My grandsons Barrett and Easton are growing up in a home where the company of canines is prized. Their collie, Summer, recently ascended to that great dog pound in the sky and, after an appropriate period of mourning, has been replaced by a border collie pup carrying an equally seasonal name of Winter.

It’s an understatement to say that I never hit it off with Summer. Perhaps it didn’t help that she stained our Oriental rug as a pup not 10 seconds into her very first visit to our home. My son, Eric, entered with Summer while explaining that all would be well in that the creature was doing a smash-up job when it came to taking care of business, but it was too late. The little thing bounded (Is that what dogs do? They “bound?”) directly to the rug, lifted one leg, and…you know the rest.

I have promised to be different with Winter. My kids already know that I am neurotic, but I don’t want Easton and Barrett to grow up thinking that their granddad is some kind of loathsome monster. I am going to do my best to get to know Winter and not be such a basket case.

Not surprisingly, my first encounter with Winter was, shall we say, trying. “He’s just young and excitable,” I was told as the dog tried to climb up my leg. Yeah, tell that to my now urine-stained shoes (suede, no less) and newish sweater scarred by Winter’s talons or toes or paws or whatever it is they’re called.

But it is with a certain sense of self-satisfaction that I can report that I kept my cool. Now, the notion of “cool” is subjective. My immediate, knee-jerk reaction was, admittedly, to jerk my knee in revulsion, but I collected myself as quickly as possible and tried my best to not make an international incident of the affair.

I really need to up my game in being the grandpa that I hope to be, but boy, do I have my work
cut out for me.

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