Cheating & Lying in America: Where has all our morality gone?

Written by: on Friday, January 18th, 2013
Lance Armstrong on a bike

Lance Armstong: the newest face of cheating in America

I remember the first, and only, time I ever cheated. I was in third grade—of a Catholic school, no less—and a friend in my class had put the idea in my head: “You can write the answers on your hand for the test. You don’t need to study.” I can’t remember what was going through my head then, but I tried it. And the nuns caught me (I got detention and a painful rapping across my knuckles with a ruler). I got spanked by my dad, too, and punished at home for who knows how long.

It was enough to make an impression on me that cheating was something I should never, ever do.

Now that my son is in the third grade, it’s something I talk to him about often: you never cheat, you never lie. You always tell the truth.

So it gets me thinking: why is our country rampant with lying scandals? There’s Lance Armstrong, who is now (finally!) admitting that he won his seven Tour de France medals thanks to one of the “most sophisticated doping programs ever” (despite his years and years of denials otherwise). What a huge disappointment. And there’s the Notre Dame tackler Manti Te’o, who has now allegedly made up the existence of a girlfriend, who died a horrific death (both are supposedly untrue, although how the lies got spread is still being investigated). The public feeling about both Lance and Manti: “He’s overcome so much to get this far.” (We do love a good overcome-at-all-odds success story in this country.) And then there’s Bernie Madoff and so many others—from athletes to other ponzi schemers—who cheat the system to get ahead, to collect riches, to garner fame.

The prize? The sprawling homes; the expensive, flashy watches; the boats; the parties; the flashy cars; and, of course, the fame and the (false) admiration of society that comes with being a huge “success”.

Think about it: Lance Armstrong wouldn’t be a household name today if he had come in 23rd in the Tour de France. He wouldn’t have become a celebrity of his own, dating stars like Sheryl Crow, becoming the poster boy of top brands, and gracing numerous magazine covers. He wouldn’t have started Livestrong (and some could argue, he wouldn’t have helped so many people with cancer). Our society celebrates the winningest (that is a word), not the losers.

And that focus is partly to blame for the eagerness by so many to get ahead at all costs.

But where’s our internal sense of morality? Have we completely lost it in modern America? Was there no one in these people’s lives to show them that cheating is just plain wrong? Is there no one in their lives now who can show them the “right” way? Or am I just being naïve—not getting the way things really work in this world. Maybe.

One psychologist, Nigel Barber, Ph.D., has said that “Cheating is a way of life.” Even Thomas Jefferson was quoted as saying: “Money, not morality, is the commerce of civilized nations.”

But the more I think about it, the more I realize that it’s our country—with its definition of success as wealth and so-called fame—that’s partly to blame. It’s also the media that pounces on a story of David overcoming Goliath (e.g. Lance overcoming cancer and then going on to win seven titles; Manti overcoming horrible personal circumstances to help Notre Dame become a winner; Bernie Madoff rising from a humble Queens upbringing to become a Wall Street “success”).

That, and there’s a disturbingly pervasive belief in our society that we’re entitled to grab what we want, now, no matter whether it’s right or wrong, good for the environment, good for our family, good for our health…the list goes on.

So, do we just throw up our hands and say that’s the way it is? I have a somewhat more optimistic opinion that we can change, but it has to begin at the beginning.

We must start with our children: we must teach them that grades (and sports trophies) aren’t the be-all-and-end-all. Parents push their children to have top grades and win top honors: I can understand this. We want our children to do well, to succeed, to have the right opportunities in life. But this puts inordinate pressure on our children to get ahead at all costs. No wonder we hear about cheating scandals in schools: these schools are a microcosm of our society. That’s where it all starts.

But take away the pressure to achieve—and getting ahead at all costs becomes less important. Teach our children to love what they’re doing and to do their best, even if that best doesn’t bring top honors or awards.

Above all, though, we must teach them to hold sacred a sense of morals, a belief that—at the end of day—how we live our lives, how we treat other people and the world we live in, is what really matters. We need to get back to an internal sense of right and wrong. It’s pretty simple, actually. There aren’t a lot of grey areas when it comes to morality. As Mahatma Gandhi put it: “Morality is the basis of things, and truth is the substance of all morality.”

Bottom line: You can’t take fame, fortune, and riches with you when you’re gone (we’ve heard that so many times), so what good is spending your entire life working toward something that may make you feel good temporarily, but is an empty, hollow pursuit? Now that’s a question I’d like Oprah to ask Lance in her interview.

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Women: When It Comes to Our Health, We are NOT Little Men!

Written by: on Wednesday, January 16th, 2013
Sleeping pills dosage for women

Are you taking the right dosage of your medicine? Check with your doctor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I recently read an enlightening—and at the same time disturbing—article in The New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/11/health/fda-requires-cuts-to-dosages-of-ambien-and-other-sleep-drugs.html?ref=todayspaper&_r=0) about how women should be taking less (half as much!) than what has been the recommended dosage of sleeping pills, particularly Ambien. This according to the Food and Drug Administration. I don’t take the pills (but sometimes—after tossing and turning all night—I wish I did!), but I know plenty of women who depend on them to get enough shut-eye at night to make it through the next day.

Why this recent FDA report is so disturbing: we live in the year 2013 with targeted therapies for cancer, stem cell advances, remote robotic (and minimally invasive) surgery, and other major medical advances. And just now, we’re just discovering that women need different drug dosage recommendations than men??!

And sleeping medication is just one example of a drug that affects women’s bodies differently than men’s. (The FDA’s new recommendation came after lab studies and driving tests confirmed that an estimated 10 percent to 15 percent of women have a level of zolpidem [the active ingredient in many sleeping pills] in their blood that could impair driving eight hours after taking the pill, while only about 3 percent of men do.)

Alcohol also affects women’s bodies differently than men’s (http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/special-populations-co-occurring-disorders/women).

This should come as a surprise to no one: Women are not just little men when it comes to our health. Back in 2001 (that’s twelve years ago!), the non-profit Institute of Medicine issued a report stating “Sex — that is, being male or female — is an important basic human variable that should be considered when designing and analyzing the results of studies in all areas and at all levels of biomedical and health-related research. The cells of males and females have many basic biochemical differences, and many of these stem from genetic rather than hormonal differences.” (For the full report, click here: http://www.iom.edu/~/media/Files/Report%20Files/2003/Exploring-the-Biological-Contributions-to-Human-Health-Does-Sex-Matter/DoesSexMatter8pager.pdf)

The Office of Research on Women’s Health (ORWH) is trying to change the focus. Part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the nation’s research agency, ORWH works with NIH Institutes and Centers to fund women and sex and gender differences research—to help us women (and men)—all live better and longer lives. The more research that’s done (ahem…if research had been done on sleeping pills before prescribing them to women, we would have known that women react to them differently than men—underscoring the importance of research!). Be in the know; follow ORWH on Twitter (they just signed up: @NIH_ORWH) for regular updates on research that applies to women’s health.

 

 

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Get More Sleep…Starting Tonight!

Written by: on Thursday, January 3rd, 2013
Woman sleeping on white chair with book

You need at least eight hours of uninterrupted shut-eye a night. Sleeping on the chair before bedtime doesn't count!

It was Saturday morning. My toddler son was finally down for a late-morning nap —after fussing, fussing for the better part of an hour­. My eyes had been glazing over as I was trying to soothe him and get him to sleep (he had been up at least three times last night—leaving me with little restful sleep).

My older kids were at a birthday party and a play-date. Finally, I could get into my bed and get caught up on some sleep. After all, every advice column and book says: “Sleep when baby sleeps” as a seemingly simple answer to the sleep deprivation that all moms experience at one time or another.

If only it were that easy.

I snuggled down under my comforter, grabbed by favorite squishy pillow, put on my eye mask, and shut my eyes. Then I tossed and turned for at least half an hour, trying to get comfortable and then praying for sleep to come. “Please God, just let me sleep for half an hour.” But sleep didn’t come. (It’s not easy to sleep when you’re waiting for the inevitable cry to come through a monitor positioned near your bed). And then…guess what? Yep, you’re right: my baby was up again.

But sleep is critical, not just for proper brain functioning (I’ve already lost a credit card, my baby’s birth certificate, and numerous other important things—not to mention forgotten some key appointments…all since he was born) but also for losing weight and staying healthy. So I’ve put together some strategies for getting some much-needed shut-eye:

1) Ask your guy for help. Sometimes I feel guilty waking up my guy and asking him to help with a nighttime or early morning feeding. Not sure where the guilt is coming from (!!), but it’s so important to let people know when you’re in need of a break. It’s okay and doesn’t make you less of a mom (or person!). Now I try to hand off my son to my husband when he wakes around 6 a.m. My son sits with my guy as he drinks his coffee and reads the paper…and I try to get another hour of sleep before the day starts up yet again.

2) Hire a babysitter. I can’t say enough about this. Even if you hire your next-door neighbor or your neighbor’s daughter just to watch your baby while you get a nap, do it. It’s money well spent. One person recently said to me, “I’ve never known anyone to need as much help as you.” My response to that comment is that I’m willing to sacrifice clothes, vacations, and just stuff in general to have someone help me do the things that are necessary for me to be my best. And with three kids, I need all the help I can possibly get!

Guy snoring next to woman trying to sleep

Do yourself (and your health) a favor and move him to the guest room tonight!

3) Give yourself permission to relax. As a mom, it’s hard to be able to justify time for yourself (a bath, reading a good book, watching a movie, or just surfing the Internet) when there’s so much to be done: laundry, washing dishes, lunches to be made, dinner to prepare, etc. But the point is, if you can’t sleep, brew a pot of tea and just sit for half an hour or 45 minutes. Sometimes, I get a 20-minute rest with my eyes closed in the rocking chair while I’m rocking my baby to sleep. Finding a way to allow your body to slow down can help you deal with the mind-numbing fatigue.

4) Banish your guy to the guest room. I love my man, but when I have very limited sleep time, the last thing I need is him waking me with his loud snoring—or his early morning alarm clock. It’s not forever…and doesn’t have to be every night. But give yourself a break and a better night’s sleep by making this the new rule. Then one day, make him do kid duty. Then you head to the guest room.

5) Curb after-dinner snacking. When you eat too close to bedtime, your body expends energy trying to digest the food when it should be resting—making it tough to get to sleep. Plus, I’ve found … even when you do get to sleep after eating pre-bedtime snacks (particularly sugary ones), the sleep you get is more restless. A better bet: have a light snack after dinner so it curbs your hunger but lets you get some shut-eye. Good options include an apple with peanut butter, a small bowl of cereal with milk, a yogurt, or a banana.

6) Shut off your Smartphone. Study after study shows that the flickering lights of electronic devices—when used within an hour of bedtime—can interfere with restful nighttime sleep. Invest in an alarm clock instead of using your Smartphone (and leave your cell out of your bedroom altogether). And banish the TV and laptop from your bedroom. It may seem relaxing to fall asleep watching Crazy, Stupid Love (one of my favorite movies!) but it’s anything but!

7) Kick Fido out of the bed. Sorry, dog and cat lovers, but sleeping with your pet is akin to sleeping with a guy who’s snoring—or a baby who’s waking you up every hour. Pets are proven sleep distractors, say researchers, and the sooner you get them off your bed and on to a bed on the floor, the more rested you’ll be feeling come morning.

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