Showing up for yourself and others during challenging times

15 01 older woman listeningGreat change has been forced onto parents, families, students, teachers and school administrators.

Yet every day these leaders, citizens and ordinary folks put on a brave face before leaving the house to face new challenges.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tell us that children are less susceptible to COVID-19, and politicians tell us that kids returning to school is the only way to stabilize the economy, but still there is a deep sense of fear, uncertainty and distrust.

We’re at a critical juncture in history where we are forced to look at how we live, what we stand for, and what we value.

We can choose to recoil and hibernate in survival mode or we can ask how we can serve and show up for others. We are being forced to live in the present moment, to live fluidly to move through stress, unanswered questions, and well-founded concerns.

A lot of the individuals I work with in therapy are faced with the choice of who they want to become and how they want to show up in light of this pandemic.

I am so proud of our teachers, our parents and our students. These trailblazers are rising to the demands instead of being paralyzed by fear. They show up to classes, login to their remote assignments and make the best out of a terrible reality.

Thank you for not hiding and playing small. Thank you to our leaders who are making difficult decisions and facing public scrutiny.

Right now is the time to lead with empathy, expansiveness and patience. Your family, friends, employees and clients need you to take decisive action, to lean in and to be fully present.

Your hope and vision for a better future can help others see through this tough time. An antidote to the fear, panic and overwhelm is helping people to feel seen, heard and validated.

While it’s wise to show up for yourself first and foremost, it is important to balance that obligation with supporting others. Let those under your leadership fall apart and break down and express their worry and fear, and be the one to offer them hope and certainty.

Right now calls for personal and professional evolution. Make room for a new, better identity and society to emerge. Push past judgement and survival mode. Guide yourself and others to do the best possible, to channel their emotions into action.

Let us be grateful for this opportunity to transform and discover what we’re really made of. I hope you are able to see how amazingly resilient, compassionate and truly brave you are.

New Ron Rash book includes short stories, return of 'Serena'

14 01 9780385544290Can North Carolina’s beloved author Ron Rash protect the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and other environmental treasures from commercial exploitation?

Can he do it by resurrecting the evil, enticing central character of his 2008 best-selling novel, “Serena”?

Serena, you might remember, was ambitious and dramatically attractive, riding a white horse and displaying her well-trained eagle. In the early 1930s, she and her husband were determined to get rich by clear-cutting thousand acres of North Carolina mountain forestlands, destroying a rich, stable and precious environment.

Rash made Serena a symbol of corporate greed and anti-environmentalism.

Serena was also driven by personal passions. She was determined to eliminate her husband’s illegitimate son and the child’s mother. This assignment went to Galloway, a one-armed employee utterly devoted to Serena.

Galloway’s effort, chronicled in the original book’s dramatic last pages, was nevertheless a failure. The boy and mother were safe, and Serena was off to exploit the forests of Brazil.

A novella that is part of Rash’s new book, “In the Valley,” brings Serena back to North Carolina to take charge of a logging project to meet a hard deadline.

Galloway also returns to take on Serena’s murderous assignments, including the search for the mother and her son.

Readers will again be impressed and horrified at Serena’s determined and brutal efforts that destroy more of the environment and decimate the crews.

What is the connection to Rash’s worries about the environment?

In an interview last week with Mountain Times Publication’s executive editor Tom Mayer, Rash explained, “I’m seeing now this peril for the national parks. There’s a lot of push to change what is considered wilderness that can be mined or timbered. My hope is that this [story] would remind us how hardwon these national parks were and what they were fighting against.”

The new book has a bonus for fans of Rash’s short fiction.

There are nine finely tuned short stories. All deal with mountain people like those he knows from growing up in or near the mountains or from his long years teaching at Western Carolina University.

These are folks that Rash clearly cares for and worries about. But the time settings vary, giving readers a look at mountain life over hundreds of years.

In the opener, “Neighbors,” set during the Civil War in the Shelton Laurel community, a Confederate foraging and raiding party targets the farm of a young widow and her two young children.

“When All the Stars Fall” deals with a poignant breakup of a father’s and son’s construction business because their value systems are different.

In “Sad Man in the Sky,” a helicopter pilot who sells 30-minute rides takes on a troubled but inspiring passenger.

In “L'Homme Blesse” a mountain college art professor explores the connection between the artwork of a Normandy invasion veteran and the images on the walls of ancient caves in France.

“The Baptism” is the story of a country minister and a wife abuser who wants to be baptized. The story has a satisfying surprise ending.

A young female probationary park ranger in “Flight” encounters a bully who lacks a fishing license and breaks all the rules. Her daring retort is illegal but satisfying.

A struggling late-night storekeeper in “Last Bridge Burned” helps a troubled woman who stumbles into his store. Years later, he reaps an interesting reward.

In “Ransom,” a wealthy college student survives a lengthy kidnapping only to face another set of challenges.

Set 60 years after the Battle of Chickamauga, “The Belt” tells how a belt and its buckle that saved a Confederate soldier’s life now saves the life of his great-grandson.

Any one of these stories would be worth the price of the book, but getting all of them plus the new Serena installment makes “In the Valley” the literary bargain of the year.

COVID immunity — the legal kind

11 01 N1605P30004CAs many of us are figuring out how best to protect ourselves and our families during these uncertain times of COVID-19, one thing that most people do not have on their radar is the issue of legal immunity (protection from being sued). North Carolina has passed laws in these last months that provide immunity protection to businesses from lawsuits stemming from COVID-19 exposure and some immunity protections that go well beyond COVID-19 exposure.

The broadest immunity law came when the legislature passed, and the governor signed into law House Bill 118, which creates qualified immunity from legal liability over claims arising from the transmission of COVID-19. Initially, immunity was for essential businesses only and was effective from and during the governor’s declaration of the state of emergency on March 10. As of July 2, this immunity extends to everyone and will run until 180 days after the recission of the state of emergency order.

So, what does this mean? If you believe you have been negligently exposed and/or contracted COVID-19 at the grocery store, gas station, doctor’s office or other business, if they provided notice at their business of actions taken to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 and opened and/or are operating within the restrictions of the governor’s orders, you will not be able to bring a legal claim for damages against them.

For example, when swimming pools were reopened in the state, a law was passed that protects places like apartment complexes, homeowners associations or condo unit owners associations against lawsuits from people seeking damages for injury or death resulting from the transmission of COVID-19 as a result of using their pools. As with other businesses, these community associations must show that they reopened under the executive orders of the governor and have acted in compliance with those orders to benefit from the immunity law.

One of the broadest immunities granted in the new law is to “health care facilities” and “health care providers” giving wide-sweeping immunity not only from lawsuits regarding COVID-19 exposure or transmission but from any negligence claims that arise in arranging for or providing health care services during this state of emergency.

With the unknowns, high risks of exposure and high level of contagion of COVID-19, as well as the fact that a percentage of the population could have it a not even know it, many of these measures of legal protection make sense. Frankly, it would be very difficult legally to prove just where and when an individual was exposed or contracted the virus to bring a legal claim. In the end, what is important is for businesses and individuals to follow the governor’s orders and protect themselves and each other as best as possible — both from a legal and personal perspective.

When facing illness, take control of your finances

12 01 N2001P27008CIn light of the coronavirus pandemic, virtually all of us have considered health-related issues. But for people facing a serious, chronic illness, such as Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, diabetes or cancer, health concern s are an everyday matter. If you’re fortunate, you may never be afflicted with such maladies, but the future is unpredictable. Of course, going through these health challenges brings physical and emotional concerns — but also financial ones. How can you prepare for them?

Essentially, you’ll need to consider four key areas: investments, insurance, legal arrangements and taxes. Let’s take a quick look at each of them:

Investments – You’ll likely need to draw on your investments for at least some of the expenses associated with your illness. So, within your portfolio, you may want to establish a special fund devoted entirely to these costs, whether they be health care, modifications to your home, transportation and so on. A financial professional can help you choose investments for this fund, as well as make recommendations for your overall investment strategy, including techniques for boosting your income, such as adding investments that can provide an income stream that kicks in when you think your costs will rise.

Insurance – Depending on your health status, you may be able to collect Medicare earlier than the traditional starting point at age 65. Even so, you’ll likely need to supplement it with additional coverage. But you may also want to look beyond health insurance. For example, you might be able to purchase a “chronic illness rider” that allows you to tap into life insurance benefits while you’re still alive. Or you might consider adding a “long-term care rider” to a life insurance policy; this rider offers financial benefits if you ever require daily care that you can’t provide for yourself. And some foundations, states and drug companies offer programs that can help pay for some costs that your insurance won’t cover.

Legal arrangements – If you haven’t already done so, you may want to establish the legal documents most appropriate for your situation, such as a durable power of attorney for finances, which gives someone the authority to manage your financial affairs if you become temporarily incapacitated, possibly due to flare-ups of your chronic disease. Once you’ve recovered, you regain control of your financial decisions. You might also want to consider a health care proxy, which appoints an individual to make medical decisions for you if you can’t. In creating or revising these documents, you’ll need to consult with your legal professional.

Taxes – You might qualify for Social Security disability payments, which, like other Social Security benefits, are taxable, so you’ll need to be aware of what you might owe. But you might also be eligible for some tax breaks related to your condition. If you still itemize tax deductions, you may be able to deduct some medical expenses, as well as certain home improvements such as wheelchair ramps, bathtub grab bars, motorized stairlifts and so on. Your tax advisor may have suggestions appropriate for your situation.

Dealing with a chronic illness is never easy. But by considering how your illness will affect all aspects of your life, getting the help you need — and taking the right steps — you may be able to reduce the financial stress on you and your loved ones.

A word from N.C. District 43 House of Representatives candidate

05 01 Diane WheatleyHi, I am Diane Wheatley, I am running for the North Carolina House of Representatives in District 43. I am so proud to have this opportunity. This November, you will decide whom you send to Raleigh.

There are four issues I feel incredibly passionate about. I can make a significant difference in education, health care, public safety and — finally — I can make a substantial impact on the economy of Cumberland County.

I spent 10 years on the Cumberland County Board of Education and worked diligently to improve education for children and their families. I was instrumental in starting the academy system, which gave parents school choice within the public school system. I am proud to say that during those 10 years, test scores improved every single year I was on the board, including the two years in which I served as its chair. Furthermore, we passed a major bond referendum and built 10 schools on time and under budget, enabling us to build two additional schools for the same cost.

Following my 10-year tenure on the school board, I was successful in being elected to the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners. During that time, I served on the Board of Directors of Cape Fear Valley Hospital. Furthermore, I chaired the ethics committee while on the hospital board. That helped me tremendously in understanding the issues facing health care today. As a registered nurse, I traveled all over the world as a medical missionary to provide health care to those in need.

Let us make this clear, I support affordable, sustainable health care for all and for one. I am sick and tired of big pharma and its ridiculous price gouging of the American people. The hospital billing has done nothing but compound this ever-rising cost in health care.

I do not know about you, but when it comes to public safety, I do not feel safe. My guess is you do not either. The police department and all first responders are one of my top priorities. Do you really think now’s the time to cut budgets for those entrusted with our public safety? My opponent does! When people feel compelled to rush out to take concealed carry classes and purchase guns and ammo just to protect their families, something is wrong! Thank God for our Second Amendment rights, which give us the ability to protect ourselves during times like these.

My opponent has never met a payroll. I spent over three decades in the business world and made payroll every single year. Our firm was recognized as one of the top five contractors on Fort Bragg for price, quality and service. I have a passion for entrepreneurs and have the background to prove it. I know what it takes for economic development and job growth, and that is crucial experience we will need in recovering from COVID-19.

Send me — the unbureaucrat — to Raleigh! I have got the experience and know-how and will not need any training wheels.

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