Author: L.S. Watson
Genetic Engineering: How Far is Too Far?
Will we soon have a disease-free society?
My daddy requested me. He told me that he and my mother had a discussion and he did not want my brother to be the baby of the family; he wanted a little girl. Needless to say, that was a tall order because in 1964 to 1965, science was not prepared to provide a specific gender for babies. In my parents’ case, I was born in 1965 through lots of prayers. My mother was 45 and immediately went into menopause after my birth, and my dad was 47; however, my father got his wish.
Recently, I read an article titled “Scientists Edit Human Embryo: This is Why Designer Babies Are a Ways Off” (livescience.com, 2017). Within the first paragraph of the article, the writer, Jessica Berg states that in Portland Oregon scientists “modified the genetic material of a human embryo.” In layman’s terms, scientists have corrected some mistakes in the genetic makeup of humans. For example, if there is a family history of Sickle Cell Anemia, scientists can target that part of the genome and modify it so that disease in the family history will be eradicated in an embryo – the infant will no longer carry the gene.
This is almost surreal, isn’t it?
So, is this an ethical issue, or is it a blessing in disguise?
The article by Berg, who is a law professor and a professor of Bioethics and Public Health at Case Western Reserve University, continues to report that in Oregon, scientists did not create a way to have “designer babies.” The embryos were used outside of the womb and did not develop. There is a federal ban to implant modified embryos in the womb – which leads to another question: What is the end result of conducting these experiments on embryos? They (Federal bureaucrats and ethical policies) assure the public that they are a long way off from engineer babies to be highly intelligent, athletic, artistic, or a “superhuman.” The federal government is allowing science to look at curing various diseases and disorders.
I teach the book Frankenstein by Mary Shelley in my Pre-AP English class, and I pose the question to my students about how far do we go? There have been numerous articles about genetic engineering and how families have babies to help their sick children. We have seen how stem cell research help a lot of sick people, in fact, I have a cousin in Texas who suffers from Myeloma and has been treated using stem cell research. Yet, the current article is asking if we are getting closer and closer to that Victor Frankenstein syndrome to design a human the way we want? They have cloned a sheep and we argued that soon our dead relatives will be able to be cloned and live again.
I am not sure what’s going on in research labs, and they (those people in the labs and the federal people) probably don’t want to tell us what’s really happening in the labs, but I am sure somewhere, there is are scientists who are curious about creating a human who does not have any type of disease, is highly intelligent, and is right and left brained. I am not sure where this research is going…but it will go far. The research will pass the limitations of ethics – I am sure of that. It is eons from my daddy’s request and prayer for a little girl to be the baby of the family.
Shelley’s novel from 1817 was just fiction. It was the first science fiction piece written by a woman (which was science fiction in its own right). Shelley probably never realized that three centuries later, we would actually touch the surface of quasi-creating humans to perfect the lives of others. Are we playing God? I’m using “we” because the public knows that these researches and experiments are happening; or, are we being obedient to the gifts God has bestowed upon us to develop cures for these diseases?
My belief is that God gives men and women the intelligence and will to help cure the sick. I do believe that. God gives wisdom. Does he limit the wisdom? I’m not sure. How far will this go? I don’t know either. All I know is that I am here because of my parents, who believed in God almighty and fervently in prayer, had me naturally. I’m not super intelligent, athletic, artistic, or free from diseases, but I’m here.
The reality is in this case, art is not imitating life; life is imitating art.
The Old Man in Italy
Do you see this little old man? I took this photo in Rome, Italy about two years ago, at the Three Rivers Fountain. It was a beautiful, warm summer day in June and the people were out and about looking at paintings as the artists sat near their creations, in hopes to have someone buy a piece. The outdoor cafe was filled with people, drinking the sweet nectar of wine, or eating the delicious Italian cuisine. They were people-watching, resting from the bustle of tourists at the Forum, the Colosseum, or the extensive and spiritual journey to the Vatican. It was a quaint plaza.
There was a painter, actually a spray painter, who dazzled the audience with a fast painting of the beautiful night skies of Italy. As I looked up, I saw a lot of nuns and priests walking together and chatting; they stopped to look at the spray painter too, and I stared at them. They looked happy – the older nuns and the young priests – they had smiles on their faces and I could feel their peace. I took pictures of them, without them knowing, and I finally relented and asked them if I could take a photo of them. They obliged and continued to smile, wondering how could they become a part of the Italian photo opportunity.
Later on, we ate pizza at an Italian restaurant that was housed downstairs in a building. Of course, the pizza was nothing like Domino’s or Pizza Hut or even Papa Johns! No…it was thin, delectable with fresh tomato sauce and authentic cheese. Across from our table sat two young priests and a man dressed in civilian clothes. They noticed the huge amount of American teenagers and adults who were speaking English. The man in the suit jacket asked where we were from and we replied “Arizona. Tucson, Arizona.” He laughed and said that his parents live in Tucson and he began to give us the cross streets of his parents’ house. Wild! We all laughed to talk about Tucson with a complete stranger in Rome, Italy. The two priests (very handsome priests too), were from the United States too.
I took pictures of the Vatican, St. Peter’s Basilica, and I even broke a rule and took a picture of the ceiling at the Sistine Chapel (and it’s not the Sixteenth Chapel), you know where the finger of God is touching the finger of Adam. It’s unfortunate that I don’t know where the photo is..ugh! But, the masterpiece is the photo of the old Italian man at the Three Rivers Fountain.
In the photo, he is contemplating. I’m not sure about what, but I took the photo in the moment of his thoughts. He might have been thinking “Why is this woman taking a photo of me?” or, he might have thought about the beauty of the plaza, and the laughter of the children and the conversations of the people. The conversations. He might have been listening to a conversation and tried to translate the words to understand what they were saying.
I guess it doesn’t matter what he was thinking about, but I’m glad that I captured the moment in his thoughts. My belief is that he is the epitome of an Italian man. The last time I was in Rome, I gave a rose to an old man, who looked lonely and sad at the Spanish Steps. When I gave him the rose, he beamed with a toothless smile, held on to the rose and walked away, still smiling.
I don’t know why I’m blogging about this. I was going to talk about the beginning of the school year, but I wanted to share this photo.
The old man of Italy
leans on the fountain
thinking about what life
could be, will be or what life
would have been.
He thinks deeply
as the voices carry
across the plaza
and the water bubbles behind him
He’s an old priest
He’s an old peddler,
a former artist
a Roman citizen
an old man
in his thoughts.
10 Steps to Success-No Charge
Don’t worry I am not going to sell you a program that will change your bank account to gain thousands and thousands of dollars. I’m not that smart.
While perusing YouTube, I came across a Channel called Evan Carmichael Believe. What is Your One Word? I stopped to watch a specific video with Maya Angelou – she has always been one of my favorite poets! However, the video gave me pause because Evan Carmichael put together a montage of practical advice from Ms. Angelou’s various interviews throughout her life! The 10 Steps to Success where so real and authentic because she lived through them. I wanted to share those steps with you, but I am going to add my thoughts about these tips:
- Just Do Right – Dr. Angelou provided an illustration about this: She said if your name is said and people respond with an “Oh damn…” that means that something isn’t right about you. In other words, when you’re mentioned in a group and people respond with positive words, then you are living right! You are doing something right! Doing the right thing is so much easier than doing the wrong things in life. We are not perfect beings, but what does it hurt to be nice to others? What’s wrong with smiling and saying hello? What happened to be polite and showing compassion and understanding?
- Be Courageous – Read the definition of courage according to Dictionary.com: “the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery.” When I heard about being courageous, I immediately threw up my hands and said to myself, “I’m not courageous!” But, that’s not true! In the recesses of my mind, there was a lot of courageous acts that I successfully completed! When I was younger, I was stricken with pneumonia. My mother used to tell me how she was so upset to leave me to go to the store. I told her, “I’ll be OK. Go ahead.” Well, my mother was not the type of person to leave her child like that, so she waited until one of my older siblings came home from school to sit with me. She said I was very brave. The death of my parents and I say this because many people have said to me, “I can’t imagine losing one of my parents…I’d die. I couldn’t take it.” I thought the same thing. I felt that if I lose my parents, I would be in some mental hospital and I wouldn’t be able to stop crying. But, eventually, it happened with my mother in 2004 and my dad in 2008. My heart broke twice – but I was able to withstand the pain of not seeing their physical bodies on earth anymore. Being a teacher is courageous! Every day I am deemed with a duty to teach my students an enlightening lesson in order for them to become literate, skillful, and critical thinkers. It’s not as delicate as a doctor performing surgery, but it’s close – to install those processes into young, vulnerable brains is precious, yet serious.
- Love – Dr. Angelou proposed that in order for us to love each other, we must first love ourselves. I don’t think she was talking about being a vain person, but to love yourself is to respect yourself. You have to feel good about who you are! I struggle with that. Someone whom I just met asked me, “You have low self-esteem, don’t you?” Yes, I do. I don’t know where it comes from, but it will rear its ugly head at times. I know that my parents raised me to be a decent human being. I am nice to people because I expect that in return! It makes me feel good to share with people and to give them my heart whenever possible. I believe in love…I believe that when we genuinely have a love for each other, our communities and world will be a better place to live! However, love begins from within. We must love ourselves, and change that part of us that we don’t love.
- Laugh – A person who cannot laugh does not have joy in their heart. It’s a different story to laugh at something that is not funny – but to laugh at yourself or with others shows that your heart is cold and rancid. Love and laughter go hand in hand because, in order to laugh, you have to smile, and to smile allow the soul to see light! The old adage is “Laughter is the best medicine” is true. When you have a good laugh, you have literally released a huge amount of endorphins! According to the Mayo Clinic, laughing does three things to your body: 1). Stimulate your organs with oxygen-rich air. 2). Activate and release your stress response – in other words after you have laughed so hard, you feel relaxed. 3). You soothe tension in your muscles. Now, these are only short-term benefits; however, the long-term benefits are an improvement to your immune system, relief from pain, coping with difficult situations and connect to people, and lessen depression and anxiety. This means that you must incorporate a sense of humor into your personal diet. Remember, laugh, and the world laughs with you!
- Be a Blessing to Somebody – What a satisfying feeling to hear the words from someone “You’re a blessing to me.” Yes, you know me – the English teacher – I’m going to define the word blessing to you because some of you may crinkle your nose or furrow your brow with the word blessing. A blessing is defined as: “bestowing favor upon someone.” (I concocted that definition, but it’s true). When you show favor to someone by offering your kindness, and the recipient is thoroughly satisfied with that offer, you are a blessing! It doesn’t mean to give the sign of the cross or pour water over their heads – it is providing a necessity to that person. Some people just need an open ear and heart to talk to, or some need practical, material things to help them through difficult situations. Whatever it is that you offer and it is given with kindness, you are a blessing.
- Turn Struggles into Triumphs – I’m not sure if you read my blog “Don’t Give Up.” I was on a rant about money (it’s the thorn in my side). Well, during this monetary battle, I’ve learned a few things thus far and one of them is TO DO SOMETHING TO CHANGE MY SITUATION!!! So, instead of struggling with money problems day after day, paycheck to paycheck, I enrolled in a course with Biblical standards about money. It is a 28-day course and I’ve downloaded an online budget template to help me monitor my finances. I am taking steps to relieve some debt and pay back some people who were a blessing to me within the past few months and years. These struggles are slowing morphing into triumphs! Dr. Angelou mentioned how she was raped by a good friend of her family when she was a young girl. After the man was released from prison for her rape, he was killed. She thought that because she had spoken his name, she had caused his death, so she stopped speaking for a few years. Yet, within her struggle, she read. Dr. Angelou said she memorized Shakespeare’s sonnets and plays; she read many of the classics in literature such as Poe. She read and educated herself and grew from what she read. Her struggle became a triumph because she became one of the most prolific writers in the 20th Century!
- You are Talented – Whenever I told people who I love to write, I would hear them say, “Oh, I can’t write.” That’s not true. What is true is that you don’t have the desire to write – but you can write. In “Letters to a Young Poet” by Rainier Maria Rilke, Rilke told the young man who if he goes to sleep thinking about writing and wakes up thinking about writing, then he is a writer. Your passion will become you! Everyone has a talent! My mother was an excellent seamstress! Many women would come over to our house with patterns for different stylish dresses, and my mother would make them with her eyes closed. I never saw my mother so content and happy until she was at her sewing machine. Give yourself a chance to find out what you’re passionate about. I show my students a video of Alan Watts’ lecture about “What do you Desire?” and Watts asks the question, what would you do if money were no object? If there is something you would do and you wouldn’t get paid for it, that’s your talent. If you’re not sure what your talent is, then do a talent search…on yourself.
- Learn to Say No – It is the hardest two letter word to say to people. This step is not for everyone because there are some people out there who can say no faster than a speeding bullet! But, for some of us who feel that if we say no, the entire world is going to blow up; it is a struggle. To say no quite simply means, “I am not able to do this because I would not give it the proper attention and time that it so deserves.” Doesn’t that sound nice? Therefore, when you have to say no, think about that phrase and “no” will come out easier.
- Always Do Your Best – This is a phrase I’ve repeated to my students. They need to know that I am expecting their best because I am giving my best to them. Doing your best shows integrity and responsibility – but do your best for you! First prove to yourself that you are able to do excellent and when you accept a task from others, you will have the confidence to know that you will do your best! Doing your best gives you a satisfying feeling about yourself.
- Keep Rising – Dr. Angelou wrote a poem (my favorite, by the way) called “Still I Rise” (if you want to hear the poem recited by the poet, click here: https://youtu.be/w5lgxayzy_k). I am going to use a term that has spread from the urbanized streets to the Wall street boardrooms – People are going to hate on you as you internalize these steps to success. They are going to envy you, play games with your head, and even make you feel that you are “too good” for them to be around. Don’t worry. The people around you are not yet at the level to change their circumstances – and it also depends on how you are handling your new-found success. Are you being humble? Stay humble as you rise up from where you’re at. Don’t look down on others as you rise! Grab someone’s hand and say, “Come with me!” Just like a balloon with helium rising above the clouds, as you follow these 10 steps, you will rise above the awful circumstances that have kept you grounded for so long!
Now, there it is! The 10 steps to success free of charge! I’m going take these steps myself because I’ve been on the ground with broken wings. Stay tuned and subscribe to my blog to witness my flight!
*To see Evan Carmichael’s video click here: https://youtu.be/iU46Lv4jVAw
Don’t Give Up!
There is something I want so badly. In fact, there are a lot of things I want that are out of my reach. In my bedroom, I have a picture of a scripture in the Bible: “Always pray and never give up.” It’s from the Gospel of Luke 18:1. A little history, Luke was a physician, and that meant during the Biblical times, he was a scholar. The words he wrote were from the mouth of Jesus Christ, and he (Luke) had to agree upon the accuracy of belief – since being a physician – half the battle of healing is to never give up!
My Christian brothers and sisters would agree that whatever it is that you need in your life should be something that will add to your life in a positive way. What we believe for should not harm ourselves or others. For example, you’re not going to pray and never give up wanting someone to get sick or die. Nor, would you pray for someone to lose their job. I know one person who comes across our minds about losing their job – the current president – but besides that, we believe for things to happen in our lives that will help us!
I want a lot of money because I believe that when I get a lot of money, I can pay off a lot of annoying bills that I’ve made in my past! When I get relief from these bills, I can relax and live a little easier and breathe and enjoy the fresh air, blue skies, family and friends. Right now, I’m enjoying those things, however, in the back of my mind there is a nagging thought about my bills! We are going to have to pay bills, yes, but the bills I want to pay are the utilities. (I’m laughing out loud right now). Anyway, I’m believing for that and I’m not giving up! I think about my dad, Mr. Plato Watson, who, in his later years, would have tons of mail about business opportunities and get-rich-quick ideas. He would always say “when my dream boat comes in…” I look in the mirror and see that I am my father’s daughter. No, I’m not falling for those schemes, but I have combed the Internet and came across ideas of downloading apps on your phone to get paid! What??? Oh..yeah…I tried it…and I used up my data quickly! I decided that I didn’t need to do that. On to the next venture! I am several hundred surveys to complete to win points, gift cards, etc. Surveys are good! My minor in college was sociology, so I’m game to give my thoughts and opinions about certain products and ideas. But…it takes a lot of time to take surveys and sometimes I don’t qualify!
Say what? Is it because I’m a woman? Is it because I’m black? Is it because I’m over 50 without children and have one dog? Hahahaha….
Next! I wanted to drive for Uber. They checked my car and I have chips in my windshield! I have to get a new windshield! In my GEICO policy I had to pay a deductible to replace my windshield (money I don’t have!). I back-pedaled and changed my policy to zero deductible. Uh…that didn’t work because I had those chips in my windshield prior to the change in my policy! HAHAHAHAHA!!! How about Lyft? I can drive for Lyft! I told them about my windshield – no problem. Great! I keep messing up my appointments with my “mentor.” I’m almost there, but I have an issue which I rather not disclose right now.
Lyft is a possibility. But, I start work in two weeks, so I will be limited to work with Lyft on weekends – it’s my choice.
Sorry. I’m digressing from my point.
Money to pay bills.
I grew up in a Christian household and prayer was very significant in our lives. When my mother was gravely ill, my father had us all link up together in a circle in the living room and we prayed collectively for God’s Will to be done. Atheists at my college confronted me that it was my mother’s will and not God’s – and I told them that the doctors – neurologists…scientists…gave up on my mother because they said her brain was “mush” (she had a brain aneurysm, by the way). I told my dad about their argument and he said, “Baby, it is the prayers that your mother prayed for herself.” I am referring to the fact that my mother woke up from a 3-month coma after her aneurysm and lived about 17 years proving doctors wrong. Prayer.
The first part of the scripture is “always pray.” Now, for those of you who have a problem praying – I’ve learned that prayer can be from one to 1000 words. In other scriptures, God prefers you to be honest in your prayers and speak from the heart. You do not have to include the “thous” “thus” “mayest” etc. The prayer can consist of “Help me.” I have grown in my prayers to tell God how much I appreciate the life He has given me – although sometimes I think it’s awful – I look around me and to some people I may be living the rich life (I hope you’re understanding what I’m talking about). There are some spiritual steps I need to take though in order to get my financial life healthy.
Now, I’m going to turn down another avenue. Money for bills is only one part of my “never giving up.” I want to be a writer. I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I’ve written three poetry books so far, one more is developing. I’ve written a full novel and it is in production right now. My passion is to share my creative mind with the masses who would love to get lost in fiction and poetry! I want to write a children’s book about the adventures of my dog, Chuy!
I want to be a best-selling author! I won’t give up!
God has given me a creative gift that I have not been using – a gift that fulfills two things: satisfaction and an extra income! When the light bulb flickered and came on – I realized that I need to not give up on my writing – on me!
I just read a quote on Instagram that fits well into this article: “You may fail 100 times but it only takes one success to completely change your life.” (Markus Almond)
As a teacher, I can’t give up on my students, so why should I give up on myself? I will repeat this mantra: “I will never give up on you!”
Should We Talk About HPV?
People are asking “What are the symptoms of HPV in females?” “What is HPV in females?” “How do you test HPV in women?” “Can you get HPV if you’re not sexually active?” These are legitimate questions, but the real question is “Where did this epidemic come from?” All of a sudden I’m witnessing these commercials on television about HPV! These children are looking into the camera and asking their parents did they know about HPV. I didn’t know about HPV! How long has it been in existence? Is it something we need to worry about?
The commercial includes males…and one young male says he didn’t know that HPV led to his cancer! What’s happening? In the 80’s we had AIDS and HIV. The careless sexual behaviors and using dirty needles led to the most deadliest disease in history. While the battle was long, emotional and tedious, researchers and scientists have somehow put a lid on the issue and developed sustainable drugs to help victims prolong their lives! I think it’s excellent!
However, my concern is turned toward this HPV. Human Papillomavirus, according the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is the most common STD in the United States and can be prevented with vaccines! Great news, right? But, get this: the CDC recommends that 11 to 12 year olds get the vaccine. At 11 and 12, I was not worried about a STD.
I’m going to break it down to you as I researched and read up on HPV. I hope this helps.
HPV is common Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI – no more STD…it’s an infection). Anyone who is sexually active can contract HPV. There are different strains of the infection that can lead to genital warts and cancers; however, as I stated earlier, there is a vaccine to prevent all of this. It spreads through sexual contact (we’ll use our vivid imagination here, but realize that whatever sexual act you prefer, you can get HPV).
HPV and the link to cancer: It depends upon the health of the person, but again, you never know, HPV can lead to cancer in the cervix, vulva, vagina, penis, and anus. It can also occur in the throat. The CDC recommends the vaccination beginning at 11 and 12 (for males and females); and women ages 21 to 65 get screened cervical cancer. The vaccine is also recommended for gay and bisexual men too.
The CDC also states that using a condom lowers the risk, but there is chance that you can still get HPV and being in a monogamous relationship helps to decrease the chance of contracting HPV.
OK. So my public service announcement is over. There are some things I’d like to say right now, and since it is my blog, I’m going to say it!
People, stop being so nasty! Now, before you get crazy and start commenting that I’m not being fair…stop and listen to me! When it comes down to sex, humans have lost their minds! We are driven by lust of the body…the satisfaction of having the embrace of another body in our arms! It’s a part of life…yes it is…but somehow this HPV and other sexual infections come from people who are not willing to give their bodies a break from sex!
Making love is a beautiful act! The responsibility behind it is unknown to a lot of people, especially teens! Now we are treated pre-teens for a sexually transmitted disease – oh excuse me – infection! Along with the childhood vaccinations, the HPV vaccination is on the list! This is what angers me!
I hope you’re hearing what I’m saying.
We have lawmakers in Washington D.C. who are trying to reshape healthcare in America and we have these issues of HPV affecting children! Children! Here are some facts for those of you who need facts:
- 79 million of Americans are infected with HPV
- 14 million people become infected with HPV every year
- 17, 600 women and 9,300 men have cancer as an effect from HPV
- CDC, 2017
These are the numbers reported to health care facilities, but think about those people who do not go to the doctor to get medical care. There are probably more infected people than we know about.
My worry (and I said this freely, granted I’m not a parent) is that parents are allowing their young daughters to take birth control, giving them permission to sleep around and young men are so ill-informed about birth control that they believe “Oh, I don’t have to wear a condom.” The first thing we worry about is the fact that the girl, who has a promised future, will get pregnant. OK. That’s a problem. But, a worse problem is the girl getting pregnant and having HPV.
With sex comes great responsibility.
Perhaps I’m naive in my 50s, but, I have little nephews and a niece growing up in this society. They are all under 11. I watch them play and have fun. I watch them laugh and run around. I look into their innocent faces and see the wonder in their eyes – and now I can see their pediatricians tell their parents during vaccination season, “OK. Now they need a vaccination for HPV…you know that sexually transmitted infection.”
So, that’s why I say “Stop being nasty!” Let’s be real…having sex with everybody does not make you look more desirable. It makes you look desperate and stupid.
I don’t know what else to say about this. I just want to spread the word about HPV.
And, thanks to the CDC for helping me with this blog. If you need to read it for yourself go to: http://www.cdc.gov.
Why Would You Care About This Blog?
This is the post excerpt.
During the past few weeks, I’ve been restless about my writing. I’ve written a novel-length manuscript and I’m apprehensive to get it published because of personal reasons; I’ve toyed with several different writing assignments only to find myself bored with what I was writing. I was trying to make the world “a better place” with a positive blog, but again, I became bored with myself.
So, I began to wonder and question why am I not satisfied with my writing? After some deep soul-searching, I found that I was not writing for me! I’ve been writing for others, but not for me! I am so inspired by my fellow colleague, friend, and blogger Theoden Humphrey. His work is so free and understandable and I envied his words that flowed across the screen in his blogs. Sometimes I don’t comment, but I do read what he writes. I can see freedom in his words.
That’s what I need because I am an artist. I am a writer. I’ve dreamed about being a writer since I was in grade school. My parents were worried about me when they saw my written pages in the first grade – the primary paper with two bold lines and a dotted line in the middle (remember that paper?) was filled with large letters – words were crowded together in a lump. The teacher assured them that I had written the assignment correctly, it was that I had so much to say that I was trying to fit in all in one page!
Fast forward to right now…this minute as I write this blog. I have so much to say. I think a lot about what’s going on around me. I know I cannot be alone in trying to understand the world. I’m not satisfied with the answers I get. I am curious and I don’t care that I’m over 50; I’m still curious about the world.
To answer the question “Why should you care about this blog?” It’s because I have so much to say and I am hoping that what I have to say or, better yet, the questions I have to ask, are the questions and answers you have as well.