Our Future is Going Up In Smoke

Warning – this blog will not be pretty. I am angry, and I’m afraid I’m going to take it out on you. For the past several weeks, I’ve had to watch someone I love dearly suffer from a very rare form of dementia. So rare, in fact, that the doctors know very little about it. Here’s one thing they do know: it was caused by white matter, or decay, in the frontal lobe of his brain, and that decay was caused by years of smoking. And because of that, watching the news this week makes me angry. I’m angry with politicians, with government officials, with lobbyists, and with my fellow American citizens.

And why? Because smoking kills. ALL SMOKING KILLS. Yet states across our land are telling people that smoking and doing drugs are okay! Why? What is wrong with everyone? I don’t care what you are smoking; your body wasn’t made to inhale chemicals. Both cigarettes and marijuana contain dozens of chemicals that cause cancer. And studies have shown that secondhand marijuana smoke is even more harmful to your heart than tobacco smoke. One in six children are hospitalized due to marijuana smoke exposure. And the number of marijuana-related fatal car accidents in the state of Colorado has doubled since recreational marijuana use become legal in 2013. Yet the state of California just joined Colorado and seven other states in saying it’s perfectly okay to smoke pot for recreation.

I saw a young woman being interviewed on the news yesterday who claimed to be an employed, high-functioning, and responsible adult who happens to smoke weed. She says it’s no big deal. And some researchers agree with her. “A 2002 study, for example, tested 77 heavy smokers for days after abstaining from smoking pot. Memory impairment was found for heavy users up to 7 days after using marijuana, but by day 28 their memory test results didn’t differ significantly from control subjects.”

But here’s my question, what about twenty-eight years from now? How will it affect their memory or any other part of their brain then? People spend millions of dollars each year trying to quit smoking cigarettes, but cities and states are salivating with glee about the money they’re going to rake in because of pot sales. Oh, but marijuana isn’t addictive, like cigarettes are, you say…  However, “according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, marijuana addiction goes up to about 17 percent in those who start using young (in their teens) and to 25 to 50 percent among daily users.” Now that it’s A-Okay to smoke wherever and whenever you want in certain areas of the country, how many daily users will there be five years from now?

Dr. Abi-Dargham, MD, a professor at Columbia University Medical Center and author of a study at the university said that, “the bottom line is that long-term, heavy cannabis use may impair the dopaminergic system, which could have a variety of negative effects on learning and behaviour.” In addition, a number of studies have shown a link between smoking marijuana and schizophrenia as well as psychosis. Finally, researchers have found that the people who smoke daily for at least four years have a smaller volume of gray matter in their frontal lobe. Bingo. Know what that means? White matter in the brain. Decay. Which leads me to this…

I can’t help but wonder if my father-in-law’s rare form of dementia will become more commonplace in the future. While cigarette smoking has gone down, marijuana smoking is on the rise, and we have no idea what illnesses and physical impairments that will cause down the road. How many more people will die in accidents? How many more will move on to harder drugs when pot no longer provides a good enough high? How many more will begin developing diseases, chronic health conditions, pre-natal abnormalities, and debilitating illnesses because we’re now making it okay for people to smoke another dangerous substance. Medical marijuana, by the way, is most beneficial when it’s ingested, not smoked, so don’t even go there with me.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe we won’t see any long-term affect of these new laws. But I hope and pray that none of my children or any of their children have to go through this again. At least not because some politician thought it was a good idea to make money by jeopardizing the health of his or her constituents. Beware, America, we are heading down a slippery slope, and only time will tell what the long-lasting effects will be.

What I was writing about this time last year:  Resolving to Succeed in 2017

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and sweet romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me and Whispering Vines, are recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top three inspirational fiction books of 2015 and 2016. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Amy followed up her success with, Island of Miracles, which has outsold all of her other books worldwide and ranked as high 600 on Amazon. Her next children’s book, The Greatest Gift, is now available. Amy’s novel, Summer’s Squall, is now on sale online and in stores.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor, Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschislerand at http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017)

 

What is the Answer?

DSCN6495Let me begin by saying that this is not a political commentary. I think of it as a public introspection, a searching for answers where, perhaps, there is no real answer. I have always tried to act compassionately, to put others needs before myself. I am a passionate defender of the unborn, a believer in the dignity of all human life, and volunteer for social and humanitarian causes; yet today, I find myself at a crossroads. My heart and head are at odds, and I don’t know that there is anyone out there who can help me find the right answers to my questions.

First, I am a student of history and a firm believer in the adage that those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. I also believe that we are currently embroiled in the Third World War. While it is a war of weapons, it is also a war of ideology, not unlike the Cold War during which I was raised. It is a war of name calling, of hatred spewing, and of closed hearts and minds as much as it is a war of physical mass destruction. We are witnessing what our grandfathers and great-grandfathers witnessed with the aggression of Hitler, yet we have no single name to attach to this threat, just an ideology. How do we fight against an aggressive ideology in which nobody knows who the real enemy is?  For I do not believe that the enemy is all Muslims.

I’ve known people of Muslim descent and practicing Muslims, and I know that they are not bad people. They are peaceful people who do not subscribe to the beliefs of those such as ISIS; so I wonder, as we’ve all heard others say many times, why do they not speak out? I’m not talking about those in war-ravaged countries or those who are under constant threat or surveillance, but those who are free to stand up and say “this is not right, this is not what we believe.”  There are few places like Jordan, where all religions are welcome and where many of the current refugees have been able to flee; so where are the rest of the Muslim countries and their leaders?

During WWII, we brought in refugees from Europe, but we chose those who came. We did not open our doors to every person in Europe who wanted to flee the war. Was that right?  I don’t know.  But I do know that, on the contrary, we made sure that their homeland was safe for people to continue living secure, healthy, fulfilling lives. Those who say that was different and that we shouldn’t interfere with what’s going on in Syria or Iraq or any of the ISIS controlled countries, please tell me how is it different? How were the victims of WWII any different than those being persecuted today? Why wouldn’t we want, for our sake as well as theirs, to contain the threats in their lands and make their homeland safe for all people?  Even MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, just yesterday, questioned why we are bringing people here who could be fighting for their homes.  Because they have families?  So did our Pop.

And what are our leaders here and throughout the West supposed to do?  How can we help these refugees when we have those here at home who we are unwilling or unable to help – our poor, our homeless, our Veterans? We have approximately 50,000 homeless Veterans in our country. How do we look at them and say, we cannot give you food and shelter, but we can give it to people from the region where you put your very life at risk?

Pope Francis recently said that “refugees are more than statistics; they are children of God, each with his or her own inherent dignity.” My heart breaks over this, for I believe it to be true to the bottom of my soul. So where does that leave us? Where are we to find the resources to care for these people when we cannot care for our own? For it is not simply a matter of security. It is a matter of human dignity.  Does that mean that we are to take care of everyone (Whatsoever you do to the least of my people… Mat 25:45), or do we help them to help themselves (let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Eph 4:28)?  What is the right thing to do?

As far as security, our country has the strictest vetting process of any country in the world, yet our own intelligence officials have said that we can’t even come close to a guarantee that the process works. The attacks that have taken place on our own soil were, for the most part, homegrown terrorists (Boston, Oklahoma City, the first World Trade Center bombing). The perpetrators of 9/11 were here legally, so how well does the system work? Threats to our nation and our citizens can come from anywhere. Three of the Paris terrorists were French Nationals. How do we ever know if we are safe?

So again I ask, what is the answer? Where do we go from here? All sides will never agree. The only thing I know for sure is that leaders around the world need to take their heads out of the sand and recognize what the real problem is, the root of everything that is going on.  There is an ideology (again, I won’t call it a religion – this isn’t the religion of Muhammed that we are fighting), but an ideology that hates the West and is determined to spread their hate throughout the world, destroying everything its path.  Unless we strike at the root of the problem, nothing will be solved, no questions truly answers, no lives left to uphold with dignity.  Which leads me back to the question of humanity.  The questions swirl around and around in a vicious circle that truly never ends.

Amy Schisler is the author of two mystery / suspense novels. Her first book, A Place to Call Home is in its second printing and may be purchased in stores and online.  Amy’s newest mystery, Picture Me, was released in August of 2015 and is available in stores, at Amazon, and at Barnes & Noble.  Both novels are also available for Kindle, Nook, and iBooks.  Amy’s children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad, may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com.

My Favorite Story

Ken and Amy's Wedding33-001Recently, a friend of Morgan’s asked me to tell her the story of how Ken and I met.  I laughed when she said “It’s my favorite story.”  Apparently the girls have told the story to their friends, and they all find it so romantic.  I guess it is romantic, but to me, it’s just “our story.”  In honor of Ken’s birthday this coming Friday, I thought I’d share the tale with you.

The summer after I graduated from college, I was an attendee at a national political convention.  The very first day, the Maryland Delegation boarded a bus to the convention center.  I was alone and did not know a soul other than my mother’s dear friend, Joyce, who helped me gain a spot within the group.  I boarded the bus and watched the delegates and guests climb onto the bus and take their seats.  When a nice-looking young man started down the aisle, someone from the back called his name, and I recognized the young man – he attended the same college I had and was well-known on the Shore as the youngest person to ever be elected to the Maryland Legislature.  He happened to sit in front me, and never one to be shy, I tapped him on the shoulder and introduced myself as a fellow student at SU.  Though he laughs at it now and likes to deny it, Ken told me later that he knew that very instant that he was going to marry me.

For the rest of the week, every time I turned around, Ken was there.  He boarded the bus after I did, went to the same tourist attractions I visited, and was always waiting at the entrance of the convention center to “guide” me through security and onto the floor of the convention (of course, this was long before 9-11, and security was not what it is today).  Ken’s campaign manager, his former high school government teacher, was his guest at the convention.  Mr. Kleen (yes, that was his name, and he was tall and bald) has passed on since that week many years ago, but he loved to tell the tale of how he finally caught on to Ken’s “hurry up and wait” behavior that had the two of them arriving early each morning, only to sit and wait until Ken said it was time to board the bus.  Eventually Mr. Kleen realized what was going on and became part of the game to seek me out.

On the very last day of our trip, the three of us shared a taxi to the airport.  We were on different flights, but Ken had already come up with a plan to stay in touch.  In those days, there were no digital cameras, of course, so Ken suggested that we exchange addresses in order to share our pictures from the convention.  That began a period of letter writing in which we got to know each other from opposite sides of the state.  The first time my mother met Ken, she was sure that he was going to be some old man who had the hots for her daughter.  I guess I forgot to tell her that he was just a year older than I was.

Within three months, I knew I was in love.  On the night before Valentine’s Day, just seven months later, Ken proposed.  We were married just eight months later with special permission from my Priest to skip the one year wait period usually required by the Church.  After all, the election season would be in full swing soon, and we had to take advantage of the time we had.

This October, we will have been married for twenty-two years.  My, how time flies!  Soon our oldest daughter will graduate from college, and we will watch as some young man sweeps her off of her feet the way her father swept me off of mine.  Our beginning was every girl’s fantasy, our wedding was a true fairy tale kind of event, and our marriage has been what dreams are made of.  I can only imagine what the next fifty years will bring, but I know that we will happily share them together.

Amy Schisler is an author of mystery and suspense novels. Her first book, A Place to Call Home is in its second printing and may be purchased in stores, online, and through ibooks. Her previously published children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.  Amy’s next mystery, Picture Me, will be released in August of 2015 and will be available in stores and online.

You may follow Amy at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com