Page 1

Complimentary issue


august 2012

Renaissance man

Picture perfect at

Texas Bank and Trust

Belcher Center’s

show-stopping season

Bring your to

Innovation Academy How to build a fund and more

John Kirk MD

Humanitarian. Healthcare pioneer. Passionate about people. Steadfast in his commitments.

Letter from the Publishers


he common social evolution parlance accredited to Darwin as “survival of the fittest” presupposes the notion of possible order in a chaotic environment. The pushes for orderliness in human society find expressions in religion, economic, and political systems. The common thread in a community is sometimes coded as tradition, which is a way of defining arbitrary boundaries and a measure of standardization of codes of ethics. Ethics assume various measures based on the frames of references. Ethics when understood within a community helps individual in what is socially acceptable or the converse. Is there an intersection between morality and ethics? How do we know what is right or what is wrong? The realm of religion deals with morality as part of individual human development. This realm is often difficult to measure and standardized in the public square because of the complexities of individual values, religious interpretations, and belief systems. When more than one person has to compete for limited resources in the market square, the law of survival of the fittest brings about competition which often ends up with losers and winners. Is the loser or the winner morally wrong? If an individual or a group wins most of the time when competing for limited resources within a bounded area or a community, would that be proofs for moral or ethical justification? Contemporarily, confusion arises in what makes for social and individual wellbeing when compared to the absolutism of Love and Kindness to fellow human. The Christian Book of Instruction (The Bible) teaches not to shroud the principle of love to other fellow human by any form of spinning by any individual or groups. For this, Christ the Messiah look toward the fringe elements of human society and cared deeply for them. Darwin’s observation of survival of the fittest demonstrates that without rationally exercising the love for one another there is ethical justification for individual right and personal enrichment to the extinction of the weak in the society. A community is best served when everyone is important and cared for including holistic approach to affordable healthcare. We hope you will enjoy the story of Dr. John Kirk, Eleanor, his wife, and their love for fellow human beings, especially those who need our help. In this edition you will also find photos of friends who attended Eric Draper’s photographic presentation. Speaking of great community happenings, be sure to check out Bring your Bling, giving you the details of Diamonds and Dice, an event at Longview Museum of Fine Arts that you don’t want to miss. After that night of fun, enjoy a whole season of fun with the Belcher Center’s 2012-2013 Performance Series. We’ve even included a schedule, which includes times and descriptions of all of their upcoming shows. Moreover, we brought you information about the newest school in Longview: The University School called the Innovative Academy. Many people are feeling the pinch of the economy, so Money Talk offers ideas on how to save funds for a rainy day, gaining financial stability and more, while our Social Security column gives you knowledge on how retirement is calculated. Could you eat 65 hot dogs in 10 minutes? This guy did. Read about him and what competitive eating contests say about our society. While on the subject of food, there are also some delicious, yet simple, back to school recipes, sure to please the kids... and you. All of this talk about eating is probably making you sleepy- discover how to get better sleep, and how it will help improve your health. As always, enjoy this issue, and thank you for your continued readership.

Joycelyne and Robert The Publisher welcomes input from the public. You may write or email your comments to

august 2012

Volume 1 | Number 8

The magazine for living life beyond...

The Renaissance Man.................................. 4-7 Bankrollling “Front Row to History”..............8, 9


Innovation Academy...............................10, 11 Sleep tight.................................................. 13-15

Publishers/Editors Robert Fadojutimi Joycelyne Fadojutimi Creative Director/Design Therese Shearer Office Manager Diane Perkins

Road rules for the new game of life.......18, 19 That’s entertainment................................20, 21

20, 21

Photographer Jim King Distribution Teddy Larose

Bring your bling................................................22 How to build a fund........................................24

Advertising Information For display advertising, please contact Joycelyne Fadojutimi at 903.236.0406 or

Make back to school taste better................26 How retirement benefits are figured.......28, 29 Hot dog!.....................................................30, 31 Just for chuckles..............................................31


517 Mobberly Avenue Longview, Texas 75602 903.236.0406 OUR MISSION

To enrich the localglobal community with the “just in time” knowledge to assure future life successes.


To become an information oracle of functional and constructive reports that serve the needs of all people. The Publisher welcomes input from the public.

You may write or email your comments to infinitieplus magazine is not responsible for any discrepancies or changes since the publishing of this issue. At the time of publication, to the best of our knowledge, all information was accurate though not guaranteed. The entire contents of infinitieplus magazine are copyrighted 2012. Any reproduction or use in whole or part without written permission is prohibited. infinitieplus reserves the right to edit and make appropriate modifications. The opinions published by contributing writers do not necessarily reflect the views of infinitieplus or its advertisers.

Submission Deadline: The first of the month prior to month of issue.

from the cover John Kirk MD- green-thumbed gardener, gourmet chef, doting husband, wonderful father, aspiring golfer... AND an award-winning doctor? Meet this modern-day renaissance man on pages 4-7. Brought to Longview by Texas Bank and Trust, Eric Draper’s one-of-a-kind visual documentary, Front Row to History, enthralled many in the community including Joyce Pope and Karen Partee. See pages 8 and 9 for the full story and photo spread. Looking for something to do? Then look no further than the LETU Belcher Center. Its upcoming 2012-2013 season offers a wide variety of entertainment with something for everyone! Senior Director Cynthia Hellen gives us the scoop on pages 20 and 21. Get lucky at Diamonds and Dice, a fun-filled Las Vegas night at the Longview Museum of Fine Arts. Join them for a fabulous evening filled with exciting auctions, cocktails, dining and more! More on page 22.

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Infinitie Chronicles


Renaissance man

By Joycelyne Fadojutimi


r. John Louis Kirk, MD has the proverbial heart of gold. Hailing from the hamlet of Lone Star in Deep East Texas, he realized while in junior high that he wanted to be a medical doctor. He greatly admired three physicians who had family practices in his hometown. He knew them well. “In a small town like ours you get to see the physicians around town,” he said. His wife Eleanor is from Daingerfield. They met at a Methodist youth fellowship, but Eleanor will tell you she did not marry a doctor. She married a man- one who loved her so much he transferred to her university, which is now Texas A&M at Commerce. “I realized that he was someone who cared for me very much,” she said. From the beginning he let her know his ambition was to be a medical doctor. A year after their wedding John started his medical studies. Eleanor recalls it clearly. “We were from the country, and no one showed us how to enter medical school,” she said. “It was [due to] John’s sheer desire and given intelligence that he made it in medical school.” Kirk has vivid memories of his first, eye-opening days of medical school and of his classmates. They came from diverse backgrounds. One had already earned a PhD in engineering, another came from a wine-making family, another had a business degree and already owned a clothing store. “He wanted to prove that a perfect idiot can graduate from medical school,” said Kirk. The newlyweds shared an excitement for medicine. 4

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John Kirk MD

Humanitarian. Healthcare pioneer. Passionate about people. Steadfast in his commitments. “John did not talk much about school, but he would always come back excited.” she said. For the youthful Kirks medical school was a dream come true. “A couple of country kids doing what they wanted to do in the city,” John said. “San Antonio was a fantastic place to be.” John Louis Kirk regularly attended church with his parents, who were his model for an ideal Christian life. His father was a brick mason who did not want for anything, and was a hard worker who loved his neighbor as himself. Furthermore, John’s grandmother had high expectations for his spiritual life- she wanted it developed. She had her reasons. She wanted him to internalize spiritual matters. Heart in the Hebrew term means intellect, emotions and will. “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” Proverbs 3:23. This and other verses of Scripture has guided Kirk’s journey in this life. Even more, Kirk remembers a relatively young pastor who spent a great deal of time with his youth group. He even stayed in touch with him [Kirk] during his medical residency in Houston. John Kirk’s life is defined by his actions. He points to Jesus’ parable about the goats and the sheep in Mathew 25: 31-46. In this passage the Lord reveals to a multitude that when He returns, He will, like a shepherd, separate the sheep from the goats, gathering the sheep to His right, and the i n finitie plus

goats to His left. He turns to the sheep and tells them to come to their inheritance, for He was hungry, and they fed Him, He was thirsty, and they gave Him drink, He needed clothes, and they clothed Him, He was sick, and they looked after Him, He was in prison, and they visited Him. When these faithful sheep ask when did they feed Him, give Him drink, clothe Him and visit Him? The Lord replies, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters you did for Me.” Hence, Kirk lives his life caring for the community with a special attention to his medical field. Kirk started his practice by receiving patients in a state-run clinic instead of building a lucrative, profitable private practice. The state-run clinic was soon privatized. It seemed to him that there was a need that had to be addressed so that people with a need for healthcare would have this additional resource. In the year 2000, a dramatic change took place. The community clinic where he started evolved into Wellness Pointe. Parenting programs were added for couples and single parents having problems with their children. Then, abstinence training was put in to address social issues. Kirk worked hard with the staff at Wellness Pointe and continued to make progress in leaps and bounds. Currently, Wellness Pointe is an integrated Health System, a one-stop medical campus for the whole family and community at large. ➤


There are those who talk about wanting to make a positive difference, and there are those who live their lives making a positive difference. Dr. Kirk has lived his life making a positive difference in the lives of his patients and staff, and it is an honor to have the opportunity to meet and work alongside such a respected and gifted clinician.


Carl I. Walters II Wellness Pointe Chief Executive Officer

Dr. Kirk is an enthusiastic container gardener and grows tomatoes and peppers producing enough for Eleanor’s pepper jelly and tomato salads, as well as his gourmet cooking.

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Infinitie Chronicles His care for his patients did not go unnoticed even at home. Eleanor reveals that her husband is concerned about patients who do not seek treatment because they feel their health problems are not important. Kirk believes it is always vital to get proper medical care, and for this reason he sees Wellness Pointe as his greatest career accomplishment. He recalls its humble beginnings. “I never thought it would come to this, but it has worked out well,” he mused. “It was hard to see it back then.” He is happy and confident that Wellness Pointe “is now in a position that it will go on after we are gone.” He is even more excited about how the new Chief Executive Officer Carl I. Walters II and his team will take Wellness Pointe to new heights and become a viable, vital and permanent element of the community. CEO Walters feels the same eager anticipation. “We are a stronger and healthier community for having such a forward-thinking, compassionate healthcare clinician among us,” he said. “We proudly stand beside him as his Wellness Pointe family.” Walters carried his praise for Dr. Kirk yet further. “The community is indebted to the vision,

conviction and uncompromising passion Dr. Kirk has for improving access to high-quality core primary care services for our valued community families,” he said. Walters also sees our community healthcare system as being stronger and more integrated due to the invaluable services Wellness Pointe plays in partnering with local healthcare stakeholders to insure the whole, valued community has access to high-quality, personable and affordable healthcare services. “Thousands of community families have been positively touched over the years because of Dr. Kirk’s down-to-earth clinical practices,” Walters said. Noting how and why Wellness Pointe has grown, Kirk points to how it makes it possible for its staff to better themselves and the services by supplying them with a foundation enabling them to do their best work. “We provide a culture and atmosphere that they could work and do the programs that benefit the community,” he said. Kirk also wanted his patients to have a medical facility that is not cold, dark and ominous. He is very proud of how Wellness Pointe accomplishes this. “Wellness Pointe has tried to treat our patients

the way we want to be treated,” he said. Eleanor describes her husband as a problem solver. “John is a person I know that whenever there is a problem or obstacle, you let him work it out,” she said. “When John works, he works hard. When he plays, he plays hard. He is an intense person.” When he is not delivering babies at Good Shepherd or Longview Regional, Dr. Kirk is an enthusiastic container gardener. He grows tomatoes and peppers in pots and cares for them like they were patients. After all, he learned farming from his father. His hobby produces enough for Eleanor’s pepper jelly and tomato salads, but he takes his pastime further. He is a gourmet chef. He is an expert on banana flambé, shrimp Creole gumbo and other delicacies. His mother and his Boys Scout den mother helped shape his culinary skills. “He is a wonderful cook,” said Eleanor. Kirk attends NASCAR races and flies airplanes. He satisfies his love of art and culture by attending symphonies and plays. There is more. Last year, at age 63, he took up golf. Although his college roommates played golf and his sons Ben and Will also play, he considered it an utter waste of time. Then his son-in-law invited him to

I consider myself one of the luckiest people ever to have done the things that I have done with the people I did it with.

John Kirk MD

Dr. Kirk surrounded by friends, colleagues and supporters when he recently received the Dr. Sam Mack Lifetime Achievement Award. 6

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John is a person I know that whenever there is a problem or obstacle, you let him work it out. When John works, he works hard. When he plays, he plays hard. He is an intense person.

Eleanor Kirk

Proud wife Eleanor takes a moment to congratulate Dr. Kirk on his recognition with the Dr. Sam Mack Lifetime Achievement Award.

a family Father’s Day mini-tournament as its first non-blood relative participant. He came away hooked. He took a few lessons and has been playing ever since. “I have taken up a new sport,” he says. John and Eleanor have two successful sons, William and Benjamin; and a beautiful, brilliant daughter Laura Temming who is a product developer. Now that their children are out of the nest, the Kirks are grateful for their successful, serving lives. “I feel very blessed- blessings of my family, my marriage to John, and our children,” Eleanor said. “I have always wanted to be a teacher, and I have done that. John has done what he wanted.” According to Dr. Kirk, getting married before

he became a doctor was a blessing. Eleanor is not a trophy wife. “I consider myself one of the luckiest people ever to have done the things that I have done with the people I did it with,” he said. Kirk recently received the highest honor for physicians in Longview- Dr. Sam Mack Lifetime Achievement Award. Kirk is an obstetrician/gynecologist, and received his medical degree from the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio in 1975. He completed his residency at the Texas Health Science Center in Houston, Hermann Hospital and M.D. Anderson Hospital and Cancer Institute in 1979. He is board-certified with the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecol-

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ogy. In addition, he is a member of the American Medical Association, Gregg County Medical Society, Southern Medical Association, UT Medical School at San Antonio Alumni Association and serves as president of the UT Former Residents in Obstetrics and Gynecology. He now splits his time between Longview’s Good Shepherd and Longview Regional Medical Center hospitals. Walters best summarizes Dr. Kirk: “There are those who talk about wanting to make a positive difference, and there are those who live their lives making a positive difference. Dr. Kirk has lived his life making a positive difference in the lives of his patients and staff, and it is an honor to have the opportunity to meet and work alongside such a respected and gifted clinician.” august 2012


Community Connections


“Front Row to History” Left to right: Lori Osborne, Tammy Gage, Lauren Webb, Karen Partee, Eric Draper, Elizabeth Abrams, Wendy Writt

By Joycelyne Fadojutimi


hen Eric Draper former chief photographer and special assistant to President George W. Bush brought his “Front Row to History’ exhibition to Longview, many art enthusiasts attended this event sponsored by Texas Bank and Trust at Pine Crest Country Club. In the one-of-a-kind photographic extravaganza attendees saw the most recognizable graphic images and never-before-seen photographs of our country’s 44th chief executive and the most significant places and events of his terms in office. Draper recorded the administration via more than a million photos taken from George W. Bush own inauguration to the trip home. Draper narrated this visual documentary during an hour long session and display of his multitude images. The showing included such monumental events as September 11, the Iraq War, and several major occurrences in international diplomacy. Prior to working for the White House, Draper was an Associated News photographer.


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Bob and Jill Berney

Natalie Rabicoff

Jill and Sam Smead

Molly Sue Spear and Hazel Hickey

Shane Best

Mike and Carolyn Northcutt infinitie plus

Jim and Amanda Tilley august 2012



A new school is in town- University of Texas Longview Center opens Charter School By J.D. Isaac In a few weeks, the University of Texas at Tyler opens a new public charter schools a few blocks from Longview Independent School District’s flagship campus. The UT Tyler Innovation Academy already has 60 enrollees for this fall, but LISD officials say they have no fear of new competition. “We are fortunate in the Longview area to have some excellent educational offerings,” LISD spokesman Adam Holland said. ”The addition of one more will make us all better.” The UT Tyler Innovation Academy is a University Charter School dedicated to developing, implementing and disseminating new and promising practices in education. It is a project-based learning environment that emphasizes T-STEM (Texas-science, technology, engineering and mathematics elements), giving students access through UT Tyler to resources and opportunities not readily available in traditional public school settings.

As a state-funded charter school, there is no tuition. It operates on a shortened, four-hour school day that stresses student engagement and parental involvement. “The Innovation Academy is a little different than a number of charter schools,” Executive Director Eli Crow said in describing the Innovation Academy during a webbased video presentation released in May. “Most charter schools tend to operate in similar fashion to traditional public schools. The Innovation Academy is different. It has a shortened school day. It delivers a lot of information via technology. It uses project-based learning and it’s based on a proven framework called the T-STEM Academy Blueprint. “We know that doing (projectbased learning) and connecting that to the bigger ideas is a more powerful aspect of learning. It’s at the application level, as it might be described. We know that when students do this, they have more buy-in and ownership of it and they attach it to an

emotional response or domain, and we know that, when they do that, they retain information better,” Crow said. “We also know that, when they go one step farther and create something of their own, that they retain it even more. So associated with every project is some sort of product. It might be a presentation they give, a website they develop or a book that they write or might even publish, but it’s a product that is an artifact of what they have learned, and it’s something they can look back to, the teacher can look back to and recognize the learning that has occurred.” The State Board of Education granted UT-Tyler Innovation Academy charter this past November, authorizing the UT Tyler Innovation Academy to serve as many as 2,400 students. This fall, campuses in Tyler, Longview and Palestine will serve third- through sixthgraders. The Longview campus will have as many as 60 students and three teachers. Each campus will add one grade

level each year after 2012 to ultimately serve third- through 12thgraders by 2018. Only a handful of universities in Texas operate charter schools, including the University of Texas at Austin and Stephen F. Austin State University. According to the Texas Charter Schools Association, there are 460 charter schools in the state serving more than 110,000 students. Serving this region are East Texas Charter Schools in Longview, Texas Early College High School in Marshall, Panola Early College High School in Carthage and Azleway Charter School in Tyler. Charter schools are public schools, but they are exempt from several laws that govern traditional public campuses, including requirements to hire certified teachers. Charter schools are subject to state testing and accountability rules. Lawmakers passed initial charter school legislation in 1995, and the state’s first charter school opened the following year. There are four

University of Texas Longview Center cuts the ribbon for Innovation Academy. 10

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The Innovation Academy is different. It has a shortened school day. It delivers a lot of information via technology. It uses project-based learning and it’s based on a proven framework called the T-STEM Academy Blueprint. Eli Crow Executive Director, Innovative Academy

classes of charter schools – home rule school district charters, campus program charter schools, openenrollment charter schools and college or university charter schools. During the 2008-09 school-year, three universities including Stephen F. Austin State University operated 19 charter school campuses, according to the Texas Association of School Boards. The University of Texas at Austin’s University Charter School opened in 1998 with one campus and 50 students. It has since grown to 15 special purpose campuses in Central Texas and the Houston area with an average enrollment of 725 students, according to Charter schools face some of the same challenges as independent school districts. Much like Longview, Pine Tree, Kilgore and Hallsville school districts, University Charter School missed certain benchmarks – in specific, math performance and graduation rates - in the federal Adequate Yearly Progress report for 2010. Also, like many area school districts, the Texas Charter Schools Association in June filed a lawsuit against the state over school funding, arguing that the nontraditional campuses face unfair restrictions and are shortchanged on funding. It was the sixth such lawsuit filed against the state in the past year over the way it funds public education. Holland said Longview ISD welcomes another educational opportunity for East Texas schoolchildren. “I’m not sure whether they’ve contacted us, but I can tell you that we welcome them and would help them in any way we could,” Holland said.

The state funds Texas public school districts based on a school’s average daily attendance. When students transfer or move from the district, or when they are absent, the school district loses some of its funding. Contracted consultants in 2008 projected that Longview ISD would see its enrollment increase 9.5 percent, or nearly 800 student, by 2018. After completing a $269 million facelift of its district, using voter-approved debt to build new schools and renovate some existing campuses, LISD is seeing those enrollment projections take hold despite the UT Tyler Innovation Academy’s opening. “We’ve set out-of-district transfer records two consecutive years because of offerings such as International Baccalaureate and our nationally renowned engineering program,” Holland said. “Just in the past two months we’ve approved more than 300 requests for the coming year, and new requests come daily.

Every area school district has its niche, and (the Innovation Academy) will carve theirs out as well.” In time, the academy and UT Tyler plan to enter a dual credit partnership, which could affect dual credit enrollment among high school students at several other higher education institutions, including Kilgore College. “We believe the planned dual credit offerings will further strengthen the university’s presence and provide new post-secondary offerings,” Crow said. “UT Tyler is committed to offering college classes through the Longview University Center, and we believe that the Innovation Academy will only enhance this goal.” Kilgore College President Bill Holda said he does not see any conflict between the Innovation Academy and his college’s dual credit offerings, and instead sees the potential for a growing relationship infinitie plus

We may end up having a role in the academy. I would think the greater impact would be on the independent school districts who depend on average daily attendance funding, if they were to lose some significant enrollment in a particular school. Bill Holda President, Kilgore College

with UT Tyler. “In fact, throughout the state, many of the charters have used the community colleges to provide selected dual credit classes,” Holda said. “For example, Kilgore College provides LISD and Longview High School with some of their course work for the Longview Global High and within the International Baccalaureate program. So, we may end up having a role in the academy. I would think the greater impact would be on the independent school districts, who depend on average daily attendance funding, if they were to lose some significant enrollment in a particular school.” august 2012



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Body, Mind, and Soul

sleep tight Break the bad-sleep cycle for better health By Ben Larrison The average person has probably heard it his entire life, from when he was a kid with a bedtime to his latest physical: If you want to be at your best, make sure you get enough sleep. But despite the warnings, chances are we’re never quite as well-rested as we wish we were.

Sleep loss effects people in plenty of negative ways, from heightened irritability to a weakened immune system, so making sure you get your Z’s should be considered pretty crucial. Yet while doctors recommend adults get about seven and a half hours of sleep per night, a 2011 National Sleep Foundation report said Americans average

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less than seven hours on weeknights. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to both develop healthy sleep habits, and to get more out of your sleep. For starters, establish and stick to a good sleep routine. “Routine is very important, as far as being able to go to sleep properly and easily,” says Dr. William Kohler, medical director of the Florida Sleep Institute in Spring Hill, Fla. “The routine is very significant.” While falling asleep at a reasonable hour obviously is beneficial toward getting a good night’s sleep, perhaps even more significant is waking up at the same time every morning - yes, even on weekends. “Getting up that same time every day is very important to keeping that internal clock,” says Dr. Ronald Popper, American of the Academy of Sleep Medicine in Darien, Ill. ➤ august 2012


Body, Mind, and Soul That being said, you cannot force yourself to go to sleep. “The cardinal rule is that you don’t go to bed at a particular time, you go to bed because you’re sleepy,” says Popper, “not just at 10 or 11 o’clock at night.” If you don’t fall asleep within 1520 minutes of getting into bed, he says, “Get out of bed, go into another room, and do something relaxing until you become sleepy.” One way to help ensure you are tired when you first get into bed: exercise. “Daily, vigorous exercise really, really helps for people who have any type of (trouble sleeping),” says Dr. Lisa Shives, medical director at Northshore Sleep Medicine in Evanston, Ill. Sleep doctors recommend getting 30 to 60 minutes of cardio approximately 4 to 5 hours before going to bed, as exercise too close to bedtime can lead to an epinephrine buildup that

may keep you from getting to sleep. If that does not work into your schedule, lean on the side of working out earlier in the day rather than later. But like so many sleep-related habits, it’s ultimately going to be up to your personal preferences. Figuring out when to exercise “ really easy for a patient to experiment his or her self,” says Shives, the sleep expert at “For two weeks, do your exercise early in the morning. If you’re actually able to choose when to do it, you can be your own control. See what works best for you.” After all that exercise, you’re bound to work up an appetite. But keep in mind the choices you make about what you eat and drink could wind up affecting you come bedtime. Some basic foods and drinks to avoid before bed include simple carbohydrates, caffeine, and alcohol - even if

“The cardinal rule is that you don’t go to bed at a particular time, you go to bed because you’re sleepy.” Dr. Ronald Popper, American Academy of Sleep Medicine

initially makes you sleepy. “Alcohol can actually help you get to sleep,” Kohler says, “but once you metabolize the alcohol it destroys the quality of sleep.” Popper more bluntly put it: “Using alcohol to assist in sleep is a really bad idea.” If you’re looking for a good pre-bed snack, try a high-fat, highprotein food, such as cheese. All right, so you’ve worked out, you’ve eaten right - what else factors into a good night’s sleep? Well if you want to be sleep-ready come bedtime, it’s important to not go to bed overstimulated. “You need to get the brain so that it will shut off so you can get to sleep,” Kohler says. Video games, computer programs, and action-packed movies or TV shows are all things to avoid just before bed. In fact, “in the one to two hours before your desired bedtime, you really want to keep light as dim as possible,” Shives says. “When you get light at 11 o’clock at night, it’s telling your brain it’s time to get up and feed the chickens, and can really just turn on the wrong neurotransmitters.” In general, the majority of sleep professionals seem to agree it’s best to avoid using the bedroom for anything that isn’t sleep. “Break the association of the bedroom from wakefulness,” Popper says. “So that means no wake-time activities in the bed.” In the end, getting the most out of sleep de-

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pends on you and your own personal habits and preferences. What type of mattress to buy, how many blankets you use, the temperature at which you keep your bedroom - it’s all a matter of comfort, and opinion. Sleep tight! CTW FEATURES

6 Bedroom Fixes For a Better Night’s Sleep


Do your best to keep light in the bedroom to a minimum. Avoid overhead light if you can, and when reading, use a book light or, better yet, listen to an audiobook.


If you don’t have a personal preference, try keeping the bedroom cooler rather than warmer - it mimics the descent in cooling of body temperature we experience when we sleep. “Most people report they feel better with a cool environment,” says Dr. Lisa Shives, medical director at Northshore Sleep Medicine in Evanston, Ill.


Too much light infiltrating your bedroom? Try blackout shades, which should be available at your local furniture or hardware store, in addition to online retailers.


Is your spouse a snorer? A good pair of earplugs makes for a simple, cheap solution. It might take time to adapt to wearing them at night, but it will be worth it in the long run.


If external noises are the problem, there are plenty of remedies, including white-noise machines or smartphone apps. Just be sure to find one that works for you.


As tempting as it may be to sleep with your favorite furry friends, it’s best to keep pets out of the bedroom. “Pets are a very common cause of awakening at night, by jumping on the bed and barking or meowing,” says Dr. Ronald Popper, of the Academy of Sleep Medicine in Darien, Ill.

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Money Talk

Road Rules For the New Game Of Life

Money smarts aren’t just about making the right investment moves - it’s about staying positive, too By Anna Sachse High gas and food prices, a struggling economy, real estate woes - it’s pretty easy to get all revved up on stress in today’s unstable world, only to feel like you’re just spinning your wheels. Sure, anxiety and skepticism are an understandable response, but they don’t do much to remedy the situation. Instead, staying calm and moving forward, even if you have to do it slowly, is the way to eventually win the race. “There’s no question that our 18

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economy is facing headwinds from several directions, but it’s important to remember that the economy moves in cycles just like the seasons of the year - although with less predictable timing,” says Karin Maloney Stifler, president of True Wealth Advisors in Hudson, Ohio and a member of the National Board of Directors for the Financial Planning Association. “However dire this current ‘cold, hard’ winter seems, we can take comfort and confidence from the fact that the i n finitie plus

markets have always rebounded just like spring always follows winter.” But in addition to striving for a positive attitude, it’s also important to take solid, practical steps toward making your own position within a precarious economy as stable as you can. While it may feel counter-intuitive, Stifler’s No. 1 piece of advice for good personal financial health is to keep your money in the market. She compares it to the weight-loss game - if you’re overweight, starving yourself is not the way back to a

healthy weight. “Instead, you need to adopt healthy habits, like a balanced diet and regular exercise, or, in financial terms, a diversified investment strategy and disciplined savings and management practices,” Stifler says. “This may not be a quick fix, but is more likely to bring lasting benefits.” And if all this sounds appealing, but you’re still stuck on the maintaining a positive attitude part, you also might want to consider investing your resources in a life coach.

According to psychologist and master certified life coach, Dr. Patrick Williams, founder and CEO of the Institute for Life Coach Training in Byron Center, Mich., the goal of life coaching is to teach people how to focus on their strengths in the present, even as they gain additional skills for facing the future. Unlike a counselor, a life coach only gets the Cliff Notes version of your background, and then quickly shifts the focus to what you want for your future, broken down into the next 30 days, six months and two years. The goal is long-term objectives with doable plans. “A life coach will help you determine what’s realistic with your resources (including money, time and friends) and what’s a pipe dream,” Williams says. “You gain control of a design for the future so that you don’t feel so oppressed in a crisis.” A lot of coaches give a free 30-minute session, so consider trying it out, or get started by taking

the University of Pennsylvania Positive Psychology Center’s Signature Strengths Questionnaire at To start making healthy financial strides, Stifler offers these “healthy habits” for achieving financial security even when times are tough: 1. Keep money in perspective. One of the first steps in “managing money” is to understand your relationship with it (which starts with your money roots during your youth) and how your feelings and experiences with money impact your behaviors and decisions. Your relationship with money and your “total well-being” will start to improve once you accept that your money issues are less about how much you have or don’t have, and more about what you choose to do with what you have and why, Stifler says. 2. Focus on your investment portfolio. Assess whether you have the right asset mix for your invest-

ment goals and time horizon. If you are properly diversified, chances are your portfolio will not decline as much as the stock market, Stifler says. But above all, try not to liquidate your retirement assets prematurely to raise cash. 3. Keep your home. If you don’t have to move, don’t. “Home values, like stocks, moves in cycles,” Stifler says. “Remember that first and foremost, a home is a roof over your head, not an investment.” 4. Don’t scrimp on health insurance. Keep the best coverage

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you can afford because you never know what might happen, and just one uninsured visit to the hospital could be financially disastrous for years to come. 5. Make an overall financial plan. A comprehensive plan, like a head-to-toe medical checkup, is the best way to ensure that you’re making the most of your financial resources, Stifler says. If you don’t have a plan and want expert help, you can find a Certified Financial Planner at


august 2012


Arts & Culture

s ’ t a h T

entertainment LETU’s 2012-2013 performance series sure to delight

By Kelly Bell


his is the sixth season the LeTourneau University S.E. Belcher, Jr. Chapel and Performance Center will be bringing world-class theatrical entertainment to East Texans. This year’s schedule features nine shows. The 2012-2013 season will be featuring performances by The Midtown Men, Michael Bolton, the California and Montreal Guitar Trios, musical selections of Buddy Holly, the wholesome comedy of Sinbad, the dramatic Of Mice and Men, such musical theater as Shrek the Musical and Fiddler on the Roof, and a special seasonal event presentation by Celtic Woman. This season will furthermore commemorate the School and Family Series’ third year by presenting such all-age-appropriate showings as The Ugly Duckling and The Tortoise and the Hare and an entrancing classical violinist presentation by the highly expert group Black Violin. Martin Mainstream Partners will underwrite all of the Belcher Center’s 2012-2013 season. The marquee sponsors are Transet and Network Communications, and additional unselfish sponsors make the presentations possible. Season tickets are already on sale, and current season ticket holders have until July 18 to renew their seats. The “Build Your Own Season” option of discounted ticket packages has been re-introduced. Holders can purchase ticket bundles for five, six, seven or eight shows. Those buying eight-show packages will receive a 15% discount, but since these bundles are not available online the purchases must be made at the box office or by calling 903-233-3080 from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. All individual tickets will go on sale August 1. According to Cynthia Hellen, LeTourneau University Belcher Center senior director, in its 6th season, the Belcher Center at Letourneau University is coming out with its best-ever selection of sensations. This year there will be the two Broadway shows Shrek the Musical and Fiddler on the Roof. Apart from Michael Bolton and the Celtic Woman, there will be renowned stand-up comic Sinbad, and the Midtown Men, consisting of 4 original members of the Broadway hit The Jersey Boys, they will be putting on a performance of 1960s music and a dramatic performance of the play Of Mice and Men. There will be a sleeper show, “which is what Cynthia Hellen calls it,” with the California and Montreal Guitar Trios. “It will be a great year,” she said. “We have different sponsors for every one of the shows, or several show sponsors, and then we have a season sponsor and two other season sponsors.” Most of these are return sponsors. Martin Mainstream Partners and Martin Gas have supported the program since its inception, and have contributed greatly to its success. “We are just so excited that people in this community are responding so well to what we are doing out here,” she said. “We are really excited about it and very, very grateful for the support not only from our sponsors, but our patrons as well.” The program has been a glowing success thanks to its sponsors and volunteers.


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“We are just so thrilled that people in this community are responding so well to what we are doing out here. We are really excited about it and very, very grateful for the support not only from our sponsors, but our patrons as well.” Cynthia Hellen, LETU Belcher Center Senior Director The Midtown Men 7:00 p.m. Tuesday, September 18

Following a successful North American tour through nearly 50 cities, The Midtown Men reunites Christian Hoff, Michael Longoria, Daniel Reichard and J. Robert Spencer, stars of the original cast of Broadway’s Tony Award-winning musical Jersey Boys. Their performance will feature a cocktail of 1960s hits from such legends as the Beatles, the Beach Boys, the Temptations, the Jackson Five and the Four Seasons, the group they concentrated on in Jersey Boys. Sidney and Anna Lee Allen will sponsor this show.

Sinbad 7:30 p.m. Saturday, October 6, 2012

California Guitar Trio and Montreal Guitar Trio 7:30 p.m., Saturday, January 26, 2013

California Guitar Trio (CGT) and Montreal Guitar Trio (MG3) will be performing and will feature all six virtuoso guitarists. The two groups were inspired in 2010 by an impromptu studio session together in Montreal. Representing four countries (Japan, Canada, Belgium, and US), they fuse over 40 years of combined performing experience into one unique six-by-6-string ‘phenomensemble’. In a pleasantly surprising way, CGT’s steel stringed-guitars blend naturally with MG3’s nylon-stringed guitars, as each trios fret boards chase the others’ original compositions and new arrangements of progressive rock, world, jazz and classical music.

Comedy Central ranks Sinbad as one of the top 100 stand-up comics in entertainment history. Sinbad has endeared himself to a faithful following by turning audiences’ painful and embarrassing situations into humorous anecdotes, expertly, painlessly and with hilarity, producing hysterical laughter in his listeners. He also possesses the rare ability to make the profane not only amusing, but clean. A preacher’s son, he decided on a career in clean comedy after his father attended one of his performances. His philosophy is “funny is funny,” and it can be wholesome at the same time- for anyone. Longview Regional Medical Center and Neiman Marcus are sponsoring his performance.

Michael Bolton 7:00 p.m. Sunday, December 16, 2012

Michael Bolton has spent decades touring the world pursuing his musical calling as a singer/songwriter, selling more than 53 million albums and singles. Presently he is on yet another world tour while simultaneously working on a number of projects in music, film and television. His soulful voice, poignant lyrics, hairspray ad good looks, his style and charm have combined to land him inclusions in several of People magazine’s “Sexiest Man” issues, including a recent recognition as “Sexiest Man in his 50s.” Eastman Chemicals and Gregg Industrial Insulators will be sponsoring his show.

Founded in 1972 by producer/director/actor John Houseman and producing director Margot Harley, and supported by Julliard’s Drama Division’s first graduating class, the Acting Company has put on 136 productions for over 3 million spectators in 48 of the United States and 10 foreign countries. Broadway giants like Kevin Kline, Rainn Wilson and Patti LuPone have starred in these productions. In this saga by Pulitzer Prize winner John Steinbeck, two drifters, George and Lennie, are the central characters in a sad but entrancing story of the Great Depression. The two work on a ranch where Lennie, a powerful man with the outlook of a child and little self-confidence, relies on pal, George, to reassure him and show him the straight and narrow. Tom and Marge Dome, Charley and Sherry Peck and the Pelaia Law Center are sponsoring this presentation.

Celtic Woman 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 17, 2013

For just one night the four-woman team behind the Celtic Woman sensation will bring their riveting act to the Belcher Center. Directed by Emmy-nominated music producer David Downes this lyrical pageant will feature the women singing classic Irish melodies The Water is Wide, Green Grow the Rushes and The Parting Glass. They will also croon contemporary hits like Bridge Over Troubled Water, Sailing, You’ll Never Walk Alone and Ava Maria, all seasoned by the signature Celtic Woman style. The show will be sponsored by Richard and Carol Manley.

School and Family Series The Ugly Duckling and The Tortoise and the Hare 7:00 p.m. Monday, October 15, 2012

Fiddler on the Roof 7:00 p.m. Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Light Wire Theater and Corbian Visual Arts and Dance will use modern technology to put on state-of-the-art renditions of the timeless Hans Christian Andersen classic Ugly Duckling. This simple yet powerful tale of positive transformation has inspired generations of children to overcome adversity- one of humanity’s universal quests. By bringing this modern rendition to the stage Light Wire Theater will offer hope to audiences who will root for the ungainly little hatchling who displays endless resiliency and outright heroism en route to maturing into a beautiful swan. Spanning the centuries from Aesop’s Greece, The Tortoise and the Hare is a positive testament to the value of patience and resolution. Both presentations will delight onlookers via glittering visuals, poignant dancing and music performed in such unexpected genres as pop, classical and jazz, flavoring these old classics in a new and pleasurable fashion. They will be sponsored by Subway Sandwiches of East Texas.

“Rave On!” The Buddy Holly Experience 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 23, 2013

Black Violin 7:00 p.m. Friday, February 8, 2013

Shrek the Musical 7:00 p.m. Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The offshoot of the wildly popular DreamWorks animated film, Shrek the Musical is an onstage homage to everyone’s favorite ogre. Few expect the charming, beautiful and free-spirited princess of a bottom-side-up kingdom to be rescued not by a handsome prince, but by a hulking, ungainly troll. There is of course the villain everybody loves to hate, a motor-mouthed donkey, an animated cookie whose attitude leaves something to be desired and a posse of other unforgettable cartoon characters. This makes for a situation crying out for a hero of Shrek’s stature. The enchanting fable features 19 new songs, brilliant choreography and awesome scenery that moved reviewers to vote it Broadway’s favorite new musical. It will be sponsored by Texas Bank and Trust.

Of Mice and Men 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 6, 2013

The legendary musical Fiddler on the Roof has historically enchanted audiences worldwide. A musical score including such classics as Tradition, Matchmaker, Matchmaker, If I Were a Rich Man and Sunrise, Sunset, Fiddler on the Roof is a classic for all generations by weaving music, choreography and humor into a powerful narrative that delights audiences and leaves them wanting to see it again. The Longview News-Journal will sponsor this presentation.

One of America’s greatest rock superstars has his chronicle unforgettably presented in this musical extravaganza featuring Buddy Holly impersonator Billy McGuigan. Backed up by the magnificent Rave-On Band, the presentation puts on a breathtaking display of Holly’s music through such immortal hits as Peggy Sue, Raining in My Heart, It’s So Easy, That’ll Be the Day, True Love Ways, Oh Boy and Rave On. McGuigan not only pays homage to Holly and the art form of rock music, but honors such luminaries as Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper. Southside State Bank is sponsoring this presentation.

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Kev Marcus and Wil B call themselves Black Violin. These classic musicians work with their DJ, TK, to blur the distinction between classical and hip-hop music in a way that appeals to children. In 2005 they earned the coveted “Apollo Legends” award. Both brilliant violinists graduated from Dillard Performing Arts High School, winning full scholarships to college. Black Violin now strives to share its priceless opportunities to partake of musical art. By touring with the likes of Alicia Keyes, P. Diddy and Akon, Black Violin is committed to showing children that classical music is cool and downright enjoyable. Subway Sandwiches of East Texas is sponsoring their show.

august 2012


Arts & Culture

Bring your

By Joycelyne Fadojutimi Longview Museum of Fine Arts (LMFA) invites you to bring your bling and join them for an exclusive evening Las Vegas style on August 25, at 6:30 p.m. Sport your ‘blingiest’ outfit. Better yet, come as you are and join the action. LMFA is promising an exhilarating, enjoyable evening night which includes casino games such as Blackjack, Craps and Roulette. LMFA will welcome you with their special signature “Good Luck” drink and a scrumptious dinner of your choice: chicken or steak. In addition, attendees will get a chance to try their hands at: Incredible silent and live auction items: • Tickets to the Super Bowl • Masters Tournament • NASCAR and more The cost of ticket is $75 per person. Furthermore, special sponsor levels are available. LMFA is a non-profit organization hence community participation is greatly encouraged and appreciated. Come and be a part of this exclusive fundraising evening. R.S.V.P. by August 15.

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august 2012


Money Talk

Not Financially Ready for an Emergency?

How to build a

FUND By Terry Savage American finances are running on empty. The new statistics showing how few people have an emergency savings reserve are troubling — but not shocking. Everyone has a friend or family member who has faced tough times over these past few years. And now everyone sees the value of having savings instead of debt. There is no “magic wand” to create a savings reserve when you’re just getting by. At that point, you just have to hope and pray that there isn’t an emergency need for cash. In an emergency, cash is always expensive, with high rates for credit card debt and home equity loans almost impossible to get anymore. But if you are still working — and spending everything you earn — there may be some ways you can divert a regular sum of money before you see it and spend it. Have your paycheck directly deposited in your bank account — and have your bank take a small sum from each paycheck and put it into a good oldfashioned savings account. It won’t earn a lot of interest, but it will be “out of the way” and less likely to be spent. Rarely recommended but surely one way to make sure you don’t spend it all: Ask your employer to take more money out of your paycheck for income tax withholding. Yes, you’re making an interest-free loan to the government — but it will result in a tax refund next year. Contribute to a Roth IRA, which means you don’t get a tax deduction. I’ve tried to keep this a secret so you won’t tap into your retirement fund, but no matter what your age, you can withdraw your contributions (but not the earnings) penalty-free from a Roth IRA. If your problem is self-discipline, these ideas will help you build a savings reserve for emergencies. But if you truly can’t find a penny to spare, get some help. Call the National Foundation for Consumer Credit at (800) 388-2227 to be connected to the nearest local office. Their service is not just for those on the edge of bankruptcy. The accredited counselors offer helpful suggestions for reorganizing your finances so you can find the money to save. A little bit saved on a regular basis goes a long way toward buying peace of mind. That’s the Savage Truth. Terry Savage is a registered investment adviser and is on the board of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Reach her at


august 2012

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august 2012



Grubs Up n the rush to get everyone off to school, it’s easy to fall into a food rut, serving the same things for breakfast, lunch and snacks. But with some inspiration and a little planning, going back to school can taste a whole lot better than it used to. To make things even more fun, have the kids help with these recipes and ideas. Once they get the hang of it, they can experiment with new ingredients and do it themselves, taking one more thing off your to-do list. • Breakfast: Start the day off with pizza — Breakfast Pizza, that is. This recipe layers eggs, cheese, turkey bacon, hash browns, sour cream and guacamole on your favorite pita or flatbread. Kids can make it as hot or as mild as they like. It’s a great way to sneak in avocados’ 20 vitamins and minerals, and it will give them energy to get going on their busy day. • Lunch: Skip the same old sandwiches and liven up the lunchbox with these tasty creations. Try a Tortilla Wrap made with chicken, Wholly Salsa, Wholly Guacamole and a hint of lime juice. Experiment with different kinds of tortillas, from whole wheat or sundried tomato, to spinach or jalapeño. For a full-of-flavor favorite, make a Mexican Turkey Torta. Thin turkey slices get topped with a zesty black bean and corn relish, crisp lettuce and your favorite guacamole. To help keep all the delicious flavors inside the roll, hollow it out a bit so the other ingredients don’t fall out. • After School Snack: Whether they need something to hold them over until dinner or a quick bite on the way to practice, these Wrap It Ups will do the trick. Turkey, garlic and herb spread, Havarti cheese, guac, lettuce and tomato get wrapped up in a tortilla or flatbread, then sliced into bite-sized swirls of deliciousness. Make them ahead of time, then just slice when it’s time to enjoy. Get more back to school inspiration — including quick-fix dinner recipes for busy school nights — at


Family Features

back to school

taste better

Breakfast Pizza

Yield: 2 pizzas 2 pita wraps or flatbreads 1/2 cup Wholly Salsa 2 scrambled eggs 1/2 cup Mexican 3 cheese blend 4 strips turkey bacon, cooked and crumbled 1/4 cup hash browns, thawed 1 tablespoon sour cream 2 tablespoons Wholly Guacamole 1 teaspoon cilantro, minced 1 teaspoon hot sauce


Preheat oven to 350°F. Spread 1/4 cup salsa on each flatbread. Spread scrambled egg over each flatbread. Evenly divide cheese, crumbled turkey bacon and hash browns, then spread over pizzas. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes. While baking, mix sour cream, guacamole, minced cilantro and hot sauce. Remove pizzas from oven and top with sauce.

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Tortilla Wrap

Yield: 1 wrap 1 cooked boneless skinless chicken breast 1 medium-sized tortilla, corn or flour Wholly Guacamole, to taste Natural salsa, to taste Juice of 1/2 a lime Hot sauce, to taste

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Ban the Boring Lunchbox

Keep school lunches interesting — and healthier — by including something nutritious to munch on. Guacamole and salsa are perfect for dipping into, and individually portioned packs of all natural Wholly Guacamole and Wholly Salsa are the perfect fit for a lunch box. Here are some “and” options to make lunch something fun to dip into: Guacamole and… Zucchini sticks | Baby carrots Whole grain pretzels Sweet potato chips Salsa and… Blue corn chips | Sliced jicama Cucumber slices | Baked pita chips

Slice chicken. Spread guacamole on a tortilla. Add salsa. Squeeze lime juice over salsa. Add chicken on top and add the hot sauce to your liking. Roll the tortilla up and enjoy. Note: You can add low fat mozzarella cheese or Greek yogurt if you like.

Mexican Turkey Torta

Yield: 4 Black Bean and Corn Relish 1/2 cup cooked black beans, no salt added 1/4 cup frozen whole kernel corn, thawed 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro 1 tablespoon chopped red onion 4 teaspoons cider vinegar 2 teaspoons honey 1/8 teaspoon hot pepper sauce, or to taste 1/8 teaspoon ground cumin 1/3 cup reduced fat Mexican style shredded cheese Sandwiches 4 2.6-ounce bolillo rolls or baguettes 4 tablespoons Wholly Guacamole 12 1-ounce slices ultra-thin, lower sodium, oven roasted turkey slices 1 cup lettuce, shredded

Wrap It Ups

Yield: 1 1 flatbread (tortilla, wrap, lavash) 1 tablespoon garlic and herb flavored spreadable cheese 2 tablespoons Wholly Guacamole classic avocado 1/4 cup shredded lettuce 1 small tomato, diced 2 to 3 slices Havarti cheese 2 to 3 slices turkey (optional)

In medium bowl, combine beans, corn, cilantro, onion, vinegar, honey, hot pepper sauce, and cumin; mix to combine. Gently mix in cheese. Set aside. Cut rolls in half horizontally, remove soft center, leaving a 1/4-inch thick shell. Spread 1 tablespoon guacamole inside each hollowed roll. Top each with 3 slices turkey, 1/4 cup black bean mixture, and 1/4 cup shredded lettuce; top with remaining roll tops.

Spread the garlic and herb spreadable cheese on flatbread. Spread guacamole on top. On one end of the flatbread, sprinkle a line of lettuce and diced tomatoes. Layer cheese and sliced turkey beside lettuce and tomatoes, leaving at least two inches of untopped bread at the other end. Starting from the lettuce/tomato end, roll up bread/tortilla, tucking in the vegetables with the first roll and proceeding to the cheese/meat. Stick in toothpicks to keep the roll rolled, and slice in two-inch thick spirals.

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august 2012


Social Security

How Retirement Benefits are figured By Tom Margenau I’m getting a little embarrassed apologizing for messing up with my email responses to readers. I pride myself that I am still able to personally respond to every email I get. But I am a computer Neanderthal. I can just barely handle the software programs I need to know to write this column and submit it to my syndicator; and to respond to emails from my readers. Recently, I was in the middle of answering an email from a guy who wanted to know how Social Security retirement ben-


efits were figured, when all of a sudden, my fast-moving typing fingers must have accidentally hit an odd combination of keys and POOF, my entire answer was translated into Japanese! Actually, I’m not sure if it was Japanese, but it looked like what I imagine Japanese writing to look. Anyway, in my attempts to remedy that error, I must have hit another odd combination of keys when POOF again, the entire document disappeared! And I was

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never able to retrieve it. So if there is some reader out there who had questions about Social Security computations and is wondering why I never responded to his email, please send it again. I’ll type my response more slowly and carefully and hope I am able to keep it in English and hit the “send” key before I delete it again! In the meantime, I thought it might be a good time to explain once again (I do this every couple years or so) how Social Security retirement benefits are figured. The formula is simple in a general sense, but very complicated when you get to the nitty gritty details. Here is the simple part. A Social Security retirement benefit is a percentage of your average monthly income, using your highest 35 years of inflationadjusted earnings. Note that there are four parts to that formula: 1) a percentage; 2) your average monthly income; 3) an inflation-indexing factor; and 4) a 35-year base. We’ll work backwards to explain how things work. The 35-year base is the easy part. When you file for retirement benefits, the Social Security Administration will look at your entire earnings history and pull out

your highest 35 years. They don’t have to be consecutive. If you don’t have 35 years of earnings, SSA must plug in “zero” years to get to the 35-year base. And please note that 35 means 35! Despite all the rumors out there, your retirement benefit is NOT based on your highest 5 years of earnings, or your last 10 years of earnings; or any other number of years other than 35. Here is a related issue based on that 35-year rule. As part of the discussion of long range Social Security reform, you will frequently hear proposals to change the “computation years.” A number I’ve heard most often is adopting a 38-year base. What they are talking about is basing future Social Security benefits on a retiree’s highest 38 years, rather than the highest 35. That would have the effect of lowering future benefits because the more base years used, the lower benefits are. Think of it this way: if your retirement computation was based on your high three years of earnings, for example, that would result in a much higher benefit than one based on 35 years. So, adding even more years to the base would lower benefits further. But now let’s get back to the current computation formula. Before they add up those “high 35,” they index each year of past earnings for inflation. And this is where the formula starts to get messy. That’s because there is a different adjustment factor for each year of earnings, AND each year’s adjustment factor is different based on your year of birth. Here is a quick example. If you were born in 1949, and earned $20,000 in 1980, they would mul-


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“social” part of Social Security. The percentage of your average monthly income that comes back to you in the form of a Social Security benefit depends on your income. In a nutshell, the lower your average wage, the higher percentage rate of return you get. Once again, the actual formula is messy, and varies depending on your year of birth. As an example, here is the formula for someone born in 1949. You take the first $749 of average monthly income and multiply by 90 percent. You take the next $3,768 of your average monthly income and multiply that by 32 percent. And you take any remainder and multiply it by 15 percent. You can find a complete breakdown of those computation “bend points” at pubs/10007.html.

tiply those earnings by an inflation adjustment factor of 3.25, meaning they would actually use $65,000 as your 1980 earnings. But if you were born in 1950 and earned that same $20,000 in 1980, they would use an inflation factor of 3.33 resulting in $66,600 as the 1980 earnings used in your Social Security computation. You can find a complete breakdown of those inflation adjustment factors for each year of birth (for folks nearing retirement age) at pubs/10070.html. So the next step in the retirement computation formula is to add up your highest 35 years of inflation-adjusted earnings. Then you divide by 420 — that’s the number of months in 35 years — to get your average inflation-adjusted monthly income. The final step brings us to the

If you have a Social Security question, Tom Margenau has the answer. Contact him at


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august 2012



Hot Dog!


By Marilynn Preston n summer, I prefer playing sports to watching them on TV, but I did find myself riveted to the flat screen the other day, witnessing one of the most amazing athletic competitions I’ve ever seen. The finals at Wimbledon? The preOlympic trials for U.S. women’s gymnastics? No, it was the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest- the Super Bowl of competitive eating- and I simply couldn’t take my eyes off 42-year-old Sonya Thomas as she pounded down her 39th, 40th and 41st hot dog. It was a miracle! They must have been kosher. Sonya’s gorging technique is the stuff of stars. Sonya crammed the hot dogs into her normal-size mouth with both hands, jumping up and down to move the megawad past her throat, down her legendary esophagus, into her amazing expandable stomach. The average human stomach is the size of two fists, so you’ve really got to hand it to Sonya- whose nickname, by the way, is The Black Widow (I’m not 30

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The Exploding Sport of Competitive Eating

sure why, but it’s perfect for the web). By the time her 10 minutes were up, Sonya had shoved in 45 hot dogs, and let’s not forget the 45 buns, which she dunked in water before sending them down the chute. Keeping it all down is part of the magic. The ability to relax your throat and expand your stomach to the size of a chateau in France is the hallmark of a competitive eater, I learned later. Competitive eaters do risk their stomachs exploding, but these guys and gals take their training very seriously. “It’s like running a marathon,” one commentator said- and most of them are athletic, of average weight and, of course, nuts. Sonya, still jumping up and down, still digesting her huge victory, was very excited after her win. She’s ranked fourth in the world- a “multifood sensation” who is also a world champion in i n finitie plus

crayfish eating- and not only was this her second win in a row, it was a personal best. The woman who placed second only managed to eat 33 hot dogs and buns. Pathetic. Off camera, she was probably eating crow, while Sonya went on to explain the secret of her success. “It’s all mental,” she told the reporter from ESPN2. Sonya set a goal, pictured herself eating 45 hot dogs in 10 minutes, and then, in competition, did it for real. See how important goal-setting is? Visualization? See what you can learn on a hot summer’s day just sitting at home watching wacky sports on ESPN2? I can hardly wait for the Olympics. After the female hot dog eaters competed, it was the guys’ turn. A trim-looking fellow named Joey Chestnut- the favorite, who holds 27 world

I think competitive eating contests speak to people suffering from the literal and symbolic consequences of consumerism.”

Just for Chuckles

Adrienne Rose Johnson Author of “Magic Metabolisms: Competitive Eating and the Formation of an American Bodily Idea.”

records- won his competition by eating 65 hot dogs in 10 minutes, a jaw dropping 20 more than Sonya. According to information on the Nathan’s website, each hot dog has 290 calories, 17 grams of fat and 710 milligrams of sodium. If my very rough calculations are correct, in 10 minutes Joey Chestnut consumed enough calories and suspicious nutrients to feed 1,000 youngsters in Texas who don’t know where their next meal is coming from. Go Joey! I saw a picture of Champion Chestnut mixing it up with the fans just minutes after his impressive victory. Naturally, he was all smiles, and in his hand- I am not making this up- was a bottle of hot pink Pepto-Bis-

mol. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s Joey’s sponsor. I don’t really want to know. When I finally found the strength to turn off the TV, I was speechless. But not for long. This is so gross! This is a tribute to the indomitable human spirit! This is our civilization in decline, eating uncontrollably, unable to throw up to our leaders what needs to be done in the face of our current obesity crisis. This is our world gone mad, I finally decided; so many kids and their parents going to bed hungry, while others feed their faces for the glory of it. And 2 million people were watching on ESPN2. If they call it “The Hunger Games,” they might get even more next year. Marilynn Preston’s website, is and she welcomes reader questions at

infinitie plus

august 2012


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