In 1993, after an Arkansas State Trooper “outed” me as one of Bill Clinton’s intimate “friends”—I accepted an invitation from Chinese Leaders to serve as their first Foreign Communication Specialist.
By May, 1994, I was teaching Chinese students at the Beijing Broadcasting Institute. Chinese of all ages are very kind people. My students were all kind, child-like, extremely-loving and though they were mostly eighteen and nineteen years in age, they seemed much younger because they liked to hold hands, hug, and share everything with each other. My students were a close-knit family who took care of each other.
When the Institute’s Director, Madame Lu knocked on my door late one evening, I knew immediately something was wrong. Due to her limited English, one of my brightest students….who called himself Michael…had accompanied the Director as her interpreter.
Trying to speak with little emotion, Michael explained that his classmate—Alicia—had killed herself by drinking a strong poison that Chinese farmers used to kill rats, snakes, and dangerous animals. Apparently, Alicia’s death was slow and agonizingly painful. She drank the poison in the early morning hours and….after suffering extreme vomiting, horrendous cramps, and bleeding from every orifice…frantically called her parents for help.
By the time the hospital staff saw her, Alicia was too-far-gone to save. The poison had eaten away the lower part of her face, her neck, and her intestines. A few hours after Doctors sedated her, Alicia went into a deep coma then died.
The Institute’s Director had secured a small bus so my students and I could attend Alicia’s Burial the next morning. That’s when I learned that Alicia-- like her parents--was a Muslim. Because she was Muslim, she must be buried within 24 hours of dying. I knew nothing about Muslims or their beliefs regarding death…or burials but… I’ve always believed in closely-watching those around me and “following their lead”.
My students were young, naïve, and had never lost a friend or loved one through death. Together, we entered the stark, whitish-colored barn with a dirt floor and the smell of mud and mildew. People were slowly circling a large rug in the center of the room and we were encouraged to join the circle.
Lying in the center of the circle--on a wooden door-like platform-- was Alicia. She was wrapped in a piece of white fabric with only her head and neck exposed. Her face and neck, framed by her long black hair, looked abnormally-white; the gaping wounds left by the deadly poison continued leaking a reddish-colored liquid onto the white shroud.
My students were in shock. They’d never seen death up-close and so personal. Any one of us could have reached over and touched Alicia. Nothing separated us—the living—from Alicia and her death.
After completing one circle of the room, we returned to the bus. No one spoke; each of us was replaying our own version of the nightmare we’d just experienced-- minutes earlier.
When we arrived at the burial site, I was shocked to see nothing but mounds of dirt-- no headstones or markers. Six men-- their heads covered, lifted the wooden platform with Alicia’s body resting on top-- from the back of an old van and began carrying it toward the largest wall of dirt. Alicia was now completely ensconced in a white drawstring bag. Nothing about the plain, hand-stitched bag described it as holding the remains of a once-vibrant young girl who had loved life; a spoiled-only child who’d been indulged at every turn; a little-girl in an adult body who wanted to punish her parents for not liking her new boyfriend; a sad, little rich girl who called herself by the American name “Alicia” and simply wanted to be noticed, treated special…and loved.
By now, each one of my students was crying. The reality and finality of death had branded them that day. They had no choice but absorb life's brutal truth…and its temporary existence.
When the six men lifted Alicia’s burial bag from the platform and began stuffing it into a small opening in the hard dirt wall, I knew it was time to leave the burial site. As her teacher and as her classmates, we’d merged as one to shown our respect and love for Alicia. There was nothing any of us could do now but to carry her in our hearts and...into the future.
Life can be brutal. Sometimes we don’t really want to see, first-hand, life’s brutal facts. But--all too often---we don’t have a choice.
For women, and some men too, just a quick look in the mirror can cause feelings of insecurity. Not because of age itself but because age... combined with gravity....brings out "the worst" in us, especially our faces.
I have several acne scars from past years that, now that I'm all-grown-up, have ganged-up with some mean-old wrinkles to spotlight my face When you can't afford a fork-lift then you know....you don't have enough money for a face lift. I believe in research; in reading books, articles, personal testimonies to help with answers. By so doing, I uncovered something quite interesting.
Remember, I am not a medical expert. I only know I'm allergic to most medicines and trust very few Doctors. I'm extremely careful about what I put in my body or on my skin so--with that said--here's what works for me.
ALMOST TEN YEARS AGO, after finding and using an inexpensive scar gel product (under 10 dollars for one small tube) for a period of ten days, I saw the following: my acne scars almost disappeared; the frown wrinkle between my eyes faded complete away; the tiny lines above my top lip smoothed-out, like they'd been "ironed", and....the indentations at both corners of my mouth----the ones that head downward to your lower face--- became incredibly softer and seemed to blend into my cheeks.
Interesting that the inexpensive product I initially bought, used, and excitedly-shared with my many facebook friends…. began disappearing from Walgreen’s shelves---never to appear again. After bombarding the corporate office with more and more questions, I soon learned that---executives began noticing that their cheapest scar gel product had suddenly become wildly popular so…..they decided to re-package the same product, market it under another name… and sell it for 135 dollars a tube!
So now, I shop around for products that guarantee to improve the look of scars of all kinds, including acne scars, even wrinkles. Scar gel products are sold under different labels and all are priced differently. Basically… having “checked-out” most of these scar-improvement products…I’ve determined that they all have the same ingredients. Initially, these products were created to diminish the appearance of old and new scars while encouraging smoother skin. Remember: anything that improves your skin’s scars….will also improve your skin’s wrinkles.
WHY am I sharing this information? Because those of us who are still alive--alert---and still care about looking and feeling our best....should take care of each other. If smoothing my face even a little bit, improves my over-all outlook for today.....then I want to pick up my megaphone and "shout out" my discovery to friends--far and near.
I will always believe that how we feel about ourselves on the inside.....depends on how we feel about ourselves on the outside. Most of us take pride in looking our best. Our good "look" inspires us to stand taller and walk straighter and....helps us keep- going, day after day. "Just a dab will do you" and....what do you have to lose-other than a scar, some wrinkles, or both?!?!
THIS is my Sally Miller's Silver Polishe Tip for today. In a few months…I hope to have my SILVER POLISHE TIPS all together--- in a book.
Our family had some genuinely strange relatives who were sometimes very funny and sometimes, a little scary. We had family members with bizarre behaviors; several who qualified as odd or peculiar; and a few who were—well, just plain crazy.
In the case of my mother’s first cousin I prefer to call her “unusual.” The cousin was less than five feet tall so friends called her “Shorty.”
From the time Shorty began driving, she had a problem seeing over the steering wheel. The cousin tried boxes, pillows, a child’s car seat—but nothing worked to her satisfaction.
When she spotted an extra- small car on a used car lot, it only took fifteen minutes to trade her regular-sized car for the teeny-tiny one. Unfortunately, the small car’s driver seat still didn’t raise her high enough to solve the steering wheel problem.
Of course she didn’t ask my opinion but I thought the small car looked and sounded like a clown-car—something you’d see a jokester/clown drive in a parade.
Unconcerned about what others thought (this is where the word “unusual” comes into play), the time came when Shorty unscrewed the wooden toilet seat in her bathroom and placed it in the driver’s seat of her new car. She raised the toilet seat’s lid, climbed on the open toilet seat and—swishing her tail around like she was ready to lay an egg—commented:
“Oooooh, my butt feels right at home!” Best or Worst of all, the toilet seat raised her to the perfect height to see above the steering wheel.
I cringed every time I saw her driving the clown car around Pine Bluff, knowing she was sitting on an open toilet seat. Most mortifying, Shorty insisted on keeping a roll of toilet paper over the back seat, just in case.
Anything is possible when you believe in yourself. I learned to believe in me--only because of some very-dedicated "outside" help. What's remarkable is--- there are no rules or requirements or guidebooks when you challenge a life-long dream. All it takes is believing in yourself and life's endless possibilities.
AND....absolutely never under-estimate the dreams of a child. Growing up, I was sickly, prone to earaches, colds, a weak stomach, anxiety, and always described by the doctor as "frail". Yet, the Angels around me saw my potential.
Even today, when I listen to the little voice inside--another Angel appears to connect me with another Angel and--on and on. My Angels are impossible to forget, especially one very-dedicated Angel from my childhood named....
Ms. Mabel Moore, my fourth-grade teacher. On the last day of school, she placed my much-loved Geography Book in my hands. I was only nine years old, yet my wise teacher realized the seriousness of My Dream. As if anointed to be the Architect of my Fate, Ms. Moore encouraged me on that last school day to keep pursing My Dream, then issued this challenge: “Grow up-- finish school-- then go to China and travel The Great Wall. Find all the answers to all the questions I couldn’t answer; discover the many secrets hidden there by its builders. Afterward, you will be responsible for sharing your Great Wall Journey with the World.”
My teacher made it sound easy---like riding a city bus across town. Forty years later, when the complicated plans were finalized and I was just two weeks away from the first-ever journey of The Great Wall of China—I reunited with Ms. Moore.
I found her in a welfare nursing home, reduced to a wheelchair and barely able to move. Ms. Moore responded to my voice by slowly raising her head, looking in my direction. Weak and barely-able to speak above a whisper, she said, “Oh, Sally, it’s really you. A sweet nurse read me the article about your permission to travel China’s Wall. I've never forgottten how much you loved that Wall. I’m so happy for you and I promise to be with you each step of the way.”
I hugged the fragile body, marveling at the still-vibrant mind of my long-ago teacher. Our goodbyes were touching and teary. I promised to call her as soon as I finished my journey.
Seven months later, after completing All The Wall (the official name of my adventure), I returned to Beijing. I could hardly wait to call the nursing home and speak with Ms. Moore. I was so excited to share the news about my Great Wall journey.
The nursing home receptionist, recognizing my voice, placed me on hold. The next voice I heard was that of the facility’s director. With deep sadness I learned Ms. Moore, my inspiring fourth-grade teacher, had “slipped away” during her sleep. Somewhere deep inside, I sensed the answer but I asked when my Earth Angel--Ms. Moore--died.
Learning it was the very day I completed my Great Wall Adventure....didn't surprise me. Like writing the happy ending to a wonderful book, I felt satisfied; at peace. Ms. Moore didn’t need to hear about my Journey. Faithful to her promise, she’d been with me—each step of the way.
“Great salary, but how are the benefits?” No Member of Congress has reason to be stressed over their Benefits Package. Many of their congressional perks (and there are many), are grandfathered in from laws enacted decades ago.
Make it to the Nation’s Capital and you’ll get paid handsomely. The compensation for most Senators and Representatives is $174,000 per year. Of course, the Speaker of the House’s salary is $223,500, while the Senate’s President Pro Tempore and both the majority and minority leader each bring home $193,400 annually.
Though members of Congress have been viewed with less favor than hemorrhoids, root canals, and rotting food--- their employee perks aren’t at-all shabby. Here are 10 of the biggest congressional perks the nation’s lawmakers enjoy---on OUR dime. Prepare to feel sick because----- the numbers only get bigger as the list gets longer:
10. Tax deductions
Lawmakers get a sizeable tax deduction every year. Members of Congress procure a bonus tax deduction each year for living expenses while away from their home states and congressional districts. This extra $3,000 deduction is something only lawmakers are privy to. But believe it or not, it’s one of the cheapest congressional perks members of Congress enjoy on this list.
9. Access to a free on-site GYM
Forget that extra $60 a month gym membership. House and Senate members enjoy access to an on-site gym for free (though some say they pay a heavily discounted rate). The fitness junkies are treated to an exclusive gym equipped with flat-screen TVs, a heated pool, a sauna and steam room, and paddleball and basketball courts — all at the taxpayer’s expense. Members of Congress can save thousands per year on membership fees with this one benefit over the course of a 20 or 30-year term.
8. A plush office
Congressional people have a blank check when it comes to office furnishings. A seat in Congress comes with prime office space. Members make themselves at home in an office on Capitol Hill while also maintaining space in their home districts. The Congressional Research Service says every senator gets at least $40,000 — maybe more – to furnish their home-state offices. It’s a never-ending shopping spree on the taxpayers’ dime, as there’s “no restriction” on the number of offices they can open in federal buildings.
7. Serious PTO
Congress has over 200 days off a year. The congressional calendar varies from year-to-year, but each year includes sessions on the docket as well as time allocated to work outside Congress. Sometimes this is time spent conducting business within their home state, and other times, it means vacation. Members of Congress get the entire month of August and two weeks around Easter off.
Of course, the congressional docket can be changed, and they have been known to sport weekend hours, albeit on very rare occasions. The official calendar showed Congress was in session for just 145 days in 2017 and 2018 was even less. This means our nation’s representatives were awarded more than 220 vacation days in one year.
6. Healthcare freebies
It may be a hot-button issue among American, but senators and representatives have excellent healthcare. House and Senate leaders spent countless hours debating healthcare on the company dime with hardly anything to show for it. But members of Congress have no personal need to fix the system with the congressional perks they receive regarding healthcare. No, healthcare isn’t free, but they do receive federal subsidies covering 72% of the cost of the premiums in an Obamacare gold-level plan. Fact-checking website Snopes says members “pay approximately 28% of their annual healthcare premiums through pre-tax payroll deductions.”
In addition, they receive low-cost care through the Office of the Attending Physician and free outpatient care at military facilities in and around Washington D.C.
5. A cushy retirement plan
Elected officials have 401(k) s, a pension, and Social Security to fall back on. |
For many Americans, the 401(k) acts as a substitute for a pension. But Congressional members have access to both. Five years of service is all that’s needed for members of Congress to become eligible for a pension. CNN Money reported that John Boehner, former Speaker of the House, was entitled to roughly $85,000 in annual pension benefits upon retiring in 2014 after 24 years in service. Those who serve just five years are guaranteed annual pensions of at least $14,000.
Member contributions are matched up to 5% via a 401(k)-style Thrift Savings Plan. And don’t forget Social Security. They’re required to contribute, and thus, eligible to collect upon retirement.
4. Free parking
One of the most coveted congressional perks is free airport parking separate from public garages. Yes, that’s right. Members of Congress pay zero dollars to park at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and Dulles International Airport. Forget the per-day rate commoners pay. That money is better served elsewhere for lawmakers. Records show congressional use of the free parking benefit cost taxpayers more than $132,000 in 2015.
3. Death benefits that are better than the military.
Should a member of Congress be killed while serving their term, the surviving family members are entitled to death benefits equivalent to one year’s salary — a minimum of $174,000. This was the case for the widow of New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg when he passed away in 2013. By comparison, families of members of the armed forces killed in the line of duty are only privy to a gratuity payment of $100,000.
2. Fun Money
In addition to a lofty salary, members of Congress enjoy access to the Members’ Representational Allowance (MRA) used to maintain their offices and build a legislative team. House representatives took more than $944,671 from the piggy bank to fund salaries for 18 permanent employees in 2016. Another $250,000 was spent on another costly congressional perk known as “franking,” a term used for mass mailings sent out by Congress courtesy of the taxpayer.
The subsequent fun money available to senators is much bigger and depends on the size of the state they represent. This allowance varies from $2,444,470 for a senator representing a state with a population under 5 million to $3,884,968 for a state with 28 million people or more.
1. Flying For Free
Perhaps one of the more expensive congressional perks is travel. No, not every flight is free, but most flights between their home states and Washington, D.C., are funded with taxpayer money. USA Today reports Congress spent at least $14.7 million on taxpayer-funded trips in fiscal year 2016. Even more unique is that lawmakers can haphazardly book themselves on multiple flights without dual charges thanks to their sometimes demanding schedules.
DEMANDING SCHEDULES?!?!? CONGRESS WORKS WHEN, WHERE, AND HOW THEY WANT! IT’S BOTH LAUGHABLE AND DISGUSTING WHEN THEY SAY “WE’RE DOING THE PEOPLE’S BUSINESS”!!!!!!! WHAT PEOPLE?!?!?!
I’M SIMPLY, SALLY….AND I’M SICK OF TODAY’S POLITICS. MEMBERS OF CONGRESS HAVE BECOME THE LOWEST FORM OF HUMANITY BECAUSE THEY LIE, CHEAT, AND STEAL FROM THE AMERICAN PEOPLE----THE FINEST PEOPLE WHO LIVE IN AMERICA--- THE MOST WONDERFUL COUNTRY IN THE WORLD.
PS. Today was an exceptional day. When I created my website, I vowed to keep my website “politics-free” but with the ever-increasing injustice and the lopsided Congressional attacks against a sitting president…it was time for me to SPEAK MY MIND ABOUT TODAY’S CONGRESS. I have an opinion and I have the right to express it!
Tomorrow…I’ll return to my “regular” writing but….I can't promise there won't be another “exceptional” day in the future.