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Archive for April, 2011

Osteoporosis and My Poor Old Bones

Monday, April 25th, 2011
Compact bone & spongy bone

Image via Wikipedia

By Nancy Werking Poling, author of

Had Eve Come First and Jonah Been a Woman; and Out of the Pumpkin Shell

Bones. Dogs gnaw on them. Archeologists study fossilized ones. Fishermen’s knives remove them. I put meat bones in the freezer so bears who roam our mountain town won’t be attracted to our trash can.

Now I’ve been made aware of my bones. “Like Swiss cheese,” is how the rheumatologist describes them after looking at the results of my bone density scan. “Your femoral neck score is   -2.8. Osteoporosis.” I keep telling her of my virtuous lifestyle—as if that might change her diagnosis. I’ve never smoked. I’ve exercised since I was thirty. My diet is a healthy one: whole grain rice, whole wheat bread, plenty of fresh fruits and green vegetables. Calcium supplements, vitamin D, and bisphosphonates have been part of my daily routine for years.

Still, she frowns as she studies the printout. “This also shows you have a fracture in your back,” she says. “Do you experience pain?”

What woman my age doesn’t have occasional back pain? “Not very often.”

“A spine fracture indicates 5X risk for subsequent fractures,” a note at the bottom of the printout states.

Her treatment recommendation is aggressive, a drug I haven’t seen any celebrity endorse: Forteo. I gasp when I learn the specifics. It’s administered through a daily injection. For two years. At a cost to me of $9,000. I lean toward trusting her judgment. She’s petite like me, in her mid-forties, I’m guessing, so she’s probably been thinking about her bones too. A pilot’s certificate and pictures of airplanes hang on the walls, which somehow add to her credibility.

She advises me to think about it, come back and see her in six-weeks. Before I leave, though, she orders an x-ray of my back.

I can’t help but consider what $9,000 will buy. A good amount toward replacing our eleven-year-old car. Two trips to Europe for my husband and me, with money left over. (Yes, we’re thrifty travelers.) New furniture. An art piece to hang over the mantel (not that we’d spend that much, but a lot of people do).

Meanwhile, I begin to notice our town is full of little old ladies. I talk with everyone about the decision I have to make. In the grocery line behind a gray-haired woman, I ask, “What are you doing about your bones?” I ask naked women in the locker room of the gym where I work out, “What are you doing about your bones?” In the church vestibule I collar older women. “What are you doing about your bones?” Some say they take Fosamax. Others Boniva. A few steer away from drugs and rely on special diets or vitamin supplements.

By the time I return to the doctor, I’ve spoken with at least thirty women and lost several nights’ sleep worrying. But the doctor says that because the x-ray shows no fracture, she’s changed her recommendation. She suggests three possibilities: Evista, Prolea, or Reclast (which I’ve taken for two years). Needless to say, I’m relieved. All my angst over a daily shot, spending $9,000, and taking a drug that has been around less than ten years has been wasted.

But maybe not. “What are you doing for your bones?” I’ve discovered, is a great conversation starter.

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Talking at Central DuPage Rotary Club

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

by Jian Ping

Bill Keffer, President of the Rotary Club, chaired the meeting

I gave a talk about my book Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China to the Central DuPage Rotary Club early this morning. They meet every Wednesday at 7 a.m. over breakfast. I left downtown Chicago before 6 a.m. and got to the Cantigny Golf Clubhouse in Wheaton just on time. Rick Nelson, Program Chair of the Club, met me at the door and introduced me to the group.

As always, Rotary Club members are a very engaged audience. They are interested in other cultures and participate in activities that help others. Today, two local high school seniors, who are the recipients of college scholarship from this Rotary Club, expressed their gratitude for the honor and support. It is always inspiring to see so many people care and take actions.

Rick Nelson, Program Chair and President Elect, at the meeting

I talked briefly about China’s Cultural Revolution, using my family story to illustrate its devastation. After a short Q & A session, I signed books and engaged in a discussion about today’s China with a few club members. Our topics went from the fast economic developments in China today to their impact on people’s lives and the environment, and the social ramification of the one-child policy.  

 Below are a couple of photos I took at the club meeting.

Jian Ping is the author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China. For more information, visit or Mulberry Child is being developed into a feature-length documentary film by award-winning director Susan Morgan Cooper and will be released in 2011.
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Writing A Novel

Monday, April 18th, 2011


By Ellis Goodman

I can’t say that my first novel Bear Any Burden was a huge literary or financial success, but I enjoyed writing it.  I had left the reader with an unanswered ending of this espionage tale, so I decided to take the story a stage further, with my sequel “Anna’s Quest.” 

We all have a novel inside us, so the saying goes.  The challenge is getting it out and in what form.  Many people, even today, do their writing in longhand on yellow pads.  Others use the more obvious computer solution, but my method is just to talk.  I’ve been using the old fashioned Dictaphone for some forty years, and I suppose I’ve got used to this method of composing letters, speeches, articles and now my book.  However for my second novel, I have an added twist – I’m using “Dragon Naturally Speaking” computer software that allows me to dictate my story chapter-by-chapter and then it automatically types it up on the screen.  I can’t say that, at the moment, it’s a particularly accurate way of writing my book, but it is a great relief to my assistant, Lana, who really had to “bear the burden” of my first novel by typing, retyping and retyping the manuscript many times.  “Dragon Naturally Speaking” allows us to at least get the bulk of the gist of the story down and then it is a question of editing, re-editing and rewriting and re-editing. 

I have friends who are writers and go through a very tortuous process, seeking perfection in getting the written word on paper, meticulously focusing on their thoughts and their story.  This process can take years and often does.  I’m a “visual writer.”  In other words, I envision the scenes and the characters in my book and I try to translate them into a sort of movie script in my head, where I follow their actions and dialogue and try to put it down on paper.  This is not an uncommon approach and many writers use this method.  I like it because it allows me to “pre-think” my scenes; and, when I’ve got them straight in my head, I then start to talk into my “Dragon Speak” microphone. 

As with most writers, sometimes this flows very well and sometimes I just get stuck.  Currently I think I’m on a roll, as I’ve rattled off about three chapters in the last couple of weeks.   Of course this is just the basic work.  The adjustments, rewriting and editing will take place chapter-by-chapter, and then in the book as a whole.

I don’t know how long it will take to complete “Anna’s Quest.”  I still have some unresolved issues in the story to which I have got to find a solution.  However, I believe if I can make the time and work diligently, I may be able to finish by the end of the year.

To those who read this blog and are thinking of writing their “novel of the Century,” think about this method.  If you’ve got the ability to talk, dictate and muster your thoughts together, you’ll find it easier than you think.  If I can do it, anybody can.

Ellis M. Goodman, author of Bear Any Burden:

Eve Ensler, Woman Warrior

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

By Jian Ping

Ensler read from her book at U of C

Last Sunday, Eve Ensler came to the University of Chicago to give a talk about her latest book I’m an Emotional Creature—the Secret Life of Girls Around the World. Ensler is the author of The Vagina Monologue and founder of V-Day, a non-for-profit organization advocating against violence against women. The talk was open to the public, so I made my way there.

The theater in the International House was packed, with an audience largely being consisted of students from U of C and women. Ensler, true to her reputation, immediately commanded the attention of the entire group the moment she stepped onto the stage. She was provocative and passionate about the voices and sufferings of young girls around the world. And she talked about V-Day’s work in Congo and other countries where they had changed many women’s lives.

Ensler's latest book: I'm an emotional creature...

She then proceeded to read three sections from I’m an Emotional Creature. She was such a dynamic performer—her stories, fictionalized according to her interviews with 200 girls, were read with such sincerity and feelings that she completely captivated the audience. I heard the sniffing and sobbing around me and found tears surging to my eyes.

But the moment that touched everyone came when people lined up in front of the microphone to make comments or ask questions.

A middle aged woman who volunteers to help abused women praised Ensler for her contribution. She also acknowledged how hard it was to fight the battle.

Ensler at book signing at U of C

A 14-year-old girl, a victim of rape, announced in tears how Ensler’s books and talk had given her the courage to find her own footing; and how she would stop the tears and join the fight to prevent others from becoming rape victims.

A young man, a sophomore at U of C, spoke in shaking voice, asking what he, as a man, could do to help.

Two black women, both victims of sexual abuse, came forward to announce that they founded an organization called Dream Catcher to help sexually abused women and they had been working without pay for months. But with each call for help, they couldn’t quit …

Ensler listened and responded to each of them. When she heard the Dream Cather’s story, she immediately pledged $10,000 of her own money to help. She also asked the audience to donate whatever they could to help.

Tears flowed freely, so was loud applauses.

It was one of the most emotionally charged and inspirational talks I had ever attended!

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China. For more information, visit, Mulberry Child is being developed into a feature-length documentary movie by award-winning director Susan Morgan Cooper and will be released in 2011.

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First Bike Ride of the Year

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

by Jian Ping

Chicago_Lakefront View

Spring finally arrives in Chicago, with a sudden leap in temperature from the 50s of yesterday to the mid 80 degrees today. I’ve been waiting for the weather to turn warm and ride my bike again along the lake front trail for months. Finally my chance came this morning, the first ride of the year!

At the 6:30 a.m., the sun was rising from behind a thin layer of clouds. The rain from yesterday left the trail wet, but without puddles of water. It was perfect for a bike ride. Since last October when I  scratched a thick layer of skin and flesh off my left knee from a bad bike fall (not to mention ripping off a patch of fabric, the size of my palm, from my favorite pair of jeans), I haven’t ridden my bike. Today, with the large scar still appearing raw, I was cautious and comprehensive of the trail.

Chicago Lakefront Trail

My slower speed gave me more leisure to enjoy the scene. Lake Michigan was calm this morning, with ripples of water gently rolling toward the shore. The lawn was turning green along the Lake, and the fruit trees, with dried small berries from last year still hanging on the branches, are budding with tender greens. The large elm or poplar trees still looked  dormant, their bare branches revealing the bird nests, some large and some small, in mid air. Only the daffodils stretched out their broad leaves upward, with a bright yellow bloom in the center of each plant, proudly announcing the coming of spring.

There were a few runners and cyclists along the trail. In the distance closer to the Lake, I saw a couple of people walking their dogs. I passed the two mulberry trees at the park at 53rd street, my mulberry trees, and waved to them for their survival of another cold winter. Just them, two professionally dressed cyclists passed me, shouting “On your left.” I didn’t race to keep pace with them, at least for a minute or two, like I used to. I watched them speeding ahead. Their shorts and tops hugged their bodies tightly, revealing their slim torsos. The perspiration on their legs glistened under the rising sun. They looked so fit and healthy. I saluted to them silently before they sprang out of my sight.

I made my stop at the 63rd street park, drank my water, and stretched before turning back. The 15-mile ride took me slightly over an hour, and I enjoyed every single minute of it.

If you live in Chicago, take a run, a bike ride, or a walk along the Lake. You will realize how lucky we are living and enjoying this beautiful and peaceful surroundings!

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China. Visit or for more information.

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Qing Ming—Tomb Sweeping Day

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

by Jian Ping

Father's tomb at Qing Ming

It’s Qing Ming today in China, the “memorial day” in which family members go to the cemeteries to sweep the tombs of their ancestors and loved ones. Far away from China, I couldn’t be there to join my sisters to pay tribute to our father. I called instead, asking them to buy a bunch of flowers for me and bow to my father’s tomb on my behalf.

My sisters Yan and Wen and Yan’s son Xiaotao went. They brought Father’s favorite Baijiu, a white liquor made of grain, his favorite Da Zhong Hua cigarettes, and white lilies and golden chrysanthemum. On top of that, they also presented Father with

Father will always be remembered

a newly published Annals of Baicheng. The government compiled a record of more than a hundred government officials who had played a significant role in the history of Baicheng. Wen and her husband Minfu contributed to the entry on our father. Wen turned the book to the page where my father’s life story was featured and told him how he was remembered and missed in the city  where he had worked for more than twenty years as one of the highest ranking officials.

I was touched by the photos Wen forwarded to me and wished I were there.

Jian Ping is the author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China. The book is being developed into a feature-length documentary movie and will be released in 2011.

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Talking at Glenview Sunrise Rotary Club

Friday, April 1st, 2011

I gave a talk about Mulberry Child to the Glenview Sunrise Robtary Club at the Glenview Country Club yesterday. I was touched by the Rotarians’ interest in my story and China in general.

All the photos are courtesy of Richard Hill, Public Relations Chair of the club. Thanks, Richard!

Presenting Mulberry Child

Sharing family story


Joel Levin, President of Glenview Sunrise Rotary Club, comments on Jian's talk

Jill Brickman, Chair of Program, makes closing remark

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China. For more information, visit, Mulberry Child is being developed into a feature-length docucumentay film by award-winning director Susan Morgan Cooper and will be released in 2011.