What to Call Your Distant Relative

When you have a big family, it's a challenge to figure out how everyone is related. So here are some charts to help you figure it out. Read More

Family displacements through urban renewal

Hundreds of thousands of families were displaced in the 1950s under “urban renewal” programs. The families were disproportionately minorities. Renewing Inequality, from a research group at the University of Richmond’s Digital Scholarship Lab, revisits the topic and how it reflects in the present.

Renewing Inequality presents a newly comprehensive vantage point on mid-twentieth-century America: the expanding role of the federal government in the public and private redevelopment of cities and the perpetuation of racial and spatial inequalities. It offers the most comprehensive and unified set of national and local data on the federal Urban Renewal program, a World War II-era urban policy that fundamentally reshaped large and small cities well into the 1970s.

Many of the people displaced never receive promised compensation or fair market value for their property, which is kind of messed up.


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Avoid Food Poisoning During Summer Picnics

parents with daughters having picnic

Brittany Behm
Brittany Behm, Public Affairs Specialist, Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Environmental Diseases

When I think about summer picnics, I think about family. I think about my cousins, aunts, uncles, kids running around, a pavilion, and an enormous buffet table loaded with delicious food. The quantity of side dishes and desserts is exceeded only by the number of dad jokes we’re forced to endure. Since I’ve been working with foodborne disease, I’ve made a point to share tips with family members who are preparing food so we can avoid getting sick from food poisoning.
Let’s enjoy National Picnic Month by taking a few simple steps:

Keep foods cool

Rates of food poisoning increase in summer months because bacteria grow faster in warmer weather. Eating food left in the Danger Zone (40°F to 140°F) for too long can make people sick.

  • Keep raw meat, poultry, and seafood chilled until ready to grill, in the fridge or in an insulated cooler, below 40°F.
  • Put leftovers in the freezer or fridge within two hours of cooking –or ONE hour if above 90°F outside.
  • Throw away any remaining perishable food that isn’t refrigerated.

Cook meat thoroughly

It’s important to cook food to a safe internal temperature to destroy harmful bacteria. Never partially grill meat and finish cooking it later.

  • Use a food thermometer to make sure meat is cooked hot enough to kill germs. You can’t tell just by looking at it! (145°F for beef, pork, fish; 160°F for hamburgers and ground meat; 165°F for chicken or turkey).
  • If you’re smoking meat, keep the temperature inside the smoker at 225°F to 300°F.
  • Keep cooked meats hot and out of the Danger Zone before serving.

Clean hands and produce

  • Wash fresh vegetables and lettuce. If you’re not sure whether water will be available to wash on site, rinse produce before packing for the picnic.
  • Wash your hands before handling any food AND after touching raw meat, poultry, or seafood. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Clean work surfaces, utensils, and the grill before and after cooking.
  • Examine the grill surface carefully for bristles that might have dropped off the grill brush. They could get into your cooked food and hurt you if swallowed.

Separate raw from cooked

You never want bacteria from raw meat or seafood to contaminate other foods, surfaces, or utensils.

  • Throw away or thoroughly cook marinades and sauces that have touched raw meat or seafood.
  • Put cooked meat on a clean plate.
  • Keep raw meats, poultry, and seafood away from cooked and ready-to-eat food and drinks.
  • Don’t use the same utensils on raw foods and cooked and ready-to-eat foods.

This summer, I’m going to work hard to try to avoid being one of the 48 million Americans who get food poisoning every year. Let’s raise a glass of iced tea to well-cooked burgers, rinsed veggies, and chilled fruit salad!

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A time capsule from my father’s youth – the secrets of a 62 year old Bar Mitzvah book on his 75th birthday

Today, July 3, 2017, is my father - Howard Jay Eisen's birthday.  He would have been 75 today.  I am sure we would have had a grand celebration of some kind.  I will make a toast in his honor tonight.

Sadly, he is no longer alive.  He passed away in 1987, when I was a freshman in college.  It was a painful ending of his life.  I have written about this.  As has my brother Michael.  As have some other people here and there. If you want to know more about that, well, here are some links to read.

But that is not what I want to write about today.  The pain of his suicide will be with me forever I am sure.  But I want to focus on his life.  And that I know remarkably little about.  So it was with great interest that a few years ago his sister Arleen came to visit us in California.  And as part of this visit she gave me my father's Bar Mitzvah Book.  

I glanced at it and then it sat in a box for a while.  I have never been religious and did not have a Bar Mitzvah myself.  So it seemed foreign to me.  

But then, when Arleen passed away relatively suddenly, I felt really disconnected form my father's history.  And so one day I opened the book and leafed through it more carefully. And I became a bit obsessed with it.  The book had dozens of pictures from the event.  And cards and telegrams congratulating my father.  And all sorts of notes and notations of various kinds.  I barely recognized any of the people.  Of course, this was from 1955 so that is not that surprising.  But part of this is that I have never been that close to my father's family.  I always got along with them, but just never saw them that often before my father died and even less afterwards.  So the key to me was - how could I figure out just what was in the book. And more importantly to me, could I figure out who was at this event.  This was one of the only tangible things I had to hold about my father's childhood.  I did not know too many stories.  I did not have many artifacts of any kind.  And here was this major major event.  And I literally had the book about it.  

So today I am here to tell you, I have digs into this book.  And stunningly, it not only told me about one event, it told me about my family.  A lot.  It did this because I was able to figure out who most of the people were at the Bar Mitzvah - and most of them were family.  In addition, I have used some family tree databases such as Ancestry and My Heritage to track down information about these people and have been able to use this one book to basically figure out, I think quite accurately, many generations of my father's family tree.

I am going to have to tell this story in many parts.  It is long.  And complicated.  But it all started with one book.

The first page of the book had a picture of my dad and a little card

And the rest of the book was filled with notes, pictures, and cards.  And a lot of it was very unfamiliar.  The pictures were what really got to me since I recognized so few of the people in them.  Here are the pics.

But fortunately there was other information in the book.  Some of it was all the congratulation cards and telegrams he and his family received.  See for example these

But it was other details about the Bar Mitzvah itself that ended up being the most interesting and useful to me. For example, my grandmother even kept all the details on planning the food

My grandmother also included many of the key details of the event - the invitation, the save the date card, and other such materials

And also included in the book was information on the ceremony - the order of events and who did what.  This was helpful since these actually listed some names of people I knew very little about.

But the absolute most important parts to me were two types of items.  One of them was all the information about the tables - who sat where.  This would turn out to be very important (more on this another time). But see the details below:

And the children ...

And then.  The key to it all.  Underneath another item.  Four pieces of paper.  Four pieces that served as the key to unlocking the secrets of my father's family.  My grandmother kept, and included in the book, the list of invitees including ALL sorts of details about them that would serve to be critical - though it took a little bit of time to figure out what all of this meant.  Here are those pages

These yellowed fragile pieces of paper were just incredible.  It took me months to figure out all of what they had to reveal.  But now I have.  I have managed to use these sheets of paper and some other information in this book, in conjunction with searches of old records and various family tree websites, to figure out basically who all the people at the Bar Mitzvah were and also figure out who all of my father's aunt's uncles, cousins, great aunts and uncles and others were and thus infer a huge swath of my family tree.  

So in honor of my father on his 75th birthday I am posting this.  His Bar Mitzvah book, put together I am sure by his mother, kept by his mother, and passed on to me, is a time capsule looking not just 62 years into the past but even further, into the 1800s where I have found records of my father's family in Eastern Europe only because I had the information in this book.  

Now I am sure there would have been other ways to find this information out. I could have contacted my father's remaining relatives.  I actually tried to do this a bit but I just did not get much information and I confess I was not very persistent.  Somehow, searching and searching and searching to understand what was in this book, and digging into all sorts of online records, was cathartic.  And I hope, it will also be interesting to some out there as I tell this story of what this book revealed. 

June is National Safety Month – Stand up to Falls

Senior couple walking together in a forest

Every 20 MinutesJune brings summer to our doorstep, along with National Safety Month. This year’s theme encourages us to “Keep Each Other Safe.” One of the best ways to keep each other safe is to “Stand Up to Falls.”

Adults 65 and older are the most vulnerable for falls and falls are the number one cause of injuries and injury deaths in this age bracket. As 10,000 Baby Boomers turn 65 each day, more and more of us will have family, friends, and neighbors who age into this high risk pool.

Older adult falls are truly a growing problem. Although many seniors are more active and living longer, more than 1 in 4 report falling. Emergency departments treat over 3 million older Americans for falls each year while direct medical expenses add up to more than $31 billion annually. As falls and fall injuries are increasing, chances have also increased that you know someone who has fallen this past year.

What can you do to Stand Up to Falls?

Fortunately, falls are preventable and we can all take steps to protect the health and wellbeing of older Americans. To assist, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is committed to helping older Americans age safely and without injury. This means ensuring that older adults and those who care for them have the tools and resources needed to assess their fall risk and information on how to effectively reduce that risk.

CDC encourages all older Americans to:

Speak UpSpeak Up – Falls can cause severe injury and loss of independence. Therefore it’s important to talk openly with your healthcare provider about falls and your health goals. Healthcare providers are well positioned to screen for fall risk, using evidence-based tools such as those included in the Stopping Elderly Accidents, Deaths & Injuries (STEADI) initiative, assess modifiable fall risk factors (e.g., poor balance, the use of certain medications, vision impairment), and to offer effective strategies to help their patients prevent a fall so that they can meet their health goals.

If you are a friend or caregiver of an older person, encourage them to speak up and talk to their doctor if they have fallen, feel unsteady, or worry about falling. They should also ask about vitamin D supplements for improved bone, muscle, and nerve health. CDC has fall prevention resources available for older adults and those who care for them, such as the brochures, Family Caregivers: Protect Your Loved Ones from Falling and Stay Independent: Prevent Falls.

Make Your Home Safe – Most falls happen at home, so it’s important for older adults to check their homes – inside and out – for safety. CDC offers a brochure, Check for Safety that includes a fall prevention checklist. This list contains simple preparedness actions that often get overlooked:

  • Get rid of things you could trip over.
  • Add grab bars inside and outside of your tub or shower and next to the toilet.
  • Put railings on both sides of stairs.
  • Make sure your home has lots of light by adding more or brighter light bulbs.

Keep Moving – Older adults can reduce their risk of falling by improving their balance and strengthen their legs. CDC encourages older adults to keep moving and stay active with evidence-based activities like Tai Chi. Exercise and movement can also make you feel better and more confident. Check with your healthcare provider about the best type of exercise program for you or your loved one.

Falls affect us all—whether personally or someone we love or care about. Encourage older adults you know to take steps toward living longer and healthier lives. Let’s continue to keep each other safe during National Safety Month and stand up to falls!


My one day campaign for US Senate running against my brother @senatorphd

Protect Your Child this Flu Season: Get a Flu Shot!

Brave patient is a good patient

As fall approaches, cold weather isn’t the only thing you and your family need to prepare for. Flu season is on its way, and it will be here before you know it. Now is the time to make sure that you and your family are protected from flu by getting your flu vaccine by the end of October, if possible.

 The Best Way to Protect Your Family

Even healthy children can get the flu. Did you know that children, especially school-aged children or children in day care, are more likely to get sick from flu? Your child is likely to be exposed to flu in a classroom or daycare setting, and millions of children get sick with flu every season. It’s important to make sure that your child is protected this flu season, and the first and most important step in protecting you and your family from flu is by getting everyone an annual flu vaccine.

Nasal Spray Flu Vaccine is Not Recommended This Season

Young mother kissing her toddler sonFlu shots can sometimes be difficult, scary, and uncomfortable for kids (and parents). For several years, some parents have opted to get their children the nasal spray flu vaccine, commonly known as FluMist®, to avoid another shot for their kids. Doctors and scientists also appreciated having the nasal spray flu vaccine as an option that might help encourage needle-averse people to get vaccinated. Studies done soon after the nasal spray flu vaccine was approved showed it was performing as well as (and sometimes better than) flu shots.

Unfortunately, recently there have been problems with how well that vaccine has worked. The reason for this is not known, but experts are looking into the situation with the hopes that nasal spray flu vaccine might again be an option for kids and parents. In the meantime, CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend flu shots this flu season, not the nasal spray flu vaccine. Flu shots work and can keep your child from getting sick!

As you are planning to get your family vaccinated this fall, remember that some children 6 months through 8 years of age require two doses of flu vaccine. If your child is 6 months through 8 years and is getting vaccinated for the first time, or has only previously gotten one dose of vaccine, then they should get two doses of vaccine this season. The two doses need to be given at least four weeks apart.  For children who will need two doses of flu vaccine, the first dose should be given as early in the season as possible to allow time for the second vaccine to kick in before flu starts to spread in your community.

For other children, it is good practice to get them vaccinated by the end of October; however, getting vaccinated later can still be protective as long as flu viruses are circulating. Ask your child’s doctor or other health care professional if your child needs two doses of flu vaccine.

Visit Children, the Flu, and the Flu Vaccine for more flu and flu vaccine information specific to children.

Flu Can Be Dangerous for Some Children

The flu may be more serious than the common cold for children. Flu symptoms can be severe and flu illness can lead to serious complications that require hospitalization.

Some children are at especially high risk of serious flu-related complications:Close up of baby looking at camera with blue eyes

  • Children younger than 6 months old are too young to be vaccinated. The best way to protect them is to make sure you and others around them are vaccinated.
  • Children aged 6 months up to their 5th birthday, even those that are healthy, are at risk simply because of their age.
  • In some studies, American Indians and Alaskan Natives are more likely to have severe flu illness that may result in hospitalization or death.
  • Children aged 6 months through 18 years with certain chronic health problems, such as asthma, diabetes, or neurological and neurodevelopmental conditions.

It’s important to make sure young children and children with certain chronic health problems are vaccinated against flu, as well as any family members and caregivers in contact with your family.

Vaccinate the Whole Family

CDC recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older get a seasonal flu vaccine. You and your family should be vaccinated every year for the best protection against flu. Many children get sick from flu every flu season, and some of those illnesses result in death. Every year in the United States, an average of 20,000 children younger than 5 years old are hospitalized due to flu complications. Flu vaccination can reduce flu illness, doctors’ visits, and missed work and school due to flu, as well as prevent flu-related hospitalizations for you and your family.

Flu vaccines are offered in many locations, including doctor’s offices, clinics, health departments, pharmacies, and college health centers, by many employers, and even some schools. You may not have to see your doctor to get your child a flu shot! There are plenty of locations available that provide vaccinations. The Vaccine Locator is a useful tool for finding areas in your community offering flu vaccine.

More information for parents is available at: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/parents/index.htm.

Most Common Family Types in America

Household types in America

Nuclear is still the most common, but there are millions of households in the United States with a different family structure. Read More

Frozen Without a Plan: A Mom, 3 Kids, and the Atlanta Ice Storm

It was 4 p.m. on a Tuesday in January, and Kelly had been on the road for four hours. She was only a few miles from work, but many miles from home. Her rearview mirror showed a backseat full of children – 5-year-old Savannah, and her 9-month-old twins Caden and Kylie.

She had left work at noon, the time when most Georgians got on the road at the start of a winter storm in the Atlanta metro area. Kelly, a kindergarten teacher at the same school her children attended, had quickly loaded her kids into the car and hit the road for home.photo of television screen showing news coverage of Atlanta snowstorm

Where they sat.

And sat.

And sat.

Kelly’s mind raced – they were nowhere near home. The twins would be hungry soon and she only had one bottle for each child. She only had two diapers left and both were overdue for a diaper change. But she knew her children could not see her fear.

Instead, she and Savannah played “Frozen” – pretending Elsa was freezing the road around them and singing “Let it Go” on repeat. The twins woke up from their afternoon nap and played along with “oohs” and “ahhhs.”

As the hours passed, the trip began to get scarier. Cars slid out of control on the icy road, some off the road and some into each other. More than once, Kelly gripped the wheel as a car got dangerously close to her family’s car.

map of Atlanta traffic during the 2014 snowstorm
More than three hours into her drive and Kelly still faced a series of “red” roads. Image: Google Maps

“Why is that lady crying?” asked Savannah. “Are we going to get stuck?” She and Kelly talked about snow, ice, and how scary things can happen.

“When scary things happen, we try to help other people,” Kelly told her daughter as they began a new game of looking for people helping each other. They didn’t have to look far. Commuters helped push stuck cars off the road.

Around 9 p.m., Kelly turned on to a residential street to find people walking with wagons full of supplies, handing bottles of water and packages of food to the stranded motorists. Several offered her and her children a place to stay, as did friends of friends who were following her on Facebook. Kelly declined the offers. They were still making progress. Her children had dozed off and she was focused on getting them home to fresh diapers and more baby food.

At 10:30 p.m. she made it to the final bridge before home. She was the next car in line to cross the bridge when a police officer stopped her. They had closed the bridge. A truck trying to pass had slipped back and hit cars. The bridge was not safe.

She asked him for advice on how she could get home. “He looked at me with the saddest look and said ‘I’m sorry ma’am. You’re not getting home tonight,’” Kelly remembered.

A Night on the Road

Kelly’s husband, Jon, began calling hotels. Every single hotel was booked, even their lobbies were full of people. Around 2 a.m. Kelly pulled into a parking lot and let Savannah come to the front seat to sleep on her lap.

Savannah, Caden, and Kylie enjoy breakfast after their night sleeping in the car.
Savannah, Caden, and Kylie enjoy breakfast after their night sleeping in the car.

Kelly wished away the minutes, texting with her husband. Her full tank of gas allowed her to keep the heat running and her phone charged. “I kept worrying the babies would wake up hungry or needing a new diaper,” said Kelly. “I’m so grateful they slept and stayed calm – and didn’t poop!”

Staying positive and making the situation into a learning experience for her daughter helped them get through the night. “I almost lost it a couple of times,” remembered Kelly. “I felt the tears coming on, but I just looked at my children and kept trucking.”

An Extra Special Breakfast and a Shopping Spree

Around 5 a.m. the babies began to wake and Kelly knew she needed to get them somewhere with fresh diapers and food. She spied an open breakfast restaurant. She carried two car seats inside, where the whole family devoured pancakes.

With diapers as the next priority, she found a grocery store with its lights on. A lobby full of stranded motorists waved her inside. “The store manager, had pastries, juice, and water out for everyone,” she shared. “I asked him if I could please buy diapers for the babies. He said the registers were closed and he couldn’t sell anything, but instead took me to the baby aisle and told me to get whatever I needed.”

Home at Last

Savannah, Caden, and Kylie play in the snow after they arrived home.
Savannah, Caden, and Kylie play in the snow after they arrived home.

Police and her husband arrived around 7:30 in the morning, sharing news that the bridge had reopened. The family got in his car and drove the last few miles home.

Getting ready for bed the next night, safely at home in their warm house, Savannah asked “Can we sleep in the car again?”

“Not tonight,” said her mommy. “We’re not sleeping in the car tonight.”

Lessons Learned

“The most important thing is to be prepared,” said Kelly. “You never know what’s going to happen.”

A full tank of gas and a car phone charger were game changing supplies. They kept the family warm and connected. Kelly and Jon now stock their cars with a big bag holding three changes of clothes, water bottles, snacks, diapers, and wipes. The first of every month, Kelly cycles out the food, replacing snacks and updating clothes for the weather. “The little bit of time is worth every second for my peace of mind,” says Kelly.

Remember, an emergency can happen anywhere. Make sure you are prepared at home and on the go. For more family stories, visit our Caring for Children in Disasters portal.

Chart of Cousins

For every family get-together I go to, it seems there are more kids running around. I know that they are related to me somehow, but what do I call them? Maybe this chart will help next time.

How You're Related

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