Meagan O’Nan

 All articles posted on this page have been written by Meagan M. O’Nan, who is the award-winning author of ‘”Creating Your Heaven on Earth”, an avid blogger, poet, and supporter of the underdog. (Meaganonan.org)

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 Going with the Flow Pays Off!

A couple of years ago, when my book, Creating Your Heaven on Earth, was just published, I was on my way to upstate New York for a book signing and speaking engagement. This was my first book signing in a city where no one knew me – a writer’s dream.

I was flying from Denver to Pittsburgh, and from Pittsburgh to Syracuse. I had an early flight to catch on the day of the book signing (which was scheduled for 6:30 that evening). I barely made the thirty-minute cut-off to check-in and had to run to my gate. I caught the flight, but just barely. The flight went smooth. I was so full of anticipation and excitement, that feeling exhausted was fine by me.

My flight arrived in Pittsburgh on time. I made my way to the “Departure” board, to check on the gate assignment for my next flight. When I looked up at the board and found my flight, bright red letters stared back at me, which read “CANCELLED”. My heart dropped. I started to panic, on the inside. I almost uttered a curse word or two out loud, when a voice from my heart said, “Meagan, go with the flow.” I listened (mostly because the voice was really loud).

I decided that the air of madness, frustration, and anger that was prevalent in the airport (because numerous flights had been cancelled to New York, due to an ice storm) was something that I did not want to be a part of. So, I decided to go with the flow. That meant, being nice to everyone, seeing the best in everyone, being calm and patient, and understanding that I might miss the event in upstate New York that I so wanted to attend. It was a quick shift of mindset; but a shift, nonetheless.

I waited in line at the US Airways counter, at the gate for my now-cancelled flight. In front of me, was a woman screaming in an angry rage at the woman behind the desk. I felt so bad for the US Airways agent; I mean, was she the one that caused the bad weather? After seeing that, I made a special effort to be extra nice to the agent, because no one deserves to be treated the way she was being treated.

When I made my way to the counter I told the agent, “Thank you for waiting on me and I promise I won’t scream at you.” She smiled, and I could see her take a deep breath. I told her my dilemma. We worked together to find the best solution, but every available flight was leaving after my event was to have started. We looked at each other in disappointment each time we realized that another solution she was presenting, wasn’t going to work. So, I thought, “Well, I guess I just won’t
make it and there must be a good reason for it.” (Keep in mind, I REALLY wanted to make it to the event.)

Suddenly, the agent said, “I know!!!” She yelled across the terminal, and asked another US Airways agent, “Did that flight leave yet?!” He yelled back, “No!” She quickly printed out a ticket for me and told me I was going to Ithaca (about 60 miles from Syracuse). Arrangements were made for a driver to pick me up in Ithaca, by the event coordinator.

I stood at the other gate for about 30 minutes, wondering if I was at the right gate (and wondering what in the hell was going on, to be quite honest), when another agent came up to me and asked, “Are you ready to go?” Confused, I said, “To Ithaca, right?” He nodded his head yes, and asked me to follow him outside. He took out his umbrella and walked me to the plane, about 20 yards away and said, “You know you are the only one on this flight, right?”

Wha-wha-whaaaaaaat?!

Sure enough, I was the only person on the flight. The flight attendant greeted me, let me choose my seat, and as I sat down and buckled up, the pilot spoke over the loud speaker, “Welcome Meagan, we are taking you to Ithaca. Sit back and enjoy the ride.” Huh? Really? I guess there was a break in the clouds or something – kind of like the parting of the Red Sea.

I made it in plenty of time for my event, that night. I will always be thankful to US Airways for a valuable lesson. It pays to choose to be nice to others, and it certainly makes a difference if you choose to go with the flow, with no expectations. Be kind to one another. It really is that simple.

Originally Published in March 28, 2012 Print Edition

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Don’t Hurt Your Back Jumping Through the Hoops

“I’m sorry, but your doctor rejected your referral request for acupuncture. I know it’s taken two weeks, and your back is hurting so bad. Do you have another doctor we can call?”

Unfortunately, this is a common conversation that happens between potential acupuncture patients and their soon-to-(hopefully)-be acupuncturists in Mississippi.

Acupuncture, by a licensed acupuncturist, became legal in Mississippi in 2009, with the caveat that you must have a referral from your doctor. Anywhere else in the country, you can walk through the doors of any acupuncturist’s clinic and get treated immediately. But, in Mississippi, the only state with such a requirement, seeing an acupuncturist for the first time is a hassle for the patient, the acupuncturist, and, ultimately, the doctor, too.  Even more restrictive, it has to be a doctor, not a nurse practitioner or chiropractor – and that doctor must be licensed in Mississippi and practice within 60 miles of the acupuncturist.

Did you know that a licensed acupuncturist has a four-year master’s level degree in acupuncture?  That’s eight years of school, all told, since you have to have an undergraduate degree to get a master’s degree.  On top of that, they have to do thousands of clinical hours before they graduate, and then have to sit for their national boards.  Then, they must be licensed by the MS State Board of Medical Licensure – like doctors – and, like doctors, carry malpractice insurance.  It seems odd that, after all that, you’d need to have a doctor’s referral for acupuncture.

Beyond the fact that acupuncturists have extensive education (two years of that education is in Western Medicine), the law takes away a patient’s right to choose the type of care they want to receive.  I don’t need to go to my doctor to see a massage therapist or chiropractor.  Not only that, many people who want acupuncture (like me) have a nurse practitioner as their primary care provider.

Then, there’s the fact that it’s a hardship on patients.  Now, since my nurse practitioner can’t refer me, I have to go establish care with a doctor.  That’s another $100 or so out of my pocket, since I don’t have insurance (and I know there are many others like me in Mississippi), not to mention the time it will take out of my schedule and that I won’t even know if that doctor will be willing to write me a referral.  Then, I have to spend even more money establishing care with my local acupuncturist (in Columbus, we’re lucky enough to have an acupuncturist who charges really low rates – partly to compensate for all this, she says).

And then, there’s the business side.  It takes an acupuncturist a lot of time to fax referral requests, usually repeatedly, so that a patient can be seen.  Often, it can take up to five different attempts just to get a referral signed – while the poor patient waits to be seen.  According to the eight acupuncturists in the state of Mississippi, over 50% of patients give up when they can’t get a referral, and business is thus lost for the small business owner.  That’s not good for the community.  As one doctor (who supports acupuncture) said, 100% of patient complaints about acupuncture are related to the fact that they have to get a referral.  Wow.  He also added that 100% of doctors’ complaints about acupuncture are that they had to write the referral….seems like a good case of the few not representing the many.

There is also the fact that, since the doctor has to be Mississippi licensed, it stops money coming into our state from surrounding states, since most people in Alabama and Tennessee – who are seeking acupuncturists – don’t have Mississippi-licensed doctors.  I don’t think that is good business for our communities or our state.

One last thing:  According to the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, acupuncturists have a malpractice track record that is leagues above that of physicians, proportionally.  But, they still have to make sure it’s “safe” enough for us plebeians.  (By the way, acupuncturists can actually be primary care providers in some states.) If I want a tattoo, why don’t I have to get a referral for that? They also use needles.

I know, firsthand, many people who have actually left their doctors, after they refused to refer them for acupuncture.  Perhaps more of that has to happen before the legislators will be willing to listen to the general population, as opposed to the MS Medical Association (whose whispers can be very loud….).  This year, the Mississippi Oriental Medicine Association (MOMA) tried to get the law amended, to remove the referral clause.  Unfortunately, the head of the Public Health Committee (in the MS House) had a keen ear to the MSMA, which did not want to budge an inch.  MOMA even offered a compromise, wherein the referral clause would remain, but be expanded to include out-of-state physicians and MDs more than 60 miles away – to help with the business side and make it easier for patients to get care.  MSMA’s response was that this law was too young to change and that not enough people were being affected by it to warrant that.

I guess a few people’s pain will only be important to the Medical Association when it’s shared by another 100,000 people.  That’s not my idea of truly looking out for the well-being of all citizens. Fortunately, there are doctors out there (thank you!) who know about the benefits of acupuncture and don’t hesitate to refer their patients. There is plenty of research to back up the benefits of acupuncture. If you’re one of those people who question whether acupuncture is a mind game – well, it works on animals. And if you aren’t sure how it works, but it works, just let it do its job. I don’t know about you, but I’m getting tired of jumping through unnecessary hoops, and my right to choose the kind of care I get for my body is important to me.

Meagan M. O’Nan is the award-winning author of Creating Your Heaven on Earth, as well as an avid blogger, poet, and supporter of the underdog. (Meaganonan.org)

Originally Published in March 14, 2012 Print Edition

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Character Counts!

 Character education is important in Mississippi’s public schools…on the surface.  While most states require that their public schools implement some sort of character education program, in Mississippi it is encouraged. Character Education can be defined as a program that teaches students how to develop and grow into moral, civic, non-bullying, healthy, critical, and successful people. Most character education programs have developed a set of virtues (characteristics) to mold their program around (e.g. honesty, stewardship, kindness, generosity, courage, freedom, justice, equality, and respect). Although there are hundreds of cost-effective programs in existence, most of these programs are difficult to implement without extensive training for teachers. With teachers already having so many demands on their time, adding a character education program would be difficult.

In light of the fact that schools are getting beaten down by budget-cutting each year, it is unrealistic to think that they would be motivated to implement a character education program, when it is not mandated. If I were a principal, I would be more worried about ensuring that my students were achieving the highest possible test scores, so that I could secure funding for the next school year – to make sure I and all of my teachers still jobs. This kind of pressure to perform is a double-edged sword, and sometimes keeps a few important things out of the picture.

On one hand, I think we can all agree that character education is important for our children’s growth. While we can develop our kids’ minds and teach them how to read, write, and add/subtract (some of whom don’t get what they need to achieve in those areas), if students don’t believe in themselves, then knowledge can only go so far. Knowledge without some sort of internal power behind it leaves students unmotivated, unsure, and distracted – and we all know what a bunch of distracted children in one classroom can do to a teacher!  And, with bullying being such a big issue and written policies that are inconsistently implemented, our students often don’t feel safe to learn. Bullying is an article in and of itself, but it’s fair to say that with a decent character education program in place, bullying would decrease. No one person is to blame for the way our system has turned out, but I think it is important to ask all the tough questions.

But, where in the world is there time for a character education program (an effective one, that is) in the school day? Teachers really can’t take on any more responsibility. At least, I don’t think they can. So then, what is the solution to successfully incorporate a character education program? Having words posted around the school like “Courage” and “Honesty” is not enough. Students need to understand what the words mean, and how to use them in their lives. For instance, if a child is rewarded for being courageous, explain to that child why they were courageous. Or, if a child gets caught cheating on their test and don’t deny it, then thank them for their honesty and go on with the desired consequence for cheating. To give students an opportunity to figure out who they are, how to get along with others, and what it really means to believe in who they are, would be invaluable. Pointing out the positive values amidst the mistakes is a good way to reinforce the behavior that the program is designed to ingrain. I haven’t been to all of the public schools in Mississippi, but from the ones I have visited, character education is on the back burner, because funding is on the forefront.

On the other hand, to keep a school functioning, the bills have to get paid. Who can blame the schools for feeling so much pressure to achieve the required test scores? I know I don’t. It takes an entire community of people that are willing to cooperate and be open to possibilities to make our public schools work these days. Perhaps that is the way it should be. Our public school system is antiquated and needs to be modified in order to catch up with the times. Technology transforming our world, so we must reallocate funds to fit today’s student. Maybe a character education program could be developed in the form of a video game. Then there would be no pressure on the teacher to learn new material, and it can be utilized during the day, when students have breaks.

Education is a tricky subject because there are so many factors to consider, and there is no singular solution. Character Education programs are one of those factors that often get neglected. Building community and relationships are going to become key components for success with our schools, down the road. Saying we focus on the kids first and, then, really focusing on money first isn’t going to get the job done. We have to rein in our fear and let faith drive the bus. Focusing on our students and their needs for full development must come first. And then, all of us adults have to work together to get along and invest in our future community, which sometimes involves breaking down our own barriers of fear and change.

All in all, our system needs a re-boot. I like to think that things will get better soon for our leaders of tomorrow. But, it may take a while. In the meantime, let’s keep it simple be being kind to one another. The students are watching us and modeling is the greatest teacher.

Originally Published in February 29, 2012 Print Edition 

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