CVIndependent

Tue04072020

Last updateFri, 03 Apr 2020 5pm

Dr. Dilangani (Dana) Ratnayake, 35, has been a Cathedral City resident since 2016.

“It’s emotionally draining to deal with patients who are in pain,” she says. However, she’s decided that emotional drain is worth it.

I first met Ratnayake because I have chronic pain. About three years ago, I had a headache that lasted for three months nonstop. After what seemed like every test known to man, I learned I had stenosis in a couple of the vertebrae in my neck. I consulted with a local pain clinic and was given steroid shots that almost instantly stopped the headaches and eased the discomfort in my right shoulder. I’ve never used opioids, but I have been getting routine pressure points shots in my shoulder and neck ever since—and she was assigned to be my doctor.

Ratnayake came to the United States from her native Sri Lanka at the age of 16. She has two older sisters, one of whom was then in graduate school in Minnesota.

“My parents got green cards,” she recalls, “because my aunt had actually sponsored my dad 10 years earlier.”

Ratnayake’s mother was the director of a Sri Lanka government agency-tourist board, who taught her daughter to “do what you want to do in your life.”

“My dad was with the Sri Lankan police,” Ratnayake says. “He’s very easy-going, and I think I’m more like my mom. I think I put undue pressure on myself.”

While Ratnayake’s parents currently reside in Sri Lanka, the family formerly lived in Minnesota, where Ratnayake completed high school and then earned her undergrad degree in biology at the College of Saint Catherine. She went on to get her doctorate from the University of Minnesota, and had her anesthesiology residency at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. A fellowship then took her back to Minnesota.

Why anesthesiology? “I liked the procedural aspects,” she says, “and I like being in the (operating room). With interventional pain management, you actually get to build a relationship with the patient.”

Ratnayake returned to Minnesota with not only a degree, but also a husband. “We’ve been together 10 years. A family friend had known him for a long time,” she says. “We actually started dating while I was still in Minnesota, and got married during my last year of medical school.”

Her husband is a primary-care physician, currently practicing in Redlands.

“During residency, (doctors) rotate in different sub-specialties,” says Ratnayake. “Pain management was one aspect. After my fellowship, I came to the desert with Kaiser, focusing 100 percent on pain management—but that wasn’t for me” at the time.

She went back to anesthesia full-time. “But doing anesthesia, interactions with patients are short and intense. There are no long-term relationships.

“I didn’t realize then how much pain management focused on the use of opioids. It wasn’t like that in training. Real pain management is using all of the skills learned—talking to patients, the use of meds, interventional therapies, and other methods of pain control. Opioids do have a role, and that’s the challenge, but it’s diminishing now. It’s not the first best option, nor the only one.”

Of course, Ratnayake has a bucket list. “I like to travel. I was in Europe last year, and I go to Sri Lanka at least once a year to see my parents. Up to now, my time has been limited. … I practice yoga, and I love dogs, but don’t currently have one, so I volunteer at the shelter.”

Ratnayake’s ability to relate on a personal level is not often found in a doctor, at least in my experience. She listens, is empathetic, and always exhibits a warm, caring demeanor. In 10 years, she says she sees herself with a successful practice, working full-time to help those who struggle with pain.

“Maybe, at that point, we’ll have kids,” she says with a laugh.

As for that successful practice she sees herself having, Ratnayake is on the cusp of getting it started. “I’m looking for more autonomy in a practice, and the ability to screen the patients. If you’re looking for opioids to deal with pain, I may not be your doctor of choice,” she says. She wants to focus on women with pain, as doctors are often not attuned to the different kinds of pain that women experience—for example, during menopause.

I initially spoke to her several weeks ago, before the reality of the pandemic set in. Ratnayake said then that she’d found a location and was seeking credentialing to work with health-insurance providers. “I’m hoping for April or May, to start with being open a couple of days a week and weekends,” she told me. “I’ll keep doing anesthesia work with hospitals until ultimately opening five days a week.

But the coronavirus has changed Ratnayake’s path, at least for now. I checked in with her a couple of days ago.

"COVID-19 has had a significant impact on delaying the start of my pain practice. Credentialing and new contracts with physicians are now delayed,” she says. “I was hoping to open for a few days in April, but it will be at least (the middle) to end of May before we finalize contracts and also implement a process where social distancing can be practiced and patients can be seen safely.

“Since elective surgeries have been postponed, I’m not doing anesthesia work—and I must admit it’s an unusual feeling to have time on my hands.”

It may be emotionally draining to deal with patients who are in pain, but Dana Ratnayake is making a place for herself in our local medical community—and is on a mission to relieve pain.

“A lot of people are in chronic pain, and if they’ve been on opioids, you can’t just cut them off. It’s life-changing to get off them,” she says.

We’re lucky to have her.

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal.” Her show That’s Life airs weekdays on iHubradio, while The Lovable Liberal airs from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

Although I had been following the development of the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide, it still seemed somewhat remote from the life we live in the Coachella Valley. It was in that state of mind that I decided to go see a comedy show at a local theater.

It all started on Monday, March 9, when six of us—Carol and Denny, Casi and Tom, and Rupert and me—got tickets for the afternoon performance of Old Jews Telling Jokes on Saturday, March 14, at the Indian Wells Theater on Cal State’s Palm Desert campus. Afterward, we planned to go to Carol and Denny’s for a light supper.

Then, increasingly, the reality of the coronavirus unfolded.

I am, unbelievably (to me), heading toward my 79th birthday in May. I had a heart “incident” last Thanksgiving that forestalled a heart attack and resulted in a stent being placed in one of my arteries that was blocked up after a lifetime of smoking. I could go on, but in other words, based on age and underlying conditions, I'm one of the vulnerable.

An email on Monday suggested that maybe we should see about getting a refund on the tickets. We’re all of a certain age, and perhaps going to a theater with a crowd of people wasn’t such a good idea, with the virus news getting more disturbing every day. I said I’d look into it.

I called the ticket broker through whom the tickets were purchased—and was told they were nonrefundable. In spite of my pleas about being a senior on a fixed income who couldn’t afford to either simply forfeit the price of the tickets or take the chance on going to the theater, the broker (who was very polite and understanding through it all) said—preposterously, it seemed at the time—that unless a national emergency was called, the show would go on.

I did manage to joke with the broker that given the virus’ circumstances and the older local population for such a show, perhaps our group attending would be no problem, since nobody else would be in the theater. He laughed politely … but held his ground.

I then called the theater box office, but a voice message made it clear their season was over, and therefore, they were not able to respond. Next, I sent an email to Cal State and asked if they planned to close down the campus, including the theater—after all, they are local, and I assumed they would act responsibly in the best interest of the public, to say nothing of their students. They did respond, but only to say the show had been contracted as a theater rental, and the campus had not closed down—so I had to work it out with the ticket broker.

Next, I had planned to drive into Los Angeles Tuesday morning to attend the memorial for a dear friend who had passed after three years in a nursing facility. It would be at a hotel on the beach in Santa Monica; after lunch, we’d watch a plane drop my friend’s ashes into the Pacific. I had even been asked to say a few words. Then, I was planning to spend Tuesday night with my daughter and two of my grandchildren. My grandson, who lives with his dad in Texas, was flying in to spend his spring break with his mom and sister; I was staying over to see them. Finally, on Wednesday, I had an appointment to audition for a game show, after which I was to return the desert.

My daughter was concerned about her son taking a flight with all the coronavirus news, so she cancelled his visit. She also expressed her concern about me attending an event where many of the people there would have flown in from around the country. 

Monday afternoon, I made the responsible decision, and I sent my regrets. I felt badly about not attending, but felt as if I had ultimately made a decision in the best interest of my own health.

Tuesday involved more emails about whether my friends and I would still go to Saturday’s performance; finally, I made it clear that it was up to each of us individually whether to attend. Clearly, eating the cost of the tickets would not destroy any of our lives. I indicated that I probably would go, but Rupert might not, given his underlying physical conditions. Casi and Carol said they would probably go, but their spouses probably would not. It’s interesting that the women, not the men, seemed willing to chance it.  

On Thursday, I had scheduled an interview with one of the next subjects for this column. I called on Wednesday to cancel—and the subject was actually thankful, given that the news was getting more and more alarming with each passing hour.

My high school group that gets together for lunch annually was supposed to meet on St. Patrick’s Day in Los Angeles. On Thursday, I begged off that as well. Of course, they ended up cancelling until later in the year.

Despite all of this, on Thursday night, it seemed all of us had decided the hell with it: We were all going to throw caution to the wind and attend Saturday’s show, hoping it would at least provide some laughs and lighten up the angst we were all feeling.

Then, on Friday the 13th, President Trump declared a national emergency. 

True to their word, we received emails indicating the show had been cancelled, and our ticket price was being fully refunded. It was honestly the first time in more than three years I felt good about something coming out of the Oval Office.

I got my nails done on Friday, while the manicurist downplayed the threat of the virus based on her belief that it was all being hyped to damage Trump. It was an oddly lucky visit, however: The beauty-supply rep was there, and I ordered a box of 100 plastic gloves, the type stylists use to apply hair dye. At least I may be able to avoid trying to find hand sanitizer for now.

My regular weekly shopping trip to the pharmacy and the market on Saturday was definitely “a trip”: Why is everyone going crazy over toilet paper? Why aren’t all stores limiting purchases of certain items? Is it really true that people are physically fighting over cleaning supplies? Yikes.

The six of us met for dinner at Carol and Denny’s Saturday evening. We were glad to be together, partly because we’d all been avoiding public contact as much as possible, and it was lovely to have some relaxed, friendly time. We hugged before we said good night. Yeah, I know, social distancing, but sometimes you have to be willing to die to have good friends and love in your life. 

The best news of the week was learning that quarantined Italians are singing and making music on their balconies… and that public health workers are risking their lives to help wherever needed.

What a week it was. And who knows what the future holds?

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal.” Her show That’s Life airs weekdays on iHubradio, while The Lovable Liberal airs from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

Karen Borja is a warm, open person who seems genuinely glad to meet you. It’s a personality that explains Borja’s success as a community organizer—helping people learn how to help themselves by changing what isn’t working in their environment.

Borja, 30, and her husband, Blaz Gutierrez, are residents of Indio. She was born and raised in Coachella along with a younger brother. Like many of her contemporaries in that community, she is the child of farmworker immigrants, who learned from her parents that hard work leads to what she refers to as “generational wealth”—the ability to build on each generation’s skills and experiences.

“For me, it was realizing what policies helped my family move from the bracero program,” she says.

The bracero program was initiated in August 1942 between the U.S. and Mexico, and lasted, with amendments, until 1964. It was named based on the Spanish term bracero, meaning "manual laborer."

“As a result of my grandfather’s participation in the bracero program, they were able to get green cards and continue to live here,” Borja says. “My mom is from Mexico. Her father was a bracero. She is a very hard-working woman who ran a day-care facility for over 22 years, helping generations of kids. She was licensed by the county of Riverside, and took care of the children of farmworkers.

“My dad was from El Salvador. During his early teens, the revolution was going on there, so his parents sent him, along with a cousin, to Mexico. He later went to Mexicali, then crossed the border and became a farmworker. Unfortunately, he died when I was only 14.”

Borja attended a women’s Catholic college in Notre Dame, Ind., called St. Mary’s College.

“It was real culture shock,” she says. “There were less than 50 women of color out of over 1,600 students. It was the first time I had been in a ‘minority’ situation. It was a real challenge. I was so homesick, I would cry every day. I had previously traveled to Europe, to Mexico and all through California with my parents, but this was the first time I was by myself. I found it was easy to make friends and get involved, because I needed to make sure I had a group to support me.”

Borja got her first taste of community organizing when she was about 16.

“There were youth groups in the local churches, and there was a local park that had gangs and drugs, where parents wouldn’t let us go by ourselves,” she says. “We were asked if we wanted to come to a meeting about the park, and I think about 500 people showed up. I didn’t really understand everything the adults were talking about, but we were asked, ‘What do you want to do about it?’ So we started listing the things we were concerned about. I got really engaged and involved. We learned there was city money dedicated to parks. By my senior year of high school, when I was 17, we won the park victory. When I came back during my first year of college, they had really done things: It was cleaner and safer, and I remember thinking, ‘Wow! The politicians actually followed through.’”

Borja also helped create a park in Oasis, the first in the area, at the site of an abandoned elementary school.

“It had gotten in terrible shape,” she says, “and had become a danger for kids. It took three years and getting both the school district to agree to sell the 15 acres and the park district to buy it. The park district built a soccer field, and it became a place people were able to run laps.”

During her sophomore year in college, Borja got the chance to travel to South Africa to attend school for a semester.

“I remember thinking, ’What am I doing in Africa? Who do I think I am? I’m just a little girl from Coachella,’” she says. “I had a friend who was a nurse, and a group of African women showed up asking her to vote for their candidate for president. I was so moved by their conviction. Their candidate won the town’s vote because of those African women getting people involved. That flipped a switch in my head. I suddenly realized the park project wasn’t because of the politicians. We won the park victory because mobilizing the grassroots community does actually work. The impact that left on me is why I do what I do.”

Her time in Africa led to another life lesson for Borja: She got pregnant and chose to have an abortion. Then during her senior year in college, Borja met an LGBTQ woman with whom she was able to identify based on the feeling of not being accepted—of feeling “less than.”

“As a Catholic Latina,” she says, “I found I believed that LGBTQ rights and abortion rights are part of our community and need to be respected. A couple years later, there was a group of nine of us—not just from our campus, but also from Holy Cross and Notre Dame—who showed the example of young Catholics being open and affirming and accepting, and creating safe spaces, to show that all students deserve to be seen and feel safe. In my senior year, we had the first transgender speaker on campus. It was standing room only!

“In the summer between my junior and senior years, after I had become president of a campus gay/straight alliance club, I actually went to a ‘gay’ camp for students and LGBTQ leaders. I was chosen to go by my school as one of the ‘straight’ students,” she says with a laugh. “I came to realize how brave they were to be out. They were empowered to be themselves and to help their campuses toward inclusion.”

In addition to her degree in political science, Borja later received certification in nonprofit management from University of California, Riverside’s Palm Desert campus. She recently received the sixth annual Community Justice Award given by Bloom in the Desert Ministries in recognition of her dedication and hard work.

Borja worked for seven years with Inland Congregations United for Change, focused on helping residents of the eastern Coachella Valley access education and transportation. She has now been with Planned Parenthood for the past two years, currently serving as the director of community affairs for Riverside County. “My current job is to make sure we have political and community support to keep the doors open,” she says. “I’m so proud of how much access our patients get to care and information. Last year we began providing hormonal therapy for transgender patients.

“My family taught me that leadership is important. This work has allowed me to be a Catholic Latina who believes in women’s rights, is pro-choice, supports LGBTQ rights, and is from Indio, California.”

Karen Borja’s warmth and open nature comes through clearly—and she makes a difference in her community. That is the fulfillment of her legacy of her definition of “generational wealth.”

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal.” Her show That’s Life airs weekdays on iHubradio, while The Lovable Liberal airs from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

Lanny Swerdlow, tongue firmly in cheek, introduced himself thusly: “I’m gay, Jewish, an atheist, a liberal, in a mixed marriage to a Native American, left-handed and a tree-hugger.”

What else is there to know about this 73-year-old registered nurse? Quite a lot!

Swerdlow was born and raised in Los Angeles, the younger of two brothers. His father died at 32 when Swerdlow was only 2 years old.

“My ‘real’ dad was my mom’s second husband,” he says. “He was an accountant, somewhat distant, but a good dad and provider for our family. My mom lived a life of quiet desperation, pretty ignorant of the real world—but you have to remember that women in those days didn’t go very far. There were a lot of things she could and should have done that she never did. One of the lessons I got from that is: If I want to do something, I do it … even if it’s not always a good idea.” He laughs easily at himself.

Swerdlow had a choice of high schools to attend in Los Angeles. “I could go to Fairfax High, which was very white and Jewish, or L.A. High, which was very mixed.”

He picked the latter. “I wanted something different, and it opened my eyes to other cultures. … I was interested in theater arts; I wanted to go into that, because that’s what ‘homos’ did.” Instead, he got a degree in zoology and later studied fisheries’ biology.

Swerdlow surprised his family when he came out as gay. “They had come to visit me in Oregon, where I was working for the state Fish Commission, and were surprised to learn of my feelings. My mom cried; my dad was upset. They were my liberal parents! Then they said I wouldn’t be happy for the rest of my life. I told them I would go straight, but I couldn’t play that role. When I finally confronted them, they accepted me for who I am.”

Swerdlow got involved with the gay-liberation movement in Oregon. He started a newspaper, and the police-advisory board asked him to join and represent the groups with which he was involved.

“Every Friday and Saturday night, young people would congregate on a street corner, and the police had tried to do something about it for years,” Swerdlow says. “At one meeting, they asked me where else they could go. Six kids had come into my office to raise money to open a club, so I told them to find a place, and I’d help bankroll it. A Realtor friend found a place, but it was a disaster. I got seven kids to help me do the work, and they worked seven days a week for 10 to 12 hours a day. I gave them a 49 percent stake in the business.

“We opened an underage gay/lesbian nightclub which became well-known, but overnight, the problems began. The police started coming and busting kids for curfew violations, batting them around and dragging them off. I consulted a lawyer and sent a letter to the city attorney, who sent a letter to the police department. Then they just stationed two officers in front of the club, waiting for kids to come outside.

“I then went to the head of the police bureau and began to learn about how politics works. I told him we couldn’t run the club if he kept putting police in front of the club. He got on the phone, requested some budget information—and then we never saw police there again. I learned that just because something isn’t right, that doesn’t mean it will get fixed. I also learned that something can get done if you have something hanging over someone’s head, like the threat to take away budget money. My experience with the club taught me not to just trust the system.”

The nightclub, which was sold in 1997, included a mini-studio for making films. “We did Night Scene for local TV with a focus on gay issues, and another show called Outrageous, and then a show about cannabis common sense, to help push toward legalization. The kids did the shows, including learning how to do the technical stuff.”

Swerdlow’s parents lived in Palm Springs, so he and his husband, Victor Michel—his partner for more than 27 years—would often come down to visit them. Swerdlow’s mom had taken ill and needed help, so he and Michel came to the Coachella Valley and stayed; they now live in Whitewater.

“We like it there,” he says. “There’s no businesses, very little traffic, lots of places to hike, and it’s close to the middle of nowhere, but not too far from somewhere.”

His path toward becoming a nurse began when he got a call from the hospital about his dad.

“I realized he couldn’t take care of himself anymore, and I decided to become a medical tech, ultimately going to College of the Desert and graduating as a registered nurse in 2006,” he says.

Swerdlow became involved in Democratic Party politics, representing a Riverside County assembly district on the party’s state central committee. He serves on the San Gorgonio Memorial Healthcare District’s board of directors.

Swerdlow has been passionate about the legalization of marijuana for many years. As a nurse, he is cognizant of the medical benefits of marijuana use, and has specifically championed the need for the Veterans Administration to make it available, despite the federal government classifying it as a dangerous drug. He was instrumental in getting language into the state Democratic Party platform supporting legalization prior to the passage of Proposition 64. He also has an online radio program and leads the Marijuana Anti-Prohibition Project, focused on the Inland Empire.

In 2012, Swerdlow started the Brownie Mary Democrats of California.

“I wanted to form the ‘Democratic Cannabis Club,’ but they didn’t want me to put that name on it, so I named it after the woman who was known for baking 600 brownies a day and delivering them to AIDS patients in San Francisco,” he says. “I want to get more involved in health-care issues, especially the need to ensure that everybody has coverage. And I’ll stay focused on cannabis. With thousands of people on alcohol or drugs, they can get off using cannabis. It doesn’t solve their problems, but it doesn’t have all the down sides, either. We need on-site use localities, and it should be as available as liquor.”

Lanny Swerdlow describes himself in a lot of different ways. I describe him as an effective activist.

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal.” Her show That’s Life airs weekdays on iHubradio, while The Lovable Liberal airs from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

You may have encountered Brian Hess before—back when he was a child actor who told Mr. Whipple: “Don’t squeeze the Charmin!”

Hess, now 46, began acting in commercials when he was 5 or 6; his cousin was doing the same, and Hess thought it looked easy. He became an extra in several shows and worked with NBC; the acting helped pay for his education. Born in Washington, D.C., and raised in the Florida Keys, Hess and his family moved to California when he was 16.

“I was an athlete in high school who realized I wouldn’t make pro,” says Hess, “so I opted to join the Air Force. My father had been in the military, with stints in the FBI and CIA. He instilled in us that caring for people has meaning and is important. He said to work hard and not look for glory or seek recognition.

“My mom retired as a pediatric nurse practitioner, and both of my younger sisters became nurses. Mom said that caring for people has meaning and is its own reward, and that we should never stop learning, giving and caring.”

Hess never told the Air Force that he suffered from shin splints, and reached the point where he could hardly stand up. He went to the base hospital and was exposed to physical therapy for the first time. Once out of the service, he began work as an athletic trainer—and realized he wanted to do more with seriously ill patients, like those with brain injuries, amputees and stroke victims.

“I found I loved it,” he says.

When an opportunity arose to enter an internship working with brain-injury patients, Hess went to Charleston, S.C., as a physical-therapy assistant.

“It was a chance to get out of Los Angeles for a couple of years,” he says, “and it was my introduction to working with patients with cognitive impairment.”

Hess returned to Los Angeles, but four years ago decided to escape “the hustle and bustle,” and moved to the Coachella Valley. His family had spent time in the desert over many years, and he decided to make the move.

“I was raised near the beach in Florida, and I love the heat,” he says.

Hess joined the staff of the Eisenhower Memory Care Center’s Adult Day Center program and is currently its program coordinator. The program’s mission is to provide day care to functionally or cognitively impaired individuals in a safe, supportive environment.

“I’m particularly impressed with the staff,” Hess says. “The program has been operating for 36 years, and there are long-time staff who are totally dedicated. You don’t do this kind of work for over 30 years just because it’s cool.”

The program is in transition, with plans to expand to a new location where it can expand its availability beyond the current 49 patients.

“It’s great for me to feel like a catalyst for the progress being made regarding dementia and related diseases,” Hess says. “The level and scope of care are different than when I worked with brain-injury patients. I’ve learned much greater patience. Doing this kind of care is a different kind of job; you can’t just clock in and then go home. For me, it’s a 12-hour-a-day commitment.

“I want to find a way to get everybody on Earth who is affected by this disease into this kind of program. It used to be that Mom and Dad had direct family support when they aged, but now we have children and grandchildren bringing them in—even in-laws and distant family members.

“It’s hard for family to let go when someone’s capabilities have changed. You have to step into the patient’s world. If you didn’t know what day it is, wouldn’t you want people around to compensate for that deficiency? I tell families, ‘So your loved one has these memory deficits. So? The sky is still blue; the earth is still round, so what difference does it really make that they don’t know what day it is?’ It isn’t about what they can or can’t do any more. Here at the center, that doesn’t matter. We expose them to fun and games, laugh at jokes, listen to music and relate to them where they are. The abilities they have lost don’t factor into the time they spend here—and it gives caregivers a break they so badly need.”

Statistics show that caregivers often die before the patients for which they are caring, in part because of the stress associated with caregiving. The Eisenhower program also offers caregiver support and education, including the importance of learning effective communication skills.

“For me, it’s about reaching that one family out there that thinks they don’t need this,” Hess says. “Come for just one time is all I ask. It will make a difference. Once families realize this is available, and it’s here to help them, the light bulb goes on. I do as many public presentations and community activities as I can. I will market our services anywhere they won’t shut the door on me. I even leave fliers, ‘accidentally,’ by dropping them in supermarket aisles.”

One of the biggest issues around dementia and other types of cognitive impairment is the stigma still associated with the illness.

“People don’t want to admit this is happening in their family,” says Hess. “They try to shelter someone rather than bringing them to a program like ours. It becomes something people hide. For every one of the people in our program, there is another family out there that doesn’t look for resources. They think they have a grasp on it, because they haven’t burned out yet.”

Hess is continuing his education; he’s currently in a licensed vocational nurse program.

“This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, and being here has been a catalyst,” he says. “I’ve seen how much nursing is involved in the care we give.

“I came on board here at a time of transition (with) this program. I actually thought, ‘If not me, then who?’ I actually jumped at the chance to do it. It’s an incredible opportunity, and I have to believe I ended up here in the right place at the right time.

“I’m a believer in doing things first and asking questions later. If you know you’re doing the right thing, just do it.”

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal.” Her show That’s Life airs weekdays on iHubradio, while The Lovable Liberal airs from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

She left her native Missouri/Kansas at the age of 25 for San Francisco in 1970. She describes her artwork as “abstract impressionist,” and creates sculpture with a slightly sexual bent. She has lived in a sprawling home in Thousand Palms, which she hopes one day will be a museum, for more than 30 years.

Oh, and did I mention the peacocks?

Ramona Rowley, a vibrant 75 years old, envelops you with a warmth and openness that is both refreshing and unusual. She and her brother were born in Kansas City, Mo., and raised in Kansas.

“My dad was in the Navy and didn’t even see me until I was a year old. He had been raised on a farm in Kansas, got his education in agriculture, and ended up as dairy commissioner,” Rowley said. “My mom was also raised on a farm and became a teacher, but she had always wanted to be a hairdresser. She went to school and opened a salon in our home.

“The real secret is that she had always wanted to be an actress. She was very beautiful, loved children, always had flowers on the table, and always had a house full of everybody’s kids. My parents had dated since the ninth-grade.

“I wasn’t encouraged to love art. My grandmother was the first to call me an artist, and I had a second-grade teacher who told my mom about a picture I had done. I was 18 when I saw (a fine-art) painting (for the first time). It was (one of) Monet’s Water Lilies. I couldn’t stop standing in front of it. I took art history, looked at lots of photographs, and realized the difference when you’re standing in front of a piece of art.”

After a summer session at Washburn University, and in spite of the fact that the University of Kansas had an art department that beckoned, Rowley attended Kansas State.

“My dad had graduated there, and if I had gone to (the University of Kansas), I would have been a traitor!” she said.

Rowley had a first marriage (“to get out of the house”) and began working at the Menninger Foundation. Her husband was a therapist there in the children’s hospital, and Rowley worked as an adjunctive therapist focusing on art and horticulture, working with the occupational therapists.

“My office was in the greenhouse, and I got to watch bougainvillea blooming when there was snow outside. Everybody was jealous,” Rowley laughed. “I wasn’t just doing art, although I enjoyed it. My job was to help people to be creative. You have to learn to be alone and spend time dedicated to finding what your colors are.”

Rowley made the break and moved to San Francisco in 1970.

“I found my life,” she said. “I was 25 and going forward to explore who I am and what I want. It was too hard to be an artist in Kansas.”

A mutual friend introduced Rowley to another artist, a Spaniard named Manuel deArce—and thus began a lifelong relationship.

“We lived together for 34 years before we ever married,” she said, her eyes sparkling as she talks about her beloved late husband. “He had a wife when we met. I had a boyfriend, and we were just friends. I was the only American in our group of friends. It was ’70s San Francisco. We were sitting on the floor and talking nonstop about art. He gave his wife a baby that she wanted, and we wanted to be artists. It turned out that everyone made the right choice. I think we followed not our egos, but our souls.

“When we met, Manuel didn’t like abstract art. He had trained at the school in Spain where all the great masters had trained. When we left San Francisco, I had been doing ceramics for over 20 years, using pink clay, whites and browns, sometimes lapis (a blue gem) or shells from the ocean, and colors that changed from glazing and with metal leaf.”

What brought Ramona and Manuel to the desert? “Manuel loved Palm Springs,” said Rowley. “He used to stop here on the way to do exhibits in Arizona and Texas.

“In the desert, I started out as a painter. Manuel and I were huge influences to each other, more about being artists rather than in the art itself. At 5 p.m., when the light changed, we would take my art and set it on the table, have a glass of wine and take the time to see what I had done that day. He never gave critiques, but he would say, ‘Do you mind if I turn this (ceramics piece) over?’ They would often have more power one way or the other.

“You need to find the colors: They tell you what to use. I reflected the sky and earth in Kansas. In San Francisco, it was blue and grey; I was painting torsos in lavender, blue and grey, with lots of full, round shapes. I’m a woman and intuitive; he was a Spaniard and very colorful. Manuel was using bright colors in San Francisco, but the desert environment changed what he saw.”

The house Rowley shared with deArce has their paintings, large and small, throughout, along with Rowley’s pottery and specialty pieces on the walls and shelves. Canvases stand along every surface.

“I’d like this to be a museum someday,” Rowley said. “I’d like to keep working for the next five years, then be doing exhibitions and classes.

“I had tried to tell my parents that I didn’t want to go to college, that they should send me to Europe. When my mom was 80, we were in Europe. She said to me, ‘We made a mistake. We should have sent you to Europe.’ Last year, I got to see Botticelli in Italy. While my legs are still good enough to travel, I’d like to go to different cultures and find out how people become who they are.”

Among many exhibitions and collections, Rowley’s art is included in the permanent collection at the Mingei International Museum in San Diego. She is also a photographer.

Rowley candidly talks about how her art suffered after deArce died in 2017.

“I had no joy in my life for almost three years. My paintings were bad,” she said. “Luckily, I was finally able to find a new ‘friend.’ Now I can channel the muses again. When I do that, I never do a bad painting. I’m finally ready to sign these pieces.”

Did I forget to mention the peacocks? On the sprawling cactus-laden grounds surrounding her house, Ramona has 11 peacocks roaming freely, including Houdini, a rare white peacock.

“I raised him from a baby. We even dance together; the males dance, you know,” she said. “We discovered Houdini wasn’t male when an egg was laid in the house. Oh, well.”

Ramona Rowley is a free spirit, a dedicated artist and a warm and lovely human being. And then there are the peacocks …

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal.” Her show That’s Life airs weekdays on iHubradio, while The Lovable Liberal airs from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

When I met Molly Thorpe, my first impression was of a coiled spring—ready to unleash energy and a positive attitude.

Thorpe, 65, born and raised in Los Angeles, has been a Coachella Valley resident for more than 40 years, and is currently a 16-year resident of Rancho Mirage. One of two children, she describes her mother, a catalog-layout specialist, as an excellent role model who never had a bad word to say about anyone.

“My mom was not judgmental and loved people for who they were,” Thorpe says.

Her father, who did advertising for May Co. and City of Hope, was a collector of books and records. (“He has about 7,000 LPs!”) Thorpe would go with him every weekend to check out what he referred to as “junk stores” looking for collectibles.

“When we were on our way home, he’d always stop for jelly donuts so mom wouldn’t be mad,” she laughs.

Thorpe has been with Jay, her “partner in crime,” for 24 years; they share four children and two grandkids between them.

“When we began doing charity events,” says Thorpe, “he’d get the to-do list, and he was always very good about it.”

After graduating from Fairfax High School in Los Angeles, Thorpe completed a degree in liberal studies at Cal State Northridge. She got a job that brought her to the desert: teaching fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders at Rancho Mirage Elementary School. She later completed a master’s degree at Cal State San Bernardino.

In 2007, Thorpe started a running program for students in the alternative-education program for at-risk students.

“Students Run LA had started, and more than 3,000 students participated through the Los Angeles Unified School District. I called them and wanted to start something like that out here,” she says. “We had students who had been expelled from Palm Springs Unified and Desert Sands. Many of them had never had any discipline to be on time or meet goals. I call it ‘Swiss cheese education,’ meaning they had missed lots of school, weren’t doing homework and had real holes in their education. They needed more personal time with teachers and a sense of camaraderie in class to form bonds. It helped that they had someone to talk to.

“They were afraid to be in the running program, but we assured them they didn’t have to be athletic, just determined. I figured if we could do one mile a day on week one, and get up to six miles a day, it would be good for them.

“My attitude was that instead of teaching them what they were ‘supposed to know,’ I would accept them wherever they were and take them as far as they could go. My thought was that if you could train students to run a 26-mile marathon, there was no reason they couldn’t graduate high school. Our high school graduation rate went from 62 percent to 90 percent!”

Thorpe taught at the Ramon Alternative Center and brought the running program to them. “The teaching situation was these were kids nobody seemed to want,” she says. “We had what was like a one-room schoolhouse, with grades 4-8 all in one classroom, at the most 20 students. It was an amazing opportunity to develop like a family.”

Thorpe worked with another teacher in what was known as the Rebound Program. “I had the younger kids, and she had the high school students. We did triathlon training with them for an event in Loma Linda for kids with physical challenges.

“When we heard about the shooting of a police dog called Ike, I wished there was something we could do. I thought about it and decided if we could run 10 miles and get sponsors at $1 a mile, we could raise $1,000 and donate it to the Police Department in Ike’s name. I managed to get two other teachers involved, and thought we could make this a 5k race within three months. We got lots of support from the community and raised over $16,000 for the Palm Springs Police Department K-9 Corps to purchase and train dogs.”

The event wound up becoming a regular event—and the 10th annual Run for Ike 5k is slated for Saturday, March 28.

Thorpe retired from teaching in 2016 but has stayed active through the Palm Springs Marathon Runners; she also continues to sponsor runs to raise money for charitable programs throughout the Coachella Valley.

Palm Springs Marathon Runners hosts six annual events that benefit programs like SOS Rides, for service members needing transportation to get home; the Mizell Senior Center’s Meals on Wheels program; the Student Scholarship Fund for the Palm Springs International Film Festival; Guide Dogs of the Desert; and the Run for Ike. Their “Red Carpet Run” includes tutus and tiaras for girls and women, tuxedo T-shirts for boys and men, and Gatorade in champagne glasses for all.

One event Thorpe is very proud of is her participation in One Run for Boston.

“It was a very cool cross-country race put on by two people from the UK as their way to honor and support the (victims of the) Boston Marathon bombing,” says Thorpe. “The run began in Santa Monica and ended at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Each participant ran a segment of the course, handing off a GPS baton from one person to the next. I ran the portion up Highway 62 from Palm Springs to Morongo Valley. It was a great experience and raised a lot of money for those who sustained injuries and the families of those lost.”

Thorpe accurately describes herself as athletic: She hikes at 5 a.m. every morning with a group of friends; she also swims, works out at the gym and cycles.

“I like to be busy,” she admits. “What made me who I am are my experiences and a lot of luck. I can admit it when I’m wrong, and people might be surprised to know that just about anything can make me cry.

“I find I appreciate life more now—and what you see is what you get. I try to be good to other people—loyal and goal-oriented—and I don’t like to see people hurting. I don’t understand why so many people don’t see the rewards of being kind.

“We take for granted the cards we’re dealt, always looking for excuses, but we live in a beautiful place in a great country. Look around. We’re very lucky.”

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal.” Her show That’s Life airs weekdays on iHubradio, while The Lovable Liberal airs from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

Conventional wisdom says that it takes at least four years to assess whether a startup business is viable, and seven to 10 years to make a business the success you had in mind when you began.

By those standards, Jenny and Oscar Babb have beaten the odds. The Babbs own four restaurants, three in the Coachella Valley, with the oldest being more than eight years old—and doing well.

Oscar Babb, 41, was born in Barcelona and describes himself as a “culinarian” (otherwise known as a chef) who cooked his way around the world—including working with Starwood Hotels in various countries—after leaving his native Spain in 2004. He cooked in the United States, originally in Seattle and then San Diego, before coming to the Coachella Valley six years ago.

“The Coachella Valley is the complete opposite of Barcelona,” says Oscar. “It has a special charm of its own, which is the greatest reason people have been coming here to vacation and retire for so long.”

Oscar has a sister, and he describes their mother as “a lovely woman and a fantastic therapist, hard-working, with a thirst for life and accomplishment.” He says his father loves discipline and order in his life (“He liked everything where it was supposed to go!”), but his passion is cars. Oscar recalls that after his father’s business career, he dedicated himself to auto classics, like his ’65 Dodge convertible.

“He would even polish the key!” Oscar says.

Jenny, 34, first remembers coming to the desert in 1985.

“I’ve always loved the Coachella Valley culture,” she says.

The eldest of three, she was born and raised in San Diego. Her parents have been married for 36 years, and her father is also a native San Diegan.

“My dad was very hard-working,” she says, “and a real leader of the family. He is stoic, even shy, and very ethical. His message was, ‘Do the right thing.’

“My mom was the bubbly free-spirit. I got that from her. Her message to me, way back while I was in high school, was, ‘Don’t let people get your goat.’ I’ve taken that to heart.”

Jenny earned a degree in business and marketing from San Diego State University, while waiting tables to help support herself.

“After school, I worked for a while at my aunt’s travel company doing sales management,” she says, “and then moved to The Broken Yolk, where I was managing by the time I left.”

Now married for seven years, Oscar and Jenny met in 2008 while both were working at a Broken Yolk location in San Diego. After helping other locations of the breakfast/lunch restaurant open, they decided they wanted to open some restaurants of their own: The Babbs agreed to take on Riverside County, to which The Broken Yolk wanted to expand. They opened their first franchise in Temecula. They later opened a Broken Yolk in La Quinta in 2014, and the Palm Springs location in 2016.

The downtown Palm Springs location, at 262 S. Palm Canyon Drive, includes an upstairs bar/restaurant space that has seen various owner/operators come and go. When the Babbs decided to open The Broken Yolk on the lower level of that location, they decided to open Moxie Palm Springs on the upper level.

“I always wanted to open a bar named to honor our beloved dog,” laughs Jenny, “and I think the name fits well with the Palm Springs spirit. We wanted the space to tell us what it wanted to be, and we came up with a neighborhood bar that reflects Palm Springs culture. We have bar food, are known for our craft cocktails, and have a very diverse offering of live entertainment every Thursday through Saturday, including acoustics, jazz, rock and Top 40 cover bands. We sometimes have a DJ—and it can get loud.

“Two Prides ago, our manager was talking about what we could do that would be different for the community—not just having rainbow flags. We threw a ‘Flamingo Party’ with lots of pink flamingos everywhere and a massive drag show. It was such a great party! Then Ross Mathews, from RuPaul’s Drag Race, heard about it, and some RuPaul ‘girls’ appeared that night. We now have a drag show every Sunday, along with a Bubbly Brunch.”

Oscar jumps in: “As a couple, we’ve always been around other people, making friends and experiencing new things and styles. The idea was to have everybody from every culture welcome—American, Mexican, LGBTQ. We’ve had an Irish fiddler, and celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and Cinco de Mayo.”

The Babbs expect to have children someday, but for now, they’re focusing on their business and their two English mastiffs. They describe themselves as huge animal lovers, and have bird-feeders all around their house. They love to hike with their dogs, and have already conquered Mount Whitney and Mount Everest (to the base-camp area). Amazingly enough, they also love going to new restaurants.

Jenny and Oscar Babb are having the time of their lives. They’re busy, successful and still expanding their horizons into new business ventures—like a partnership in a brewery in Mexico City.

“I really do enjoy the work,” says Jenny. “I’m a people-pleaser. I hate conflict, and that’s where Oscar comes in; he’ll confront things I don’t want to. Also, my friendships are important. We spend so much time together, it’s good to have some separate time. Sure, we want to (eventually) slow down. It would be nice to be able to go to bed early once in a while. We bit off so much so fast.”

Then both Oscar and Jenny agree: “But it’s our community and our friends—this is what we do,” Jenny says.

And they’re doing it well.

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal.” Her show That’s Life airs weekdays on iHubradio, while The Lovable Liberal airs from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

Susan Moeller describes herself as someone who was never an expert. “So I just asked a lot of questions—and got things done.”

Moeller, now 75, first came to the desert in 1993 as redevelopment director for Cathedral City. Born in Superior, Wis., she arrived in Southern California at the age of 8.

“We lived in Long Beach and could see the racetrack at Los Alamitos from our backyard,” she says.

During World War II, Moeller’s father was rescued in France by Gen. George Patton. “My mother didn’t know if (my father) was alive when I was delivered by the nuns,” Moeller says. “My mom worked for BFGoodrich doing special-project work, but she never really knew how smart she was.”

Moeller’s dad was a truck driver, and was the first in his family to attend college. “He was the youngest of eight kids, always known to everybody as ‘Uncle Buck,’” Moeller says. “He was a good man, and would always help anybody who needed it. My dad died when mom was 60, and she lived into her 90s, always doing projects and keeping herself busy. That’s the main lesson I got from her: ‘Just keep on keeping on.’

“My younger brother and sister and I were always encouraged to follow our dreams. My sister became a teacher and coach, my brother a CPP (certified payroll professional). I just always wanted to have a ‘me.’”

After attending California State College at Long Beach, majoring in English with a minor in drama, Moeller joined an improv group and performed at colleges throughout Southern California. After some time as an English teacher, Moeller was hired as a project aide for the city of Fresno. She found herself working for a man from India who had been trained at the United Nations; he was impressed with Moeller’s communication skills.

“Because of my teaching background, he had me review whatever he wrote,” she says. “I’m very intuitive, while he was very methodical. What I learned was how to write grants for federal funding. We needed to find solutions for housing, infrastructure, redevelopment and education, but it was the 1960s, and we were able to get money for drug-prevention and treatment programs. I learned to identify problems and think from the perspective of what we could do to fix them. We would then talk to officials in the field to figure out what would work.”

Moeller’s career later took her to Santa Ana, where she wrote and reviewed grants as director of the South Orange County YMCA (“It was the first time I had worked with a board of all women; we got a program for mature women adopted!”); and, after almost 10 years in Cathedral City, to Redwood City for another decade, where, Moeller says, “It all came together. We could get to a point where projects would start to fall apart, but I thought of myself as an opportunity broker, and it all just jelled. I know about redevelopment, and I loved it.”

Moeller says, somewhat surprisingly, that spirituality was an integral part of the work she did with city governments. “It was a kind of synchronicity. I was able to make good things happen for people. I’m particularly proud of the investment in downtown Cathedral City.”

Moeller’s affection for Cathedral City shines through when she talks about her time there. “I watched community faces as they toured what we had done to downtown. People were so proud. They were worth the investment, even though, here in the valley, there is still prejudice against Cathedral City. When I first got here after having worked in seven other cities, I felt like the Coachella Valley was (behind) 10 years, regarding everything from housing to civil rights to agriculture.

“The city manager was Bruce Liedstrand, and he was my mentor. He was willing to work with the community for two years to come up with a vision. In the other cities down here, it would get to a point where the community wouldn’t even know what the planners were doing. Bruce made sure the community ‘owned’ the project.

“There’s still a lot to be completed, and the proposed casino will help if it’s connected to downtown, and people can take advantage of that connection.”

Moeller is now retired.

“There are things I like about retirement, and things I don’t,” she says. “I retired in 2012, but I guess I didn’t really retire. I depleted myself with care-giving when my mom died, and then my son broke his leg. (Moeller has two sons, as well as step-children from her current marriage.) And now I’ve had a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. When the tremor started, I was told to slow down, and to think of it as just stuck energy. I’ve finally shifted my attention to me as a project.”

While talking to Moeller, one gets the sense that she’s a gentle soul.

“I’ve always wanted to see people come together, and I think people yearn for community,” she says. “I guess I’m a Pollyanna: I like to see the glass half full. I believe people want to do the right thing and be part of something bigger than themselves.

“My bottom line has always been: Don’t be afraid to ask the questions that might make you uncomfortable, but which can lead you where you want to be.”

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal.” Her show That’s Life airs weekdays on iHubradio, while The Lovable Liberal airs from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

Julie Hirsh says she doesn’t understand why people would want to know her life story—but she’s underselling herself: From a career as a fitness trainer to her current work for Jewish Family Services of the Desert, the Indio resident has taken a fascinating route to where she is now.

“I was born in Berkeley, and my parents owned a toy store,” says Hirsh, now 55. “It was fun and unique—no plastic, all hand-made toys from around the world. They sold it when I was 10, and we moved to upstate New York, where they were from, into an old Victorian house on 200 acres. My folks fixed it up. … My uncle lived up there, and although we had visited him in the summertime, my folks had forgotten how cold it was in the winter.”

The family moved back to Northern California, specifically Sonoma County.

“My dad was an entrepreneur, and kind of a genius,” says Hirsh. “He would get bored very easily, so anything he did, it was full speed ahead. For example, he was interested in gardening, so he got a horticulture degree. But the toy store was still in his blood. He decided to make cute, whimsical wrapping paper with toy images, and he created posters; we had thousands around the house all the time. Then he got into woodworking and carving. Any hobby had the possibility of becoming a business. My father’s message to me was to put my dreams to work. Whatever I had an interest in, I shouldn’t let it be out of reach.

“My mom became an international folk-dancing teacher and created her own career at a junior college in Santa Rosa. Her message to me was to never give up on doing what I wanted to do. She taught me about tenacity.”

Hirsh received her bachelor’s degree at UC Santa Cruz in community studies, with an emphasis on social change and activism. “Actually, as far as the activism, although I was raised in the Berkeley area, and I remember the riots (in the 1960s), I was too young to have participated,” Hirsh said. “I was into physical fitness, at the time when aerobics was the thing, and I fell in love with it.

“I was living at home, and my mom said that if I got a job, I could move out, so I started looking. As a starving student, I got paid to work out, and then became a fitness professional for 27 years. After that, I went into physical therapy as an aide for about nine years.”

Hirsh felt she was working too much; she decided she wanted a normal job and to enjoy life with her husband, Robert, now of 21 years. “We were always talking about doing this or that and ‘when we retire,’ so we moved to the desert in 2009,” she says. “We’d had a timeshare here for a couple of years, and had experienced how hot it is in the summertime. In 2009, we decided to look at houses, just for fun.”

As was the case for so many of us who settled in the Coachella Valley, that’s all it took.

“My first job was with Agua Caliente, and then I moved on to the Desert Recreation District,” Hirsh says. “I was doing fitness as a personal trainer as well as teaching classes. I’m still focused on being fit; I work out every day, but now, it’s just for me. My husband, who works for the Desert Recreation District, is an avid pickleball fan.”

In 2012, Hirsh joined the staff of Jewish Family Service of the Desert, a nondenominational agency founded on the Jewish principle of “healing the world,” wherever in the world one may be. JFS has served social-service needs of the valley for almost 40 years, providing mental-health counseling, food assistance, support groups, services specifically focused on seniors, and youth programs targeted toward at-risk children. Hirsh oversees community outreach.

“I do presentations so people can know who we are, and I oversee the volunteers, including recruitment and training,” she says. “We drive people to medical appointments, have a ‘friendly visitors’ program for those who are isolated, and we provide social activities for holocaust survivors.”

Hirsh also describes herself as an animal-lover, with four cats “and a few strays who live outside,” she laughs. Turning serious, she says: “I’m committed to helping make shelters no-kill and finding safe places for animals who need homes.”

Hirsh had a child before she married. “I didn’t let my parents know I was pregnant until I was about six months in, because I knew it wouldn’t go over well. Something in me said, ‘You’re going to be a parent,’ and not because I don’t support choice, but because that was my choice.”

Her child, Gab, is now 29. As Hirsh describes it: “Gab doesn’t identify as only female. I was the one who opened the conversation with Gab about identity. I had a feeling by the time Gab was in the fourth-grade that it didn’t feel like Gab was in the right body. Gab came out as gay while in college, and now Gab and Yanet have been together for quite a while, living in Long Beach.

“Robert is accepting and loving, no matter what. He just rolled with the punches. I’ve learned about pronouns. It’s not necessary to say ‘he’ and ‘she.’ It’s ‘they’ and ‘them.’”

What advice would Hirsh give to her own young self? “Be a good person. Treat and respect others as equals and individuals. Take the time to make informed decisions. And accept your child, no matter who they feel they are, or how they are comfortable identifying themselves.”

If anyone ever had a story to tell, one that could make a difference to others, it’s Julie Hirsh.

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal.” Her show That’s Life airs weekdays on iHubradio, while The Lovable Liberal airs from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

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