News and Updates

A River Runs Through It

Growing up in Georgia, my parents didn’t have money for fancy vacations. Instead, they took me and my sisters camping along Jack’s River. They set up a tent on a sandy bank and let us run wild. Jack’s River is shallow, with crystal clear water. We played in the river until the light bled from the sky. Then we’d huddle by the fire, entranced by flames, waiting for fish and fried potatoes to be heaped on our plates. We’d listen to ghost stories, then head into the tent to sleep on piles of quilts. My life growing up was not idyllic, but camping at Jack’s River was. No vacation could have been sweeter. I would not trade my days at Jack’s River for anything.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, signed by Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968. It protects selected rivers and watersheds from being dammed and damaged and straightened and whatever else humans might do to make rivers into something God never intended. Too bad some of Florida’s rivers were left out.

The Kissimmee’s meandering oxbows were straightened in the last century, destroying wetlands and allowing manure polluted water to rush into Lake Okeechobee. Canals were dug from Lake O, connecting it to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers, draining the Everglades to make room for sugarcane. Lake O overflows to those rivers, now coated with slime. They empty into estuaries and the ocean, causing dead zones and toxic algae along the coasts, killing fish and endangering beachgoers. All in the name of business.

There’s more to prosperity than unregulated capitalism. There’s the beauty and wonder of nature, which draws so many to Florida in the first place.

The economy of Florida is intimately tied to the environment. Imagine the disaster if we allow fracking to pollute our aquifers and drinking water. We need clean drinking water, rivers, and oceans to sustain tourism, real estate, and fishing. The voters of Florida are the ones impacted. Tourists can go home, but our health and livelihoods are at stake. My opponent says it will be seventeen years or more before the Lake Okeechobee situation will be fixed. We simply don’t have that kind of time! We need regulations to restore and protect Florida’s fragile waterways and ecosystems now. Even if that takes voting out those who stand in the way.

An Open Letter to My Fifth Grade Teacher

Dear Mrs. Powell,

I hope this finds you well and happy, perhaps retired in Mexico.

I will never forget the time you returned from Spring Break, excited to teach us about Xochicalco, which you had just toured. We stopped our slog through the year’s assignments and began an impromptu project on Mayan culture. We learned so much, not the least of which was how to pronounce Xochicalco! The rich history and art of Mexico took us far away from the industrial carpet town of Dalton, Georgia.

Mrs. Powell, I want to say a million thanks for the special interest you took in me, a geeky eleven-year-old, who didn’t wear the right clothes or shoes. I was shy, and liked to write. You encouraged me. Story after story I wrote, which you read in your precious free time. You helped me enter writing and oratory contests. You were certain I would go to college (the first girl in my family to go). Though you told me I could do whatever I wanted, you were certain I’d be a writer when I grew up.

Amazingly, you gave me your old typewriter.

Mrs. Powell, I took that typewriter to college. I graduated with a degree in microbiology. I went on to earn a Ph.D., always with your voice in my head. That I was special. That I could do anything. You were one of many teachers who took the time to encourage me–a kid who could have easily fallen through the cracks. I pursued science as a career, but eventually found my way back to writing. Now, I proudly call myself an author. I have you to thank, and many other teachers who helped me along the way.

You were one of many teachers who took the time to encourage me–a kid who could have easily fallen through the cracks.

To all the teachers who take time to read that extra story, help a struggling kid with their homework, see a spark of talent in a child and nurture it, I am so grateful.

As a society, we should all be more grateful. Teachers nourish the minds and souls of children, providing a foundation for success.

Everyone likes to thank teachers, but we need to do more. Our teachers are now expected to lay down their lives for students. We need common sense gun laws that make schools safer. We need classrooms filled with adequate supplies. Teachers need compensation commensurate with years of higher education and heavy responsibility. Thanking teachers should be more than an apple on the desk.

Mrs. Powell, I now have the privilege of running for Florida House of Representatives. When I win, I will fight for teachers (and children), in your honor.

As a society, we should all be more grateful. Teachers nourish the minds and souls of children, providing a foundation for success.

Wherever you are, I imagine you smiling.

Thank you. You were the best fifth-grade teacher a kid could ever have.

Jennifer Boddicker, Ph.D.

P.S. I still have your typewriter.

Mother’s Day 2018

Mother’s Day is coming up. As a mom, I worry a lot. About the day to day details of my kids’ lives, and all the things going on around us. I reflect on what a turbulent year it has been since last Mother’s Day: hurricanes, wildfires, mass shootings.

Other worrying trends: 1200 children homeless in Collier County, living in shelters or other places not meant for human habitation (Source 1). Anxiety is taking its toll – more students than ever are seeking treatment for anxiety disorders (Source 2).

This week I attended a town hall where folks were asking questions about health care in Florida. Would their current elected representative support expanding Medicaid in Florida so nearly a million more people could have healthcare? His answer: NO. FLORIDA CAN’T AFFORD IT. But that’s not true, it’s a choice.

Fewer ER visits for routine medical care and other unpaid health expenses would more than make up the cost to Florida (3). It’s a particular brand of stubbornness that ignores the benefits of expanding Medicaid (Sources 3, 4). Now is the time for working across the aisle to solve big problems, not blindly shutting our minds to possible solutions. Other fixes could make healthcare more affordable as well. Transparency in outcomes and pricing would allow patients to comparison shop (Source 4). Increased accountability in fighting fraud would help recoup costs (Source 5).

No political party is perfect and no politician is perfect. But now, more than ever, is the time to think about your priorities. What really matters? What is going to matter most to your children when they grow up? I believe our kids want to know they will have a home, a healthy planet, an education that won’t leave them in debt for decades, healthcare that’s affordable, jobs that pay enough to live on.

It is up to each and every one of us to do what we can to make this world a better place for our kids. Get educated on the issues, and make sure you vote this year. We can’t afford to sit this one out. Our children are depending on us.

If you pray, say a special prayer for moms who lost their children to gun violence this year. Oh, and by the way, tell your mom you love her! She worries. If your mom is no longer here, share a favorite memory with someone close to you.

Happy Mother’s Day!!!!

Sources for Additional Reading:

  1. Annual tally: More kids, adults homeless in Collier since Hurricane Irma, Naples Daily News, 4/28/2018
  2. Record Numbers of College Students Are Seeking Treatment for Depression and Anxiety — But Schools Can’t Keep Up, 3/19/2018
  3. Medicaid expansion could save state $500M, lawmaker says, Florida Politics, 1/25/2018
  4. 2018 Scorecard on State Health System Performance, The Commonwealth Fund, 5/2018
  5. Auditor flags Florida’s oversight of Medicaid fraud, Tampa Bay Times, 4/2