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photo by Sheri Dixon

Friday, October 29, 2010

Migraines and Millionaires

I hate migraines.

In years past I lived with an almost constant low-grade headache including a few full-blown migraines a month and they are now few and far between since I had all my 'parts' either removed or shifted and have gotten, yanno- old.

My last one was back in April- after running myself literally ragged with Ward in the hospital and Alec to care for and a whole lot of worry and stress. Generally when I feel a headache coming on I take Advil Migraine (the only over the counter med that works for me) and it's gone in 30 minutes. Occasionally I'll need to lie down in the dark and if it's really bad a cold washcloth to my head is my best friend.

Back in April, I pushed beyond the tipping point and by the time I stopped to care for myself it was not because I finally wised up to the wisdom of being sensible and acknowledging my humanity, but because my body took matters into its own hands and just flat stopped working- with some intestinal trouble added in for extra emphasis. I spent several days in a dark room, unable to rise from the bed, Alec luckily old enough to fend for both himself and me.

So it didn't really surprise anyone that it happened again this week. I'd been pushing, bullheading, prodding our lives forward at warp speed to get this house project underway and yea verily finished in record time- before Ward's next appointments in Houston in December.

And of course that means trying to sort through piles and mountains of fifteen years of living in THIS house.

And planning to go to and actually going to Missouri for our Homestead Family Preunion.

And I think that all would've been OK if not for the horrors of

*the Missouri backroads*

Don't get me wrong- it's absolutely beautiful in the Ozarks. Outstandingly, breathtakingly dizzyingly beautiful.

Therein lies the rub.

I get motion sick.

I can't ride a merry go round, have to steel myself for the rising and falling of an elevator, and must ride in the front seat of a car.

Now, we live in East Texas- the lovely rolling hills forested babbling brooks area of this great state of Texas, so winding narrow roads are no strangers to me.

The Ozark 2 lane road is a whole different creature.

They not only weave back and forth left and right hither and yon but simultaneously nod up and down high and low pass me the barf bag please.

Complicating matters, we drove into Neil's after dark, so all I could see were the yellow lines like so many erratic sparkler trails on a hot July 4th night.

Anyhoo, by the time we got to Neil's I was fully green around the gills. I rallied quickly however, surrounded by good friends and good food and the weekend was spent thoroughly enjoying ourselves, and when we left I thought, "Hey- it's daytime now and I'll be driving instead of Ward driving while I try to read directions and it'll be FINE". (mental thumbs up to myself)

Well, it helped just a smidge that I drove, and by the time we got to Little Rock we were in that lovely string of storms that passed through a large portion of the nation last weekend so we were all a little white-knuckled by the time we got home at almost midnight Sunday night.

I then made the dubious decision to upload, edit, slideshow, caption and post all the photos from the weekend, putting me in bed about 3:30AM Monday morning.

Wonder of wonders (look of shock and amazement) I woke up with the Mother of All Migraines.

I spent all Monday and most of Tuesday in bed, drugged heavily, in the dark, attempting to press the cold washrag straight THROUGH my head.

But that's not what I'm writing about today.

While in bed, I had the TV on. I rarely pay attention to the TV, except for Rachel and Keith, I don't want to see TV because from the little bits that seep into my head while the boys are watching it seems...mostly stupid.

I had no idea.

Both Monday and Tuesday I was kept in rapt attention by one show. And not in a good way- not in an intellectually stimulating or interestingly historical way. More like a can't turn away from a car wreck even though you know you should sort of way.

The show is "The Real Housewives of Atlanta".

Really?

Are there really women whose soul purpose in life is to live in the right neighborhoods, wear the right clothes, know the right people and will their lives really end if they need to worry about budgets and caring for their own children and cooking their own meals?

I just can't fathom living such an appallingly wasteful and meaningless life.

Although I suspect that's not the purpose of the show.

I suspect the purpose of the show (at least in the eyes of the characters) is to show all the rest of us what we're missing, what we should aspire to, what we should be envious of.

I lay in my darkened room, in my century old drafty farmhouse, watching a 19" TV screen from Walmart, covered in quilts from Goodwill and listened to my son in the room next to me playing with his humane society puppy and I thankfully accepted a new cold washrag from my ever-attentive ever-loving husband.

Outside the wind blew quietly- gently through the open window with the box fan in it came the sounds of my world- dogs barking on the porch, chickens in the yard, birds singing, every so often the train going through downtown Brownsboro a quarter mile away.

And I felt the stresses of my life shrink and float away with the solid knowledge and thankfulness at how very very rich I am.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Five Pounds of Pure Heart

Ten years and ten months ago, almost to the day, I was driving to work on a Saturday morning. I was very proud of myself, since I was on time- a rarity- and had on makeup and shoes and everything. As I rounded a curve in the 2 lane road that runs alongside Lake Palestine on the right and forests of pine on the left (I loved my commute), I saw up ahead...something running back and forth across the road.

Rabbit? No- not hopping.

Cat? No- not slinkyish enough.

Dog? Crap. A tiny little dog.

Loose dogs are common in the country, but most of them have that "I know where I'm going" look about them. This one was frantic. Terrified. Abandoned. Every car that passed he'd run straight AT as though he was SURE "they" had come back for him- throwing him out of a moving vehicle had surely been a horrible mistake and they'dve realized by now he wasn't in the car with them.

Sighing with resignation I pulled over.

Brownish, matted, skinny, the little dog ran to within 5ft of me- just out of reach before realizing "YOU'RE NOT MY MOTHER" and circled the car, not knowing what to do. Each time he circled (at a dead run), he came just a few inches nearer, and I knew what I had to do.

I waited, kneeling.

This doesn't seem like such a big deal, but at the time I was roughly 27 months pregnant, so it wasn't nearly as comfortable as may seem.

Finally he came close enough to briefly put his tiny paws on my knee and I swooped him up- expecting to be shredded to bits by nasty little teeth.

But he didn't.

I got back into the car and he crawled up over my enormous belly,cuddled in under my chin and was asleep in seconds- happy to have had his fate decided for him.

Sounds like a real Hallmark moment, doesn't it? Except he was covered in mats and ticks and fleas and had been rolling in something long-dead on the lakefront.

I arrived at work...late (as usual)...and stinky (luckily a rare occurrence).

After applying clippers and alot of flea spray and soap, we found an old poodle- the Vets guessed him at about 10 years old. He was thin, and had "poodle teeth", but no heartworms.

So he came home with me. I called all the area Vets and placed an ad in the paper- clearly he'd been used to being in someone's lap all the time. Nothing.

All I can think is that his owner had to go to a home, or died, and whoever inherited him dumped him, threw him, tossed him out of a moving vehicle.

He told me his name was Tiny Ramon the Magnificent, Ramon for short- he abhorred "Tiny".

He became my lap-warmer, and although he loved all people and never offered to bite anyone at anytime for any reason, woe to the dog or cat- no matter the size- that tried to come near me while he was in his spot on my lap. In the over ten years we had together, only one dog was allowed to share my lap with him- Oliva the mini dachshund who was another rescue even older than he was.

He would play fetch for hours.

I've never had a manicure and haven't been to a beauty shop for a professional haircut in almost 20 years. Ramon had a standing appointment every 6 weeks at Aunt Weegi's Poodle Salon- "For the poodle who really cares".

He was so cold-sensitive he'd seek out a sunny spot to lay in in the middle of July- in the winters he would crawl under the covers and curl up on my feet.

Several years ago he was diagnosed in heart failure and had to be on lasix periodically to keep his lungs clear.

About a month ago, Ramon had a stroke. I thought "This is IT".

But he rallied.

Blind in one eye, walking with a wobble, he still did the Happydance at breakfast and dinner times. So I lifted him up onto and off of the bed, and sat with him while he ate.

Last night he woke me up coughing, so I gave him some lasix.

This morning he could barely walk, and didn't want breakfast. I'm not entirely certain he could see me at all anymore.

It seemed that all his internal switches were turning off, one by one.

He spent the morning in my lap while I did my computer stuff, as usual.

He watched me fold laundry curled up on his pillow, and I promised him I'd spend the afternoon holding him.

I went to take a shower, and ten minutes later when I came out, the last switch had quietly turned off and he was gone.

Guessed at ten when I found him, he warmed my lap and my heart for almost eleven years, which made Ramon...older than dirt.

For years it was a family joke that at the End of Times all that would be left would be cockroaches, and Tiny Ramon- their King.

Right now I do feel as though it's the End of Times- my heart breaks and I wonder how I can sit without him in my lap, come home without him dancing at the door, sleep without him firmly snuggled against me.

Right now, I don't know.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Not Again...

...yes. Once more.

We had a wonderful time in Missouri with our Family. Our Homestead.org family, or at least a small part of it. We'd met about half the folks there, but the other half were long-lost-but-now-found cousins. The ones you like to claim.

We had representatives from Missouri, Wisconsin, New York, and Texas.

Food? Good Gawd Almighty we had food. From Friday night till yesterday morning if we were awake, we were eating.

Roast pig, venison, squirrel chili, salsas, relishes, preserves, beans, rice, salad, herbed foccaccia bread, biscuits, cookies, cheesecake, brownies, I know I'm forgetting something wonderful if I forget anything, because everything there was scrumptious.

We left Friday at 9:30am and got to Neil's at 7:30pm. Who knew Arkansas was so dang tall? Alec asked "Are we STILL in Arkansas?" and I pointed out that we just had a little of Texas to go through, and a little of Missouri, but ALL of Arkansas- Arkansas being the only thing substantial between our house and Neil's. He thought on this a minute and then said

"Well, then they need to move Arkansas".

Driving through storm after storm last night, I thought that was a pretty good idea.

We got in about 11:30pm, and since today is going to be crazy-busy, I went ahead and transferred, edited, slide-showed and posted all the photos (that I'm not saving for blackmail later). I got to bed about 3:30. This morning.

I got up about 8ish and took a good look at our place- we really had a remarkable storm or two while we were gone- leaves cover the ground, limbs are down, our poor banana tree's leaves are tatters, and you know the wind's been blowing powerful strong when it blows squirrels out of the tree and dashes them to their death.

So ya, once again, I'm cheating on writing actual thoughts for my blogpost and instead sharing the fruits of my late-night, post-driving, over-tired labors.

http://s97.photobucket.com/albums/l201/lunamother3/homestead%20preunion%202010/?action=view¤t=16e5d94e.pbw

Thursday, October 21, 2010

In Lieu of a Post...

...a recipe.

We're going to be spending the weekend with friends we consider family- some we've met in person, and some we've only 'met' via the interwebs till now.

So I've been getting everything ready for us to be gone and make everything as easy as possible for the farm-sitter, spent time at work being sure they'll be able to function smoothly over the weekend (which they always do anyway, but yanno, it's a Boss Thing...), and planning

The Food.

The Food is paramount at these shindigs. There will be a pit pig and all sorts of homegrown goodies coming from the east coast to Wisconsin, from Texas to Missouri and all points between.

We'll be bringing free-range eggs for breakfast Sunday morning, venison I'll slice thin and saute with mushrooms, onions and garlic for dinner Saturday night (along with the pig),

and for dessert (and snacking)

Mama Dixon's Triple Fudge Kickass Brownies

for a 13 X 9 pan

preheat oven to 350

in a saucepan, melt 2 1/2 sticks of butter (real butter)
add 3/4 cups cocoa
2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla
4 eggs, beaten
1 cup flour
1 bag milk chocolate chips

pour into buttered pan and bake for about 30 minutes

let cool

make frosting-

melt 1 stick butter
add 2/3 cups cocoa
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
beat till smooth and frost brownies

There ya go. Instead of sitting here reading blog posts this weekend while your family pops in and out of your peripheral vision asking when food will appear for them to eat, go put on yer June Cleaver apron (and pearls) and whip up a pan of these.

I guarantee they'll love you for it.

(and give 'em about half an hour- they'll all fall into sugar comas and you can spend however long you want reading blog posts in peace...)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

I Want You To Know

I want you to know
You're not alone
No matter what you feel
What you fear
What you think
You're not the first
Or the only
To feel, fear and think
Exactly the same way

I want you to know
You're not a freak
Unless you consider
That everyone is

Normalcy is a fallacy
Concocted for comfort
A paper-thin veneer of smugness
That every
Single
Freakish
Human
Quakes behind

I want you to know
That while things can certainly get worse
Than they are right now
They can just as easily get better
Than they are right now

I want you to remember
You'll only know how the story ends
When you turn every page
Don't quit in the middle
Read every single word
Even the scary parts
Even the sad parts
Even the lonely parts
Because those parts make
"And they all lived Happily Ever After"
That much sweeter

I want you to know
That for every
Rat bastard weasel
Who thinks they're big
And strong
And clever
When they make you feel small
And weak
And stupid
There are a hundred people
Who will love you
Just the way you are

I want so desperately for you to know
That no matter what
No matter WHAT happens
Ever
Nothing is worth
Closing the book on your life
Nothing personal
Nothing monetary

Nothing

I want you to know it deep in your soul
Believe it with all your heart
Breathe it through your body
Live it every day of your life

Live
Every day of your life

I want you to know
Even when it seems the only control you have
Over your life
Is when it ends
And how it ends
That that's never the answer
The cure
The relief
That you're seeking
It would just be The End

In the middle of the story

I want you to know that
The other characters in the book of your life
Would never
Ever
Recover from that

I want you to know
And hold close to your heart
Even in the darkest moment
That you are worthwhile
You are valuable
You are loved

***For my children, my friends, my family. I love you all, and just wanted you to know.

Dedicated to Larry- who missed one of the most gloriously warm and sunny days ever to grace this planet- because he shot himself in the head the day before.

Friday, October 15, 2010

What Makes a Marriage, and a Family?

Seems like a pretty easy question, doesn't it?

All the story books we read growing up had mommy bear, daddy bear and a little bear or three. All the television shows had a mommy actress, a daddy actor and little weird future messed up baby actors and actresses.

But life, real life in this time in history, is generally not quite so neat.

I myself have 3 marriages under my belt- one lasting 14 years, one lasting 2 years, and this LAST one (I promise) lasting 15 years so far. There are 2 offspring from the first marriage and one from this one.

My husband was married once before, no kids.

I've discussed the merits of choosing family over that sketchy potluck we're sometimes dealt, and writing that diatribe (hey- we were in Houston and under stress and duress- Mommy's version of Going Postal is to actually Go Post about shit).

And I had a hell of a time thinking of any "normal" families that we know and hang around with. Those "one man/one woman/2.something children from that one particular mixing of genetic material" families.

We know Blended Families- those where mom and dad both have kids from previous marriages- kinda like the Bradys, but no one we know has an Alice.

We know Large Families- with more than three children (heaven help 'em).

We know Multi-Generational Families- people raising their own kids AND their grandkid(s) and/or simultaneously caring for aging parents.

We know Bi-Racial Families.

We know Single Parent Families.

We know Childless Couples.

We know Same Gender Couples and Families.

And people and society generally support and don't have issues with all but the last group. Those are the ones who can't get the validation of their commitment to each other with a marriage certificate and that's ridiculous.

"But Wait- The definition of marriage is one man/one woman and the institution of marriage is to offer security for the raising of children. Gay people can't have children "the Normal Way" so gay people cant' be married."

Ah.

So, old people in nursing homes can't get married since they are beyond childbearing age?

Paraplegic, quadriplegic, any other handicapped person whose "parts" don't work can't get married?

What about ME? I've had to have all my "parts" surgically removed- can't have kids anymore- shall Ward and I get divorced because our marriage isn't valid?

See? Ridiculous.

A family is any unit of people who love each other, who care about each other more than themselves and who will be there for each other no matter what.

To say that marriage is a sacred bond between one man/one woman clearly ignores the fact that there are huge numbers of one man/one woman marriages that are miserable, awful and downright deadly dangerous for the participants.

To fully respect the sanctity of marriage is to denounce any marriage that fosters resentment, neglect or abuse- no matter the gender of those involved, and to embrace the spiritual (and physical) union of people who are truly committed to love and encourage each other- no matter the gender of those involved.

Heterosexual marriages that are recognized by church and state and are violent, undermining or otherwise horrifyingly dysfunctional are everywhere- in every neighborhood, community, church. Those unions are NOT glorifying God, Country or the Precious Institution of Marital Bliss.

If our gay friends who love each other with kindness and respect are allowed the validation of a marriage certificate, that not only doesn't cheapen the value of my own heterosexual marriage- it makes the concept of marriage that much more meaningful and crystallizes what it really (should) mean.

Think. Reflect. Watch. Buy the T-shirt.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bEpQ8fFQ7Rk

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Lists

My world, like most peoples', is filled with lists.

Grocery lists, shopping lists, errand lists, chore lists.

Lists on the telephone, the computer, typed neatly and posted on the wall or scratched onto the back of a junk mail envelope using a pen that's out of ink.

There's a running list on the Notepad feature of my phone- stuff we need at the store...next time we're there.

I travel at all times with 2 bags plus my purse- my work bag and the "house building stuff" bag.

The work bag is a misnomer since it's got the stuff (and lists) for the taekwondo club Alec belongs to in one section- I'm the treasurer of the club.
It's got our bills to be paid and calls to be made (in list form) in another section.
And there is work stuff in there too- schedules, calls, orders, lists.

The house bag has all the details of our building project- contracts, blueprints, receipts, business cards and phone numbers. And many. Many. Lists.

On one of my lists is the directive to "clean out all drawers and surfaces". This is daunting because we're packrats, every one of us. But I need to clean those areas in order to get to the furniture we want to move, and this whole Moving Thing is an exercise in cleaning out the old, shaking off the cobwebs from our previous life, starting anew and all that drivel.

Here's the thing.

I'm finding, tucked into drawers and cupboards and files...alot of old lists.

And that slows me down, because they must be read, remembered, validated before either being tossed out or saved.

I'm not talking about old grocery lists, those are easy to discard- I'm talking about

the many many lists and plans and letters and drawings that led up to the reality of the house we're now building (these get saved).

Christmas wish lists painstakingly written out in ever-more-legible handwriting by our son- and I wonder, now that he knows "about Santa" will there be a wish list this year? I remembered the conversation that led up to the very large next step of being grown-up-

"Mom- is Santa real?"
"Well, son, what do you think?"
"I don't know- that's why I'm asking you."
"Son, Santa is the spirit of giving. In that respect he's very real, and always will be."
"Soooo...he's you."
"Yes, dear."
"But mom?"
"Yes, dear?"
"I always put the really expensive stuff on Santa's list because I knew you couldn't afford them".
"Yes dear."
"Mom? I always got those expensive presents".
"I know dear."
*Pause*
"So you're Santa."
"Fraid so."
"All this time you've been Santa."
"Yep."
*Pause"
"Mom?"
"Yes dear?"
(whispered) "Does dad know?"
(whispered) "No dear- lets not tell him- he's had a rough couple of years..."

the Christmas lists ALWAYS get saved.

There are worn, stained mapquested route pages from every epic journey we've taken ("Family Vacation" just doesn't cover the scope of how we travel...). Those got saved.

So I was actually enjoying my little jaunt down List Memory Lane.

Until.

Going through a pile of stuff we brought back from the last trip to MDAnderson I found The List.

It's dated April 29, 2010, about a week before Ward's discharge and from the Social Worker at MDA. See, he'd reached a point where he didn't NEED to be in the hospital anymore- but physically he couldn't walk more than a few steps and mentally he was still really really fuzzy. Really. He was weak and fuzzy from drug reactions and weeks of intensive care and two major surgeries and heart failure and pneumonia and he was just plain wore out.

And they told me that they were stumped that he was not improving from the point he was at- and they hinted and inferred that where he was might be all the better he got- physically wheelchair bound and mid-Alzheimer's mentally.

There was concern that I wouldn't be able to take care of my husband, wouldn't be able to handle his handicaps in our home. It was strongly suggested that he not come home, at least for a few weeks. Or months. Or however long it took for him to be more "mentally reliable" and for him to get stronger.

And they handed me The List.

"Nursing Homes and Rehabilitation Facilities in the Greater Houston Area".

But I couldn't, wouldn't do it.

I just couldn't merge together the repeated assurances that the more people he knew that were around him the quicker he'd recover and remember with putting him in a COMPLETELY different environment he'd never been in before filled with all new people he'd never seen before.

He's my husband. No one knows him, loves him and cares about him more than I do, and I was determined to bring him home.

Because I work flexible hours, and because Joe was here to assist physically if needed and to be watchful when I had to be at work- leaving Ward never alone at home- we were approved to come home. All of us. Together.

Five months later, Ward's pretty much back to his brilliant, funny, beloved old self mentally, his weight is coming up nicely from the over 40 pounds underweight he left the hospital carrying, and thanks to physical therapy he's gaining strength steadily.

I looked at The List, transfixed, paralyzed, instantly awash with the emotions the first reading of that self-same list filled me with- sadness, worry, fear.

Bleakness.

I showed The List to Ward- so much of that time was filled with stuff he can't remember, stuff he remembers but never happened, strangeness, I showed it to him so he'd know I wasn't exaggerating when I told him it was recommended that I put him in a nursing home.

Then I firmly and deliberately folded The List in half, and tucked it into The Trash.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Humbled by Mother Nature

When I grow up I wanna be just like my Mom.

Oh, not THAT mom- although her life works for HER, I just can't see myself being the church secretary of Resurrection Lutheran in the frigid northlands of Wisconsin and enjoying (much less teaching) quilting. Sokay though- I think she's perfectly happy NOT being a goat-milkin' ol' treehuggin' hippiechick in the backwoods of East Texas.

I mean the Mom of all of us- Mother Nature.

Powerful, beautiful, capable of moving mountains, yet mostly moving with steady, quiet unassuming assurance.

Not so long ago, our land was violated by the electric company. One quarter of our land that's protected wildlife habitat was not just mowed but scraped bare, and delicate wetland spongy with life weighed down, rutted and compressed by large equipment. A recap-

http://qotu-ncn.blogspot.com/2010/09/how-to-break-ol-treehuggers-heart.html

To say I was horrified would be trivial. To say I was livid would come not even close. The electric company and I reached an agreement whereby they will NOT go through the wetlands again- ever. And they were to re-plant according to a certain set of guidelines set forth by the TX Parks and Wildlife biologist.

I made an initial list from the seed catalog, but hadn't ordered them since
a) we haven't had a drop of rain to help them sprout and
b) I was concerned that while the "wetland fringe" assortment is very nice, it doesn't include ferns, or arrowheads, or water lilies- the three mainstays of our particular wetland.

Those reasons, and the distraction of trying to get our house built, had me set aside the catalog for just this tiny bit of time- actually exactly one month today.

And here's what Mother Nature has been quietly accomplishing while I've been jumping up and down, throwing fits, having conniptions and generally driving my blood pressure up along with that of everyone within reach by person or telephone-



This is what was naked and rutted 4 weeks- 28 days ago. There are hundreds of little lacy ferns springing up in the scraped soil, and in between the first and second pole where it's obviously wet? We're dry right now. So dry everything is dusty with drought- if it were just the mud they'd rutted up it would be cement now- the springs are seeping.



Right there- where the ferns have come back? That's where the heavy equipment crashed down one bank and up the other, rooting up and rutting out as it went.

It's also where one of the springs empties into the creek, and even though it's still not visible yet, it's there- the ferns and the higher water in the creek are the proof. And the vines taking hold on the bank- yeah, poison ivy. Matters not- it's a vine and it's gonna hold the dirt from eroding.



Looking west out of our gate late this afternoon. Can you FEEL the peace and quiet? The strength of silence and birdsong and sunlight that whisper, "It's OK- Mom's right here and everything's going to be alright".

*Thanks, Mom*.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Free Markets, Dogs Eating Dogs, and Hell In a Handbasket

So we as a nation have finally crawled out of the status of 4th world country and taken the first step towards a national health care system- something that's taken for granted in every other industrialized nation in the world plus most of the 2nd and 3rd world nations. The concept that how much money you have in your bank account should not = the kind of (or even if you receive) health care.

Not "emergency life-saving procedures"- for the most part those ARE treated in any emergency room.

The basic care and maintenance of the human body sort of care and those things that are serious but won't necessarily kill you...today. Things like cancer, and heart disease, and un-managed diabetes.

Now back in the day, when health care was herbs and likker and common sense and leeches, health care was taken care of at home or by crazy old women living in the woods. Same as everywhere else in the world.

Then came science and technology, and for the most part these things were shared, even here in the US of A- land of the Free Market Economy (which, no matter what the men in expensive suits tell us, seems to cost the end user more than a regulated market, has anyone else noticed this?)

I'll use as a case in point, MD Anderson Cancer Hospital in Houston TX. It's huge. It's regularly rated one of the top TWO cancer hospitals in the world, not just the US. MD Anderson is a teaching hospital- it's part of the University of Texas- and as such, when it was first established, it was FREE to any Texas resident. Free. No charge. Our neighbor's dad was a patient there years and years ago and his lengthy treatment and hospital stays cost them NOTHING.

In nations with "socialized medicine" that's still the case. Everyone is covered, and all the really cool toys are available for everyone to use. But something happened here in the US, something that personally looked like this to our family-

Me- "Ward's graft is failing and he's not insured right now. He's had private insurance till a few months ago until it went so high we couldn't afford it, and he'll start Medicare in 4 months. He's been your patient for over 2 years so this is really continuing care of an existing and treated condition. Could we do a payment plan for the $3,000 scans we need to be sure his 'aggressive and problematic' cancer isn't back?"

Lady in MD Anderson business office- "Umm, sorry. No. Cash at time of service."

Me- "Are you freakin' kidding me? What part of 'current patient', 'always had insurance and are GUARANTEED to have it again' and 'aggressive and problematic cancer' are you not understanding?"

Lady in MD Anderson business office- "When did you say he'll get Medicare?"

Me- "November".

Lady in MD Anderson business office- "Well...he probably won't DIE before then, will he?"

Here's a really good, concise (albeit long) explanation of where we went all wonky-


http://eh.net/encyclopedia/article/thomasson.insurance.health.us


An excerpt from the above article-

"Although many European nations had adopted some form of compulsory, nationalized health insurance by 1920, proposals sponsored by the American Association for Labor Legislation (AALL) to enact compulsory health insurance in several states were never enacted".

So that puts the US roughly *90 years* behind most of Europe when it comes to caring for our citizens in a humane and equal manner.

I've already covered why putting our health in the hands of the Free Market is not a good idea here http://qotu-ncn.blogspot.com/2010/03/insurance-companies-are-not-bad-guys.html and here http://qotu-ncn.blogspot.com/2010/04/good-news-business-in-america-is.html.

I hate reading stuff that's nothing but link after link, and promise I'm done now, but also figured the article I first posted is so much better written than I could've done I'd be doing you a disservice not to post it and most of ya'll are already sick to death of listening to me grouse about the insurance companies so I'd just jog yer memories instead of going through the whole mess again.

Anyway, the upshot is that the health insurance industry is now very very powerful in the US today, much to the bewilderment of the entire rest of the planet and the detriment to our health.

Insurance companies are big business and quite easily buy all the politicians on both sides of the aisle they need to stay that way- with OUR premium payments- genius, hey? So while the health care reform was a "foot in the door" of real reform, somehow it tripped over the threshold and is sporting some pretty heinous compound fractures.

Instead of giving power back to the patient, insurance companies are now racking up their premiums to "cover those they are forced to take now". UNTRUE.

They are happily denying coverage to anyone they don't want to cover- like children unless a parent is also covered. According to my agent, there's not a company in America right now that will sell an individual policy for a child.

Pre-existings? No problem- the government says you cannot be denied, but it'll cost you, baby.

Speaking of baby- you thought it was difficult getting maternity/birth insurance before? (and it was- that flat blew me away when I got pregnant with my 3rd child 14 years after the 2nd and tried to get insurance for "the duration")

Effectively, despite all their whining to the contrary, the insurance companies are way MORE powerful than they were before.

So what the hell happened? And don't tell me "Obama happened- howz that changey hopey thing workin' for ya?", because I'm really not in the mood right now- if "the other side" had won we'd be in WAY worse shape in all ways than we are now, and deep in yer little conservative hearts you know it. Anyone who's tried to stop something in motion knows it takes twice as long to stop and reverse than to accelerate and go out of control.

What happened is this-

No Public Option.

We need a Public Option- a.k.a Medicare for All a.k.a. Evil Socialzed Medicine.

It works for other countries- and beautifully, no matter what the insurance company lackeys a.k.a. elected officials tell you.

"Yeah yeah yeah, blah blah blah you've told us all this a gabizillion before- tell us something new".

Nothing new- just something to think about. I mentioned in my last writing that what I'm hearing from the Republican commercials is creepily like what I heard from the other sides of abusive relationships.

And nowhere is it creepier than in what they're saying in their Pledge to America (that little love note that should be accompanied by flowers and maybe something sparkly to overcome our collective bruises from their 8 years of beating us "but never meaning to HURT us because they LOVE us") about repealing health care reform.

They want to REPEAL OBAMACARE, and they are saying they will wash it off, take out the bad chunks, and put EVERYTHING THEY VOTED AGAINST back into it and hand it to us- their beloved constituents- smelling of flowers and all sparkly.

Bullshit.

The current legislation needs fixed, but the people to do it are the ones who dropped the ball and morphed it away from what it should've been, not those who hated every bit of it in the first place.

IF we can get the current administration to grow a pair and actually DO what they set out to do FOR US- the people, we'll be ok.

And I think that's a way higher likelihood than giving the whole shebang back into the hands of those who not only voted NO for every line and word of it but had nothing to offer when asked for help with it- those are the ones who will take that shining start to being an actually civilized nation, smash it into little Repealed Shards and say

"Wow. Guess that can't be fixed- oh look- lets go fight another war to get your mind off of it- and I'm so very sorry but we'll have to lower minimum wage, privatize (read "destroy by giving it into the gaping maws of Wall Street) both Social Security and the VA to pay for it- you don't mind, do you?"

and laugh all the way to the bank. Again.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Dear Man in the White Truck,

You know who you are.

You in your ginormous new white pick-up truck with the name and phone number of your cement company proudly displayed on both sides and the back bumper so everyone can see it and call you with their business.

I'd like you to know that if you were the last cement company on the planet I wouldn't call you.

I'd like you to know that you offended not only myself and my husband, but also our 10 year old son.

I'd like you to know that your choice of political bumper sticker (placed on the back window of the truck so no one can miss reading it) is not clever, nor is it brilliant, but merely tasteless and ignorant.

Of course even if you read this (I'm assuming you can read, but I'm sure you go no farther into the interwebs than the Xuberalles website, where your bumper sticker was purchased, and other websites like it) you wouldn't care what I think.

You wouldn't care what I think because people like you (WHOA- it's great that I can pigeonhole you as a complete asshole just on the strength of your bumper sticker- I'll have to agree that sort of black/white thinking is a whole lot easier than having a lick of sense) *ahem* people like you also only like your women either at the stove or in the sack and with their mouths duct-taped shut for convenience and your amusement.

You wouldn't care what my husband thinks because he doesn't drink, or chew, or cuss, and he has a fancy 4 year college degree.

And you sure as hell wouldn't care what my 10 year old thinks because he's just a kid, and all they're good for is fetching beer from the fridge.

I just want you to know that your bumper sticker, which reads

DON'T RE-NIG IN 2012

shows very clearly how well thought out your political savvy is- namely that you will vote for anyone as long as they're white. And male. Unless she's hot. But probably only white and male.

See, the 2012 Republican candidate hasn't even been chosen yet, but all you care about is that a black man is president and THAT CAN'T STAND.

You are every ignorant, hayseed, inbred stereotype people have about Texans all rolled up together and rolling along in your white pickup truck with your business name and phone number proudly displayed right next to your hateful racist opinions- as casually and heartfelt as though it were a little Jesus-fish stuck up there to reel in those who think like you, who believe like you, because there is safety and comfort in numbers.

I remember before the 2008 election, I was getting gas at the station down the hill from our house where the regular ol' boys gather every morning for coffee, and I overheard this-

"Well, I don't think this country is ready yet for a black president".

(quiet agreement from the others)

"But that John McCain's a CRAZY old bastard".

(absolute agreement from the others)

And I thought we had a chance. When the election was over I was sure of it, that the country would rally around a man who'd been elected by majority vote, just like democracy is supposed to work, and like we've done in the past.

Two years later, I'm not so sure anymore since that's clearly NOT what happened.

What happened is tea parties who are bought and paid for by the very government-buying corporations they say they're fighting against, and who will crush them each and every tiny one if they regain power.

What happened is a House and Senate so frantic to keep their jobs that they will lie, cheat and fan the flames of fear in order to keep or re-cover their seats.

What happened is a whole lot of screaming about fascism and communism and marxism and socialism and they're all used kind of interchangeably even though they're really not interchangeable. (really).

What happened is a country so worn down from two wars and a floundering economy (that was all brought to them by the Republican government of the last 8 years) that they're all too eager to blame anyone not like themselves for their troubles, the Mexican immigrants, the Muslim terrorists, that Nig... in the White House.

And the "losing" side of 2008 is ready. They're fanning the flames of fear and division and they're ready and willing to accept our apology for treating them so badly and they will happily re-take the power and promise that even though they didn't do it before, they'll make everything better NOW.

Of course, we'll have to be punished for our little indescretion, so hang on to yer asses, America, if the tide turns thataway.

I've been in abusive relationships. I promise you that's how they work.

So, sorry to say Mr. Man in the White Truck, I WILL be voting exactly as I did in 2008 when I pull the lever in 2012, and I thank you for reinforcing my resolve to do the right thing with your oh-so-obvious display of what the hell is wrong.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Baby Shower- Bonding for the Non- Beer and Jerky Gender

My friend Cathy has known me for over 30 years, and likes me anyway. She's been there for me (and I hope I've been there for her) through thick and thin all these many years as I've pinballed my way from one marriage to another, one crisis to another, from joy to heartbreak and back again. All that time she and her husband Mark have been steady, calm, loving rocks protecting me from the worst of myself.

Cathy's daughter Christi is pregnant. Yesterday was the baby shower.

We've missed many milestones in the lives of their kids due to logistics and health and work- graduations, marriages, but THIS time I could make it and Ward and Alec said "Go- stay overnight- have fun- we'll be (gulp) fine".

The shower was held at Cathy's friend Deborah's house, a gigantic sprawling glamorous yet comfortable and oddly enough for its size not ostentatious 2 story home set in the middle of North Texas prairie.

Attending were Christi, Cathy, myself, Deborah, the sister/mother/grandmothers-in-law, and several other friends.

The table in the breakfast nook (which is bigger than my living room)was set with gorgeous flowers, a crystal punch bowl, Waldorf salad, cheese and crackers, a beautiful cake and the new (to me anyway) Hershey's Bliss white chocolate with melty middles candies (how did so many fall into my pocket? I can't imagine...)

After eating, we assembled in the blue and white living room for present opening, the scent of an expensive candle wafting here and there with subtle elegance.

We oohed and ahhed at all the tiny clothing, accessories, baby books and whatnot, passing them all around to admire- just the feel of the tiny items dredging up sweet visceral memories for all of us "old women".

There were no stupid...err...silly games, which I was ever so grateful for because they would've ruined what happened next.

Once the presents were opened and Christi thanked all of us, the mood in the room shifted, changed, slowed down and muted.

We were no longer in Deborah's living room, we were transported back through the generations to times when the older women gathered among themselves and passed on knowledge verbally to the younger women who were becoming the next step in the process of being human- from baby, to girl, to teen, to wife, to mother.

One by one yet without order or intent, the stories started flowing. Between all of us there had been well over 2 dozen births- hospital births, midwife births, multiple births, c-section births- each one special and terrifying in its own way.

And those stories hung in the air, wove together in the candle-scented atmosphere like so much smoke by firelight and wrapped around Christi with the assurance that even though this IS going to be hard and no one CAN tell you what to expect exactly because even the woman who'd had six babies admitted each birth was very very different, that the outcome will be the same-

"Where's my baby? Give me my baby- is my baby OK?"

And you are handed that tiny miracle who looks pruny, and pissed off, and amphibian-like, and perfect.

The rest of our lives as mothers is spent wondering and worrying "Is my baby OK?"

No matter how old they are, or how far away they live, or how migraine-inducing they were as toddlers or how hateful they were as teenagers, a mother never stops loving or fretting.

A wedding, for all it's planning and pomp and importance is just the beginning of a marriage, and despite what the florists and tuxedo rental and jewelry stores tell us the wedding ceremony is the EASY part- the really trivial part. The hard but oh so satisfying work starts after the honeymoon. Because you're not responsible for just you anymore- you have the security of a partner along with the extra burden that loving someone more than yourself places on you.

A birth is the beginning of three whole new persons- the one being born and the two being thrust into parenthood. And it happens with every new child- you may say "I know how to do this- I've already had a child" but you've never been the parent of TWO children, or THREE, or more. Each one is a whole different playing field, a whole new way to define and stretch yourself.

This gathering together for a baby shower is so much more than a gift giving punch drinking experience- it's a way of reassuring the mother-to-be that yes- this is scary and unknown, but that other women have done it- WE have done it- and you come out the other side with a family, and a history, and a future, and strength you never knew you possessed.

There is magic in being a woman, and power in being a mother, and it's all good.

Especially when there are Hershey's Bliss white chocolate filled with melty middles candies involved.
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