Monday, August 31, 2009

Five Health Care Myths That Just Won't Die

The far right-wing rhetoric about Health Care Reform has become so comical it is hard for me to believe that any rational thinking person could possibly take it seriously. But, apparently, there are those who do! I feel rather silly wasting my time writing about this and wasting your time as you read it, but there seems to be an element of our society that causes the bell curve that charts intelligence to dip far below its regular curvature.

Newsweek magazine has finally heard enough of this nonsense and published an article about the "The Five Biggest Lies in the Health Care Debate" (

When I first saw this, I laughed at the cleaver title and thought it was a piece of satire. But when I read the supporting evidence, I realized it wasn't a joke and there were people who actually DO believe these silly notions.

If you don't want to read the entire article (which isn't very long), here are the five absurd concepts that apparently have some believers from somewhere out there.....and I do mean "OUT THERE":

1. You will have no choice in what health benefits you receive.
2. No chemo for older people.
3. Illegal immigrants will get free health care.
4. Death panels will decide who lives.
5. The government will set doctor's wages.

The article also explains there is nothing anywhere in the proposed bill to give the government access to our bank accounts, despite what the hysterical screamers at the Town Hall Meetings would hope to have you believe.

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE........if you know anyone who believes any of the five statements above, do us all a favor and try to get them some professional help. If you aren't comfortable with that, spend a few bucks and buy them a copy of Newsweek.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

My Grandmother's House....then and now

For sometime now, I have had reoccurring dreams about my grandmother's house, a place I spent a lot of time as a child. These dreams vary in scope and detail, even in time reference, but they are each unmistakeably centered around events at her house.

My beloved grandmother is long gone but the house is still there. It is a white wood frame, with a comfortable front porch, three bedrooms and one bathroom in an tiny little town in Arkansas. My dad grew up in this house and my grandmother continued to live there after my dad left for college and my grandfather left her for the maid, until shortly before her death.

Some of my favorite childhood memories took place in this house. She was a doting grandmother in whose eyes, I could do no wrong. I had privileges in this house that would be out of the realm of consideration in my parents' house. I could play for hours on end in my grandmother's closet, dressing up in her fur, her hats, her high heels. I could play with her makeup, putting on as much as I wanted, always with the end result of a good face scrubbing that night in my grandmother's old claw-footed tub.

My grandmother would cook anything I wanted to eat and if I wanted a cake or cookies, a good portion of the batter was left in the bowl for me to lick off of an old wooden spoon. I could stay up past my bedtime watching the Hit Parade or Gun Smoke. My grandmother thought Miss Kitty was the most beautiful woman she had ever seen and the fact she worked in a saloon didn't bother my grandmother one bit.

Last night, I had a wonderful dream about my grandmother's house. The dream took place in the 50s, with everything exactly the same way it was in my childhood, but in the dream, I was the same age I am right now. My grandmother was still the beautiful tall red-head, dressed to perfection. And she catered to me as she always did, even though I appeared in this dream to be much older than she did.....time stood still for her, although it didn't for me.

I think I understand what this all means, but for fear of disrupting the perfection of it all, I am not going to dissect it. I just want to cherish the memories and the peaceful feelings it brought. And I hope these dreams will continue to visit.

Shakespeare had it right when he wrote in Hamlet, "To sleep, perchance to dream...".

Farewell to the Lion

"The future will outlast all of us."

Senator Ted Kennedy

Farewell, our dear friend and champion of causes for all humanity. Every American's life has been enriched in some way by this man's lifetime of work.

Girls can have equal opportunities because of Title 9. People of all colors can vote because of his Voting Rights legislation. And had he been healthier and lived just a little longer, every single American would have been guaranteed health care.

The Lion of the Senate will be missed, for he spoke loudly for those whose voices were otherwise never heard.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Hiking Mt. Magazine

Hiking the steep remote trails of Mt. Magazine with a slight breeze at my back and 69degree temperatures is the perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon. You never know what you will find around each corner!

I found myself wondering whose footsteps touched this place long before mine and how they came to carve out this lovely little trail through such a majestic place. This place where serenity needs no words for a description.

Up here, in the clouds, with no phones, or cars or man-made noises, I thought about Robert Frost's The Sound of Trees:

"Some day when they are all in voice
And tossing so as to scare
The white clouds over them on.
I shall have less to say
But I shall be gone."

Friday, August 21, 2009

Amber and Her Baby

My chocolate lab, Amber, got a new cuddle toy today. I think she likes it a lot!

Is it REALLY about Health Care?

Ever since I volunteered on Thursday nights in the early 1980s at a Free Clinic held in the basement of an old church in Fayetteville, AR, I have known there is something seriously wrong with the health care system in the United States. The things I saw there felt more like a third-world country than a thriving modern society and I will never forget those people or their dire situations. I kept asking myself how wide the cracks were that would allow this many people to fall through the system.

Unlike all other industrialized nations of the world, some people here in the US appear to take the attitude that health care is a privilege, not a right. However, since the United States presently is ranked 37th in the world for quality health care by the World Health Organization (, behind places like Chile and Costa Rica and the rest of the western world with so-called "Socialized Medicine" or Universal Health Care, we are obviously doing something wrong.

When 1.85 million Americans file bankruptcy each year due to medical bills, which equates to one-half of ALL bankruptcies filed in this country, we are obviously doing something wrong. But it is very hard for us, as Americans, to accept that we might be doing anything wrong; that we aren't the biggest and the best and don't know more than everyone else.

Unless someone is extremely wealthy, each one of us is just one catastrophic illness or automobile accident away from bankruptcy. And without the proposed "Public Option" included in the health care reform legislation, we have no place to go when our insurance cancels us for reaching our "lifetime maximum benefits", or when we have a pre-existing condition and no one will insure us, or we lose our job and can't afford the $500-$1000 a month premium for COBRA or private insurance. Currently, WE HAVE NO PLACE TO GO.

The Public Option provides that safety-net and gives us a place to go for coverage should the unthinkable happen. Of course insurance companies oppose this, are spending millions on misleading ads, and are feeding the vast vacuums in the minds of the lunatic fringe with rhetoric and talking points so absurd my beagle wouldn't even believe them. I understand this completely because presently, they have no competition and want no alternate option. This is their livelihood we are messing with. But my friends, this is our LIVES they are messing with.

If you have Medicare, Medicaid or Veterans benefits, you already have government-run health care (i.e. "socialized medicine"). And in most cases, it is working very well, so you do not have a dog in this fight. But if you are on Medicare, Medicaid or have Veterans benefits and you are opposing health care reform, you are attempting to deny others the benefits you presently enjoy

Consider France's national public health insurance system, Securite Sociale. It is a hybrid system the French DO NOT consider socialized medicine like the plans in Great Britain and Canada. France spends $3500 per capita versus the $6100 per capita we spend in the United States. France is ranked #1 in the world for premium health care, while the United States is ranked #37, spending almost twice as much. And despite the propaganda put out by the extreme right-wing, there is no waiting list for elective surgery, no pre-authorization required, and no death panels.

Closer to home, we have our Commonwealth of Massachusetts with its own successful universal
health care coverage. It is not bankrupting the state as early naysayers predicted and seven out of 10 voters say they support the plan, with only one out of 10 people saying it should be repealed. While it has no "public option" attached to it, the people who cannot afford it receive a subsidy. Coverage is mandatory and so far, there has been a way to cover everyone.

My mother died last year after horrific 8-month battle with pancreatic cancer. About 25 years ago she purchased a cancer insurance policy and paid the premiums religiously, sometimes when it wasn't easy to do on a school teacher's salary. When she died, the company refused to pay the claim, based on a minor technicality. I wonder how many other people have been suckered into these worthless policies?

I am a cancer survivor. Every day of my life I wonder what would happen to my family financially if the cancer returned. There are millions of Americans just like me who are haunted by these thoughts. This should not be an issue for us.

I watched the hysterical people at the Town Hall Meetings, trying to figure out why in the world anyone would be so passionate about preventing someone else from getting health coverage. I had seen the web sites sponsored by the insurance companies, listing the Town Hall Meeting sites, with a list of "talking points" the extremists were instructed to yell out to disrupt the speaker or discussions. I believed there were people there with legitimate concerns whose voices were drowned out by these fanatics. Why????

Then, two weeks ago when the woman screamed "I want MY America back", it all became very clear. The proverbial "light" switched on for me as I watched that angry woman. This wasn't about health care at all. This fringe element of our society has been waiting since November to vent their anger and hatred over the election of our new President. The Town Hall Meetings are the first opportunity they have had to vent publicly what they have felt privately for so many months. The "Browning of America" is a concept this woman and many like her can not handle and by screaming about "HER" America, she is excluding the fastest growing segment of our society. Predictions are that by 2050, Caucasians will become a minority in America. Fortunately for her, this woman will not be around to see that.

Maybe after the health care situation is resolved, we could have Town Hall Meetings to educate people about "whose" America this really is. And maybe at those meetings, that lady and others like her could take a look around the room, notice everyone doesn't look like her, and realize America belongs to those people too.

But then........maybe someday pigs will fly!


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

San Diego

Cooking dinner (Marty, Candi, Deric & Dennis)
Rooftop bar Altitude (Candi & Junior, Betty & Dennis)
Dinner at Jim Croce's jazz restaurant (Candi, Junior, Dennis, Betty)

Dennis, Deric, Betty, Candi, Junior and Marty at a wine tasting

We just returned from San Diego, probably the most awesome city in the United States! It has everything required for a utopia. Lucky residents and visitors experience perfect weather the year around - pleasant days and cool evenings, beaches and boating, mountains, art and cultural activities, a diverse population, more restaurants than you could ever try, a world-class zoo, Sea World, a wild animal park....the list is endless. And all packaged in a lifestyle that promotes healthy living, spending time outdoors and walking to your destination.

We stayed at the Marriott in the Gaslamp District....sixteen blocks with 94 historical buildings containing shops, galleries, restaurants and bars. With hundreds of choices within walking distance, the biggest decision each night was what type of food we wanted. One night we ate at a steak restaurant where you cooked your own food and the next night, we had an outside table at Jim Croce's jazz restaurant. Despite the endless choice of restaurants, an hour wait for a table on the weekend is not unusual.

Sitting outside for dinner is an experience within itself. In addition to the food and live music, you have the added entertainment of watching the endless parade of fashionable people who have gone to great effort to dress for dinner or the elegant bar scene. Young people decked out in the height of fashion - girls in their mile-high stilettos and short dresses accompanied by impeccably dressed young men, all in the prerequisite color of BLACK. Then you see the occasional older tourist drift by in their sensible shoes, fanny packs and no-iron travel clothes, looking a bit bewildered that none of their travel brochures suggested they dress a little more appropriately in the evening.

"The" place to be after 10:00 at night is a rooftop LA-style bar called Altitude, where they really do have a velvet rope, huge burly doormen, and a line to get in that stretches through the hotel lobby, out the door and down the block on weekends. Because we were guests at the hotel, we were able to bypass the lines, but I have a feeling the 20 and 30-something age "beautiful people" waiting in those endless lines wondered why "parent-aged" people like us would be going to such a cool place! Maybe they will understand in another 25 years.

But being in the perfect place wouldn't have been as special without good friends to share it with. I cherish the memories we made, the conversations we had and those moments in time we created.
Life is very good indeed!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Finding Your "Happy Place"

Today I went to visit my 99-year-9-month-old Aunt Hazel She is really my great-aunt, but long ago, she asked me not to call her that because she thought it made her sound old.

Until recently, Hazel lived alone, puttering around her adorable house in the heart of the city, going to her weekly hair appointment and doing her errands via Care Links, the elderly transportation system. Her amazing sense of humor was intact and she was always up for an adventure. She was sharp as a tack and read the paper each morning and kept the latest book by her bedside.

All of that changed about four weeks ago when she slipped and fell, fracturing a vertebrae. Her tiny little body didn't have sufficient padding and the fall proved to be very troublesome. She went into the hospital and from there into a rehabilitation facility, which is where I visited her today. The uncharted atmosphere was uncomfortable for us both.

Hazel and I have always tried to make the most of our time together. We would go shopping or out to lunch, where over a glass or two of wine, we would catch up on the events in our lives or share secrets. One of our favorite things to do was to celebrate birthdays or holidays with another couple of our our old friends. More often than not, the four of us would part ways with out sides hurting and watery eyes from laughing so much.....usually at ourselves!

Most people who saw Hazel and I out together assumed we were mother and daughter, and we never told them differently. But really, we were more like good friends than anything else.

Today, was a different sort of visit. We tried to do the best we could as we sat in uncomfortable straight-back hospital style chairs in the small room that she is sharing with her bed-ridden roommate. Even though the sparkle in her eyes was gone, her mental facilities were astute as ever as she told me the place was "okay" but all she really wanted was to go back home. She told me about how she spends her days and about the people she meets in group physical therapy and in the cafeteria.

But then she motioned for me to lean in closer as she told me about her nighttime visitors. Her deceased mother and daughter had both paid her individual visits this week. She said her mother had come two nights ago, knew about Hazel's fall and was taking care of her, just as she had done when Hazel was a young girl.

I had a million questions to ask her about these visits. Her recollection of their time together was as vivid as if they had left just before I arrived. She said they are both happy and doing fine, but that she was very sad when she woke up and had to leave them.

I felt guilty when it came my time to leave her too. She looked so small and frail and lonely sitting there in that unfamiliar room. I had to walk out that door, but it broke my heart to do so.

I thought about her the remainder of the afternoon, but I couldn't figure out what it all meant. I do know that to a certain degree, our reality is what we make it. A very close and dear friend I have known since childhood told me recently that she has put herself in a "happy place" in order to deal with the chaos around her. She is a very intelligent, wise and well respected woman whose opinion I depend on and value greatly. And I think she had found the secret to making this thing called "life" work.

So, somehow, someway, my almost-100-year old aunt has found a way to go to her "happy place" in her present, rather unhappy environment, through her visits from her mother and her daughter.

And I thank them from the bottom of my heart for taking this journey with her.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Christmas in July

Last week I made a stop in Hobby Lobby. I didn't plan to be there long because I knew exactly where I was going to get my one little item.

I got to the aisle and came to an abrupt halt when I saw it was completely covered with CHRISTMAS ORNAMENTS! In JULY!!!

To indicate just how old I am, I remember a time when putting Christmas decorations out in stores before Thanksgiving was considered bad manners. Then it became customary to see Christmas items on display around Halloween. Maybe it has been showing up in stores earlier over the years, but when did we start planning for Christmas shortly after the Fourth of July?

Initially, I was very offended by what appeared to be blatant commercialism. How can we be excited for Christmas Day to roll around when we have been looking at all of the stuff for six months?

But the longer I thought about this and began to see the bigger picture, I realized Hobby Lobby isn't the only one trying to recession-proof their seasonal sales. Apparently Sears, K-Mart and Toys R Us are all hoping people will plan their gift-giving well ahead of time in order to budget appropriately. Sears and K-Mart are bringing back the Lay-Away plan as a convenient way purchase the "must have" items on a limited budget.

So, despite the fact at the end of the day, it all comes down to the bottom line for these corporations, maybe there is a tiny bit of Christmas Spirit in there somewhere. Maybe someone buried in a cubicle in the corporate office was wondering how he/she was going to pay for Christmas and came up with this idea. Maybe, just maybe he/she thought "This would really help MY family....maybe it could help others too".

The Sears' Wish Book has been mailed, so if it arrived on your doorstep while the kids are home, their lists are probably already being made and parents everywhere are beginning to panic.

So, this crazy idea of decorating and advertising for Christmas in July looks like it is actually here. I want to believe that giving parents six months to buy and pay for that "IT" toy that will be cool about as long as the original batteries last is really a GOOD thing.

Even if this means I have to learn the new floor plan in Hobby Lobby!