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Travel, Food, and Slices of Life


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When the Family Fails

I want to share a story while providing some sense of privacy for the people who are at the center of this tale…..they are human like the rest of us. Like the rest of us, the choices they have made and continue to make seem to serve them but they are not happy people, so perhaps even they realize something is very wrong with their life path.

My birth family had its issues. My parents were very close, at times to the exclusion of my sisters and me. See, mom was not healthy. I have no idea what her diagnosis would have been but each of us kids have had our adult issues because what we were TOLD and what we OBSERVED were two different things.

My parents did a lot of good things for us that, for me, offset the negatives a lot. They took us camping around the United States. They encouraged us to learn musical instruments and we were all active in Girl Scouts. We received our religious education and while we did not go to Temple each Friday or Saturday, we went enough for me to understand my heritage and that doing good deeds was a part of making a good life.

But I always knew some of the things mom said were not based in the reality where I was living. I spent a few years in my early adulthood breaking many of those “rules”, proving my life would be just fine even if I rebelled.  I stumbled, and I picked myself up and I learned very quickly that no one, not even my parents would ever ever rescue me.

My sisters and I have compared notes over the years and they did not have the same perception I did. The rules were the rules and there was a lot of guilt over breaking them.  We had failed marriages. We had addictions. We grew through them and beyond them. We still probably continue to stumble sometimes but we have never ever said “stay away from me” because we are family.

dysfunctional-family

source: Lucky Otters Haven

Meanwhile, around us are a kazillion other families, each trying in their own way to do the right thing with their kids. But we know our society has been failing. We have kids who are out of control. Adults now, they want what they want when they want it. They don’t know how to plan for a goal and deferred gratification is a concept that they never learned.

Many adults were not taught life skills by their parents and do not know how to cook a healthy meal. How to plan a budget. How to get along.  How to TRY to get along. They feel what they feel and everyone else who feels differently is wrong wrong wrong. Even sick and maybe should be hospitalized.  Attack and deflect if you can’t get along…..make it the other person’s fault and never never assume any responsibility.

And it goes to the parents….and then to those adult children who continue the cycle by striking out at anyone who ruffles the waters, who disturbs the system that holds the status quo together.

Image result for shutting the door in someone's faceI have a friend I met over 20 years ago who needed a place when her family told her “don’t come here” and so, she came to me. Now, I know with my own mother, most people looking at our family never imagined we had anything less than “happy” going on behind our doors, but that’s the way it was. So I can imagine that it is hard for a 50-70 year history of aggravation to be set aside to rise and be a family, especially when there is a strong person in charge. Even if she is not healthy.  Especially if she is not healthy.

I understand how hard it is to confront an irrational person, even when it is apparent to all around her that things are not right. Weak people tend to hide. They do not want to be the next target.  So they are compliant and accept the way it is, and anyone who tells them otherwise, like me and this blog, is wrong.

Too many people would rather sweep issues that are difficult under the carpet in the attempt to ignore them. Too many people come on aggressively when they feel a horrible conflict with what they “should” do and what they “must” do.

And so, we see homeless people. We see people on drugs trying to make their world calmer, less scary.

When all they need is love and acceptance.

I know they will read this. I know it will not help calm the waters, but you know what, NOTHING I do would help. The only change that could happen has to be from them.

There will be tears. There will be anger. And you know what, it just is more of the same. A pattern that has gone on for over 70 years. People educated in psychiatry would be quick to tell me this blog is not wise.

But it is time for someone to speak up. Before more families do this to each other.  Maybe someone somewhere will recognize that they need some meds or counseling or something to heal the pain that grew. Image result for love and acceptanceMaybe……I hope so.

 

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The Only Thing That Is Constant Is Change

Independence Day 2018. So much to think about, to appreciate.  Being a patriotic American, a person who feels pride in their participation in the governance of We The People is more difficult some times than others. And those are the times when it becomes even more important  to be active.

Think about the VietNam War era.    If you are old enough to have lived through it or have studied about the war and the cultural changes America experienced in those decades, you know that we were a nation divided. Many people believed being a good citizen meant accepting what the leadership in the nation had decided and following without questions. Others believed as strongly that morals and ethics must play a part in actions and if leadership is corrupt, if there are decisions being made that are not made public because they serve a private good, that it is the responsibility of a good citizen to speak up and not follow blindly.

Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything. - George Bernard Shaw

Looking back we can see that the public reason we got involved in VietNam (to stop the Red Tide of Communism) failed. No ifs ands or buts.

And yet, the “Establishment” was angry about the protests.  And even people who were not actively part of the people with power were afraid….afraid of the change that was happening.  That fear was expressed as anger and we started hearing people holler “America, love it or leave it!”  The idea that a large group of people were speaking up about injustice frightened those who were concerned that their own status would be diminished.  Lies started at that time still continue to this day. Repeated enough, more and more people accepted them as truth, even when the issue was essentially one where they would not benefit.

This nation is made up of a lot of dysfunctional people. Yes, I know you know them. We all know them. (Sometimes we are them.) Sometimes what they do is so extreme they can be described as deplorable. (And being deplorable is an equal opportunity situation, no matter where you may be on the political spectrum or not identifying with it at all.) Sometimes they are merely uneducated to the point they don’t know they don’t know.  But one thing is common….they find it difficult to get along with anyone who disagrees with them and over the course of a day, most people fit that category.  It is more important to be “right” than to be part of a group.

And that is why protesting works. When you have a small group of people who hold the reins of power followed without much cognition by people who want things to be the way they were in some fictional Mayberry tv time,  it leaves the way open for thinking people who can develop plans of action to gain ground.

It is obvious that ethics can not be regulated. But laws can be put in place that will hold people who abuse their positions of power.  Whether we’re talking the coal mine owner who dumps coal ash in the mountain stream, thereby polluting it and affecting all who live nearby with health issues or the political hacks who draw precinct lines to disenfranchise parts of the population, it appears that much of the population has no memory of how they have been hurt and so, keep on electing leaders who are not acting in their best interest.

Image result for ruby enters school protected by national guard

This is a photo taken at the time that Little Rock High School was being integrated. What in these people’s concept of history makes them think “go back to Africa” is a viable action?

We’ve had turmoil in American history before VietNam and the 1960s. We have survived a time when the concept of Civil War was unrealistically offered as a solution to straighten things out.  Proponents on both sides thought it would be an easy win and a few of the early battles, not far from Washington, DC became picnic events. Please enjoy your fried chicken and don’t mind that that guy’s leg was just ripped off by a minie ball.  Needless to say, war is never a good option. And yet, there are people thinking it is a viable option right now.  There is something seriously missing here, like a shot of reality.

Image result for america love it or leave it

Facebook meme 

Without trying to stir the hornet’s nest, it is very clear to me (a person raised in the North who has lived in the South as long) that people who “lost” their cause are not always realistic about how and why the results turned out the way they did. This is true whether we are talking about the attitudes that drove the American South to declare themselves a separate nation or the attitudes that drove Nazis to believe they were the genetic susperiors to everyone else in the world.  Or a subgroup of a religion (pick one, any one) that interprets that their way is the ONLY way.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
― Nelson Mandela

It is not just my viewpoint, but a very clear indication of human history that when education is restricted, people are controlled.  It was forbidden to teach slaves in the United States how to read.  Native American children were taken away and put in government schools to be taught, which included the lesson that their own native history was not acceptable. Generally, throughout the first 200-300 years of this nation’s history, education was accessible more in the North than the South, more in urban areas than in farming communities, more for men than for women. Education meant exposure to ideas that had developed over the history of human development all over the world. If someone who might be unhappy with the way their life is playing out becomes educated, they will be able to perceive ways to change their life. This is very scary to people in control of power who want the rest of the population to remain docile.

My parents pushed my sisters and me to excel at school. At that time the American Dream was achievable by people who took advantage of free education and continued to pursue learning throughout life. Changes in educational techniques in the 1970s began to take into account that not all people learn the same way; that some people have difficulties reading because of the way their brains are wired, not because of laziness.  More and more people began to actually achieve literacy, not just on a functional level but in a way they could problem solve and develop plans for their own lives.

There are families, many of which are immigrants or first generation American, who understand that deep application and appreciation of free education is a tool for a future rich with possibilities. Imagine my surprise and utter disdain when working with a child whose family had lost its immigration story that Cs and Ds were perfectly acceptable. That child not only will have a diminished capacity to chart her own life, her influence will continue in the same way with her children.

The world continues to be more complex with the advances in science helping us reach the moon, to repair arthritic joints, to grow more food per acre. The science is not always easy for high school graduates to understand, but that does not make the science wrong.  It just means the education level obtained is not advanced enough.  I believe it is up to each individual to seek out more information throughout their lives for issues that spark interest. Good interest. Bad interest.

Interest might show up as an emotional gut reaction.  I know I use anger or greed as clues to me to verify information I see posted on Facebook. The problem is not Facebook per se; it is that there are a lot of people who are not thinking are using Facebook. They are not thinking “is this accurate” when they decide to share. They share in the interest of “informing” others. When the information is proven to be false, the arguments usually turn to name calling.  That’s a clear sign that there is nothing much behind their statement. They would fail at debating.

When did people stop being curious? When did people decide their gut reaction is good enough? When did people stop caring about being their best?

We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility for our future. - George Bernard Shaw

So, Independence Day is one we celebrate recognizing that dissension and lack of obedience was necessary given the situation where we had no voice as a People.  As much as we feel muzzled now, we DO have a say in what happens. Sitting in your chair bitching and moaning about what some person has said or done is NOT the way to fixing the problems we have. Neither is killing people who disagree with you.

The reason the current protests have a chance to work is because there is organization, there is planning for action.  We can once again be a nation of We The People.

 

 

 

 


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epiphany!!!

Definition of epiphany

plural epiphanies

1capitalized January 6 observed as a church festival in commemoration of the coming of the Magi as the first manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles or in the Eastern Church in commemoration of the baptism of Christ
2an appearance or manifestation especially of a divine being
3(1) a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something 
(2) an intuitive grasp of reality through something (such as an event) usually simple and striking 
(3) an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure
b a revealing scene or moment
 
In truth, I did not know anything about the Christian use of the word Epiphany until 11 years ago but I’m not talking about that definition. I am talking about the noncapitalized use of the word-the sudden deep understanding that hits a person with clarity.
So, I always believed this concept but last evening I UNDERSTOOD it. I now recognize the difference and that difference is profound.
I always was a good student. I liked school. It was very much a place for social interaction but I also enjoyed the exploration of information.  I remember the handful of amazing teachers I had with great respect.
I graduated about 17th in my class of 350 or so. I did not work hard, so perhaps I could have done better, but it was a place where I felt satisfaction. I could get decent grades while enjoying band, Girl Scouts, my religious youth group activities and more. I was not so dedicated to my schooling that I did not have fun although I have always been a goodie-two-shoes, so my concept of what is fun and yours may differ.
I struggled with math and science but managed to get As and Bs.  Still, I always assumed people who could do math easily, like my husband and my children, were smarter than I am.
Last evening it hit me that they are NOT smarter because they can do math. They just have different strengths than I do. Graham, for example, is a good writer, but he is not comfortable with a writing assignment, any more than I am with math.

Image result for epiphany

Source: Team Epiphany

And yet, I can whip out an essay about a lot of things easily. Still, we do not consider someone who can communicate in writing to be “smarter” than someone else who finds it difficult.
I believe as more and more people participate in the dumbing down of America, as mobile phone usage has lead people to assume headlines and sound bites are all the information they need, that evaluation of intelligence will have to change.
I also believe that intellectual intelligence is only one of many parts of a person’s makeup that enables success in life. Each person’s emotional maturity also permits analysis and growth….or frustration and stagnation. A high IQ with low EQ will usually lead to a life of alienation, feeling misunderstood by everyone.  The third aspect of intelligence is how you get along with others….can you accept people as they are or are you always judging others?Image result for various modes of intelligence
So, no longer will I feel inferior in comparison to a person who works comfortably in areas where my personal understanding is a bit stressed. I know I have other strengths…and I can fly well with them.
How about you?


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What’s the Goal?

They’re brain dead. Idiots. Bigoted. Racist.  And they feel the same way about us.

They listen to their tv news, read their schlock newspapers and believe in unfounded opinion articles as news. And so do we.

Not me! You declare. So, I ask you….whatever place on the spectrum you live, have you read “the other side’s ” news? Ever? Just to try to understand why they don’t know what you know?  Not even once? Once per day would be a good try.

I posted an article  on Facebook recently that asked people to state their opinion after reading it. I also emailed this to some friends who are not on Facebook, to ask their opinion.  The article, by NBC News, explains a study done by political scientists at Texas A&M.  I  am not going to summarize it here; it is THAT IMPORTANT that you read it for yourself.  What I will tell you is that most people did not respond, and those many who commented back to me had NOT read the whole article. One said it was too biased. Another said he knew that NBC was a liberal organization so he didn’t bother.

So, I just wonder who is pulling the strings? Who are the puppet masters?   Why are we allowing this?

I don’t feel like a sheep, following the leader blindly. I suspect you don’t feel that way either. And yet, for much of what is going on, we are experiencing a significant effort to keep us separated. To make us angry at people who don’t agree with us. To reduce them to less than equal status in our thinking….and then in our behavior.

Image result for people as sheep

source: RISE OF THE AMERICAN SHEEPLE: 10 Signs You’re A Sheeple

But we have had situations that have polarized us when, in truth, we really should all have a similar reaction. The horror of people being pulled from their cars and beaten. The rhetoric of our nation’s leadership making broad statements about a group of people based on…..pick one….color, nationality, religion, gender, sexual orientation….and many feel threatened instead of talking to people they personally know in that identified group of people to get first hand information about the situation.  The unbelievable situation where children are taken away from their parents when they enter the US illegally, and about 1500 have been “lost”. The lack of transparency on the actions of some government agencies whose actions beg answers. The science showing us we are essentially killing ourselves, ruining the planet’s oceans, air and more.  All these issues should really have a unified reaction by EVERYONE regardless of where they are on the political spectrum.

I think we each have a choice. We can continue sharing news that is phrased in ways to agitate and polarize or we can seek the truth behind the news and point out who the puppet masters are and why they want us distracted and separate. Follow the money is a truism.

When laws are passed to permit cars to hit protesters who are blocking a roadway, when peaceful protestors who point out the inequities of police treatment are distorted as demeaning the flag and the military, when the anger over abortion leads states to close clinics that provide all kinds of health services and screenings for people, when we incarcerate illegal aliens and separate their children from them and then “lose” some because of poor record keeping, and I could go on….we are being played. We are being made angry to uphold values we consider very important to the definition of what this country is.

Image result for car hitting people in the street VA

source: Mercury News, Charlottesville, VA

Both sides feel this way.

We need to stop paying attention to WHAT is being said and start asking WHY. And like a curious toddler, the WHY question needs to be asked again and again until we finally get to the truth.  And if, like an impatient parent, we are cut off from the explanation, as adults we know that is not right and we need to push some more.

Yes, there are people in this nation whose concept of what the United States should be would be to eliminate many of its current citizens and residents from being here.  They do not think beyond their discomfort and fear. They do not recognize that there are consequences to deporting or otherwise eliminating a class of people not “desirable”. They do not know the slippery slope they propose would, inevitably, include them. How can I suggest this? I’ve read my history. Not only Nazi Germany but many other countries where tribal factions, religious schisms, ethnic identification have resulted in millions dead.

Image result for genocide

source: http://genocidewatch.net/2015/06/01/sudan-making-money-off-genocide/

I am appalled when I see people threatening civil war if something happens they don’t like. They need to read. They need to watch some good films that will clearly show there is no winner in war, other than those who own the corporations who run the war.

So ask yourself when you have a reaction to something you read…..how can I bring THE TRUTH to people in a way they will listen, and join together?  This means no knee jerk reactions or you are fanning the flames.

Be smart. Let’s turn ourselves around.  What’s the goal?

 


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The Most Important Job in the World

What’s the most important job in the world? Nope, not being the President of the United States, although we are learning right now how leadership in that role can influence how others think about us.   But few of us can do that job well, and so, not just anyone should assume the mantle.

I’m  speaking about parenting. Many of us are parents, have been parents, or want to be parents. Many of us should NOT be parents.

Ouch! Was that too nasty?  Perhaps….and perhaps not.

Let’s take an example from something on my Facebook feed today. Facebook is an excellent way to measure the values of your extended community. Some people who post on your feed are people you know well, others not so well, and others are “friends of friends” and you don’t really know them at all. It’s a microcosm of society.  Facebook is NOT good for trustworthy news….make sure to check everything you think is news there. But Facebook is good at understanding people’s viewpoints and that is what makes up society.

This morning a friend shared a concern that a teacher friend of hers had with parents of elementary school aged children. The teacher had posted that she starts the school year each year for the past 25 years the same way. She sends home papers for the parents to complete. We know this pile, and yes, it is an annoyance. But she sends home one more that she originates. She asks for information about the child: likes and dislikes, attitudes about going to school, family life and activities and more. She said she used to receive these essays from 98% of parents, she said in the last decade she has noticed a huge decline. Only 20% of parent’s participate in this.

Yes, I know we all work long hours. Yes, I know there is a lot that needs to be done each and every day.  But, this is parenting. You had babies. Now, the question becomes, what kind of adult do you want to grow?

About 30 years ago I had to make a decision about my marriage. I had two small children (ages 1 and 3) and a husband who was self-centered and diagnosed with several mental health issues. When I saw the toddler mimicking his father’s behavior I knew I was not raising those kids in a healthy environment. I knew that my job was NOT what made money and supported the family (he had stopped working) but to raise those children to be healthy adults who not only could function in society but contribute to it.

We have lots of complaints about kids’ behavior and lack of ambition. We hear all too often that some kids lash out in anger over disappointments. We hear that there have been three generations of families on support programs.  We have a problem and it IS us.

It is parents who are not emotionally mature enough to recognize that their priority for the next 18 years after giving birth is to raise a child who finds joy in life, is excited to be intellectually curious, and enjoys participating in community service to feel a part of solutions.

Image result for intellectual curiosity

source: http://www.smartbrief.com

What? No time?  Unless you are physically out of the house trying to earn a living 16 hours a day, that won’t fly. And if you are out of the house that much, who has your child? Surely you will place your child with a caregiver who will be teaching them how to tackle life’s challenges and embrace the wonderful things.

But I think most people are not away from their children. Most people may be struggling themselves with the burdens of everyday life and may be focusing on their own needs as their first priority. And that is still not the best.

Yes, you need some alone time to regenerate energy. No question about it. I chose 5am-6am. I asked no one to disturb me even if they were awake. That was MY time.

Then at 6am we could start the kids’ day. They had picked out their clothes (with my help as age appropriate) the night before so there was no “where are my shoes” emergencies. There is time for breakfast and packing a lunch before needing to be out the door for the bus or walk or car ride to school when you start early enough.

Can’t get up that early and be functional? Why not? What time did you get yourself to bed to sleep? What kind of “help” did you use to relax the night before that leaves you sluggish in the morning?  What are you teaching your children about responsibility and how they will be as adults?  They will mimic you.

When my youngest was in high school he ran cross country and track.  After the first track meet I saw I would be sitting in the stands for 5 hours between his first and last race.  The next meet I brought my camera and started taking photos. My husband did also.  We were recognized as team photographers and allowed on the field and for 4 years we captured photos of all 80 kids trying their best. HHS April 10 2012 1600m

I posted the photos on a site where (with a password) anyone could grab them and just about all the kids and some parents thanked us for our effort, but no one took over when we “graduated”.  It really amazed and saddened me when most parents never showed up to the high school track meets, even when they were held at our school. No car? There’s a bus and there are other people you can call for a ride.  There are ALWAYS solutions. It depends on you and what you want to do with and for your children.

Just as lust is not love, having sex does not mean you should have a baby.  But if you DO have a baby (and this is for men as well as women) you have just assumed responsibility to raise them. To be better than you are! To learn right and wrong! To develop solutions to problems! To recognized they are part of a community and receive benefits from that community so make time to give something back in service!

Because parents are ducking their responsibility, the concept of “life 101” classes to be held in middle school and high school needs to include a lot of things parents USED TO teach their children. How to develop a budget and live within it. How to balance a checkbook.  How to cook so you can make healthy meals and not need to depend on frozen options that are full of chemicals. How to sew so you can at least put a button back on a shirt. How to iron. How to change a tire. How to make a goal and work towards it. How to how to how to. The list goes on.

Image result for what parents should teach their child

source: http://blog.sfgate.com/sfmoms/2011/02/07/100-things-all-parents-should-teach-their-children/

How to adult. Just because you are over 18 and legally an adult does not seem to equate to maturity with many people.  My parents had a saying that irritated me but it was a truism. At that time 21 was the age of legal majority so they would say “You do not automatically become an adult and know how to do everything when you are 21.”

They taught me much of what I needed to know and yes, some of their concepts were outdated and I rebelled.  I failed and picked myself up again and went on. That is also part of what we need to teach our kids. How to be resilient.

So, when you look at that beautiful newborn and get teary eyed over his potential, develop your plan of action. When you catch yourself spanking the 2-year-old trying to explore her world, change your parenting discipline to one that teaches with reason, not pain. When your 7-year-old tells you he hates you, explain calmly you know that feeling because perhaps right then you are hating their behavior, but you know they can choose to behave in a way that is better. When your 10-year-old gets Cs, look to your own time helping with homework; if you haven’t been you should be able to help pull that grade up to a B at least.  Long before your 15-year-old gets pregnant tell her age appropriate information  about the physical and emotional responsibility of actions….ALL actions. (Get over it people….you had sex and guess what, they will too!)

It takes work to be a parent. And to be a good parent takes a lot more work than many people are putting in.

Look around you. How many people are lonely?  Their kids have flown away and hardly ever come to visit or have contact.  How many people are so judgemental that if the child had opinions that differed from the parent the kid was told they were wrong but not why the parent feels that way.  I talked to an elderly man who was trolling the parking lot of the church looking for his daughter who was homeless. He told me how he hated her having a Latino boyfriend and had told her she could come home but not with him. He did not see he had built the wall that his daughter would not climb over.  Do you know people like that?

It starts with babies. How you raise your kids makes a difference.  Remember that each time you are ready to condemn the actions of “kids today”.

Image result for what parents should teach their child

source: http://www.excite.com/education/blog/parents-need-to-take-responsibility-for-their-childrens-behavior

 

 

 

 


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You DO have time….you have today.

In the past seven years I have really been involved in the local farm-to-table food movement. I urge people to cook from whole foods. They will enjoy the flavor so much more and they can control ingredients, getting away from preservatives that very well could be influencing your health.  But all too many people have the same answer: “I don’t have time to cook.”

Years ago I was ecstatic that my oldest son’s elementary school offered a parenting course when he was in 1st grade. STEP (Systematic Training for Effective Parenting) helped me recognize nonverbal signs when things were heading south in the kids’ behavior or my own response. I learned to stop things from escalating out of control and how to talk in a way that taught and provided discipline instead of punishment. I helped my kids learn to take responsibility for their actions and how to communicate their feelings, especially when their emotions were roiled up. And it seemed to have worked, because even if the three of them are not perfect by any means, they are wonderful active adults contributing to their communities. I have suggested this course or some other to many friends who are frustrated by their children’s behavior, since it really helped us.  But all too many people have the same answer: “I don’t have time for a 10-week seminar, one hour a week.”

Each of us makes choices, many of them, every single day. We decide simple things, like what to eat for breakfast and what to wear. And we decide harder things, like identifying the goal of the day.

Some of us are planners; we think about what we want/need to do and figure out the various ways to achieve that with all their pros and cons. Some of us never plan; we are reactors. We respond to things that go on around us. And much of the time we are surprised and maybe a little bit (or more) angry because things are not always the way we want it.

 

I want to share with you the story of one woman I never got to know until after I moved from West Virginia. Having common friends, her comments on Facebook resonated with me in many ways. A few issues were not in agreement and it was in private conversation that I learned that this woman understood her position. That nothing about her was merely reactive.

Until the shit hit the fan. Already a breast cancer survivor, you would agree with me that that should be all Paige should have had to deal with, but no. Her beloved husband collapsed with a brain aneurysm and she had to explain to their two young daughters that Daddy was never coming home. You might agree with me that that is more than any woman should need to deal with in her life.

Image may contain: 4 people, including Paige Muellerleile

Source: Paige M – too long ago

But no, still more. The cancer was back and fully metastasized throughout her body. Paige, above all else, is a realist. She understands there is not much time left.

Image may contain: 1 person, eating and indoor

source: Paige M December 2017

The pain of knowing she will not see her daughters graduate gets eased for minutes as she makes memories with them. She’s getting things in place, knowing they will be well loved by others to reach their goals, but it is not enough. There is not enough time left.

And then she posted this photo, and I looked at her…..and I see it. Life. In the moment. Participating. Grabbing all of it. Pain. Joy. Achievement. Struggle.

Paige HD

source: Herald Dispatch

So please please please look at your own life. Are you living? Go. Do.     You DO have time….you have today.


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Being Prepared

Graham and I just came back from a short vacation in Puerto Vallarta. Close friends  from our time living in West Virginia have a timeshare there and have been going annually for twenty years.  They’ve invited us before but since Graham was teaching daily then and the timing never meshed with his spring break from Marshall University, we never could schedule it, until now.

Graham is currently teaching one forensic chemistry course for the fall, winter and spring quarters at Western Oregon University. He teaches Wednesday evenings so last week after class we headed to Portland and spent one night in a motel close to the airport. They offer free parking and provide an airport shuttle. That cost us about $20 more than parking in the long term lot and saved us from having to leave home at 4am to catch our southbound flight.  We returned the next Tuesday and so, he will not miss teaching any classes.

It was a short but sweet vacation, valued highly because of time spent with friends who live in Kentucky. We appreciate the ease of communication Facebook and cell phones permit, but nothing is better than to give hugs in person.

Based on my Facebook postings it looks like all we did was eat…and drink. LOL

But I also went prepared with two prescriptions from my allergist. He said he writes them all the time for both Mexico (you must present them in person) and Canada (you can handle the transaction by mail).

I want to explain the reason I travelled with the hopes of purchasing two medicines and then tell you about the experience.

When we first moved to Oregon, my health insurance was part of Graham’s retirement package. It moved me from PEIA (if you have been following the news recently you know West Virginia teachers went on strike to win a 5% raise and no change in their health insurance rate from PEIA. The state had offered a 1% salary raise which was more than negated by a higher increase in the employee share in the health insurance premium. I am so pleased that it took teachers in all 55 counties to stand strong to win this concession from the state legislature but the issue is still not over…more wrestling ahead…but this blog is not about that fight. Just suffice it to say that West Virginia schools are severely underfunded while people in power issue themselves plenty of perks. Seems to be the culture these days throughout the country.)

Okay, back to my story. My health insurance was with a national company and worked fine. It cost me about $500 a month.  Then the ACA passed its Supreme Court test for the mandate that EVERYONE must buy health insurance and I switched over. My insurance premium cost me $550.  That was based on the prior year’s income and of course, Graham had retired and our income was significantly reduced. I appealed for a reduced premium and in their infinite wisdom I was moved to Oregon’s Medicaid expansion, the Oregon Health Plan.

I was initially concerned because I assumed that the healthcare I received would be of lesser quality but with the exception of only one questionable doctor visit,  I was very pleased. The clinic was prompt, the staff was very friendly, and the doctor usually spent at least 30 minutes with me, or longer if needed.

I rolled through that system for 18 months but at the next renewal the questions changed and I got bumped out. Back to the ACA. My new premium was $462 a month BUT it would not start coverage until January 1st. My OHP plan ended September 30th.  That left me three months without any insurance.

I pleaded with each organization to let me stay longer or to pick me up sooner but was told no. I have found out since them I should have called the state insurance commission and it would have continued the OHP the three months. Remember that if it ever happens to you.

What it meant to me was I needed to pay cash for my prescriptions. The blood pressure medication was not bad ($60) but my two prescriptions that help me breathe were close to $1000. Per month.  Simply, we could not afford that.

I picked up my medications the first work day in January and went to the allergist (after I got a referral) about 3 weeks later. My lung function was measured at 37%.

Two months later, back on daily meds, it was up in the high 70s.  In other words, I need this medicine to live.  Each time Congress plays around with dismantling the ACA I know I can expect to die.  I understand I am not alone. I do not generally join in with conspiracy theories, but it is easy to believe “they” want “us” to die.

So flash forward to my friends’ invitation to join them in Puerto Vallarta and our pre-trip discussion about what we want to do etc.  She mentioned that the farmacias there have medicines at much lower prices than here. Hence, the request and issuance of those prescriptions for my breathing.

They had one of the medicines I needed at the pharmacy we visited the last evening we were there. (Yes, I should have started this part earlier but……) I was able to purchase the medicine that helps my lung function, Symbicort. IMG_3171

The cash cost for the Symbicort here is between $400-$450, even with discounts. The cash cost for the same amount of medicine in Mexico was $80. IMG_3172

The packaging is different, but sometimes when I get my prescriptions refilled here the new bottle has a sticker telling me the pill may look different from what I have been issued before but it is the same.  So, the issue is not uncommon.

This is a first person example of how we pay so much more for our medicine than other countries.  You’ve probably seen charts before like this one.oxycontin_0

Some people argue that we are paying for the pharmaceutical companies to do their research. But recently some of those corporations have announced they will no longer do research for medications to help with  AIDS, Parkinson’s disease and more.

Some people argue that we are paying higher prices to subsidize the rest of the world.  Really?  Not true. Other countries have negotiated prices with drug companies for their health insurance programs.

I believe we are charged what they think we will pay. Simple as that.  And so, many people are either not taking the medications they need to be in good health or they are finding other ways to cope.

The problem is, many of us can not afford jacked up prices, like insulin that increased 197% from 2002 and 2013. Or how the cost of an epi pen went up from  $100 in 2009 to $600 in 2016 (400%)and the CEO of that company is well known for his smirk.  Thank goodness there are generic alternatives. 160826143616-mylan-epipen-exlarge-169

Bottom line: there is a lot wrong with our healthcare system and what we pay for it. Our premiums increase annually, our service plans decrease and the insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies are experiencing record profits.

Why is health care not considered a public service industry similar to water, sewage treatment, electric/gas/whatever you use for heating and cooking?

Until we fix our issues here in the United States, Mexico and Canada will continue to reap the benefits of attracting savvy  medical shoppers.