I’m having trouble writing in a calm tone today…there are just so many things going on that are hollering for something better.
The son of a friend, a chef in his 30s with a young son and loving wife, in good health, died suddenly at home this week.
The niece of a friend, together with 2 other high school friends, went for a ride together and all are now dead, thrown from the vehicle despite seatbelts.
The President is taken to Walter Reed Hospital because of a positive COVID infection and now, a few days later, says he is feeling better and planning to return to the White House. No one has said he is testing negative, of course. Everyone understands that this is way too early in the illness for him to be “better” but no one is adult enough to contradict him and order him back to bed. It’s gotten to a point that nothing that is announced from the White House can be considered truthful and reliable.
The desire for making a personal choice the highest rule of the land seems to stop people from noticing the strong correlation between unmasked events and infection outbreaks. Can you say Spring Break? How about Sturgis? And one recent superspreader event, the Rose Garden announcement? Can you notice people not thinking?
A candidate in a local election against an incumbent who has provided good service has been identified as an enforcer for compliance with rules of the Church of Scientology. Can she even serve equitably when so few are in agreement with her church policies? What is her real reason for running?
Another candidate for public office campaigned really hard to fight for a DEQ air quality sensor here in our city because perhaps someday there might be a reason to expand to automobile emission testing. So, during our wildfire season we have no way to know our local air quality, but must extrapolate the data from sensors 25-40 miles away. This man is proud of the way he “protected” us from maybe fees in the future and sees no reason why anyone needs to know if the air is unsafe.
Some people on various Facebook pages dedicated to food processing don’t even read any recipes when they start putting food into jars. The questions indicate a complete lack of any understanding about the food safety requirements.
A lot of people on freeze-drying Facebook group pages are thrilled about the candy they are processing, saying they eat it as fast as they preserve it because it tastes so good.
I can’t help but notice on trash day that my neighbors have a lot of take-out boxes and piles of plastic overflowing their large bin. I wish I could help them reduce their monthly bill to Recology by teaching them how to sort their trash at the very least and then to refuse all the single-use plastic next.
Recent surveys of the US population reveal that about a third of people are tuned into Qanon and hoping that yes, we will be rescued by aliens and all will be announced in October, no, wait, now the big reveal is in March. Stay tuned, obviously.
Other surveys of the American population disclose that about half are now drinking or drugging daily. As personal ownership of weapons rises, most new gunowners are not taking any safety instructions, and assaults at home are rising.
Meanwhile, I’m wondering why we are even trying to maintain a “normal” educational curriculum right now. This is the time to introduce Life 101 to include lessons on growing food, cooking and preserving; on sewing and ironing and doing laundry; on car maintenance; on household maintenance; on general small electrical repairs; on art and music and dance. This is the time for those of us close to the coast to teach about tides and sealife, including time for beach cleanup and plastic trash collection. Others can do to nearby rivers and streams and learn about the difference in those ecosystems. This is the time for matching older teenagers with adults who are working in a field that the youngster has expressed interest.
This is also the time for a huge survey of homes here in our town to identify which are not fully occupied. Those homes occupied by one or two elderly people who no longer can easily do the maintenance required may benefit from a match with a younger person or couple who can rent a room and provide some younger energy for daily life. Those homes that are sitting vacant may be able to be added to a housing program for people who currently can not afford to pay for indoor housing.
This is also the time for neighbors to join together to plan their 2021 gardens, so participating families can grow different foods to share with all in their circle. This is the time to arrange for seeds and jars and lids before the seasonal requirements run the stores empty.
We can’t sit in the doldrums. We have too much good work to do to help raise everyone.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
I came of age during the VietNam war and so, the diversification of our nation now is not a new issue to me. There seemed to be three camps in those days: my country right or wrong, things are not right so I have an obligation to protest to get change to occur, and the silent majority. Once again, we have proof that the more things change the more they stay the same.
A close friend recently posted on Facebook how dismayed she felt when at a kids’ recreational football game, the opposing team took a knee during the anthem. She has felt the protests at the NFL games are primarily a disrespect to the flag, to the military and to first responders. Her husband is a retired cop who walked his beat with patience and persuasion, so I understand well how they are angry that all cops have been brushed with the unethical and illegal response by others.
My understanding her viewpoint is the first step to initiating a discussion. That discussion may go no where, butting up against the brick wall of inflexible consideration of emotions and facts that do not fit an acceptable scenario. But it might also open a window to a new enlightenment.
What has particularly bothered me about people who condemn the protest is that they never address the base issue. They never talk about WHY the protest is taking place.
They don’t understand it is that silence, that negation of importance, that drives the need for protest.
And when I ask people what kind of protest would be acceptable, the silence is deafening.
When there is silence, there is acceptance. There is complacency. There is collusion.
People I know who protest the protest are usually loud in their argument that they are colorblind, that they treat each person equally. That may or may not be true and in truth, if each person actually believed in and lived the Golden Rule, we would be living in a whole different culture.
But the people who protest the protest NEVER say anything about the innocent people who are shot and killed, not because of their behavior but because of their skin tone. They NEVER say anything about court decisions that absolve responsibility for a death of a person of color whose actions in no way required being killed.
They argue black on black crime. Not the issue being protested–stick to the point!
They argue women are also subjected to discrimination. Oh yes, but not the issue being protested-stick to the point!
They point out cruelty to animals. Horrible, but not the issue being protested-stick to the point!
There are a lot of things that can use improving in our society. I can’t fight for every issue that calls to me and neither can anyone else. But a strong emotional response sure indicates this may be an issue that needs more attention. And attention means education first to gather the facts and reduce the emotional response as much as possible. To think calmly and logically. To even place yourself in the same situation, empathically.
Adding anger about protest is adding fuel to the fire.
Someone died. And I got a cornea to fix a vision problem.
Each of us has the opportunity to think ahead to a possible situation where we might not be able to live, but can donate parts of our own bodies that can make someone else’s life better. Thinking this way does not make your death happen. It makes a precious gift happen if and when. What a legacy. Go to this website if you already do not have it marked on your driver’s license.
Years ago I lost a husband to brain cancer. At the time the shit hit the fan I was quietly told by the neuro-oncologist that we had 3-5 years. Well, he lived 10 years and the doctor really had no idea how. The last MRI, done about 18 months before his death, showed that this incurable cancer had not grown. For some reason, his brain chemistry caused it to act differently. It was that summer I decided and got things in place to donate his brain when the time came. Heading to a neurological research program, perhaps whatever he had in his brain chemistry could be identified and help someone else. I wanted to make lemonade out of the very sour lemon we had been given.
Perhaps this concept is not so hard for me because I appreciate the sentiment of Thanksgiving. While I don’t count my blessings daily, I give thanks after we return to our driveway after a road trip, when we have a good day at the farmers’ market, when one of my kids has a wonderful achievement. Thank you. Thank you Lord. Thank you God. Thank you Man in the Moon. It doesn’t matter who receives your thanks. It’s recognition that we are not alone. And the One who is honored hears it all.
Being part of society means I chose to be active. I offer skills and energy within my capability to issues I feel are important. As I age perhaps the working parts are not as usable to someone else as if I had died early. But letting them harvest whatever can be used is one more way I can give back to my community.
When we feel this connection to others, our world is safer. When we feel we can have an impact, our world works smoother.
So many changes. Any time you can talk to someone whose life has spanned more decades than your’s, an interesting discussion could result if you asked about big changes they had observed. I thought I’d take you through a small walk about health care as I have experienced it. I suspect this post will be longer than most I write.
My mom trained as a nurse in the 1940s and met a doctor studying to be a pediatrician at the hospital in New York City. When she and my dad moved to New Jersey they were thrilled the doctor had set up practice in the next town and I was told years later that I was his first baby, whatever that implies. Anyway, we would go to his office, located in the first floor of a multi-family house and wait to be called in. I read Highlights magazines and graduated later to Reader Digests. (I guess some things never change.) I had my first asthma attack at age 5 playing with a hula hoop. I received allergy shots with needles that were sterilized with the glass syringes in the doctor’s office in their autoclave. When I was too sick to go to his office, he came to our house. The house call that no longer exists.
In college I went to the college infirmary. The health care fee was covered in our overall tuition which was about $500 a year. My 19-year-old skiing accident where I banged up my knee was ignored and over a few weeks I healed. I developed arthritis in that knee in my 40s. (Life lesson…if you get hurt, even if you are young and can heal well, go get help to make sure you are healing correctly.)
My first job after college was for the State of Tennessee in Nashville. I really do not remember the insurance plan provided but it would have been a large group of state employees. I didn’t see the doctor at all except my annual checks for health and I ended up with a minor surgery. I did not take any medication in those days. I don’t remember the fees but I do remember there was no stress in paying even though I was making about $6,000 a year.
I changed jobs and moved to Memphis a few years later and in the course of the move, hurt my back. My new insurance was through my company and even though the injury happened before my first day of work, there was no waiting period. I saw a chiropractor a few times and then an orthopedic specialist for a year before opting for surgery. There were no MRIs in those days and I was in the hospital for 4 days. My portion of the bill was under $100. I also started allergy shots again while living there and paid $1 per shot.
I ended up a few years later in Connecticut. My husband worked and had Blue Cross through his employer. He needed counseling and later a short hospitalization. I started taking blood pressure medication. We had two babies (one by c-section). One baby needed a couple of surgeries. Our copays for medicine were $1. The hospital bills were $500 for the c-section, $300 for the next delivery VBAC, and the other surgeries were about $300 each.
That husband and I split and I was able to pick up coverage for a Kaiser Permanente HMO plan through a small business group. I paid $400 a month for a family plan which included my two kids and me, and later, a new husband. It had no copays nor prescription costs. I fell and hurt my back again. Again I saw a chiropractor for a while and then he referred me to an orthopedic surgeon. Still no MRI in those days. The hospital stay was 2 days and I think my bill was about $700. I later had a miscarriage and the D&C cost nothing since it was done in the office. My last baby was born in the same hospital as the first, 11 years before but was also a VBAC and cost about $500.
Then I moved back to Nashville and my husband started working for the State of Tennessee and we had HMO plan through Aetna. Prescriptions were $2 or $5 each. Doctor visits to our primary physician were free. Specialists were more and this was when things started getting really interesting since my husband was soon diagnosed with brain cancer. We were sent for a C-Scan one day and then an MRI the next. The specialist at Vanderbilt Medical Center ran a kazillion tests to determine where the tumor was located and the potential effect removal would have. Surgery was scheduled and became the day my life seriously changed as he had the equivalent of a stroke on the operating table and was not expected to survive. But he made it through the night, improved in fits and starts in 8 weeks in the ICU, another 2 weeks in a regular room and then home. Physical therapy was provided at home for a few sessions and then we went to the clinic for that. I understood the coverage for physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy was for 5 weeks. The clinic suggested visits twice a week. We asked for and went daily every weekday of those 5 weeks. At that point he had improved enough that they wanted to try the surgery they had had to stop 5 months before. It went well, with 2 weeks in ICU and then home after another week. The bill, when it got to us and I finally figured out the in and out and all around nonsense, was $7500 to us.
(Now, we step aside for a minute. Recognizing that $7500 is an amazingly low bill for all the scans and surgeries and special tests and ICU and medicines, it still was something above and beyond what we could afford. He was the wage earner. I was home with the baby, something both of us had wanted to try to do for a couple of years and I was just starting to look for work when his seizures started. So, we had no income, no savings and we had that $7500 bill and of course all our normal living expenses and rent, utilities, food, car expenses and then I needed migraine medications, I’m sure you can understand why.
At that point I did a few things. First, I called our landlord and asked him if he had a smaller, less expensive place for us to live and he listened to the why of the question, was silent and then said “The last thing you need is to move. Pay me when you can as much as you can and don’t worry about it until then. I am in a position to help you.” That man is one of my life angels. I have used this story whenever I hear anyone talk about how people who are homeless are all drug addicts or drunks and basically did it to themselves. There but for the grace of that wonderful man, we would have been homeless.
I also called and talked to someone at the county level to find out if I qualified for any assistance program for the six months until the social security disability payments kicked in. They said no. The problem was we had a VERY few thousand dollars in our IRAs and they wanted us to use that up before any public assistance would kick in. The fact that it was a temporary need and very little set aside for our future did not work into any equation for help.
Finally, I called the credit card companies. We had 3 cards and each had about $2000 on it. I asked for the cards to be frozen. Basically I would not use them but asked for no interest or penalties. I owed the $6000 but did not want to see it go ridiculously higher when we could not make payments. They refused to work with me.)
So, back to the medical care. Cancer is expensive. We had radiation therapy. We had chemotherapy. And then, something unexpected happened. He did not die. I was told to expect him to not live beyond five years and when all was said and done, it was about 10 years. I had gotten a job after the first round of chemo so we would start having more income. I was lucky to get a job at Vanderbilt Medical Center and later the University. In those days the issue of pre-existing conditions meant that he would have had no medical coverage at all and I would not have had coverage for my blood pressure, allergies and stupid migraines for at least 12 months. But the year before the Democratic Congress had passed a law that any employer with more than 100 employees would offer health plans with no pre-existing conditions limitations.
So on we went. The plan each year at Vanderbilt changed. Sometimes it was strongly limited to Vanderbilt with very low fees inside that medical center and higher rates outside. No big deal to us since we were relatively new to town, but it caused messes for people who had relationships with doctors outside the system. One year it was equal inside and outside the medical center. I had sinus surgery that year at a different hospital. By that time my share of our medical bills were topping $15,000. Still not a ridiculously high price but too high for us.
I went to talk to a debt counselor. After hearing my story he got up and shut the door and said they were not supposed to suggest bankruptcy but our situation was exactly the reason the law was there. I refused. Maybe not my wisest decision but I felt we owed all we owed except for the stupid interest and penalties for the three credit cards. He suggested if I chose bankruptcy my credit would be okay in seven years. I still said no. I felt morally obligated to pay my bills. I just needed help getting them reduced or a time payment plan set up.
And on it went. About eight and a half years into the illness my husband could no longer stay home safely by himself. The option of me quitting working was not feasible, so we needed to find a nursing home for his care. The one that had a bed at the time was my third choice. The top two had a medical director that was our primary care physician so I thought the continuity with the same practitioner would be beneficial. But they had no beds, so he went to #3. It was fine, as those kind of places go, but week after week he “failed” the test to be able to become a Medicaid patient. He could put the pills in his mouth and swallow them when they were handed to him. He could dress himself in two hours when the clothes were given to him. He could still manage to shuffle to the bathroom. But the time came when he couldn’t do enough of the things on the checklist and so, became eligible. All bills were sent to Medicaid. The nursing home had a fire three days later and 13 patients died. (The story of that night is for another time.) Ironically, my husband got transferred to one of the places we wanted. Once Medicaid took over, I had no more additional costs for him. We stopped taking him for MRIs when it needed to be by ambulance and really, why bother after a while. Hospice got involved and visited him three times a week to provide supplemental care issues.
I stayed at Vanderbilt another 18 months after he died. By that time I had moved to the university side of Vanderbilt and was voted to the Staff Council. My project was to track the amount we shared in our paychecks to pay for our medical insurance (and parking) each year (the payroll deduction increased about 10% annually) while noting our raises each year (about 5%). While I appreciated the benefits, I wanted people to realize that we were slipping backwards all the time. I quit the Council when I was told to stop; that the administration did not want that kind of information shared with the staff who could not figure it out themselves. Meanwhile, Graham, who I had met online in a chat room about 8 years before, asked me to marry him and have my youngest and me join him. He was teaching at a state university in West Virginia, so had a health insurance plan through the state. He was able to add my son as a dependent pretty quickly but I paid COBRA until we got married.
The new plan was challenging. It was a more standard system with copays and deductibles that had to be met and with a cap on lifetime use. Having been exposed to the world of cancer I knew sometimes patients ran into the lifetime limit and care ended, with death soon after. It was horrific to watch knowing a maintenance dose could keep a person alive longer with a decent quality of life. I started allergy treatments again as my sinuses and lungs were getting horribly affected with the pollution in the Ohio River Valley. We had no dental care coverage, minimal eye health coverage, and limited options for specialists because West Virginia is one of those places in the nation that just does not have all the choices other places do.
And then the young one left for college. We had to take out an insurance policy of about $1000 a year on top of all his tuition and fees and room and board for him to access the medical care on campus. Then Graham retired and we made our move to Oregon. Graham had enrolled in Medicare and the first problem we had was there were no primary care doctors in our town who were taking new Medicare patients. I paid $500 a month for a COBRA plan from the State of West Virginia when the Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act allowed implementation. I was pleased because the time limit for COBRA was going to run out before I became old enough for Medicare.
Working with someone trained in all the offerings, I selected a plan that was good and did not cost “much” It was $550 a month just for me. Since our rate was based on the prior year’s income and we had now retired, we resubmitted about 4 months later with our current income. We wanted to find something in the $350 a month range but instead they enrolled me in the Oregon Health Plan, the expanded Medicaid offering.
I was concerned that I would not get adequate care but was extremely surprised and pleased for the most part. The one issue where the specialist decided not to order an MRI when I injured my arthritic knee (“You have arthritis” he said. “I know,” I answered, ” but it feels different and I can’t walk right.”) and told me to go home. Otherwise, the clinic was friendly, competent and ON TIME.
Last September it was time to re-enroll and our joint income was $200 a month too high to qualify for the same plan, so I had to go back out to the Marketplace and found something for $530. And OHP dropped me in September but I could not pick up the new plan until January 1. I went three months without my breathing meds ($1000 out of pocket per month) and that set me back to a 20% lung function rating. It will take me about three months to climb back to something better. I have copays and a deductible of $2500. I’m partway there….got that MRI for the knee and that cost me over $700 out of picket because I am working down my deductible.
So, the point here was not to bitch and moan. The point is to show that health insurance has ALWAYS been confusing and ALWAYS has been inaccessible to a large group of the American public. Prices ALWAYS go up. Benefits ALWAYS go down.
But I sure enjoyed the Medicaid plan. I would be willing to pay an affordable monthly fee for a plan that allowed me to get care without any copays or deductibles or lifetime limits. THAT was a joy.
My cat is lying in a strange position on a towel near her water dish. She acts like I feel when I’ve had a really tiring day, numb to everything, but I think hers is a more permanent kind of fatigue.
When Sam was about 4 years old it seemed to be time to get him a pet. I had always been a dog person but was concerned a puppy would raise too much havoc in our situation. Sam’s dad Dave had had a stroke while on the operating table to debulk a brain tumor so had a double neurological insult. His walking was very unsteady and I assumed a puppy would get underfoot and cause Dave to fall.
So Sam and I headed over to the Nashville Humane Society where we played with a number of kittens. I had wanted to take home an adult cat, figuring we could at least know the animal’s personality better, but the boy wanted a kitten. First one, then another, and then 3 or 4 or 5 more. I lost count. Finally, there was Tiny Bug. She actually responded to us, enjoying being petted, purring. I was hopeful she would be a good fit.
We took her home and she promptly got in Dave’s way while he struggled to walk down the hallway. Luckily he did not fall but it became apparent right from the start that we now were blessed with an animal who went where she wanted to go, laid down in front of people walking, and overall was not at all like a dog. She wanted to be the Alpha.
She always was good using her litter box, even as we moved and moved and moved again. Once shown, she would be consistent.
She always ate the same food. Once we transitioned from kitten food to cat food and she ate it well, I always bought the same thing. Dry food. No fancy cans of wet stuff. Easy on my budget. Once we ran out of cat food a day before payday, but no worries. I had chicken and rice and cooked her up a feast. She did not eat. She gorged when we brought home the dry stuff and barfed. Of course.
We always kept her inside and she always wanted to go out. One day we carelessly let her escape and she was gone overnight. It was summer so not a bad weather time but she straggled back the next afternoon, looking very dirty. She did not enjoy her bath.
Years later, after Dave had passed on, Sam and I joined Graham when he went on sabbatical to Colorado. Graham owned a sun conure parrot, Sollie, and we had to teach Tiny Bug to leave her alone. With the help of a water pistol, the cat learned quickly, but the bird had a mean streak. She often would sit on my shoulder while I had the cat on my lap to clip her claws.
Tiny Bug got even a year later. We were having a screened porch built on the back of the house and as I stood in the open doorway from the kitchen the cat raced outside. The bird followed, winging quickly. As soon as the cat reached the deck she sat down and licked her paws as the bird circled overhead and then flew off. I had no doubt in my mind that the cat had instigated the whole thing. (We got the bird back a few days later, but that’s another story.)
While we lived in West Virginia my allergies and asthma got worse. By the time a friend talked some sense into me about reducing those allergens that I could we had 2 young dogs, the cat and the bird. We found new homes for the puppies but no one wanted the cat. A friend was happy to adopt the Sollie.
Tiny Bug was not very social with people, ignored dogs, but attacked other cats. There was not much appealing to anyone to take her, even people who sympathized with my health issue. I always joked that she would live to 25 just to spite me.
When we had driven back from Colorado to West Virginia in 2007 the cat had slipped out of the car before I had even shut the door. We got a call 2 hours later that she was wandering around the apartment complex. While Graham drove on with the U-Haul, I returned, got the cat and then caught up with him in western Kansas.
So it was maybe not a real joke when I said that if she slipped out of the car on our drive west during our move to Oregon, I would just leave her there. We stopped for the night in western Kansas and came to the Colorado welcome station pretty early. Leaving the car windows open a little, we went inside to pick up some info we wanted and then back to the car. No cat. We pulled things out of the car in case she was hiding in a little nook. Nope. We wandered around calling for her (as if that would work) and of course, we didn’t find her. After an hour, we left our name and phone number with the people at the center and I drove on. I pulled over and even though Graham is legally blind and not supposed to drive, I couldn’t, so he took the wheel. He had gone about five miles when we heard a plaintive cry from under the driver’s seat. I didn’t know if I was happy or wanted to strangle her.
She turned 15 last year and started throwing up a lot. The vet said it would cost a lot of money to run tests and maybe do surgery to figure out what was wrong. It just did not seem right to fight hard at that age, so we asked if there was any other way. They suggested we change her diet to one of their veterinary formulas, give her a pro-biotic for a while to help her gut bacteria improve, prednisone to reduce swelling, and vitamin B shots once a month. She started improving and after a few months we started dropping parts of the regimen and soon we just were using the diet. She was fine and Sam, returning home for the holidays from Vermont, was happy to see his cat. He offered to take her back with him but I was concerned that he would lose whatever security deposit he had on his apartment because of other issues with her.
As good as she had been all those years, she stopped using her litter box and would frequently mess on the living room rug (now trashed) and on the dining room table (scrubbed and scrubbed often scrubbed often). We banished her to outside during the day and the garage at night when we were having a house guest who we thought was allergic. (The fact that I suffer and deal with it does not mean anyone else has to when they come here.) We brought her back inside a few days ago.
This afternoon, Tiny Bug stopped moving. Her back legs will not support her. I clipped her claws and she did not complain. I touched her tail and there was no protest. She is there but not there and I believe she is on her way out.
I have horribly mixed feelings. I know my allergic issues will ease with one less allergen but she has been family for almost 16 years. While she never was a “dog” she got used to me calling her “Puppy” and would come to that. She tried to fit in and we tried to make her feel very much a part of this home. Graham is holding her letting her know she is loved.
The term déjàvu is French and means, literally, “already seen.” Those who have experienced the feeling describe it as an overwhelming sense of familiarity with something that shouldn’t be familiar at all.
Of course you have to educated to recognize the connection when it happens. In other words, those people who do not know history, tend to repeat it.
I know personally how hard it is not to react in anger when something is irritating. I know personally how hard it is to stay calm and analyze a threat before making a decision what action I need to take. I also know personally that the road to a better world is to take a pathway of compassion and reconciliation whenever the personal threat is not imminent.
I also know that there may come a time (again) in my life when action will be needed. When there will be a risk to my own person with potential injury or even death. I know that there are some things that are so important that a stand must be taken.
Some people also feel that way but their threshold is a whole different place. Their personal arousal is close to the gutter as they react in anger without thought.
Such was the case yesterday when a woman in Kentucky was badly beaten because she looked “butch”. While it is easy to blame Trump for rallying the anger and fear of bigots, it is important to realize that the bigots’ hated and feared before Trump gave them “permission” to act out.
This is the same group of people who scorns the concept of “PC”. Political correctness to them is horrible. Why should they try to understand that people of color, women and people with various sexual orientation and identity want equal protection under the law? Why should they “love their neighbor as themselves”?
This incident in Kentucky yesterday is become a repeated event. What makes this even more remarkable is that people stood around and watched. They did not help. But they did not hinder.
Does anyone besides me remember Kitty Genovese? Nazi Germany where only a small minority of people tried to fight the tide of the horrible discrimination and death camps? Matthew Shepard?
Why do people slink back into the shadows? Personal fear. Fear of being hurt and possibly killed themselves for the most part. Maybe also a small part that the people being mistreated deserve it. Maybe not so small a part?
But what happens to a society that decides some people just are really not equal. Not only not equal but they deserve punishment or death?
That society is very sick. That means the people who are that overall society have a horrible flaw in their soul, in their psyche, in their thinking.
I went to Texas last week to visit my wonderful sister-in-law and discovered I was definitely not in Oregon any more.
First I want to start by staying Oregon is not the liberal bastion it appears to be from the outside. I learned, once I lived here, that the major cities (Portland and Eugene, for the most part) are liberal, but the rest of the state, including where I live is pretty conservative. So, I am quite used to hearing local discussion about open carry and whatnot and gun ownership in Oregon is only slightly below Texas’s rate.
The first thing that hit me reading the Austin newspaper the next morning was that most people blamed the Oregon girl who was murdered for her own death. Even though the suspect is a troubled youth and he overpowered her and strangled her, the pundits believed if she had carried a gun she would have been able to protect herself. (This is a major difference between Oregon and Texas and not because the victim is from Oregon. It is because Oregon believes you do not blame a victim for a crime.)
And some of you are nodding but she was too young to be carrying. So even if she had an interest in having a personal weapon, it was not yet legal for her to carry one.
To me this stank like blaming the woman for the rape, not the jerk who overpowers her and assaults her.
Why are conservative men so full of doublespeak? They want to protect their daughters from raping Islamist terrorists but blame other women who get attacked by the boy next door? One out of six women are victims of rape or attempted rape in this country. And men? About 10% of American men are the perps, and over half of them blame the woman. Over two-thirds of all sexual assaults are caused by men known to the woman. Over 50% are white. And over a quarter are married. What is wrong with you guys?
Rape is not sex. Rape is assault. Get it out of your pea-picking brain that a woman who looks attractive is NOT asking for it. Use your self control.
The other issue that was apparent was open carry. This is also related to the death of the Oregon student on the University of Texas campus, which, as a public college, has to permit guns on campus as it is the state law. But we saw, walking through areas of Austin and then in more conservative areas a couple of hours away, signs not permitting people to come into the establishment with their weapons. Private stores, colleges and organizations can opt out of the state’s open carry allowance.
The idea of guns in a bar or winery or brewpub just does not make sense. While some people can agree that guns and alcohol don’t mix well, the point is you have no idea of who is carrying and what their anger managament control may be, especially as they begin to be affected by alcohol.
Still, some shops that do not even serve food had the no guns allowed signs posted at the entrance.
Who’d a thunk it that some in Texas do not want to see a repeat of the old wild west. But I still prefer Oregon where pedestrians can cross the street without fear of being hit by a car….because life just seems to be valued in all ways there.
Each of us is the center of our own universe and yet we experience similar pains and joys. I have learned that the ability to share helps me ease the anguish and magnify the happiness. Does your pathway include sharing?
About four years ago I started visiting farms that had expressed interest in providing food to The Wild Ramp Market in Huntington, West Virginia. A new concept, The Wild Ramp combines the shopping experience of the outdoor farmers’ market with the ease of indoor shopping. It is a year-round indoor local food market that has increased in appeal since its inception about 4 years ago.
Although I had one grandparent who had retired from running a chicken farm, my childhood in the New York metropolitan area was focused on suburban and urban living. I even got a degree in urban planning. So you can imagine just how tickled I am that I have become enmeshed in the local food movement.
When I started I knew next to nothing and today I know just a smidgen more. But armed with my curiosity, I spent an hour or two visiting the farmers, hearing their stories and learning about their growing practices. I then wrote blogs to inform the consumers, the better to market that individual farm and its products and The Wild Ramp Market overall.
My visit to Mil-ton farm in mid June 2012 just prior to the market opening was a learning experience for me. Dad Tim was working off-farm at his day job. Mom Stephanie was home with the four kids, in charge of daily farm chores and home schooling and also working a part-time job. Grandma lived on the land as well, part of the extended family.
My favorite often used photo from Mil-Ton Farm
One thing that immediately struck me was how curious the kids were. They came with us as Stephanie and I walked along, eager to show me things and be part of the experience. I learned a lot about that family that day and made a foolish assumption that all farm families were that cooperative and involved with life learning. No, as I learned over time, the Appletons are unique.
Tim and Kellen working to renovate the shop
They all pitched in, even the youngest, helping renovate the shop space. They all helped other farmers in the Wild Ramp extended family of farmers as there were calls for help. The kids helped develop salable items over the seasons.
Vivian helping raise a high tunnel at The Potager, a Help A Farmer Day project.
The Appletons walk the walk. Caring, loving, with high standards and expectations to strive for them. They have a strong faith in God and strong belief in the goodness of life.
But Tim just died, after a long and valiant experience with cancer. The Wild Ramp family is feeling this pain.
Personally, it brings my own loss of a loved spouse very much back into my mind. I can clearly imagine how Stephanie, a pretty strong woman, must be spinning in torment, trying to comfort the kids to provide them a sense of security while not quite really sure intellectually and emotionally where her footing will be in this earthquake. And the kids, scared of future loss, needing a lot more reassurance that all will be okay.
Although she might beg to differ today while everything is so raw, I know Stephanie and the family will work through this. The hole Tim’s passing has left is a horrible learning experience for all, but they will learn to meld the pain of the loss with the rising spirit of his memory.
The outpouring of love and prayers for this family is a testament to the goodness they have been as a part of the community. Tim’s legacy is priceless. We ARE connected, all of us.
Funny things happen when mortality hits me in the face. The last time, about 12 years ago, I was so sick with meningitis I didn’t even think about it until I was better. This time I have “something” wrong and the docs are trying to figure it out.
Am I gong to die? Probably not today. But yup, will sometime.
As will you.
So many people are AFRAID of dying. Other than I want to stick around to watch my kids mature and I have a few more things to do, I’m not afraid. Whatever your belief system, if you have faith in a religion, you have been told what the pathway is at the end of this life. So why be afraid?
The funny part is that some people think that just because they have a faith inspired belief in what happens upon death they don’t understand that that is not the common concept. One very well intentioned 14-year-old once told me he was particularly worried about me because I am Jewish and have not accepted Christ as my Savior. Because of that, he warned me, I would be going straight to Hell. When I told him that Hell is a Christian construct and I was a bit concerned about any religion like his that had to use a stick like that to try to get their members to comply, he was confused.
So what do you expect? Is it scary? Why?
Me? I’m just going to try to keep on keeping on until my time arrives. My belief system is that good deeds done here and now is the way to live. What good is a promise of heaven if you never helped others lives here to be better? And so….onward.to the next adventure.