goingplaceslivinglife

Travel, Food, and Slices of Life


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I Don’t (Want To) Believe It

Hello? Does anyone else besides me have an issue with the amount of lying going on in our society?  Warning you now…if you dislike the way things are you MUST start calling people out on it.  If you are one who finds it easier to “embellish” than play things straight, you need to examine WHY you are trying to hide from your reality. And then change your ways. The pain may be intense at first, but you probably will like yourself better.

Yes, many of us know Trump lies. His supporters do not see it though; they blame any complaints as a problem with the media.  They believe the media is the one lying here.

At first, I had to wonder. After all, until recently we’ve held our leaders to a high standard of truthfulness, ethical behavior and care for all the people living here. Hmmm, would it be betraying my viewpoint to now say, Three strikes Trump! No, you know who I am….why do you know that? Because you either know me personally, or you feel my writing has had a sense of honesty about it.  I am not going to pull punches now.

Now, I’m angry and I may get a bit sloppy with my writing.

This lying has reached epidemic proportions and Trump by all means is not the only one.  He has surrounded himself with people with similar lack of concern about accuracy. Joseph Otting, Trump’s nominee for the U.S. Treasury’s Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, reportedly lied when he said on his resume that he holds a degree from the School of Credit and Financial Management at Dartmouth College.  But Dartmouth does not have a school by that name nor did Otting attend and graduate with a degree in anything there. He did, however, attend a four-week seminar.  Why would anyone lie about something so easily verified? And why would they WANT to lie like that? What kind of ethical consideration did they miss that persuaded them to lie for personal gain?

This lying seems to be everywhere in our society, not only with the Trump administration and wannabes.  In April there was a report that student journalists did some research and discovered that their new principal did not have the credentials she had claimed to get the job. A climate denier finally understood he was wrong in his argument but will not make a public statement.  The scientists who reported that some GE foods could cause tumors were disputed and for years worked to prove the study was correct but there is no sharing of that news.  A woman who was head of the NAACP ended up not having any African American heritage.

Deceiving takes place all over. The Senate is discussing the new healthcare act behind closed doors. In closed session even our county commission has discussed options and conducted business that affect everyone living here. And they believe because they are the ones in power, they can get away with it.

Why is lying, this deceiving, this hiding the truth from others and even oneself so prevalent?

Psychology Today says there are two kinds of lies: white lies that we we make to maintain our social status; to preserve an image of ourselves.  A strategic lie is made by one person or group to try  to  deceive another person or group for personal gain.

When we employ a white lie we are okay up to the moment when the person lied to discovers the effort. Then the liar has to deal with the inevitable loss of status.

When someone designs for others to fail, they are into a strategic endeavor to elevate themselves by diminishing  someone else. Not only is this more serious but it then begs the question about ethics.

About six years ago I had flyers printed up at a local shop where I lived In West Virginia. I had worked with them before; they took my request over the phone and I got a quote on the job. I emailed them the file and went to pick the papers up a few days later. There was no invoice.  The guy who took my call was not there and the boss laughed, saying the guy hardly ever writes up invoices. He told me they would mail one to me. A week went by, and then another and another. A couple of weeks later I went in. There STILL was no invoice but the boss charged me what I said was the quote. He then thanked me for coming back in to pay, saying most people would not do that. I said, shrugging, “It’s really simple. I try to live by the Golden Rule…..” and he jumped in and laughed “Yeah, screw them before they screw you.” I said that it seemed that if few people were paying in this kind of situation, they must follow his version, but the one I had been taught was to treat people the way I wanted to be treated.  He laughed cynically.

Every night when my parents put me to bed I said two prayers. One was the Shema, a short and simple prayer said by Jews. (Here, oh Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.) And then we would say the Golden Rule. (Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.)  Since attending church with Graham I hear this claimed as a major teaching by Jesus, so I expect all Christians are taught this.  Few understand that in this, as in pretty much all his teaching, Jesus was sharing Jewish concepts.

Today we have more people who are “unchurched” than attend with any regularity. However, the Baby Boomers were still part of a church going population when young for the most part.  Their estrangement from their organized religion and their avoidance of teaching their children any value of being part of a church family is a different issue. You need not believe in God let alone attend church to have good ethics and yet we tend to believe that people who identify as a practitioner of a religion have decent ethics. Or we hope so at least.

Ethics seem to not be instilled any longer. The Christian Right would say because Christ is not part of everyone’s life but I think they, as an overall group, need to clean up their own house. There are examples over and over again of condemnation of something they find offensive (pick one or more: racial equality, sexuality other than heterosexual, women who have sex outside of marriage, etc etc etc) and then discovery of one rabid preacher being found with (pick one or more: an underage girl, a teenage boy, multiple trips out of town with another woman, drug use, etc etc etc).

Ethics seem to not be instilled any longer. There is very real concern that there are multiple generations of families where public assistance is needed. Whether it is Social Security Disability and/or Section 8 housing and/or SNAP benefits, the people who control the purse strings of this nation see the problem and their solution is to stop funding programs. They seem to forget there are root causes that need attention before people can be helped, truly helped. Why do they avoid those issues? It comes down to the decision to keep some people down; the belief that truly not everyone is created equally.

Ethics seem to not be instilled any longer.  About five years ago I offered to watch a friend’s 10-year-old while she worked at times the girl was not in school. I discovered pretty quickly that she was behind grade level. I started working with her for a couple of hours, trying to bring her up to speed. One day in the car with them both I pointed at a yellow orange traffic sign and asked the girl if she could figure out why it was yellow. Not only did she not, but she started crying. And her mother yelled at me “You need to make everything a teaching moment?”  Since I treated this young girl the way I had raised my three kids, I say “YES! That is my job as a loving adult in her life. To teach her everything I possibly can to help her succeed in life.” The mom opted not to have her child stay with me (for free, by the way) any longer since I was “not fun”.  I saw a photo recently of the girl, now dressed for the prom. Gorgeous and completely inappropriate with a dress split up to within four inches of her crotch. I think that’s another one who is missing something.

But society encourages it. Most people have the tv on most hours of the day and are bombarded with an image of a life they want. Ads, of course yes, try to make us want something they promise will make life better. But also the programs watched promise if only you can do this, than all will be yours.

Most people see images of what is lauded for beauty and then feel depressed they fall short. Most people see images of new kitchens with stainless steel appliances, large closets, master “ensuite” bathrooms with separate shower stalls with rainshower heads and deep whirlpool tubs and then feel depressed when they realize they can’t afford that.  Most people watch comedy shows with a laughing soundtrack that teaches them what is supposed to be funny and then what happens is people who don’t watch tv don’t get the joke and are told them are too serious.

Most people say they are too busy to get involved in their children’s school. Most people say they are too busy or too scared or too whatever to help with some community issue, whether it is the homeless or reading to a kid in kindergarden. Most people say they are too busy to read about the issue of genetically modified foods, or why the landfill is a problem leaching pollution into the river.

Most people react in anger. Few people act to repair a problem.  Why the difference?

Why are some people able to enjoy looking beyond their own personal needs and perceive they are but a small link in the machine that is community and society. That that small link can turn a problem into a solution in progress with the companionship of similar minded people.

Why do some never see beyond themselves? Don’t they realize when they condemn how bad society has gotten that they ARE society and if they want a change, it is up to them.

Sitting back, no matter how loudly you bitch, does nothing.  They don’t want to believe that.

And I refuse to.

 

 


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Planner or Reactor?

For those of us who are Facebook people, you know there are often small surveys you can complete to find out if you know the slang used in a particular state or the foods eaten in different areas of the country. What would be interesting would be a questionnaire series to determine if an individual is a Planner or a Reactor.

For example, this past Saturday Graham and I participated in the March for Science at the state capitol in Salem, Oregon. Graham asked me early Saturday…what time should we leave?  My mind automatically went into 30 minutes to drive there, 10 to find parking, 10 to walk from where we park and add a 10 minute fudge factor and there we had the time to leave the house. Do you do that? You might be a Planner.

I’m sitting here, past noon, thinking about pizza…..and how can I work it out so we can go to a pizzeria after an evening meeting today when my husband makes a comment about pizza.  So I get off my butt and grab the bread maker and pizza dough will be ready in time for supper. Got the sausage out of the freezer, we have cheese, and there are some assorted other toppings in the frig. We’re set. How about your supper plans? Do you have them in the works early in the day (out of the freezer the night before counts) or does supper prep happen when you get that hunger pang later?  Your typical routine will very much indicate if you are a Planner or a Reactor.

When I lived in Connecticut and my two older kids were elementary school age, I often checked out the camp offerings when there was a fair in February. I couldn’t believe that action needed to be taken that early but found out it sometimes was the case that a special camp with limited spots filled quickly.

Years ago I planned a family trip to Nova Scotia. It was my youngest’s location of choice for his Golden Birthday Trip so he was involved and we started planning the summer trip in February. Good thing for the ferry, because the spots for cars were sold out by March. One of the planned events turned out wonderfully. We all like to cook so on our trips we usually try to fit in a cooking class for something local. When I contacted the chef in charge of the cooking classes I found listed, he did not have his scheduled planned out as far as July.  He asked what I would like to learn. Well, I told him I knew how to boil a lobster but another way to prepare it would be enjoyed. Or perhaps, something from Acadian cooking.  We showed up for the class, held in a teaching kitchen space at a local supermarket chain. The regular attendees had left the front row vacant for us because they had been informed about our trip and the early communication. As the chef announced we would be learning some Acadian recipes everyone cheered and one woman said that they never would have had been offered that if it had not been for us. Now, that isn’t even the end of the story! A couple of years ago, about 6 years after the trip, I received an email from the chef. It was something he had mailed out to everyone on his list that he was changing the direction of his business. I responded that it was great what he was planning to do, told him a little about my business, Can-Do Real Food, and then reminded him who I was. He remembered us and now we can compare local food concepts on Facebook.  Amazing how a bit of planning made the world a friendlier and smaller place.

Nice, but so what?  All these things, being a tad late instead of early to the March, going out for pizza instead making our own, getting the kids into a certain camp, and even making a memory with a chef in Nova Scotia, have only small impact on our day to day life. But there are other more important issues how the contrast between a Planner and a Reactor can influence the lives of many.

The concept of a happy marriage is more than happy bed partners. Yet many people forget to find out if they know how to TALK with one another and can work through disagreements.

The concept of raising healthy and well adjusted children requires a lot of planning. When you react to your child’s antics, you tend to discipline in ways that are not as well thought out if, alternatively, you had planned that lesson before it actually was needed. How would you know the lesson would be needed? You simply remember your own childhood and think how you wish your parents would have handled it. Somewhere between what mom and dad did and what you wanted when you were a kid is the right answer, but merely smacking a butt when angry is NOT what will work long term. 

The concept of leadership for any successful organization usually requires that members of that organization have a way to have their voice heard. It means the leader has to be thoughtful, willing to hear all sides, and be well educated in history, science and more in order to make decisions that are wise and sound for positive long term effect.  Choosing such a leader also requires recognition that bluster does not indicate brains, that speaking his mind does not indicate an ability to get along with others, that being the king of the empire does not translate well to leading a system with others having strong voices. 

And so now it seems that we must react because so many people did not plan well. Activism in a March for Science is but a drop in the bucket but amazing how many more people showed up to show that TRUTH and FACTS are needed…..more than showed up for the inauguration.  Activism is needed is you feel SOMETHING pro or con about a subject. 

So, essentially, planning will ease your life from some stresses but being able to get moving in reaction to events is also something needed. We must be both.


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Our Heart is Sick

I start my mornings, when I have time, with a cup of coffee and the Internet. First, emails. Then, Facebook. I’m sitting here today in embroidered blue jeans and my tie dyed tee with fringes on its sleeves….about as “hippie” as my attire can get, I guess.  I select something from Pandora and find my attention caught by this music.  It got me thinking.

Thinking about the way our nation, our communities were in the late 1960s and early 1970s. We were as split and splintered as perhaps no other time since the Civil War. It was a time, like now, when a person’s political stance fractured families and friendships.  Even in myself, understanding the sense of patriotic pride that pushed some guys I knew to enlist and go off to what was most assuredly a blood bath, I had trouble balancing that sense of pride with the horror of what the war was doing to the people in VietNam and more importantly, the people who came back damaged by their experience.  We were cruel to our veterans who returned and many remain burnt out to this day. Others were proud of their service and resumed life. Still others were angry at the anger and so the split continued.

There has always been a crowd chanting 

and others proclaiming

We talked about a generation gap but no one really worked on healing the other divide. And so we who were teenagers when college students who were peacefully protesting were murdered have now become senior citizens. And the divide seems to be greater than ever.

When I heard the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young song Ohio playing on Pandora it made me pause and I then had a very disturbing thought…and that is why I turned here to try to find a pathway through it.

Today, if we had a similar shooting by a government ordered militia of four kids on a college campus who were peacefully demonstrating would it stop the atrocity that they were protesting?

And I don’t think the answer would be yes today. Not any longer.

When a man gets dragged out of his reserved and purchased airline seat and people start posting things that are not perfect about his life as a way to discredit HIM, someone has lost their values.

When grieving parents of a fallen soldier offer the Presidential candidate a copy of the Constitution and then they are attacked for not being perfect, someone has lost their values.

When Congressional Representatives refuse to meet with their Constituents during a recess when time to schedule town halls is normal, someone has lost their values.

When there is growing evidence that our President is focused on personal gain and benefits for his peers in the uber wealthy, and his supporters criticize the messengers, someone has lost their values.

When friends stop talking to long term friends because there are differences of opinion, someone has lost their values.

My mom called the Baby Boomers the “me” generation. From her view she saw a lot of young people who wanted to break with conventional behavior and do “their own thing.” She felt this kind of individualism would move us into a broken community and while there are many benefits for people pursuing their pathway even when unconventional, there is a truism that if the focus is ONLY on the individual, the community loses.

As I drove south last week to go to the Shakespeare Festival held in Ashland, Oregon, I passed through the beautiful green fields of the Willamette Valley. One town, Junction City is a conservative stronghold in this very mixed region. At the southern edge of town in front of  a tire dealership, the owner often posts political statements. This one caught my eye and I laughed. “Snowflakes ahead” referring to the city of Eugene, a very strong liberal community.

Being called a snowflake is a trendy insult used by conservatives generally against anyone who thinks individuals have rights.  They say we are responding this way because our feelings are hurt and so they belittle us.  They don’t understand that it is not our own personal feelings that are hurt but an empathetic response for members in our community who have been hurt.  To me it implies short-term issues and perhaps a lack of intelligence. I tend to feel irritated when someone refers to me as a snowflake because I have been this way for …hmmmmm at least 5 decades that I can claim to my own thinking and reasoning.

The problem, though, is not what my cohort is called, but the fact that people prefer to demean and detract instead of trying to understand.

It gets down to core values.

If you feel people who suggest you read something and think about it makes you feel dumb, you have a self esteem problem.

If you feel people who expect women/Blacks/Latinos/LGBTQ/handicapped to have equal access and equal opportunity are causing you pain, you have a vision problem.

If you feel that there is only one way that is right, you have a navigator problem.

If you feel that people who are not wealthy are better than everyone else who then is worthless and there for you to use, you have a humanity problem.

If you feel that the homeless have done something bad and deserve their hard times, you have a cardiac illness.

As a society, as a community, we are sick and most of all, it is our heart that needs to repair.

Can we do it?

All I know is that if something horrendous like Kent State happens today, I wonder if will we react as a unified community, realizing we ALL must move off our spots to work together?

The short answer is….no. We did not act unified about Standing Rock. We did not act unified about Flint. We did not act unified about how Congress is dismantling laws that hold corporations responsible to make sure the water they spill into and the air they emit into stay clean. We have not acted unified about the idea that our government has been influenced by anther country over an election (as we have influenced countless other countries’ elections). We did band together pretty well a few weeks ago about health insurance but the power mongers are still wanting more more more and this fight is not over yet.  We have not acted united about how this President ignores rules and conventions of his office.

The longer answer is……perhaps we can. If we don’t lose our way even more first.

What do you think? Your comments show you are thinking…a very good sign.


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Why Argue Instead of Doing Research?

Time and again we see hints that many people have lost….or perhaps never developed….critical thinking skills. We can blame schools or families, but once a person reaches adulthood, the choice is theirs.

If you don’t know how to cook, watch some cooking videos or read a cookbook. If you don’t know how to put together that IKEA desk, go to Youtube. If you don’t know how to research something, there are plenty of instructions available.

Yes, it is easier to learn something when you are young. But if you want to improve the way you present yourself to the world, you can learn new tricks. Unless you prefer to be stuck in place.

Example: one of my friends on Facebook has a family member who often joins in the conversation. I have been warned time and again not to bother interacting with him; that he is a troll. However, I come from a long line of do-gooders and I am pretty stubborn. I think almost anyone is redeemable…..if they show willingness to learn.

The thread got into Trump’s promise to bring back coal. No one contributing to the conversation had lived in West Virginia but since I had, and because I had had a meaningful conversation about coal with a mining engineer at one of my son’s cross country meets, I shared that exchange.

The information I shared is easily verified by countless articles posted to the Internet. However, the troll chose to tell me what I said was hearsay and he would just wait and see what Trump does to help the coal miners.

The legal definition of heresay fits, but the common definition does not. scan_20170303

Since we were not in court, why the hesitation to accept what I offered?  It took me less than 3 minutes to find and read an article from a reliable source about the causes of the decline in the coal industry in West Virginia.

He either had no interest in agreeing with anything anyone says or he has no desire to do research.

Either he enjoys his role of being a dissenter in the context of the Facebook discussion or he is unable to learn anything new.

He is only one of many many people who exhibit similar behavior.  Think of your own habits. Do you agree or disagree with something based on the information presented or do you bother to take a few minutes to research independently?

I consider my time on Facebook to be “free time”. In other words, I CAN step away from the conversation to actually verify facts. This is not work. This is not something that is particularly time sensitive.

But what you say and do is your face to the world. Why be a troll?

From Wikipedia: In Internet slang, a troll (/ˈtrl/, /ˈtrɒl/) is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community  with the intent of provoking readers into an emotional responseor of otherwise disrupting normal, on-topic discussion, often for the troll’s amusement.troll-stupid
If a person chooses this behavior willingly, he certainly is not worth my effort to “teach”.


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Six Decades of Medical Care

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.

doctor-norman-rockwellMy 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.

herniated-discI 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.brain-tumors-fig4ab_large

(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.bankruptcy-causes

hospicemedallionAnd 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.

copayThe 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.

ohpWorking 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.cost-of-healthcare

 


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Pursuit of Happiness

Long ago I knew a man who wanted things, and so he would arrange to take them. Secretly. Sometimes other people would get blamed and he would not care. His pursuit of happiness was severely flawed as it not only did not take into effect the feelings of the owners of those stolen things, but the restricted freedom or life changing events that affected those that took the blame. He didn’t care. The Declaration of Independence provided him an inalienable right to pursue happiness and damn everyone else. Him first. Only him.

He’s not alone. There are many other flawed people who have “me first, the hell with all of you” attitudes.pursuit-of-happiness-2-728

And so, here we are, a nation that has been driven to division based on religious expression, women’s rights, the rights of people of color and sexual identity and expression and so much more.

The fundamentalist mindset is that anything else but their expressed beliefs are evil and must be stopped.  Al Qaeda and ISIS are doing that by murdering thousands. So far, it has not come to that here in the United States with our own citizens. But the time seems to be coming and not from Middle Eastern terrorists. This will be home grown.

Are we in for a civil war because some people believe THEIR pursuit of happiness depends on others being subordinate? Am I to be murdered because I have posted about my food preservation business and they want my stored food? Am I to be murdered because I have been outspoken about equal access to rights for all?  Am I to be murdered because I am a Jew?

There are a lot of challenged people in our communities. People who want what they want and have no ability to work out a plan to achieve it. They may be the poor, the people who are on public assistance and eat at soup kitchens. They may be the homeless with problems that are rooted in drug abuse or mental instability. But most likely the ones who have the largest problems are people who are living a life of struggle and they don’t know why.Pause Pursuit-Of-Happiness

These people are inhibited by their inability to self educate, their inability to develop a plan of action, their inability to consider the effects and consequences of their actions. These challenged people are our neighbors, our friends on Facebook, our childhood friends. These struggling people are angry and listen to the voices of Trump and other conservative talking heads that fuel that anger.

The pursuit of happiness is an “unalienable” right. That means it is the desire to be happy that is natural. The Decalration of Independence does not say “happiness”. It says “the pursuit of happiness.”   We are born with minds and talents that we may use to pursue happiness.  Many of us have had our minds and talents squashed and skewed in ways that make it hard to recognize that a path to happiness is one we must make on our own and together. Not through divisiveness but with cohesion and community. And it is not instant gratification but the actual working towards that goal that brings the greatest happiness.pursuit-of-happiness work


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Déjà Vu

The term déjà vu 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.

V0009398 A frontal outline and a profile of faces expressing anger. E Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images images@wellcome.ac.uk http://wellcomeimages.org A frontal outline and a profile of faces expressing anger. Etching by B. Picart, 1713, after C. Le Brun. 1713 By: Charles Le Brunafter: Bernard PicartPublished: [1713] Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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.

Matthew_Shepard_never_forget_500_350_55Does 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? holocaustp

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.

Where are you on this? Why?