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Okay…So Now I Know

Have you ever wondered how you are going to die?

Back in the late 1960s my father’s sister developed breast cancer. If you are old enough, you probably remember that cancer was so horrific with few cures in those days that most people never said the word. It was the Big C. If it was uttered, it was in a whisper. Watching her decline, I assumed I would get breast cancer.

My mom and all her side of the family died from issues related to heart disease. No doubt in my mind that I have a genetic disposition for that.

I am not a morbid person. This is not anything that fills my waking hours with dread. I am not afraid of dying; I just have a lot of living yet to do, so I don’t want to go before my time. But recently, very recently, I have been staring at a new death option.  And it makes me angry.

With the threats/promises to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the Republicans in our lives have also threatened and promised to kill 20 to 30 million people in this nation. We, the ones with the death sentences, are your neighbors and your family members.

Why will we die?  In my case, I  will suffocate.  I have chronic asthma. It is well maintained with two medicines that currently cost me $100 a month. Their out of pocket cost, without insurance, is close to $1000 a month. Guess what? I can’t afford that.

So, very simply, if Congress in their infinite wisdom think it is more important to destroy the law because it was implemented by Obama, instead of fixing it (good luck with that if you want to keep the insurance companies in charge, but that’s another story and blog) I will die.

So now the question is, will you also die?  Will people you know, people you love, also be murdered by Republicans?  aca-congressional-district

That sounds harsh, but think about it. There are two components in the ACA that help people.  First,  the insurance premium (set by the insurance companies, not the ACA) is reduced based on income. This is part of the benefit that will be removed. The premium I need to pay is $535 a month. Before the reduction, which is based on my income, my premium would be $875 a month.

Secondly, the ACA eliminated discrimination insurance companies had based on pre-existing conditions. I was diagnosed with asthma when I was 5 years old. This is a pre-existing condition that before changes in the law meant I had to wait 12-18 months when changing medical insurance companies (because of a change in jobs) to be covered. I was fortunate that my breathing issues were pretty minor until I moved to West Virginia in 2007. The Ohio River Valley is one of the areas in this country with a high cluster of breathing problems. After decades of heavy industrial air pollution and the way the air currents flow, the environment caused a major decline in my ability to breathe. My health issues were covered at the time because of a change in the law back in the 1990s: employer offered health insurance would not have the pre-existing restriction if the employer had more than 100 employees. My husband worked at one of the state universities, so we had a state employee health plan.  So, I was able to be treated for the asthma while we were living there.

But in anticipation of my husband’s retirement, the question of my healthcare once again raised its head. His retirement package included an extension of my health insurance coverage but that would run out before I would become eligible for Medicare. I anticipated a major gap of coverage and was very pleased when the Supreme Court ruled the ACA could be implemented.  And so, I have been able to continue to have insurance. I have written about my lifelong experience with my health insurance coverage in January. I did that not to elicit sympathy but to share what I believe is common situation. Many of us have known people who have had someone with a major illness and our American  healthcare insurance coverage has always been a factor in the rising number of bankruptcies in this country. aca-repeal-gop

When we talk about “millions of people will die” if the Affordable Care Act is repealed the number is hard to understand it. Recently, a health-care analyst broke the statistics down to Congressional districts. In other words, if Congress decides to erase our health care, they will lose this many people (voters)  in their own districts. I now know I am one of almost 80,000 that will be affected in my Congressional District. The difference between me and you? I know my Congresswoman, Suzanne Bonamici is one that is working to keep the program. What about YOUR representative?

Take a look at this effort to provide the information on a scale where we can realize how many of our neighbors will be dead if Congress moves forward on their promise/threat. All because its nickname is Obamacare.

And you know what?  There is a huge group of people in this country who love their health care coverage through the Affordable Care Act but despise Obamacare. Their lack of comprehension is a sign that we have a major problem with people who no longer know how to think. But that’s another blog……

 

 


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They are Making THEIR Choice Known – What’s YOUR Choice?

Back in the late 90s I worked as an administrative assistant in the Vanderbilt Hospital office that maintained the electronic machines that go beep, among other things. One of the technicians had the opportunity to go to a training seminar out of state and was excited about that until he realized he would have to rent a car to get from the airport to the training site. (No uber or lyft in those days.)  He asked if I could arrange to get the department credit card for that expense. I presented his request to the supervisor who had an interesting reaction.

He not only immediately said no, as he was wont to do anytime anyone asked anything “nice” of him, but he then went on a demeaning rant about how anyone could be so inept with their own personal finances that they could not float a $500 expense that might take a month to get reimbursed. He not only had no understanding that not everyone he knew was as financially solvent as he was, but he had no empathetic ability to recognize times may be hard for others and what small thing could he do to help.

As I was myself in severe financial straits at the time dealing with a serious long term illness in the family, I could immediate understand the technician’s situation, and so, went to bat. We got the department credit card, the technician went on his training trip, and all worked out.   But the message hit home. Some people are so narrow in their view of the world that they have NO ability to recognize anyone may be different. And when that different worldview is thrust upon them, they refuse to learn about it, and so more easily want to brush it under the table. Make it disappear.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of people like that supervisor. Many are in positions of authority as he was, and so exert control with little signs of benevolence. Instead, they are judgmental and their aim to make people causing them problems disappear may not be hidden well.

Years before, sometime in the 1970s I read a book which stayed with me.  Triage by Leonard C. Lewin, published in 1973, was not a best seller and is not a spellbinding page turner but it is a view of a dystopian society where the government and individual corporations make decisions that can and will cause death of “stupid” people, “old” people, “sick” people, “worthless” people.triage-definisiton

triage-bookThe one story I remembered from reading 40+ years ago was about how car manufacturers had come up with a motor that had NO unhealthy emissions and so would eliminate pollution. Sounded great as they they made their presentation to what is clearly recognizable as the EPA until someone finally asked a question they were hoping would go unasked. Simply, the revolutionary motor needed to be started with a proscribed sequence and if not done correctly would blow up. The manufacturers had rejected installing a switch in the car to inhibit imperfect start-up because then they would be accepting responsibility if it failed. The best thing they could offer is that it would only kill the driver who would be showing his lack of intelligence by not following instructions. Passengers would only be injured. The roads would then, they argued, have one less unsafe driver and so driving accident rates could be expected to decrease.

When I went to purchase the book recently to refresh my aging memory the reviews talked about how this is a libertarian viewpoint. Each person is responsible and no paternal oversight should be expected.  I don’t know about that but I do know there is something very much missing in the actions described in the book.

Today we are about three weeks into the new President’s administration and the view from here is one where decisions are being made without much thought about consequences.  It seems like backs are being scratched and the promise to clean up the government by “draining the swamp” is resulting in an exchange of self-interested people with long term experience for people who have paid for their new position and have considerably less experience and a demonstrated predominant display of self interest.triage-decision

I am not inclined to buy into conspiracy theories but it is getting clear even to a Pollyanna like me that something stinks. We The People are not relevant to the people in power.  We WILL be killed off by restricting health insurance, astronomically raising the price of life saving medicine for increased profits,  eliminating environmental protections for water and air, allowing food to have increasing levels of potential carcinogens. Discussions about a new educational policy has not included improving work and life skills nor cognitive reasoning skills. We have been promised that rules restricting businesses will be reduced, thereby helping small business people, but the candidate to run the Labor Department has a long history showing he cares little about wages and work benefits. I fully expect more, not less regulations affecting my own business.

In addition, we are seeing the formation of a shadow administration.   We have a President who has already demonstrated he is unwilling to be informed to make decisions and thereby  relying on his advisers for their input.  In Steven Bannon we have a person who has a history of showing a very narrow definition of who is acceptable.  His advice to the president will ONLY be in their own best interest and those of their cohort.

The rest of us are expendable.  Get ready to play. You’re in the game whether you want to be or not. dice

 

 


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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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The Risky Trade-Off: How You are Taught To Conform

I tried to be a caring parent, providing a lot of positive messages to my kids while teaching them life lessons and tricks that would permit them to become successful adults who could participate in and contribute to society. More than once they would come home from school complaining about some rule which they considered to be inane, because it was a  no-brainer as far as they were concerned.

I had to tell them that many children were NOT being taught basic rules of community behavior that would permit them to fit in without negative consequences, so in large groups and organizations, like schools and like most jobs in their future, there were going to be rules that might be nit picky at best and downright rigid at worse. I also told my kids that if they didn’t know the rules in any given place just to follow my rules and they should be in good standing.

I never beat my kids. I did not like getting spanked or yelled at as a child and I strongly disagree with any adult who feels those are the only ways to get a child to pay attention. I think if you start early enough, the teaching can be done better. The problem, as I see it, is that many people do not nip a problem when it is small, and so, react in a larger way when it becomes greatly annoying. And being bigger and stronger only lasts so long with children.authoritarian

So, in many families there is a system of uncertainty for the kids. They do what they want and then boom! they are punished. For many of those people, as they grow up, they like knowing the rules. They feel safer when there are rules. They like having someone give them strict boundaries for behavior that will keep them out of trouble.

Until they don’t like it. And then they have no way to work through it. They have been taught to conform, to swallow any impulse to think differently. So, if annoyed by the power above them, they tend to strike at those they consider weaker. And so the cycle is perpetuated.

Right now we have a large segment of the US population who seems to like the idea of a strong leader who makes pronouncements instead of working with others. In fact, many people are confused with the marches and protests that have been happening since they perceive no threat to their own small world. Why is it some of us perceive a threat when others are not concerned?  It can not simply be that we are smarter but perhaps we read more and remember history better than others. Perhaps that reading and learning has helped us to recognize the clues of starting problems before they get really large.leadership-theiiry

We also are seeing many other nations leaning towards a conservative government. In fact, it is interesting to note that the one liberal government that exists in a major European nation right now is Germany. Perhaps their own experience with a fascist dictator taught them all they need to know.

Let’s hope that the lesson America is about to learn does not have a similar high a price to pay.

 

 


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Earning It

Many of you know I lost a husband to cancer. He was born and raised in Nashville and I learned a lot about the way people in the South thought and felt through his family and him. His mom was an orphan, raised by a family in West Virginia. His dad was raised in the mountains of southwestern Virginia. He quit school to join the CCC and after WWII, earned his high school diploma. He worked hard all his life, working their small farm before heading off to work at the Air National Guard. On weekends he also worked for an auction house. He wasn’t an intelligent man, but my father-in-law was one of the Salt of the Earth. His word was his promise. He always did the best he could, for his family and friends and for his community.  He was an ornery old coot in his last years and he definitely earned my love and respect.

We’ve heard it all our lives but here is Merriam-Webster’s explanation:

Definition of respect

1:  a relation or reference to a particular thing or situation <remarks having respect to an earlier plan>

2:  an act of giving particular attention :  consideration

3a :  high or special regard :  esteem

3b :  the quality or state of being esteemed

3c respects plural :  expressions of high or special regard or deference <paid our respects>

4:  particulardetail <a good plan in some respect

Some of us were taught to respect our elders. We learned the Ten Commandments dictate us to Honor Our Father and Mother. This is the 5th Commandment, the first after the four that deal with a person’s relationship with God.  Christian doctrine teaches even if the relationship is abusive, one must learn to love that abuser by forgiving their transgressions or acting kindly towards them or writing a tribute about them or praying for them.

First off, I am not a Christian.  Good thing, because this will not exactly be a tribute. And I don’t think I can pray this one away.

I am Jewish and based on rabbinical interpretation of the law there is no strong requirement to be respectful of an abusive parent. There is, however, a careful examination of respecting the position, not the person. I can live with that.

I am not talking about my parents, by the way. I had issues with them and managed to resolve them and reach understanding. That process was one of respect.

I am talking about another authority figure: our incoming President.

Some of my most conservative friends on Facebook tell me I MUST respect Trump because he will be President. I can not. He has not earned it. Perhaps he will. But when he says things like this, he has dug himself a hole, not only with me but with the majority of voters in this country.

Image result for trump quote about how great he isImage result for trump quote about how great he isImage result for trump quote about how great he istrump-5th-avenue

Right now I will respect the office of the President. I will respect it so much that I will continue to hold a high expectation of the role the person in that position holds.  Here are a few quotes about the Office by some of our past Presidents. Image result for respect the office of the president quotes

Image result for respect the office of the president quotesNotice the difference?

By the way, those conservative Facebook friends also believe spanking instills respect. One finally admitted she hated her father for hitting her. Her behavior modified because she wanted to stop getting beaten. That is not respect. That is fear.

It concerns me that the people who support Trump are ones who have had a strong authoritarian parent. They are used to listening to nonsense and accepting it. They are used to shutting down their own reactions to try to keep the peace. I guess that makes them conform to the Christian concepts mentioned above. If only they didn’t express hatred so much.

Meanwhile, the rest of us poor sinners will keep working to remind Trump that he has to rise to meet the responsibilities of the Office. helen-thomas-repect-the-office

Grimace or grin, Helen Thomas said it well. And any President who tries to muzzle the Press will clearly be hiding something.


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Basic Knowledge

If you’re lucky, you had a least a handful of teachers who significantly and positively affected your learning. They stand out among all your teachers as being special and teaching you more than just the subject matter assigned. They taught how to understand the “WHY” of what you needed to learn and if you were REALLY lucky, they taught you how to continue to learn on your own without needing someone giving you assignments.

Mrs. Umholtz was one of those special teachers in my life. I learned a lot in that 7th grade class. I learned about the stock market by pooling my dollar in a classroom investment.  She taught us poetry and made us memorize some classics like The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere (I know my friend Liz can still recite it!) and High Flight. More, I bet, but that’s all I can remember after 50 years.   I learned state capitals. I learned the changes in Africa as nations there were gaining their independence from colonial powers.  I learned how to research and write reports that included complete sentences and coherent presentations that the reader could understand.

I learned what many other kids and many adults never have: I learned how our government worked. We discussed each branch of government extensively. We had to memorize (oh yes, she was big on that) the names of LBJ’s Cabinet and learn  the responsibilities of the various Executive Branch departments.   We learned about how Congress enacts a bill and visited our statehouse in Trenton, getting an insider’s tour since one of my classmates’ dads was a Representative. We learned about how the Supreme Court, as the highest court in an extensive judicial system,  gets presented with appeals and goes through a selection process to only hear the ones that actually are about points of law.  branches-of-gov

Our world is spinning seemingly out of control right now. Arguments and fighting seem to be the way it goes now. Unsupported boasting is believed and causes distraction while changes are being enacted quietly in the self interest of the people who hold power, ignoring they are our representatives and we voted for them.

It seems in the past year my writing here on this blog has turned more and more to commenting about the social and political aspects of life here in the US and how disturbing issues are. Not only the causes but the fact that no fix is presented.  It seems we have become us versus them. It is hard to engage in any dialogue with anyone who does not hold a similar viewpoint.

Let’s start with some basics. Why not a system in our communities to educate all residents how the system works. What the community does to take care of the needs of all of us. But the basic understand must happen before we start arguing.

Can we do that?

And can we learn to present our opinion in a way that permits others to listen?

And please test yourself…..how much do YOU know about the basic issues of our nation?  This is the basic knowledge you should know.

 


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Not in Kansas any more

I guess I’ve been pretty lucky: in over 45 years of working I’ve only fallen into one job where the boss was, as I politely call him, a challenged individual. I served as the administrative assistant to a service office in a major hospital. The function of the office was to make sure all the electronic machines in the hospital worked correctly and for the most part everyone who worked there was good at their job and fairly easy to get along with. But the boss seemed incapable of building a team; he often made remarks that hurt the staff. After five months of trying to make the place work smoother I started looking for another job. One day he called me into his office, handing me a written letter. In there he told me I was the most worthless AA he had ever had. I looked up at him and said, “Why Mr. H, that is the most you have ever said to me and you still have not opened your mouth.”  Feeling I had nothing to lose I pointed out he had never trained me and if he wanted me to do something he could teach me.

His response was amazing. “It should be intuitive knowing what I want.”

“No,” I told him, “how can that be? You never have spent any time with me. I don’t know you except by your behavior. And that is nothing I care to emulate.”

Anyway, I was able to move on a little while later and he probably is still terrorizing people under his supervision.

The only other person who treated me this way was an abusive man who I foolishly married. He rarely spoke except to deride me, find fault and tell me I was worthless. But he, like the boss, expected me to know what he wanted without any effort of communicating it. It took me about the same amount of time to extricate myself from that relationship. And years to rebuild my soul.dont-be-a-fool

The point? Words AND actions are important to knowing anyone.  Listening to words that paint pictures with no basis in demonstrated actions means you better prepare yourself.

Today Kellyanne Conway, counsel to our President elect, has said we should not hold him responsible for his words.  Most of us had already figured that out with over 70% of what Trump says proven to be at least partially  false by various fact-checking organizations, but this is more. Conway is trying to do current and future damage control to things Trump tweets when he gets riled up, when he has something he feels he needs to say, or just generally any old time. If he is awake, assume that something potentially confusing/humorous/dangerous is being tweeted.pants-on-fire

So, okay, we won’t rely on Trump’s words for accurate information. Let’s go by his actions. One recent move as he plans to step into the White House in a few weeks is to have a clean slate. Understandable. But unlike all prior Presidents who kept experienced people in place until he had the authority to hire new experts, Trump has fired all current high ranking staff and appointees. He wants all ambassadors to come home. He has fired the people in charge of the nation’s nuclear weapon arsenal. His actions leave a vacuum of leadership within the administrative branch of government.

Now, truly, the working staff of all the departments that are affected can most likely keep things rolling along. However, there will be no one with authority to make decisions that might be out of the ordinary.integrity

And with Trump, we can expect nothing normal.