Archive for November, 2009


Post Turkey

The turkey was great. And the ham and the dressing and dumplings, etc. Most people made it for the family gathering, except those who had to work, like my husband. Still, it was good to be with family for a little while. I got home about 9 p.m. on Wednesday, made a quick little pie and then started in on our massive dressing adventure. I swear we try to make more every year as if we can pack in all the joy and love with the sage to make it tangible. In a way, I guess it does.

It was a beautiful day. Our family football game was small and slow – we get slower every year – but hilariously fun as we had a couple little ones who played. The concept of knowing which direction to run with the ball completely eluded them. Afterwards, the kitchen was full of everyone talking at once and dishes clanging and laughter. It was perfect, until I heard the conversation of the healthcare bill brought up. My liberalness is a complete anathema to the majority of my family. I cut my mother a glace. She knew it bothered me and thankfully the subject changed and I managed to hold my tongue. After dinner was served and we feasted I headed over to see my uncle. He is by every account socially conservative and yet as fiercely Democrat as you can get. I told him I wanted to come over to the Democrat table. He smiled and told me we were vastly outnumbered. We had a good little conversation about politics and his experiences with doctors, Medicare and the evident waste in the system that he saw after his mini stroke. Then I gave my eight-one year old uncle and a fist jab and a hug.

Card games and board games came out and the football games were on. I pulled up a chair and joined a game of spades with some cousins and the pastor of the church that the majority of family attends. I found it odd that not only would he play cards but that he would be the one supplying the deck. My grandmother would have had fit, cards are of the devil, you know. This seemingly unpastorish thing was followed by another. Halfway through the game, somehow the conversation turned to immigration and signs being posted in numerous languages. I was appalled that the pastor of a church would be of the “they should all learn English” ilk. A family friend and an aunt concurred. I was miserable. Do I call them out on this and make a scene. I didn’t and felt queasy about it. I just wanted the game to be over and to leave the table. My boy came up a little later and was teasing me about my language at home. I told him that there were times when you needed to hold your tongue in order not to cause hard feelings, no matter how much you wanted to say something. I don’t know if anyone caught my discomfort or that the comment to my boy was my lame way of telling them they made me so. Doubtful, but it made me feel a little better.

Later that night I related the incident to my niece. She commiserated with me and said that disconnect, the hypocrisy, was the reason she could not reconcile herself to organize religion. There is a lot I can’t reconcile. Like, how can my redneck cousin be a liberal? Or, how can most of my god-loving family be closer to the Tea Party than the middle? How can a church preach god is love and that Jesus took in everyone, tax collectors and prostitutes alike, yet begrudge a hospital having signs in several languages? How can some of my family members go to a church every Sunday and Wednesday and yet smoke and drink? How can so many of my family members be so narrow minded and yet be so nice in other ways? Family is complicated enough and then you throw in religion and politics. It is a testament to people holding their tongues that things don’t combust. I love these strange people, yet this was the first year that I was not sad to leave. I was ready to wash the dishes and pack up. I wasn’t upset that I had to leave at 5 a.m. to drive back to my home and go to work. I was ready to leave, and no amount of dressing could have made me stay.



As we all wait and wonder what is going on in President Obama’s mind as he decides on whether to send more troops to Afghanistan, this look back is fascinating.  For all those clamoring on about him not making up his mind quick enough, it gives some insight into the deliberations he must be facing.  I am thankful that he is taking his time.  Afghanistan is not Viet Nam, but the stark choices LBJ was faced with are similar enough to what BHO is faced with to make one shutter.


Slow Down

Driving home from work yesterday, I saw that a couple houses in my neighborhood had Christmas lights up. It seemed awfully early and I wondered if perhaps they were left over from some Devali celebration. Then it occurred to me that Thanksgiving was next week and soon all of the holiday lights would be on – and that Devali was a month ago. It is clichéd to talk about how every year it seems like time goes faster and they put out holiday decorations earlier and earlier, but damn if does seem like that. We fly through the week and wait for the weekend where we do all the things we didn’t have time to do during the week and then we go back to work often neither rested nor refreshed. From the Wednesday before Thanksgiving to New Years Day has always been my favorite time of year. I love the chance to be with family and the celebrations and time just together. Yet, as I think about it, those times seem to be fading. The family traditions scatter and there is simply no time for anyone to get together and just hang out. My family clings tightly to the traditions we have at Thanksgiving. We grasp at them and hold tight even as pressures try to strip them away from us. I will be going to be with the family this year as my husband stays behind to be at work. I will have to head back early Friday morning in order to work. That brief moment from Wednesday night to Thursday night will be the major event of our holiday season as both my husband and I will work Christmas. While it may seem trivial, it makes me feel untethered. All these mile makers fly by with pause or reflection and I turn around and it will be spring.


Pigskin Justice

Here is one for the “Really?” category.

The owner of the Tennessee Titans got fined $250,000 by the NFL for an obscene gesture. That’s a quarter of a million for flipping the bird to some Buffalo fans after his team had won. Now, I’m not saying it was a good thing or that it was appropriate, but, really! He is an 86-year-old man just pumped and excited that his team beat a rival team. It wasn’t like he was threatening anyone.

The NFL has taken its conduct policy more seriously the last few years under Commissioner Goodell and I understand that you cannot condone an old dude flipping the bird, but it seems a little extreme. Especially since a coach that was involved in a scuffle with an opposing player during a game only was fined $15,000. Not that I think he should have been fined more, that amount is in line with other fines given to players. Now let’s contrast both of those fines for relatively minor events – and again I call an “obscene hand gesture” extremely minor – with Tom Cable in Oakland. He hit an assistant coach and broke his jaw. The League takes cover behind the Napa County DA deciding not to press charges. Then this same coach has an ex-wife and ex-girlfriend come forward to say he was abusive to them. He even admits that he hit his first wife (open handed). There is a police report on one incident with the ex-girlfriend from this January. Yet, his fine? He hasn’t been.

So, hand gesture – $250,000. A history of abuse against female partners and an assistant coach with a broken jaw – well, you just can’t fine a guy for allegations.


Go Jump in a lake, Will!

I got the latest Newsweek a few days ago. As usual, I tried to make myself read George Will’s opinion piece. Normally, I get about halfway through before I can’t take any more of his pomposity and turn the page. Still, I try to get opposing opinions and generally he seems to be an intelligent man. This week, though, I made it all the way through and was stunned to discover he is a global-climate-change denier. Now every major scientist in the world agrees that the level of carbon in the air is reaching a critical point that will cause disastrous climate changes, yet Will’s opinion is that it is all hooey and he will look down his nose at anyone who dares disagree with him. Really, Will? Well, go jump in a lake. Better yet, jump in the ocean – and don’t worry, it is coming to you.

A new study is showing that glaciers don’t necessarily move at a glacial pace, the glaciers in Greenland are sliding twice as fast as normal, sliding ice sheets, lubricated by melt water, heading on toward the ocean. There is enough ice in Greenland to raise sea levels 17 feet.


Where’s the care part?

Here is a little story about healthcare. My mom has good insurance and is healthy. That’s not the problem. But her experience yesterday points up some of the things about healthcare that make you wonder where the “care” part went and how they can be so inefficient.

My mom has chronic back pain. She puts up with it without complaint until she simply cannot take it anymore then she sees a doctor. That is the point she was at a few weeks ago when they wanted to give her an epidural injection. She had had one years ago and had success with it. This time they wanted to give her two separate injections a few weeks apart. They put her under for the procedure and so my husband drove her to the appointments. The first of the series, like the one a few years ago, went smoothly. She woke up feeling good – the best sleep she had had in months. I swear she looked five years younger the next day. All those nights of waking up in pain can really wear a person down.

Yesterday was the second of the two procedures. She and my husband set off for the appointment early, as they requested, to fill out paper work. When she told them she had been in a mere two weeks before, they said it didn’t matter,  she had to fill out all the paperwork again. The paperwork included a note about two narcotic pain medications that she is allergic to. How inefficient is it to fill out the same paperwork again and again! She waits. They call her back. My husband waits and reads all the old magazines in the office. The last appointment took two hours. Two hours go by this time and nothing. Two and half hours go by and people are packing and leaving the office. Still, nothing. I am concerned when I don’t hear from them and call husband every little bit. Nothing. He walks back like he owns the place and finds her. She is asleep. She has been sick from the anesthetic. Her blood pressure spiked. She has broken out into a cold sweat. They have given her medicine for nausea and an IV. She opens her eyes when he talks to her, but is clearly not well.

The nurse fills him in. He asked the nurse to speak to the anesthesiologist. He is informed that it’s a “nurse anesthetist” and that he has gone home. He makes the nurse get him on the phone. After a very heated conversation, my husband learns that at the other two appointments they have given my mother propofol – yes, that propofol, the one that Michael Jackson liked. Now, the “nurse anesthetist” says there is a shortage nationwide of it, so they were trying to limit the use. They gave her a smaller dosage of it and combined it with a narcotic. Husband asked him if there was a shortage of propofol in their office. No. He had no explanation for why he changed the procedure that had worked so well for her previously. Looking at her paperwork, we see where she has written that she is allergic to the two different narcotics. That was never a consideration, that if she was allergic to similar drugs that this one might not be the best choice for her. There was no discussion of a change in procedure. They didn’t ask her about having a different anesthetic. They just did it. Husband stood over the nurse until he saw her write the name of the narcotic in her file and note that she was never to be given it.

Nearly four hours later, they wheel her out and my husband takes her home. I meet them there. She is so weak and sick. I am furious that they have done this to her. We help her get into bed and she sleeps it off. She is fine. She will be fine, but it didn’t have to be this way.

There is something to be learned here. This is a person with good insurance. She is in good health. Those problems, are just part of the puzzle. This story is the part about the care. You can find treatments that work. You can find solutions to your healthcare needs. Yet, it still comes with risks. Never go to the doctor alone. Even for the most minor procedure, it is best to have an advocate. Be vigilant. You have to ask, they will not tell you otherwise. Know what they are giving you. Know what they gave you before and make sure it is the same. If a change needs to be made, make them tell you about it and tell you why. My mom was lucky to have my husband with her. He is a bulldog in these situations. He will not back down. That is how you have to be.


All Politics Are Local

Before we all get too carried away thinking the elections yesterday are a referendum on Obama or the Democratic party, can we take a look at the big picture? When you step back a bit, the picture you get is a little different. You begin to wonder if the body politic is simply schizophrenic.

So the Republicans took the governor’s seats in New Jersey and Virginia. But, 56% in New Jersey and 60% in Virginia said that Obama had nothing to do with their choice of candidate. Obama has approval ratings of 57% in Jersey and 51% in Virginia. So, does it mean gloom for the Democrats? Of course the GOP thinks so. Yet, they had their own loss yesterday in New York’s 23rd district. The far right made a play for the seat bringing in the fringe. The third party conservative running against the moderate Republican said Glenn Beck was his hero and was endorsed by Sarah Palin. He lost when the Republican withdrew and lent her support to the Democrat. So, is that a referendum on Sarah Palin? Glenn Beck?

We will continue to hear how this election means something for national politics. It doesn’t. Corzine was unpopular with his constituents. His loss is not a big surprise. Virginia? I don’t get how the thesis that McDonnell wrote while at Regent University didn’t seal the deal for Deeds, but if they want to vote for a guy who thinks legalized birth control for unmarried couples is illogical and that women should stay at home… Well, I can’t make much sense out of that.

There were other points of interest from the elections. Maine voters voted against same-sex marriage. On the other hand, Kalamazoo, Michigan voted to add sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes in an anti-discrimination law and Chapel Hill voted in an openly gay mayor. And while Maine voters seem illiberal on the gay-rights issue, they voted to license medical marijuana shops. Breckenridge, Colorado toped that, though by voting to just legalize pot (of course it is only symbolic as it is still illegal in state law).

It is not all doom and gloom for the Democrats. The GOP had some victories, but the far right demographic had a setback. That is the most hopeful thing that I think came out of the election, that the crazies didn’t win that one. As a whole, the electorate may be a little schizophrenic, but overall the middle of the road will win out. We’re not that crazy!

November 2009
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