Simply ordinary observations from an ordinary person - sometimes having to do with health care issues, sometimes not. Topics will change as my attention wanders. Yours probably will too....

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Wall Street, Main Street, Side Street

In 1973 my favorite college professor told her class of disgruntled 19 year olds "Life is not fair and the sooner you learn that, the sooner you can start thinking and behaving like adults." I don't remember anything else about the class, only her statement. It has stayed with me for 35 years and I've even found myself repeating it to one or another of my nieces or nephews.

But right now, I am complaining bitterly about the unfairness of life. It's not fair that I have paid my mortgages on time for 15 years and am now paying a very heavy price for those who don't/can't pay theirs. It's not fair that people bought houses they can't afford and took out loans they didn't understand and that, due to them, my house has lost over $100,000 in value this year. It's not fair that my 401k dropped 20% in value in 4 hours yesterday and that I will be looking forward to a Tuna Casserole Retirement. It's not fair that the company I work for is being sold and that after working there 20 years I have no guarantee of a job in 2009. It's not fair that I try to stay healthy - eating right, exercising, using moderation, limiting alcohol, chocolate, and delicious fat stuff - but my health insurance premiums keep rising because other people are dreadfully unhealthy. It's not fair that I pay my bills on time, put a little bit in the bank, invest in my retirement fund, do repairs and maintenance, try to be a good neighbor, friend and citizen and in the end - I'm not even on Main Street, I'm on some crummy little side street or run-down, grimy back street.

IT IS SO FREAKIN' UNFAIR I CAN'T STAND IT! So sorry Professor Lutz, but I guess even at 57 I'm not completely an adult.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

That would be no.

Most of the time I'm fine with the fact that I'm not a mom. Once in a while I wish things had worked out differently. And once in a very great while I'm actually thankful for my childless state.

I was standing at the computer terminals in the library today when the 5 year old boy next to me asked clearly and loudly, "Hey mom, can I sniff your armpit?" I may have snorted - I tried not to! But mom did not even flinch, just wrote down her book selections and said calmly, "That would be no."

I ended up behind them at the check out line too - just one of those days!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Hope Full

It's hard to tell from my posts the last few weeks, but I am really not a political person. For the first time in my life, I have a yard sign and bumper sticker and I've contributed in small ways to a political campaign. It's not much, but I'm trying to do my American part for an important election. Two years ago I was full of hope - hoping that a candidate would emerge who could appeal to the middle majority and help heal the red-state, blue-state division we've had for 8 years. That hasn't happened.

So, I've adjusted my hopes. Here's what I'd like now:

I hope that we soon get tired of discussing funny sounding names, hair plugs and beauty pageant queens, animals wearing lipstick, views of foreign soil from front yards, inexperience vs inexperience, the value of diamond earrings, and apparent senior moments.

I hope we begin to look seriously at the problems the new administration will face: exploding federal deficit, trade imbalance, two unending wars, rising unemployment, rising health care costs, the banking meltdown, the housing meltdown, the energy crisis, etc. etc. etc. It's very frightening to look at, but we must.

I hope that whichever candidate "wins", he will accept graciously and then reach a hand in friendship to the other side.

I hope that the supporters of that side will do likewise with their friends, neighbors, and family who may have supported the other candidate.

I hope that whichever candidate "loses", he will concede graciously and then offer to help the other side in any way possible.

I hope that the supporters of that side will do likewise.

I hope that we can put away forever the red state/blue state description of our country. We're not on opposing sides - we all want life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, we just have differing ideas on how to get there.

I hope that the value on my home goes back up to a reasonable level, that my 401k regains some of the recent losses, that my health insurance stays the same, that I keep my job and that no one steals my yard sign.

I hope for all of the above for my family, my friends, my co-workers, and my neighbors.

I hope America is on a better path 4 years from now.

And I hope that now I can write about something else besides politics!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Hell-no, Dolly

I'm not a Sarah Palin fan. I don't share her political views or some of her personal values and I don't think she should be next-in-line for the US presidency. But I think these dolls are really, really offensive. Come on America - what is wrong with you?! I thought the Sarah Palin "action figure" was just a Doonesbury joke until I came across this on the internet today. (Yes, I was at work. My bad.) Regardless of our feelings toward her as a political figure, she's also a mother of 3 young girls - how are they going to feel about their country when they see their mom portrayed like this? Am I the only one who finds these distasteful and disrespectful? I hope not.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Me, Myself, and I

I am SO excited! Tomorrow I'm sending myself flowers. On Wednesday, I'll buy a box of See's Nuts & Chews. On Thursday, I'll open a bottle of Roederer Anderson Valley sparkling. On Friday, I'll go out to a favorite restaurant. And on Saturday, I'll have romance movie marathon! Why? Because it's National Singles Week, that's why!! How could I have missed this for the past, err let's just say "several", years? It's a holiday/celebration made just for Spynsters, so let the fun begin!

Actually for me, after the initial shock of abruptly becoming single wore off I was surprised to discover that I kinda liked being on my own. (OK, it took about 5 years to completely realize that but whatever...) Here are some advantages - other than the obvious ones like controlling the remote, eating cereal for dinner, and/or selecting "repeat" for all Patsy Cline songs:

1) Not having to check someone else's schedule when a last minute invitation or opportunity comes up. If I want to go, I can go. Easy and simple.

2) Watching 9 innings of Derek Jeter without having to pretend that I'm watching the game or that I'm a Yankee fan. Those pinstripes are awfully flattering on him tho.

3) Talking ridiculous, embarrasing baby talk to my two fat, lazy, useless, darling little cats. If I'm ever a victim of blackmail it will be because of a hidden tape recorder.

4) Experimenting with tofu recipes, for health reasons, without making someone else actually choke it down for dinner. Hey wait, how is that a benefit to me?

5) Not having in-laws. I know, some in-laws are wonderful, warm, loving people. The last one I had did not qualify. Besides, it's hard enough coping with one's own family - see Butt Ugly post.

OK, five is enough. Happy National Singles Week everyone!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Room 3406

Posting in progress....I've been sitting by a hospital bed in Oregon for 5 days, which is why I haven't been blogging. All is well now, but I need some free time to write the post. Coming soon. Not that anyone has asked.

Cookie Crumbs....

There are two political fundraisers this weekend in my town. The first, "Bake Back the White House" starts in about 45 minutes and I'm late delivering my "Obamazing" chocolate chip cookies. This grass roots event is expected to raise several hundred dollars. The other event is by invitation only, featuring an ex-Vice President and is being held at one of the smaller boutique wineries up-Valley. That one is limited to 100 guests at $14,000 apiece. So it will raise a little bit more than the Bake Sale. Their cookies won't be any better tho.

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Long Good-Bye

Several weeks ago our local hospital announced that it will be eliminating positions and laying off approximately 100 employees. The community is in shock. Letters to the local newspaper contained common accusations: incompetent administrators, illegal immigrants, inappropriate use of the ER by Medi-Cal recipients, overuse of the ER by the uninsured, overbuilding of new facilities, yada, yada, yada. Perhaps all of these things contributed to the budget crisis - I don't work at the hospital, so I don't know.

At almost the same time this announcement was made, a friends' 92 year old mother was hospitalized. I think her story probably has just as much to do with the financial pinch as the reasons listed above. It's also a very common story and is not going to have a happy ending for anyone - not the family, not the hospital, not the mother. It's a modern American health care story - the long good-bye.

It started when Mrs. Dee arrived for a scan of her abdominal aortic aneurysm, which she has done every 6 months like clockwork. Unfortunately, this time she fell in the changing room and broke a hip. She was admitted and within several hours was in surgery for a hip replacement. I was surprised that that was the choice for a 92 year old, but as my friend pointed out, " we couldn't just let her lay in bed with a broken hip". The surgery went as well as could be expected and she was out of bed and sitting in a recliner chair for short periods of time the next two days.

However a 92 year old body doesn't react well to injury and her bowels began to shut down. On the 4th day after the hip replacement, she was returned to surgery to remove intestinal scar tissue from something she'd had done 45 years ago. It helped but she was still unable to take solid foods. Nutrients were being delivered thru the IV and NG tube. After the 2nd surgery, she was too weak to sit so the recliner chair was removed from her room.

Tragically, she also contracted MRSA, was moved into an ICU isolation unit, and started on massive doses of antibiotics. Her mental status was still fairly clear but her speech ability deteriorated. The family now has to gown & glove when visiting her, and she has trouble understanding what they're trying to tell her through the protective masks. My friend made posters with pictures and basic requests she can point to, which has helped communication somewhat.

But she was still unable to eat, so she was returned to surgery a third time for placement of a feeding tube. This decision caused a family split - one half saying, "she's had enough" and the other half saying, "we have to do all that we can". My friend says that the doctors are honest and objective, but the family doesn't want to accept that Mom is dying.

Mrs. Dee has been in the hospital 6 weeks now. In July, she was spry and contented. In September, she is disoriented, in pain, and is dying the death that none of us wants. She has a new hip which will never be used, a barely functioning colon, a feeding tube, IV's, an oxygen mask, a squabbling family, and has not been touched by a non-gloved hand for over a month. She is being kept alive by the talent and marvels of the American medical system, and the stubborn determination of one of her children. Pneumonia is developing now and a ventilator/respirator may be the next step. My friend doesn't want that, but she's outnumbered and outvoted by her siblings.

As an outsider, the process looks cruel and demeaning - but because of the nature of my parents' deaths I was not faced with making those decisions. I feel fortunate for that now.

So, Mrs. Dee has survived for (an unpleasant) 6 weeks and Medicare will be responsible for the majority of her bill. From what I read, the reimbursement rates will not come close to the hospital expenses. And because her initial injury, the broken hip, happened within the hospital one faction of the family is not adverse to the filing of a lawsuit. They have already met with the hospital administrators and are considering "options". (Mrs. Dee's grand daughter told me last week that she has decided not to apply to nursing school after witnessing the verbal abuse and aggression her own family members have displayed. She still wants a health care career, but not one that will put her in the direct firing line of upset, confused family members. )

In the meantime, a 92 year old woman slips slowly, slowly, slowly away and my friend will be left with memories of a long good-bye. How very sad for everyone involved.

Thursday, September 4, 2008


The town where I live has a river running through it. It's not a mighty river or a fast river, but it is moving water. Actually, I think of it as a bi-polar river: placid and mousy most of the time but after a really heavy Pacific storm it turns into a Girls-Gone-Wild tart - rampaging through downtown, going every place it shouldn't and leaving us all with a "what-the-hell was that?" hangover the next day! It was in the placid stage when I first saw it after having moved from beautiful central Oregon. (Home of the Rogue, Umpqua, Willamette, Deschutes,Williamson, Wood, Illinois, & Iriquois rivers, just to name a few.) My Prince Charming and I drove across a bridge and I asked, "What's that ditch?". He was offended of course. That might have been the first clue that the relationship wasn't really sent from heaven... but I won't go there. Yet.

Anyway, the placid river running through downtown provides a nice venue for outdoor concerts, such as the River Festival we just had on Labor Day weekend. Luckily for me, some friends own kayaks and often invite me along when they decide to launch. That's what happened on Labor Day. We put the kayaks in down river and paddled up to the River Festival concert, to have a picnic and listen to the music.

The hardest part of the afternoon was packing the food and wine into the kayaks. Since there were 6 of us, we brought food for at least 12 plus the beverages. After some consultations and rearranging of packs, soft side coolers, and water proof bags, we managed to wedge everything and everyone in without sinking the boats or leaving stuff behind. My paddling skills were a little rusty on the way up - two near misses with power boats (jerks!), an inability to go in a straight line, and complete inability to stop the freakin' kayak before crashing into my friend. But we all made it to the picnic site and unloaded.

Of course we were famished and parched after the 1.5 mile trip and had all the food containers opened within 15 minutes. Could have done it in 10 but the wine came first, as it always should. It was a potluck picnic and pretty average by wine country standards: Zucchini Fritters with Fresh Tomato Confit, Glazed Chicken Tenders, Herb & Garlic Shrimp Skewers, Bacon,Avocado & Turkey Wraps, Cambazola on Crostini, and Artichoke Heart Parmesan Frittata. You know, just stuff you'd normally take along in a kayak. And the wines were: Roederer Anderson Valley (sparkling), Piper Sonoma (sparkling), Raymond Small Lot Sauvignon Blanc, Andretti Napa Valley Chardonnay, Dancing Bull something or other - and maybe one other but I don't quite remember what.

There was also a container of the most awesome cookies I've had in a long time. Those cookies were more powerful than Palin, more eloquent than Obama, more heroic than McCain, more compelling than Joe Biden. They were the Noblest of Desserts - chocolate-chocolate chip espresso oatmeal drops. I will not even admit how many we ate that night but, trust me, it would not have fallen into the "everything in moderation" category.

Neither did the wine consumption, as you can see from the list above. That's where the P.U.I comes in - Paddling Under the Influence! We had 2 drivers. One drank nothing and one drank very little. That left 4 of us who drank quite a bit over the course of three hours, including me. I was a little unsure about climbing into a kayak in the dark and finding my way back to the launch site. But it was fine. The water was smooth as glass, everyone behaved very safely and it was a really cool experience.

And as long as I agree to keep baking, I just might get invited on the next outing.

Beware of Dog

A pit bull is still a pit bull - even when wearing lipstick. In the end, you have a very good chance of being bitten.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Ho Ho Horrible!

Happy Holidays Everyone! The first Christmas catalog arrived in my mailbox today. September 2nd. 24 hours after Labor Day.

The season has begun. OMG, I still have so much to get ready! TTYL, gotta start shopping.....