Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Now Open - Coffin Shop in the Morgue Waiting Room!

A serious question on Health care Reform - really. If you enjoy simply bashing conservatives and/or liberals, tune out now. I'm interested in hearing a well-informed, educated discussion regarding this specific issue.

I was discussing health insurance with a young person (early 20s) who told me they hadn't had insurance coverage since they dropped out of college at the age of 19 and moved out of their parents home. I mentioned that I had to go about 3 months without health insurance and how scary I found that feeling. I told them I would say a little prayer every time I got in the car that Jesus protect me because I couldn't afford an accident even if it wasn't my fault.

This person looked a bit perplexed and said that the emergency room is always free so they didn't worry about that. I responded that while the ER must treat everyone regardless of their ability to pay, you would get a bill for the services - a rather big bill. Yes, they said, but those bills go away if you ignore them long enough.

I walked away really thinking about that. This person really thought that the ER was a free service not because they don't pay their bills, but because the ER HAD to provide care to everybody. This person doesn't have insurance because they cannot afford it and while that concerns them, they don't worry overmuch because in their mind, that is what the ER is there for.

Now I have family that lives in Tucson, a metro area of approximately 1 million people, where all but one of the trauma centers have been shut down because too many non-insured people used the trauma centers every year and they could not afford to keep them open. This was several years ago so they may have been able to re-open some since - I'm not sure, however this is a perfect example of what happens when that mindset is prevalent among too many people.

So my question is this - what do we do about this issue? Is government health care a way to make sure people get the care they need without bankrupting the hospitals? Is private health care the answer and stop taking care of people without the ability to pay? If you go to an ER without the ability to pay should you actually get sent to the morgue waiting room to pick out your coffin? I'm serious. I've been thinking about this issue for a couple of days. I haven't done nearly the research on health care reform that I should, so I'm curious about what those of you who have researched it or do work in the health care field think. Politics aside as much as you can please.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Silver Lining

I love social histories - the stories of every day people. They are so much more interesting than political histories - richer, funnier, just more personal. The best thing is that our own families are usually full of these great little nuggets of history, it's just the challenge of getting people to talk about them. No one ever thinks that their experiences are that special, so they tend to not pass them along. It's those of us who come a generation or two later who see how cool that experience really was.

Yesterday I was given the gift of one little nugget of history. In the mail I received a heavy little package from my father's wife, Barb. My father passed away a year ago and Barb has been making her way through his things, passing them along as she knew he would want. It's not an enviable job as my dad could be a souvenir pack rat. This package revealed a small but heavy 10 oz bar of silver. As the story goes:

My grandparents purchased silver futures as an investment. Shortly after the option expired and they did not renew it, a Brinks truck pulled into the yard and delivered their silver! It came from the mint in the form of bars. Lots of bars according to the story.

The biggest headache of the transaction was what to do with all that silver. Where could they hide it? Should they sell it? Why hadn't they just paid better attention to the notices and renewed their futures?

Over the years, lots of things were discussed, lamented and laughed over the dilemma created by their investment adventure. Somehow the silver ended up in a basement storage freezer end to end under frozen fruit cups and pork chops. Of course no one knew this is where the silver went except my grandparents. I remember my parents helping my grandparents move and my mom asking why that freezer weighed so much. Grandpa said it was just a really good freezer! Now we know, it was full of silver in the bottom!

When grandma passed away a few years ago, the silver was distributed to her children. I never knew about any of this until my little package arrived. There's so much about this story that makes me laugh. My grandparents lived through the depression, of course they didn't think to put that silver in the bank - banks weren't safe. I now know why Grandma was worried about our going into the freezer too much when we visited.

My little silver bar is probably worth about $400. But I won't sell it. It's a reminder of where I came from. My grandparents desire to make more for their children than they had. Their sense of humor that my sisters and I inherited. The reminder that the value of life is based on much more than money - it's the quality of time you spend with your family and friends.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Debate Me, Don't Hate Me

Quite frequently I have had people tell me that my vocabulary intimidates them. I use big words they say. They can't follow the discussion because I use too many words they don't get. I'm embarrassed by this. And confused. I don't think I use big words. And it's never my intention to intimidate people out of a discussion - quite the contrary - I love a good discussion, I want everyone to join in and lets have a big debate. I love a good debate.

I grew up in an environment where if I did well in school I was told it was because I got lucky or the teacher felt sorry for me. Hence, I worked hard to make sure that I wasn't "skating" by, I read, I studied, I put myself through college (and did damn well I might add), but always wondering if I was "skating by" or was earning those good grades.

I always felt intimidated in the presence of smart people. I always figured they knew that I was faking it - I wasn't smart enough to be in the same room with them. So when I hear people tell me that I make them feel that way - I don't like it.

I feel like I have overcome a lot of those early issues - I realize now that I am a smart person, but it's a self made smart. I pick up my vocabulary through a lot of my reading and crossword puzzles. I love reading. I was a History major in college and for those people who decry a liberal arts education - poo. I learned to read critically, think strategically and write persuasively during those history days. I haven't stopped either. I still read like crazy. I love to write. And I love to have a good debate. It keeps my mind sharp.

I do all of that because I enjoy it - not to lord it over others. So if we're in a discussion and you don't understand my words - please be like my friend Amy who stops me and asks, "Wait, what does that mean?" Because we all deserve to be in the room. No one is smarter than anyone else - we just perceive ourselves differently. I grew up with two sisters just as smart as me. One knows it, the other doesn't. One is happy, open to others, confident in herself. The other not so much - you figure out which knows their own intelligence and worth. You're as smart as you want to be. After all, if Homer can say, "Ah, lamentably no. My gastronomic rapacity knows no satieties." and understand it, so can the rest of us. D'oh!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Bully Factor

It's one of the facts of child rearing - eventually your child WILL be bullied. You hope it will be later rather than sooner. You hope your child will handle it well emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually. But really, you hope it just won't happen at all - of course that's a pipe dream. Today was our day.

Zach was at a birthday party for his best buddy when one of the other party guests decided to bully him. I'm not sure when it started, but it apparently escalated over a toy car that Zach wanted to play with. He picked it up when the other boy tried to grab it from him. Zach tugged back but when he saw it escalating he backed of and just walked away (like we taught him) then the other boy tosses the car aside and comes back at Zach, pushing and hitting, Zach tried to walk away, but the other kid kept at it so Zach took a swing. Thankfully, the mother of the birthday boy (and one of my best friends) intervened and made bully-boy stop and apologize.

I am very proud of Zachary for how he handled himself. That may sound strange considering he took a swing at the kid, but he did everything we taught him. You walk away when someone is being a bully and unreasonable. If he pursues you or corners you, you don't escalate it to a physical confrontation, however if the bully does and you can't get away - you defend yourself.

When I asked Zachary what happened he was confused "He hates me Mommy" - that was hard to hear. We had a talk on the way home about why bullies are mean - they don't hate you, they don't like something about themselves and when they see positive characteristics in you it reminds them of their own faults and they lash out. Zachary is not perfect, but he has plenty of positive attributes and there is no reason for anyone to "hate" him. I know, I'm biased, but really.

The concept of bullies hating themselves and lashing out at others may be a bit much for him to get at this point, but I think he understood the basics - that there is nothing wrong with him and it's ok to defend yourself. That's my main concern. I remember what it was like to be bullied. It sucks, it pulls your self-esteem right down to zero. I don't want that happening to Zachary at age 6.

So yet another milestone in our journey together as a family. Zach is losing his first tooth - soon we'll have a new milestone. I'm sure we will all handle that one well too. At least it has a monetary pay out.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Boy This Generation is a Bunch of Brats!

Last night my small group from church talked about living out our Christianity every day. What does that mean? Well it means acting Christ-like every day in everything you do. Stepping up to help when you see an opportunity - some one struggling with groceries on the street, a neighbor who can't rake their own leaves, actually NOT getting angry at someone who is tailgating you, but blessing them instead (ya, I struggle with that one too). A big part of our discussion was those so called "little" acts of kindness vs. the big ones like adopting an inner-city elementary school class or working for a soup kitchen, etc.

What I think it really comes down to though is living like a Christian every minute of the day, not thinking that you are doing something kind or not, but that you are just being you - a Christian, isn't that what being a Christian is? If you act "Christ-like" during church activities but not during the rest of your life - is that emulating Christ? I don't think so.

So - what does this have to do with the next generation being "brats"? Well, today I actually got "tested" on my discussion from last night. Zach's school sells hoagies every month. They have volunteers who put the hoagies together on Wednesday afternoon and people pick them up Wednesday evening beginning at 4pm. I came by a little after 4pm and the volunteers were still putting the hoagies together. So I put my things down, told Zach to go play with the other kids and asked how I could help. I saw a need - they were behind and looked stressed - it seemed natural to step up and help. The volunteers were very thankful - I mean overly thankful. I said, "well, what I'm going to see you in need and say, 'I'll be back later have fun making hoagies?" But apparently that's what several of the other parents said who stopped by to pick up their hoagie orders. Wow. Ok, well maybe they were busy.

I put on my plastic gloves and started making hoagies. Sure enough, parents started coming in to pick up their hoagies heard that we were running behind and started sighing, complaining, yelling, everything BUT offering to help. One mother in particular had been there about an hour - she never helped mind you, just watched us all work, then asked me how long we were going to be. I told her I didn't know but if she wanted to help it would go faster. Oh no, she said, she'd already worked 7 hours that day and driven a long way to get there, she was tired. Uh-huh. Let's see, the woman I was wrapping hoagies with works nights, goes to school two days a week, has two children she picks up every day at school and is at every single event I have ever seen or heard of for St. Joe's. Give me a break. But that's how the story went all evening. At one point we had about 15 parents lined up waiting for their hoagie orders complaining, talking about how horrible we all were (right in front of us), rolling eyes, making faces, etc., but not one offer of help from them.

I guess what really burns me is this is a Christian school. We send our children to this school to be in an environment of Christian love and learning. But all the school can do is re-enforce - it has to start at home. I promised Zachary when we were done picking up the hoagies we ordered that we would go on an errand to buy Hot Wheels cars (Zach had saved his own money to buy these), when we got to the school and I saw that we needed to help I told him that was more important than buying toys right then, we would go when we were done. Zach didn't like it, but that's a lesson he has to learn - sometimes others needs come before our own wants. If those 15 parents had stepped up to help rather than disparage we would have been done in a half hour. Instead we were there until 7pm. So parents, if you wonder why your or other's children are selfish, impatient, perhaps you should look to yourselves first. When you have the opportunity to help do you step up or step in it?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Don't Evade the Census Taker - I WILL Find You!

Evasion of the Census taker seems to be a regular occurrence for some neighborhoods. It's a good thing I don't take these things personally. Rejection that is. No, no. For me it's a challenge. You tryin' to avoid me????? GAME ON!

Here are a couple of my favorites thus far. For all you conspiracy theorist nuts out there - no names or addresses are used so no PII (personally identifiable information) is being used and thus I may tell these funny stories without fear of violating my sacred Census Enumerator Oath.

  1. The old sneak behind the door and wait until I leave. Excellent - except if you live in an old house where the floor boards creak if you even think about walking on them. Hint: I hear you! I know you are there, that's why I knocked 3 times and called out "U.S. Census". I will be back. And you just look dumb. Open the door. It takes less than 10 minutes and if you don't want to participate it takes less than 1 minute to tell me that.

  2. The "I'm on my way out", "Just sat down to dinner", "I'm shaving the dog" but I'll call you when I'm done". Awesome, except you never call. Then when I come again you pull the #1. This one just isn't cool. You flat out lied. Now I just don't like you. So I'm going to stalk you until I find you and you submit or confess your desire to opt out of the census. BTW the "shaving the dog" one really was shaving a dog and when I came back they submitted very nicely.

  3. This is a version of #2 - you send your child out to lie to me. Really - can you get lower? Your child? How do you manage to stand without your spine?

  4. This one cracks me up - really. You lie to me and tell me that you are not the homeowner when clearly you are. I had one of these yesterday. Had been to the house two times already and it was a #1 (see I'm tenacious), asked a neighbor if they knew when the people were home (playing dumb), they told me that their cars were all there so they were home. I knocked - 4 times! And a man in his boxer shorts answered the door. When I told him who I was he claimed to be the babysitter. His neighbor across the street ratted him out by yelling across the street - "You ain't no babysitter _______, be a man and answer the lady's questions!" - ahhhh, cooperative neighbors, a Census Enumerator's best friend. Man was shamed into taking the survey :)

  5. This is another version of #1. After hiding behind the door you assume that you are safe and come out of the house to do yard work, auto work, sit on the porch, etc. I had one of these yesterday too. I was on my last run of the day and conned Zach and Paul into coming with me by promising a trip to Dairy Queen when we were done. We were on our way to Dairy Queen when exiting the neighborhood I saw a #1 type respondent in his front yard weedwacking. I yelled at Paul "Stop the car!" thoroughly freaking Paul out. I jumped out of the car and asked the man if he lived in the house. He sheepishly admitted that he did, to which I said "Caught ya!" He laughed at that and took my survey.
  6. And my personal favorite - those who are not thrilled to see me come back but when they get lemons, make lemonade. Case in point - I went to a house with three college boys on Friday. Only one young man was there that evening and he did not feel right giving me his roommates personal information - understandable. So my supervisor sent me out to try to catch the other roommates. I went again on Saturday. The first roommate was not too thrilled to see me, but being an intelligent young man, he realized that I was NOT going away until I got what I came for so he being of quick wit devised a nice plan for his roommate. He called up the stairs, "Hey _____, there's somone at the door for you". Response I could not hear. "It's a chick!" I heard feet beating a path to the front door faster than a 5 year old at Christmas. I couldn't help it, I started laughing immediately. He whipped that door open so fast. I told him two things, "1. That was funny as hell. 2. It's ok to show your dissapointment." He was a gentleman to the end, he gave a charming smile and gave me a nice, "nahhh, how can I help you." He then chastised his roommate for not giving me the information the previous day and answered my questions. Now THAT was funny. If you have to do something annoying, at least have fun with it!

Note for all Census takers out there - always kill them with humor, in all the above situations it's pretty hard to be mad at me when I'm laughing at myself and having a good time!

The Census was started 1790 and we have been doing them every 10 years since then. It helps establish our congressional representation, federal programs, etc. Maybe you agree with the Census, maybe you don't. I don't really care. It is supposedly mandated by law that you participate in the Census, but no one is going to force you. If you don't want to give information, just open the door and say, "No thank you, I don't wish to participate." That took less than 30 seconds. I think it's probably a whole lot less than all the evasive maneuvering above. Although the above does get me paid more (read waste of government money) and is much more entertaining. Chances are, if you evade me I'm going to ask your neighbors and find out something anyway. If you refuse, you put an end to it. I'm not going to ask your neighbors, I'm going to know that you don't want to be counted and respect that. So man up and answer your door for the little lady!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Hey God! Can I Be Mad at You?

A very dear friend of mine lost her father yesterday and she's mad. Mad at God. OOOOO, I heard the collective in-take of breath. But you know what? I think that's ok. She can be mad at God. That was her daddy. And from all accounts he was an awesome dad. And he was still very young - only in his early 60s. And from the series of ailments that he went through - survived cancer, but the chemo taxed his liver to bring back a hepatitis incident from a 70s blood transfusion that he didn't even know he had! - God seems to really be saying it was his time to be called home. My friend wants to know why. When there are so many crappy people out there, why her father? I don't think that's an unreasonable question.

Too often I believe we remember we are human in our relationships with each other but then expect so much more of ourselves when it comes to our relationship with God. We extol the virtues of communication with each other to make sure that we have good relationships with our spouses, family, friends, co-workers, etc. But when it comes to God, we too often feel like we have to accept what we think we were given and then be angry and snipe about it "behind His back".

Let me first point out that there is no "behind God's back" - he's like the ultimate supermom - he really does have eyes and ears everywhere - so you're not hiding your anger. And the only way we're going to find out why and how to make peace is by talking it out. Yes, talking it out with God. Feel like an ass talking to someone you're mad at who isn't actually in the room? Start talking to God, ask Him to come to you; you'll soon find you are not alone in the room.

Paul and I recently heard a great sermon on relationships with other people and one of the points that was made was about forgiveness. We have to forgive people even when they don't know they have offended us. We have to forgive ourselves. Well guess what - sometimes we have to forgive God. Don't get me wrong - I'm not saying God makes mistakes that need forgiveness from us - he doesn't. But sometimes He does things that are in our best interest, but damn if they don't hurt and make us angry. We have to come to a point in our walk with God that we have to say - maybe I don't know why, but I trust and therefore I forgive the hurt. If you harbor a grudge against God for anything then you have not forgiven Him. I think this is important to realize. We are human, we get angry. It's normal. What's healthy and right is to forgive.

Now let me add one more point on here. Some people get upset when I say God does things that hurt or are bad, so let me clarify. God may not actually do those things to you, but He does allow them to happen. Why? I don't know except to say that God's plan is always good and it's always good for you. Some of the worst things I have ever gone through have ended in very positive places and I see the hand of God in it. So did God take my father-in-law? I believe so, and I was happy when He did - Heinz would not have wanted to suffer. Did He give him cancer in the first place? I don't know. Was I pissed off when Heinz was taken from us? You bet I was. That was a fine man and we needed him. Was I pissed off at God? You bet. But we talked it out God and I. Give it a try, angry is no way to go through life. Oh and remember - being angry doesn't mean you don't love the one you are mad at.

So go ahead my friend - be angry, it is your right as a human being - just don't forget to talk too.