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Welcome!

Welcome to my blog. Thanks for coming! One day I hope my little piece of internet real estate will be home to lots of family photos, pictures of my scrapbook and card art, with some random thoughts and memories posted on a somewhat regular basis. Mostly my world is very predictable, but occasionally some excitement will find me, so visit often. Who knows what useful (or useless) information you may find here.

cathyb

Friday, January 24, 2014

Food Face

The other day I was browsing around on Pinterest, and came across a poster that cracked me up.



Sometimes the weirdest things make me laugh.  But this one did in particular - because that's how all of us look when GiGi says she's cooking dinner for us.  I knew Whitney would appreciate this, so I sent the picture to her.  I included a message that said something like "I never got that face from you - but this is for GiGi"  To be more specific, I'm quite sure NO ONE has ever made that face with regard to my cooking.  I just knew she would find it hilarious like me.  Apple / Tree kind of thing. 

Smarty Pants that she can often be, my darling daughter sent this picture back to me with the caption:

THAT FACE PEOPLE MAKE WHEN YOU INVITE THEM FOR CHILI


Wasn't that mean?  I have no idea why she would be so mean to me.  But then again, this might explain it.

I get my chili from the Wendy's 99-cent menu these days.  Works out well for me (and the planet).




Monday, January 20, 2014

Lone Survivor

Where to begin.  I saw this movie on Friday, and still it haunts me.  And I hope it will haunt me for a very long time.  Military/war movies have always fascinated me.  I won't say I *enjoy* them, because that's not true.  I like to watch them, because I like the way they make me feel.  No, that's not quite right either.  I don't like the way I feel.  But the burning deep in my soul, the hot tears on my face, the searing in my heart - is a reminder of sacrifices made not only by brave soldiers, but by the families they leave at home.  Watching them helps me remember to be grateful to those who serve.  It reminds me that while I'm sitting in a climate-controlled comfortable movie seat (or my sofa at home in my jammies), that there are soldiers in faraway places whose steps are measured with danger. 

There was a time when it would irritate me to hear people criticize the government for all the wars and 'conflicts' that we involve ourselves in.  I blamed their "lack of patriotism" on liberalism.  I have no clue what it takes to run the armed forces, and how best to manage foreign policy.  But I will say this:  I firmly believe that if we were the same nation we were on December 7, 1941, there would have been no 9/11.  If this "sleeping giant" was still considered a giant by our enemies, they would leave us alone.  Instead they laugh at us and spit on us like ants, because they know we will not retaliate effectively. 

Our involvement in Middle Eastern conflicts seems too little too late.  The borders of our nation have been infiltrated by terrorists, and they live in our neighborhoods.  There may be one next door to you or me.  We can kill all the Taliban senior leaders we want to, but there will always be plenty more to take their place.  And even if we kill all of them, there is nothing to stop those living among us from carrying out their plots of destruction.  

Perhaps it is necessary to engage in warfare with these people.  But I'm thinking less and less so.  Don't misunderstand.  I will support the American soldier with all that is in me, and respect their service and dedication.  I just think I've crossed over that line and now agree with my friends who say we have no business being involved in the affairs of these foreign lands.  

Perhaps we would be better served to keep our soldiers at home, and track down the terrorists who live on our soil.... just biding their time until they strike again.  Tighten up borders, send all undocumented people home.  Stop subsidizing the education of foreigners who come here to learn technology, then take it back to their motherland and use it against us.  Stop arms trafficking.  How many American soldiers are killed with guns that the enemies got from America to start with?  Instead of worrying so much about background checks for law-abiding citizens to legally purchase guns, how about doing intelligence checks on foreigners before allowing them to enter the US?  I'll never believe that we do not posses the technology to weed these people out and take them down.  But we won't do that, because we've become such a politically correct nation that we don't want to hurt anyone's feelings (unless they claim to be Christian, then they're fair game), and we don't want to 'discriminate' against illegal aliens, or foreigners trying to come into the country. 

It was just a movie.  But when some of the scenes still flash across my mind, my eyes begin to sting again.  It was much more than just a movie.  As horrible as it was to watch, I know it can't even to begin to depict just how terrible it was in reality.  We spent 2 hours getting to know these four men, a little bit about their personal lives, and then watched them execute the skills necessary to complete their mission.  A fluke encounter with the locals was the beginning of the end.  For each of these men, there have been thousands before them who gave the ultimate sacrifice.  We would be sitting in theaters for months on end if movies were made about every mission gone bad, every brutal attack, every band of brothers who didn't make it back home.  

I have a friend who was an on point soldier in Viet Nam.  First in after a mission.  He never got over it, and requires mental health management and medication. How does one lead a normal life after witnessing such atrocities? It is hard for me to breathe, and my eyes and head will ache for days after only watching their stories. How does a human return home from war and not be changed?  I am old enough to remember the way Viet Nam soldiers were treated by those at home protesting our involvement.  (Does the name Hanoi Jane ring a bell?)  The memory sickens me.  Two of my uncles did several tours on a battleship during that war, and I would probably nut up on anyone who showed them disrespect for their service.  I once saw a stranger wearing  a baseball cap that said Viet Nam Vet.  I went over to him and gave him a hug and said "thank you".  It was all my constricted throat would allow me to say, and I barely got it out.  (I hope it was his hat!). The sight of soldiers walking through an airport just about does me in, and I can find no words - a high five, or my hand over my heart has to suffice. 

All the men in my close family are military men.  I my ownself decided to join the Air Force in 1977.  I had done everything but sign on the dotted line.  My physical was scheduled and a tentative departure date to Lackland AFB in Texas had been assigned.  At the last minute, I allowed someone to convince me that "nice girls" didn't go into the military.  I was ready, and I was willing.  (Of course, at that time, there were no active conflicts - perhaps that would have impacted my decision.) Shortly after that, I met the man I would marry, and a few years later, we had a child.  So there was no looking back, and it's one of those things that no matter how much I say "what if", I wouldn't change it, because I can't imagine not having my daughter and grandchildren.  

Freedom is not free.  That's a quote I love. And for those who fought the Revolutionary War, it is true.  For those who fought with William Wallace, it is true.  For those who fought against Hitler, it is true. Throughout the pages of history, the price of freedom has often been the bloodshed of war. However, I have a hard time equating it with what's going on in the world nowadays.  What we are doing in these snake-infested, godforsaken desert lands over there seems to have little to do with my freedom, or your freedom.  Bin-Laden is dead.  Hussein is dead. Some of their top guys are dead.  Tragically, many of our soldiers are also dead.  Yet we are not free.  We have become a slave to those who would harm us, and in the process, we are imploding from within as a country. We are prisoners of our own government and the terrorists who they can (supposedly) neither locate nor eradicate.

I hope you'll expose yourself to some of these terrible war movies from time to time, and allow your discomfort to remind you to be respectful and grateful - no matter what your personal political feeling about the military may be.  Maybe it will anger you, as it does me, at the waste of precious lives.  Hopefully it will call us all to a point of humility, and to pray (or send good thoughts - whatever you do) for these men and women, and the families they leave behind.  One day it might be our loved one coming home in a flag-draped coffin.  I pray not.








Saturday, November 30, 2013

My First Marathon! (Almost)

For many long years, I have wanted to be a runner.  Well... it would be
more accurate to say that for many  long years I have had spells of wanting to be a runner.  The determination to make it happen waxed and waned over time, and with each passing year as the (stupid) number on the scales climbed higher, the likelihood of it ever happening seemed less and less.  About two years ago, I started talking with a friend on FB who is an avid runner, and we'd talk about... running.  A recent visit to the doctor and an unpleasant experience with some medication was the (thousandth) wake up call I needed, and I knew it was time to get serious.  My friend agreed to walk with me and 'coach' me, and when I ran out of excuses as to why I couldn't do it, we finally got together.

I fully expected to die.  My job is very sedentary, and Black Friday shopping aside, I don't do much walking at all.  So I was a little worried when I realized our intended route was from SES all the way to the end of Broad Street.  This took us right in front of my childhood home, and up the killer hill just past my parents' house.  That same hill that I was never EVER able to conquer on my bike as a kid.  I was a little worried that CPR would be required before we reached the top of the incline.  Thankfully, I did not embarrass myself, nor was it necessary to dial 911 to come airlift me off the peak of the mountain hill.   We didn't quite make it all the way to the stop sign at Dooleytown Road that first day, but we got far enough over the mountain hill to smell the cow poop in the pasture by the road.  It was a defining moment for me when we reached the Finish Line.  And I was hooked.  We walked outside whenever weather and schedules permitted, and on an every-other-day-or-so basis, I diligently walked the miles on my treadmill.  (Even though that required some re-organization skills - as said treadmill had become a clothes rack and the walkway thingy was covered with unfinished glass bottle projects.)  We extended our outdoor walk a little further, so that round trip we were covering 2.6 miles each time.  So I upped my game on the treadmill to 2.6 miles as well, so I wouldn't lose my momentum.

Then something just happened, and the hands on my clock were spinning so quickly there was not enough time in the day to get the miles in.  It takes (me) a long stinkin' time to walk that far.  You'd think I would have all kinds of time on my hands, but that's simply not the case.  At any rate, before I knew it, nine days had passed without any walking.  (Hmm.. well.. that's not exactly true, either, because there WAS a shopping extravaganza expedition trip - and lemme tell ya, I did plenty of walking then, often carrying heavy bags. So I can rationalize missing nine days by saying that I did "weight training" for a good 12 hours straight!!!)

Earlier today I realized that it is the last day of the month - and I so wanted to reach my goal for the month.  So, despite a serious two-day/night sleep deficit, mental and physical exhaustion, and an extremely full schedule today, I carved out the time just so I could make my log  entry for the last day of this month.  And let me tell you what a challenge this was:  I made two trips to Athens this morning (between which I had coffee with DJ - who gave me some coupons for... oh, wait - that's a whole different story, but it necessitated the second trip to Athens).  Today was Ryan's birthday party (DJ's grandson), and I was having company over to watch the game.  And there is no word to describe the despicable shape my house was in.  Nevertheless, my stubborn self insisted on getting the numbers logged today, so I watched a little TV while I did the treadmill today.

And I'm so excited to say that I have completed my first marathon!! (almost)  Now, my athletic/runner friends might notice that I have chosen to phrase my words very carefully.  And they are wise to notice that.  When I say I 'completed' it - I mean that I walked the miles today necessary to complete the cumulative miles to make a marathon.  For those who know me, the fact that I have walked that many miles in one month is pretty wild.  As wild as I find it to know that many people run/walk that many miles (all at one time) in just a few hours.

But before you high five me and pour cold Gatorade down my back, I must confess.  I am still a few miles short of my marathon.  When I came in here to log my miles, I was elated to see my grand total of 23.2 miles.  

Until I realized that a marathon is not 23.2 miles.  It is 26.2 miles.  (Thus the "almost") Dang it.  I hate anything to do with numbers, and I've been so fixated on being able to achieve a 5K (3.1 miles) in one session, that I guess that "three" stuck with me and I was thinking 23.2 miles.  So, I'm a little bummed about that.  

But on the other hand, I'm high-fiving my ownself, because I am shocked and amazed that it only took me three weeks and five days to walk 23.2 miles.  Oh, and I might add ... whenever we are crossing an intersection, sometimes I do pick up the pace enough to be considered a lazy man's jog.  ;-)

While I'm sad that I didn't do as well as I thought I would, it's just like the silly number on the scale.  Of course, I hope the number on the scales will go down, and my miles-walked number will go up.  

I've set my goal for the month of December to walk 30 miles.  Not sure how often we'll get to walk outdoors, but there's really no excuse not to use the treadmill.  I'm already a little nervous about adding 6.8 miles for the month - because I know it will be a crazy, busy time.  But I'm hoping the resolve to continue will be strong, and I have the stamina (and time) to do it. 

But all the same - if you see me laid out on Broad Street in sweats and sneakers with buzzards circling overhead, please notify the authorities...

Monday, November 4, 2013

A Month's Worth of Thankful

Each year many of my Facebook friends do a really neat thing -
For every day of November, they post something for which they are thankful.  I tried it one year, but somehow I seemed to miss a day here and there, so one year, I just listed 30 things that I'm thankful for right here in a single blog post. One for every day of the month.  I thought I'd take that approach again this year, especially since I have already missed several days at the beginning of the month.

Some items on my list are lighthearted, and won't mean anything to all but a few. But that doesn't mean that I'm not seriously thankful for all my blessings.  There are far too many to list only 30, but here's a start, and after #1, in no particular order:

1. Jesus!
2. Grace and mercy - both the ability to give and the honor to receive.
3. The passage of time -for there are some wounds which only heal with the passage of time.  (And when I read this post from November of last year, I am reminded of this truth, and how far I have come.)
4. Three dear friends who are beating breast cancer - who fight with dignity and grace.  You girls are my heroes.
5. The most awesome daughter, and the special closeness we share.  She calls me The Best Mom In The History Of The World, Living Or Dead.  Love that girl of mine!
6. Surprises in the mail.
7. My kitties, a never-ending source of entertainment and company.
8. Daily devotions.
9. The Internet.
10. The opportunity and ability to create and craft things with my hands.
11. Our new pastor.
12. Saturday morning coffee with Debbie Jo (and all the fabulous meals they share with me!)
13. Closed doors and opened windows.
14. The best parents ever, who are healthy and happy, and able to enjoy life in their golden years.
15. The desire and ability to forgive and not hold grudges.
16. Sunday Night Church on the patio at DJ's
17. Cousins, Aunts and Uncles, Nieces and Nephew.
18. A job, a home, and all the "things" we daily take for granted.
19. Play dates and sleepovers with the grand kids. Little arms around my neck, and sweet voices that say "I love you, Greemaw."
20. A song in my heart, that even in the crappiest of times - though its volume may fade - can't be completely silenced.
21. The palette of autumn colors.
22. The best kid brother in the history of the universe.
23. The ability to see both sides (or many sides) of an issue, and listen with an open mind to those whose thoughts/beliefs/opinions differ from mine.  And the ability to respectfully disagree without trying to manipulate or convince them that mine are better, or more right than theirs.
24. Living in The Hood with the best neighbors ever.
25. The American soldier.
26. A story to tell.  
27. A great relationship with Whitney's dad and step-mom.  Former In-Laws and Bennett folks that I love.
28. School teachers.
30. A renewed determination to get off my butt and move.  Join me for a walk?

Wow.  It was truly hard to limit it to just 30.  I will make a concentrated effort every day of every month to not only have a thankful attitude for all my blessings in general, but to list at least one specific thing for which I am grateful each day. 

I hope you'll take a moment each day to remember your blessings. And here's hoping you won't have to look far to find them. Happy November!!!





Saturday, October 5, 2013

Shutdown!

President Obama is rockin’ the shutdown thing. He is stirrin’ up the stink pot.  Like a rock star at a concert, he stirs his followers into a frenzy.  A frenzy of fury against the Republican party.  The angrier and more frustrated Americans get because of the shutdown inconveniences, the stronger the frenzy will grow.  Seems like kind of a sweet deal for him!!  At every turn, he points fingers and lays blame.  And I’d be willing to bet that he’s enjoying every minute of it.

Elaborating on the fact that the FBI, Homeland Security, CIA, (et al) are short-staffed, makes us even more susceptible to terrorist attacks.  Which means that, God forbid, if there IS some kind of terrorist event, the Republicans will be blamed for that as well.   Everything that is a bad thing in the eyes of Democrats is the irrefutable fault of the Republican Party.  I suppose they get points for having Their Guy in office, and maybe that gives them the upper hand with The Media, (since we all know who runs the media anyway…) but do they honestly think that their enemies The Republicans don’t feel the same way about them?  That everything is their fault? For every rock slung in one direction, there’s an equally nasty rock slung from the other.

I don’t understand why the shutdown is the sole fault of the Republicans.  Mr. Obama said today on his lunch outing that “this could be over today”.  Yeah.  It could be over today if he gets HIS way.  Why is it okay for the Dems to stand their ground, but the Repubs are the bad guys for not caving? 

All that said, to be fair, I’m quite certain that if the roles were reversed, with a Republican-seated president, things would probably play out the same way.  The Rep president would be blaming the shutdown on the Dems.  It’s all in the spin.  I get that.

Reading articles and listening to political discussions (though I have learned not to believe anything I hear or read) is interesting – but even more interesting than the articles/interviews themselves are the responses from readers/listeners.  Every article/interview is, of course, heavily biased – which makes it fun seeing how people respond.  Balancing it out, realizing that real truth lies somewhere toward the middle of the extremes of both sides, I find it very interesting (and often entertaining) to read or hear the viewpoints of people from all walks of life. 

I was listening to talk radio today (with my cynical filter on high alert), and heard the story of a couple from Mississippi who has been taking WWII Army veterans to DC twice a year for the past three or four years. They spoke of their many trips with these veterans and how emotional it is, and how much it means to them to go. We heard the story earlier in the week about how they wouldn’t be allowed to visit the memorial because of the shutdown.  When they arrived, and were able to get in despite it being closed, they were astounded that there were more guards walking around keeping people out than there are normally guards on site when it is open.  How much more did it cost the government to “shut it down”, than it would have cost to just keep it open?

Another caller said her parents are in France this weekend celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary.  They were planning to visit the memorial at Normandy and the cemetery where two of the caller’s great uncles were buried, and the hospital where another great uncle was treated.  The parents texted their daughter last night telling her these places were closed.  The trip of a lifetime, to pay respect to their family members, and they didn’t get to go.

Jan Brewer posted that she had offered to use state money to keep the Arizona portion of the Grand Canyon open.  The federal government declined her offer.  Several businesses have reportedly offered to do the same, but their offers have also been declined.

Madness.

Regarding Obamacare: I read an article earlier today that said They are trying to keep people from getting health care. This is the disaster the Republicans hope to prevent by shutting down the government.” And “The reason the Republicans are prepared to go to the wall to stop Obamacare is simple: They are terrified that people will get it and like it.”

Really?  That’s the best they’ve got?  Republicans are “trying to keep people from getting health care”?  and they are “terrified people will like it”?  Those are some of the more  asinine  statements I’ve heard to date. 
  
I believe you’d be hard pressed to find any American, regardless of party, who would not agree that our healthcare system is broken and needs fixing.  Healthcare in America is a big black hole.  Most people blame the providers for ‘overcharging’.  And there are some who do.  But the picture is so much bigger than the cost of an office visit or an ER visit.  The major players in the black hole are Insurance Companies, and perhaps the biggest player (though his part is often unrealized by John Q Public), is the One Call, That’s All attorney who comes into your living room every day and night with promises to make you rich off the negligence of someone else.  Without tort reform, this will never change. Yearly malpractice premiums could feed a small country of starving children, and have resulted in the closed doors of practitioners and Emergency Rooms in many places throughout the country.

Those of us over the age of 45-50 can remember a time when, if you had three insurance policies, and you broke your arm, you might actually end up making money.  The insurance companies cottoned onto that and started coordinating benefits, and put a stop to that practice.  Then insurance companies started dictating what fees they would pay for certain diagnoses and procedures.  

I have worked in healthcare for 37 years – in many different capacities.  My first job as a medical assistant was in 1976, when the world was a much different place.  Doctors had time to take care of their patients, and the receptionist didn’t have to worry about calling five different automated phone numbers to see whether or not the patient could be treated at their office.  If a patient needed lab tests, x-rays, or even surgery, it was scheduled, performed, and the insurance company paid for it, far more often than not.

I’ve done my time as a receptionist as well.  I’ve made those endless phone calls to automated numbers, left messages for someone to call me back – while the patient sat in the waiting room for someone behind a desk hundreds of miles away to grant or deny our treatment.  I had to hold my tongue as a young mother screamed at me that I was prejudice against her because our office didn’t accept Medicaid, and what was she supposed to do? Our office did accept Medicaid for patients who met certain requirements:  those who were seen in the ER when our physicians were on service call.  This patient did not meet the criteria, and was referred to the office of the physicians who were on call when they went to the ER.  As the courteous receptionist I tried to always be, I attempted to explain the mutually agreeable arrangement between our office, the ER, and the other specialty providers in town, but she continued to scream and yell.  The irony here was that (at that time) with Medicaid she could take her kids to the doctor whenever they were sick, with very few limitations – but I, as a single mom working my rear end off, couldn’t afford to take my child to the doctor every time she sneezed, even though I had insurance.  If not for medication samples and the kindness of my bosses treating her when she was sick, it would have been really tough for me.  So, what I wanted to do, instead of stand behind the window and try to calmly talk to this mom, was to follow her out in the parking lot and scream at her, and tell her that I was a single mom trying to take care of my child too, and for her to get off her butt, get a job and stop depending on the government, and then I might be able to feel a little compassion for her.  But, thankfully, my better judgment won, and I maintained my professional composure. (And kept my job. Ha!)

Oops… not sure how/why I got off on that tangent.  My blood pressure went up a little bit just recalling that incident.

As a medical transcriptionist, I’ve spent many hours composing/transcribing letters of appeal to insurance companies who have denied benefits, or pleading with a bureaucrat behind a desk somewhere to allow a patient to have a medically-necessary procedure/surgery. 

As accounts payable, I have seen the astronomical amount of money it takes to run an office.  Numbers are not my forte – and those were some really big numbers!!!

As accounts receivable, I have seen the tremendous amounts of money written off based on the insurance companies’ “usual, reasonable, and customary” allowance. (Don’t kid yourself.  The insurance companies are a bigger part of the problem than they will ever be the solution.)   

As collections manager, I have spoken on the phone with patients who make every effort to pay their delinquent accounts, and also with those who couldn’t give a rip about what they owed. 

And on the subject of “doctors charge too much”.  Lordy.  I truly don’t need to get started on that.  This post is much too long already.  But I will.

Tell me.  When your loved one is in the ER after an accident with a bone protruding through her leg, or your child has been diagnosed with leukemia, or you have been diagnosed with a detached retina with imminent blindness – the most important thing in the world is getting the very best medical care available.  At that moment, money is not an issue.  Life and well-being trumps everything.  Many of us pray, but even for those of us who do, in these moments, the next miracle worker under God is the physician, and we want the best.

Until we get the bill.  Then we are sometimes overwhelmed, and/or outraged.  Especially when our insurance company tells us “your doctor charged too much”.  Who hasn’t heard that before?  Just another finger-pointing blame game.  You don’t hear “we need to make a big fat profit, so we’re only going to pay a miniscule portion your bill”, rather it’s “your provider charged too much.”

Yeah, your doctor “charges too much” because it doesn’t matter what he charges, most insurance companies will only pay pennies on the dollar, so the write offs for insured patients are huge.  Then there’s Medicare and Medicaid, whose reimbursement formulas are laughably pathetic.  The private pay patient, then, is left with the inflated cost, with nobody setting usual, reasonable and customary fees for him/her.  Many of these patients are hard-working, responsible people who will faithfully make payments every month for years on end in order to clear their account.  Is that fair? No, of course not.  It’s part of what needs fixing.  Other self-pay patients have no intention of paying one thin dime from the minute they walk through the door. Is that fair? No, of course not. That’s another part that needs fixing.

As patients, we complain that the doctor wasn’t in the room with us five minutes, never touched us, barely made eye contact, then charged us $120.00 to refill our blood pressure medication.  Maybe that’s because for the five minutes he spends in the room with us, he must spend at least another 10-15 minutes making sure everything is perfectly documented, arranging for whatever testing we may need, writing a letter to our insurance company begging for approval, reviewing prior test results before he walks in the room, etc.  There is so much more that goes on behind the scenes that patients do not see.

Do some doctors make a ton of money?  Yes, many of them do. And, while I have my favorites, and some not-so-favorite, I haven’t yet met a doctor who did not deserve every penny he ever made, and then some.  There is something wrong with people who think it is okay for an athlete (who may or may not even have graduated high school)  to make millions of dollars every year for doing something he’d be doing for free in the empty lot down the street anyhow – yet the man or woman who trains for 10-12 (or more) years to remove the plaque from your arteries, or re-route those arteries so that you can live another 30 years – has to justify living in a nice home, or driving an expensive car.  That is crazy talk.  We don’t begrudge movie stars, rock stars, country stars, or billionaire entrepreneurs their lavish lifestyles, but the surgeon who transplants a liver into the belly of our dying teenager has to fight with an insurance company to be paid for his services? Again – crazy.

Nancy Pelosi told us that we must pass the bill, so we can find out what is in it.  The article I read today said  “The lack of adequate cost controls and other problems like it are items that can be fixed once the program is in place.

Umm.. sorry, that doesn’t offer much comfort or reassurance.  Like they have “fixed” Medicare, Social Security, and the Post Office?

It will be interesting to see how it all plays out.  So many unanswered questions.  The logistics just don’t work.  Earlier rants on this subject can be seen here.

I do not like President Obama as the leader of our nation – that’s no secret.  However - as I say often: I only vote Republican because I don’t want to vote Democrat, and right now, there is no other viable choice. Party affiliation aside - the behavior of our elected officials is despicable.

I’ll end this post by saying to my Democrat friends who are on board with Obamacare:  I pray you are right.  I would like nothing better than for Obamacare to be the answer to healthcare that we have long needed.  I hope my concerns are for naught, and I would love nothing more than for all of the Republican doomsday predictions to be wrong.  I would happily give credit where credit is due.  I don’t care if it’s a donkey or an elephant.  I think I speak for many who oppose the ACA:  Now that it has been forced upon us, prove us wrong.  Please.


But in the meantime, get your act together, put on your big boy/big girl britches, stop blaming each other, get back to work, and fix this thing.  

Friday, September 27, 2013

Birthday!


My Kid Brother

An angel came down from heaven one night, 
(FIFTY YEARS AGO!!!!!!!)
And made a big sister of me. 
And though Mommy said it would happen some day,
It was not all that I thought it would be.
The baby smelt funny and cried all the time,
And Mommy, she always was tired
This baby was simply no fun at all!
If I was his boss he'd be fired!
But as he got older, he got kinda cute,
And one day he smiled up at me!
And when he was able to sit up and play,
It was then I was able to see,
That someday he might be a very good friend,
A brother I really could love,
And I could thank God for sending to me
This wonderful gift from above.

Through years of friendship, laughter, and tears, from playing in the sandpile to seeing who could flick boogers the farthest, from fussing and fighting to sharing secrets, from sharing cokes and popcorn at the movies to fighting over mom's fried okra:  This little boy has grown into the most amazing man, and I am so honored to call him brother and friend.  The problems of the world would be greatly diminished and perhaps even resolved if more men exhibited the qualities of kindness, wisdom, and integrity that are seen in my brother.  Even though he lived to embarrass me in front of my boyfriends, and annoyed the crap out of we girls when I had sleepovers, I can't imagine another person on earth with whom I would want to share my DNA. 

Michael - I love you with all my heart.  I admire who you are, what you have become, and what you are doing every day to make this world a better place.  I appreciate what you do for your family, and how you never fail to champion your big sister.   

You are my hero. 

Love, Cat 


Tiny little baby!


I decided we could keep you after all.
Vintage!


No fair.  You got the gorgeous eyes!


Always one of my favorite pictures of you.


Pals


Still pals


Pals for the duration.


Proud Dad!


Father's Day 2013





Celebrating with your beautiful bride.


Linda's birthday weekend on the lake



Doing what you love!


Wild Bill's in Atlanta

Jam!

The Band


Getting ready for Hippiefest 2013 (with a little help from Lucy)

Best Brother Ever. Really.

Happy 50th Birthday!!!!!!!!!




Friday, July 19, 2013

Morning Walk

My dear friend and co-worker, Cheryl, hooked me up with a daily e-mail called God's Minute.  She is in the midst of treatment for breast cancer, and has shared how this daily e-mail has often hit her right where she needed it (much the way I feel about my Jesus Calling book).  I signed up for it, and most days will give it a quick look, though I must confess, some busy days I just delete it without reading.  I almost deleted it today, because it has been a busy morning, but I opened it for a quick peek.

I absolutely love it when I come across a little love-note, seemingly written especially for me.

Tucked amidst the affirmations and Scriptures, I found this little poem.  And it spoke to me.

And, as it so often happens, this one is perfectly timed for my reading... on this particular date.




Morning Walk

          Amidst the dew of early dawn,
          I took a morning walk.
          And along with me, I took a Friend,
          For I felt a need to talk.
          I unburdened both my heart and soul,
          And spoke many things:
          Of plans gone wrong, of failure's pain,
          And how to live with shattered dreams.
          My Friend just listened quietly,
          And uttered not a word.
          For it was His time to listen,
          And my time to be heard.
          His sympathetic ear brought peace,
          As we walked this earthly sod.
          And I learned to trust life again,
          On my morning walk with God.
                                    
Poet, Barbara Cagle Ray

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Soggy Tumbleweeds and The F Word


Yes, it's another day of rambling thoughts.  And if I don't tell you now, I'll forget.  It's stuff I want to talk about.  I have a few hours of down time from the job, and I know you're just dying to read what thoughts are tumbling around in my brain.

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Mushrooms:  Odd little statues of fungi!  I've been joking for several days about 
the crop of mushrooms sprouting in my armpits.  The rain and dark skies just keep ON hanging around.  The ground is saturated, many basements have flooded, including at My Parents' House and the Bernius House, and yet the rains keep coming.  The Oconee County Sheriff's Office Facebook page posted this yesterday:  "BOLO (be on the lookout for) a large wooden ark said to be occupied by two animals of every kind. Ark is piloted by a man named Noah who may be releasing doves. The ark was last seen heading in the direction of Mount Ararat. Any contact, either hop aboard or follow to high ground."  

I'm beginning to think it is a personal lawn mower conspiracy against me - my 30-day return guarantee will expire before I get a chance to try it out, if this keeps up!!  The yard is a mud-jungle of soggy dandelion shoots, that would probably burst forth in tiny yellow blooms, if the sun would only shine long enough!!   A little bit ago I walked over to talk to my neighbor for a few minutes.  As we were chatting, I happened to notice this mushroom standing tall and proud underneath the pine trees between our houses.  I've seem them everywhere lately, even invading my flower beds, but mostly the ones I have seen are a whitish-tan color.  I do believe this is the first black mushroom I've ever seen growing around here.  It is quite large.  The dome is probably a tiny bit bigger than the palm of my hand.  I'm wondering if we've discovered a Shiitake farm?  I don't think I'll be adding it to my salad, or cooking it on the grill, though it's about the size of a Whopper patty.  There are a few smaller ones growing nearby, but I think I'll just let them grow in peace. Well, as peaceful as it can be here in The Hood - with kids and grandkids and golf carts and puppies and kitties... and all such manner of things that make up Home Sweet Home here in The Hood.  The only thing missing is a fat, green toad sitting nearby.  But we all know how I feel about toads, so....  

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Penmanship:   Before The Great Mushroom Discovery, I walked swam down to the end of the driveway to put some outgoing mail in the box. One of my clients sends me a written contract each year that I have to sign and return.  The old fashioned way.  With pen and ink, on a real piece of paper.  I can still sign my name fairly well, but as I started to address the (paper) envelope, the pen felt somehow odd in my hands.  I have arthritis in my hands/fingers, and the damp weather has made even the simplest tasks a little bit uncomfortable, but I think it was more than that.  I had to stop and try to remember the last time I had even held a pen in my hand and did anything other than jot down a phone number, or a patient name, or something really quick.  I was shocked to realize that I do not remember the last time I wrote anything of significance by hand. I'll admit it.  I'm totally electronic-dependent.  I make my grocery lists and Notes To Self on my cell phone.  I "write" correspondence via e-mail.  All my work is done on the computer. Today I have learned that I'm in trouble without my keyboard, and my handwriting is chicken-scratch.  Though my penmanship has never been what you'd call "pretty", it has always been pretty much legible and uniform.   Being able to type fast is my bread and butter, and as such, I can type up a three page report way faster than I can hand-write one paragraph.  I think I need to get back to the basics, and stop being so dependent on all these electronic gadgets.  How sad that holding a pen and writing was almost painful, and that the writing looked so hideous.  Maybe Corey and Leyland will let me use their writing pads for practice.  

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Pizza:  Have you ever wondered whether it makes a difference if you remove the cardboard thingy before putting the pizza on the pan to cook?  Nah, me neither.  But in case you ever did wonder, let me just go on ahead and tell you.  Yes.  Yes, it does.  Right now I'm having lunch, and I'm munching on my very own personal Freschetta Naturally Rising Pizza. I even added more veggies and mozzarella cheese on top to upgrade things a little bit.  The top looked nice and brown, the cheese was all bubbly, and the crust had done its "self rising" thing.  Took it out of the oven to find that I had forgotten to remove the cardboard.  In my defense, the cardboard was much smaller than the pizza itself, and the pizza so thick that I just didn't even look. It still tastes pretty good, but the center crust didn't get quite as done as it should have.  So, yes.  It matters.  Let me type write myself a note to remember to check next time.  

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All or None:  This issue may have been resolved and a decision may already be in the books, but I have a gripe with the Barrow County School System.  Mary will be attending the new middle school here in Statham this fall, and there has been talk about school uniforms.  I personally think it would be a simpler and less expensive (in the long-run) alternative to wear uniforms.  But - there's that rebellious part of me that says "why should the government tell us how to dress our kids."  I know there are lots of good arguments FOR uniforms.  No problem at all if you send your children to private school.  That's pretty much standard practice.  But I'm still not comfortable with the thoughts of the government taking away yet another "choice", or "freedom".  What's even more heinous than that, is there is talk that wearing uniforms to the new middle school might be "optional".  OPTIONAL?  SERIOUSLY? Aside from the initial expense, what parent wouldn't opt for uniforms?  No more arguing over what to wear to school.  No more missed buses because Jane can't find her designer jeans, or Harry can't find his Falcons football jersey.  Laundry would be greatly simplified - dump a week's worth of school clothes in the washer/dryer and be done with it!  Less pressure on the not-so-fortunate kids to measure up wardrobe-wise.  But, optional?  Who wants to be the kid wearing school uniforms (because their parents made them), while other kids continue to enjoy self expression in their fashion choices?  Honestly.  I hope the issue has been resolved by now. If not, then we need to refer the People In Charge back to that all wise and wonderful Dr. Seuss concept we learned about in The Sneetches.  That should set them straight.  Do it, or don't do it.  But do it the same for everyone.  Mandate it (which I still disagree with), or Forget it.  

*********

All or None Part 2:  And while I'm being grumpy about the schools, I also have a bone to pick with the State.  Pre-K.  I'm not saying Pre-K is a bad thing.   (But we do realize that our children are being raised 14 years of their lives by the government, right?  They are taught what is right and true and real... based on what our government wants them to learn.  Kinda scary!!)  But I digress.  Here again - Pre-K should be an all-or-none deal.  My grandchildren were fortunate enough to get selected, by some kind of random lottery system that I can't explain, to attend "free" Pre-K in the public school.  This program is funded by the Georgia Lottery folks, the same ones who fund the HOPE scholarship for college tuition.  Okay, that's a cool thing.  But let's be fair about it. We have a friend whose child (along with many others) didn't get selected in that random lottery thing, and these kids didn't get to go to the same Pre-K program that all the other kids did.  Their parents had two choices:  Pay to put them in a private program, or don't go at  all. That is absurd.  How unfair to the children, to the parents, and to the Pre-K teachers! Either make it a law to go to Pre-K and have all children go, or take it out of the school system altogether.  

*****************

HOPE:  I have long said that being able to go to college is a wonderful thing, but it is not required by law.  Children are required by law to attend school.  One study quoted by the AJC is that out of ten students who enter college with HOPE, only three will hold onto it the entire four years.  I understand that HOPE is the only way some kids could ever *hope* to attend college.  But... I wonder if that money wouldn't be wiser spent on better educating kids in grades K-12.  Even if it meant dropping Pre-K. College and Pre-K are not mandatory.  Again, I understand the wonderful opportunity that HOPE gives to a lot of kids, but many of these kids can't keep HOPE simply because they are in culture shock when they go from hometown high school to college.  Just because a kid has a 3.0 GPA in high school, does not mean they are ready for college.  And it seems an awful lot of money is *wasted* (for lack of a better word) on a few semesters of college, when that money could have been spent to better educate the student during K-12. However- Hear me clearly on this:  I am NOT laying any of the fault of crappy education on the backs of teachers.  Teachers are my heroes.  There are so many amazing teachers in Barrow County. My grandchildren have been blessed with the most amazing teachers on the planet, and we love them and truly appreciate them!! Unfortunately, they are restricted by what they can and can't do, or say, or teach.  Political Correctness trumps truth and common sense nowadays, and teachers are caught in the middle.  I say they do a fabulous job within the restrictions of the government, but WOW how different would it be, with technology today, if teachers were free to teach like back when I was a kid!!

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The F Word:  We all know the word of which I speak.  The one that stand-up comedians love to use, and that Hollywood loves to weave into movie scripts.  The F-Bombs that get bleeped on awards shows and late-night talk shows.  Well, imagine my shock and horror when one day my mom called me up and informed me that "Corey said the F word today."  Whaaaaaaaaaat???   But hold on a minute... GiGi's idea of the F word is a little different from everyone else's.  She has always hated the word *fart* and just cringes and almost goes into seizures whenever one of us says the word. (So, of course, we do it just to get her riled up....) I do believe she hates it almost as much as the "real" F word.  Nowadays the word is considered part of everyday language, and ... well, it just is what it is... and isn't even considered a funny word any more.  But yeah, it is kinda funny when Corey says it because of they way he pronounces his "r" sound.  So when he says "faht", it rhymes with "hot".  And my mom just goes off the deep end.  It is so hilarious.  So yesterday, I get an e-mail from Amazon.Com about a free Kindle download.  I have Kindle reader on all  my devices, so I went to Amazon to check out the free book.  Because I'm all about some Free Stuff.  I nearly fell out of my chair when I saw the title of the book:  The Boy Who Farted and Flew to the Moon.  I kid you not.  So of course I simply HAD to download the book.  It is hilarious, and uses the word so matter-of-factly in the story that, unless you had been raised all your life thinking it was a *bad word*, you just wouldn't think anything about it.  I couldn't wait to call my mom and read it to her.  She almost choked on her sweet tea. Then I called my Aunt Peggy, who absolutely adores the word, and we got my mom on a three-way call. Right there on the phone, I read them the story about of Tommy, a unfortunate kid with a serious flatulence problem, and how he turned it into an outer-space adventure.  It seems like silly stuff, although a subject that some (like Dear Old Mom) would find highly objectionable in the children's section of the library, and of little value literature-wise.  However, I say if it will get kids to read, and since it's not a foreign concept to ANYONE (we all do it, whether we talk about it or not...) then let 'em have at it.  There are some subjects, of course, that are inappropriate reading for children, but I think you'll hook more kids with a fart book than you will The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck.  (No offense, Ms. Buck - but I detested every nanosecond I was forced to read from that book!!!)  If a kid learns to love reading, it is their ticket to the universe, and they need never ever be bored in life.  So, Fart On, Tommy!!!!







For your own free Kindle version, visit Amazon.Com and type the title into the search box.  I think it will be available for free download until midnight tonight.  

And with that final shout-out to literacy, I shall wrap up this version of Tumbleweeds.  






Monday, July 8, 2013

Sunday Night Church (From A Deeper Story)

You know sometimes when you're thinking a particular thought, and you ask yourself "what in the world made me think of that?"  And then try to trace it back to the original thought that made you think that? (or am I the only dorky one who does that?)

Like:  Because I forgot to put some water in the fridge, I didn't have anything cold to drink. So I put a bottle in the freezer for a quick chill.  Knowing I would forget about it, I set the timer on the stove, because we know that liquid freezes and can sometimes break the container that it's in.  And then I thought about the cocker spaniel puppy we had when I was a kid that got locked up in the smokehouse and got drunk on some homemade wine my daddy made, because the jar froze and burst in the winter time.  Then I thought about the switches that my parents would cut (to stripe my legs!) from the bushes outside that smokehouse.  That lead to thinking of one time when we were kids and my brother told my parents he got bit by a kitten, and his finger was bleeding.  But the "kitten" was a tiny mouse that he found in a little nest underneath a bush out by the front of our house.  One thought just lead to another. 

So, when I found myself thinking about my brother's bleeding finger, I traced my thoughts back to my unchilled bottle of water.  Frozen things break containers.  Puppy dog got drunk from a burst container of homemade wine.  Bushes that grew outside the smokehouse had some awfully wicked switches.  Bushes in front of another house were home to a nest of mice.  My brother got bit by one of them.  Bloody finger. 

More often than not, these days, I can never make it back to the original thought that launched me to wherever I find myself.  Either I get distracted, or I stinkin' forget what the thought was that I was trying to trace.  Oh the joys of getting older!!!!

And now, I'm frustrated because I can't even remember why "retracing my thoughts" was an important introduction to this blog post.  ......sigh......

Maybe it will come to me before I push the "publish" button, but if it doesn't, well, there's just another glimpse inside the mind of Yours Truly.  

tick tock, tick tock.. minutes pass...

Oh, yes!  I remember now!!  Today I'm going to share a post by one of my favorite bloggers, Jen Hatmaker.  She is one of a group of people who post to a website called A Deeper Story.  I "discovered" Jen from someone on FB who posted a link to a story she had written about being a horrible mom by the end of the school year.  I loved the article, and her writing style, so I kept clicking links until I ended up at Jen's FB page, and ultimately The Deeper Story website.  (Incidentally, a Jen was recently a guest on The Today Show, after her horrible-mom article went viral on the Internet.  It was so fun to see her *in person*, after reading so many of her articles!)  

Her article is titled "Sunday Night Church."

It has been years since I was a regular Sunday-night church-goer, though I do have many fond memories of the days when our youth group was large and active, and we occupied the three or four benches in the back of the church.  We passed notes, secretly held hands with our sweethearts and sang the songs with gusto, at the top of our lungs.  Only occasionally did we get in trouble with our parents for giggling or talking, though I'm sure the pastor would probably have liked to call us down a time or two. Over time, I just got out of the habit of going.  When Whitney came along, we did family stuff on Sunday nights.  Then, for many years, I worked on Sunday evenings. 

We recently got ourselves a new preacher at SFBC, and that rascal occasionally does this thing where he does Part 1 of the message on Sunday mornings, and Part 2 on Sunday nights.  Now, I can't speak for the others, but I'd personally rather he just go on ahead and finish the message on Sunday morning, even if it means staying a little bit longer, because I really want to hear the conclusion. About noon-time you start hearing the muted beep-beep-beep of some folks' watches or cell phones, and no doubt he hears them too.  There's not many Baptists who are much interested in staying even one minute after 12:00. For the most part Pastor Mike has us out of there before, or shortly after, the alarms start beeping, especially on those days when he has a "to be continued...." sermon.  I'm sure I've missed some mighty fine Part 2 messages by not attending on Sunday nights.

But... there's this thing we do.  You all know that one of my most favorite places on the planet is DJ and David's deck.  Weather permitting, Saturday mornings usually find us outside drinking coffee (sometimes covered in blankets, our breath forming visible vapors when we talk)  This is our haven of peace, and the place where our souls connect with the universe, the place where we see rainbows and unicorns.  (Well, not so much on the rainbows and unicorns any more - maybe in the olden days when our cups contained something other than coffee...)  

For many years, DJ and David have had Family Night Dinner at their house on Sunday evening.  For those of you who do  not know, DJ and I are not actually blood related.  Yet we share the same families, by the scientific concept of osmosis.  I belong to her family, and she belongs to mine.  It's the most fabulous thing!!  And though I have been "family" for a very long time, it is only since I have been living in The Hood that I have been a regular attendee of Family Night Dinner on Sundays.  

Sadly, the passage of time has resulted in some empty chairs around the table, and we are missing loved ones.  DJ lost her dad, her mom, and her sister all within a short span of time.  Of course she has her husband, but two nieces, a great niece and nephew are her closest blood relatives.  To say family is important is to say we need oxygen to breathe.  There is no quantifying the level of "importance".  

So, we skip Sunday Night Church to maintain the tradition, and keep strong the ties that bind.  

Today Jen's post is titled Sunday Night Church.  When I read it, I felt an immediate kinship, and have a perfect understanding.  This is so us.  (Well, except for the part about the wine....)  And I wanted to share. 



Sunday Night Church

by Jen Hatmaker


If you didn’t grow up in Christian subculture, this will probably make zero sense. But for you who did, do you remember Sunday Night Church?
Listen, any yahoo could manage Sunday Morning Church, but SNC was for the die-hards. Having barely snuck in an afternoon nap, it was straight back to church at 6:00pm for the dyed-in-the-wool Baptists like us. We didn’t even play, man.
SNC was the canvas for looser programming, having already pledged allegiance to the choir, Sandi Patti-esque soloist, and senior pastor in the a.m. SNC was the space for traveling evangelists, missionary testimonies, Youth Group Camp Reporting Night, and my dad’s favorite…quartets. (To this day, I can pick out a bass line in a gospel ensemble in one bar.) You knew it was a whole ‘nother deal when the pastor wore his casual khakis and no tie. With those sorts of liberties, we were but one emotional outburst away from clapping.
But I’ll tell you why I loved SNC. As you might have surmised, it wasn’t the guest preachers or hand bell concerts. In fact, it had nothing to do with the programing at all. It was simply this: the youth group “went out” every Sunday night after church. We begged $5.00 off our parents and put one dollar of gas into willing drivers’ cars (<–true story) and unleashed a whole gaggle of young evangelicals onto the unsuspecting city of Wichita, Kansas. Mr. Gatti’s, sand volleyball, swimming, whatever. Once we rented a movie and one guy accidentally chose a horror flick with a little T&A, and as self-respecting True Love Waits graduates, we shamed him until he drove away in a huff.
These comprise some of my favorite memories.
I don’t even know if Sunday Night Church is still a thing, but let me tell you how we’ve carried the tradition forward. Our little hippie church doesn’t have a night service, but we get together with our two best couple friends virtually every weekend for “SNC” on one of our porches, which we’ve all named with inventive tropical irony. We know that after the big lunch has digested and the naps have been taken and the littles are put to bed, it’s time.
After sussing out the details over texts, we gather on someone’s patio with wine and cheese and leftover desserts, and we have us some churchWe’ve solved practically every problem on earth, or at least hashed it out real good. Usually SNC is for laughing and pure folly, such as watching funny YouTubes like a bunch of juveniles. Sometimes one of us is in the weeds, and we do a lot of listening. Occasionally we wade into theology and orthodoxy, as we’ve all stretched further than we ever thought these last few years. Or we watch football and pledge to finally break up with the Cowboys.
The same connective thread remains 20+ years after my youth group days: If Jesus is the heart of the church, people are the lifeblood. There is a reason He set us in community and told us to practice grace and love and camaraderie and presence. People soften the edges and fill in the gaps. While believers can wound each other beyond measure, they can also make up some of the best parts of the whole story.
We live in a strange, unprecedented time where face-to-face relationships in actual time and space are becoming optional. It’s tricky, this online connection, because it can be so meaningful and true, and I’ve personally experienced it give way to actual in-real-life friendships I treasure. But it can also steal from friends on porches, the ones who know your middle name, talking about real life over cheese and wine. I fear it is no substitute for practiced, physical presence, and it will certainly never take the place of someone looking you in the eye, padding around in your kitchen in their bare feet, making you take a blind taste test on variations of olives, walking in your front door unannounced, without knocking.
Maybe it’s time for you to start your own SNC. Perhaps it won’t start until 8:30pm like ours because of All The Kids. Maybe it will be a MNC or a WNC or a standing breakfast date on Thursday mornings where you become so regular you have “a table.” Whatever the opposite of fancy is, that’s what we’re talking about here. 90% of our SNC dates are in pajama pants.
Don’t imagine that because connecting doesn’t take place on a church campus it is any less sacred. Prioritizing each other and creating a space to belong is holy territory, whether a Sunday School class or a back porch. In a media world with a thousand accounts and profiles, life can still be crushingly lonely. When my online world has gone off the rails and folks misunderstand me and all the internet chatter is just too much, nothing fixes me right up like sitting on a porch with old friends, Texas country on the speakers, real life taking its rightful place again.
So here is my invitation to establish your own version of SNC…traveling evangelist optional, although I highly recommend the hand bells.
~Jen Hatmaker