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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

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

This Flag Thing

These past couple of weeks have proven enlightening.  I have learned new things about myself and my heritage that I didn’t know.
 
I’m from the South.  I love the Confederate Flag.  That makes me a bigoted, redneck racist. Right?  Hmmm.  News to me!!  I never knew that the Stars and Bars represented hate, and that by having an affinity for it, I was aligning myself with slave owners of 150 years ago, or the despicable actions of groups like the KKK.  Or that it makes me think my lily-white skin entitles me to opportunities not available to the brown-skinned people who share this country with me.  That’s really a strange thing to learn, since I was not only alive during desegregation, I remember distinctly the first group of black kids who came to my school.  I am still friends today with some of them.  
  
Was there racism then?  Of course there was. (But back then, we didn’t call it being racist.  We called it “being prejudiced”.)  Those were probably the most racially-charged, volatile days in history.  Did we hate them?  Not that I recall.  As kids in the last generation of a segregated America, we were more afraid of them, I think, and I’m quite sure they were afraid of us. I was in 2nd grade when that happened, in my small-town school.  After a few years, we kids had accepted things as they were, and for the most part, got on quite well.  We hugged each other after a basketball victory, we shared seats on the bus, we played on the playground together… we were friends.  That’s not to say there weren’t some troubling times.  In high school there were some really tough and scary black kids, and I tried my best to stay out of their way.  But, they were still finding their place in a fairly-recently desegregated school system, and had the roles been reversed, I don’t expect there would have been much difference. 

I will admit that my granddaddy did not like black folks.  He made no bones about it.  He was not alone, though.  It was something handed down from generations before him.  Til the day he died. 
But you know what?  He didn’t go around waving a confederate flag to proclaim his feelings.   I may be wrong, but I don’t remember a confederate flag flying at my school, nor in my grandaddy’s yard. Ever.  At one time, our Georgia state flag depicted the stars and bars, but that was changed in 2003.   I can’t even recall seeing a confederate flying anywhere recently.  So what’s all the hoopla about?  It's just a flag. 

I must agree, though, that the confederate flag has no place flying over a government building.  But not for the reasons you might think.  We are one nation - we should have one flag.  I don’t want to see the flag of Mexico, or China, or the flag of Islam flying over government buildings either.  Not because I dislike the people they represent, but because this is America.  America!  We need show allegiance to, nor fly, any other flag, besides Old Glory, our state and official local ones.

That said, if I want to fly a confederate flag in my yard, or wear a t-shirt or ball cap that replicates the flag, then by cracky, I should be able to go to the store and buy one.  And if I want to watch The Duke Boys  trying to outrun Roscoe P. Coltrane in the General Lee, then I should be able to turn on my television and watch it.  I watched Bo and Luke every week in the late 70s/early 80s, and not once did I ever learn to hate black people, nor do I remember any derogatory remarks.   

Does racism still exist?  Of course it does.  It always will.  Anyone who thinks we will ever achieve Utopia is delusional.  An evil white kid shot nine black people in a prayer meeting.  That is horrific, and undeniably a crime of hate.  Hoping to incite a race war, what he did was give some fine people the opportunity to show that goodness, forgiveness, and decency is not defined by skin color, and to show the most amazing picture of the grace of Jesus that I have ever seen, bar none.  The families of those killed are heroes. 

But because there was no rioting in the streets, and Jesse and Al didn’t stir things up, somehow the flag got brought into it.  Now – I think it was insensitive to not lower the flag – but then again I don’t think the flag should have been flying there to start with.  I can truly see that some would be offended that it wasn’t lowered.  But that doesn’t make the flag itself a representation of hate or intolerance.  There are some hate groups who have unofficially taken the battle flag of the confederate army and made it their personal motto.  But if I take the Christian flag, or the NASCAR flag, or the UGA flag and use it as a motto for something evil, does that make the flag itself evil?  Does that mean that everyone who displays the flag is aligning themselves to that evil thing?  Of course not. 

It seems there is an awful lot of pandering going on these days.  The basic arguments that it was rich black men who transported the slaves over here in the first place, and that northerners also owned slaves, seems to carry no weight.  The fact that slave labor was as important to the north as it was the south is often overlooked.  Without the slave labor of the south, the north wouldn’t have been provided with the products needed for manufacturing. It was a win-win for both the north and the south.  Until it wasn’t.  

Granted – slave owners mistreating their slaves by beating them into submission, ripping apart their families in the buying/selling process, inhumane housing, etc. is abominable, and makes for a dark period in our history, and I don’t think anyone is proud of that.

However – it IS our history.   I’ve never heard anyone say that the civil rights movement was an easy time for blacks in America.  It was a long, hard road.  We as a country have made such progress in this area, even in my lifetime.  I recently saw a poster of a black child and a white child giving each other a hug.  The caption read “We are not born racist.”  That is so true!!  It is a learned behavior.  

Racism will always be a big ugly mark on the face of our flag, but the confederate flag is not the ink that makes that mark.  That mark is made by the hate and intolerance of both white and black people who just will not realize that the more we “fight” racism by trying to eradicate any and everything that offends someone, the more we are perpetuating the problem. 

Don’t like the Confederate flag? Don’t buy one.  But don’t ban it so that others can’t buy one.  That is censorship.  Don’t like Dukes of Hazard?  Don’t watch it.  But don’t assume that what represents hate to you has the same meaning for me.  

If erasing everything that reminds us of slavery and/or hate is necessary, then it is also necessary to remove any and all monuments to the north’s victory in the war.  Heck, let’s just pretend slavery never existed, and the Civil War never happened.  How can you erase one part without the other? Don’t hold me responsible for something I never participated in, and today’s black people never experienced.  I have no problem with black people honoring their heritage, and how far they have come.  It is something to celebrate.  The act of celebrating emancipation does not offend me. But in the same vein, honoring my ancestors for fighting in a cause about which they were passionate (right or wrong) is my heritage, and should not be offensive to anyone else.  It does not make me racist, nor does it mean we I want to reinstate slavery.  That’s just absurd.  I understand that I’m white, and haven’t lived as a black person.  But what I don’t understand is why we can’t move forward.  It’s not about winning or losing.  There will always be a faction of people who think they are better than others.  This is true of all races, and even within races.  But until people learn to leave behind the baggage of the past, we will never be able to go forward.  If just one generation of people could let it go, then the next generation would be much more tolerant and supportive of each other. 

But until that day comes, trust me.  Watching the Duke Boys on TV (you just won’t find it on TVLand), or listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd or Confederate Railroad will not make you a racist.   Singing “I wish I was in Dixie” won’t either, even though it was banned as the UGA fight song in the early 70s.  Flying the confederate flag in your yard might raise some eyebrows, and may be considered by some to be in poor taste, but, at least for a while longer, it is perfectly within your right to do so.  Let’s hope that never changes. 


And as for the “lessons” I’ve learned lately?  Hogwash.  

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Going NuTS

The very technology that made it possible for me to work from home in my PJs is the same technology that is taking my job from me. 

If you’ve ever called customer service for just about any company, you’ve probably experienced language barrier issues with the person on the other end of the line.  We all know that the other person is not at the home office of said company, but rather on the other side of the world.  We all understand that it’s all about the dollar.  Someone in Pakistan or India will work for pennies on the dollar (and be very grateful for it), so our American companies send their work to those countries in order to save money. Thanks to the internet, working remotely means working from anywhere in the world.  

Sadly, this trend has been growing in healthcare as well. Probably the greatest area of this has been in the Health Information area, specifically, Medical Transcription.  If you’re not familiar with medical transcription, here’s a little speed course:  Your medical record is your health history, kept on file at the office/hospital/facility you choose.  The records are used to document many things.  Your personal history, your family history, your surgical history, your social history, physical examination, diagnostic testing, treatments prescribed, diagnoses, and plans for treatment.  These records are cumulative, and are referred to throughout your life, and are used to glean information when consultants or other ancillary services are needed.  Your medical record is a vital part of your health care picture.  Unknown by many, these records also serve as the tools for reimbursement.  Information from the records is translated into codes, which are then submitted to the insurance company.  The amount of reimbursement depends on these codes.  So, in essence, your personal finances are affected by your health records, as they determine the amount received by the provider.  The less your insurance pays, the more you are responsible to pay. 

A medical transcriptionist sits in front of a computer many hours a day, transcribing the spoken words of the providers into the healthcare records that make up your “chart”.  Nowadays there are no paper charts filed away in the dark basements of hospitals – rather they are stored within the bowels of data banks and computer systems, making them available at the click of a mouse.  When you visit your physician, or you are admitted to a medical facility, there is a documented record of that visit.  In the olden days, the doctors wrote this information in a paper chart, in their chicken-scratch handwriting.  Nowadays, he picks up a phone, or other electronic device, speaks into it, and dictates his words instead of writing them.  We MTs click a few buttons, and that recorded voice comes through our headphones, and we transcribe what he/she says.  We click a few more buttons, and BAM, it goes immediately into the electronic medical record at the hospital miles away from our desks at home.  We pour another cup of coffee, click a few buttons, and go on to the next patient. 

In the olden days, we were paid by the hour, as there was no real way to quantify how much work we did.  There are so many variables, the technology just didn’t exist to pay us based on performance.  But as technology evolved, it became easier to keep tabs of exactly how much work we did. An audit trail can show just about anything a manager would need to know about how we processed that report.  So the trend moved toward production-based pay.  This is good and bad.  The bad: We are not paid for any time our hands are not on the keyboard; i.e. no paid coffee breaks, bathroom breaks, etc.  The good:  We have the opportunity to make more money than we might have made with hourly pay.  Some MTs are very fast, others not as much.  As long as there is enough work for everyone, there is no limit to how much you can work within your shift.  If the backlog justifies it, overtime is available as well. 

I don’t remember the exact date, but either the late 90s or early 2000s, St. Mary’s sent the MTs home to work, with the proven notion that less distraction means more productive time.  This is now pretty much common practice among hospitals, and many clinics. 

To back up for a moment, in late 1997, I quit my day job in a busy orthopedic practice to do contract work from home, as well as my part-time work with St. Mary's.  Up until then, I had not bitten the bullet and gotten on the internet.  Once I started working from home, I wanted a connection with the outside world, so I got the internet, and joined several groups for MTs on line.  I started hearing the term “off-shoring” and “outsourcing”.  The natives were restless regarding some transcription agencies who were sending electronic voice files overseas…. Where labor is pennies on the ten-dollars in the USA.  We thought it would never fly.  There are too many risks with confidentiality (pre-HIPAA days), too much room for technical errors, etc. 

As the years have gone by, the rumbling noise in the distance has become the roar of thunder, moving ever closer, and nowadays, the way of American MTs is falling by the wayside.  It is a dying profession.

With each passing year, as technology recreates itself, and new capabilities are discovered, our industry has changed.  I started out on an IBM non-correcting Selectric typewriter.  Yep.  We’ve come a long way, baby!!! Voice recognition software has changed the landscape of our work, as well as point-and-click software you may have seen used in your physician’s office or in the emergency room. 

Over the past several years, our hospital has gone through two very significant mergers.  There are always good things about mergers, but the worst thing (that I can see) is the loss of autonomy within our own facility.  We’re not just our local hospital governed by our Board of Directors.  Many decisions are made on a corporate level,  rather than by our local administration. 

We were given the devastating news this week that corporate has decided to outsource our medical transcription department to a very large transcription agency.  We knew this was coming.  We just hoped that it would be later rather than sooner.  After the first merger, I made some phone calls and found that three out of the four hospitals I called were already outsourcing to a big monster company.  After the second merger, and the loss of even more autonomy, the nail in the coffin was placed.  Still, we thought (hoped and prayed) it would be years and years before the final pound of the hammer. In the spirit of ‘corporate standardization’, though, the change was inevitable, and the hammer has dropped.

The monster company has guaranteed jobs for us, with a six-month transition package guaranteeing current wages and benefits, which is the only good thing about this.  It sucks on SO many levels, but the transition package is better than unemployment.  Once the six months is up, the party is over, and we are left to sink.  There is no swimming.  The company is horrible, and I have never read anything good about it.  The name is Nuance (if you want to look it up yourself).  The official name of the company is Nuance Transcription Services, but the current employees (who hate it) and former employees call it NuTS. I've been following this company, and the employees who hate it, for three years.  My feelings about this company are not sour grapes just because I'm losing MY job.  The despicable way this company runs their business and treats their workers is well documented, and my notes go back several years. The information I could give you wouldn’t really make sense to you, but bottom line is, there are a great many MTs who can’t even make minimum wage.  One of my co-workers worked for them a while and said she will never work for them again.  Based on my research, I won’t be working for them after the six-month period, either.   

Our projected go-live date with the agency is slated for late November, then we have the six-month transition period.  This gives us a little under a year to find other work.  The youngest one of us is in her early 40s.  The rest of us are well into our 50s, some of us approaching the big 6-0.  Between the six of us who are losing our jobs, there are over 120 years of service to St. Mary’s.  Probably closer to 130 years.  To be very clear – this is not a St. Mary’s decision.  They fought for us.  It is a corporate decision.  But, sadly, St. Mary’s will suffer, and if you are a patient there, the integrity of your healthcare record will suffer. (So be diligent in requesting copies of your reports, or accessing the patient portal to make sure your records are as accurate as you possibly can.)  It is not only a sad day for my peeps and myself, it is a sad day for our beloved hospital, and our community.  The goal of this monster company is to make it so horrible that the American MT can’t work under those conditions.  As one American MT quits, that job is given to a non-English-speaking “transcriptionist” in India. The company has created 3,000 new jobs for Indian MTs – so they are at the ready when we are dropping like flies.  Why pay me a DESPICABLE 6 cents for one line (after the six month transition period to a NuTS employee) when they can pay an Indian MT 1 cent for 50 lines?  And they are happy to get it.  They just want to feed their babies the same as we do.  It’s all about the dollar.  I understand receipts are down, Obamacare will soon have reimbursements at the Medicaid level, etc., etc.  Times are tough.  I get that costs need to be cut wherever they can. But IMO, selling out to foreigners is an abomination, (in any industry.)  Especially to people who cannot produce adequate, quality work, for such an important product:  Your healthcare records!!! 

It has been such a pleasure working for a hospital that values our work, and recognizes the contribution we make to the total package of patient care.  They know that our loyalty to our facility, our doctors, our patients, and each other, is a very valuable asset – something that money can’t buy.  Our local management is upset about this, but like us, knew it was a reality at some point.  At least we are able to leave with the knowledge and dignity that our local management cares about us - even though corporate only sees a bunch of numbers on a spreadsheet.

I am heartbroken at the thoughts of leaving my little work family of MTs, which also includes our supervisor.  Even though she will stay on at the hospital to manage the incoming reports, she is one of us.  She is taking this very hard, and is as devastated as we are.  I love these women.  Three of them I’ve worked with since 1992.  Though not a full-time employee there since 1992, I have stayed on the payroll all these years, with only a few years that I haven’t worked there in some capacity, whether it was p.r.n., part-time, or full-time.  These are my peeps.  We love each other.  We coordinate our schedules to cover for each other whenever needed.  We pray for each other.  We laugh together, and cry together. We rejoice at the weddings of our children, the births of our grandbabies, and we mourn at the loss of friends, family, and pets.  We are family.  We love our hospital and our patients. We love our doctors.  (Well, most of them… lol…)  We know what needs to be done, and we do it. We have been through so much together. Advancement of technology, implementation of the electronic medical record, and strategizing to make our department pretty much run itself.  A well-oiled machine, if you will.  We are heartbroken. 

Losing a job you love, with a company you love, with people you love is devastating.  The collateral effects are as well.  My grandchildren stay with me after school and during the summer.  One co-worker’s mom has Alzheimer’s, and with this job she is able to keep her home and be with her during the day.  

Not to mention the financial part of it.  Why do we work?  Because we like to eat and live indoors, and be able to pay our bills.  Oddly, (well, not really), I am at peace with that.  My faith tells me that God will bear me through yet another pothole in this road of life.  Every one of us MTs have fought battles – HUGE battles – and faced many challenges that have shaken us to the core within the past five years.  Yet our faith has sustained and strengthened us.  I have absolutely no idea where we will go from here.  Any of us.  We all know we will not be able to work for the monster company.  But we all know that God will sustain us – in some way.  I am sick about the whole thing, but I am not panicking about my future.  If you’ve read my Facebook posts lately where I’ve shared my daily devotional readings – now perhaps they make more sense.  :-)  It is truly a God thing to be given the words of reassurance that these readings have given me.  Perhaps my future will be very bleak, and I’ll find myself and my three kitties living in a refrigerator box under a bridge.  Perhaps as time goes by (and my goodness, does it fly by these days!!!)…. Perhaps as time goes by I will find myself more anxious and closer to hitting the panic button.  I don’t know.  But for right now, this moment, for this day – this week that just passed – I am thankful for a peaceful heart. From you, my friends, I would ask a prayer, a good thought  – for myself and my co-workers.  We’d sure appreciate it.  

Saturday, February 14, 2015

SAD


Another Valentine’s Day has come, and has almost gone.  We unattached folk often refer to it as Single Awareness Day. (Or Happy 50% Chocolate Tomorrow Day).  

It is true –  I’ve had more Single Awareness Days as an adult than I have had as someone’s Valentine.  I had pretty much gotten used to it, and learned to enjoy making it a special day for my daughter, and later my grandchildren.  Then along came my Prince.  Our first Valentine’s day was so much fun!  When I opened the card from him I almost burst with excitement, and started laughing.  When he asked me what was so funny, I told him to open his card.  We had gotten each other the exact same card!!  We were married a few months later and I felt like the luckiest girl on the planet.  Y’all know the story, so I won’t revisit that.  Except to say the following Valentine’s day found me terribly upset, and ready to forget the whole thing.  I had not bought a card, and had no intention of even acknowledging the day (nor had he, before leaving for work that morning.)  Around 3:00 that afternoon, my stepson asked me what was wrong, and I burst into tears and had a very long heart-to-heart with him, bearing my soul about a deep concern.  By some miracle, he was able to convince me that my fears were unfounded, and my concern unnecessary.  At the last minute I ran out to The Prince’s favorite restaurant for his favorite takeout meal, set a special table with flowers and heart confetti, lit some candles, put some nice music on the stereo, and dimmed the lights for a nice romantic dinner.  A quick shower before he got home from work and I was ready for the evening. 

Several weeks later, there was a very unpleasant event, and the fear returned in full force.  A few short months later, I was devastated to learn that my concerns did indeed have merit, and my marriage was over.  My Prince turned into a Toad. 
   
Is it easy to endure Single Awareness Day?  For sure, it’s the butt of a lot of jokes, and brings to memory happier times now lost that can make me sad, but like every other difficulty in life, it seems to get more bearable each time it comes around.  The first one was kind of like ripping open an old wound, but with each passing year, the scar is a little lighter, and the wound not as visible. 

Because I work at home, I’ve become somewhat of a self-imposed recluse… and I rather like it.  I haven’t totally lost my social graces, and do enjoy being around others, but at times I have to almost force myself to leave the house (which means getting out of my pajamas and wearing shoes).  I know I’ll enjoy the outing once I get there, but making the effort to be sociable is sometimes a bit much. 

Since the early 90s, I have been a wall builder.  I have many friends and acquaintances.  I’m totally blessed
in that regard.  I love many, and am loved by many.  But as the years go by, I find that not only am I a wall builder, but my walls have layers.  (Think – the Pentagon – haha).  There is definitely an inner sanctum, where very few are allowed to enter.  Of course my family is always there.  But I need fewer fingers than one hand to name the other people allowed into my safe place.  My True North people.  And I can probably count with less than ten fingers the number of people in the next layer.  That’s not to say I don’t love my other friends, I do.  I love them all.  Just in a different way, ya know?

There was a time in my life when a bad decision led to my being disloyal to people I loved.  My biggest mistake, and my greatest regret ever.  That’s not who I am.   A price was paid by many, and I still pay it every day.  For me to say lack of integrity, dishonesty, and disloyalty is something I abhor and cannot tolerate might seem difficult to understand for those whom I have hurt.  Perhaps it is a result of my own indiscretion that I now find it so appalling.  And when I see it in others, it reminds me of what I inflicted on loved ones during a very dark time in my life.

Grace, mercy, and forgiveness are amazing.  I have both received them, and I have given them.  I am especially grateful that my heart is not bitter, and I am not a grudge-bearer to those who have hurt me. I am grateful, as well, that the hearts I destroyed hold no bitterness toward me.  Well worth the time it took to get to this place.

Forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting.  If I punch you in the face and give you a black eye, you may forgive me.  But you’ll remember it every time you look in the mirror for a few days.  And the next time we’re together, if I raise my arm to swat a fly, you’re probably gonna duck.  Because you won’t forget that time I slugged you.  And you’re gonna protect yourself from me doing it again.  Same with me.  There are those whose betrayal cut me like a knife.  Friends, co-workers, relationships. I forgave, but will protect myself from it happening again.  

Hence the walls around my heart.  It’s safe in my innermost sanctum, and if someone isn’t there already,
there’s probably not much hope of getting there.  Not that it’s a place most people would want to be.  Hahaha.  It’s the place where I do the ugly cry, and open up my deepest feelings.  Right outside the place where Jesus lives, is this inner sanctum of mine.  It’s not made of red paper with glitter and lace, rather of intricately-formed muscle that forces the life blood through my veins, and is considered by many to be the center of our emotions. 

No wonder the shape of a heart is the symbol for Valentine’s Day.  It is from our hearts that we love.  And it is in our hearts that we who are sad, feel the loneliness the most.

For the last three V-Days, DJ has made sure that I am remembered and made to feel special.  Cards and meaningful gifts that make me feel appreciated and loved, and less inclined to be SAD (on Singles Awareness Day -SAD-, get it? Ha!)  The sweetest card ever, and Reece’s (my fave) hearts made my day extra special today, as well as sharing a couple of pots of coffee on this chilly morning.  J  Love you, DJ!!!!



I recently made a new friend, who has already become an amazing source of encouragement, especially with regard to finishing the book I started several years ago.  There are those people born with the gift of exhortation, and Mimi exudes it beautifully with kind words, thoughtful gestures, and a call to action.  What a surprise to find in the mail this week a Valentine’s card and a beautiful angel who now watches over me from atop my desk.  Thank you, Mimi, for thinking of me.  You only recently heard my story, because you asked me about my dreams, what makes me tick, and what events brought me to where I am today. And it was so kind of you to remember me in this way. That I was so compelled to share my story with you, a person “outside” my walls, speaks to your gift of connecting with people.

Leyliebug brought me a handmade card that she made while spending the day here yesterday.  Whitney, Dustin, and the children are the brightest spot of each day, and I treasure the sweet things that Mary, Leyland, and Corey say and do for their Greemaw – who loves them so very much. My life is richly blessed.



  

Single Awareness Day will always be a glaring reality every time cupid starts floating around with that stupid bow and arrow.  But I know that with the passage of even more time, it can again become a source of happiness, and an opportunity to do for others.  I remember before The Prince (aka The Toad) came along, I once sent a Valentine’s card to all the widowed ladies in my church.  I was astounded at their response.  In the end, I don’t know who was more blessed – the wonderful ladies, or myself – because of the joy it brought me to see them so excited.  It’s really true – doing for other people helps you take your eyes off yourself, and focus on their needs rather than your own.    

Only an hour or so left of SAD 2015. We've made it through another one!  While I’m sure I’ll never take off
my arrow-proof vest, and will hide from Cupid at all costs, I’m thinking that in the future, my energy will be better spent in making sure other lonely hearts are made to feel as blessed as I have been made to feel today.




If you have a special someone to love, I hope you were able to enjoy some sweet time today, and show special appreciation.  I challenge you to make every day Valentine’s Day, and make sure a day doesn’t pass without your partner knowing how much he or she is loved by you.  Never make them question.  Show them every day.

If you didn’t have that special person with whom to celebrate the day, I’m sending a special hug your way.  Though it is a rather silly, overly-commercialized holiday, I understand and have experienced the emotions it can invoke for those who are lonely.  But it’s almost over!  No more cupid crap til next year!  Tomorrow is a new day!! 



And Glen Burns says it’s gonna snow in Georgia!  So go out tomorrow, buy your milk and bread, and pick up a few bags of chocolate at 50% off!


Saturday, February 7, 2015

Fifty Shades of Lego Bricks



FIFTY SHADES OF LEGO?
My "I'm not a prude" status may be in question these days.  I'm all about live and let live, and don't judge others, etc.  I'll be happy to share my thoughts to anyone who cares to know them, but in doing so, always try to respect the opinions of others. The past few years have found me a bit more passive, and less likely to opine on subjects that used to get me all worked up.  (As evidenced by the lack of posts in my blog lately.) Every now and then something will ruffle my feathers, but the opportunities to post seem rare these days.

While doing chores this morning, I happened to hear a report on GMA about a new movie trailer for Fifty Shades of Grey.  Using Lego figures.  I didn't read the book, and I have no interest in the movie.  It wasn't the "Fifty Shades" that caught my attention, that's everywhere these days, rather it was the "Lego" part that intrigued me to listen.  After watching  it and doing a little research, I learned that the video was created by Antonio and Andrea Toscano, 'stop-motion animators', who have apparently made other YouTube movie trailers.  I suspect this one will catapult them into at least 15 minutes of YouTube fame.

If you know my grandson Corey, you probably know he is a HUGE Lego fan.  He loves the Lego movies and videos, and enjoys watching YouTube reviews that demonstrate putting together the complicated sets.   He has several of the bigger sets, but is quite content to play with random pieces, and loves collecting the 'people' figures. He could entertain himself for hours on end with a box full of plastic bricks and Lego people while watching those videos.  (Hold your judgment... he also watches 'engineering' type videos that explain how different machines work, how to build stuff, and that sort of thing.  The boy is destined for greatness, I tell you!!  I guess he inherited that from Pop, who can sit for hours and watch how things are made, and what makes them work.  A fair trade, I'd say, for a little kid-friendly entertainment.)  No doubt, the Lego videos are his favorite.  All this to say:  If he sees a Lego video  that he hasn't watched, he's gonna click on it. He can spell some of the things to do a specific search like Lego Ninjago (I know, right?!?), but sometimes he just types in Lego.  And we know what happens when you type one word into a search engine.  Not always kid-friendly. While parental controls are set on all their devices, there are things (this video included) that are evidently not tagged, as they pop right up, regardless of settings.  Their internet activities are carefully monitored, but if I walked by and saw him watching a Lego video, I wouldn't think anything unusual or inappropriate about it.  Not so much any more, I guess.

So after hearing about the new Lego movie trailer, I looked up the video on YouTube to see it for myself.  If you're a Fifty Shades fan, and a Lego fan, and you're an adult, I suppose it might be considered clever, and really benign as far as "sex scenes" go.  Really, it's just plastic figures.  Certainly the content would go over the heads of most kids Corey's age, and I doubt it would permanently scar children who may see it.  The innuendos might be noticed by an older age group - but those kids are busy watching whatever other thing might be trending right now.

My point is - WHY?  Is it really necessary to permeate sex into children's playtime?  I know, I know, it's everywhere.  And I understand parental controls, and the dangers of exposing kids to the internet.  I am not about censoring - I advocate "if you don't like it, don't watch it".  I know there are evil people in dark places who would lure innocent children into sex trafficking, child pornography, etc.  While those things are horrible and unthinkable, this is not about that.  

For some very observant kids, like Corey, I can hear the questions now:  Greemaw, why is that Lego man scowling like that?  Why is that Lego lady handcuffed?  Why is he attacking her in the elevator? Why is that Lego man laying on top of that Lego woman?

Believe me.  He much prefers Batman, Avengers, ninjas, public service figures, and superhero Lego people. As it should be for a 6-year-old kid.  I wish Antonio and Andrea would learn to play with people their own age, and leave the kids out of it.  As Mammy would say:  "It ain't fittin, it just ain't fittin. Hmph. Ain't fittin'"

There's no denying that sex is everywhere, and as adults, we have to be on guard 24/7 to keep children from accessing forms of media that are age-inappropriate.  I get that.  The responsibility is ultimately up to the parents, or other adults charged with caring for the children.  It just perturbs me that something enjoyed by countless children all over the world has become yet another tool to bring sex to the forefront of what should (IMO) be toys that promote creativity and dexterity.  And I know, I know - the video is not targeting children.  I get that too.  But I gotta agree with Mammy - I just think it ain't fittin'.

I guess next we'll see videos of Hello Kitty pole dancing or twerking.

So there you have it. I guess my prude level has indeed gone up a notch.  Funny how that happens when it involves something near and dear to your kids or grand kids.  The question I ask myself is this:  If I didn't have my own personal grandson who will  likely (accidentally) see this video, would I even be thinking about it, much less stop my chores and blog about it? Hmmmm.  Maybe being a prude isn't such a bad thing after all, if it means keeping sex out of the children's playroom.  It's already coming at them from all angles.  But, seriously?  Legos?

Rant over.







Saturday, August 9, 2014

Lake Memories

The time has come for our annual 4th of July family gathering at the lake!!!   

First things first, though - I don't know what's up with all the blue links in this post.  I didn't make them, and have no clue where the link will take you, so you might not want to be clicking on them.  

Now - back to The Lake!  In the olden days, when people didn't have to work 7 days a week, and holidays/weekends were a time of relaxation, our clan would gather at the lake most every weekend in the summer. 4th of July was always special, though. The whole family, and sometimes a few stragglers, would gather at the cabin for a wonderful time of outdoor fun, contraband bottle rockets, and firecrackers.  We would wait impatiently for dusk, load up all the boats, and head for The Islands for the best fireworks show around. It was as much fun watching the hundreds, maybe thousands of boats gathering perilously close, as it was to watch the skies light up like magic. The colors were vivid, and the booms were deafening.  
The adrenaline would really start to pump as the myriad of vessels would slowy disperse, moving at a snail’s pace until a safe distance from the others, each making its journey back home in the black of night.  I loved facing backwards during the trip home, to watch the red and green lights slowly fade away, like a starburst in slow motion.  It was an ominous feeling, gliding over the black waters, and I dared not trail my hands over the side of the boat, for fear of whatever might be lurking underneath. 

Once back at the cabin, we would crank up (literally) a freezer of homemade ice cream – we cousins taking turns sitting on top of the churn until our butt cheeks were as cold and frozen as the ice upon which we sat.  The menfolk would turn the crank until the ice cream would be so thick and frozen, the handle would no longer turn.  An eternity later, to us kids at least, we’d finally get to open the churn and enjoy the homemade deliciousness.  Grownups would gather around the table to play cards, and we kids would go outside to catch lightning bugs, or spin tall tales about most anything.  Far into the night, the younger generation would finally settle down.  Back in those days, there were three bedrooms upstairs with a screened porch that ran the width of the cabin.  The kids got the middle bedroom.  We’d lie in bed, whispering and giggling for a while, then the muffled voices of the grownups on the porch would lull us to sleep.  Pitch black dark it was, except for the glow of cigarettes (that thankfully, they all gave up!)  out on the porch. Next morning would find us all starving, and ready to devour the huge breakfast of bacon, eggs, grits, and toast.  The kitchen folk had a finely-tuned system for getting everything on the table, hot and steamy, for that many people.  Later on (we had to wait 30 minutes after eating!) we’d jump in the lake, where we’d stay for hours, our fingers and toes shriveled up like prunes.  Until it was time to cut the watermelon. Boat rides, zip-boarding, water skiing, and watermelon – the only things that could get us out of the water in those days.  We’d be so waterlogged that when we lay down at night, it still felt like we were bobbing on the waves.  What fun times!!!

Back then we couldn’t wait to be grownups.  So we could do whatever we wanted to.  Have our own apartment, car, job, etc.   Oh well, the grass is always greener on the other side.  (though often we find that it’s not grass at all, but astroturf!.... or if it IS grass, the reason it is so green is the fertilizer from all the CRAP you have to go through to get there)  Life as an adult isn’t what we thought it would be.  We are all blessed, for sure, and do not take our amazing family for granted.  But the adults from our childhood are now in their golden years, and we ourselves are coming face to face with our senior years.  Every day I get solicitations for a walk-in bath-tub, a Lil’ Rascal scooter, a Health Alert necklace (“I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!”)  The years are whizzing by in warp speed.  Now, our lives are spent enjoying our own adult children and grandchildren, while at the same time, keeping a cautious eye on our aging parents.  We face and conquer challenges that we would never have dreamed of while we were kids having grand adventures on the water.  And that’s as it should be.  There is plenty enough time to be an adult with responsibilities.  

My generation of cousins is so very fortunate.  We saw each other two to three times a month, sometimes every weekend.  We spent lazy summer days and nights at Mama Nay and Daddy Bill’s house together, and we were perfectly satisfied with only our bicycles, some jack stones, and our imaginations to keep us entertained.   I wouldn’t take anything for those times with my brother and my cousins, growing up together.

Our children experienced that to a much lesser degree than did we.  As young parents ourselves, we were busy.  We saw each other for a few hours on designated family days.  Except for one or two trips that our parents (their grandparents) took them on, they didn’t experience what it’s like to spend days together, the way we did. 

And now, a new generation of children has come along, and they barely know each other. 

Time passes, things change.  We work ourselves to death, we over-commit ourselves, and somehow another year passes by. 

We don’t gather at the lake every weekend like we used to do.  We hardly gather at all any more.   With busy work schedules that no longer encompass just M-F work hours, and kids involved in every activity imaginable, it’s just impossible to get everyone together at the same time.

But we try.  And even though we will not celebrate the 4th of July on the 4th of July, in a few short hours we will gather at our old stomping ground – The Lake.  These days it’s no longer a cabin.  Joyce and Gene retired almost 30 years ago, sold their home in the city, and remodeled the cabin into a lovely home.  Though the screened porch has been turned to a day porch, and the creaky outdoor chaise lounge is no longer a focal furniture piece in the great room, “the lake” will always be “the lake”, and hold precious memories for us.  It was on those bare steps leading upstairs that Sharon, Jeff, Michael, and I were forced to watch the first man on the moon – on a tiny little black and white tv with rabbit-ears for an antenna.   We thought it was undue punishment to have to watch something so boring.  But – our parents were right.  Some day we could say we saw it, and we’d remember exactly where we were. 

With the stormy night behind us, and more forecast for the day, I am praying the sky will empty itself soon, and leave us with a nice day so we can spread out and enjoy the outdoors – and The Lake!!   We will miss those who are no longer with us.  There’s a big empty hole in our hearts because they are gone.  We will miss those who are unable to attend for various reasons.  But you're with us in spirit.  

I love this crazy family of mine.  And while there’s the usual chaos and disorganization (think herding cats) to get everyone gathered for the blessing before we eat, the love between us is palpable.  And I can’t wait to be with My People. 

Happy 4th of July, everyone!!!!

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.