Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Bye Bye Bayh

I want to be angry at Senator Evan Bayh for announcing his retirement.

I really, really want to be irritated out of my mind that another Democrat is leaving the Senate.

I really, really, really want to be self righteously indignant that Bayh is "abandoning" the good fight.


I can't.

I just can't muster up anything except understanding.

Here's the deal. I like Evan Bayh. When he speaks, I believe what he is saying. I find him to be a thoughtful, intelligent, and genuine guy. I kind of even identify with him. True, he's much more moderate in his political philosophy than I, but there is something about him that I get.

Can you imagine what a skull drag it must be to have to go work everyday and know that the singular goal of forty percent of your coworkers is to stop anything positive you may try to do for your constituents?

Listen up, right wingers (if any of you are thoughtful and interested enough to even be reading) and more importantly, independents - WHEN A MODERATE, REASONABLE, AND QUALIFIED SENATOR, SUCH AS EVAN BAYH, IS FORCED FROM THE SENATE BECAUSE OF OBSTRUCTIONIST PARTISANS WE HAVE A PROBLEM.

A big one.

And if any of you think that giving the Republicans more control, instead of less, is going to help, let me be clear.

You're wrong.


Wake up. Who do you think created the mess we're in? It wasn't a left wing socialist. Or a moderate like Evan Bayh.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Valentine's Day is Not Just for Lovers

Families are complicated. Mine is no exception.

I lost track of my sister and she of me around 2000, right after my daughter was born.

I'm still not sure how it happened. A day turned into a week. A week into a month. Months became years.

She built a life as a professional musician.

I built a life in Stepford.

I caught glimpses of her every now and then. Jay Leno, Scrubs, the VMA's, Rolling Stone. My daughter's face.

I once turned on the radio while driving to daycare and heard her being interviewed. Her voice was so familiar, but I couldn't find the girl I knew in her words. It was at this moment I began to fear I had lost her forever.

I felt as if a glacier of misunderstanding had filled the physical and emotional space between us.

Funny thing about glaciers. They are always moving, you just can't see it.

First, there was a concert where we had about ten minutes together. There were pictures taken and as I drove home I thought "at least if I never see her again, I have tonight and I have pictures of her and my daughter. I can be okay with this small thing."

A year later, there was another concert. We had a little more time and I felt a crack in the ice. I felt the glacier beginning to thaw.

I wrote a story about that night. Through my writing I hoped I could convey everything that I had been unable to say during the years.

And somehow, we began again. Emails back and forth, she began to read my blog, she began one of her own. On her birthday we slammed back more than a few martinis. We laughed. And talked. Just two friends hanging on lower Greenville Avenue.


I was fortunate to see my sister perform yesterday afternoon. This is one of a few pictures I posted on Facebook. A very gifted, professional photographer who is a friend of my sister tagged this photo with "love".

My sister and I are so different. We have chosen different paths. Our lives intervene to make a quick cup of coffee a major undertaking.


We share a history.

And we are family.

I love you, A. Have a wonderful time and safe travels down under.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Just When You Think You Know Everything

editor's note: This post is a shout out to my girls from Wenatchee. Thanks for teaching me something new.

"You are so 1980's," says a friend of mine after I confess my undying love for Jon Bon Jovi.

He intended the comment as a slam, but 1) how can you not love Jon Bon Jovi? and 2) this is the same guy who had just minutes earlier told me "I always smile when I talk" and I can only remember seeing him smile like once. Ever. And he wasn't talking at the time.

Needless to say, I didn't pay him much mind.


He is right. The 1980's shaped a lot of things about me. During this one short decade a lot happened in my world. First kiss and first broken heart. I learned to drive and got my first new car. Graduated high school, left for college, and lost my virginity (not necessarily in that order). I learned to drink, how to do laundry, and that not everyone in the world is a Republican. I voted for the first time, got married, and got my first job. On New Year's Eve 1989, sushi became my favorite food. I would still eat it everyday if I could afford to do so.

The 1980's was a decade when I was positive I knew way more than I actually did.

The 1990's took care of that character flaw.

And now, it is 2010. Unbelievable. I know intellectually that I am not in my twenties or even my thirties any longer. It's just that I don't feel any different than I did when I was twenty-five. I know a lot more things. But, I still view myself as young.

This is not a vanity thing either. Although I wouldn't mind having my twenty-one year old tits and ass back, I honestly feel more attractive now than I ever did when I was younger. Perhaps it is a confidence thing, but more likely I think it is that I have grown more comfortable in my own skin. I like myself more and have figured out what makes me happy.

One of the things that really keeps me balanced is having an open mind. I like to learn new things. I'm determined to not turn into an old person who is afraid of new experiences. Whatever the post web 2.0 world has in store, I'm ready. I'm positive science is going to provide a way for me to live to be one hundred twenty. When we land on Mars, I'll be watching. When we discover we are not alone in the universe and the gene responsible for homosexuality, I want to be there.

You get it - I may tip toe carefully into the future, but I'm usually ready to embrace whatever it holds.

Or so I thought.

Earlier this week I was perusing Facebook when I saw an unusual status update from one of my Facebook friends. Unusual in the sense that I had no freaking idea what it meant. I have a pretty damned good vocabulary and I have been known to actually read a medical text book for fun. So when I saw

placental encapsulation

as a Facebook status, it caught my attention.

I was aware that this friend was pregnant so my first thought was "oh no, I hope that is not serious."

Then someone commented "Are you going to do it?"

"Do it?" That made no sense. I started dissecting the status in my head. Placental meant placenta. No mystery there. Encapsulation could mean that the placenta was some how confined, but that didn't help me decipher the "do it" comment.

Then someone commented with this link and said something like "I'm your friend that freaks your other friends out." Somewhere in the back of my mind a thought of which I wanted no part was beginning to form. Just as I was debating about whether or not I really wanted to click the link someone posted the following:

SNL killed a skit years ago in the '70's... it was called, placenta helper.. (think hamburger helper...)

And just like that, the thought I had been trying to suppress was fully formed and there was no going back.


I'm fairly certain that if I could have seen my face at this moment it would have looked eerily similar to my own mother's face when I told her I was going to breast feed and that my husband was going to be in the delivery room.

Had I turned into my mother? Was I now so old and out of touch that all the hip, progressive, young mom's were eating their own placentas and I was totally clueless? Oh lord... and am I not going to live to be one hundred twenty because no one told me I was supposed to eat mine? Is it not bad enough that I didn't have the option to store my children's cord blood? I mean, really. If only that had become available two or three years earlier. But, noooooo. As I sat there wondering, cute young faces were commenting with things like "that is so flipping cool" and "that rocks".

I was feeling pretty damned unprogressive.

I checked my gmail chat box. A young, pregnant friend who I have known for seven years was online. I im'd her with "OMG." She replied with "what up?" I typed, "placental encapsulation". She said, "It's okay. I'll send you an article."

Good god, even she knows about it. I wanted to ask if she was eating hers, but didn't really want to know.

The article she sent was awesome. It was written by a writer I have long admired, which only made my dilemma worse. The article totally took the gross out factor out of ingesting one's own placenta, made it hysterically funny, and it was written by The Joel Stein. And yes, his wife ate hers.

I guess it is inevitable. No matter how hard you fight it, the torch does eventually get passed from you to the next generation. It's just that I feel so damned cheated. What I wouldn't give to be able to tell my mom that I was intending to not only hire a postpartum dula (which I did), but that she would be serving my placenta for dinner.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Healthcare For All: Part II

This is a story about a child I love as if he were my own. Before this child was born, I had not thought it possible to love another's child with the same intensity and affection that I lavish upon my own children. But, it is true. This child has a place in my heart that previous to his birth had been reserved exclusively for my own children.

This blonde haired child with a double crown is my nephew. His father is my younger brother.

When my nephew was fourteen months old, my brother lost his job. With my brother's job, went his family's health insurance. My brother was a mere twenty-eight years old, college educated, and a hard worker. He was a home owner and a good husband. He was a good employee and a wonderful and loving father. My brother, like most fathers, loved his family and worked hard to provide for them. And thankfully, his small family was healthy.

After losing his job, my brother did not sit idle and feel sorry for himself. He hustled, worked his contacts, and quickly landed another job.

A better job.

A job with a three month waiting period for access to health insurance benefits.

He could not afford COBRA and not long before my brother's new health insurance took effect, his fair headed baby boy fell ill.

My young sister-in-law took my nephew to the pediatrician. The pediatrician, who knew there was no insurance to cover my nephew's care, was sure that the fever, pink eye, and irritability would pass. He sent my sister-in-law and my nephew home with medication and treatment instructions. Before leaving the office, my sister-in-law paid her bill in full.

My nephew did not get better.

His symptoms of fever, pink eye, and irritability worsened. The palms of my nephew's hands and feet looked as if they had red welts on them. He refused to walk or even stand. Whenever he was forced to put weight on his legs he would scream as if he were in excruciating pain.

My sister-in-law took my nephew back to the pediatrician. The pediatrician mentioned that my nephew could have something called Kawasaki Disease, but that the treatment was extremely expensive. He recommended waiting a few more days to see if my nephew improved.

My mother called me in a panic. I dismissed her panic. After all, a common cold can induce a panic attack in her.

I called my brother to find out what was really going on.

I googled "Kawasaki Disease".

After pushing my own panic to the back of my mind, I called my husband who was on a church retreat with a friend of ours who is a doctor. The doctor said, "If this were my child, I would take him directly to Children's Medical Center."

I called my brother back. I asked him to please put my nephew in the car and meet me at the hospital emergency room. It was late. Neither my brother or my sister-in-law had had much sleep the previous week. It was a two hour drive to the hospital. It was January, it was thirty-six degrees, and it was raining.

They wanted to wait until the next morning.

I hesitantly agreed.

The next morning, I awoke to the phone ringing. It was my brother saying they were on their way to the hospital. My nephew was worse and they couldn't get their doctor on the phone because it was a Sunday morning. I dressed, made arrangements for my own children and met them at the hospital.

If my nephew had been referred to the hospital by his pediatrician, he would have gone directly to admitting. He would have been admitted to the hospital, accessed, and any needed treatment would have then been administered.

Instead, my nephew was forced to go through the regular emergency room. With hundreds and hundreds of other uninsured children.

We arrived at the hospital at 10AM on a Sunday morning.

My nephew's name was finally called at 9PM.

He was seen by a doctor at 10:30 PM.

He was very sick. He was a baby. He was forced to wait in a hospital emergency room for twelve and a half hours with hundreds of other sick children. And a lot of healthy ones as well. I learned on this day that when a single mom brings one of her uninsured children to the emergency room, she usually has to bring all her other children with her as well.

It was crowed. It smelled. There were crying, hungry, sleeping and dazed children everywhere. So many children, in fact, that the children and their families spilled out of the waiting room and into the hallway. We sat and rested and slept wherever we could. A rare open chair, a bench, the floor. I sat and held a baby I loved on the floor of a hospital when I could stand no more. No one seemed to have enough food, or diapers, or children's Tylenol, or patience.

Or money.

And I was in Dallas, Texas at the world renowned Children's Medical Center. I wasn't in a third world country or even a city that had fallen on hard times. I was in Dallas. There is always money in Dallas. And I was as close to hell as I ever wish to come.

Once the doctor saw my nephew, things moved at lightening speed. She quickly determined he had Kawasaki Disease and that our time was running out for treatment. The gamma globulin IV therapy is most effective in preventing coronary artery damage if it is administered within ten days of the presentation of symptoms.

We were on day nine.

And I'll believe until the day I die that if my nephew had been insured he would have received the gamma globulin therapy many days sooner. And that he would have received it without the trauma of a twelve and a half hour wait in the emergency room.

I also believe Children's Medical Center saved my nephew's life. And I will be thankful to them for the rest of my life.


By the time my nephew left the hospital more than a week later, the bill for his care was in excess of thirty five thousand dollars. How many young families do you know who can take on that kind of debt over night?

The billing office offered to cut this bill in half if my brother would commit to paying $600 per month toward the bill. He couldn't afford to do it. Every month he pays $100 toward the bill. With no interest it will take my brother thirty years to pay off this debt.

Thirty years.

My brother is a politically conservative guy. We have many healthy political debates. But on this point we agree. Health care reform is needed and it is needed now. A lack of insurance could have cost my nephew his life.

So I ask you again, since when it is it right to take a pass on doing what is right because it is hard?

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Healthcare for All

I have been working on this health care post for over a year. Yep. You read that right. A YEAR.

I've had a more difficult time with this post than anything I've ever tried to write. I have thought a lot about why this post has been so difficult and it boils down to two very basic things. Health care is complicated and it is personal. And for me, it is personally complicated.

For the next few paragraphs, let us put all the rhetoric about a "government takeover" of health care aside. Let us, just for the few minutes it takes to read this post, release our fears of having the "government decide if I receive health care". Let us set the uber complicated policy aside and let us just examine, in a practical and personal way what my experience with our health care system has been.

The vast majority of Americans that have health insurance receive their coverage through a plan that is administered through their place of employment. Or, as in my case, the place of employment of their spouse. We are the only developed nation on the planet with this system.

This system, for the most part, has worked well for me, my husband, and my children. Early in my marriage, before I had children, my husband and I each carried insurance on ourselves through our own employers. The cost to us during this time was very small. And, because we were young and healthy, we used very few of our plans' resources. All was right in my naive, healthy and young little world.

I gave birth to my son a few days after I turned thirty. Before my maternity leave was up, I decided I wanted to leave my job at Hewlett Packard (yeah I know, I wish I could have that decision to make over again) and stay home full time with my son. I went back to work full time for a few months, until we were able to arrange our finances to live off just one income. With that being accomplished, I quit my job and my son and I rolled onto my husband's health care plan. And the health insurance that I had been able to access, at an affordable rate, for the last nine years, terminated the day I left Hewlett Packard.

Three months after my husband became the sole provider for our young family and his employer became the sole provider of our health insurance, my husband fell ill. His symptoms of double vision and dizziness were baffling and frightening. He visited several doctors, completed a few rounds of antibiotics for a suspected sinus infection, and finally ended up in his opthamologist's office for a check up. Just as he was being sent out of the office with a clean bill of eye health, he experienced an episode of his mysterious symptoms while he was in the presence of the doctor. The doctor immediately sent him across the street to the hospital for an MRI. After the MRI, he was sent to a neurologist to discuss the results of what was going on inside his brain.

He had Multiple Sclerosis.

He was thirty-two.

He had a non-working wife.

A baby.

A job, a mortgage, and a car payment.

He was going to have Multiple Sclerosis for the rest of his life.

There is no cure.

The treatment is very expensive. Without insurance, his oral medication is $150 per month. His injectible medication is $1400 per month.

$18,600 per year to fight off a disease that has the potential to rob my husband of his eye sight, his mobility, and his livelihood. Which also means that MS has the ability to rob him and our family of our health insurance.

My husband began treatment shortly after his diagnosis and two years later he was doing so well that we felt confident enough to add our daughter to our family.

Sixteen days before my daughter turned one, my husband's company shut it's doors. On the last day of the month. This meant that as of midnight on that day we had no health insurance.

COBRA coverage for our family was $1200 per month. My husband's unemployment benefits were $330 per week. Basic math tells you those numbers don't add up very well.

We were very fortunate. My husband found a new job within three weeks and with it, health insurance. However, it was during these three weeks that I realized that my exit from the work force had actually put my family at real financial risk.

Two years later, I went back to work. And I breathed a small sigh of relief. At least with us both working we would have a safety net not only for income, but also for insurance if one of us were to ever lose our job again.

Two weeks ago I had the privilege of experiencing what it is like to lose a job. I'm not alone. Over ten percent of Americans that are still looking for work are unemployed. Some statistics put the real unemployment rate somewhere in the neighborhood of seventeen percent.

I can tell you from my recent experience that unless you have an employment contract (and who does?) your employer has all the power in the employer/employee relationship. And that usually includes the power over whether or not you have health insurance. And not just you. This means your spouse and your children as well.

My husband and I are college educated. We are bright. We work hard. We have a strong work ethic. My husband has an MBA and almost twenty two years of work experience. And if he lost his job tomorrow, his health insurance would go with it.

I support health care reform, a public option, and even a Medicare for All system. I'm not a socialist. I'm not looking for the government to take care of me. I don't want or need a free ride.

I do want every citizen in my nation to have access to affordable, quality health care. I believe health care is a human right - not a privilege available to the wealthy or those lucky enough to currently have a job.

I know the policy is difficult. I know the path ahead is fraught with emotion and fear. I know it will be expensive.

But I ask you, American to American, since when is it okay to take a pass on doing what is right because it is hard?