Tuesday, July 28, 2009

How to Have a Green Baby

First, be green parents!

♫ I hear babies cry, I watch them grow
They'll learn much more than I'll ever know;
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world . . . ♫
—Louis Armstrong

These two Heroes have a baby on the way; they want him to grow up in a wonderful world. Honoring Mother Earth is intentional for Pete and Anna. Her post called Voluntary Simplicity sums up their way of life.

Before they even had a yard, they were part of a neighborhood garden, and during the summer they commit to buying fruits and vegetables grown locally. They are anxious to eat real food. Pete soaks his beans and cooks delicious Mexican dishes, and Anna makes homemade graham crackers and wheat thins (among other specialties) to cut down on the chemicals in processed foods. She calls herself a flexitarian: not a fanatic, but opting for the healthier option whenever possible.

To lighten their ecological footprint they ride the bus, walk, bike and carpool. Errands are thoughtfully planned—they don't run around town willy-nilly mucking up the air unnecessarily. And little PJ will not be contributing diapers to the dump.

A Bumkins Diaper

When Pete announced their decision to use cloth diapers I had memories of rusted duckie safety pins, endless origami-type folding, and stiff, crackling plastic pants. I'm a little behind.

(No droopy drawers nowadays.)

Modern Bun Warmers

While working full-time as the director of a kid's summer camp, Anna has found time to make dozens of Little Bunz; they coordinate with the onesies and rompers she has created using remnant materials. (One of baby PJ's outfits was made from the shirt paramedics cut off when Pete had his bike accident.)

It's not easy being green, but for Anna and Pete it's worth the extra effort. They are great customers at yard sales, looking for wooden toys, and gently-used baby furniture. Anna is committed (read her pledge) to "re-using the resources that are already floating around in the world."

Even for her baby showers, Anna has requested pre-loved, or homemade items rather than expensive baby clothes, or plastic toys that contain harmful chemicals, like PVC. Green parents love to receive books, which will be treasured and remembered. New or used, they can be passed on to another home, even though the stories remain in a child's heart forever—the ultimate in recycling.

It's not always greener on the other side of the fence. I've left a lot of plastic water bottles, and paper plates littering my little plot of Mother Earth. I'm impressed with the new owners who are cleaning up after me, and improving the view for everybody.

♫ I see skies of blue, clouds of white,
Bright blessed days, dark sacred nights.
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world. ♫

Loving the natural world

"the upward lift of rock to heaven
like hands held up in prayer."
—Anna

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Pioneer Days Parade

Looking straight down from our balcony 7/24/09

I looked out my window, and what did I see?
People sleeping underneath my tree!

Thousands of people camp overnight on our sidewalk to reserve their parade spot.

There's a story that's told once each year,
And folks come from everywhere just to hear.

Parade breakfast at Oma's

Don't fuss getting ready,
But come early to eat,

The Grand Stand

And you'll have a view that can't be beat.

One of 121 parade entries

The chapters pass by, the bands get loud cheers,

"Where are the bonnets, Oma?"

And everyone remembers the pioneers.

For 24 hours every 24th of July we have the hottest real estate in Utah. Our balcony overlooks the traditional Pioneer Parade (the 3rd largest parade in the USA!) and the local grands sit in our grandstand.

The 24th of July is a day of stories. Everyone in Mormondom has heard heart-wrenching accounts about the pioneers who left Nauvoo and trekked across the plains in covered wagons. There are soul-stirring tales about people who joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in England, Scandinavia and Europe. Families sold everything to afford passage, and sailed to America to join the Saints. Because they couldn't afford wagons, they pulled handcarts and walked the whole way. Miracles abound in these oft-told stories, but sometimes they lose their significance in the repetition.

C.C.A. Christensen

A few years ago I wrote a book called A Lasting Legacy, tracing my family history back to 1628. I loved reading and working from original documents and journals. One of my ancestors was Andrew Jackson Allen, born September 5, 1818 in Pulasky County, Kentucky. He started keeping a daily journal when he was 38 years old.

One of the original pioneers, he arrived in the Great Salt Lake Valley November 25, 1847, just four months after Brigham Young told the first company, "This is the right place." The Allen family built a log cabin and lived through the winter, eating mostly flour and bulbs.

In 1848, long before anyone was telling this story in Sunday School, he wrote down his own experience with the Miracle of the Seagulls:

May 7, 1848
Now every man went in for farming. There were a field laid out large enough for all. We put in our spring wheat, corn and what few potatoes we had. We had to irrigate, which we had never done before. Now we needed to grow grain, or suffer, as there were no grain nearer than one thousand miles away and my provisions were getting short. When wild vegetation sprang up, the people had to go to the prairies to seek roots to eat, such as field onions and thistle roots which were not pleasant, but hunger made them taste good. There were some folks to my knowledge that ate large white wolves.

Now we commenced making water ditches for irrigation. The spring grain sprung up and looked quite good. The next thing we see was thousands of young crickets making their appearance in every direction. We discovered they were eating at the young growing wheat and gardens. We began to destroy them in every way we could, but all in vain. It really seemed as though the more we killed, the more came. It seemed as though they would destroy all we put in the ground in spite of all we could do.

May 20, 1848
There was a cold snap that froze the vines, and things in the ground were easily killed. Now the fall wheat we had got was just beginning to put the head out of the ground and the frost killed it. This was a trying time. Those crickets also were eating at the fall wheat. Many of us were out of bread. Just now the seagulls came in flocks by the thousands and began to eat the crickets. They would cover the fields and fill themselves and then they would fly to the water and drink, then they would vomit them up and go again and fill up again. They seemed to repeat this time after time after time, and soon they destroyed the crickets in a great measure. We attributed this to the hand of the Lord in our behalf. If those gulls had not destroyed them, they would have destroyed all of our growing crops. And that would have brought great suffering among the people.

This guy was pretty great: my great-great-great-great grandfather. He touched on a huge variety of events: the death of Joseph Smith, the civil war, the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, the "tellegraft wire," the coming of the railroad, and the shot that killed President James A. Garfield.

He wrote "one of my little boys, 19 months of age, had been sick but got better. Was taken worse and at 8:00 am he departed this life." And a couple of years later: "My daughter, Purlina, were taken very ill with her old leg complaint. I done all for her I could, but all in vain. She departed this life at 7:00 pm, perfectly in her right mind, reconciled to her fate. Her age was 12 years and 11 months."

Andrew Jackson Allen died at age 66. The obituary said, "He was gored to death by a vicious bull." It's a horrible end, but it makes a great story.

The Bible tells us that our hearts will turn to our fathers. I believe it. Joseph Fielding Smith said, "It remains the responsibility of each individual to know his kindred dead . . . even if the work is done, then it is still each person's responsibility to study and become acquainted with his ancestors." Compiling dates isn't enough. "We are, after all, not simply clerks recording their passing. We are their family." (Brent Barlow, July 2009 Ensign)

I've got a parade of descendants marching as fast as they can into the future. I'm going to take a page from my own book, and this week I'll record a few personal miracles. After all, right now I've got an audience.

The Grand Parade.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Health Matters, Update

Why good health care matters to Sco

I got this comment from my son-in-law and it deserves a wider audience, so I have turned it into a guest post. (You'll see why I call my in-laws Heroes, too.)

Marty - your son-in-law Sco here.

Yes, our system needs change; there's no doubt about it. My opinion is that the problems are so huge that a large or sweeping change is required to fix everything. And as far as I understand (and I'm not the most educated on the many and various issues involved) it's impossible to come up with a solution that can be explained by a blog post, or a comment on a blog post. Every solution like "universal healthcare" and "cheaper prescriptions" sound great in the press, but there are huge negative impacts that come along with such "solutions." I don't think there's a silver bullet. "Universal healthcare" and a healthcare system more like France, Canada or Great Britain means vastly increasing taxes. It's not an easy question of who would pay for it, because someone would. It would also likely mean our most promising intellectual talent to leave the medical field and work in something that gets them more money. And it may likely mean longer wait times to get doctor appointments.

Everyone's for the option that costs themselves less money and gives them better healthcare. That solution is different for everyone's situation. And usually there are economic winners and losers in any change. It's a very divisive topic, and very difficult for any president on which to get anything significantly changed (recently Bush Jr. and Clinton).

Full disclosure: I'm employed by a small-ish company (75 employees or so). Our health insurance costs are crazy high. We pay about $340/month for the lower of 2 insurance coverage options. I'm very happy that we're able to get coverage. MY COMPANY COVERS ANOTHER $600 OR SO A MONTH FOR MY COVERAGE!!! Basically $1,000 / month for the health insurance coverage my family and I are thankful to have. Does that sound like everyone in America can have this? No way, it's just too expensive. This is why companies scale back on what they cover - their resources aren't big enough to keep up with skyrocketing costs. And our premiums go up about 10% (or more) every year. And my wife and I and our 3 daughters happen to be healthy right now (knock on wood).

And there's so much money in healthcare, that sweeping change won't happen. The only reason I say that is because opposition to a sweeping change would be ENORMOUS from those that stand to lose $$$. And with any sweeping change, there will be a lot of people who end up with less $$$. We're going to be stuck with incremental change that no one will be happy with (except for the incremental % of the population who's better off under an incremental change).

My beef with the current bills being debated in Congress is that 1) they still leave a ton of people uninsured, 2) the solution is to tax and spend. Yes, it's an incremental "solution." In my opinion, the "solution" doesn't address underlying causes, but just dumps more money into a broken system. I don't think that's going to fix anything in the long term, but it would be good to get more people covered. The next fix in 5 years will be to just dump more $$ into the same broken system (with incremental changes). Seems like a flushing toilet to me...

I would rather see some solutions that address underlying causes, such as:

1. Better healthcare results at a lower cost. The US has really sunk in recent world ratings in desired healthcare outcomes per dollar of cost. For a country that prides itself on healthcare innovation and new solutions, that fact really sucks. We should be able to be close to #1 in the world if not #1 in the world at providing the best cost-effective healthcare solutions.

We sometimes seem to seek for the latest and greatest technological healthcare solution, which also happens to be the most expensive, instead of a going with more tried-and-true methods. Drug reps and medical equipment reps influencing doctors, doctors' reimbursements from insurance companies (paid for a procedure instead of a desired result), and attitudes that you don't have to pay since your insurance will pay, all feed into this.

2. Revised compensation to doctors to more closely align doctors' compensation with what we all want - results - instead of compensating them (and thereby incentivizing them) to perform more procedures, see more patients during a day, etc...

3. Higher deductible insurance plans, so that we as consumers of healthcare will have more incentive to shop for a good solution at a good value. We'll be more price sensitive. My wife and I are now on such a plan (my company changed our insurance plan with IHC about 6 months ago in order to lower costs this last year - we didn't have a choice in the matter, really. And for the record, it's been a fine change so far.). And we have become more price sensitive and have asked doctors how much that will cost us, and when we hear an answer that's expensive, we ask for alternatives that give us a good result at a lower cost. I'm going to guess that we've incurred about $1,500 less this year (less money paid by an insurance company, hopefully translating into lower premiums in the future) just from being more price sensitive.

No, we will never be able to shop for healthcare as easily as we shop for homes or cars. We just don't have the knowledge base that doctors have. There's an information asymmetry between the provider and the consumer in healthcare, and that information imbalance will never go away. However, if we are more price sensitive, we're going to be asking our doctors more questions about different procedures that could be done for a lower cost, all in the name of getting a better result at a better cost (better value). We won't just walk in and say yes to receiving a Cadillac-costing procedure for the $30 cost of a co-pay for a visit.

4. More acceptance in the general population that doctors and medicine can't solve everyone healthcare issue in 1 hour and restore you to perfect health 100% of the time. Doctors are people and are helping you to the best of their ability 99.9% of the time, and healthcare issues can be complicated. And there are a lot of conditions that have no cures (unfortunately).

5. Less litigation, and perhaps formula driven ranges (not exact amounts) for damages related to medical mistakes (when doctors are grossly negligent).

6. Sweeping change in insurance laws, specifically in defining insurance pools. It's ridiculous that employees of huge companies have access to good insurance plans that are cheap, and just because I work at a small employer (approx 75 employees), my cost for the same type of coverage costs a lot more. How is that fair? And how is that common sense? Yes, insurance companies are pricing risk in a defined insurance pool. But the price differences are merely driven by insurance laws and how people can legally be grouped into insurance pools (if I understand the basics correctly). Why can't states designate their entire citizenship as the insurance pool, and have insurance companies write policies for that huge pool? Or give the general population access to the same insurance coverage that our Representatives and Senators receive? I'm not extremely knowledgeable about pricing health insurance, and I'm pretty sure that there would have to be some kind of pricing tiers (at least for healthcare costs that are under our control by the choices we make - smoking vs. non-smoking for example), but couldn't state laws also require pre-existing conditions to be covered?

7. This change would actually hurt me, but it makes sense (at least to me). There's a tax break that employees of companies receive that self-employed people do not get. I'm not taxed on the the approximately $600 each month that my company pays for my health insurance premium. Self-employed people basically get taxed on that $600 amount. That's not fair. Fix that tax break so that employees of a company and self-employed individuals are on a level playing field when purchasing health insurance.

Whew. Sorry for the long comment. I've tried to not rant and rave - hopefully I've come across in the manner I intended.

Anyway, those are the 7 things I want to see addressed first in healthcare reform. Some of the items I've mentioned above can't be solved by legislation, or by legislation alone. I don't think government can solve this issue by itself. And the more money that the government takes from us in taxes to "reform healthcare", the more accountability they should have and will have to the American taxpayers. But let's face it - government is an important part of the solution, but not the only part of the solution. And how much input do our opinions really have in Congress after a bill is passed? Voting incumbents out over their voting record and public pressure over their positions and actions are about the only things stopping existing bills from just getting bigger in their scope and $$ outlays.

Congressmen and women most likely (and hopefully) receive more complete information regarding the situation and what can be done to fix the situation. However, the "solutions" being produced by them are poor fixes, at least in my opinion. They're expensive stop-gaps that make for good soundbites in the media ("more universal coverage") that Congressmen and women are using to make themselves and/or their political party look better. Crappy (but classic) posturing and politics.

I'm hopefully optimistic that incremental changes will get us there over the next 15-20 years. I don't think a quick fix is practically possible. There's just too much to change, and too much money involved. Hopefully I'm wrong about that. I'm also concerned that the system will really have to break down before we see some of these needed changes. Hopefully I'm also wrong about that.

I know that I want my current healthcare coverage at a cheaper cost. And it's just not right that certain people aren't able to get affordable insurance under their current situations. What's fair about that?

We need the right kind of healthcare reform, and hopefully we'll get it. If we don't (in each of our opinions), we have the duty to voice our opinions and to also exercise our right to vote.

Sco

P.S. Here's an interesting read:

http://www.commonwealthfund.org/Content/Publications/Fund-Reports/2007/May/Mirror--Mirror-on-the-Wall--An-International-Update-on-the-Comparative-Performance-of-American-Healt.aspx

The following is Wikipedia, so realize it's limitations, but it's a decent summary:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Healthcare


Thanks Sco! Are we getting informed, or what?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Health Matters


At the risk of repeating myself . . .

I'm going to continue this topic for one more day, mainly to encourage you to read all the insightful comments that follow my last two posts. They are evidence that health care reform deserves a healthy debate.

Our country has a fabulous opportunity right now to create a more perfect plan. People like Diane, Keri, Annie and Beck (just some of my knowledgeable readers) along with many others, can share their experiences about what works and what doesn't work in Canada and elsewhere. Differing opinions are vital. When the conversation concludes, hopefully congress will come up with something uniquely American.

I just finished work on a book about Nazi Germany where people were in danger of being arrested if they voiced their disagreement with the government. Neighbors and even family members spied on each other to catch the rebels. Freedom of speech, and freedom of expression were dead. It's hard to imagine the distrust and fear of such a time.

Ronni Bennett, of Time Goes By, quoted A. J. Liebling: "freedom of the press belongs to those who own one." Ronni went on to say, "Freedom of the press still belongs to those who own one, and blogging means practically anyone can own one . . . with blogging we designate a fairly beautiful thing: the extension to many more people of a free press franchise, the right to publish your thoughts to the world." I love having that right.

My anonymous friend "risked my contempt" (his/her words—I never feel contempt) by challenging my own experiences with health-care. He said my attitude seemed very hostile. What nonsense! The whole point of this debate is to find some answers to  an overwhelming problem. Anonymous said, "as I am sure you know, there are ways to get it (health-care), they may just be unacceptable to you."

I truly don't know!! What are the ways?? I'm not trying to push any agenda or political party. The unacceptable thing (to me) is the status quo. Does this ghostly person have a number for me to call (that I haven't already called) or an insurance company that doesn't care about pre-existing conditions? Does she have a friend who beat the system somehow? Don't hide the answers along with your identity! 

And, Anonymous, why would I be less candid if you had revealed your identity? I am the one with my name all over this blog every day! My every thought is floating through cyberspace as a public record. I had a letter to the editor published in the newspaper yesterday, with my semi-private opinion available to anyone; I am obnoxiously candid, an open book, sometimes interesting, sometimes boring. 

You're the mystery person. I'd be as open on this subject with a trustworthy stranger as I would be with any of my kids, (most of whom would fall on the other side of the debate.) 

Hmmm . . . Suddenly I'm wondering . . . Are you one of my kids? You sound smart, wordy, lawyerly, young, cocky . . . One of  my sons is totally in favor of me becoming a greeter at Walmart to get on their insurance plan . . . is that the idea I already know about that is unacceptable to me??

Hey! Am I on Candid Topics? Is someone going to jump out of my computer and give me $1,000,000,000 to donate to the children's hospital?  (Anonymous, don't be insulted that I'm comparing you to one of my kids. They're all scholarly and brilliant and like to disprove my theories. It's a compliment.)  

Don't worry. I don't know how to do the site meter thing and at this point you're more interesting anonymously.  I'll try to sound more intelligent to everyone I meet now, knowing it could be you.  (I'd rather think of you as someone I know and love, who's just toying with me, than as somebody who thinks I'm hostile or contemptuous.  I'm assuming you're someone I like.)  We'll never know.

Thanks, everybody for a healthy discussion.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Health Care Discussion


Thanks for joining the discussion yesterday. I was glad to read your comments and I'd like to respond to a couple of them.

Annie, I think there are a few good systems that work fairly well. We're not locked into choosing a whole mediocre health-care plan, but we could pick the best aspects of several, and piece them into the parts of our system that work already. I'm hoping that's what's happening.

Beck, I totally agree that we should have choice. That's why I feel so picked on. I have NO CHOICE!

Insurance companies exempt pre-existing conditions. That means that if you've been diagnosed with a chronic disease such as asthma, diabetes, arthritis, etc. before you apply for insurance, the company will not sell you a policy that will cover those costs. It's frustrating, because chronic conditions don't go away. People are doomed by them, even when they aren't life-threatening, because they rob you of time and money forevermore. This situation is getting attention as more and more people are losing their health coverage, and trying to buy insurance.

To Anonymous: Your "perspective" here seems judgmental and naive. I hope that, through your wise choices, you never have to experience "hardships you should have considered eventualities so many years ago." Our circumstance has nothing to do with a selfish or irresponsible career choice, as you imply. It has to do with poor health.

In our case, we have always been anxious and able to pay for fair coverage, but we are not a good risk. Because we have "known" health problems, the insurance company decided, "These folks will require expensive medical care, now and in the future. We don't want them in our pool. We want healthy people who have a better chance of staying healthy and therefore won't cost us as much." The agent might sell us a high-cost policy that exempts any benefits for the health problems we already have, but we cannot buy insurance that will actually help us. We do not have that choice.

We know of a young woman had two premature babies. Her doctor tested her blood and found a possible cause, and told her it might be genetic. He suggested her sister (someone we know well) also be tested. It was determined she might carry the same gene. Years later, when the sister applied for maternity insurance, she filled out the requisite questionnaire. One of the questions asked if she, or any of her relatives, had any genetic blood disorders. She checked the yes box, anxious to be totally up-front and honest. She was denied maternity insurance because she might carry a gene that might cause premature labor. The actual test didn't help anybody, and ultimately hurt her. She doesn't live in Canada or England—she lives in the USA, and she has no choice.

In further response to Anonymous: I am certainly not against the development of safer and more effective prescription drugs. It's not an abstract to me. Those very drugs have kept my husband alive for 30 years. Between Dee and I, we spend at least $500 a month on prescription drugs, and we have very common conditions. I feel we are supporting an unfair percentage of drug research when we regularly pay $140 for 30 pills, compared to a $10 co-pay.

Besides being miserable, poor health is expensive. For instance, although insulin is fairly cheap, the tiny little paper test strips a diabetic uses three times a day (to know how much insulin to use) are a dollar a piece= $100 a month. Syringes cost. Regular blood tests to monitor meds cost hundreds of dollars. It's upsetting to know that someone who had health insurance before he got diabetes has help meeting these high prices, and yet we cannot buy that same coverage.

People die of treatable diseases in the USA because they cannot afford their medicine. I think it is shameful that people know this is happening and don't want to help. Anonymous says my ideas (which ones?) and a quote about following Christ's example of caring for the sick "seem like two diametrically opposed positions, and very ironic in today's American outcry for separation of church and state."

Just for the record, I am a believer, and I want to follow Christ's example. I can't separate myself into "church" and "state." I'm suggesting that WE, as Americans, religious or not, Democrats and Republicans, ought to watch out for each other.

Anon said, "Yes, we should be generous and benevolent towards those in need, but why should government have any role in that?" Because I'm part of the government and I don't want a young mother with leukemia to go without treatment because it was a pre-existing condition. I think the choice to buy insurance should be a legal right, open to everyone. And I think the cost of medication should be the same for all of us. That's all. I don't want those of you who have it all to lose a thing. I just think the rest of us deserve the same opportunity.

But since I'm a little riled up, I have to say something else. Anonymous said "Sorry to be posting anonymously, but I really don't want your opinion of me to change because of what I have to say."

My opinion of someone goes up when they stand behind their convictions. I love discussing ideas with friends, even when we disagree. It exercises my mind. I learn from people who are enthusiastic, knowledgeable or experienced in what they're talking about. I have even more fun when we're both passionate about a topic, and don't know what we're talking about.

Keep your identity secret, Anonymous; my opinion of you would change if I found out who you are. I would be disappointed in you, not because of what you said, but because you didn't have the courage to stand up for it. Your confidence will soar when you realize your opinion, no matter what it is, is valuable because it's yours. Others will value it, too. You don't have to be Anonymous.

Monday, July 20, 2009

It's Time For Another Leap

July 20, 1969

I'm ready for another giant leap.

It seems like we've side-stepped the health care issue long enough. To me, it's a very personal subject.

A career change in 1985 put an end to our health insurance. We moved to York, England for a year where we were automatically covered by their national health plan. Seven kids can rack up a lot of doctor and dentist emergencies in one year, and I needed a couple of fillings and a crown. Dee had some problems with his eyes, plus we needed medications. Excellent, immediate care didn't cost us a dime.

While in York we visited friends in a couple of different hospitals and a rest home. We were surprised at the high quality of care. Although the buildings were older and smaller (no private rooms) than we were used to at home, patients had the treatments they needed, when they needed them.

Dee's master's thesis was on the adaptive reuse of buildings in Britain. Many old manors had been converted into small hospitals, and we toured several good facilities that were available to anyone, no questions asked.

We didn't come home totally converted to the British system of health care, but we experienced it in action and were favorably impressed. Since then we've had a chance to compare it to the American system.

When we re-applied for health insurance we were denied because of pre-existing conditions. Being self-employed compounded the problem. It seems that in the USA only healthy people are insurable. So we are "self-insured." Regular doctor's visits are expensive, extra tests are extra, and our medications cost over $500 a month. Our medical costs are usually around $1500 a month. Unless they're more.

A few years ago we found a group plan, and signed up for "catastrophic" health insurance. It required a year of payments before we could recieve any benefits. We paid $890 a month for 11 months and 10 days, while still paying for our regular care and Rx. When I had emergency gall bladder surgery they denied payment because I was 21 days short of a year. That episode alone racked up $23,000 of hospital bills. And there have been others.

It's offensive when people with health insurance imply that those of us who want it are asking for a freebie. It is simply unavailable to many people. I was disappointed to read an article saying that the religious right decries "the socialist tactics of robbing people who take individual responsibility, and giving to others who fail to earn their keep."

Angie Gray said it beautifully: "Health care is so inherently intertwined with religion. How we treat the sick and the poor is of utmost importance in the eyes of God. Christ spent most of his time teaching religion and healing the sick; it ought to be one of our top priorities today." Let's Talk Politics and Religion

I hope steps are taken soon to stop insurance companies from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions. Other steps towards lowering the cost of both prescription drugs and malpractice insurance would help everybody. It's not rocket science, but it would be another giant leap for mankind.

Health Care Emergency

Nurse Nancy

"Mama called the doctor, and the doctor said"

"What insurance do you have? Oh. Sorry. We don't take patients without insurance."

—OR—

"For a non-insured patient we require a $250 deposit before you can see the doctor."

—OR—

"A new patient visit (with the physician's assistant) is $200, payable when you sign in."

—AND THEN—

"Before we talk about hormones, we need a full blood work-up." ($1,000.)
"The blood work showed the possibility of a tumor. You need a CT scan." ($3500.)
"No tumor. But just to be safe, the doctor suggests removing your ovaries."
(This was over the phone. I'd seen the PA once for ten minutes.
I'd never even met the doctor.)

"Hysterectomy is routine at your age. You don't need that equipment anymore.
It means you won't get ovarian cancer."

—AND THEN—

When I didn't schedule the surgery, the real doctor called.
"Marty, I'm concerned about you!" she said.
(Yeah, right. I'm a file and a bunch of $ to you.)

"Actually, I'm concerned," I said.
" I came in for help with my severe hot flashes,
and immediately I'm told I need surgery.
I didn't think hysterectomies were routine anymore."

"Oh, we do them all the time!
They're my bread and butter."

I tell this story when someone notices my horrible hot flashes.
"You need to go to another doctor.
You need a second opinion," they say.

—AND THEN—

"Dr. Smith's Office. What kind of insurance do you have?
Oh? We'll need a credit card deposit for an appointment.
And there's an extra new patient fee."

Doctor Dan

Oh yes. I have health issues.
And I'm SO HAPPY they're talking about it!
I will be, too.


(This post was republished on 3/20/2010.)







Saturday, July 18, 2009

Family History Chain

Hold On

"She's from an old family."

That was the scuttlebutt about my prominent and respected neighbor when she moved in. I had to smile. Old as opposed to what? Did other families spring up from nowhere in 1919? We're all from equally old families. The difference is that some folks can follow the chain back further than others. More of their generations are still holding hands.

My past, present and future, 1976

One of the awesome blessings of being a mother is holding hands with the past and the future at the same time. I love knowing that while we were all cut from the same pattern, I'm the only link. It gives me added purpose.

Thanksgiving at our house, 1976

I'm holding onto some interesting characters. Grama was an actress in the old Salt Lake Theater. Great-great Grampa stood on his head on top of a tree. A few greats back is a sheriff responsible for burning a witch in Salem. A pioneer great lost his wife and three children to cholera on the same day, and buried them somewhere on the Nebraska plains. My grampa ran away to the circus when he was five, and to top it off, my grandma and her mother married brothers.

Oma and Grands, 2005.

I've got some stories to tell!

Holding hands with the past lets a legacy of love pass through me like electricity,
which gives power to the future.

And it makes my present more meaningful.

A family is forever. Pass it on.




Friday, July 17, 2009

Show Me

Art from Mom's Almanac

As a mom, I loved TV. I thought it improved vocabulary, taught kids about different people and cultures, kept them occupied early Saturday morning, and settled them down while I fixed dinner. I listened to a lot of TV from the kitchen.

Here are some of my favorite kid's show memories:
(Click for a gentle reminder.)
  1. I'm Just a Bill
  2. James Taylor Up On a (Sesame Street) Roof
  3. Mr. Rogers break-dancing
  4. The Waltons saying goodnight.
  5. Happy Days
  6. Today's Special
  7. Little House on the Prairie
  8. Punky Brewster
  9. Electric Company
  10. Roosevelt Franklin Rap
How has TV helped you in the Mother 'hood?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Kidspeak

Chelsea & Lucy, 2009

Chelsea said the blessing:

" . . . and please bless that we'll like all our food,
and please bless that we'll even like the chicken.
And please bless that we'll like what our drink is . . . "

The real blessing is hearing Kidspeak in person.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Family: My Happiness Project

♫. . . we are a happy family! ♫

Forty years ago we started an experiment in happiness. A family is the perfect laboratory for testing philosophies on religion, education, health, relationships, finances, . . . actually every philosophy is tested in a family. Living right in the Mother 'hood, I could observe, analyze and evaluate what creates joy.

My first discovery: being married is much more than getting married. There were lots of crazy ideas about love floating around in 1969. "Love means never having to say you're sorry" turned out to be a bad one. I thought love meant being patient with Dee until he realized I was right. That wasn't any good either. My experiment in happiness has taught me about marriage.

I think sex keeps a newly married couple in a state of frenzy long enough for them to start developing some relationship skills (communication, empathy, understanding, and patience) to add to the romance of it all. It takes some humility to realize you need those qualities, and some effort to gain them.

With practice, good relationship skills can mature into dependability, responsibility, trust and commitment; eventually the goal is charity, or pure love. The miracle is not falling in love, it's staying in love. Like Neil Diamond sings, "Love is not about you, it's not about me. Love is all about we."

Psychiatrists, therapists, ministers, teachers—think of all the experts who are trying to figure out marriage. A blessing of my happiness project is that I have studied it in depth and I'm beginning to get it.

Kids were the natural result of the frenzied years. We wanted them, but we weren't sure why. They turned out to be a combination of adorable, frustrating, entertaining, challenging and always there. That was the hardest part of living in the 'hood: the constancy. Love took on a whole new dimension, with no place to hide from anxiety, worry and stress. Crisis management and split-second decisions became daily events. There was no escaping it, so I learned to cope.

Again, think of all the seminars, discussion groups and drills designed to prepare folks to deal with emergencies. I gained those skills on the job. I can think fast, multi-task, create calm from chaos, and take charge. It's a blessing to know I could be a leader in difficult circumstances.

The blessing I cherish most is the relationship with our kids. Besides loving them, I like them. They're funny, smart, kind, caring, helpful, creative . . . they're my best friends. People ask all the time what we did to raise such a great group. I always answer that they came good. But there was some work involved: I read a zillion child-raising books and tried all the trendy theories.

In the end, though, we subscribed to the best child-raising philosophy around. The scriptures
say, "And it came to pass that we lived after the manner of happiness." Nephi 5:27 (Book of Mormon)

So we looked into it. King Benjamin's advice became our standard:
"And ye will not suffer your children that they go hungry, or naked; neither will ye suffer that they fight and quarrel one with another . . . But ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another."
—Mosiah 4:14-15

Our other motto was:
"And they shall also teach their children to pray, and to walk uprightly before the Lord."
—Doctrine and Covenants 68:28


One of my favorite blogs is The Happiness Project. Gretchen has been road-testing ideas on living a happier life (she's coming out with a book soon) and the challenge she gives her readers is to have a happiness project of their own. I think the reason I like this idea is that I've had a lifelong Happiness Project. And, I have to say, it's worked.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Life in the Mother Hood

"The family is central to the Creator's plan for the eternal destiny of His children.
The family is ordained of God."
—The Family, A Proclamation to the World

I had just moved to the hood—the Mother Hood. What did I know? I was twenty years old and I was a brand-new mom. No money, no experience, no education. I arrived in this new world with the barest necessities: a faith in God, a husband who loved me, and the example of a happy childhood. But life in the 'hood didn't come naturally to me.

I had enjoyed being the center of my own world. It was a shock to have a newborn who demanded all my energy and time, physically, mentally, emotionally—every tiny ounce I had to give! Some women prepare for this by postponing kids until after they've satisfied some of their own goals. This would not have worked for me. There would have been more to sacrifice. As it was, my initial feelings were still sometimes resentful and frustrated. Overwhelmed, I thought I wasn't ready for this season of selflessness. The time for preparation was past, and I had failed to prepare.

But I discovered something important. The abilities I wanted to have as a mother could only be developed by actually being a mother. I couldn't get them any other way. Just like a runner gains stamina from running, I would train best in the authentic mom-a-thon. This new baby was my first coach.

Oprah had a program recently, highlighting all the negative stuff that nobody tells a woman about becoming a mom. You know: exhaustion, hemorrhoids, loneliness, boredom, lack of stimulation, lack of appreciation, lack of everything. I identified with it all, but I think she needs to have a program highlighting all the positive stuff nobody tells a woman about being a mom. The benefits don't come all at once, like a two-year-old's tantrum. They are scattered through the Mother Hood. I didn't find many of them for years, and I'm still discovering them hidden generously in nooks and crannies of my soul.

This week I'm going to write about some of the awesome blessings that have come to me through being a mother. I'm an expert, having had a thirty-nine year career. Come back tomorrow and bring your friends. I'll raise your expectations of the Mother Hood.






Salt Lake Police

Norman Rockwell, 1958

I'm fed up with policeman.

Until lately I've really never had much to do with them; I had my old kindergarten view that they were our community helpers. They would get my cat out of the tree (if I had a cat.) They would tie my shoe, wipe my tears, and help me find my mom.

Recently I left Mr. Roger's neighborhood behind and moved into the real world. My first disappointment was Peter's accident. He was riding his bike to work and was hit by a hit-and-run driver. He landed on the sidewalk, unconscious, with a broken neck and a broken back (he's recovered very well, thank goodness.) Witnesses said a girl got out of the car, walked over to look at Pete, threw her hands in the air with a cry, got back in her car and drove away.

The police tried to question Pete in the emergency room (just as he came to) but the doctors shooed them away. At that time they were concerned that Peter could be paralyzed and they were cutting off his clothes, immobilizing him and running all sorts of scans. Pete never heard from the police again! There were a couple of reports in the newspaper and on TV about the investigation of the hit-and-run, but they were all full of errors and contradictions. That's how Pete learned the details of his own case. Apparently it was an unlicensed teenage girl driving somebody else's unregistered car, and the lack of info didn't merit the officer's time.

When Pete called the police from his hospital bed, he got recordings and promises for return calls, but nobody called him back. A few days later, in his back brace and neck brace, Dee took him to police headquarters to pick up his mangled bike. When he asked how the investigation was going, and if there were any leads, (basically, "is there an insurance company I can send my $18,000 worth of bills to?") the cop said they'd dropped the case. He said, (right to Pete's face in front of Dee,) "If you were a fatality, or more prominent, we'd follow this through." And that was it! They were done! Finished! Pete was alive, unimportant, and on his own.

So the other day we had another dealing with Salt Lake City's finest.

On Thursday Dee went to his downtown office after hours (about 7:00 pm.) The 10-story building is locked after 6:pm so Dee used his code to get in, went upstairs and unlocked the door to his private suite and discovered a guy sitting at his computer! Dee said "What are you doing??" and the kid replied, "Nothing . . . sorry." Dee was furious. He asked him to write down his name, address, employer, etc. which he did. Dee called the employer (who was the building's cleaning service person) and said "Come and get this kid!"

The boy said he was 13, and when Dee called me he described him as "quaking in his boots" and embarrassed. He had admitted to using Dee's computer regularly. Because he fit several of the scarier stereotypes, (mainly a dumb kid looking at porn on someone's private property) I was nervous that he would fit other stereotypes, too, and produce a weapon. Dee is young in spirit, but old in karate skills, so I called the police, and sat on the phone with Dee while he waited for backup. (I figured by being on the other end I could protect him, or at least be a witness to the gunshot.)

The employer showed up 30 minutes later, mortified and apologetic. About that same time the policeman arrived to assess the situation. He took the kid out in the hall for a few minutes, and then told Dee he'd given the vandal a "talking to" but he didn't think anything illegal had been done. Everybody was free to leave! He insinuated (in front of the culprit) that Dee was the one at fault because he had left his private computer (in his private locked office in a secured building) without password protection. "You're just asking for this," he implied. (So does that mean that if a CD player is stolen from your unlocked car, in your locked garage it's your fault for not locking the car?)

Dee has had some computer viruses this summer that have cost him down time, as well as geek squad repair bills. Now it's clear they came from the sites the boy was visiting. Luckily the boy's employer was willing to compensate Dee for those expenses and he has promised to have better control over the cleaning staff. He took responsibility and was a stand-up guy. What I'm disappointed in is the police reaction.

I'm not out for vengeance for a foolish teenage prank. If he stole any information it serves him right—"The History of Sheep Ranching in Summit County" isn't something to brag about to your gang-banger friends. It's the policeman's attitude of "Hey, boys will be boys . . . what are you gonna do?" "Girls will hit and run . . . just don't get in their way," that bugs me.

I was a silly teenager once upon a time. When I was 14 my friend and I went with our 16-year-old boyfriends, (Ken and Steve) to see what was called "The Guillotines." Actually it was a shooting range at an army base called Fort Douglas, and a popular place to park. As soon as we passed the no trespassing sign we were pulled over by military police and asked for our ID. Since Joan and I were under 16, we had the added misdemeanor of being out after curfew (10:pm in those days) and the four of us were hauled into the police station and charged with our crimes!

It was horrifying. After a stern lecture about trespassing on government property by a tough soldier with a gun on his hip, we had to call our parents to come and get us released. My parents were out for the evening (which is why I was AWOL after curfew on an unapproved date in the first place.) Always helpful, my 12-year-old brother covered for me by telling the policeman that our mother couldn't be reached because she worked all night in a factory that didn't have a phone. It didn't sell. I got another reprimand for lying.

As it turned out, Steve called his much older brother, who posed as a parent and came to retrieve us. Terrified of the possible consequences, but thinking we'd gotten away with something, we pulled into my driveway at midnight. My parents were waiting, fully armed with the whole story. (The military policeman had called back and reported on our misdeeds.) Dad told me and Ken off royally: we were both in tears. I was grounded for the whole summer. And I really was. And obviously the lesson I learned was memorable.

It's reassuring to know there are laws, and that someone is in charge of enforcing them. It gives a sense of order and security to people. I want to feel that someone trustworthy will protect me, even from myself. I miss Mr. Roger's Neighborhood.

Photo by Kevin Rivoli

Do you have any experiences to add?


Friday, July 10, 2009

What I Learned in the Woods

Will's Worm
2009


There are secrets hidden in the woods, and I found some.


Mentor
2009


Blossoms take nurturing.


Together
2009


Walking the trail with someone you love is easier than walking alone.


We Did It!
2009


Taking the high road is worth it.


We're Pregnant
2009


Kids are lucky when they have a mom and a dad.


Lighting the Way
2009


You may be the light in someone's darkness.


". . . saw a rabbit hopping by . . ."
2009


Rainy days can be fun, too.


Did You See That?
2009


Look for the good things; they're usually right there.


Onward and Upward
2009


You don't fall to the top.


Look Up
2009


Directions come from above.


Rip Van Winkle
2009


Old folks can still swing.


Little Cottonwood Canyon
2009


Focus on the big picture.


I want s'more! 2009

Grandkids love things that are
soft and squishy,

Cheater Photo
2008


Like an Oma in the woods.


Photos by Sco, Heed, Min and Omi




Wednesday, July 8, 2009

When I Am Old


"I have stopped worrying about living my life perfectly.
Oh my, what a relief!"

Do you remember Sky King? Jingles? Mr. Green Jeans? Did you wear your skate key around your neck or a circle pin on your jumper? If so, you're probably about my vintage. It's funny to realize that although I still feel the same inside, on the outside I'm getting old. I told my hair stylist that I was turning sixty soon, and she said, "Oh my gosh! I thought you were about fifty!" I was thrilled. But things have definitely changed if I think looking fifty is a compliment.

There are a bunch of things I've been saving up for when I'm old, and I've decided it's time to start acting my age. If I wait until I'm really old I won't have time for anyone to notice. At my funeral I want someone to say, "In her old age she:
  1. Saw the best in everyone.
  2. Was not judgmental.
  3. Smiled most of the time.
  4. Didn't complain much.
  5. Loved being around the kids.
  6. Hardly worried about what others thought of her.
  7. Motivated others with tact.
  8. Kept a positive attitude.
  9. Counseled wisely, but only when asked.
  10. Spoke with love.
In order to concentrate on these goals, I'm giving up some old ones. I'm not going to:
  1. Fret that I don't look like I did at 40.
  2. Brood about strange changes in my body.
  3. Wonder what everybody thinks of what I think.
  4. Waste time on activities that I don't care about.
  5. Worry about things I can't do anything about.
  6. Panic about the future.
  7. Obsess about possessions.
  8. Stress about $$$.
  9. Lose sleep over insomnia.
  10. Hold in my stomach.

I'm old, and I'm going to let it all hang out.


Jenny Joseph's Famous Poem

When I am an old woman,
I shall wear purple - -
With a red hat which doesn't go,
and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension
on brandy and summer gloves and satin sandals,
And say we've no money for butter.

I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired
and gobble up samples in shops
and press alarm bells
and run with my stick along public railings,
and make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
and pick flowers in other people's gardens
and learn to spit!

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
and eat three pounds of sausages at a go,
or only bread and pickles for a week,
and hoard pens and pencils
and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry,
and pay our rent
and not swear in the street,
and set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner
and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me
are not too shocked and surprised
when suddenly I am old,
And start to wear purple.
—Jenny Joseph

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Typical America

At the Parade by Norman Rockwell

"Without thinking too much about it,
I was showing the America I knew to
others who might not have noticed.
My fundamental purpose is to interpret
The Typical American.
I am a storyteller."
—Norman Rockwell


Singing in Church by Norman Rockwell


Home From Camp by Norman Rockwell


Birthday Party by Norman Rockwell


Family Reunion by Norman Rockwell

I'm glad to be a typical American!

"Critics insist Norman Rockwell was painting an ideal instead of reflecting a reality. Rockwell himself knew America was all about ideals. He saw his task: to remind us who we are, and what we aspire to be. That was . . . and is . . . Rockwell's America."
—Brian Williams, NBC Nightly News