Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Thank you Senator Kennedy

Like many of us, I've been thinking about the impact on my life of Senator Kennedy. He'll always be Teddy to me - something he himself probably cringed at. And I suspect that now that his work here is done, he's at peace with his role in his larger than life family.

I share many qualities with Ted. I, too, am the youngest member of a large, loud, boisterous family. I, too, took on the mantle of the family tradition when others would not. I, too, made sacrifices, both personal and professional, for my family. And I believe that I, too, have learned to embrace who I am - separate from and yet still very much a part of my family of birth.

I share his Catholic upbringing, with an emphasis on servitude and gratitude. I had a father who was looked up to and admired by his peers. Not a wealthy man to be sure, but a man whose wealth went far beyond material riches and who was mourned at his death by everyone whose life had been touched by him. I have a mother who still dominates the center of our being. Old and frail she may be, but it is her love and approval we all still seek.

I first became aware of Ted Kennedy when he spoke at his brother Robert's funeral. Those words he spoke..."Those of us who loved him and who take him to his rest today, pray that what he was to us and what he wished for others will some day come to pass for all the world."...I offer up for him today.

I was 9 years old then. Robert Kennedy had visited my home town of Grants Pass on his campaign for President. My mother took me out of school to see him. I had never missed school for anything before. Even Holy Days of Obligation were no reason to miss school. My church was across the street from my school and mass at lunch was how I spent those days. I was awed by the Kennedy charisma - swept up in the hope of a new world where my future education, employment, and health was to be assured. After all, we were Americans, pioneers, explorers, we could do anything we set our minds too. And on that awful June day, when I saw a man killed before my very eyes...a man I had seen in person...a man I had touched...something in me was crushed. And then to watch the televised funeral and to hear his brother speak of him with such love and such pain. I became a follower of Ted, and his efforts to make the world a better place were never off my radar.

Such a fine man he was. We are not likely to see his kind again. A man of great privilege whose life was marked with tragedies we can barely comprehend. To lose 3 brothers in such swift and violent ways. To have a child with cancer. To know the pain of alcohol abuse in his family and a failed marriage. To have his personal failings and faults so broadly exposed to the world. To walk in the shadow of his siblings and parents and somehow achieve greater things than any one of them ever did. By all accounts, he was more than an uncle to his brother's children. More than a colleague to his fellow senators. More than a statesman. More than a champion for social justice...for women and children, for minorities, for all. A true liberal who never shied away from that label. A good man whose good work will live on long after us all.

In his own words..."Every American should have the opportunity to receive a quality education, a job that respects their dignity and protects their safety, and health care that does not condemn those whose health is impaired to a lifetime of poverty and lost opportunity."

Let us honor him in our hearts, but more importantly, let us honor him in our deeds. The battle isn't over yet. And I'd hate to let Teddy down.

Rest Teddy. You've earned it.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Random Thought Process

I'm not sure how random my thoughts will be today...I'm completely and totally annoyed at FOX media today. Not just FOX, but all the media that is treating these health care forums like they are the next Boston Tea Party - Death to Tyranny and all that.

I'm all for debate, discourse, discussion. And there is no question that the health care system in this country is broken - and not just in one way. Insurance companies, hospitals, doctors, and drug companies all share part of the burden. And let's not forget the patient bears some responsibility for their own health. And all of us will bear a part of the burden in fixing it.

And THAT is what I see President Obama trying to do. Not foist a completely new system on us that makes all the rules and takes our rights away. Not shove a one payer system on everyone no matter what the general populace believes. BUT MAKE EACH PARTICIPANT RESPONSIBLE FOR DISCOVERING HOW TO IMPROVE IT!

I'm sure there are people out there who feel like we're sailing off the edge of the world - there are monsters out there and they're out to get us - we don't like what we have but don't take it away from us cause it's all we know....but someone has to be brave enough to sail off the edge. Someone has to try and rephrase the question, not just go with the same answers we've always had. Someone has to take the step and lead us through the fire swamp.

I'm willing to see what this man can do, what leadership he can provide, what new lands he can help us discover.

And not just President Obama. I find everyday that I read about ordinary people trying to find ways to help one another - help a battered woman in India change her life, help a child in Appalachia have food on weekends when school is out - help all of us have a safer, cleaner, planet where we all agree to take care of it. And of each other.

You may say I'm a dreamer. But I'm not the only one...am I?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

the human virus

Remember that book I talked about awhile back? A Failure of Nerve? Well, I picked it up again this week and my head is spinning again with all the good stuff inside it.

I just finished the chapter on surviving in a hostile environment. First, the author described the behavior of viruses in the biological world, how it needs a host and has no self-regulation. Then he went on to describe the behavior of disruptive or "viral" members of society. These people can be a malignancy in a family, a workplace, social organization or public sector. But they have these traits in common that the true leader must develop a resistance to.

  • They tend to be easily hurt or victimized. (no outer membrane to protect them)
  • They tend to idolize leaders with unrealistic expectations and then are quick to crucify them.
  • They never see how they contribute to the condition they complain about
  • Their responses are limited to on or off, us and them, black and white and are unable to tolerate discord or dissent
  • They focus on ritual and procedure and get stuck on content.
  • They find light and truth toxic and thrive in the darkness of conspiracy.
  • They have a high degree of reactivity.
  • They tend to ooze into relationships with others and tend to subvert communication and connection with others.
  • They are easily panicked and stampeded into group thinking.
  • They are relentless and invulnerable to insight. Unless walled off or totally defeated, they tend to come back with a vengeance.
So does this sound at all like those people out there disrupting the town meetings on health care? Does this sound like the faux news and group think we have been spoon fed for years? Does this sound like the behavior of our past administrations? (and I don't just mean Bush - but Clinton as well) Does this sound like a virus we want to keep alive in our society?

I, for one, would like a little light and truth, communication and connection, debate and dissent and evolution. Won't you join me in fighting this virus? Like any parasite, it can't live if we don't give it a host.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Broken Thought Process - Aug 7, 2009

I'm tired...so freakin' tired. I'm the kind of tired that means I'll get all weepy and emotional - the kind that means my skin is like rice paper and if you touch me I'll just dissolve into dust. The kind that means I saw Mr. ring on his finger yesterday for like 30 seconds and I had to stand in the friggin' stairwell and catch my breath and tell myself not to cry. Of course that also means that he finds a dozen reasons to be on MY floor during the day and I have to see (and hear) him at least a dozen more times that day. So last night was a cry myself to sleep night.

I hate it that he gets to me. He's such a dick - really...major dickhead...but I so want to believe that underneath all that dickishness, he really did love me once. Oh shit. Here I go crying again. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea after all.

No...my therapist told me that my writing is the best way for me to work through this stuff. And I know I'm only feeling this way because I've been working so hard and not sleeping and not eating and not taking care of me. So naturally - I'm falling apart. Time to recharge the batteries, stop dipping into the empty well and let it fill back up. Say no to all those energy sucking beings who want more from me...and Give To Myself.

There...deep breath, blow your nose, you know how to do this and you'll be fine.

The weather has finally cooled off...and when I say cool...I mean like 40 degrees cooler than last week. Sheesh...this weather stuff is just wacky. I'm going to buy an air conditioner in Sept. when they go on sale. I can't go through another month like this past one.

This weekend is The Bite, an annual food and drink fest on our waterfront. I'm going to go and browse the wine pavillion with 38 wineries pouring their best stuff. Some of my favorites will be there, Zerba, Trinity, Hillcrest and Girardet; and I usually discover some new gem. Last year was Girardet's Baco Noir which made me quite literally want to lick my glass. I didn't want to miss a drop of it. So good. If they have anything that yummy again, it will be my celebratory 50th birthday wine.

It's only 7 more sleeps until my girl is home! I have to clean up the guest room this weekend, but I can't wait to see her. I can't quite believe that it's been two years since that fabulous road trip. (If you haven't read all about it, here's the blog Expotition to Boston) Okay...more tears. Definitely time to stop.

Check out the rest of the BTP crew...Bree, Ginger, Kate, my lovely Bridgete, and the fabulous Ms. Jenn

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Grapes of ???

I watched the John Ford film of Grapes of Wrath last night. I started out just enjoying Henry Fonda's wonderful performance - so easy and real. But I ended up wondering if our nation really learned anything from the Great Depression. What is the great crime in Grapes of Wrath? It's a crime to be poor. It's a crime to need, to ask, to worry. And it would seem that it is still a crime to be poor.

We entered the depression of the 1930s a nation of haves and have nots. Those who had - those in power - scrambled to hang on to their wealth while the have nots scrambled to gather the scraps. And as I look around me today, as I listen to the news, I hear those same echos of those who have grasping for their power while the have nots silently fight to live and make it to the next day.

Last night I woke up thinking about the recent discussion of the increase in the minimum wage and what it would mean to businesses and that it would actually cause jobs to be lost. It sounded like the struggle of the peach pickers holding out for .05 from the bosses because it wasn't possible to live on .0250...that's two and a half cents.

So let's look at this example in our current economy. Let's say I make 20.00 an hour - which is pretty close to what I earn after taxes. So I work for one hour and I have 20.00. And with that 20.00 I can do a number of things. I can go to a movie and have a snack. I can go to my weekly pub quiz - pay the entry fee and have a couple drinks. I can get a haircut. I can buy a book or a cd or a dvd. I can purchase one of my generic prescriptions covered under my health insurance. I can pay my co-pay for my doctor. I can eat a meal at a good restaurant or two at a lesser quality one. I can almost fill my gas tank in my ten year old Nissan Sentra - which I paid for twice...but that's another story. I can almost pay my rent for one day...that comes to about 28.00 a day. But essentially - I can live comfortably in a nice apartment, feed myself and my pet, and provide for my basic needs. The extras - entertainment, travel, little luxuries - I have to save for, plan for. And I try to invest in my retirement - because I know I'll need it - and I worry about it. After all...my mother is 91. I've got a good 40 years left in me and I know I can't work for all that time.

What if I worked for minimum wage? And when I was 18, 19, even 25...I did. In Oregon - minimum wage is 8.40 an hour. If I worked in a restaurant and made tips, my employer would be required to meet minimum wage if my pay with tips didn't match or exceed that. So what can I do with 8.40? I might be able to go to a movie, if it's a second run theater or a matinee. But I certainly couldn't have a snack. I could go to pub quiz and pay my entry fee. But I'll drink water and eat the bar mix. I couldn't get a haircut - not even at a supercuts. I could buy a used book or cd or movie. I couldn't get a prescription, because I probably don't have insurance. I certainly couldn't go to a doctor and there wouldn't be a co-pay. I could get a meal at a fast food restaurant...one meal and not very nutritious. I might be able to get a few gallons of gas for my car...assuming I have a car. If I have to take public transportation...I can buy 4 trips. And I couldn't even think about renting a place as centrally located, clean, nice and comfortable as I have now. There wouldn't be savings or luxuries, investment or retirement. It's quite possible I would even have more than one job. Many lower wage jobs are not full-time. And so I would have multiple work schedules to deal with, transportation to and from these jobs, and time to do laundry, clean house, shop for groceries, even sleep would be precious. And my worries wouldn't be about retirement, but just about making though one more day without a significant hardship.

I know I'm fortunate to have a good job with health care and retirement plans. And yet I live from paycheck to paycheck. I don't live in luxury. I buy my clothes at second hand stores or on sale at Old Navy, Target, K-Mart. My furniture is a motley collection of yard sale finds and lesser department stores. I won't shop at Wal-Mart. I would have to be pretty desperate to violate that personal boycott of mine. I live within my means. And those means are the median income for my city. I would dearly love to have a bed..not just a mattress set on a frame. I long for an HDTV..not a big one. My apartment couldn't accommodate one. I'd rather have a Mac than my Dell laptop. There are things I want...but my needs are met.

During this past year, as my employer discussed budget cuts, I knew that it was a possibility that my hours might be cut from 40 hours to 32 a week. That would have meant not just a reduction in my salary, but an increase in my health care costs, as I would have had to contribute toward my premium. If that had happened - I would have to sell my car, to save on the upkeep, insurance and gas. I would have stopped my contributions to my IRAs and deferred compensation programs. Perhaps I would have had to find a second job...a minimum wage job. Not easy to do in the state that currently has the highest unemployment in the country. I would have cut back on my "luxuries", my internet and cable services, my entertainment and my contact with my beloved daughter, friends and family.

I know how close I am to becoming a statistic. To having to figure out how to survive instead of thrive. And I know many like me. We're not nameless, faceless, uneducated, or immigrant. We're not stupid Okies. (I really bristle at that one. My daddy WAS an Okie.) I'm not A RED...I may be PINK...but not PINKO. I tremble at how easy it is to scapegoat and finger point and blame those who are least able to defend themselves. I see it every day. And I despair....we learned nothing. We still hoard and refuse to share. We fear anyone who looks different, talks different, thinks different than we do. We still deceive and betray for a few dollars or a few cents. I have very little, but I would willing give so that another is able to eat, sleep, shower, live without fear of tomorrow. I pray we are not close to the despair of the decade my parents lived though. Every single day...I pray.