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Archive for August, 2009

I’d like to tell you about a young family with no health insurance. They’ve just bought a house and are working two jobs to pay for it–two jobs that barely cover the mortgage and the bills in this time of economic downturn. They have a little girl who was born without health insurance, and there were those bills to pay, too. It’s a struggle and they’re just barely getting by. What started as a sniffle in their eight month old daughter turned into a raging fever and hacking cough. They rush to the hospital where the little girl is immediately put in the NICU. The whole time she lays there both parents are in agony. Their life is over no matter what. If the unthinkable happens and their long-prayed-for daughter dies then their world will stop. They can feel the grip of that fear seize their hearts with every breath they draw. And yet if the hoped-for happens, their world will still be in a mad disarray. What little money they have saved will be swallowed by the endless hospital bills, and they’ll be thrown down a tunnel of dark economic struggle for ages to come. No matter which way the dice fall, it’s ugly.

Then the night comes when they can see the baby through the lucite incubator wall and they know she’s stopped breathing. It’s over. They call the nurse and she asks them to step outside so she can change the baby’s sheets. It’s her one kindness to these parents–that they not see the efforts the hospital makes with their dead baby.

Now maybe if those people had health insurance they could have gotten their daughter seen to when the sniffle was just a sniffle. Maybe we wouldn’t be here talking about how their baby is dead in an isolette and they have no way to pay for it.

People die all the time. It’s never not a tragedy when people die. It’s a heart-stopping, world-ending game changer. It’s ugly and raw and cold and it is very much the essence of hell. People are scared and angry and their world doesn’t look the same whenever there’s a death. And they want to blame someone. They will blame themselves for not taking the baby to the doctor sooner. They’ll blame the insurance company for not covering the life-saving treatment. They’ll blame the government for not offering better options under Medicare or Medicade. They’ll blame the doctors, the nurses, the janitors and whomever else they can find. It’s part of the process of dealing with death. But we are all short-timers and that will never change. So as we discuss health care, I think it would be wise to remember that ultimately death is out of everyone’s hands and is the last line on everyone’s dance card.

Yes, miracles can happen. But they’re not sent by insurance companies or Congress. They’re at the whim of the angels.

Just last week I was talking to that young mother. She and her husband just got back from a Disney cruise where they laughed and ate and drank and were merry. They were eventually able to pay all of their hospital bills after a lot of hard work and prayer and sacrifice. It took awhile but the sun came up eventually. I remember very clearly the first time she and I talked about their baby dying and all the financial sacrifices it took. I asked her how they managed and she said very simply “you just do what you have to do. You put one foot in front of the other and move on.”

Of course I do need to make one thing clear. Their story had another bit of a happy ending. When that nurse came in to “change the sheets” she and a team of medical professionals were able to bring the baby back to life. I remember the doctor saying once that they had God in the room with them and they knew it. I was a little kid when he said that to my mother, talking about how they brought me back to life. I’ve never forgotten it.

In the end we’re all at the whim of the angels.

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How useless was the Larry King show with Penn Jillette, Ben Stein & James Carville talking about health care? Or, more precisely talking about talking about Health Care, and then talking about how bitchy Hilary Clinton was and what a genius film director John Hughes was. I don’t normally watch any of those TV news shows, but decided that I would make an exception for Penn Jillette, who is usually erudite, well-spoken and an all-around good representation for libertarianism. The show was a bunch of rot. Because no good points were advanced (other than Jillette’s salient bit about “society” being distinct from “government”) and Carville made the goofball mistake of claiming that Napoleon came back after Waterloo. Then Ben Stein told Carville to read a history book and in the process slammed all Democrats–before making a stupid mistake himself and saying that Hillary Clinton had a lot of “insoluable” problems on her hands right now. Good to know that none of the Secretary of State’s problems can be dissolved in liquid or fat. But still a startlingly ironic gaffe from a usually well-spoken man who had just slammed someone else for a lapse in knowledge.

There was little actual knowledge to be had on the program, which was referreed by Wolf Blitzer in Larry King’s absence. Blitzer seemed to be fixated on whether or not the health care debate was going to be the ruination of President Obama. I’ve privately thought for about 10 months now that four years of presidency were going to be the ruination of Obama–he’s sold too many flights of fancy for his supporters to not be disappointed and his detractors to not be glibly satisfied. Carville tried to slide out of answering by offering up some folksy charm, yet Blitzer kept asking in between cutaways to various ‘raucous’ town meetings.

It bothers me that the talking heads are trying to make the town meetings the story, or President Obama’s career the story. This is a huge deal with long-lasting ramifications for the welfare of our country and so many of these shows are quite literally rearranging the deck chairs on the Lusitania.

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“Glen Dean” just linked to a post I wrote. He’s up to his usual tricks again, calling me a conservative while wrapping the title in snidequotes and disowning me for pandering to liberals.

As if I ever did anything I didn’t want to. As if I ever caved into peer pressure. I am the woman who has been to numerous Grateful Dead shows without ever once taking illicit drugs. I’m the girl who went to Nazarene summer camp three years running and didn’t respond to one altar call. I’m the woman who cornered her Congressman and Senator (at the time Dan Coates and Dan Quayle) in the Hamburger Hamlet in Georgetown and told them if they didn’t quit riding the fence they’d get splinters in their butts.

I’m not one to curry favour with anyone, nor am I one to bow to peer pressure. It’s what makes me and libertarianism such a beautiful marriage.

Well, now that I’ve defended my bad behaviour and cloaked it in the guise of coolness, let me address one point of “Glen”‘s that needs clearing up. He claims that I’ve developed my opinion of these odious Town Hall Melees from the liberal media/thinktank whathaveyou. I would like to state for the record that my post about those Town Hall Melees was conceived of and written after reading tweets from that bastion of liberalism we call Bill Hobbs. Mr. Johnny Red himself.

And this is what should make “Glen Dean” and the rest of his crowd think. Those folks who are strutting with thrust-out chests, passing around shaking blurry video of some huckster being beaten by Union thugs and calling it a victory for freedom. I developed my opinion after reading one of the vaunted heroes of the New Conservatism. One of the grand propagandists of the Radical Right. And you all can’t even tell the difference between him and the left. Pause and Reflect.

I read tweets and blog posts from other conservatives who claim to share my faith. They muddy themselves with debasing attitudes, flinging hate like the muck they spew and dismissing other people with crude epithets and snide remarks. Then they turn right around and tweet and blog on Sundays and Wednesday Nights about how they’re going to church and they wonder if people would follow God on Twitter and they wonder why Obama doesn’t pray in public and scream about this being a Christian nation and stamp their feet as they proclaim about how Thomas Jefferson died on the cross for our sins and our right to pray in schools. Praise the Lord, pass the ammunition and act like fecal-encrusted rabid monkeys when you go to a Town Meeting because that screaming, pushing, shoving and cursing is winning people to your cause and saving souls for the afterlife.

You know, if this is what conservative means, you can keep putting snidequotes around it when you talk about me. Because in my book conservative still means that you work hard, do your best, care and provide for your loved ones and do the works of charity in private–through your churches and clubs and out of your back gate. I don’t care to belong to this new conservatism that takes the worst in man and celebrates thuggery as the price of the new liberty.

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So there’s this conversation going on at Post Politics.

I know all these people are very concerned about how folks like me are treated, because it always comes up when they’re arguing health care. And it keeps hitting a button with me.

Frank Cagle says

How do we prevent private insurance from dumping all the chronically ill onto the public plan?

Joe Kirkpatrick (Republican Gubernatorial Candidate) says

The only caveat to this plan would be to allow the uninsurable, ONLY those willing to do something for themselves

CAN WE PLEASE STOP TALKING ABOUT “DUMPING” THE CHRONICALLY ILL?!? Can we please stop talking as though our illnesses make us shiftless blobs of lazy sucking on the public teat?

Mr. Kirkpatrick, I am not unwilling to do something for myself. I am not sitting back and saying “eh well. This is fun, this crippling handicap. I think I’ll just enjoy it.” Not a day goes by that I don’t mourn the life I’ve lost. The life that was taken from me by the engines of fate.

Mr. Cagle, I’m not a piece of garbage. I’m a highly-intelligent, hard-working, well-read and well-educated woman who through no fault of her own finds herself unable to use many of her body parts due to AutoImmune Disease.

While I can no longer hold a 9-5 job I still contribute to society in many ways, not the least of which involves making my voice heard through my writing. While I no longer earn money, I continue to provide love and support to many people who do. I continue to engage in many local communities. I don’t receive disability from any government at this time, being blessed in other ways. (God closed the door on my working, but opened windows elsewhere.)

Most importantly, I provide data to science, which allows them to study my condition, to learn to treat it more effectively and hopefully to prevent or better control it in future generations.

I am not garbage. The fact that I get up from my bed every day, struggle down two flights of stairs and type with fingers which feel filled with shards of glass–with a stick between my teeth when my fingers don’t work at all–in order to participate in society should bear witness to my willingness, my tenacity and the fact that I will fight til my last breath to use whatever tools I have left to make a difference in this world.

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**Sqwaaaaak!!**munch, munch, munch**urp!

That? That right there was the transcription of the sound of me eating crow. Which I’ve now been doing for about two days.

For about eighteen years now I’ve been very vocal about not liking the Outlander series of books by Diana Gabaldon. I paid cold, hard cash for the first book when it first came out many years ago. This guy who worked at the Waldenbooks in Hickory Hollow Mall used to hook me up with new titles every payday. I think he liked that I was a customer who wasn’t drifting down from the food court to look at naughty magazines. (This was obviously in the twilight era of both the print magazine industry and Hickory Hollow Mall itself.) He pressed a copy into my hands, fervently BEGGING me to read thing because it would change my life, etc.

I took it home and tried to read it but just wasn’t in love with it. Or even in like with it. I have always had this thing against historical romances, where women fantasize about leaving our troubled times with all the air conditioning, soft-serve ice cream, maxi pads and toilet paper only to drift off in a quest for love during the times when raw sewage floated in the streets and men were allowed to own their wives like cattle. I don’t get any sense of ‘romance’ from all that. I know dating in these times is hard, but come ON! You want to go to a time where dentistry was, if pondered at all, just a quaint notion performed by the guy who also cuts hair?! And this is where you wanna go in search of KISSING?I?! Really?

At that point in my life I was still in my mystery-thriller phase, not having yet softened my youthful prejudice against the romance genre. For mystery-thriller readers in the early 1990s, you have to understand. The reading world really looked down on us. We weren’t serious Utne Readers; rather we were the kids who had barely graduated from comics. If you were a mystery-thriller reader who was a trifle insecure and looking to feel superior over someone else to bolster your self-worth, then you picked on the Romance genre. Like dung, crappy attitudes roll downhill.

Well, it’s about 18 years later and I’ve gotten over myself. I now write the same romance novels I used to disdain. And one of my fellow writers, hearing the topic of my books, said “you must just LOVE the Outlander books!”

Oh, no. Here we go again. I explained why I didn’t love them, why I couldn’t even except the idea of them and she gently explained that I was, indeed, a fool who had no earthly idea what I was talking about. So I downloaded the first one to my beloved Quinndle on Monday afternoon. By Tuesday morning I knew I had to write this post, to rectify my Karma. I was indeed wrong about them. Very wrong. And so far, 32% of the way through the first book*, I have to admit that I am at last eating crow in Diana Gabaldon’s honour.

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* Kindle readers have no idea what page they’re on, given that “page” is an outdated concept when you’re reading air. So instead we’ve got a little progress bar at the bottom which colours in darker to correspond with our journey through the book. It reminds me of those fund-raising thermometers which show how much money you’ve got and how much left you’ve yet to earn. I am toying with asking one of my handy computer friends to write a Kindle Page Conversion App for my iPhone that takes the number of pages in the print edition from the Kindle Book Information Site, divides that against your progress percentage and gives you an ephemeral “page number”. Just because. I’m a book lover and pages are part of books and this progress bar/percentage nonsense is part of a colder, more goal-oriented realm.

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I couldn’t go to BlogHer, because conferences are inconvenient to plan for when you’re not sure how you’ll be feeling. I’ve blown enough money on trips and tickets that I had to back out on at the last minute to know better at this stage of the game.

But I’m a woman writer who does some of her writing for women, and that’s why BlogHer appeals to me. Or why it used to.

Because blogging has changed drastically in the last two years. Even though it’s always been an ever-evolving medium, the evolution of years past has turned into what almost looks like a corruption. Blogging, in the first years of its life, was a chance for people to finally have someone else in the wide world hear what was on their minds. I had one of those proto-blogs in 1998, before they had a name and when they were just about writing. Then I retired for awhile, coming out again when I came out as a writer, almost 5 years ago.

My blog has never and will never be about making money. I made that decision because I saw too many of the best minds of my generation dragged off the roof waving genitals and manuscripts in an attempt to get ducats in exchange for their words. My blog is like my marriage. If I wanted money for this thing that I love doing, I’d go to the streets. Here I do it for love.

I don’t know if I blame the recession or greed or newspapers trying to align themselves with a faster-moving culture. But somewhere in there, in the last 2 years the Mommyblogger Paradigm became the ultimate corruption of blogging. And I mean that literally.

Because now you have people who are busy turning their two-cents worth of opinion into a referendum for a new world order whereby they get to decide who deserves to make money off the exploitation of her children and who doesn’t. You have women who have decided that they are worthy of thousands of dollars of free goods and services in exchange for telling people about how they got thousands of dollars of free goods and services.

I’m having a somewhat schizophrenic reaction to all of this. I like seeing consumer advocacy in action. I like when real people talk in a real way about their real experiences and make a difference in this world. But it seems to have lately shifted from basic advocacy into a pell-mell dash for the loot. The examples are so numerous that I’d be all day throwing out links, so if you need more proof, just google “Mom Blog Sponsor” and “BlogHer Swag”. It makes for a sad day of reading.

In fact, it makes some of the old guard Mommy Bloggers reconsider their own blogs. These women are the ones who got in it for the love and don’t mind but don’t brag about the prizes that come every once in awhile.

[T]hose of us who were blogging at and around that time were pioneers in the mommyblogging field. We did it with pride, openness and quality. We told the stories of our lives. We shared stories about motherhood honestly and without apology. We took back the term “mommyblogger” and made it synonymous with power, integrity and respect. … Many women who are a part of this new breed of mommybloggers have come to the scene heralding with much pomp and circumstance a sense of entitlement. They feel they are owed something. They feel just by slapping the label mommyblogger on their blog (blogs where they barely if ever write about their personally lives or families at all), they have earned the same respect as those who are writing quality stories that engage their readers.

[I] heard the words, “I don’t even want to be called a mommyblogger anymore if this is what is has come down to.“ come out of my very own mouth, my heart dropped to my feet. The look on [Susan Getgood’s] face (and the tears that began rolling down my cheeks) said it all.

Literacy has long been the number-two way for women to obtain power. Right behind using their sexuality. When we learned to read and write we wrested control of our lives and destinies from a male-dominated culture. I firmly believe that writing is the alchemy which frees women’s minds and souls. To see it turned from that, to see it debased into a form of extortion, an exercise of greed is to watch this powerful medium poisoned and killed.

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I never played sports. I reckon if I did I’d probably be the guy warming the bench by the Gatorade cooler fuming at the self-centered golden boy who insisted on making all of the plays while the rest of us played Supporting Cast. In the tip of the iceberg of a post for another day, I’m also a bigger fan of George Hincapie than Lance Armstrong.

I prefer the people who show up quietly and do the grunt work. The bulk of society, who go about their business without being annointed.

That’s probably why all this ruckus about the Town Hall Meetings has me seething. I don’t want any of these new half-witted health care proposals. All of them are neither fish nor fowl and will only accomplish the side-effect of giving the government more to louse up. People who want good cheap health care won’t get it. People who want liberty over their own health care won’t get it. Bureaucrats and lawyers will be the only true beneficiaries.

Scratch that. Signpainters and talk show hosts also appear to making a good living off the mess.

Because as I’ve discovered upon opening my Twitter account and following @billhobbs, apparently there is some movement afoot to demand Town Hall Meetings on Health Care just so the aggravating minority of yelling agitants can drown out any possibility of conversation. These same people whom I suspect of having dartboards with Abbie Hoffman’s face in the bullseye are taking a page from the Yippie handbook and being obnoxious to get their point across.

Unfortunately the only point that comes across is that they are obnoxious.

Ironically, I agree with their stance on health care. But I don’t want them making fools of my agenda by tying it to their desperate bid for attention. I want to have a chance to approach my representative like a sane and rational human being, to present my case–in person–to that representative. I am one of the people who would be very hurt by any of the new initiatives. My medicines would no longer be covered, and the government bills under advisement would sentence me to a life of pain-killers, with no coverage for the disease modifying medicine that increases my life expectancy from 55 to 89. Bonus for them if I die 34 years earlier, I suppose.

But that’s beside the point. I don’t get to say that to my representative while dressed nicely. I don’t get to show them my twisted left hand, with its fingers starting to point due west instead of north.

I’ve sent letters and pictures, but I’m being denied my face-to-face opportunity by those who think it’s cool to shout the rest of us down. I resent that mightily.

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I signed up for Goodreads 2 years ago on Facebook, thinking it would be a good idea to track the books I am reading, wanting to read or have read already.

I hit a bit of a snag when I realised that I’ve been reading book-books (what they now call “chapter books” in a turn of phrase that drives my a bit mad) since I was 4. That’s 35 years of reading an average of 5 books a week. Since I’m a reader and not a math wiz and I don’t want to open my calculator widget I can promise you that adds up to a lot of books I’ve covered.

When I talk about the books I read it gets embarrassing because I’ve got friends who are reading high-minded non fiction about war and science while I’m reading bubble-bath escapism. Then I’ve got friends who are reading male adoloscent homoerotica in the guise of science fiction* while I’m reading ‘serious’ books about the history of women and medicine.

Then the other problem is that Goodreads is missing a tag for “I have read this book 10000 times”, a tag I need for things like Harry Potter, The Winds of War and Katherine. That’s good in the long run, I suppose, because it keeps me from looking as much of a dork as I truly am for leaving serious research books on my To Read list while I dive into The Charm School for the fourth time.

I think the crux of the problem is that I read the way others eat. For a person to sit down and record every meal of the last 35 years–or even one meal a day–would go from fun to daunting very quickly. That’s how I feel when I sit down to write about what I’ve read.

I know this sounds like I’m bragging, but I’m here to admit that maybe this is a fault. I started thinking that when I started on Hour 5 of updating my “shelves” and realised that I’m so given-over to books as to be stunted in other areas. I haven’t jumped out of planes or climbed more than 1 mountain. Then again, I’m afraid of heights. I don’t have children to raise, I don’t meet others for coffee–which I don’t drink. I don’t hunt lions, sail in regattae, shop for clothes, paint, or play the piano any more. I no longer act in plays.

I read books, I write books, I talk about books. I talk about talking about books and write about reading books and writing books. And since in those books that I read and write I go so many places I lose sight of the fact that I’m not moving at all. If my life were an adolescent homoerotic story in the guise of science fiction my body would stay in one place while my mind would be in another body in another time and place flirting with another boy. (Oh, and I would be a boy myself. Because 99.99 % of AHSITGOSF books are starring supersmart, supertalented boys who buddy up with likely boys who are only slightly different yet wholly validating of Hero Boy.)

I’m still pondering whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, this being so devoted to books that the written word has turned me into a literary anchorite.

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*In discussing Ender’s Game, a book a lot of my friends love, one of my friends pointed out the homoerotica that I thought I was really pervy for noticing when I first read the book. But since I’ve found another like-minded soul I’m coming out of the closet and calling EG a bit of a, well, you know. That whole AHITGOSF thing.

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