HomeLatest ThreadsGreatest ThreadsForums & GroupsMy SubscriptionsMy Posts
DU Home » Latest Threads » IdaBriggs » Journal
Page: « Prev 1 2 3 Next »


Profile Information

Gender: Female
Hometown: South East Michigan
Home country: United States
Member since: Tue Jul 27, 2004, 01:19 PM
Number of posts: 10,559

Journal Archives

On Being Useful & Employed (long, blunt)

There is currently a great deal of angst floating around about the revelation "the government is tracking the communication of its citizens." The camps are divided amongst "yeah, whatever, it has been going on since Bush Junior" and "heavens to betsy, it is time for an uprising because our civil liberties are being trampled!" Throw in some common sense paranoia - "a high profile journalist dead in an odd car crash" and those of us able to wrap our heads around "The Bourne Conspiracy" or the plot lines of "Covert Affairs" or the politics of "The Network" (or Aaron Sorkin's "West Wing" series - remember how politics was played there?) get ... nervous.

Not that we are going to do anything except talk, of course. We are very busy people. Plus, what can we really do?

Realistically, people should be nervous. Money was funneled into employing people into "anti-terrorist" jobs, and if the "terrorists" go away, so do the jobs.

Think that one through folks: most people have ZERO incentive to work themselves out of a job. Do you really think this surveillance is going to go away? Or ever *NOT* be "necessary"?

That is not how life works in the United States. Everyone from social workers (who are chronically over worked and underpaid), to police officers, to prison guards, to physicians, to federal agents, to anti-terrorist folks -- ALL of these people want something called "job security" and the best way to get it is to make sure your skills are "needed and necessary."

The United States has declared failed wars on everything from Poverty to Drugs to Terrorists -- and smart people might notice none of those things has really gone away. Why?

There is no incentive to work yourself out of a job. There is plenty of incentive to be doing something "necessary" and "important" (like deal with hunger, poverty, drugs, poor health, and the ravages of age); we *need* those things, and the people who are "helping" with them. NOTE: I am not talking about normal life cycle things like teachers who get a new crop of children every year, or folks who deliver babies - I am talking about the "never ending jobs" that simply don't go away, even though we spend tons of money trying to make positive things happen, and yet FAIL every time, for "unexplainable" reasons.

Have you ever noticed people spend their lives in their careers, and apparently, those careers are so blazingly unsuccessful they keep getting paid to do the same things over and over again?

Let us use simple examples: has your local town/city/village ever hit a point where they said, "you know, this is a really safe neighborhood, so we really don't need all of these folks working in law enforcement - maybe just three or four to handle the occasional cat stuck in a tree, and pick up a few drunks/remind the neighborhood kids to be careful when they are playing kick the can in the street?"

Odds are good you've never spoken to a law enforcement person who said, "man, we are so bored out of our minds - we offered a couple of guys early retirement!" Instead, these folks keep *very* busy, and oddly enough, the more crime they look for, the more they find.

Their paychecks depend on it.

I am not picking on law enforcement; the same thing can be said of the need for fire departments. Seriously, this is the 21st century, and for some reason, we still don't know how to build "fire proof houses" -- don't even go with the "it is too expensive" because this doesn't look like it is that complicated, so why isn't it available at your local paint store as part of every paint can we sell? http://www.onecoatfireproofpaint.com/ -- and I adore fire fighters, for the record, but I would prefer they NOT be as busy as so many of them are.

Let's talk poverty: the people who "help" poverty stricken people have been "helping" for decades. Education has been blamed, laziness has been blamed, a lack of child care, a culture of dependence, blah, blah, blah -- and we still have homeless and hungry children, and a whole army of people filling out forms trying to get them services. To the despair of the helpers, they have permanent job security: it looks like there will *always* be poor people needing help, and people filling out paperwork to get it to them.

Have you ever been involved with a "big charity"? A tremendous number of them - March of Dimes is a pet peeve of mine, but there are others, including those affiliated with Heart Disease, Muscular Dystrophy, Cerebral Palsy, and ten types of Cancer -- raise A TON of money, most of which goes for employee salaries. Bluntly, if any of these folks actually *solved* the problems they purport to be raising funds for, their would be *a lot* of unemployed people. And don't even get me started on the researchers who depend on grants from these organizations - seriously, the squabbling that goes on in the scientific community, while entertaining, is really about scrambling for the limited dollars which equal wages/salaries for the people working on the never ending list of problems associated with the health of this nation.

Disclaimer: The Shriners. Those guys who work for free managed to help eradicate polio, and when they didn't need to raise funds to help children stricken with it, they expanded into burn care and free health care for children. I kind of adore them.

Now take our armed forces - we need them to "be ready" to defend us -- but against what? The armies of other countries, of course, and the space aliens who might be attacking on the Fourth of July (per the movies). Will the need for armed forces ever go away?

Here is a clue: if it does, then people will lose their paychecks. The people who wear the uniforms and fire the weapons are supported by a whole host of other jobs (and yours might be one of them): if you never fire bullets, then no one needs to make new ones, which means the factory workers won't stay employed....seriously, how many people were killed by our military forces with bullets last year - two hundred? three hundred? - and how much money did we spend on guns and bullets, and how much money was spent on training/firing those weapons so that it was NORMAL at a psychological level? Tens of thousands to train to "kill" a couple of hundred?

Seriously, if you have mice in your house, do you buy one or two containers of mouse d-con, or a hundred? If we use the same level of math: (250 people killed) / 10,000 bullets bought = 97.5% bullets "wasted just in case" -- does it make sense to you, if you were paying the bill personally? (And NO, I don't want them to bring up the "kill" ratio to justify more bullets - in a sensible world, bullets would be a rare thing!)

The people in the FBI, CIA, TSA, HSA, and a whole bunch of other acronyms I can't be bothered to learn about, are filled with people who want to keep collecting a paycheck. To justify their jobs, they are going to have to both "look busy" and be able to report results (which will explain to anyone interested why they shouldn't be laid off). There will *NEVER* be a point where someone is going to say, "you know, I've spent the day here playing solitaire on my computer - maybe my position isn't really necessary" because that is NOT how people work.

We want to be useful. We want our employment to make a positive difference in the world. And we also want to be able to take care of our families by providing them food, clothing and shelter courtesy of the contributions we are making in society, and the rewards we are given as a result.

Very few people work themselves out of a job, and then go on to another one/problem to solve.

So, yes - when it comes to "spying" on Americans, I join the ranks of the "duh!" and shake my head at the foolish folks who think it is going to end. We have created an endless war, and the soldiers in the ranks must be paid. They are good people, and they will find things to fuss about, because there is *always* something to find and fuss about if you look hard enough.

There is no incentive for any of these people to want to join the ranks of the unemployed. They are hard workers, and they are doing the best they can. Most depend on people "up the chain of command" to evaluate whether or not they are doing something wrong, and trust their managers when they say "push this button, and then do this" because that is how it works in the American work place.

None of us are really different than the workers in the garment factories who noticed the doors to the fire exits were blocked everyday, and didn't raise a fuss because they didn't want to lose their jobs. After a while, it becomes normal. Your mission, after all, isn't to "solve a problem" but to do your job. What are the odds the building will catch fire, right? Isn't somebody else paid to worry about stuff like that? Don't you have enough to do with your work load, instead of looking for "more work"?

One hundred years ago most of us were working on farms to make sure their was enough food to feed the country. Those jobs aren't necessary anymore, and we are creating new ones to keep busy.

What you do is important: it defines who you are, and how you take care of your family. But if you cure cancer, a lot of people will be out of work - you don't really want to do that, do you?

Now, stop playing on the internet, and get back to work. What you are doing is super important - people depend on you.

And so it goes....

I haven't deleted them yet: people I've lost still in my email/phone lists.

I am going to name names because I want everyone to "know" and remember these people, even though they have passed. I know it sounds stupid, but I still haven't deleted them from the address book in either my phone or my email (depending). Seeing them there always makes me think of them, even if only for a second.

Andy Stephenson: An activist who became a personal friend during the craziness of Election Investigation 2004, Andy Stephenson became a close friend over multiple phone calls during an intense time in our lives. We talked through the New Hampshire recount, his tales of "of course this computer isn't connected to the internet - we just use that phone line to get our email!" and the Great Garbage Bag Debacle (hint: when screwing with an election, bad practice is to have evidence in garbage bags at the door where you are meeting the election investigators!). We heard "click" sounds when we were being "tapped" on phone calls, and would giggle hysterically as we would shout "Agent Mike! We could use some help here!" Later, when my father was dying of pancreatic cancer, Andy listened to me; I was devastated when we later lost him to the same disease. A DU person helped me get to his funeral, for which I will *EVER* be grateful. Andy is still in my email address book, and I still remember him when he pops up. You can read his words of wisdom about keeping elections fair and honest here: http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=389x7521581

Greg Piasecki: An amazing and talented man who worked in local theater circles, Greg also created beautiful works of art in stained glass and carpentry. He was a great big bear of a man, gentle and fierce, who loved garlic and had an amazing sense of humor. His brain cancer was discovered when he had a seizure in a restaurant while getting set to dine with friends - he shared that the last thing he remembered was ordering the "grilled" fish meal in order to be healthy, then was being asked "how often do you have seizures, sir?" (Answer: Never?) by emergency personnel in an ambulance, and joked that he should have ordered it "fried" instead. Prior to his illness he was *extremely* active in the Oakland County (Michigan) NORML group, and helped get "medical marijuana" legislation passed in Michigan. http://oaklandnorml.org/cms/index.php?name=News&file=article&sid=467

Melissa Owlsely: Still too new, as she just passed Saturday, May 4, 2013 from complications from cancer, my friend always used her Pekingese "Smokey" as her avatar. She was a crafter who loved knitting and card making, and she really shouldn't have died because she still has a ton of unfinished projects left. She was witty and wise, full of insights that helped me look at my life differently. Our friendship was cemented by mutual support of our infertility battle (I won, and the twins are six), and we cried together when her pregnancy miscarried. Her ovarian cancer was discovered during what was supposed to be a routine D&C for endometriosis, and she woke instead to a full hysterectomy and a battle with cancer. She beat it, but it snuck back. In the meantime, she created amazing and beautiful things - pot holders in shades of purple, scrubbies for bathtub play that looked like sea creatures, and cards that made me envy her talent. She was an excellent writer with a low tolerance for stupid, which made her a Flaming Liberal; her thoughts on insurance/medical stuff could make you weep with laughter as she turned her rage at an idiotic system into humor. An avid reader, I will miss our discussions about "vampires versus werewolves" and why feisty women heroines were the best. Miss her - keep reaching for the phone to call and discuss this sucky situation with her. How can I delete her name from my phone? Answer: I can't. http://pinterest.com/mloknitting/

Do you have people you haven't/can't/won't delete? Please share a little bit about them in this memory thread.

Thank you for reading.

How do you respond to stress? (Introspective.)

I have been watching a silly television show I am too embarrassed to name as it is a "reality dating show". (Yes, I admit it - sometimes I like "mindless" entertainment.) Last week one of the "experts" dissected a situation that really struck home for me and I've been chewing on it ever since.

One of the women was "uncomfortable" in a challenging social situation (completely reasonably, I believe), and she reacted by distancing herself, being a tad snippy/rude, then made obnoxious comments about the other people in the situation who were handling things a little more gracefully.

The expert called her out on her not-so-impressive behavior; she defended herself by saying she was *really* uncomfortable, at which point the expert pointed out we *ALL* get uncomfortable/unhappy at times, and it is our *DEFAULT* reaction that really shows the type of people we truly *are* - and hers was apparently "if I'm unhappy, I'm going for obnoxious/not going to suffer in silence." (I automatically went sympathetic - I am not big on suffering in silence myself! Lol!) He pointed out this should be a "red flag" for a potential mate (dating show!), because we all have tough times in life, and instead of instinctively trying to make things "better" for everyone/be supportive to the other participants in an awkward situation, she went straight to pouty/pissy, and who wants to be married to THAT when times get tough (which, life being life, is bound to happen)?

Ouch. Especially when you find yourself being "sympathetic" to someone!

So now fast forward to "real life" - I have a niece who has been going through a very challenging pregnancy, and her "default" is to be Obnoxious and Nasty to the people who love and care about her the most. As her stress levels have ratcheted up, her behavior has gotten worse, and she has sent vicious text messages to her mother and grandmother saying horrible things to them (completely unprovoked). Both of them will forgive her, which is part of why she has felt 'safe' to treat them so badly, but at the end of the day, their behavior had nothing to do with hers; they have just become her whipping boys, and the less they tried to react (out of concern for her health), the worse she got.

Well, her baby came yesterday - a little boy, two pounds, ten ounces - and the road ahead is going to get worse before things get better; as any parent can tell you, a "problem pregnancy" is stressful, but the NICU changes the entire definition of "stressful" (at least for myself, and every parent I have ever known who lived through a visit there!). And that means my niece is probably going to become Even Worse for a while - which is sad, but really makes me think the "expert" from the show was incredibly insightful.

It is always easy to see things in other people (and my niece and her son are on my mind at the moment), but as I said, I have been chewing introspectively; I am *amazing* in a crisis. I go all "calm" on the outside, and default to my Red Cross training, "order" people to do stuff ("call 911!", and then completely fall apart later. With long term crisis (illness), I am the "practical one" who makes sure there is food and people eat. My tendency is to go "logical" on a situation, and "problem solve" it. I am certainly not EMT/Police/Fire/Military/Medical "crisis" trained, but I do have "basic first aid" training, and I mentally kind of go there/hide my panic and shock. In hindsight, probably why I was an early fan of (Dr.) Howard Dean - he seemed completely "trustworthy" in a crisis, if you know what I mean? Also, I "worry" over things a lot, including things I really can't control (like my niece - sigh).

I look for these things - the "how do you respond in a crisis?" - in my leaders: I was able to support John Kerry for President because, frankly, his military experience told me he knew how to react "calmly" in a crisis. Junior, on the other hand, just looks panicked on the videos of him on 9/11, and luckily nuclear warheads weren't raining down on us, because he didn't know how to respond to "Mr. President, the country is under attack!" Cheney was just a freaking moron, along with most of the rest of the idiots-in-charge in that administration. Their version of a "crisis" was all about money, instead of lives, and how they could get richer, instead of how they could save people (see "New Orleans". And a bunch of the Republicans seem to immediately default to "LIE LIKE CRAZY" even when lies aren't necessary; "I didn't say that!" when the video is pretty obvious.

It might seem rude to some folks, but yes, I do judge the political 'multiple (three or more) divorce/marrieds' somewhat harshly when it comes to leadership roles; if they aren't able to deal with "normal life crisis" (Gingrich and his first wife's cancer) without "running away!" when it comes to "leadership" - if the people who know you best can't trust you to be there for them through good times and bad, or to work things out when things are "tough" and everyone disagrees about seemingly everything, odds are good I can't either. (No, I do not apply this same standard to my friends, but I am also not trusting my friends with millions of tax dollars, the codes for the nuclear arsenal or with the lives of the men/women in my military; my social circle is not in the "political elite" circle.)

I am *exceedingly* pleased with Obama's "crisis" leadership thus far (not saying I am happy with him 100%, of course - I want my pony!). I trust he is NOT going to blow up the planet, and frankly, the last morons with their hands on the buttons scared me senseless (especially after *edit: Rumsfield! went on the television talk shows shortly after 9/11 and was discussing justification for nuclear weapons use - shudder!).

In the end, it always comes down to the personal relationships, even the "imaginary" ones I have with my leaders. Who do I trust? Who *don't* I trust? Can my family trust me? How do I handle life's little crisis? Will my children grow up feeling secure and safe? Will they *know* I love them, even when I am stressed out? Do I support my spouse, my children, and my friends in ways that make all of our lives better during times of extraordinary stress?

My mother (in her 70s) told me today she loves and appreciates me; then she listed several of my character traits she says make her incredibly proud of me. It was an unexpected gift, and it meant a lot, especially as I know she is doing her best to keep an even keel emotionally with the niece/her granddaughter situation. In times of stress, she is a "giver". I told her I love her, too.

Life is short and naturally stressful (at least for me). I hope my default is "kind".

Easter is hard on me. (Not April Fools)

Reason #212 why I can never run for political office.

I am not a Christian, although I respect the teachings of Jesus. With that being said, I was at church with my family yesterday (long story), and it was HARD.


At which point they nailed his ass to a cross because he was "dangerous" -- !!!

The story of the "sacrificial king" goes back thousands of years, and honestly, I have a problem with it. Anytime someone says "let us kill your kid, and good things will happen" I like to think my bologna meter would be going off big time.

I am a Mom. I don't want TO sacrifice my children. I want to sacrifice FOR my children.

But here is the reality: parents have been sacrificing their children for the "good of the community" for thousands of years (and I'm not just talking the Aztecs). The big "not secret" that has killed millions involves sending our children to war. It is considered a valuable career choice, and a necessary, honorable profession.

- Napoleonic Wars: Three and a Half Million Dead.
- American Civil War: Half a Million DEAD.
- World War II: Sixty Million People DEAD.

Let me repeat that: we, the human race, willing send our children into the armed serves where they will be trained in how to KILL EACH OTHER, while other people try to KILL THEM.

To, you know, PROTECT US from the other people who are doing the same crazy thing.

We dress it up with "patriotism" and appreciate their sacrifice - their lives, their bodies and their souls for our "safety" and "protection" - and we particularly ask/demand that they put their opinions aside politically because they need to "trust" that the leaders we elect - both Democrat and Republican - will guard and value their lives, and use the coin of their blood sparingly.

And here we get to the rub of it, don't we? For whatever reason, we have children - OUR CHILDREN - sacrificing their lives. We don't know their names (be honest: name the last ten soldiers who died in Iraq or Afghanistan - can't do it, can you?) and I am *NOT* convinced the world is better off without them growing up, getting married, and eventually dying of old age after long and happy lives. I find it impossible to believe any women who risked her life to give life to a child - "walking through the valley of the shadow" - would believe that them dying of anything other than old age is a good thing.

I wonder *if* we quit thinking of "human sacrifice" as an honorable profession, or simply the price of doing business, whether or not we would be better off as a species. I wonder, if instead of arguing about the right to "keep and bear arms" we spent the same amount of ink discussing how to make sure everyone on the planet was able to to exercise their right to "eat" and "drink clean water", whether or not we could turn our "swords" into "plowshares." I wonder if we trained our armies to build instead of destroy, and spent those funds feeding, clothing, educating and creating, whether we would get closer to having "heaven on earth" instead of hell?

I think of Mary, mother of Jesus, and every mother who has grieved the death of a child, and I do not find myself willing to join their ranks.

I am a mother. I don't want to sacrifice my children's lives, or their health, or their happiness, for any reason, especially for rich old men to get richer.

And I don't think any other mother should have to, either.

I do not accept the necessity of sacrificial killing. There are better ways.

I don't want your children dying for me. I sure as hell don't want mine dying for you.

There has got to be a way to problem solve on this planet that doesn't involve killing each other.

I think we should start with that age old advice: "BE NICE TO EACH OTHER."

It seems like reasonably good advice, doesn't it?

Then again, they nailed that guy to a cross.

I hate Easter.

"That's a pretty stupid idea, John. I'm afraid I'll have to kill you."


This cartoon, which I first saw on a mug that also shared the pithy advice of "Stay Awake, Stay Employed", completely encapsulates the idiocy of trying to change people's minds by killing them.

While amusing on the surface, it just flat out doesn't work.

Which, in my opinion, is why the very IDEA of a "War on Terror" is STUPID.

While killing people with "stupid ideas" may sound like a "brilliant" idea (in that it gets them out of your hair while you figure out what to do with them), reality (that bane of political conservatives everywhere) invariably shows that "short term stupid ideas" like KILLING PEOPLE don't fix "Big Problems" like opposing views on equality, opportunity, or social justice, to name just a few.

"Good ideas" will occur to more people even if you kill off the first few people who come up with them. Example: Think "racial equality" and Dr. Martin Luther King for an example of this (or any of the civil rights workers who were lynched before him). While some holdouts still exist, the vast majority of the country no longer accepts "racial segregation" as APPROPRIATE behavior.

At the end of the day, if you want to "win the war on stupid ideas" you actually have to do something harder than "kill people" - you have to Think Up Smarter Ideas, and then find ways of COMMUNICATING and IMPLEMENTING THEM.

Sometimes that means actually THINKING about why someone would think a "stupid" idea had merit. Example: Think "don't let african american men play football" -- since they were deemed "inferior" (per movies about early integration efforts), the only way to dispel that type of misinformation was to have excellent african american male athletes DESTROY teams of caucasian male athletes, thus proving that athletic ability was not a skin color issue.

In the above example, even though anyone with half a brain *should* have been able to figure out that "skin color" and "athletic ability" weren't related, people actually had to THINK about the problem to solve it, which meant considering Other People's Points of View - even the LAME STUPID ONES.

They had to be taken seriously so the stupidity could be shoved down the throats of those practicing it hard enough to choke on it.

This concept - THINKING - is one many of us might find benefit in using. When, for example, one has a knee jerk reaction about someone else's religion ("EVIL!" perhaps THINKING about the GOOD (feeding the hungry, caring for the homeless, offering support services to victims of domestic violence, providing aid during natural disasters, etc.) that many people do as they attempt to walk their faith might be a demonstration of wisdom. One could then THINK about ways of not throwing the proverbial "baby out with the bath water" approach to blanket shouts of "EVIL!" This is just one of many examples of how THINKING can help make the world a better place, and there are others: not all gun owners are murderous scum, not all rich people are spawns of satan, and men who open doors for women aren't trying to turn them into swooning morons. And, although it pains me to admit it, not all "Republicans" are empty-headed nit-wits bent on the destruction of the human race, not all "Libertarians" are self-involved hypocritical parasites, and not all "Democrats" are wise and benevolent caretakers of the public good.

But THINKING such thoughts is hard work; in truth, it is right up there with "showing respect and courtesy" which many people have a challenging time grasping the concept of, and the LAZY among us usually prefer to demonstrate boorish and ignorant behavior because it is EASIER.

In those cases, perhaps the metaphorical bullet is appropriate: public scorn, shame, and a swift "stop being an asshole" boot-to-the-head? (Maybe there can be a smilie icon made for this?) At the very least, they will amuse the rest of us.

Perhaps these actions can knock some sense into the senseless; they are less messy than other, more permanent solutions, and pre-suppose that PAINFUL STUPIDITY is a temporary condition that can be treated with large doses of education and good sense. I am, by nature, an optimist. I could be wrong.

But I don't THINK so.

I need to talk about my (dead) sister.

She died from complications from Multiple Sclerosis in 2003 at age 39.

Because this is a "political" message board, I am going to share some things about her life that tie into the current discussions about Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid and the people who use and/or "abuse" them.

My sister was on Social Security Disability, and she scammed the system by not reporting when she made money.

She had a type of Multiple Sclerosis called "relapsing/remitting" and it SUCKED. Sometimes she was almost fine. Sometimes she wasn't. Family frequently questioned whether she was "faking it" because when she wasn't suffering from an attack, she could function at a pretty normal level, but when she was "having a spell" she would be almost incapacitated. The attacks could hit suddenly: one day she would be out mowing the lawn, and the next, she would be in a wheelchair. (In hindsight, yes, the correlation seems obvious.)

She received approximately $9,000 a year in income from Social Security Disability; she also received money for her children (with two, probably about $850 a month?), and her live-in boyfriend also received money for taking care of her (I have no clue how much).

When she was doing well, she would work under the table (full time, sometimes more). We knew she was still collecting money from the government while this was going on, and to be honest, there was not a lot of respect for her because of it. I asked her about it once - one tries not to interfere in other people's lifestyle choices - and she explained that it was more about the health insurance than the money; it had taken several years to get approved for SSDI when she was diagnosed in her early twenties, and there was no way she could afford the the medical bills when the next inevitable attack came without assistance, let alone the roof over her children's head, without it.

They lived well most of the time - cell phones (back when they were an uncommon luxury), new clothing, nice cars - in a nice neighborhood, in a house that they were always working on "fixing up." Financially, their life style seemed impossible, especially because her "caretaker" went through several years of chronic unemployment. We suspected that drugs (illegal, and selling her prescriptions) were used to supplement the family income; this was confirmed by her children after her death, but she also shuffled credit cards like crazy, and left behind a ton of unpaid and noncollectable debt because of it. (Not a criticism, by the way.)

Multiple Sclerosis consumed her life; when she was well, there was a near feverish desire to "do as much as possible" for and with her two daughters. When she wasn't, she kept the house dark. Each time she came back from an attack, she was a little "less better" -- the numbness always grew. She had nightmares. She was scared. She was angry. She was defiant. She was hopeful.

And then, three days after Christmas back in 2003, she was dead. She got a cold (just like she always did multiple times a winter) that turned into pneumonia. She died on her way to the hospital, leaving behind two daughters age 20 and 18.

We had all gotten so used to her constantly being sick that I didn't believe the initial call that she was gone. It was too sudden - we had seen her at the family holiday party, and she was fine. We had talked a few days later, and she was fine. Then she was gone.

Yes, she cheated and scammed the system; she played it like a fiddle sometimes. Most of what she needed was the medical care, but the two - health insurance and income - came bundled together. When she was well, in the early years, she could have worked a full time job that wasn't under the table, but if she did, when the "next attack" came, she would have had no income or health insurance. The system really isn't set up for "okay, sometimes I will need some help, and I won't be able to wait two years for you to figure it out, but I want to be as independent as possible, so ...?" It is set up as a "yes/no" and as a taxpayer, I can look at it, and see that it costs *way* too much money, including in personal pride. (She was proud; she knew she was scamming sometimes, but she felt like it was the only way to survive, and by God! she was a survivor!)

Multiple Sclerosis is a terrible disease. She was so scared about being trapped in a body that she couldn't control -- we still lost her too soon, but at the same time, we didn't have to deal with some of the options she discussed about "when the time comes" - and yes, she talked about being control of when the battle ended. It turned out not to be an issue; we all thought there would be "more time."

This week (March 11 - 17, 2013) is national Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Week.

My sister was more than a person on Social Security Disability. Yes, she scammed, and I won't pretend she didn't, but I understand why, and it wasn't because she *wanted* to - it was because she had no choice if she was going to make sure her family was taken care of. She was also more than that:

She was funny. She had gorgeous long thick hair that she was ridiculously proud of. She was skinny, and would freak out when the medications made her "puffy". She worshiped the sun, and was always tan. She liked to roller skate when she was young. She loved animals. She was worried more about being a friend to her daughters than a disciplinarian. She loved pretty jewelry. She was good with plants. She was a survivor of an abusive relationship with her ex-husband. She spent eighteen years with the love of her life, who raised her daughters as if they were his own. She was a complicated person. She didn't always make good choices. She loved her daughters, and would do anything for them. She could be the Queen of Bitchy. She could be your best friend. She was my sister, and she never got to meet my children.

She's been gone nearly a decade; there is still no cure.

Jeannette: May 12, 1964 - Dec 28, 2003 (age 39)

This week is Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Week - http://www.nationalmssociety.org/index.aspx

"Trust Me." (Except sometimes you can't. How do you "comparison shop" for blood work?)

I am of the opinion that capitalism is an insane system when it comes to health care. We have some excellent posts on DU talking about health care issues and associated costs, and I thought I would share my story. (Please feel free to add your own.)

My husband and I went through eight years of infertility treatments. The majority of the expenses associated with this "choice" on our end were not covered by insurance, so we paid out of pocket. This was "normal" at the time, and the local clinics had policies in place to get "immediate payment" for services like blood work and ultrasounds. Trust me when I say that women desperately trying for a child will sign a check for anything "necessary" to achieve that dream, and women trying to get pregnant measure success in only one way: holding a healthy baby in your arms.

Our last attempt (which resulted in my beloved twins - yeah!) was done with an out of state clinic. We picked them because they had some of the best success rates (healthy babies!) in the country, and they were economically reasonable / comparable to the clinics that *didn't* have the same reported success rates. (Delete curses on Ronald Reagan's name for the years of delay in implementing standards of care, and blessings on Bill Clinton for telling NIH to fix it!) The "out of state" system was already well established in our area: we would have "local monitoring" (blood work and ultrasounds) and the "big/important stuff" done out of state.

My local gynecologist had been part of one of the local infertility clinics, and I had gotten pregnant/first miscarriage with her; we had an excellent relationship, so when she left her old practice, I followed her. She continued to be affiliated with a well known and respected hospital, so I went with her facility for blood work.

The new doctor decided to do some extensive blood work just to make sure nothing had been missed previously that could be corrected/would help increase my odds of carrying a pregnancy to term. He ordered a battery of tests, including one to determine if I had ever had a common virus; a large percentage of the population has had it, but it is only "bad" if a women contracts it while pregnant, at which point serious birth defects occur. (Its been years - I used to know what it was, and will look it up if anyone cares.)

The blood work for that test came back so wonky, I was sent back to "bleed again." Again, really *weird* results - so strange, it looked like I not only currently *had* the disease (which typically lasted about a week to ten days), but still had such high numbers two weeks later (with no symptoms ever), that maybe I was a carrier?

I was devastated - perhaps this was the reason I had miscarried three times? If it was true, I would not be able to carry a healthy child to term.

But the doctor wasn't satisfied - the results were just too "out there" - so the whole thing got escalated up the head of the laboratory, and it turned out there had been "a mistake" (made twice), and the results were WRONG.

Just flat out WRONG.

I had never had the disease, and wasn't a carrier. Somebody at the laboratory had messed up (still don't know how), and I had come "this close" to stopping our pregnancy efforts, which would have meant my twins would never have been born.

There is a "Part 2" to this story, and in hindsight, I am grateful for that "reality check" that blood tests can be messed up.

After our "two week wait" (I started doing home pregnancy tests early - and they were POSITIVE!), I went in for my "am I pregnant" blood work. To my shock, I received a call from my doctor telling me that my beta level was showing "38" which meant I was pregnant, but was going to miscarry again. (I needed to see at least "50 or above" for a singleton, "100" meant twins, and "200" was going to mean "more than two".) Eight years, three miscarriages already -- I left work in utter and complete despair -- and then I got mad.

I had a conversation with God (sorry, this is a truthful story), and took some more home pregnancy tests -- all of which were showing pregnant. I was CONVINCED beyond all reason I was pregnant, and "knew" I was going to have twins.

Beta numbers have to double in 48 hours if a pregnancy is going to viable. When I went back for my "48 hour check" I drove to three separate clinics and presented my arm for blood work.

The numbers all came back in the "200 range" - yeah! - and I've already mentioned my fabulous now-six year old boy/girl twins.

I asked the original clinic to "double check" things since it is mathematically impossible for a "38" to "double" to "200" - which is when it came out there had been ANOTHER mistake at the laboratory.

Apparently someone had written my progesterone level "38" in the beta level column, and put the "96" in the progesterone spot.

I had been pregnant with twins the entire time. It was just a lab error.

I cannot adequately explain the horrors of the emotional roller coaster I was riding during this process. There was simply no way I could have looked at the numbers and "caught" the mistakes. The same standard tests were done at every facility, and the price I paid varied between $45 and $200 depending on the facility.

The folks who made the TWO errors I just mentioned were neither the cheapest nor the most expensive, and to this day I have no idea who made the mistakes - a new trainee? An exhausted experienced person having a bad day? A glitch in the computer programs? How the h*ll could I have "interviewed" or "investigated" or "prevented" myself from doing business with the people who made the error? The first one was supposed to be a "one-in-a-million" mistake, but carelessly writing numbers in the wrong column? How many *other* people had this happened to?

Wait a minute: No Clue. And no one else knows either.

You pay your money, and take your chances. You *trust* them.

I paid money, and *trusted* that meaningful, accurate data that would be used to make health care decisions would be provided. In multiple cases, that turned out to be "wrong" -- but there was no way *I* could have figured that out on my own.

In an emergency situation, I wouldn't have had time for "three tries" before getting to the right answer. If I am bleeding to death on the table, I can't count the medical personnel operating, and competent professionals aren't going to "negotiate" with me to save a buck ("I don't need an anesthesiologist, and I certainly don't need an IV!" while they are doing their jobs. And depending on the procedures, one can't "refuse" to use the "in-house" laboratory if you've had some bad experience with them.

There are standards of care that simply need to be "across the board" and my cynical nature says that numbers can be fudged to make a facility appear to be in compliance, which is why auditors/regulators whose paychecks aren't dependent on making people look good need to visit regularly.

And seriously, we need to get to a single payer system. The only reason I knew about the price differences on the blood work and ultrasounds was because we went through it for so long; "comparison shopping" for blood work pricing is just not a reasonable way to spend limited time and energy in most cases.

I think the "for profit" health care system sucks. I hope "Obamacare" is the first step on the road to dismantling it.

But my children? Let me tell you: they were worth it. Totally, utterly worth it.

There is the Ignore feature, but it is hard to use sometimes.

I prefer the standards of Not Being Assholes be enforced everywhere. Thousands of posts on controversial topics - drugs, abortion, politics - and the worst insults I have ever received and my only hides were here in Meta.

4 Men (African American, Pakistani, Russian & Indian) & a White Woman....

were all sitting down for lunch together.

Sorry, there is no punch line. It was lunch with work colleagues.

- One African American man who is an expert in his field.

- One man born in Pakistan, another expert in his field.

- One whose family is from India, another expert in his field.

- One born in Russia, but here forever, who is also a certified expert in his field.

- And one white woman who is *also* an expert in her field. (Moi!)

And we were all having lunch together while we chatted about work.

It was no big deal. It was lunch. Five professionals, all good at what we do, with amazingly diverse backgrounds, all working together, having lunch, and talking about work.

Fifty years ago, it would have been unthinkable. At least one of us would have been candidate for a lynching at such a concept, and the rest - well, odds are good none of us would have been at the table, let alone together.

But it was just a normal lunch. And for one second, when I looked at it through eyes where this wasn't "normal", I was reminded one more time why this is such a great country.

And it made me proud and happy to be an American, because where I work, this wasn't the start of a joke with a funny punchline.

It was lunch.

On Being Mother Theresa.

It is the middle of the night, and I am giving myself a pep talk about an impossible task I have taken on. It is A LOT of work, and the rewards are the opposite of financial. I am regularly asked why I bother, and my religious convictions sound odd sometimes, and frankly, during the discouraging times I question myself, too.

And tonight, I am thinking of inspirational people. Mother Theresa keeps coming to my mind, and the impossible task she took on. And I found myself thinking, "well, it must have been different for her - that woman was a freaking SAINT!"

And the thought just struck me as so ridiculous that I had to share it: she wasn't a SAINT; she was stubborn!

How insulting to her to minimize the good works she did in the world by not acknowledging that she did THE WORK. No one waved a magical wand and made it easy for her; she WORKED. And when people expressed admiration for her, she was impatient with them, and told them they could do it, too, if they wanted to.

I think we - or at least I! - do that a lot. I look at the feats athletes perform, and stand in awe of their prowess. "Wow!" I say to myself. "That is amazing! I wish I could do THAT!" And the athletes, bless them, refrain from pointing out that I probably could do it, if I spent hours daily for years practicing the skills, and sacrificed eating badly for healthier habits, spent less time watching television or playing on the Internet - if only I put in THE WORK....

(Hours later.)

The people I admire and respect for the good they have done and the deeds they have performed weren't handed the admiration and accolades on a silver platter. They struggled, they cried, and they looked at the people around them as if they were daft because it seemed so obvious how to get things done: JUST DO IT. From the prophets to the writers to women who were scorned for trying to change the world (Clara Barton!), the only way people have ever accomplished IMPOSSIBLE things was by DOING THEM.

Today I will work on trying to accomplish three IMPOSSIBLE things. I will take baby steps because otherwise the tasks are just too overwhelming. I can do baby steps for three impossible things without being overwhelmed and discouraged (which sometimes happens when I look at how far I need to travel to complete my goals). One task will be only for my benefit (some healthy changes to my diet on a temporary basis), one for my community (an activist activity), and one for the children who share the planet with me.

I am not Mother Theresa, but I can WORK, too. Maybe someday my impossible tasks will seem easy to those around me.

I just hope accomplishing impossible things becomes a habit.
Go to Page: « Prev 1 2 3 Next »