Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Quote for the Week: It's Convention Time!

Yes, it's time for our quadriennial circuses, otherwise known as political conventions, in which delegates meet to nominate a candidate who has already won the nomination and to spend enough money on baloons to feed a third world country.  So, this week and next week's quotes are all about politics.  Read on.

One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.

If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in 5 years there'd be a shortage of sand.
Milton Friedman

Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.
John F. Kennedy

Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress; but I repeat myself.
Mark Twain

Those who stand for nothing fall for anything.
Alexander Hamilton

If we don't believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don't believe in it at all.
Noam Chomsky


Politics, it seems to me, for years, or all too long, has been concerned with right or left instead of right or wrong.
Richard Armour

Bad politicians are sent to Washington by good people who don't vote.
William E. Simon

Do you ever get the feeling that the only reason we have elections is to find out if the polls were right?
Robert Orben



Sunday, August 26, 2012

Widowhood Lessons

Widowhood is a harsh teacher.  I entered her classroom with a shock.  Even though we knew it was coming, death didn’t seem real.  In the hospital bed, my beloved husband, who only hours ago had stroked my hair and whispered, “I love you,” was still as stone.  The breath that had sighed in and out through the night was silent.  He’d crossed a divide and I could no longer reach him.  How would I go on?
An hour later as I trudged out of his hospital room, I received my first widowhood lesson, a primer that presaged things to come.  I passed nurses who kept their eyes averted; though they are sentinels at death’s door, they prefer to pretend it doesn’t exist.  I stepped outside, into a bright October day with people going about their lives as usual.  Didn’t they know that his had ended, that mine would never be the same.  Of course they didn’t.  No one spared me a glance. Even surrounded by my children, I was alone.
Widowhood had a myriad of lessons for me.  Here’s a pop quiz:  What do you do when the hospital sends a bill for $250,000 because your husband exceeded his Medicare limit?  For a while I ignored it but finally found the courage to write to the hospital CEO, who wrote it off.
Harder lessons:  How do you get through the first Thanksgiving, the most important holiday in our family, when my husband cooked the turkey and his own special dressing and I did the rest, and we all sat around the table sharing family jokes and memories?  How do you spend the first wedding anniversary, the first New Year’s Eve?
And in practical terms,  how on earth do you handle household tasks that were “his” and that you have no idea how to perform?  Crashed computer, water heater leaking gas, flat tire, dead battery—why is life so complicated?
There were gentler teachings, too.  As the waves of grief and bitterness ebbed, I learned to cope, to be stronger.  When life throws me a curve—and there have been many in my nearly seven years of widowhood—I’ve learned to duck…or face it head on.  I have watched my son manage the aftermath of a stroke with determination and courage and have learned from him, too. 
I’ve learned that time is too precious to spend with toxic people, with mindless activities and I’ve deleted them from my life.
Life is so brief, so fragile.  As I treasure memories, I am learning to live in the moment and to savor everyday pleasures that once would have passed unnoticed—the sound of rain, the smile of my granddaughter, the purr of my cat as he adjusts his body so it curls against mine at night, the phone call from a friend, the morning paper, the book I can’t put down, a dinner out, a scoop of ice cream…and on and on.  And friendship, the best thing of all.
Most importantly, widowhood has taught me to be grateful for what the two of us had together and also for the life I've made alone.  And I realize as I write this, that the lesson is for everyone, widow or not.  Life is a gift, and no matter how it's wrapped, we have to accept and savor it every day.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Quote for the Week

"The best thing about the future is that it comes only one day at a time."
Abraham Lincoln

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Doctors: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

In the world of my childhood, doctors were heroes who could do no wrong.  I still remember my pediatrician, Dr. McC., a small, mild-mannered man with a high pitched voice.  That was back in the day when doctors made house calls.  If my sister or I were sick, Dr. McC would arrive, wearing a neat black suit and carrying his medical bag.  In our world, his opinion was law, a gentle law but law nevertheless.

It was only after I was grown that I realized doctors might have feet of clay, that they weren't infallible, had differing opinions and could be downright nasty.  I learned this in spades when my husband fell ill with leukemia.
Our entrance into the cancer system was choreographed by a doctor I characterize as the ugliest of all.  

"You have acute myelogenous leukemia," he barked.  "The variant you have is very hard to cure.  You said you were willing to participate in a clinical trial.  The research nurse will talk to you.  Check into the hospital today."  He stood up and headed for the door.

Yes, we want doctors to tell us the truth, but we'd like the blow softened, at least with a gentle tone.  We'd like the doctor to spend a few minutes answering questions.  Not this guy.  He was half way to the door when my daughter stopped him in his tracks.  "After we hear from the nurse, if he decides on standard treatment instead of the trial, what do we do?"

He glared at her.  "Leave," he snapped.  "Standard treatment is not what this hospital is about."  Then he proceeded to lecture us on the importance of medical research.  That was The Beginning.

Along the way, we met encountered doctors who were more sympathetic. Yes, we asked for a change of physicians, but it didn't matter much.  In a teaching hospital, regardless of your physician of record, you get a different one each week, depending on who is on call.  So we met dozens of physicians--some kind, some callous.  There was the doctor who informed me my husband's kidneys "had gotten angry," eliciting a growl from me to "talk to me like a grown-up;"  Another doctor informed Ralph he wasn't behaving well and could not receive services on the rehab floor--a week earlier he had called Ralph one of the best patients they'd ever had.  We'd apparently seen him on both good days and bad days.  One doctor wrote in his chart that he "was not pleasant."  Perhaps that was because he was dying?

But at the end we were so lucky.  In every end-of-life book I've read, doctors are criticized for not taking time with patients, for holding out false unrealistic hope, for recommending useless treatments that prolong life but make it torturous.  Ralph's last physician, Dr. DeLima, was the doctor everyone should have in their final weeks of life.  He explained our options, taking all the time we needed, was honest about what each option would give Ralph, never seemed in a hurry when he came by.  He made the final journey an easier one and I will never forget his kindness.   

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Quote for the Week

When they discover the center of the universe, a lot of people will be disappointed to discover they are not it.

Bernard Bailey

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Always Have a Backup...for Everything

Tuesday night,, July 31,  someone broke into my house.

My son had an early appointment and was spending the night.  We stayed late at his house to watch gymnastics and came home around 11:00.  As we pulled into the driveway, he pointed to the breakfast room window.  The screen was part way off.  Then we saw that the door between the drive way and the patio was unlocked.  Even worse, the sliding glass door from the patio to my bedroom, the one door that doesn't have a sensor to trigger the alarm, was all the way open.

 My first thought?  The cats.  I started in, and Michael said, "Get out.  Call the police." 

Within minutes three constables arrived.  They checked around and found no one inside.  "You can come in now and check the rooms," one constable said.  Terrfied of what I would see...or wouldn't see... I followed him inside.  The living room looked just as it always does.  The TV was in place, the quilt I'd  fallen in love with and just had to have hung on the wall, and Toby, my tuxedo cat, who is the first one to try to escape if the door is open, ambled into the living room. In my bedroom  Tiki, the tabby cat, crawled out from under my bed.  Thank goodness,  My jewelry chest hadn't been touched, the flimsily locked drawer in my closet was still locked.  What was missing?  My laptop, of course.

Not the printer, not the scanner, just the laptop. and my Kindle, and strangely, a handpainted vase from the shelf in my living room and a Murrano glass bird from my coffee table.  Two crystal birds beside it weren't touched.  Gifts for girlfriends?  Early Christmas shopping?  At least they had good taste.  And oh, yes, an old sculpture of a fisherman that I once bought in Mexico and kept on my patio table was gone, or so I thought.  My daughter found it the next day under a bush. 

They--whoever they were, probably kids--didn't trash the hosue.  Thank heavens for that.

The bad news is I had to buy a new laptop.  My insurance has too large a deductible to cover my loss.   But the good news is, I have all my filles back.  Thank you, Mozy Pro. 

So what have I learned from this scary experience?  Always, always have a remote backup.  It's worth every penny for peace of mind.  If all my files had gone with the computer, I'd have been devastated. 

To extrapolate from this experience:  you should have backup plans, not just for laptops, but for life.  Things don't always go as expected or planned.  What do you do in that case?  What if your job doesn't work out?  You don't love the career you'd pinned your hopes on?  Your spouse dies (as mine did) or becomes ill?  The stock market crashes?  You should have a Plan B waiting in the wings?


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