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Family and Friends is my everyday journal. Captain's Log is where I pontificate on religion and politics.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Family Tradition

This is the week when every year we hold a James Bond marathon. We have all the movies either on Video or DVD, and since there's not much else to watch we start at Dr. No and work our way to the latest. At 22 movies it fills the void.
Just for fun here's a series of questions, should those who stop by to read my words be interested answer the questions in the comments section. That's where I'll be posting mine. If you wish you can add which actor you think was the best and worst Bond, but to me it's hands down Roger Moore as the best and George Lazenby as the worst.

  1. Best movie
  2. Worst movie
  3. Best villain
  4. Worst villain
  5. Best Bond Girl
  6. Worst Bond Girl
  7. Best villainess
  8. Worst villainess
  9. Best henchmen
  10. Worst henchmen
  11. Best car
  12. Worst car
  13. Best gadget
  14. Worst gadget

Friday, December 26, 2008

Life Goes On

Trip is over. Certain parts of the funeral were rather difficult. A chronology of the past few days is recorded here, a comparison/contrast of a catholic funeral with protestant funerals is at my Captain's log blog.
  1. When we arrived at the church the funeral home was delivering the urn. It was hard seeing it for the first time.
  2. When we got inside Bruce was up front with the two Priests. They were gracious in letting him, a Baptist minister, be a part of the service. They had him carry the urn from the front of the church to where we were standing in the vestibule so it would be a part of the procession once everyone was seated. It brought to mind the picture Bruce put on his blog of him holding Penni as a baby, and now he was holding her in death. The look on his face as he walked down the aisle matched mine.
  3. About the fourth bead on the rosary, and never having attended a Catholic Mass before, we didn't know how many more times we'd have to go through this. Mom whispered in my ear, "If you give me a funeral this long I'll haunt you the rest of your life." I knew it was rather inappropriate, but I couldn't help but smile at this.
  4. Bruce posted the eulogy he gave on his blog if the readers here are interested in it you can click here.
  5. Life does go on. Bruce's daughter is expecting a child, his son's wife is expecting and as announced here previously so is my son. All told my mother is looking forward to three grandchildren in the coming year.
  6. Since getting back I've had little time to brood or dwell on our loss. With two grandchildren opening their Christmas presents and all the noise their new toys make life is quite lively right now.
  7. I do hope everyone else had a terrific holiday season.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

With The Lord

This is how I remember Penni. It's the age she was when I left home to attend college. Not much older than what her daughter is now. She's with the Lord, and as difficult as it will be for us to deal with her loss, there is solace in knowing her ordeal of four years is over and she is at peace.

I am grateful for the many friends who have supported her through this time. Those that left messages on her caringbridge site, had their churches place her on their prayer lists, and offered support in many unnamed or unknown ways.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Penni's Story

From Dallas Morning News: 12/15/08

Baylor team helps families face death together 

12:15 PM CST on Monday, December 15, 2008

By LEE HANCOCK / The Dallas Morning News

Sonya Hebert / DMN
David Bourque stands next to his wife Penni to make sure she is comfortable as she nears the end of life.


Janet St. James reports

We can't beat this, David Bourque thought, staring at ghostly X-ray images of his wife's ovarian cancer.

They'd rushed 60 miles the night before from their home in Canton, Texas, to Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas. His wife, Penni, writhed with a bowel blockage as their 8-year-old, Michelle, sat wide-eyed in the back seat of their Pontiac Vibe.

Mr. Bourque tried telling Michelle that her mom might not make it. The little girl set stuffed animals and a purple-and-orange squirt gun on her mother's emergency-room gurney like talismans.

The Bourques were medical people. Mr. Bourque, 44, was a pediatric ICU technician starting nursing school; Mrs. Bourque, 45, was a pediatric respiratory therapist. They couldn't kid themselves, but it wasn't clear how much their daughter understood.

They'd tried to spare her, and sensed that Michelle was trying to protect them, too. They all needed help to get through what was coming. But nothing else could happen as long as Mrs. Bourque was trapped in agonizing pain.

At 10 a.m. on a Wednesday in June, Dr. Roberto de la Cruz of the palliative team came to the glass-fronted ER bay where the family had spent the night, sleeping on a gurney, cot and chair. He checked Mrs. Bourque, who was heavily sedated, and then took her husband to show him the X-rays.

Mr. Bourque had the quiet wariness of a man who'd taken hard blows and was bracing for more. They'd endured ovarian cancer nearly four years, longer than most women survived it. Married 15 years, he and Penni were soulmates.

Mrs. Bourque's tumors had caused her first painful, inoperable bowel blockage in summer 2007, as they drove to New Mexico for her father's funeral. Cancer's cruelty enraged Mr. Bourque, killing his father-in-law with pancreatic tumors and sending his wife to another hospital instead of her father's burial.

From what Mr. Bourque read, she should've been dead 90 days after her first blockage. But she somehow got through, saying in her childlike voice that she just kept swimming -- like the plucky fish Dory in their favorite movie, Finding Nemo.

Kelly Fuller (left) and nurse Min Patel (right) help patient Beverly Freeman sit up in her bed at Baylor University Medical Center.

After a second blockage last April, Mrs. Bourque's oncologist called in Baylor's palliative team. Dr. Robert Fine, the team leader, had talked alone with Mrs. Bourque and then sat down with the couple.

"Penni understands that her disease isn't going away, barring the miraculous hand of God," Dr. Fine told Mr. Bourque in their first long meeting. "She understands there is a future for you and your daughter that doesn't include her."

Michelle needed special guidance, he said. "You guys are still the parents, but you've never been through this before. And how we help the children of terminally ill parents is very important, even if you have a few years left. I don't know how much time you have."

Mr. Bourque pushed back. Why the dramatic change? His wife's oncologist had spoken only of hope and chemotherapy.

"We're getting a mixed message," Mr. Bourque said, his voice quiet but pained. "What's going on?"

Dr. Fine responded carefully. "I hope you perceive me as open and honest and not mincing words. I use the 'D-word.' When I was a young doctor, you never said death was coming. It was a taboo. You never had the chance to say goodbye. You never talked to the children. You never treated pain well."

He hoped they would get more chemotherapy, too, he said, but it could only buy time -- not a cure. And medical data on terminal cancers suggested that a scorched-earth battle might do them more harm than good.

"It may feel mixed," Dr. Fine said. "But my hope is for quality of life."

The Bourques had always feared that ovarian cancer was a death sentence. "But I was trying to push that away," Mrs. Bourque told Dr. Fine.

"I'd like you to go toward that for a while -- for your sake, for your husband's sake, for your child's sake," he gently responded. "So you can plan."

Palliative nurse Min Patel visited a few hours later and, for the first time, Mrs. Bourque voiced her anguish over not being there for the milestones in Michelle's life -- her 18th birthday, her graduations, her wedding day.

"I have so much more to say," she said, "and so much more to do and so much more to teach her."

In their first visits last April, the nurse also encouraged Mrs. Bourque to write down her hopes, her life lessons and all the values she wanted Michelle to know as she grew. She also could put aside heirlooms and tokens of her love for Michelle to receive gradually, in the same way that one of Ms. Patel's patients made special bracelets for each of her 3-year-old daughter's future Christmases and Easters and birthdays.

"You have a blank canvas," Ms. Patel had said. "You know a lot of people fear, 'Oh gosh. The memories of my mom will fade.' And this way, the memory will stay."

So her daughter would know the battles she had fought for her, Mrs. Bourque spent the next several weeks putting together scrapbooks -- starting with Michelle's premature birth, six weeks in neonatal intensive care and a trip halfway across the country as a toddler for surgery to remove a growth on her neck.

She wrote letters -- one for the day she died, another for Michelle's 18th birthday, and another for her daughter's wedding day. When her husband got goggle-eyed about what he'd say when Michelle had her first period, Mrs. Bourque was able to laugh, "I'll write a letter for that, too!"

Reverse nesting, she'd say, for death -- not birth. She was desperate to leave pieces of herself, to keep them connected somehow.

It was a relief, she said, that doctors were no longer shielding them with silence -- protection she once welcomed but now saw as doing more harm than good. She wished she'd had the help of palliative care sooner.

"It's helped focus me that we need to get things done," she said. "It's very hard facing your own mortality, and this has given me time to work things out with God, to work things out with the family."

But by June, they were back at Baylor and Mr. Bourque said it felt like the last ground beneath his family was giving way. Looking at computer images of his wife's tumor, he could sense their existence collapsing. There was a divide his wife would cross alone.

"She won't last the year," he told Dr. de la Cruz.

How would he tell their little girl?

Their plan to visit New Mexico one last time might not be in the cards. Mrs. Bourque had longed to see her father's grave in Santa Fe, say goodbye to family and show Michelle the mountains where she and David married. They had a flight that next week.

But pain changed everything.

Painkiller patches and narcotic lollipops couldn't ease Mrs. Bourque's ordeal the night they rushed to Baylor. And Mr. Bourque was terrified of overdoing the drugs.

"Oh my God," Ms. Patel said to the Bourques as she walked into Room 421 that June morning."You've had your hands full."

Mrs. Bourque said she was feeling better, thanks to intravenous pain drugs. She looked monastic, with her chemo-shorn hair, pale skin and sunken blue eyes. Ms. Patel explained that Dr. de la Cruz and the palliative team's pain-management nurse were working on a plan.

Other clinicians could be reluctant to prescribe narcotics because of red tape and the stigma of those drugs, and patients hesitated to ask for them, fearful of drug dependence or seeming weak. But the palliative team knew the medicines could extend quality and quantity of life. Addressing pain and other symptoms aggressively freed people to focus on emotional and spiritual transitions, and the team had seen profound moments of transcendence as a result.

"You've been great," Ms. Patel reassured Mrs. Bourque. "We may just have to try something new."

They'd try to get a portable intravenous pain pump, Ms. Patel said, so the Bourques could stay home and enjoy life.

The question: What kind of life would that be?

Mr. Bourque saw hospice on the horizon but confided to palliative team members that he didn't want his wife to feel they were giving up on her. Mrs. Bourque couldn't bring herself to look there -- not yet.

"Sometimes I wake up and think I'm ready to go, to quit, but I just keep swimming," she said, her voice breaking. "I know we may be coming to the end of what might be possible."

At the next day's palliative team meeting, heads nodded around the basement conference table when Dr. de la Cruz mentioned the Bourques. A third of the team had seen them in the last two days -- Dr. de la Cruz, Ms. Patel, the pain-management nurse, a social worker, an occupational therapist who gave a guided meditation session, and a child-life specialist who visited with the couple about Michelle.

Dr. de la Cruz told teammates that Mr. Bourque was "ready to face facts." But he was scared to tell his wife that he needed to drop out of school to take care of her. "I said that's what he has to do," the doctor added.

Child-life specialist Emily Mulkey said she planned to talk with Michelle that morning.

Specialists from Baylor's pediatric rehabilitation hospital helped out informally with the palliative team and were trying to get funding to do more for palliative patients' children. It was too easy for kids to get lost in grown-ups' hospitals.

Would insurance cover a portable IV pump? someone else asked. Some companies rejected such equipment requests, and they'd have to work fast to get the Bourques on their way to New Mexico -- a trip that was one of the few unfinished entries on Mrs. Bourque's self-styled "bucket list."

Ms. Patel set her jaw. "We have to make that happen."

The purple book, Mama's Going to Heaven Soon, had a childlike drawing on the cover of a woman flying through the night sky with an angel.

The Bourques lacked the words to tell their daughter , so Ms. Mulkey, the child-life specialist, brought the purple book along for her meeting with Michelle, a spunky towhead with hazel eyes and a Tinker Bell T-shirt.

She was 4 when her mother was diagnosed with cancer. She had no memory of her mother that didn't include illness, treatments and hospital stays.

After Ms. Mulkey led her to an empty office near her mother's hospital room, Michelle insisted that her mom was OK.

Swinging her legs on a rose-colored vinyl chair, the little girl showed off her stuffed animal, a snow leopard, and bantered about friends named Emily and cats outsmarting dogs. "The old saying of 'Cats rule and dogs drool'?" she said. "Dogs actually drool!"

Smiling, Ms. Mulkey held up the purple book and read its title aloud: "Mama's Going to Heaven Soon."

"It's got pretty long pages," Michelle said, doubtfully.

Ms. Mulkey read and Michelle fidgeted until the part where the storybook mom stayed in bed. She called out: "My mom does, too!"

What, Ms. Mulkey asked, might the storybook girl want to tell Mom?

"Please play," Michelle said, her voice suddenly small.

How might the little girl feel?

"A little prickly and funny," Michelle said. "Sometimes I might smile a little bit, but not much."

Hearing that the storybook mom had cancer, Michelle said cancer was a germ that grew and grew. She thought that she might've made her mother sick.

Ms. Mulkey shook her head. Kids often worried like that. "I don't want you to feel like it was you," Ms. Mulkey told her.

"My body doesn't believe in cancer, except my mouth," Michelle declared. "I talk about cancer a lot."

Cancer sent her grandpa to heaven, she added. "I still miss him, and I have a picture."

"Can you call him in heaven?" Ms. Mulkey asked.

"He doesn't have a phone," Michelle said. "Maybe we can send an e-mail."

Could her mom talk from heaven?

"You have to listen closely," Michelle said.

As Ms. Mulkey read how the storybook mom went to heaven, Michelle's face darkened. Her eyes darted around the cluttered office, looking for relief in the stacks of papers and files.

"I do not get it," she finally said, her voice flat.

The storybook girl felt sad and scared, Ms. Mulkey said. How did Michelle feel?

"The S-word," Michelle whispered, curling around her leopard.

Ms. Mulkey asked how her mom might be when they went home.

"Probably feeling better," Michelle declared.

Ms. Mulkey leaned in and spoke with care. "The medicines for the cancer aren't working. Your mama's getting to where she's not going to feel very good. And she's going to get sicker, and she'll eventually die."

"Sometimes," Michelle said, trying harder to sound brave. "Maybe not."

Her mom's doctors were very sure, Ms. Mulkey said, "she's not going to get better."

"Why can't they cut the cancer away?" Michelle blurted. "Why can't they cut her open and take some of the cancer again? They took some of the cancer out. Why couldn't they take all of it out?"

"When people can't get better," Ms. Mulkey said, "they die."

The little girl curled into a tight ball, hugging her leopard.

Ms. Mulkey offered her a plush bunny with pockets for keepsakes and said she could decorate a white memory box, too.

Michelle wrote "Penni" and drew a heart on the box and glued cotton balls and feathers inside. She tickled Ms. Mulkey with a fuchsia feather and talked about how the bunny might fit in with her family of stuffed animals.

Returning to her mom's room with the bunny and the book, Michelle climbed in bed to cuddle. Mrs. Bourque put the bunny in her lap, opened the purple book and read its title: "Mama's Going to Heaven Soon." She whispered to her daughter: "I'm not going to cry."

Michelle, wide-eyed, held her leopard tight and chewed gum fast. She giggled nervously when her mother read that the storybook mom felt too bad to get out of bed. "That's what you say, too!"

"I know," Mrs. Bourque replied. "Sometimes I'm just too tired."

When Mrs. Bourque read that the storybook girl didn't know why her mom was sick, Michelle giggled again.

"I know why you're sick!" she said, leaning her head on her mother's shoulder. "You have cancer!"

"I pray for my cure," Mrs. Bourque said softly.

She looked stricken as she read how the storybook girl wondered why her mom wouldn't come home. "I can't read this part," she said.

Michelle recited for her: Don't you love us anymore?

Mrs. Bourque fanned her face with her hand and looked away.

"I will always love you," she whispered, wiping tears.

A technician came in to take Mrs. Bourque's temperature.

And then the little girl in the Tinker Bell shirt tried what magic she had left. She threw the purple book off her mother's bed and reached for a Mickey Mouse coloring book.

"Alrighty-righty!" she declared. "Which side do you want to color?"

Penni Bourque began that Friday, the 13th of June, happily wandering the airy, yellow fourth-floor hospital hall, past larger-than-life paintings of women living heroically with cancer. Pushing an IV pole in her pink pajamas, green chenille robe and fuzzy slippers, she was giddy about going home.

Her daughter seemed better, too, chattering on the phone with her mom the night before about a movie. Michelle had said matter-of-factly that she hoped her mom lived to see it. She didn't seem as sad or distant or mad at the cancer.

By noon, however, no one had come to discuss Mrs. Bourque's discharge. That meant she'd probably be stuck at the hospital all weekend and miss her flight to New Mexico.

She was hunched on her bed, crying, when Ms. Patel appeared at 12:30 p.m. "My favorite patient!" the nurse called.

"All my doctors are gone," Mrs. Bourque wailed. "I'm all alone."

Ms. Patel was instantly at her side, arms around her.

"We all know what's going on with you," she soothed. "We'll make sure that we take care of you."

"I just can't stay in the hospital," Mrs. Bourque cried. "I was getting to go to Albuquerque."

"It's going to be OK," the nurse told her. "We'll fix this."

Ms. Patel sprang into action. Her 16 other patients would have to wait. She punched numbers on her cellphone, as she dashed down the hall to the nurse station, where she grabbed a second phone.

"She's going to go home today," Ms. Patel declared to three nurses. She grabbed Mrs. Bourque's medical chart. "I need to sort out this mess," she grumbled.

Scooting in an office chair over to the medical records clerk, Ms. Patel waved a prescription form for Mrs. Bourque's pain medicines that would have to be signed in triplicate.

"Girlfriend, would you do me a favor?" she asked the clerk. "I know you will for me. I know you will. Will you fax this over to [Dr. Mark] Casanova's office? I'm good, I'm good. I'm good at begging. Let's fax it over to his office so I don't have to run over there now. Then I can run over later and pick this up."

She then rode herd on a home health company, corralled a pharmacy, and spurred a medical equipment provider to do in minutes what usually took a day.

Fourteen phone calls and an hour later, the nurse walked back into Mrs. Bourque's room with signed prescription forms and a final hug to send her on her way.

Michelle bounced in soon after, declaring herself invisible. Smiling, she said her mother "has been with the angel."

Mrs. Bourque and Michelle headed down to a patient-discharge door where Mr. Bourque had the family car waiting. Michelle shadowed her mother's wheelchair, play-acting. She was a tiger, growling. She was a monkey, hooting. She was invisible, dancing.

Her mother watched her, laughing the whole way out of the hospital.

If cancer had taught them anything, perhaps most important was how seemingly random moments -- like this one with Michelle -- could be the greatest gift. Mrs. Bourque had grown up hearing she had a purpose, and she'd always puzzled over what that might be.

She giggled at her daughter dancing down a busy Baylor hallway, toward David and home. In such moments, she would later say, everything was so clear. Touching and sharing lives and seeing her love move outward to others wasn't that purpose enough?

It felt good, too, to know where they were headed. Death would come. But Mrs. Bourque was going to live as long and well as she could.

As the Bourques drove off in the family car, with Michelle waving goodbye from the back seat, Ms. Patel was already speeding into another room upstairs, calling out, "How's my favorite patient today?"Last of five parts

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Need Hanky

Last summer Penni came out here to visit our father's gravesite. She brought along a reporter who took video and pictures of the trip for the Dallas Morning News. They've just released a video about her struggle. Here is a link to the clip. Keep in mind when watching to have a hanky or tissue close to hand.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Encouraging news

On Penni's Caringbridge page today she's mentioned that she still has some vision in the eye that is giving her problems, and that she's out of pain. Mom's flying down to be with her today. We don't know how long that will be which has our Christmas plans up in the air.

Grinnygranny and I had part of our Christmas a little early yesterday. We had massages (massage massages). Oh my well worth the money. Nothing rejuvenates you better. 

Put in a new ink cartridge in my printer at school, ran off my finals and it came up low on ink. Oh for the good old days when the printers used ribbons, which were a whole lot cheaper. Curses on Bill Gates and Microsoft who have made us phase out dot matrix printers starting with NT, and XP.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Hard times

These next few days are going to be dark and gloomy. Mom is flying back out to Texas to be with Penni. She's had an ulcerated eye for the last few days, and today she's lost it. They've superglued a hard contact onto her eye to keep it from  ulcerating any further. Mom's not sure how long she'll be out there.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Mad rush time

Turkey day is over (nice to have four days off). We've just about eaten all of the left-overs.
Now comes the mad dash to finish the semester, give finals, grade papers and look forward to a couple of weeks with grandson. Mom's going to have him stay with her, but we'll have plenty of time with him.
So far the weather has been nice for this time of year; good news for golfers like me, but the skiers are not so happy. Santa Fe has been trying to manufacture snow, but it keeps melting on them during the day. Sandia Ski area doesn't open until after the first of year. I'm hoping for good weather so I can get more golf in. I put on ten pounds each winter when I can't get out. The exercise helps me maintain my weight, but it doesn't help me lose it once it's on.

Here's hoping everyone is going to have a fine and wonderful holiday season.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Belated Thanks

This is after all my Friends and Family blog, and I just noticed that my toasts for Thanksgiving only dealt with family.

I wish to express my thanks to Michael Manning, Irina, Brian, Russ, and many other friends that visit my blog and leave comments. May you have had a wonderful Thanksgiving with your family and friends and they made you feel truly rich in love.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Day For Gratutude

Happy Thanksgiving to all and may we truly appreciate that which is the greatest form of wealth on this planet -- our families.

To my mother: Thanks for giving me life, manners, belief, and being the driving force that helped me finish my education and becoming a teacher. May your days be filled with peace and good friends to help you through this time of sorrow.

To my wife: Thanks for giving me thirty years of your love, support, toleration, and opinions as we shared our life's joys, sorrows, triumphs and tragedies. May we have many more years.

To my children: Thanks for your being in our lives these many years. We love you both dearly and wish you much happiness in your lives. You have made our life interesting and fulfilling. May you both be able to become independent and find the same kind of happiness from your children as we found in you and our grandchildren.

To my brother: Thanks for your strength and righteousness. Congratulations on the prospect of finally becoming a grandparent. May we continue to keep in touch even if only by internet.

To my sister: Thanks for you admiration as we grew up, your smile and good humor, your strength as we faced tough times while in our father's last days. May you enjoy the time you have with your family and know how much you are truly loved.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

What I Found

Here's a quote I found today. It is so eloquently put I just had to post it. Sara Robinson
Talking Turkey: Ten Myths Conservatives Believe About Progressives.

5. Liberals are a bunch of elitists who hate decent working- and middle-class Americans.

...as opposed to those sainted corporate men-of-the-people who fly around in private jets and pull down eight-figure salaries while closing plants and cutting 10,000 jobs at a time. That's what real populism looks like, you betcha.

Liberals are funny people. We think that sending well-paid American jobs overseas is a bad idea. We think the minimum wage should be big enough to cover life's necessities, with some left over. We think it's insane that over half the bankruptcies in the country are due to lack of adequate medical insurance. We think everybody who has the grades should have a shot at college. And we believe that middle-class prosperity is absolutely essential for maintaining a healthy democracy—because history (via Kevin Phillips) has taught us that no democracy that's tolerated our current levels inequality has ever survived for long.

You'd be surprised (or maybe not) at how many conservatives making this accusation have never stopped and taken stock of the role government has played in making their own middle-class life possible. Their dad or granddad got through college on the GI Bill. They financed their own education with Pell Grants and federally-guaranteed loans. They grew up in FHA or VA-funded houses, and collected fat mortgage interest deductions—which, right there, ensured their family's place in the middle class. They went to decent public schools—and, perhaps, state universities. They're several thousand dollars richer every month because they're off the hook for Grandma's living expenses, thanks to Social Security and Medicare. They or their parents may have started businesses with help from the Small Business Administration, or relied on government advice and subsidies to keep the farm going. They work for businesses that depend on government contracts.

And then they'll sit there over the second helping of candied yams and loudly insist that they made everything they had, all by themselves, with no help from anybody and especially not from the government.

All you can do is laugh. And then, because they're family, go back to 1945 and start re-telling the family story—this time with Uncle Sam's forgotten role in the drama front and center.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

No Brainer

For twenty years some kind of a national health care plan has been one of those issues that for me has been a "No Brainer." As most manufacturing jobs were outsourced to other countries and we became a servie oriented workforce nation there were fewer and fewer employers offering health care benefits (outside of government workers municipal, state and federal). By the 1990's it was more than apparent that with the elderly having Medicare and the welfare class having Medicaid, that there needed to be some kind of national health care for the working poor.
It's hourly wage earners that face economic disaster with any kind of hospital stay, or may die because doctors and hospitals won't provide services to those without insurance or cash on the barelhead.
It looked like the working class was going to get some kind of national health care when Bill Clinton was elected in 1992. The health care industry, Republican party and a fear factor ad campaign stopped it cold.
Sixteen years later the need for a sensible health care policy has reached critical mass. It's to be understood that the Republican party, being the fiscal conservative, free enterprise, government hands off party, and up for sale to the highest corporate bidder will try to block any attempt in the next year to pass a national health care bill. Again this is a no-brainer. The country needs it. The automobile industry needs it, most employers squeesed by rising health insurance costs need it. This economic slowdown needs it, the tax payers need it NO BRAINER.

So why is the Republican Party still so adamant about oposing it? They're kind of spitting in the wind here. U.S. News and World Reports have figured it out: If a nationalized health care bill is passed it will kill the Republican party!
They need the working poor to vote against their economic best interest on taxes, support waging logistical unwinable wars that ruin or kill their children, and turn a blind eye as they starve education while burdening it with unfunded mandates and useless testing. Will anyone listen to those like the late Jerry Falwell, Pat Robinson, James Dobsen or Rush Limbaugh if it means voting against your health care coverage? Not bloody likely, and they have Europe's experience with National Health Care to prove the point. Or as the Republican party is saying openly:

Michael Cannon of the Cato Institute,... puts it succinctly in a recent blog post: "Blocking Obama's health plan is key to the GOP's survival."

Having a father who the VA on two different occasions nearly killed by their rationing of health care (refusing to treat the problem by saying he didn't have it), and his life was prolonged only by a private health care plan. I'm going to look with a skeptical eye at any plan offered, but what is the 'NO BRAINER" here is that something is better than nothing, and right now too many people in this country have no health care at all.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Robo Complaint

From Automatic Complaint-Letter Generator

And a heads up to Russ for posting it on his blog

The purpose of this letter is to outline a plan to suggest the kind of politics and policies that are needed to restore good sense to this important debate. With this letter, I hope to lay out some ideas and interpretations that hold the potential for insight. But first, I would like to make the following introductory remark: If you think that this is humorous or exaggerated, you're wrong. Mr. Patrick M. Prescott wants us to think of him as a do-gooder. Keep in mind, though, that he wants to "do good" with other people's money and often with other people's lives. If Mr. Prescott really wanted to be a do-gooder, he could start by admitting that he is a human leech dedicated to sucking the life out of our doomed corpses. This is equivalent to saying that he likes to cite poll results that "prove" that there's no difference between normal people like you and me and the worst sorts of dangerous crackpots I've ever seen. Really? Have you ever been contacted by one of his pollsters? Chances are good that you never have been contacted and never will be. Otherwise, the polls would show that that is no excuse for anything. To say anything else would be a lie.

In contrast, Mr. Prescott may unwittingly expand, augment, and intensify the size and intrusiveness of his coalition of callous spoilsports and temperamental, insensitive proletariats. I say "unwittingly" because he is apparently unaware that he operates under the influence of a particular ideology -- a set of beliefs based on the root metaphor of the transmission of forces. Until you understand this root metaphor you won't be able to grasp why I am not fooled by Mr. Prescott's homicidal and eristic rhetoric. I therefore gladly accept the responsibility of notifying others that the biggest supporters of Mr. Prescott's scabrous publicity stunts are cruel pests and power-drunk, froward sewer rats. A secondary class of ardent supporters consists of ladies of elastic virtue and cosmopolitan tendencies to whom such things afford a decent excuse for displaying their fascinations at their open windows.

Similarly, I strive to be consistent in my arguments. I can't say that I'm 100% true to this, but Mr. Prescott's frequent vacillating leads me to believe that our national media is controlled by the worst types of careless, dour traitors there are. That's why you probably haven't heard that Mr. Prescott's statements such as "Space aliens are out to lay eggs in our innards or ooze their alien hell-slime all over us" indicate that we're not all looking at the same set of facts. Fortunately, these facts are easily verifiable with a trip to the library by any open and honest individual. As this letter draws to a close, I want to challenge you, the reader, to tell Mr. Patrick M. Prescott how wrong he is. That's what I intend to do until my last breath.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Time For Real Happiness

Everyone is forecasting the largest economic catastrophe since the Great Depression. There are many similarities. The news, government and it seems most people think this is an attack on the American Dream, our pursuit of happiness and that our lives will not be worth living. They focus only on the bottom two levels of Abraham Maslow's pyramid and equate this with happiness. My thesis for this post is that hard times makes us stop and try to figure what is true happiness as opposed to the propaganda spread by social scientists, government experts and advertising agencies.

The Great Depression and perhaps today are the two most significant times in the last century that the physiological needs (air, water, food, shelter, clothing), and safety needs (protection from crime, loss of income and/or retirement, health care) have been in serious jeopardy for a significant portion of the general population. Natural disasters like hurricanes, fires and earthquakes hit only an isolated area. Economic depressions hit the country (even the world) as a whole, thus having greater impact. In all of these tragedies there is loss of life, and great pain. This also produces great soul searching. People step back from the rat race, ask themselves if losing their house, car, furniture, etc. is really the end of the world?
In time all material things lost due to these circumstances, though missed, can be replaced. And when they look at how much energy and effort went into the accumulation of all they lost thinking that these things would make them happy they realize how foolish they'd been.
  • Happiness is not a house, or a car, or expensive clothes. This only covers steps 1 & 2 of the pyramid.
  • Happiness is not to be found in a job. Again this covers steps 1 & 2.
  • Happiness is not found in the family. Steps 3, 4 & 5 all have to do with love, togetherness, emotional well being, accomplishment, serenity. Things we all need. Happiness, but just because we need it does not make for happiness.
  • Happiness is not to be found in Religion or running away from it all.  Sidharta Guatama (The Buddha) chose enlightenment over temporary fame, chose poverty in order to focus on his mind and spirit. In Christianity those who retreated to monasteries or convents chose a small cell and meager food to devote their lives to prayer and meditation. Others chose a life of helping and serving others. Other religions have similar practices of either escape or altruism. Giving up steps 1 & 2 and 3 to focus on steps 4 & 5 doesn't mean you'll be happy either.
So then what is happiness if it's not any of the above. Happiness is all of the above (for some) and none of the above (for others)! There is no equation for happiness, you either have it or you don't.
For me, happiness is balance, completion, striving to reach a goal no matter if its ever reached. The good times are always the ones where you are climbing the hill not coasting down it. When you're coasting down it's easier to appreciate the good times than when you're focused on going up the hill. 
I like the visual of Maslow's pyramid. Happiness, what he calls self-actualization is not connected to the pyramid, it's removed and sits above. Is it possible to be happy and have little or none of the other parts of the pyramid -- yes. Is it possible to be happy and have all of the pyramid -- yes.

In summation in good economic times people get caught up in the acquisition of material possessions thinking this will make them happy. Hard economic times, disasters, or tragedies make us take stock of things that have real value not just monetary value. Real value like real happiness is unique to each individual. Read the Beatitudes, Jesus chose as blessed (happy) those society thought would be most miserable. Society can only use Maslow's bottom two steps as an indicator for happiness which is a pretty lousy yard stick. 
Each person has to figure out for themselves what makes them happy. This is a time where there's a collective "gut check." It's a time to be enjoyed, savored, appreciated not feared. It's a time to learn what really matters in life and focus on that instead of possessions.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Another one on the way

It seems that Grinnygranny and I are going to have another grandchild in six months. This is making for a full house. I never thought we'd turn into The Waltons, and most importantly that we would become the eldest generation.

Monday, November 17, 2008

My Apology

Definition: Apology (pronounced ap/a/low/gee) to defend vigorously.

Michael Manning left a comment on my last post. I've responded to it, but since many readers don't look at the comment section I've decided to print a portion of my response to his supportive comment.
Preamble to the point I want to make. Many people I encounter understand the difficulties of being a teacher today. Many wonder why people become teachers. First and foremost it's not about the money. Not everything in life is. A salary commensurate with the level of education is better in other fields. 
I was fortunate to get a college education on an athletic scholarship which did not leave me with a huge financial debt. This allowed me to become a teacher and weather the professions low pay. It takes about fifteen years before the salary really becomes a living wage. None of the other professions requiring the same level of education take this long and many have starting salaries higher than what a teacher makes at twenty years experience.
I fear for the profession and the future generations that need even more eduction that I did at their age, and for the well being of the country that needs a well educated society to advance us technologically and economically. I've seen too many baby teachers take a look at their first paycheck and realize they can't possibly live on it, after they make their college loan payments. The salaries of teachers have not kept up with the basic educational requirement for certification. That is the real problem facing education today.
My reason for being a teacher is part of my answer to Mr. Manning.

Every time I get disgusted with the hassles of teaching I start looking at other professions and figure if it was easy and wonderful they wouldn't call it work. All jobs have their unpleasant aspects. This one has many rewards (seeing students learn and graduate), security (a biggie in this economy), benefits (health and retirement) and summers off to spend with children and grandchildren and write. It may not be many people's cup of tea, but it's mine.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

In The News

Reading the online New York Times today there was an article about the Chancellor of Washington D.C.'s public schools trying to abolish tenure. The woman is trying to get teachers to decide which economic package to sign up for, the tenure track with little money, or the non-tenure track with double the money. The extra money coming not from the taxpayers, but undisclosed private interests.
  1. Tenure: a person after attaining three years of probationary teaching has the right to be informed of the reason for being terminated or fired. In other words if an administrator wants to fire a teacher they need to say why!
  2. The red  herring being bantered about is that teachers unions are trying to save the jobs of bad teachers. Nothing could be further from the truth. If there is a teacher who is not doing his or her job, or is in violation of the contract, good riddance to them. All the union and tenure requires is that there has to be a good reason for the termination. How many workers feel that before your boss fires you that they should have a good reason for doing so? Come on raise your hand. Isn't that the way things should be done in the workplace?
  3. Is anyone else bothered that a non-disclosed private source is funneling money into one of the largest public school systems in the country on the condition that tenure be abolished? Who's trying to buy our public schools? For what reason? What's next, mandated curriculum or they pull the gravy train?
  4. When there is a teacher shortage that is only going to get worse as the baby boomers (like me) retire, why is there so much emphasis on how to get rid of teachers?
  5. Public schools are too important for them to be placed in the hands of the highest bidder. Corporations have already seized our universities with their research grants and have turned them into their own research and development departments and in the process tying them up with contracts that limit their academic freedom. Do we need them grabbing high schools too?
Here's and anecdote:
When I was at another school the teacher in the next room had a student teacher. The student teacher blew up at her. He screamed and yelled, called her every name under the sun, and as a result he was dropped from the program. When I left that school a few years later to teach where I am now I was surprised that he was an assistant basketball coach here and teaching in my department. That year he blew up at the head basketball coach and they nearly got into a fist fight in front of the students. My classes were large and nearly half of my students came into my class from parents requests to get them out of his class, because he wasn't teaching them anything. I talked to the dept chair, told what had happened at the previous school and asked how he even got certified as he was dropped from the program. He came in the back door through the internship program and they grabbed him because he would coach. The next year he was gone. Two years later I attended a dinner as a sponsor for the department to honor a selected student, where they received an award. This teacher was there from a private school. It gets even better, last year I was at a career day representing Southwest Writer's Workshop with a fellow teacher from another high school. Sitting there with a lot of time to talk he complained that an assistant principle at his school was giving all the teachers living hell and he came from my school and they would sure like to send him back. I asked who he was talking about and when he said the name it proved to me where bad teachers eventually wind up -- as principles.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

My Take

In a humorous approach, here's my take on the last three Presidential elections:

Dateline USS Enterprise-Earth
Stardate 111108.0930

  • USS Enterprise-Earth has experienced eight years of inept and bumbling Romulan-Republican Captain Archer-Bush. Proceeding blindly into the unknown without a map even resorting to torture to get what he wants. The only reason he was in office was because the Federation-Democrats could only find Spock-Gore and Tuvok-Kerry, emotionless Vulcans, to run against him. The real disaster of this Captaincy was that Archer-Bush chose 7 of 9-Cheney a Borg as Science officer. 7 of 9-Cheney's attempt to assimilate the entire world has nearly destroyed the USS Enterprise-Earth.
  • This last election primary pitted  Captain Janeway-Clinton against Captain Picard-Obama. It was nip and tuck, a knock down drag out, and even when everyone else was telling the scrapy Janeway-Clinton it was over she stood her ground to the very end. Janeway-Clinton's handicap in the race was that she had been stranded in the Delta Quadrant under countless attacks for years from the Romulan-Republicans and was a little too battle scarred for the crew. Pickard-Obama's approach was a "corporate board meeting leadership style" being inclusive to all members of the crew giving them a seat at the table. His confident, well reasoned fatherly manner galvanized the young, and previously dispossessed which has inspired the crew and USS Enterprise-Earth. Particularly his choice of Sisko-Biden as science officer, though not a star ship captain he does have years of command experience in Deep Space-Senate
  • The Romulan-Republicans gave it a valiant try by bringing out of mothballs, over the hill Captain Kirk-McCain. His shoot from the hip, bed every female he picks up in a bar, swaggering maverick style was once very popular with the crew (after all they chose Captain Kirk-Clinton twice) why not a third time? Unfortunately Kirk-Clinton was wise enough to choose Spock-Gore a dependable Vulcan as science officer while Kirk-McCain was letting the little head think for his big head and chose Yeoman Rand-Palin. Bad choice, as she turned out to be vain, expensive and inexperienced and worst of all: upstaged him. For Kirk-McClain it just shows that age does creep up on even the most vibrant of mavericks.  There is grumbling by the Klingon and Borg factions of the Romulan-Republicans over who lost the confidence of the crew, but there will always be malcontents in any crew.
  • With the USS Enterprise-Earth in the hands of the Federation-Democrat Pickard-Obama the crew has the audacity to hope for a resolution to the Federation-Cardassian conflicts, better living conditions and salary.