Friday, December 5, 2008

Scooping Doo

This is how the story goes....

In my backyard a sign I did find
"Scoop the doo or you will go"

As the neighbors saw the sign and cried
"What did you do?"
"Did you not scoop the doo?"

Then the Manager appeared
"Scoop or go" he declared

"Scoop I do!"  I cried
"Tuesday, Friday, Sunday .. scoop I do!"

"Scoop you must" he declared
"Monday, Wednesday, Thursday too"

"If the ditch is wet or the grass is long?"
"Scoop or go" he said with a glare.

"What about the others who never scoop the doo?"
 "Are those who go to other lots to do their doo?"
"Doo in a empty ditch they do not do .. a sign for them too?"

"Tell me who and a sign I will do"
"Tales of doo I cannot tell, and
 policing the doo I cannot do" 

"Scooping the ditch from pooch and critters"
"I can do"

So goes the story of scooping the doo.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


I saw an ABC News story that really touched me. It was about an 11 year old boy who when given 2 weeks to live decided that what he wanted to do in that 2 weeks was feed the homeless. And feed the homeless he did .. inspiring people to take action around the country to feed hungry people. What an amazing thing for a child to do and I had to wonder why if a kid could mobilize so many people why more of us couldn't make an even bigger dent in this area and on other social issues. I also wondered why some people end up so selfless when the norm really seems to be to just look out for our self or our own.

I had the opportunity to be a guest at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Community Health Leaders (RWJF) awards last month. The RWJF recognizes people who are impacting health care in an innovative and positive way. The competition is tough. They select 10 every year, this year their were 800 nominations. The leaders that are recognized are the cream of the crop. I have actually been to 4 of their ceremonies and the stories of the leaders always inspire me. The conversations among the leaders are unlike most events I go to because each person is truly passionate about their cause and how they can move it forward to impact more people in a positive way. At this conference there were 95 past & present awardees from 47 states and Puerto Rico, young, old, blind, deaf, in wheel chairs, all ethnicities and all with a common thread of making the world a better place for others.

Quite a room .. quite inspiring.. yet I still wonder what the common thread is that makes a person step outside the world of self interest to devote their lives to making it a better place for others? These folks put aside the excuses of family obligations, lack of money, time, talent, resources, ability or interest by others to name a few and against the odds, against reason in some cases, make things happen.  No excuses, lots of determination and a passion to make the world a better place.  Too bad we can't bottle that!   I welcome your comments on the subject ..

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Back in the Valley Again ...the Rio Grande Valley that is

The lively supermarket announcer is going on and on in Spanish about what I can only assume is a store special.  The store is filled with Hispanic families with overstuffed carts interspersed with white haired grandparent types going about their shopping duties.

The local Jack in the Box has at least a hundred grackles whistling and chattering away.  I have to stop as a stray dog crosses the road in front of me but I notice that there are large grapefruits already in the local propane companies grove.  Another month and grapefruits will be dropping off trees everywhere here.   As I head down the palm lined street the sun is just starting to set.  The palms waving in the breeze against the deep red sky are just beautiful and I know that I am back in the Rio Grande Valley again... my home the past 4 winters.

The Valley is like no place else I have ever been.  It is a poor area.  A border town, where Mexican nationals come to shop and retirees come to winter.  The local population is over 95% Hispanic and Spanish is the most predominate language spoken even though it seems most locals are solidly bi-lingual.   It all makes for an interesting & rare mix of cultures.

Thousands of northerners come here to 'winter' every year.  The attraction being the tropical weather, cheap prices and the fact that the locals are so welcoming.   In Florida & Arizona the northerners are called Snowbirds and they are not always welcomed with open arms.  In Texas the northerners are called Winter Texans and the folks of the Valley always seem happy to have us here.  The different townships have Winter Texan welcomes with food, entertainment and free give-aways.  There are Winter Texan Health Fairs. Two Winter Texan newspapers offer specials on everything from dining to eyeglasses.  The restaurants of the area love us.  Branson entertainers come through our parks to entertain us as do the local entertainers, especially cool are the Folkloric dancers with their colorful outfits.

The flora and fauna of the area is colorful as well.  Flowers, bushes and plants bloom all winter. Through November and come spring the bushes are teeming with colorful butterflies.  The birds here are more colorful than most places too.  Among them are bright yellow Kisskadees, Green jays, Altimira Orioles and Cardinals but the Cardinals here are a much more vibrant red than I have ever seen up north.

There are at least a hundred RV & Mobile Home parks in the Valley which stretches from Brownsville at least 70 miles west past Mission, Texas.  Life in the parks takes on a 'summer camp' type feel.   Most parks have Activity Directors and offer something for everyone from dancing classes, card playing, quilting get-togethers, pool tournaments, water aerobics and on and on.  Some parks have whole booklets they publish every month with there activities.  At my park people like to bike ride, bird watch, kayak and just hang out.  There are local places catering mainly to Winter Texans such as Pepe's on the River, that is a pub type place under a palm thatched roof with a deck along the Rio Grande river.  They have entertainment daily with dancing, cheap drinks and they are extremely popular even though the service leaves a bit to be desired.  Their dirt lot is packed on weekends with big trucks and tow cars from just about every state and province in North America.  There is also the DonWest Fleamarket in Donna, TX that caters to Winter Texans, has entertainment on weekends and carries just about any accessory you would need for RV or Mobile Home.  After a few years, it seems that many people buy mobile, modular or park model homes in the park of their choice and make themselves more permanent residents.

The Valley has much to offer .. I could probably write a book but I will just say .. if you are retired and tired of holing up in your home all winter .. why not come check out the South Texas Tropics.   Whether just passing through, staying a season or retiring here, there really is something for everyone is this unique little tucked away place down in the tip of Texas!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Here Birdie Birdie ..

Finally! I just reached the 300 lifetime bird mark .. almost 2 years after Terry, Larry & Jerry got me hooked on the damn things. Wintering in South Texas has its drawbacks. Getting hooked on birding and butterflying are two of them. A few years ago, I could take a walk in a park and enjoy watching the birds flit & fly about and listen to their songs and just be happy, but not anymore.

Fast-forward to today and I can't go to a park without binoculars and a bird book ... I stop, start, wait watch,stalk and listen to everything that flits, flies and rustles. I am a danger driving down the highway if there are birds on the wires or flying over head. My dog has learned to stop if she hears bird noises, sometimes she just lays down as I tip toe around trying to get a good view of a bird. People stare as you sit in a car by feeders for hours, hoping to get a glimpse of a bird that was reported to be there.  My obsession is bad!

Terry, Larry & Jerry did me in when they 'enticed' me to take a bird trip.  I just wanted to see what all the buzz was about and I saw something like 68 different birds all in a few hours. There are big ones, little ones, all colors, shapes and sizes .. some have wing bars, some eye rings .. who knew all this stuff? The sad thing to say is that once you cross a line and go beyond the 'a bird has 2 feet, feathers and a beak' it can be hard going back. In South Texas, the birding group went once a week and I went when I could .. but now that I am fully obsessed, every day is a birding day ...I even check out the birds flitting in the bushes when I go to the grocery store. I plan trips based on birds.  I drive miles to see birds...  I used to make fun of people standing around looking in the trees with their binoculars and now I are one. The tragedy!

Today while out 'officially' birding, I met a couple of hippie guys. They had to be about 50 but didn't look to differently than I they likely did in the 60's or early 70's. I thought it unusual to see hippies out in a birding area .. but birding they were & they knew their stuff and were excited about all the birds in the area. One of them told me he too got hooked on birds in South Texas. He said 25 years ago he went down to the border to visit a friend and saw his first green jay and has been birding ever since. When this guy headed to Texas 25 years ago I am sure he had no intention of checking out the local fauna.  He was probably looking for a buzz yet he still got hooked on the birds none the less.  The glit in the eye of the green jay was too much for him!

So my advice to you is this .. if someone invites you to go look at a few birds with them .. run!! Run fast and run far, do not gaze upon the colorful feathers or catch the glit of their little eyes .. run!

Whether or not you are in the grip of the winged ones or not .. you might like some pics from one of my fellow South Texas bird obsessees, Fred Walsh, who is actually quite good with a camera.  His pics from the winter months contain some great pics of the birds of South Texas.  The Rio Grande Valley of South Texas truly is a birders paradise.  Here are some links for birding information in the area: World Birding Center, Santa Ana NWR, Laguna Atascosa NWR, and Sabal Palms Audubon Center.   To find out more about Birding in your area contact the National Audubon Society.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Stamp out voting ignorance!

Please don't vote if you only get your political information from:
  • Billboards
  • TV
  • Email
  • Your Church
  • Radio shows
  • Your friends

As d-day approaches, there is a huge 'get out to vote' campaign.   I think that is great .. it is a privilege that we live in a country where we have the freedom to vote privately and without fear.   The problem is that we have gotten lazy.  We don't inform ourselves about the candidates or issues any more.  We believe the rhetoric spewed on our airways and through email boxes and even from our pulpits without ever digging deeper.   With the advent of the internet we have access to more information than at any other time in history yet we don't always use the resources available to make an informed voting decision.   What is your elected officials voting record on issues that are important to you?   How will each candidates tax plans effect you?  What is Socialism and does it effect you?  Will my taxes really be raised?  Does stem cell research really kill babies??   Will we be less safe if one presidential candidate wins over another?  How much authority does a president really have??  

Don't know?   The good news is you can.   There are plenty of internet sites that can help you be an informed voter. is a great way to see through the spin you see and hear and get the facts about an issue or statements being purported by a campaign.  They are independent and unbiased. gives your representatives voting records, information about Congressional Bills and Resolutions and much more helpful information.   Your elected officials usually have a website that includes information on how they have voted on issues.   I try and stick with factual non-biased informational sites.  Usually, when someone sends me an 'accusatory' type email or makes statements that are designed to make you fear a candidate, I check it out.   Such emails as Obama is a Muslim extremist, he is reading terrorist books, he is Castro all over again.  I check out & have always found them to be lies based in ignorance maybe, but always designed to provoke fear.  I was going to add emails designed to evoke fear of John McCain but actually I haven't received any.  I could give you speculation as to why that is but I will refrain.

The point here being that each of us have a responsibility to be an informed voter.  Do the research yourself.  Don't be intimidated by church leaders who say that you are not a Christian if you vote for Obama or friends that insinuate you hate the environment if you vote for Mc Cain.  The fact is you can vote for Ralph Nader and still be a Christian!  

Voting is about whom the best person is to promote what is important to you.  If you are going to take the time to vote, please take the time to be an informed voter.  I find ignorance of our political system to be at an appalling level.   More voters is great but what we really need is more informed voters.   I have links in the side bar under "Participate in Democracy' to sites that will help you be and stay informed about the political environment within the US.  Do your part and educate yourself and help others to educate themselves (you can even Digg this post to help it reach more folks) .. we can stamp out voter ignorance .. one person at a time.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Hotel'n it with Dog

I am currently out on a jaunt without my RV, which means I have to hotel it  .. with the wonder dog.  How motels handle pets never ceases to amaze me.

Motel 6's always take dogs no extra charge.  Thank God for Motel 6.   Other low-end no frills hotels charge anywhere from $10 to $50 for a pet!  As I found out this evening a lot of the mid range hotels take no dogs and then on the higher end .. if they take them they charge up to $100 a night.  

Then there is Loews Hotels, high end and pet-friendly.  Wonder dog & I stayed at Loews in New Orleans when the conference hotel (The Sheraton) said I could have a pet but it couldn't stay in a room by itself .. I couldn't take the dog to the conference or out to eat either and it would cost extra.  So basically you can just stay in your room with your dog?  Loews did not charge extra for the dog, gave us a pet welcome kit along with a room service menu and bowls.  The concierge kept dog cookies which Dog picked up on pretty quickly.   Fast forward to this week, when the conference I was at happened to be at a Loews at Coronado, CA .. beautiful hotel and same treatment for the dog.  They even printed up directions for us t get to the dog beach.  Now obviously, if I could travel without my pet that would be my preference but since I can't always do that the chains that don't freak out & charge you out the wazoo because you have a pet will get my business whether Dog is with me or not.

My dog is pretty easy going .. we get to the hotel/motel, she gets a drink of water, lays down and doesn't move till morning.  She is no more of a risk to trashing a hotel than I am so why pay $25 more?  One place told me that it was to vacuum their hair up ...  aren't they vacuuming anyway?  They aren't paying anyone $25 to make 1 extra swipe with the vacuum they are just charging more because they think they can get away with it.  Kids are more apt to cause damage, write on walls, spill things, etc yet they don't charge extra for them??   I stayed in a chain hotel in Kansas this summer & they charged $25 in cash for the dog for the night and then gave you back $10 in the morning without even looking at your room .. huh??  Tonight we had to stop along the highway for a motel .. 6 motels before we could find one that would take dog for a reasonable price.  Ridiculous!  

Looking for a place to overnight .. try Motel 6.  Looking for a destination resort... consider a Loews .. they get people and pets.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Critters!! Again? .. Oh My..

Scratch,  scratch .. what's that?  Dog dreaming again?  Nope, Dog is fine. Then what's that noise?  Scratch, scratch, claw,claw!    Of course, it is after midnight, so I can't scream loudly and hope the neighbor will come save me.  The Adventure Dog is sleeping soundly so I poke her and she jumps into action.  I point to where I heard the sound and she dutifully does her best police dog impression and sniffs every edge and every corner, then looks at me like I am crazy and lays back down.  Nice!  So much for my guard dog.  I didn't hear 'the noise' anymore so I settled back into my book but my thoughts drifted back to my harrowing experience with critters last winter.  Ahh, the Winter of 07,  I remember it all too well.  Here is a page from my journal.

Adventures of a Winter Texan '07

I have heard that all over the valley this year the rodent population is booming. I don’t know if that is true or not, but in my park it certainly is the case. They are everywhere, scampering in the bushes, running across the roads and trying to nest under wheel covers. I have caught my share of them heading out from behind a wheel cover and had been pretty successful at keeping them outside my rig. That is until that nice cold front came through last week. Now being smarter than your average bear, I knew the cold weather would tempt the critters to come inside and snuggle. So I prepared! I turned off my furnace and water heater and put my electric blanket on the bed and turned it all the way up. I figured my four-legged companion had plenty of hair and could tough out the night curled up in a ball on her bedding. The important thing was not to attract any rodents. I snuggled all safely in my bed and dozed off with a smile, thinking I was clever.

Clang, crash, crunch .. what the hey!! I flipped on the lights to my Shepherd mix knocking over my bathroom trash and trying desperately to get to something behind the toilet! I looked at the clock.. it was 2 am. Fear shot through my body.. it is 2 am, there is something in my bathroom and no one awake to run to for help.  Dog turned around to give me the ‘aren’t you go to do something’ look. I swallowed hard and thought maybe I should go look. I hadn’t actually seen anything, maybe it was a moth or a fly she was trying to catch.

I got up slowly, thinking the best thing to do would be to turn on lights.  So I did. Then I remembered that the drapes on the front of my motor home where at the cleaners and people, people who might be out at 2 am, might see me walking around in my pajamas. Hmmm, I quickly decided this was serious and I couldn’t worry about that at the moment.  I went and bravely grabbed Dog by her collar and pulled her back from the toilet so I could see the problem. As I did, I saw something small and furry run to where the pipes come in behind the toilet. I let out a blood curling scream and started to jump up and down! It was a mouse! I was terrified. I retreated to my bed to think about what I should do. I picked up my phone, it was now 2:14 am.  Hmmm... I contemplated calling a friend on the other side of my park that might come and help me out. Then again it was 2 in the morning and the coldest night of the year so far, they probably wouldn’t be thrilled if I called them about a mouse. I looked out windows on both sides of my rig, thinking my blood curling scream probably woke someone up .. no lights on .. no luck. I thought about going to a motel in town.  That would give the little bugger free reign in my house. It would probably be drawn to my nice warm bed .. no better to stay and defend the bed.

Dog was still stationed at the throne, so I knew that the little terror was still in there so I devised a plan. I decided that I should close the bathroom door and shove dirty clothes under the door so it wouldn’t escape. Then in the morning I could call a friend to come and extract it from the bathroom. But what if 'nature' called before morning??   Dog had kept her position but laid down now. I thought maybe it had escaped along the water pipes and was no longer there. I got a flashlight and very cautiously looked all around behind the throne and saw nothing this time. I wanted to use the throne quickly to be sure I would make it till morning but was afraid maybe it hid in there.  I lifted the lid and the seat slowly .. no mouse.  Still being a little tentative, I thought it best to assume the Public Potty position, the kind of balance and squat but don’t actually sit down stance. Well as soon as I did, the mouse shot past my foot and Dog made chase. I quickly retained my balance gathered myself together and went to grab Dog.  She had the little guy cornered and was batting, chasing and then she tried to grab it with her mouth. I swear the thing was doing acrobats trying to get away. In any case, when Dog almost grabbed it, I let out another screech of horror as I again thought ‘what am I going to do with a mouse in the dogs mouth at 2am!’. My scream scared Dog, who jumped back and the mouse ran under the door to the front of the RV! I quickly gathered clothes and stuffed them under the door and barricaded us in the back. Whew, what a horrid experience! I again checked out the windows to see if maybe a neighbor had awoken this time and I could open my window and plead for help. No such luck, so I crawled back under the covers after doing a thorough check that nothing else was in the bathroom.   Dog stationed herself at the edge my barricade. I left the lights on, pulled the covers close under my chin and watched till Dog eventually faded off on her guard duties. I encouraged her to keep the faith a time or two, but then she was just done. I lay there thinking about my 4 year old niece and how I would have to explain to her that her aunt barricaded herself in the bedroom because of a mouse. She has a Rat as a pet. Her’s is a fancy rat, there was nothing fancy about Mickey’s wicked step brother that was now doing who knows what in the front of my rig. I went in and out of sleep until daylight struck and I heard people outside. I called my friends from my bed to see if they could come and help me, but they had their phone off. I decided to get dressed and grab Dog and run straight outside. We did. I found two neighbors, one came with a broom and one bravely entered with just his two bare hands. The searched high and low for that mouse and never found it. They placed traps but I have never seen hide nor hair of the little fella since then. I think maybe we scared it as much as it scared me. That is just fine.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon was on my Bucket List before Bucket Lists were cool. I saw a postcard of the canyon about 8 years ago,bought it and used it as a bookmark. I thought it was beautiful and wanted to go there 'some day'. Well 'some day' came this month as mom and I emerged from our aborted Southeast Utah intervention (see blog post Mom's coming and she's a crackpot.. for that story).

We made a quick jot up to Page, Arizona on our way to Sedona to try and catch a glimpse of the famed slot canyon. After reading many reviews, we opted to take the Chief Tsosie tour. The canyon is on Navajo land and you can only enter with a Navajo guide. The price for the tour was about $8 higher than going to the parking lot and picking up a guide there. Chief Tsosie's picked us up at our campground, wisked us pass the security gate at the parking entrance that had a line of cars and unto what appeared to be a sandy creek bed road that led down to the canyon entrance. From the parking area to the canyon entrance was a very bumpy, fishtailing 10 - 15 minute drive.

Our guides name was Terri, a Native American and a school teacher. She came off a bit brisk at first when one of the touries asked a kind of 'you people' question, but then she made her point and moved on. She was actually fabulous and spent a lot of time explaining the features of the canyon, as well as, answering all of our questions regarding Native American culture. I found that just as interesting as the canyon itself. She was quite open and patient with us to the point that our tour ran late. That turned out to be a blessing. We were told before we went into the canyon that it was not likely that we would see any light beams hitting the valley floor because of the time of day and time of the year. Our delay kept us later and because I was lagging behind clicking away on our way back through I got to see 2 light beams almost hitting the floor! Bonus! It really made my day. It was a very neat sight.

We went through the canyon, out the other side, talked and then back through again. I saw several folks with some of the guides from the parking lot that were in and out way quicker than we were and they didn't appear to be getting the info that we were. We were on a 10:30 tour. When we went in the canyon it was not very crowded but on our way back out .. after noon it was packed. It is a slot canyon, which means it is very narrow so there was a single file line going each way. It had to be extremely hard for the new folks coming in to get pictures without people in them. I am happy we chose the tour company and time that we did.

The canyon itself was everything I had hoped .. light playing on the smooth curves and narrow, red walls of the sandstone canyon. Very cool indeed!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Take a Step to Stamp out Poverty for Blog Action Day

Yeah, Blog Action Day is here!  The purpose is to create discussions on poverty.  My purpose is to give you actions that you can take to address poverty in America .. and yes it does exist.  Yes, we are the richest country in the world but we still have poverty and homelessness.  We still have children that go to bed hungry, veterans sleeping on our sidewalks, families sleeping in abandoned vehicles and digging through trash for food.

The reasons that people find themselves in extreme poverty and homeless are varied.  Substance abuse and mental health issues do play a big part but I wouldn't say that is the only factors at play.  What I do know is that there are organizations that are working hard to impact poverty in their communities.  

Union Mission in Savannah, GA has been providing shelter for the homeless, helping them with housing assistance, providing healthcare, life skills training, job training and employment assistance for decades. I attended one of their culinary arts programs graduation ceremonies. The graduates were beeming.  They had a marketable skill, they were getting jobs and getting on their feet again.  Union Mission gave them a hand up and these folks turned their lives around.

Save Our Youth in Denver, Colorado is a youth mentoring agency.  They provide mentors to at-risk youth to help keep them in school, off drugs and making good life decisions. Many of them have parents who are incarcerated, are from single parent homes and live in areas where gangs, crime and being a drop out are the norm. The youth they serve are truly at-risk of ending up where Union Mission picks up.  While Union Mission is works to get people out of poverty, Save Our Youth is trying to prevent some of the situations that cause people to go into poverty.  Both are necessary.

So how does this relate to you?   Simple ..  you & I may not devote our daily lives to combatting or preventing poverty in America (or abroad) but we can help those that do by making a donation or volunteering.  Non-profit organizations rely on donated funds and volunteers to carry out their missions.  Your donation, no matter how small, does make a difference.  Make a donation to Union Mission, Save Our Youth or a quality agency near you that is working to stamp out poverty.  You can do something to impact poverty today... Consider eating-in today, donate what you would spend to a non-profit making a difference, it won't hurt your waistline or your wallet but it just might give some one the hand up they need to turn their life around.  If not that at least have a conversation with someone about poverty .  We won't be able to end poverty today but by each one of us taking a small step in the right direction we can make a dent.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Family Politics

I had an interesting conversation today about how people tend to stick with the political party of the household they were raised in.  It seems that we are all pretty much wired at birth to lean to the right or left as we see politics through the lens of our parents.

My father was a very political guy.  We knew months out when an election was coming because he filled every inch of our corner lot with signs for every Democratic person running.  Didn't matter if it was an election for president or neighborhood council, he was doing what he could to support the democratic party.  Being a union guy we also had left over picket signs that I would have to dig through to find things that I lost in the depths of his garage.  

Though my dad was very political, I can't ever remember him having a discussion with any of us kids about politics.  Still he impacted my politics.  I am not a registered Democrat but an independent voter.  I have mixed views on unions.  I,  however, do find myself agreeing with the liberal camp more often than not.  I talk to my mother and two of my siblings about politics often because I know that I can commiserate on the current state of affairs at any given time without much debate or argument.  

The interesting thing though is that most people I know are pretty similar to my family. They stick with what they know.  I have a close friend who is way republican and listens to Rush Limbaugh's rhetoric all the time.  Her kids also ended up republican .. I am convinced that they were brainwashed by being exposed to some many Rush Ramblings that they couldn't help themselves.   

I have one friend who explained how she 'came out' to her parents four years ago as a democrat.  She was not tarred and feathered though I am sure her family is saying some extra prayers for her return to the fold.  It was a big deal for her to be the first left winger in her family.  She hid it till she was well into her thirties.  I think a lot of folks are like that, afraid to break away from the family norms.   I have another sibling that doesn't talk much about politics with his family.   I suspect he could be a closet Republican but I am not sure. I never have nor probably never will ask him.  If he ever admitted to going to the other side I would ask how he found a bridge to that mindset.   I think it would take a lot to cross over from the subliminal cues (sort of) that my father gave or my republican friend gave her kids to something new. 

Over the past two decades however, family dynamics have changed.   We have had more divorces, blended families, single parent families, more electronic diversions and less Ward and June sitting at the table with Wally and the Beav.  We have also had more and more people, especially young people (who will have families) breaking away from the influence of family and registering as Independents.  I think that family dynamics do effect our political views and  as the 'few' that break away from their family norms become 'many' we will see a true change in our political system.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Jumping off the Political fence..

Well, it's time for me to take the plunge off the political fence. I have straddled the fence for so long this election that I think I am chafing. I have long been an independent voter with a strong belief that 'we the people' should have more than two viable choices for president. I mean we are a nation of 305 million people, certainly we can come up with more serious candidates than just two every election year. We are a diverse nation that doesn't just fit into 2 camps. The folks registering as independents is growing! Yipee, we need some independent thinking to move from the 'same old, same old' partisan politics that we have had for a couple hundred years. As long as we have only have 2 major parties in this country we aren't going to experience true change.

I am praying for the day that I can vote for a person that I feel will truly make a good president. Will that happen in my lifetime?  I better pray hard.   In the meantime, where is Ross Perot anyway?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Mom’s Coming and She’s a Crackpot .. er I mean Crackberry..

I love my mother. For a woman of 65, she is quite technologically savvy. She has done well for herself and has quite a lot of business acumen. I am quite proud of her, but it seems that I have helped to create a techno junkie.

Eighteen years ago, I moved her typewriter off her desk and replaced it with a MacIIsi computer. She protested, bitched, moaned, yelled and pulled out all the drama stops over this change. I stood my ground and within a week she said I could remove the typewriter out of her office altogether. Ahhh.. breakthrough I was quite proud of myself. I was also proud of her for taking a step into the 20th century and using the current technology.

Fast forward to Spring 2008, I talked to my mother the evening before and she was so sick that she couldn’t stand up. She has inner ear issues sometimes and ends up bedridden until it subsides. So the next morning when I got a five emails from her in five minutes, I assumed she was better and back to work. I called to comment on her quick recovery only to find that she was laying flat in bed and holding her Blackberry above her head so she could read and return emails!! Thankfully, when we took a trip together this summer she had just changed from a Blackberry to the iPhone and hadn’t gotten the new touch pad down well enough yet to really be sending emails .. she could just read them. I am not sure how many actual meals or conversations we have had over the past couple of years without her checking her Blackberry or phone but it isn't many. I realized that the addiction was pretty bad when at her house I observed her using 3 different computers and her iPhone to stay up with her email! Now, she is a busy lady. She does get a lot of emails and I am sure that people are happy that she responds promptly but still you have to call a spade a spade and she is addicted .. just like a crack head, no two ways about it, she is a Crackberry. Or now that the iPhone is the in thing, maybe they should be called iCrackers. Whatever they are called I do think they need a 12-step group. (The first step is admitting it.)

So mom is coming to visit and I think I need to help her with her problem. (Not that she wants help or even that she thinks she has a problem.) Nevertheless, I am going to take her to beautiful SE Utah. There are lots of lovely buttes, spires, mesa and red desert that is always changing it’s hues. SE Utah has a lot. It will not however have cell phone coverage, wifi card coverage, email access or a tv signal! They ought to build a retreat center out there for all the crackberries. So I am wondering what will happen to her? Will she sweat and twitch or her thumbs move involuntarily? Will her head spin around and she spew angry words my way. Will I be able to protect myself? Further will I be able to get her to a signal before she is past the point of no return.. These questions and more will be answered soon enough … if I emerge unscathed from this intervention!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

I did it without crack!

Wow, I am not sure that I am ready to add plumbing to my resume, but I am still quite impressed with myself! A handyman or woman I am not. I prefer to make the call and open the checkbook, but the sting of being fleeced by an auto repairman the day before drove me to attempt what I would never have fathomed before ... I .. yes, I changed a sink. All by myself, no help whatsoever! (The old one had a bottle of perfume go through it)

Now I have to say that it was not the easiest thing I have ever done. I now have a new respect for plumbers, especially the guys who fix RV bathroom items. RV bathrooms are very small and I swear you have to know some Yoga moves to work in them. I had to twist .. a leg here, an arm there, no still can't reach .. ahhh that leg has to do the pretzel thing then I can reach the screw! It wasn't pretty and of all things .. I sweated! I am not keen on exertion to the point of sweating and had to stop and take notice when that drip ran down my forehead and unto my nose. Panicked as to what was happening to me .. I almost stopped. The whole car thing kept me going.

I was quite pleased when I carefully set the new sink down on the counter and trimmed the plumbers play-do from around the edges. Next, I attempted to hook up the things underneath. Apparently it is best to hook those up first, because when I finally did get the pipe things all hooked back up the sink was sticking up 1/2 inch above the countertop! So much for my nice trim job. At that point, what had been my nice soothing Folk tunes I was plumbing too, was about to make me crazy & I had to go put an end to Peter, Paul & Mary's "If I had a hammer.." before I decided to take a hammer to the damn sink .. But no ... I calmed myself, resisted crying and went back with a new resolve to that I could 'do this'.

A few more Yoga moves, dropping screws on my face and losing clips to the depths of the RV and I had it. Whew whew ... time to trim the putty stuff again. Wow, I stood back, wiped my brow .. and admired my work. Oh crap, what's that water on the floor!? No big deal I am woman watch me plumb .. a little tightening and it's okay.

I really did it, I look like hell but I did it and most importantly I did it without showing any crack! The key ... those leotard workout tights. If our handyman were decked out in these babies, we could say goodbye to crack forever. Oh what a wonderful world it would be.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Trail Notes...

Yesterday I was listening to a preacher recount an outing he took in the mountains.  It reminded me a my first hike in the mountains this season.  Here are the trail notes for the my Gem lake hike in Rocky Mountain National park.


12:10 pm – what a beautiful day for a hike in the mountains. Hmmm.. Gem lake 1.8 miles, sounds great! That won’t be too far.. I think I will just take 1 of these little bottles of water. No sense in weighing myself down more than I need too.

12:20 pm – sure glad I decided to break in these new boots instead of wearing my tennis shoes, as there is a creek going down the center of the trail. Little bit of incline on this trail .. it should be a good workout for me.

12:30 pm – elderly man with a cane coming down the trail. Hmmm, maybe I will have to go an extra mile or so past the lake to get a good workout. Hey look, a sign .. oh .. I can go back to the trailhead the long route, 1.1 miles that will burn a few more calories. This is way is only .5 mile.

12:50 pm – thought it best to go past the elderly couple resting on the trail before I stopped & gasped. What is that tinge in my chest? Surely I am not having a heart attack. I think I should just hang out and take a couple pictures while my heart quits pounding & I get my breath.

1: 00 pm – surely I am getting close. I has been almost 1 freak’n hour I have been walking uphill! Aren’t there in flat places on this trail? Chest still pounding. What is the elevation here?

1:05 pm – meet family on trail – they say that I have a ways to go but that there is a cave around the corner were I can get cooled off. The almost 7 year old takes me to the cave entrance to feel the air. I must be looking a bit ragged that she felt the need to guide me. Whew, this cool air feels great. It must be 85 degrees up here. I didn’t think Estes got that hot. Man, half my water is gone. I better start conserving … Sure wish I had brought that other bottle.

1:15 pm – people passing on the trail. Stop to take flower pictures and try not to gasp for breath as they pass. They say only 15 minutes more .. okay .. 15 minutes .. I don’t know if I can do it. Surely, the people who marked this trail are wrong .. I think I have walked about 5 miles already.

1:30 pm – dying on this freaking trail. Meet two 80 year old ladies coming down the trail. They ask if I am by myself .. no .. just me & the mouse in my pocket .. do you see anyone else!! They aren’t even sweating. They say the lake is a gem .. just 15 minutes ahead!! 15 minutes! I heard that 15 minutes ago .. okay don’t faint in front of them, keep moving.. for god sake they are 80 plus & they made it!

1:35 pm - the guy who past me 10 minutes ago is now on his way down .. he says I’ll make it .. it is only 10 more minutes. Not being able to breath without a gasp, I give the ‘mouth open gasp’ smile. I think I might have to crawl soon. I hear a couple complimenting 3 older ladies on the switchback above.. she says it is so inspiring to see all the older people on the trail! Inspiring my butt, they are just here to torment me!

1:45 pm – Is this the freaking lake I killed myself to get too!?? Looks more like a pond. Gem lake, my patooty!  At least there are no old ladies up here so I can recupe in peace. Ahh , granola bar and a gulp of water .. gotta conserve .. only two sips left for the way down. Better relace my boots, my ankles are killing me .. stupid idea to break in new boots on this trail. That damn chipmunk better stay away from my granola bar or I am taking Alvin out.. Okay, I have stopped heaving in air and heart rate is down to only 200 or beats per minute. Better head back down.

2:15 pm – whew going down is way better. Maybe those ladies weren’t wenches after all, they were just happy to go down hill. Must have been about a 5000’ elevation gain on this trail. This little cave thing is a great escape from the heat. 1 swallow of water, better save the last one.

2:50 pm – trail splits .. 1.1 mile or .5 , I think .5 will be just fine. Last swallow of water, I think I might make it.

3 pm – whew I made it .. baby Ranger Rick at the bottom can’t tell me what the elevation gain is but doesn’t think it is 5000’. Bottle of warm water in car, now half empty. No open blisters on my feet. Life is good.

Note to self – Great trail .. must do again – take more water!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Passage to India for Healthcare

Man, I loved playing softball. When I had the chance to jump into an over 55 league and play again, despite being 40 something. I took it. During my 3rd practice, I heard a loud pop as my foot slipped when I went for a simple ground ball. I collapsed on the field .. note I still made the out at first .. but had to have my over 55 cohorts help me up and off the field. I hobbled home, iced my knee and said my prayers that it would be better in a couple of days. Unfortunately, days went by and it wasn't, which was of major concern to me since I did not have any health insurance.

When it was clear there was something majorly wrong, I went to the only doctor I could get into see without insurance .. he was a chiropractor he said I needed to see someone in orthopedics. After 5 calls to orthopedic docs who told me they would not see me because I did not have health insurance. I found one that would. It was $245 which had to be paid in full before I could see the doctor. I was in pain and said fine.

When I arrived for my appointment on crutches, a person who appeared to be an office manager came in and started asking the 'window person' loudly why there was a self pay on the schedule .. all calls were suppose to be screened .. they didn't do self pay and on and on... I wasn't sure why my money was any less good than an insurance companies at that point .. after all I paid up front and more money than they were getting from the insurance company .. but I keep my mouth shut, I was really in a lot of pain and just wanted to see a professional. The doc gave me a referral for an MRI and a place to get it at a reasonable price (about $500, then a couple hundred for it to be interpreted) and a place where I could get a brace and try that for a couple weeks to see if I could get by without having any surgery. I got the MRI .. again paid up front, got a cd copy for my records and paid for the MRI reading report to be faxed to the doctor. When I followed up with the doctors office, after the results had been sent to them, they kept telling me the doc would call me later. I called every day for four days, only to be told something different and that I would be called back with the results. The last time I called, I was told that I would have to make an appointment for him to tell me the results and that it would that would be $285 up front!! I was livid. I already paid for the results to be put in report form, and he wanted me to pay $285 for him to tell me what they said!! I asked to at least speak to the doctor about the matter and was refused the opportunity to do so.

My mother told me about a story she saw on 60 minutes on people going to other countries for health care & suggested I call and see if there wasn't some place close by in Mexico that I could go to for help.

I dropped and email to one of these companies at about 10 pm. I had a call from there representative by 10:30 pm. I sent the images from the CD I had to him via email and within 36 hours I had talked with a doctor in Panama who had read my MRI & one in India. I had torn both my acl and meniscus. I called the local hospitals and clinics trying to see if I could arrange surgery on a self pay basis. I could, if I had a doctor who would do the surgery. The figures they gave me were around $8000 higher than the out of country cost and that was without the doctors charges and only for 1.5 hours in the hospital. I think I spoke to them on a Thursday. By the next Wednesday I was on a plane to India and had surgery Friday morning.

It was all a whirlwind. I spent 10 days in an Indian hospital. 1 day prior to surgery and 9 after. In the 9 days after I received physical therapy 2x per day. The total cost was around $2700 (without airfare). The care I got was amazing.

Some of the aides in India

It wasn't all peaches and cream though. The Indian doc recommended I stay in the country 15 days after surgery. My person only booked me for 9 and despite all efforts on the Indian & US side, I could not get my tickets changed. I had to fly against medical advice or stay another 20 days. I flew .. it was absolutely horrible .. Lufthansa was horrid but I survived.

Little did I know that my troubles getting back were just the beginning. When I did make it back, I called the local PT companies with my doctors orders for PT from India only to be told that they would not accept doctors orders from out of the country. Time and time again I heard the same story. (We are just talking about PT .. lift your leg, bend your knee, etc!) So I tried to get and appointment with a doctor so I could get an order for the therapy that I was told was crucial to me being able to regain full functionality of my knee. No doctor would see me. After 9 days with no therapy I called the company that set me up for the surgery for help. They were able to get a US doctor to fax orders for me to get PT for the state I was only going to be in for a couple more days. When I got to the state where I was actually living, I again faced the same problems because this state didn't just want a US doctors order but a US doctor from their state. I finally found a private PT that basically risked their license to get me through the rest of my rehab.

If I had to do it all over again, I would have just stayed 3 more weeks in India and received all the healthcare I needed before returning to the United States.

I read several blog posts today on Blogher about healthcare in the US. Several bloggers stated that they didn't feel universal health care was something that our government should be involved in. While I do understand that bigger government is not always the best answer to every social problem, I think that our government should at a minimum assure that every citizen has access to healthcare. I was denied health insurance and then denied care in the richest country in the world for not having insurance. Insurance companies make millions, but are charged less by providers than I am. Illegal immigrants can go to a hospital for emergency care and have their bills written off. If I went to an ER, I would have to be bankrupt before my bill would be written off and then my credit would be ruined for years.  Even then hospital ER's are only charged with stabilizing a person and providing life saving care, not necessarily diagnosing or correcting a health issue.

Our healthcare system isn't working for a growing number of people in this country. The care I received in India was better than the care my brother received for the same operation in the US. 4 of 5 of people I know who had operations in the states within 6 months of mine caught staph infections at the hospital... 2 of them died, one being only 44. My grandmother spent 3 days in the hospital before they gave her insulin... despite the intake paperwork showing she was insulin dependent. They only noticed after we kept asking what her blood sugar level was and why it was so high. Additionally, she got to a point where she could not feed herself (they knew this) .. yet they would leave a tray & come pick it up again without it being touched if a family member didn't make it in on time to feed her. In India, a dietician came in after every meal to talk about what & how much I ate and what changes I would like for the next meal.

Healthcare for our kids is even worse. We have improved over the past couple of years yet an infant born in Cuba still has a better chance at survival than one in the US. Cuba! Did I mention that we are the richest country in the world and that our insurance companies make millions?? My hope is that whomever we elect as our next president that 'we, the people', really do hold them accountable and demand change in our healthcare system this time. Change that insures that all have access to affordable care.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Obama, Palin and the American Dream

What a year for politics.  I sat with tears in my eyes as I listened to a black man at the Democratic convention speaking about how he could finally tell his kids without reservation that they could grow up to be anything they wanted.   It was a historical night when Barack Obama accepted the nomination for president of the Democratic party .. he shattered the race barrier for the highest office in this country.  I found all the tears, cheers and personal stories of the older people who never thought they would see this day extremely riveting.

After soaring from the emotion from that night, the next morning brought Sarah Palin.   An unheard of (in the lower 48), self proclaimed soccer mom, 2 year mayor of a small town in Alaska was named as John Mc Cain's running mate!  Wow ... from obscurity to the national spotlight all in one day.  As more details came forth about Sarah Palin and her family the more wowed I became.  Not because of her readiness or lack of readiness to be president but because of the concept of someone who is young, has a less than perfect family life & history,  from a small town about as far from Washington as you can get, can be considered for an office that is a heartbeat away from our highest office.   That, to me, is a huge WOW.

The Chinese see the number 8 as a lucky number.  I am not sure if 8 is lucky or not, but I do think that the 2008 political race itself has given hope to more people of all creed, color and background that the American Dream really is possible than anything else could have.  You no longer have to spend a lifetime in politics, be a white male and have a Leave it to Beaver family to be president ... whew whew .. Whatever the outcome of the election, I think that we have already achieved significant change.  

Who knows maybe even I could be on a ticket one day!  Only in America... :-)

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Reflecting on a Mid Life Crisis

Today, sitting here, feet up, in western Colorado watching the clouds move across the peaks of the San Juan mountains, listening to a new iTunes playlist is worlds away from the life I left 4 years and 4 months ago today.

Mid life .. what a deal.  There are no rules for it and I guess we each have our own journey's to take.  Some of us are picking up the pieces from shattered dreams and unexpected twists of fate.  Some are looking back and asking where all the time went.  Some have reached the top rung of the ladders they climbed and are left wondering what's next. Some, believe it or not, really are where they expected to be and are just soaking it all in.  I guess I had expectations on where I would be and what I would be doing but for the life of me I can't remember what they were!  I think its better that way .. at least I am not disappointed! :-)

At 40, I found myself single and not working after I left a successful venture in the non-profit world.  I was looking for new horizons in the non-profit arena that didn't pan out at the time and was restless with where I was.  Finances forced me to sell my house outside of Denver.  The housing market was peaking then and my house sold within two weeks to a cash buyer that was anxious to close.  The problem was that I didn't have any place to go or any desire to stay in the same city.  I joked with friends that I might just have to buy an RV to live in till I decided where I wanted to live.  Of course, I had never even been in an RV, didn't know anyone who had one, never even been to one those RV shows they do every so often at the convention centers.

Having 2.5 weeks to make a major life decision for myself and my 2 dogs, I put it in high gear trying to find an apartment that would take us  .. no luck ..  I stopped in one of the RV places just to see what they looked like .. a lot different from a huge house.  

I had a Saturday garage sale scheduled to get rid of all my excess junk, of course by Friday night all was gone but the furniture.  Saturday morning a man came and asked if I was selling my furniture as he needed to furnish his new mountain cabin.  Man, the pressure as I stood there and looked around at a house full of furniture and a week and a half to move it to some place that didn't exist yet.  "Sure, I'll sell it" I faintly heard myself saying.  By 1 pm, I was sitting in an empty 4 bedroom home on a lawn chair with a box as a table.  They had even bought my towels and my puppy's crate!  My old dog just lay across the room and looked at me.  The puppy curled up next to the lawn chair.  I sat kind of dazed as I looked around and picked up the paper to find the RV section.  "What the hell am I doing?", I thought, "I must be absolutely crazy."  The older dogs glare seemed to confirm that thought.

Wow, any RV that would fit the stuff I 'needed' were awful big.  The first one I drove a half mile and then pulled over and made the sales guy drive it back.  It was quite intimidating.  The next one I drove on a rural road approximately 2 miles.  The third one I found somebody else to drive for me & tell me if it was okay or not.  Things weren't progressing very well on the whole RV front and was starting to think we might end up under an overpass if I didn't figure something out soon.  I did learn that my SUV could not be towed behind an RV should I find one, so  on the Monday before my Thursday close I bought a Jeep that could be towed. On Tuesday, I had a RV sales guy make an offer that I couldn't refuse for a 35' Class A Motor home (the big kind), I drove it about a mile & had the guy park it for me.  I signed the papers, left them the Jeep to make it towable and would be back for the RV after the house closed.  

Reflecting on it all now ... it _was_ quite crazy.   I am surprised that my friends didn't commit me.  I told them I thought this might be my mid life crisis.  I wasn't married so I couldn't get divorced.  I had done the sports car thing in my 30's.  I guess I could have gone to Vegas and got married but I didn't.  As I said, I guess we all have our own unique journey's that we need to take.   Mine happened to be buying a RV I didn't know how to drive and setting out to see the country with two dogs and a prayer it would all work out.  I could never have dreamed of all the beautiful places I would see and the people I would meet or that I would be so drastically and permanently changed.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...