Sunday, December 27, 2009


Joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart

Synchronicity: The experience of two or more events that are not causally related that occur together in a meaningful manner, unlikely to be by chance. Synchronicity is also described as Divine Providence or as a serendipitous event which is the act of finding something unexpected and useful while searching for something else entirely.

I am focusing on the definition of synchronicity because of an event that have happened to me recently. I'll describe it to you in a minute, but the big question for me is not what it was but why it occurred to and for me, particularly at this late stage of my life, when it seems I've been waiting for it forever? Can we create synchronicity as the Law of Attraction states? Are there a select few that can change the future or present simply due to their ideas? I hate to think of these events as benefiting only a select few. I don't like the idea of a chosen group. At any rate this last summer was the summer of life's generosity toward me and I am thankful.

It started with my job situation. During the pre-legislative session, the legislative session and the post-session I literally did not know if I had a job. The governor pledged to cut higher education, various legislators vowed to be either for or against the governor's plan, the university chancellor and the system president all sounded off, and our university had various scenarios for cutting our program either 5, 10, 15 or 20% (or other scenarios that would be either in line with the university's cut or that would exceed the cut by 2 X or more, in some cases the estimates went to a full 50% cut of our program budget). Then add to this the impact this had on the personnel in our group and the various interaction effects between various people that did or didn't get along, with those folks being impacted by the budget woes, and you had a big mess on the employment front. Yikes and yuck. Big headache.

My response was either fight or flight. Most of the time I chose to ignore the clamor outside my door. But, sometimes, I couldn't help but be affected, particularly when our director and our associate vice chancellor of finance appeared to be at wits end. Add to that, that the powers that be said that they did not know if I would have a job if we didn’t’ receive funding from the legislature) and my nerves were shot. A million plus in cuts, and I was planning a vacation out west to take my mom on the "old home tour," still not knowing if I would be employed when I got back.

Fall sunflower field at Burden Plantation, Baton Rouge, LA

In the meantime, in my despair... I was noodling around on the Internet, probably trying to find a recipe for dinner and I found a job announcement on for a gerontological researcher. I applied, apparently, and then promptly forgot about it. Within days, I got a call from the administrative assistant of the Senior VP of Clinical Operations at Amedisys, a large (now 16,000 employees in 47 states) home health and hospice company headquartered in Baton Rouge, and they wanted to interview me. After I solicited the help of said administrative assistant to send me the job description, I interviewed, breaking every rule in the book: What that means is.. I told them about my life (my mother), that I truly wasn’t looking for a job, forgot that I contacted them, and wasn’t interested in leaving academia. Ugh. Anyone of those faux pas could have been a huge mistake, but instead, my future potential boss "got" me more than most and said, "some things are meant to be," which prompted one of my life-guides to say, "pay attention," which I did (I don't have to be told twice when lightning is about to strike).

My mother, my constant cheerleader

Those words echoed throughout my head as I flew out west with money that I did not have on faith that I did, that things would turn out right. I think it was in Oregon that I heard I still had a job at LSU through a mass email to our constituents, which was a relief, but which was delivered in a sort of weird way. Anyway, it freed-up my mind enough to have a spectacular time taking Grammy to visit her 95 year old sister, Portland where I was raised, and the village where she grew-up, respectively. We ate sumptuous salmon at the Olsons (cousins) in Vancouver, met up with Myron (my brother) and family at Canon Beach, spent time with Bob and Thea Pyle, and Bobby Larson in Gray’s River eating prime rib and chasing butterflies, and thoroughly enjoyed our Inn on the Willamette River near Cottonwood Cove. I ate lots of razor clams and Marion berries, which made me a very happy woman, despite the pain in my neck, which thankfully, is finally dissipating somewhat, but which stopped my blogging/writing for months, and very nearly put a dent in my new photography hobby.

Anyway, I got back to Baton Rouge and interviewed again at Amedisys, and as luck would have it, they hired me. I started in September as the Director of Chronic Care Research, and work on their clinical R&D programming efforts. I’m very proud of this company, their focus on business ethics, passion for serving their clients, and their creativity.

For 15 years I’ve been lamenting that I was an academic (a converted attorney) that landed in Louisiana and never left because I followed my husband to the job that God intended for him. Now that I am no longer an underemployed academic, and maybe in the job that God intended for me, I'm trying to figure out what that means for my life’s story. It takes awhile to sing a new tune, but I'm trying because as long as things are in sync I want to enjoy the hell out of them.

So, that's the story of one synchronicity that happened to me. There are others that occurred right around that time that I'll get to later, maybe, if my neck holds out enough so that I can continue writing at night (or in addition to when I'm at work). The neck is better, however, it's taken a bit of time to get a handle on it, which tells me I have more to learn. If I talked to my life-guide often enough, about this or anything else she would tell me that Carolyn Myss would say that the pain in my neck isn't just physical, it's metaphorical, and I would try not to yell or sing, "la, la, la, la, I'm not listening" cause I surely would have learned my lesson by then, wouldn't you think?

Friday, August 7, 2009

Putting my head back in alignment with my spine where it belongs and other midlife issues

Canon Beach, Oregon

I remember my Godmother Win as a very religious woman that would introduce any missive with a bible verse. Her favorite verse was, "This is the day the Lord hath made, let us rejoice and be glad in it." Most of the time I can do this. But, lately "rejoicing" has not been in the cards due to an almost constant pain in my neck.

I thought that this pain in my neck was from sitting at the computer too long and progressed from multiple Ibuprofen a day, to Naproxin and in the last few weeks to narcotics. My doctor thought the neck pain was from muscle spasms and ordered a muscle relaxant and a wicked (on my stomach) arthritis medication. The whole multiple pill regimen had bummed me out because, hey, I'm the healthy jointed and muscled person in the family, and have been relatively pain free for most of my life, other than a headache here and there. The only up-side was that I was losing weight. When you're in pain you aren't hungry.

Long story short: I requested physical therapy, have gone twice, and have been diagnosed with a dowagers hump, which is the classic hump back profile you see on very old women from Eastern Europe, which is caused by a disruption in the C 5, 6 and 7 vertebrae. Mine is caused by my unnatural slumping posture and probable degenerative disk disease in the C 5 and 6 vertebrae. The "treatment" for this hump is a head exercise to force me to bring my head back in alignment with my spine. I am very motivated because 1) I do not like to hurt despite the meds they give me, and 2) I am too young to be a dowager.

I might be exercising too much because I'm very sore and home from work for the second day today, but at least I'm rejoicing because this can be "fixed," I'm told, with hard work. And that I can do, hard work that is.

I now find out that the guys in my house have noticed this "hump" for years (which is at present a huge size due to being filled with fluid) and have never told me about it because they said I'd be insulted and cry, which was probably right.

So, damn my sensitivity and vanity. I really have to get rid of those things, along with the extra pounds I'm dropping.

Orange Beach, AL

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Letter to a Friend about Why I'm for Obama's Health Insurance Reform

Robert [I love you Robert, even though on the whole I don't agree with you!], from what I have read, Obama’s plan would reduce costs in numerous important ways, insure portability, and cover most Americans. He would do this by:

1. Reducing the cost of underwriting. If you eliminate the need for underwriting, you save a ton of money, insure everyone and eliminate the problem of becoming uninsured due to losing a job (aka you insure portability). Imagine the labor and money it takes to police this elaborate system created by private insurance companies whereby coverage is denied in a thousand ways due to “preexisting conditions.” I am assuming that this would mean that “preexisting conditions” would be a non-issue across the board, which should satisfy one of your criteria for insurance reform.

Interestingly, one of the most vehement opponents of the Obama plan that I know is my best friend who happens to be an insurance agent. She spends her days trying to figure out how to get someone to qualify for insurance one way or another, I presume by combating insurance underwriters that are simultaneously trying to deny these same clients coverage. Believe me when I tell you that she has advised me plenty of times on the wording to use on insurance applications. She’s good at what she does and she gets paid handsomely for it, as do a million other minions that do similar jobs. I love my friend and do not wish her ill, but I think that this is one of the duties of insurance agents that should become extinct due to a lack of demand/need.

2. Negotiating costs with pharmaceutical companies and doctors/nurses. Seems reasonable to not only me. In fact, these companies and the AMA appear more than interested in making concessions because they know what a mess our system is in and how much better off they’ll be (financially) if everyone is insured.

IMO, when individuals are attracted to a profession because of the money involved, and said profession is supposed to be governed by what is in the best interest of the patient and not by the financial incentives/upside involved (have you read the Hippocratic Oath lately?) there are going to be issues, big issues. Not all physicians, but plenty, have learned how to “work” the system (whether public as in Medicare, or private as in private insurance companies) for their maximum dollar benefit and have become hugely rich because of that. This has to end now.

On a personal level, another vehement opponent to Obama’s plan is another relative, an RN-phlebotomist that doesn’t want her income curbed due to Obama’s plan even though today ER docs come to work on weekends knowing they won’t be paid by the “weekend clientele,” which they appear to begrudge care. It just makes sense to take this emergency-room-as-dumping-ground out of the equation. I think everyone will be better off and doctors can go back to feeling empathy for their patients rather than anger.

3. Improving prevention. Amen. This should save a ton of money. Remember my comment about Blue Cross denying my son’s his Interferon treatments but telling me they’d pay for a liver transplant? How ridiculous and counter-intuitive is that (the Interferon was 100000 times less expensive and more ethical). Plus, think about the medical care that would be provided to the poor under Obama’s plan, which individuals now wait too long for care because they can’t afford it until a basic condition becomes chronic, which sends them to the emergency room for treatment that is outrageous in cost not to mention not what anyone had in mind when they use the word “preventative;”

4. Making sure that *everyone* is covered which again would reduce emergency room visits replacing them with regular and preventative (less expensive) doctors’ visits (see my friend’s blog about the out of control, illogical billing at hospitals due to treating the uninsured and various illogical reimbursement rules*) AND making sure that the 18 to 30ish crowd are required to pay into the system (too many of my friends’ kids are uninsured, many by choice, and I think this is one of those “free rider issues” (that is, these kids bets on not getting sick until a certain age and therefore opt out of insurance when they’re healthy, only to buy into the system when they’re more likely to be sick) that is one of those “choices” that is cheating the system and that dooms the health insurance system for all. It’s got to stop;

5. And, yes, turning back the Bush Tax breaks to folks who make more than 250K a year;

Sadly, I think our opinions come down to our income tax brackets, and our respective trust in government (me), distrust in government (you), or trust in the private sector (you) and distrust in the private sector (me). I think that you make more money than we do, and that you trust the capitalist system and distrust government, which thereby determines your views on this. Honestly, I have no idea why you would trust the capitalist system after the current bank, insurance and investment house disasters (most of which were caused by pure greed and not enough oversight, which were frankly preceded by the Savings and Loan crash, which everyone seems to have forgotten about now, but which I lived through has an attorney to credit unions). Businesses can’t self police when the public good is concerned because of their only mandate to increase returns to the stockholders, which just doesn’t consider/cover external costs to the public, or consider the public good. Think public transportation. Think paper mills and oil refineries. Think modern day agriculture.

I am considering a job with a very large private home health care and hospice care company, and have combed through their records for the last 25 years. I want to know their financial situation, how they operate and whether it is a good place to work. They have had their trials, let me tell you, and they have worked through them through various infusions of cash, selling off assets, acquiring other companies, and painfully moving toward an outcome based incentive system (which is where I come in). They have been lauded by Fortune Magazine as one of the best 200 small businesses over the last 10 years. I think that if you-all-folks that mistrust government so much were to look at their historical record and were told that they were run by the government, you-all would use their record to highlight that government can’t be trusted to run entities/concerns like a for profit concern could. But, in fact, I think that this type of organizational morphology happens all the time in various settings, not with just government run concerns, but with private concerns, as well. There is no panacea in private enterprise.

6. And Yes, Obama’s plan would limit “choice,” which will reduce costs. I think the concept of “choice” in today’s health insurance market is a pseudo concept to begin with, which has been reinforced and created by the PR firms and folks with communications degrees that are hired by insurance companies as a talking point against the public regulation or public option of health insurance (see my opinion below about where “choice” has gotten us **). The long and the short of it is that there really is no choice. We pick a policy with various provisions at a certain age never knowing which provisions we will need. And frankly, policies change, generally not due to a “choice” made by the policyholder (of course there is boilerplate in the insurance contract that says they can change any damned thing they want in your policy with notice). I remember a catastrophic health insurance policy from The Principal that I paid on for years that was expensive, that we never used, that was cancelled because they pulled out of selling insurance in the State of Washington. No refund. No nothing. Not my choice.

Interestingly, one of my best friend’s “greatest concerns” is that the bill would require doctors to talk to elders and those with life threatening illnesses about end of life care every five years, which she thinks brainwashes them to consider ending their lives prematurely, which of course, to her is “bad” because it would limit “choice.”… In fact, that is not the case under this bill, as these folks are only offered the opportunity for counseling by a doctor, which I think is good, as counseling been denied previously because doctors have not been “reimbursed” for it. Any education is good, considering the cost of health care during the last months of life and the fact that end of life health care doesn’t generally increase quality of life (or length of life much), and considering the fact that although we all have to die, we are just not that keen on talking about it in the US and would rather remain in denial, which makes us and our families request expensive procedures that are ultimately not very helpful to the person being treated and the public at large.

I also know that there is an argument against a Medicare type system because of the “lack of choice” issue. Let me say that having taken care of my elderly mother, who has lived in my backyard for the last 5 years, I have not found Medicare to difficult to deal with. She is glad she has it, as am I. She did have a stent put into her artery about 2 years ago, and when she first went to the hospital with chest pain, the doctor could only find a 60% blockage, and Medicare said they’d only pay if there was an… 85% blockage (or something like that). So, when I brought her in a couple of weeks later with the same symptoms, Medicare rules allowed the doctor to do the procedure (because there were various exceptions to the 85% rule, one of which was that the person has future life threatening symptoms). It seemed reasonable.

If it’s in financial trouble let’s fix it, not all systems stay healthy forever, even those run by private companies. We all deserve Medicare. I want to remind you and others that we had a surplus during the Clinton years he tried to put aside for SS, which we didn’t allow him to do. The current financial deficit has much to do with the Bush administration and not the previous Democratic administration, and the war….. Anyway.

I know folks in Canada, plenty of them. We lived in Seattle and Richard worked for a Canadian company for awhile. Plus, just our proximity to Canada resulted in us knowing so many folks there. They just have not complained about their health care [except for one silversmith Canadian friend of mine who can comment here if she wishes], and in fact the people I know that have moved there from the US are thrilled about it. Yes, there are waits, but for elective procedures. For non-elective procedures, there usually is not a wait. I have lived with an HMO policy for 25 years. My mother, a nurse, was vehemently against HMOs for most of my life, due to issues of “choice” with arguments much like I hear in opposition to Obama’s plan. Well, we have been very well treated by our HMOs. I have no complaints even through garnering various life saving procedures for both my son and husband.

I think that frankly what will happen is that people with money will buy additional health insurance policies which will allow us to have better health care than the basic universal care policy. In a perfect world this wouldn’t happen, but the world’s not perfect. However, I am willing to live in a less than perfect world where everyone has coverage, even if uneven. I think the people you know from Britain and Canada that come to the US for procedures are some of those folks in the upper income brackets.

Lastly, Robert, I’ve followed this recession/depression pretty closely for the last couple of years and have followed several economists from the time they were formulating their responses on how to deal with it. I know that for certain people with a certain political approach this stimulus measure seems counter-intuitive. In a family, for example, when you are in financial trouble you stop spending. In the larger macroeconomic environment, however, as we’ve seen from the recession in Japan in the 1980s and their delayed but finally successful stimulus response to it, and from Roosevelt’s response to the Depression, that is not how you come out of a financial situation like the one we were facing and face (where a reduction in the Fed rate and tax cuts will NOT do the job). In fact, you spend into it. I recommend you read Krugman with the NY Times, both his blog and his column. As to how to come out of it and get a grip on the deficit, I believe the theory is that once business is robust again spurred by an improved economy that increased taxes will pull you out of the hole.

Now I have to go to bed. I hope you had a wonderful night.

[My thanks go to my friend Robert-- he can identify himself if he wishes. He spurred me into putting my feelings down on paper because he was unimpressed with my first response because it was mostly emotional and wasn't substantive. I wanted to impress him. If I did not rise to the challenge, it wasn't for lack of trying. I do appreciate the alternative views of my friends and family even though to some it may not seem like it.]



** And my response:

I appreciate your post. It shows the community here on OS what normal, hardworking folks go through in this country every single day with our "free market" "health care" system which incorporates “choice" (whether you can afford it or not).

Our son has a chronic medical condition that he acquired from his first country at birth, which we didn't know about, but which surfaced during his middle school years. We are lucky that his very expensive treatment was fully covered by our HMO, which we "chose" during the "election" period at our large university employer. If we had "chosen" the non-HMO, typical Blue Cross option, which would have cost us much more, his "treatment" would NOT have been covered. But, his organ transplant WOULD HAVE BEEN covered.

He responded very well to the grueling treatment and has been healthy since. Lucky "choice" on our part.

He and his girlfriend, who has Type I diabetes, had a baby 2 years ago. Our grandson was "unexpected." Because they were both on their parents' respective health insurance policies, they couldn't marry because our insurances would drop them, and they are uninsurable due to their "pre-existing" conditions. Plus, although our son's girlfriend's parents both cover her with their large employer-based insurance policies, the pregnancy was not covered. Why? I'm not sure if they could have "chosen" such coverage. Even if they could have how many of us foresee our children's pregnancies and would choose a higher premium based on such possibilities?

Thankfully we had a very new Medicaid program in our state that covered the pregnancy, and our grandson's care after he was born. Both mom and baby have received excellent care from "Medicaid." Our son and his girlfriend are in graduate school now, and because they remain in school their parents' (our) health insurance policies will cover them until they are 24 years old. Apparently, that's the "standard" age that "kids" are dropped from parents' policies. We do not have any "choice" in the matter.

They will graduate before they are 24 by three months, and at that time will have to find employment from an employer that has a Group Health Insurance Policy, so that their "pre-existing" conditions do not "count" against them, so that they can be covered by health insurance.

What do I think their chances are of gaining such employment in this recession? I seriously don't know, but their "chances" of gainful post-graduation employment look dimmer every day. This is not their "choice" either.

This is what "choice" gets you.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Thank You for Continuing to Check-In

There are those of you that check in every day or week to see if I've written anything new. I guess I've disappointed you because I have not. This legislative session and anticipating the size of the subsequent LSU budget cut really wore me out. It's not the fault of the legislature or anyone else for that matter. The same thing could happen if I was working for a company that was downsizing, as many have in this economy. I have just been too exhausted from the 'waiting' to be creative.

This is my fault. I will not waste my time behaving in this way again. There is something to be said for having the wisdom to suspend your emotional self until life works out the way it is supposed to. I am 50 I should know that by now.

My life's work is equanimity. What's yours?

I am leaving tomorrow for the West and I am hoping that this rejuvenates me so that I start writing again.

Exciting things are planned on this trip and I can't wait to be infused with energy.

Hopefully I'll be blogging. I'm taking my camera.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A really bad day Can only get worse when your husband calls you fat

[Post Script: Yes, I have the most supportive husband in the world. He supports me in my writing even if said writing is about him! Really, things are good. July, 2009]

This is the deal: Tonight Rich called me fat. And no I’m not exaggerating. I’m also not misinterpreting. Those very words came out of his mouth, or very close to them and under circumstances where I was feeling very vulnerable. ::Sniff::

Telling your wife that she is fat would be bad under normal circumstances, but I think that it was particularly cruel considering that I am in the middle of a crisis of personal appearance and I am sick with some gross mung throat thing that is making me delirious with pain. I mean, I could have antibiotic resistant strep throat. What else would make my uvula as large as the pendulum on a grandfather clock? It was possible that I could choke on my own spit or be unable to breathe.

And for me to visit a medical professional I have to be feeling lousy enough to think I might be dying, with, for example, the Swine Flu, West Nile Virus, meningitis or maybe a full body staph infection, something like that. Everybody knows that, including Rich. The fact is that I am the least doctor-going person in our family. My husband happily makes the trip for more maladies than I can commit to memory. My 88 year old mother schedules appointments with so many specialists that I have keep track of them on an excel spreadsheet. And my youngest son misses school weekly for an asthmatic condition I’m not even sure he has, but that provides him with an excused absence. But, me?: I go so rarely that the clinic’s turtle obsessed receptionist that’s been around for the 15 years I’ve been there, didn’t even recognize me or pronounce my name correctly. That made me feel terrible; we gifted her with a Costa Rican Loggerhead Turtle replica not too long ago. I’d remember that, wouldn’t you?

After I got home from the pharmacy, alone, I took pain meds and antibiotics for my throat, drank water because I knew it would be good for me and tucked myself into bed to try to sleep off the gross sickness. But, sleep wouldn’t come, probably because my throat was still sore as hell and I was hungry. So, there I was at home starving because not one of the many relatives I feed daily thought to throw me a bone for dinner. So, I wandered around the house in my pajamas, gnawing on a loaf of bread, attempting to figure out something productive to do with my evening. So, I waxed my upper lip. Then I gave myself a manicure and pedicure, where I cut my heels to shreds with one of those callus removers. Then I made a list of hair things I needed to schedule like a color, which included high and low lights, and a cut. I think I may have ordered some sandals on-line. Then I started feeling really sad about all of the time consuming things I have to do now, at the age of 51 to beautify myself. They seem excessive not only in terms of time I can’t get back, but in terms of spending money that I don’t have. Then for some reason I thought of cartouche because she says she doesn’t color her hair, and I’ll bet she doesn’t have any unwanted body hair or calluses on her feet like I do.

By the time my husband came home, I was feeling pretty low, and after he folded himself into bed and started to read, I plopped down on top of him and started recounting the litany of mostly aging things that were upsetting me on this perfectly gross day. When I mentioned the personal appearance things, he said something about plastic surgery, which confused me, although I guess I could see that laser hair removal would be advantageous, and although I hadn’t mentioned my aging face, I guess I could see where a nip and a tuck here and there could be useful. But, then he said something about liposuction, which is where I got really confused. I was on medications so I was feeling like I might have missed connecting the dots in the conversation, so I said that I didn’t know what he was talking about because I hadn’t mentioned my weight as an issue. Then came the bombshell. He said, “Well you’re fat and it’s an issue that needs to be addressed.”

I left the room and here I am now on the couch, listening to the roar of the air conditioning, and the roar of him snoring, and I’m wondering what to do with myself other than to go to visit a plastic surgeon and get a personal trainer STAT. My last thought before I went to sleep was cartouche's skinny body that doesn't even remotely need liposuction.

I woke up this morning and Rich vehemently denies saying any of those things. He brought me tea. He thinks I was delirious.

I am confused.

What would you do?

Friday, May 8, 2009

Beat this Puppy Picture for Cuteness


This is Georgie as a Puppy. He is a Shetland Sheep Dog, or Sheltie, and has no toes at all on his left rear leg. Oh yeah, he has his own very dramatic rescue story!


Georgie's story:

Our prior Sheltie, Tuki, was put to sleep as a result of uncontrollable idiopathic epilepsy. We were heartbroken. We don't deal well with animal deaths. We also do not do well dogless.

We love Shelties-- they are small dogs with big dog personalities -- and after a time we went looking for another. I found several within a fairly close driving distance but eventually focused on"Georgie," even though he didn't live closeby, because he was apparently unadoptable. He was the last puppy of championship dog parents, which was a plus. However, George had no toes on his left rear foot, due to complications from dog-birth, which was a big minus for people looking for show dogs. As I said, they don't let you show a dog with no toes.

Shelties should be adopted at a very early age so as to bond closely to their families, as otherwise they can be reclusive and afraid. George was way beyond the age of adoption. Of course, even though this might have meant that he could have some 'personality' issues, being who we are, we wanted him immediately. However, the breeders still wanted nearly full price for him, and Georgie was expensive. They were very ambivalent about him, but wanted every dime ("if you were to look at him you wouldn't even know he doesn't have any toes." "He walks and runs perfectly fine, no limping whatsoever. "). I tried to haggle, but something in their tone made me believe that he was about to be sold to a glue factory. Bargaining got me nowhere--not that I'm very good at it.

So, after a few dozen conversations where I begged my husband to loosen his grip on the family finances (and where I told him a little fib about the price), we hit the road on our rescue mission.

My husband and I drove up to Dallas, from Baton Rouge, with money we did not have, paid for George and brought him home. I'm so glad we did. He is perfect for us: he doesn't bark, he follows us around everywhere, 'gardens' with my mother (by that I mean he stays outside with her, without moving, basically on-point), sleeps at our side, and literally lets our grandson 'ride' him. Any other dog would snap or bite, but George doesn't have a mean bone in his body.

And yes he limps and did so from the second we laid eyes on him.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Open Salon Comments

I am going to post some of my Open Salon comments to other posters, as I don't want to lose them. I tend to be a thoughtful commenter and not a very fertile poster. This will be edited/extended from time to time:

In response to Cindy Ross' post:
UPDATE We went broke paying medical bills--and we're insured.

I found your post via CM's Daily Scrawl. And you've now been awarded an Editor's Pick. Double bonus. I appreciate your post. It shows the community here on OS what normal, hardworking folks go through in this country every single day with our "free market" "health care" system which incorporates "choice" (whether you can afford it or not).

Our son has a chronic medical condition that he acquired from his first country at birth, which we didn't know about , but which surfaced during his middle school years.We are lucky that his very expensive treatment was fully covered by our HMO, which we "chose" during the "election" period at our large university employer. If we had "chosen" the non-HMO, typical Blue Cross option, which would have cost us much more, his "treatment" would NOT have been covered. But, his organ transplant WOULD HAVE BEEN covered.

He responded very well to the grueling treatment and has been healthy since. Lucky "choice" on our part.

He and his girlfriend, who has Type I diabetes, had a baby 2 years ago. Our grandson was "unexpected." Because they were both on their parents' respective health insurance policies, they couldn't marry because our insurances would drop them, and they are uninsurable due to their "pre-existing" conditions. Plus, although our son's girlfriend's parents both cover her with their large employer-based insurance policies, the pregnancy was not covered. Why? I'm am not sure if they could have "chosen" such coverage. Even if they could have how many of us foresee our children's pregnancies and would choose a higher premium based on such possibilities?

Thankfully we had a very new Medicaid program in our state that covered the pregnancy, and our grandson's care after he was born. Both mom and baby have received excellent care from "Medicaid." Our son and his girlfriend are in graduate school now, and because they remain in school their parents' (our) health insurance policies will cover them until they are 24 years old. Apparently, that's the "standard" age that "kids" are dropped from parents' policies. We do not have any "choice" in the matter.

They will graduate before they are 24 by three months, and at that time will have to find employment from an employer that has a Group Health Insurance Policy, so that their "pre-existing" conditions do not "count" against them, so that they can be covered by health insurance.

What do I think their chances are of gaining such employment in this recession? I seriously don't know, but their "chances" of gainful post-graduation employment look dimmer everyday. This is not their "choice" either.

This is what "choice" gets you.

In response to Dennis Loo's: Tugging on the Torture Thread

Hi Dennis,

I wrote the following on Blue's blog and I'll re-post it here:

"With all of these posts on water boarding, I've been trying to figure out my reticence to jumping on board the anti-torture bullet train all night. I guess it's this: if there was an evil person that knew some secret information that could stop people from being killed, why wouldn't I torture him or her to find that out to save people's lives?

Okay. I'm ready for the millions of comments I will get pounding me for that statement.

But, there seems to me a difference between torturing someone for information on a person who already did something, and torturing someone regarding something that is about to happen that you can stop.

Is this simplistic thinking?

I actually am a Catholic that thinks like a Buddhist most times, and these thoughts still come to mind. I mean, I totally believe in the laws of karma........ So, I'm not sure why I'm thinking this way.

Is it fear?"


It's not like I want to get pummeled. I want to hear your answer and you seem like a very smart guy. So, I welcome your response.


Dennis Loo's response (same url):


You write: "If there was an evil person that knew some secret information that could stop people from being killed, why wouldn't I torture him or her to find that out to save people's lives?"

There are a number of different ways of answering this question.

The most important one is in my April 22nd post: "The 'War on Terror' is Like Antibacterial Soap.”

That post puts the stress on the moral question which is the central one. I also address (albeit very briefly) all of the other major dimensions.

I would read that post first.

To add to that post, let's take your question.

The “ticking time bomb” scenario contains a number of fallacies. The first one is that the ones holding the suspect are CERTAIN that this suspect has knowledge about a soon to happen murderous act against many people.

Under what circumstances would anyone come upon such certain knowledge?

To my knowledge (I don't have complete knowledge, but I have familiarized myself with the issues in this matter), there has never been a case in history where such certain knowledge was possessed by someone.

It would be a different thing if you saw someone who had their hands on a triggering device that you saw was going to blow up a building or bridge where there were many people and you had a chance to stop this person, if necessary, by shooting them.

Torturing someone based on a SUPPOSITION (because that's all you would have) that they might be involved in a murderous plot is a wholly different matter. Torturing someone based on such a supposition would be morally and legally indefensible. It would also be a bad way to get information since torture doesn't produce honest answers. That is the consensus among intelligence people worldwide and the universal conclusion of those who have been tortured and survived.

The people who are justifying torture on the grounds that a "bomb" might be ticking somewhere are saying this not because they have such information - because they CAN'T have such information - they are saying it because they want to cover up what they're really doing and why they're doing it. (If someone wants to claim that an informant has told them that their suspect knows something, then you have to assume that this informant isn't lying. This is another supposition you'd have to be relying upon to justify torturing someone.)

Furthermore, if a group was actually planning a murderous terrorist attack and one of its members with critical knowledge of the plans were arrested, what would the rest of the group do? Would they still go ahead with their plans, knowing that one of theirs is in custody and could spill the beans? They would, of course, cancel the plans and disperse. This means that torturing the person in custody wouldn’t prevent an attack.

What those who torture are up to throughout history isn’t getting information. Torture is specifically designed to terrorize the individual and others. That is its purpose.

If one were to allow the exception that in some instances one may be permitted to torture someone, then what this opens the door to is anyone, anywhere, just has to SAY that they believe that the person they have in custody has info that will save many lives and that they can't find out the info without torturing them, and one would have NO WAY to determine whether or not this was simply an excuse and the torturers were using torture because they were sadistic or trying to terrorize the population and so on.

In other words, by allowing exceptions, what you have done is permit torture to become a regular, widespread practice. That would obviously produce a hellish world where any tyrants could torture without any consequences.

My response:

Thanks Dennis. The "ticking time bomb" scenario is the one that keeps surfacing when I'm trying to get over *not* being outraged by waterboarding. My husband and I went over hundreds of possible scenarios last night, and you're right, we couldn't come up with a single one that would warrant or even be helped by an act of torture.

Seriously, I think that this "ticking time bomb" scenario is so present for me because I've seen too many Superman movies or CSI episodes (pick your movie or tv show). And I don’t want to minimize PTSD, but I think that to varying degrees we all suffer from it or something similar to it as a result of 9/11.

My feelings on this issue are surprising to me, because I'm a person that is adamantly against capital punishment, for instance.

Dennis Loo's response:


9/11 was traumatic for Americans and the cultural productions that you mention such as CSI (you don't mention 24, but of course that one tops the list) have been exploiting this and promoting it.

Bush and Cheney made their regime on it. The GOP more generally and the rightwing overall bang the 9/11 drum incessantly because it suits their real agenda: a fearful population will agree to measures that they wouldn't otherwise stomach or contemplate.

The Nazis used this same technique to impose their policies.

My response:


This will be my last comment, I promise. I just want to say that I appreciate your tone. You are informed and rational, and you didn't call me names, which I appreciate. My husband is a Jew and a student of the Nazis I would say, and he was having a hard time walking me through this discourse yesterday.

I hope to hear more from you;


In response to Dennis Loo's Post: Genius: It’s not who you are, it’s what you do.


This post is fascinating and I agree with everything you say in theory. I have to speak as a mother here, as I haven't done any research on this issue. I do have the unique perspective of having one child that is biological and one that is adopted. One of them has a rather significant case of ADHD. Each, I suspect have different IQs. Both of them have focused on very different things from very young ages, in which I think in the long-run they will both be very successful.

Here's the thing: I am convinced that I couldn't have predicted or directed their areas of focus, not that I didn't try. Maybe Mozart and Woods had extraordinarily persuasive parents with very pliable children? Their parents "saw" a sport and an instrument and directed those children from there. Whatever they did, as a parent, I would have appreciated the recipe 20 years ago. For our kids, there were certain 'gifts' each had from birth, and we tried to foster those. However, let me tell you, they didn't follow our lead at all. The Pied Piper we're not. They hyper focused on areas of their choosing, which may or may not have been what we would have chosen for them. Once we saw what motivated them, we supported them from there. Who knows if they would have been a Bill Gates in a different area that we had pushed?


In response to Lea Lane's post: Birth and Death: The Circle of Life

I like the original Shakespearean version of the Seven Ages of Man, although I'd title it a bit differently and add a stage or two. My father was in the seventh stage when he heard that our son's girlfriend was pregnant. This was not a joyous thing. At the time I thought it was tragic. My father didn't though. He beamed. He died before my grandson was born and I thought about the cycle of life and death and half wondered if Kellan wasn't gestating if my father would have died. Silly I know.

My mother says that on the farm, when someone died they used to say, "and here she comes!"


Oh Lea,

My comment didn't make me cry but your empathy did. Painful but beautiful to watch someone you love so much take flight while another loved one is finished on this earth. Our son is expecting another child, this time a girl. We have been waiting so long for a girl child in this family. There really hasn't been one since me (and I'm 51). It's unspoken that we're all worried that my 88 mother won't survive this, even though she would gladly give up her place for Daniel's daughter.

When I used to ask my mom why people died, she said, "to make room for the babies, of course!"

Thanks for writing this and understanding.

In response to Mothership's post: Prelude to VR (5)

Dear MS and VR;

This post made me so sad I really couldn't speak or write right after reading it. As I told you, on one of your previous posts, my birthmother didn't get to hold me, let alone know what gender I was. Actually, I think they told her but she thought they were lying to her so she didn't commit it to memory. Add to that that she was so emotionally scarred by the circumstances surrounding my birth that my birthdad (BD) convinced her that my birthday was right around when their second child was born (in March, just 15 months later) so they could 'celebrate' both birthdays at the same time. Still to this day, I have to remind her I was born in December not March.

Suffice it to say that BD tried to get her to put my brother up for adoption too. Her response, "I'm not going through THAT again." They both raised him, in a city 3 hours from where I was raised. My BD lived with them 1/2 of the week, and with his wife and son the other 1/2 of the week (across the river in the "nice" section of town). My brother finally found out that they weren't married and about my dad's "other family" when he was 18. He's smarter than I am but the devastation was unremitting for a number of years. Here I am with my bag of degrees and he just graduated from high school (normal life trajectories are interrupted when you have to deal with this kind of crap).

I don't know why I'm telling you all of this... I guess I'm mad at BD. He died of Alzheimer's before I came around. So much in the aftermath to deal with.



In Response to emma peel's post: Are you love-based or fear-based?

Hi emma;

I'm late to this conversation too. Thanks for posting this. I think that if children can withstand their 13 years of primary and elementary school education they can get to a place where they can be love based. Unless, as a child, you're perfectly rounded and good at everything, and learn well through reading and lectures, well you're going to come out of the experience being somewhat fear based. Parents who don't know any better overly react to teacher's comments about their children and the 'problems' become the focus. I am relieved that my last child is leaving high school this year, but now, after hearing about your granddaughter's experience I realize I will have my grandchildren to worry about. .

Just as an aside, a very good thing is resulting from our current budget crisis at the Big University down the street. They are "merging" 8 departments, fortunately two are our school of social work and the school of education. I believe that the synergy between the two schools can produce better teachers. SWs focus on strengths, and protective factors, rather than weaknesses and risk factors.



In response to Sandra Stevens post: I'm Afraid of Menopause.

This seems like the topic of the day.

I've gone through it.

It was rough and it took a long time, and my body is changed forever.

However, I am on the other side and am actually interested in sex again, and vivacious, although very thick in the middle, which I think is my fault for not going to the gym as I should, and belonging to one too many wine swilling book clubs.

After 2 years of misery-- I mean, I seriously couldn't be in public and have a decent conversation with someone without having a meltdown-- I did the bio-identical hormone thing. Well, first I started with a patch prescribed by my doctor and I hated it. The side effects -- heart palpitations and a sort of over revved up feeling, were followed by the normal icky menopausal symptoms of major sweats, among other gross things. The latter effects were because the damned patch fell off before it should have.

Oh, and did I mention that I almost left my husband of 20 years? Oh, yes, I did that too. Just classic. And I didn't "see" any of it. Yep, I was pretty crazy.

I'm sure I'm just scaring you. I don't want you to think that this happens to everyone. Not everyone goes through this. Some women barely notice, or don't notice at all. It all depends on your DNA, and the amount of hormones that your body retains. I've heard that soy supplements help women that retain a degree of estrogen in their systems. I tried that, but it didn't work, probably because my body had zero hormones in it (I know this because I went through saliva testing).

There is help available. You just first have to see how you react to menopause. If you feel you are sliding downhill and primary care doc doesn't help you, contact me. I can pass along reading materials that can help.



In response to Stellaa's post: Stop Bashing Menopause.

Stella, hi.

Can I ask you something: Why not be able to talk about the extremely positive and the extremely negative of menopause experiences (and everything else in between)? Why does it have to be one or the other? When I had my son 18 years ago, my husband and I went to natural (of course!) childbirth classes. The long and the short of it was that after weeks of training, and a very detailed, very natural, anti-drug birthing plan, which I still have by the way, I had 24 hours of miserable labor, and finally, an epidural, and in the end, a C-Section. What I just described was the *definition* of failure. I remember coming to a reunion class with our babies and being one of the few mothers that didn't describe the birthing process in glowing terms. I felt terrible about the experience for years. From what I understand, childbirth classes offer more choices these days and make fewer pronouncements of what is good and bad.

I think that if we push the idea of a limited dialogue about menopause, the same type of only “positive” discussions could be the norm, which would be unfortunate. It would put some women back in the same type of situation: feeling awful because your menopause experience wasn’t “positive.” You may have been one of the lucky ones, symptom wise, but some of us haven't been. When I went through menopause 6 years ago, I didn't have anyone to lean on, had no information good or bad, and was totally in the dark and miserable. Remember, menopause was for most of my life a topic that was *just not discussed*. For me: if I could have my period back, I would be thrilled.

I don't think that it's helpful to insinuate that descriptions of menopause by women here or elsewhere have been exaggerated. What that does is divide us as women.




In response to tammie's post: Women's Mid-Life Career Crisis.

Hi and Welcome,

Everyone here knows my tale of woe but here goes the telling for you. We moved to LA for my husband's first academic job when I was 36. It is a state where I couldn't practice law. He said he'd move us outta here and he didn't, not for lack of trying. The Gods just weren't willing to give him a chance at another decent job. I was mad as hell at him and life for a number of years, and I wasn't very nice. I just wanted to go back out west (to a place like Walnut Creek, CA) and practice my earned profession. I was fixated. Finally, after a couple of years, my husband said, "For the love of God, just do something to make yourself happy!" I did, and I have done such awesome things in that period of time from then to now, and have had a very rich life.

It's hard to explain how to get there from where you are, but let me try: the key lies in just "doing it," whatever "it" happens to be. Live in the moment. What I mean by that is do not toil for the payoff, and by that I mean a career, recognition, publication, or whatever your end game happens to be. In fact, don't have an end game. Follow your bliss. Learn to have some measure of equanimity. You are a young-thing and have years ahead of you to explore an absolutely fabulous life.

I know you can do it! Keep us in the loop.



In response to Steven Axelrod's post: Leaving "The Breakers": Escape From Assisted Living.

YAY for your family! This is precisely why my mother 'lives in my backyard' in a beautiful addition we had built for her, and why we purchased long-term-care-insurance years ago for both her and my dad, so that they could 'age in place' no matter what health issues materialized.

So far so good. Dad died almost 3 years ago in his sleep. Mom has made a great life for herself and is intricately involved with my husband and I, her grandkids and her great grandchild. My husband adores her BTW.

If you want tips on universal design -- just let me know. We built the addition according to that model with help from an architect friend so that dad could get around even if he became wheelchair bound.

Good luck and God Bless you and your family.

And beautiful writing. I've been in enough nursing homes/assisted living facilities/CCRCs to smell them by what you write.


In response to Jess D Fact's post: The quest to save baby Alana


There are several issues here: issues related to Alana's abandonment and legal issues related to your quest to adopt:

Alana's short life sounds a lot like Misty's life. Consider that Alana's future behavior might be very similar to her mother's past behavior. Both have been abandoned repeatedly, and there are certain behaviors that go along with abandonment.

Consider Misty: Every time Misty was 'saved' by a new someone (Stewart, Jean, your husband) she challenged her new savior with her 'bad' behavior. She was forcing another abandonment, that she was certain was coming, under *her* terms, rather than wait for her new caretaker to abandon her under theirs. She was absolutely right, because with each new string of bad behavior, she was sent packing to some other destination.

Please consult with Mary and the other real therapists on OS, but I believe that you can possibly anticipate similar behavior from Alana. Your husband sounds like a good old fashioned dad, and no doubt your kids respond to his limits and boundaries. Alana may not. If your bottom line is that she can stay with you as long as she "plays by your husband's rules" she might be gone as soon as puberty takes hold. You taking her on would require a different set of parenting skills, or maybe the same skills with different responses, and maybe no or different expectations. You taking her on would mean more parenting efforts directed at her than potentially to your other children.

I am an adoption advocate. I am not saying *don't* raise this child. I am saying -- be prepared, get the support you need, and go into it with eyes wide open. It sounds to me like you've already begun bonding with her even though you don't know her, like many of us do with our adopted children at the point we know they are meant to be "ours." Love can overcome a lot but maybe not everything.

The legal issues involved are daunting, as well. If the father had simply put Alana in foster care, you-all would probably have been first in line to foster her and adopt her. But, he was the parent with the legal rights and he terminated them. When did this happen? How long ago? Do you know if he in fact legally terminated his rights or did he simply give her away? What sort of situation does the child live in now? I just don't know how the law will be on your side if he went through the full legal route.

Tell me what happens Momma.


In response to cartouche's post: Overage and Undervalued - America's Midlife Crisis:

So much to say. You know that cartouche is already living in a multigenerational living situation, right, mary and RedStockingGrandma? She takes care of her mother.

In our household, we have three generations living under one roof, our son, 18, my elderly mother and my husband and I. I love it and it makes sense. Much of the world lives this way, why not those of us in the US? Rich and I are lucky, we have children that claim (without prodding from their parents) that they will take care of us when we’re old. For those of you that don’t have children, I would recommend what cartouche has suggested: multi-family households of either roughly the same age or of multiple generations. This is *not* a new idea. The intentional community movement (google it) has been on-going for a number of years now, and a number of my friends have lived in such a situation, either here in the US, in Europe or in India. I would have been tempted to join my SC friends, if they (my favorite community) hadn’t disbanded a few years ago (Nature’s Spirit—see a remnant of what it was all about: in an interview with my friend Carolyn Vaughan).

We have come a long, long way from the days where we expected to work for the same company our whole lives and receive some sort of financial security in our retirement years. My father was the president of a union, so I grew up with those expectations.

Honestly, from my point of view, I don’t think it’s bad that we have to shift our expectations to the reality that we will be living in community with others. There are so many rewards that we will reap from living that way, if we wanted to or not.


In response to Cindy Ross' post Health Care Abuse: Could This Happen to your Teen?

Dear Cindy,

I'm sorry this happened to you. We have tried to dispute bills before but eventually paid to save our credit rating.

About kids and health care-- I am conflicted about my response. I think that part of the reason that insurance costs so much for most of us is because young people 18-30 do not purchase health insurance, even when it is available to them. So, the oldest and sickest are insured, which raises rates for everyone.

I think that the system is at a critical point and we *will* have some form of universal health care and your son and other young people won't have a choice but to pay. I hope that lowers rates and provides health care for everyone.

About my son and his girlfriend who are going to run out of health insurance either when they graduate with their MBAs or at 24, whichever comes first. If they can't acquire insurance, my husband and I will go broke paying for their COBRA benefits.


I understand. Really. But what kind of a cost are we talking about for a 19 year old that is single? Then again, he's probably making almost nothing. My father unionized all of the "retail clerks" in Portland, OR when I was growing up. So, the secretaries and the grocery clerks had good benefits and pay. I think part of what we're seeing is a result of a decline in the presence of unions.

At any rate, I do understand the dilemma, which is why I am for a mandated contribution and coverage so that these "choices" don't hurt those of us that do choose insurance or those of us that at this point in time do not.

I am a bit afraid, at this point, that Obama, with his rational 'don't stir the pot' decision-making style isn't going to mandate health care coverage, and therefore we won't truly be able to get this universal health care thing figured out.

Two Truths and One Lie Game: Answers

The titles in bold are my responses to OESheepdog's Open Call requesting Two Truths and One Lie. Answers are below:


I spent New Year’s Day 2000 praying with a living saint and a Ganesh channeling Buddhist Monk

That's the truth, and it was one of the most sublime and metaphysical experiences of my life. I think I have yet to top it. The Channeling Monk actually told me prophesies-- personal and political-- that I promised to never reveal, and I never have. I have a journal entry I wrote on January 2nd, 2000, that I might post sometime, if anyone would read it.


At 22 years of age I was fired from a job as a cocktail waitress because I refused to go braless

This is a lie. I was fired but not because I wouldn't go braless. I mean *everyone* went braless in the early 80s in Portland, OR. I was fired because I was a nervous wreck as a cocktail waitress, and because I flunked a test they gave us after our first week on the job due to neglecting to memorize the company's history, which was 1/2 of the test. That job was the beginning of me realizing I'm not quippy-- my repartee’ to drunk men and their gross come-ons wasn't what it should have been for that, uh, position.


I almost killed my toddler son in a cloud forest by exposing him to an eyelash viper

This is true. We took the kids on a month-long adventure travel extravaganza to Costa Rica. I had us booked in a Cloud Forest (a fog forest eco-system in the mountains) Hotel owned by one of the prior presidents of the country, and the first evening before nightfall we took the kids down the cute little wooden path into the forest, just for a peek at the monkeys, even though we had a guided tour the next day. As all of us were looking up, James, my two year old was crouching on his haunches looking at what I thought was a plant. He talked incessantly, so we mostly ignored him. But, he kept saying, "I see a snake." Daniel, our 7 year old would look down periodically and say, "That’s not a snake, that's a slug." This went on for quite some time while the rest of us were looking skyward toward the screeching howler monkeys.

Finally, for whatever reason, Rich and I both had that parental-6th-sense-thing come over us (finally!). We looked down at the exact same time and the horrifying scene came into hyper focus. What we saw was a coiled snake about 6" from James' face, with what looked like black horns on its head. I let out a blood curdling scream, Rich swooped to pick up James and we ran like hell out of the forest on that same cute wooden path we strode in on. I didn't sleep wink that night. The guide told us the next day that the snake was an eyelash viper, and that if it had bitten our son he would never have survived.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Shaped by Adoption

Here are Bardgirl's questions in an Open Call on Open Salon for Adoption Stories.

1. Was your experience as an adoptee or a parent of an adopted child positive or negative?

2. Do you know your/your child's birth history?

3. Did you meet you/your child's birth mother/father/siblings and are you still in contact?

4. Was finding out the adoption details comforting or disturbing?

5. Do you think that being adopted made you feel different from your peers?

I hope I answered all of them below, in no particular order.

First, let me say that I'll call my adoptive mom, "Mom" and my birthmom, "Athena."

I am an adoptee and an adoptive parent. The first as a result of fate, the second was planned, at least for the most part.


I’d say that my experience as an “adoptee” was positive. Although, life isn’t always positive, and sometimes the “adoptee” identity is hard to disentangle from the good and bad experiences that were the rest of my life.

I knew I was adopted, and under what circumstances (unwed mother), my ethnicity (Greek and Norwegian), and the OB/GYN that brokered my adoption (he knew and respected both of my moms, and I remember Mom telling me that he said, "Athena could make you feel like a King".) I even knew that my adoptive dad (Dad) was reticent about 'adopting a child that wasn't his,' which never caused me any angst because we had a love affair that weathered all and for the rest of his life, and I knew that he would have stood in a hailstorm of bullets for me. And yes, I found the information about my birthmother comforting. It was a part of knowing who I was.

As I look at what I’ve written, I have to say that it sounds a bit pat and simplistic. The rest of the story is that for the most part, life with Mom was intense. As a rule, during school days, it was just the two of us because Dad had a time consuming job. Mom could be very critical of me, mostly, in terms of my character. She didn’t focus on school performance, on popularity, or even very much on discipline or rules during my adolescent years. But she did expect me to be a saint. I was to be generous, thoughtful, not speak ill of others, protect and defend the downtrodden, watch my tone of voice, among thousands of other things. Plus, I had a rigorous schedule of responsibilities around the house.

You might think that her behavior was the product of having an adoptive child that she wanted to shape into someone more ‘like’ her. That was my analysis of our early relationship (from 0 to 18 years), but after having had children, adopted and biological, I find that to be overly facile. By nature, she was an anxiety ridden, perfectionist, that unfortunately for me had done a stint in the army as a nurse during WWII (which is where her natural inclination to be regimented was reinforced) that wanted to do the job of parenting as perfectly as possible in a situation where her husband was absent. I truly do not believe that she would have parented me differently if I were a biological child. My husband (not adopted) has your same theory about any children: they either try to be very like their parents or they try to be the opposite of them. He comes from a family of semi-slobs and is extremely neat, nitpicky and regimented, just like my mother.

So, do I feel different than my parents? Yes and no. I am much louder than they are, much more unconventional in my behavior, and attracted to the academy. On the other hand, I am as much of an advocate as both, have a yen for adventure like my mother, and could ultimately give a crap what others think of me, like my dad.

Do I feel different than my peers? Yes, being adopted for me is like being Swedish to someone else. It’s always been a part of my life, and the conversation about my life with peers, family or colleagues. I gravitate toward adoptees.

I met my birthmom, Athena and my full brother, Myron around 15 years ago, following a very rough period in my life, at a time when Mom found my birth certificate in an unused safe deposit box of my dad’s that had Athena’s full name on it. Finding them was like finding family, pure and simple. I feel the same way about my grandson. I already had a Mom, so Athena wasn’t replacing anyone or anything in my life. Finding Myron, on the other hand, was equal in experience to meeting my children for the first time. Myron and I had both been raised as only children, and having a sibling is stardust. I’m glad I didn’t have to forego it.

Our son:

We adopted our son Daniel from South Korea after my husband and I had been married for the minimum number of years to qualify to adopt (3). I would say that the litmus test for me finding my mate was if he would agree to adopt a child. I wanted to adopt because of ‘want’ not ‘need’ (45 year old couples ‘resorting’ to adoption of many times poor children in other countries bugged the crap out of me). My husband's baby sister was adopted. My husband’s mother always said that adoption “ran in the family.”

We didn’t choose a South Korean child, like you’d choose a baby doll off of a shelf at Toys R Us. The waiting period for adopting a child in the US was too long, well at least for adopting a Caucasian child. I exhaustively explored adopting a child of another race or ethnicity in the US, and to make a long story short, we were literally blocked or extremely discouraged from doing so. I could write a treatise on that issue, but will leave it for another time. After extensive research on adopting older children (Claudia Jewett has a great book on that topic) we decided that we were ready to adopt a healthy infant. We found ourselves at a specific adoption agency in Seattle that dealt with a specific agency in S. Korea because I felt that both agencies were excellent in terms of how they treated the birth parents, the children, and the adoptive parents. In fact, it was the only agency in that area at that time that I would have adopted through internationally. In truth, it was probably the only agency that would have had us: two relatively young, married individuals with little income and still in graduate school.

We requested a female child, because we were asked. But, for mysterious reasons our child was never ‘referred’ to us and while we were waiting, a picture of an infant boy was sent to me by our caseworker. He had various issues that made him unadoptable through regular channels, but we took one look at him and decided that he was ‘ours.’ It was fate. So much for our list of requirements.

Adopting Daniel was an adventure. It also wasn't always easy. We went to Korea to get him, and while there we were thoroughly versed on his short 3 months of life. There were photocopies of his adoption records that revealed intimate details about his birthparents, their pictures and addresses. All of that information has always been available to him. For example, the picture of his birthparents is in his “Daniel (adoption) Book.“ I don’t recall him ever being uncomfortable with his knowledge of his first family.

If you had problems being a redhead, then imagine the trouble our son had being an Asian in a Caucasian house. From the beginning, we raised him with a Korean nanny (family) and mainstreamed him into the Korean community. So, imagine us in Seattle, State College and Baton Rouge, the only White family sitting in on services at the Korean Church, being at birthday celebrations, or performing in talent contests. My parents were also there, which was really an interesting development considering that Dad was from the wheat farming community of Hepner, OR and Mom from a dairy farming Swedish immigrant family in Rosburg, WA, not exactly hotbeds of diversity. Whether or not we exacerbated his feelings of being different by being involved with the Korean community, you’ll have to ask him. Plenty of therapists discouraged us from raising him by what I call cultural mainstreaming. We basically ignored them. Daniel did go through a number of years very early on where he wanted to be White like us. Then there were a few years where he wanted us to be Korean like him. We were fortunate to have so many Korean friends that helped him and us through those periods. He will tell you now that he is comfortable being in his own skin.

For the record, I don’t think that those difficult times should infer that international adoptions don’t work or aren’t good for the children. Immersing him in the Korean community is probably the only parental decision we made where I think we got it exactly right.

We took Daniel back to S. Korea when he was 7 for a month-long homecoming, just because he wanted to go. I believe that we jumped on the chance because it came at a time when he was having issues with being Korean. At that time, he did not want to meet his birthparents, but did meet the three foster families that cared for him, the caseworkers that helped him on his way, and the doctor that delivered him. In later years he has discussed returning and meeting his birthparents, I think mostly due to his relationship with his significant other, and we would have facilitated him doing so, but our grandson came at about that time, and traveling became less attractive. However, at the time we took Daniel back to Korea we traveled with his 2 year old brother, so it can be done, although I wouldn’t recommend it for sane people. By the way, after that trip, I do not recall Daniel having another major crisis regarding his race.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Pappa visits us on Daniel’s birthday: Sometimes fights are good for something

Fighting with my baby is painful, particularly on my baby's birthday

My oldest son and I are in a fight. Somehow we are communicating the arguments of our respective significant others. Daniel is speaking for his fiancée and I am communicating for my husband. At one point, I had to stop the argument to ‘fact check’ so that I could offer up the appropriate retort. In that long moment when I was searching my brain for suitably fitting words of reply I realized that the words weren’t absent because of any impending Alzheimer’s disease. The words weren’t there because I didn’t have a memory of what we were fighting about. For a lack of anything better to say, I told him I’d have his father call him directly. The situation becomes simultaneously more complicated and clearer with the knock knock of my mother at the door. She begs me to “please, please, please agree to go to Daniel’s birthday dinner with him. “

This strikes me as absurd. Why wouldn’t I want to go to our number one son’s birthday dinner? How did a fight about canceling Kellan’s visit to our house at the last minute become so complicated?

In an obviously rare moment of reflection I figure out that it is because our fight over Kellan overshadowed the second part of the weekend soiree, which was to have dinner with Daniel and family when we brought Kellan back or they picked him up. Daniel was feeling like we only cared about seeing his son and not him. All at once I felt awful. No one could replace Daniel, not even the child that he fathered.

How do you explain that there is always enough love for everyone, and that love is not reproducible. Unlike a dojong (a Korean name stamp) it is never the same twice.

We had a foreshadowing of this altercation the weekend before, when we were focusing on a grandson-visit and our grown-son felt left out. I hate it when I’m obtuse and stubborn.

I call Rich and leave a message. Then because I am shook up I go to sleep.

Rich comes home and immediately apologizes via iPhone. Daniel does the same via his iPhone. They say they’ll “start over” and talk after the NFL draft is over. They are fine in 5 minutes. It has taken me a full day of arguing and fretting to come to this point of what is non-closure for me (I guess I need an iPhone), but relief.

We wait for Daniel’s phone call.

In the meantime, all phones large and small in our house are freaking out. We get multiple calls on our land-line from the pharmacy telling Rich that his prescriptions are ready to be picked up. This is a new experience, the same recording over and over, one right after the other. China Taste, our local restaurant calls James twice on his cell phone to tell him that his food is ready to be picked up (he didn’t order any). Rich’s cell phone, clearly sitting on the counter in the basket calls me on my cell phone. I answer to silence. And now my freaking E-mail doesn't work.

I am aggravated at technology and perplexed at the multiple glitches that can occur at the same time in totally different communication systems, until it dawns on me. It’s my father: Daniel’s Pappa, who died almost 3 years ago. He is upset that we are fighting on the day before his Prunie’s birthday. I walk over to mom’s house and tell her that Pappa is here. She cries and says, “I’ll bet that’s it.” I call Daniel and tell him what is going on. He believes me. Dan calls and makes reservations at the Japanese restaurant for tomorrow and promises me he’ll let Pappa know that he’s okay. I have no doubt that my dad will be there tomorrow with us, eating Japanese food and celebrating. Just like I have no doubt that he’s here with us now.

The phone calls stop. My E-mail works.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Open Salon Interview by cartouche with dcvdickens/ My side/

How are you and dcvdickens related?

Dcvdickens and my husband, Rich share a half brother. I say that she is my sister-in-law but we’re unrelated. We may never have met if not for a family wedding, because it was with religious fervor that Rich avoided his half brother’s father’s side of the family. As far as he was concerned, his loyalty was to his mother, the woman that dcv’s father left for her mother. Then their common niece got married in NM 6 years ago. We didn't want to go because that “other side of the family” would be there, but our eldest son shamed us into going. Once we got there it was like meeting our long lost relatives. After about an hour, people were saying dcv and I were sisters. Our relationship has just grown from there. I love her.


I am a major Salon fan and have been since discovering Anne Lamotte here years ago. I gravitated to OS after starting a personal, more family-related blog on Blogger last summer. My sister-in-law, dcvdickens, the real writer in the family, had an OS blog, and after reading one of her incredible posts I decided to experiment by putting “just one” of my personal pieces “out there.” It was about the anniversary of my father’s death. Then, I found Gwen Cooper’s writing about her tiny rescue cat, and well, I was hooked.


I’ve posted little of my writing on OS. Much of it is still on my computer or on my personal blog. I’m shy about sharing it. For the most part I write for myself. My purpose is to preserve moments in time of my life that I think will be of value someday to the family I will leave behind. So, writing about topics as ordinary as our first Mardi Gras in Louisiana, the second anniversary of my dad’s death, taking the civil service exam, or the disaster that was my first wedding are very personal to me. I will post other more intimate stories someday, maybe. I just want to make sure that I’m not exploiting anyone by making my writing more public. The only reason I was able to post the piece about “How I Married into a Family that Eats Road Kill” is because everyone I might truly have offended is either dead or incapacitated, and for that opportunity I had to wait 25 years.


To a certain extent most of what I’ve written has been overlooked by the masses, although I have had technically 3 EPs, a couple of covers and a number Critical Mess’s Daily Scrawl Picks, all of which I’ve appreciated by the way. It’s been very encouraging. I’ve been very welcomed here. It’s been my experience that OS is not a place for braggarts and despite all of those posts about “the quality or lack thereof” of writing on OS, I do not feel it has been a place of elitists. I think that the longer I’m around, and the more other readers and writers become familiar with my voice, the more I’ll get read, or not [laughing]. I’m not worried about it.


I wish I could be more literary with this answer but the person that has most inspired me to write is my mother. We’re very close. As most of you know she’s been living in my backyard (in an addition we had built for her) for the last 5 years. I was an only child, and she worked as an RN on the 3-11 or 7-3 shift. Both shifts would place her out of the house either when I woke up or when I went to bed. Sometimes she’d work the afternoon and morning shifts back to back. I was alone a lot. Seldom was I with my dad due to his 24/7 work schedule as a labor organizer. I did spend a good deal of time with my father's very Germanic parents that lived 3 blocks away. I loved them, but they weren’t the most expressive people. In order for mom and I to survive we would communicate by writing notes, passing them between us by leaving them on the kitchen counter. So, from the very earliest of ages I learned how to write to communicate my feelings about family life.


If I can only say one, I’ll say Steven Axelrod’s writing about Sophie in “The One Who Got Away: The Survivor’s Tale” (Part 1, 2, 3 and whatever) because he loved her well, and he writes about that relationship in a way that makes my heart break. Sophie, whoever she is, is a very lucky woman. At times, throughout my life I have been “that woman” and God bless Steven Axelrod for reminding me of that. By the way, his book, “Just Like in the Movies” is available on I know because I bought it.


Tell us something about yourself that most people on OS would be surprised to learn.

I am an adventurer at heart. I met my husband in a restaurant called “Stanford’s” in 1982 in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica-- the most underdeveloped part of that country , mostly populated by refugees from the Caribbean. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer, had long wavy hair, a huge beard and an earring, and when I spied him at our “hotel” “The Maritza” earlier in the day he was reading "Silent Spring" (smart, irreverent, handsome and a man with a purpose: note to self, you must meet this man) . I sashayed up to him during dinner asking if it was appropriate considering that we were on the Atlantic side of the country, that I was not wearing a bra. [Blink. Blink. Smile]. Of course, he said, "yes, entirely appropriate."

Later, that night we had a beer and he asked me to go snorkeling with him in the morning. I excused myself early because I wasn’t feeling well, and spent the night puking into a hole of a toilet down the hall from my room (bad langostinos: lobster-like creatures). Just the memory makes me wretch. I was so ill that I left the following morning before dawn on a prop plane back to San José for medical care. Before I left, I posted my name and address on his door and asked him to look me up if he was ever in the Northwest.

A year later when he got back from the Peace Corps he stopped by my house on his way to a job in Chicken, Alaska. I had a boyfriend. He was two days early. I was irritated, but rather than cook for him I took him to a Jazz Club for dinner, and that was it. We have been together ever since.

Tell us something about yourself that you have shared on OS that most people in your real life do not know?

I confide so much more with people in my real life than I do with people on OS. My friends live all over the world: I have intimates in Louisiana, New York, California, Indonesia, Sicily, Sri Lanka and Mexico to name but a few places. We talk about the woes of child rearing, marital troubles, health problems, lost dreams, attained goals, and my soon to be lost job… I write a lot of E-mails [laughing]. I can’t imagine telling an OS friend any more about my personal life.

As an experiment, after reading this question, I decided to write an OS piece about something that I hadn’t yet shared with anyone. I wrote about potential staff layoffs at the university where I work in light of our looming budget cuts. It wasn’t a great piece. It didn’t take long to write. It was more like one of the many E-mails I write. But it was written with passion. Well, within 48 hours that piece had more ratings and comments than all of my other OS posts combined. It also rated a cover, and it was my first OS piece that was picked up by Google. It was also the first time I had a chorus of PMs suggesting I take the post down for fear that it would hasten my job loss, which was very sweet as it made me feel a part of the OS community. I learned that writing about something I’m passionate about, without diffusing it first through other means is probably a more powerful although not safer way for me to write.

For women: Thongs or briefs?

God, my husband wishes it were thongs. I have tried thongs but they are just so damned uncomfortable. At this point in time, boy briefs.

How much of what and how you write or respond in comments is reflective of the person you are in “real life”?

I am who I am and my writing style reflects that. I would say that my lack of pretense is one of my best traits.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Best Way to Lighten our Mood?: A Visit from Our Grandson

This weekend we received the first visit from our grandson -- unaccompanied by throngs of people -- that we have had in awhile. Before he got here, "we" (that is, Rich, Grammy and I) were totally agitated, complaining, tired, bitchy, itchy and scratchy. What I'm trying to convey is that we were uncomfortable for a myriad of reasons, some real and some imagined. Maybe we were suffering from some sort of spring fever.

I tried to tell this to Daniel, but I think I insulted him and Brandi by saying that we felt left-out of Kellan's world in the crowd that is Brandi's family. Rich and I are a family of few people. Rich and I only saw one grandparent at a time, and consequently, we believe, we became very close to them. Brandi is from a large family and is used to a crowd of loving people. It's a difference in family backgrounds. I didn't mean to upset anyone.

We just missed Kellan.

So, Daniel placated us by visiting here on Saturday with Kellan. While they were here and afterward, "we" were just so happy. "We" seem to operate as an ecosystem, like the spiders' many eyes, or as the jellyfish's many tentacles, or like the many leaves on a tree... if one branch is out of whack, the whole organism falls ill.

We certainly operate this way. When one person is happy, we spread happiness around. When one person gets pissy, we spread misery around.


So, after Kellan visited we were in a little bit of heaven (poor Daniel, I hope he and James don't feel left out).

I hate to brag, but Kellan is the most personable child for a 2 year old that I've ever met. He appears to be able to relate to people of any age, as well as to animals. Plus, he's so easy. My kids were running around in circles, and climbing on tables and roofs when they were his age. He eats almost everything. He likes books. He loves to go outside. He likes to take care of plants. Plus, he can now say my name, "Nena." AND he ran up and hugged me, arms wide open, the first thing he came in the door.

He is officially my favorite person.

Oh, and he taught Grammy how to use the Wii.

I say he's a social phenom.

Here are some pictures from the visit.

At this point, Michael is not entertained....

But, he is a patient cat and melts when Kellan kisses him...

Kellan is mesmerized and I think Michael is asleep...

Then Kellan works his magic on Grammy
Instructing her on how to play the Wii
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