Wednesday, May 31, 2006

I hate embarassing myself in public.

I leave the house this morning bright and early, well, after the Hwy 61 traffic has died down some. First stop. The gas station as I've been driving on a quarter tank for several days now.

I swipe my debit card, insert the nozzle and begin pumping. Thirty cents later, the pump cuts off. "What the F?" I ask. I take the nozzle out, put it back in and try again. I get two more cents worth in and it cuts off again.

I went inside where the clerk was less than helpful and insisted that the pumps were working just fine. So I stomp back to the truck, pull forward and try another pump. I'm really not happy about the thirty-two cent charge on my debit card.

Next pump. Same story. I get five cents on it this time. "For Pete's SAKE!" I am considering bashing the pump with the nozzle because I really don't want to have to drive up to the next gas station. And I don't want the people at the bank laughing at my now whopping five cent debit charge.

One thing about gas stations though. There is always a helpful good ole boy around. Good ole boy tries it for me. Then with good ole boy logic and reasoning, he asks the obvious question.

"Is it full already?"

"Can't be," I insist, "it was almost empty last time I drove it."

"Anybody drive it since?" good ole boy asks, displaying once again that now irritating logical thinking.

Yes. Jason did. Yesterday. To the gas station. To get gas for the lawn mower.
Gosh. This is embarassing. I hop in the truck, turn the key. Sure enough, the gauge swings all the way up past "F".

Now I feel like a big old burnt cheesy biscuit.

"I guess he wanted to surprise me," I say to good ole boy.

"Yes ma'am, I guess he did, too."

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Does anyone else out there think the whole "we might have found Jimmy Hoffa" thing was supposed to ignite a media blitz that would eclipse the reports of the massacre at Haditha?

Or have I just relinquished the last bit of optimist in me and become completely cynical?

Monday, May 29, 2006

Sometimes when I'm eating at Moe's Southwest Grill in west Ashley, I feel a little sad. The restaurant sits where the Ultravision Theater used to be. I get especially sad when the weather turns hot and my mind and body switch to summer mode.

Back in the days when I needed a grown up to transport me, the Ultravision was a single theater. No eight movie selections there. One. And it was a grand one in my pre-teen experience. The rounded white brick building would virtually gleam in the sun. Once inside, it was a cool, dim cave of dark blood red carpet and hard wood flooring.

There was a real curtain across the screen, about a billion yards of heavy red velvet. I know it was heavy because I touched it once when I won a Wednesday Afternoon Movie door prize: a certificate for a small buttered popcorn. I marched from my red velvet chair to the stage with my ticket stub firmly in hand and shared the popcorn with my friend Kristi, but I think we wouldn't let her little sister have any. Sorry.

Wednesday afternoons in the summer was kid's day. Free prizes, G-rated movies, a chance for our moms to go browsing at the Grant's next door (think early Wal-mart) and just get rid of us for a while. Most of the fare was pap, 60's kid entertainmnet. I think I saw The Parent Trap there.

Oh, but it was the summer I turned twelve that brings a tear to my eye when I remember. I had read the book, of course. My mamma was a Southern belle and had raised me as best she could in that tradition, against the forces of military life and my three brothers.

So, I was anticipating as we waiting in the blinding heat, fidgeting in line for my popcorn and soda, downright impatient at the immature screaming and laughing at the prize drawings. Then finally, the lights dimmed and the curtains pulled up and away as regally as anything I'd ever seen in my short span on earth.

Gone With The Wind. Every girl should see it in the theater, full sized and bursting off the screen. The dresses, the dances, the war, the triumph. Clark Gable. Drool.

While every other girl was moaning over Ashley Wilkes, I thought he was a wimp. Give me my Rhett Butler. Give me my bad boy. Oh, those dark eyes, that handsome face. That hint of danger. That pure manly grown up-edness of him. It was almost too much for my pre-pubescent little emotions.

We all wanted to be as pretty and vivacious as Scarlett and as sweet and kind as Melanie. We wanted to wear pretty dresses and go to dances. We wanted to tackle life regardless of what the world threw our way.

So, I cried when I saw the bulldozers lined up, ready to begin tearing down the building to make way for Moe's and Mama Fu's Noodle House. I liked going to movies there and always hoped it would be showing in the "old" room, where I could smile at the ghost of myself.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Loki and Sutu the Amazing Shrinking Cat sleeping in the sun.
What a life.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

I was thinking about the U-scan lanes at the grocery. I use them occasionally. I thnk we ought to get a discount, five or ten percent, off our bill. After all, we are saving them labor costs.

Free kitten with every purchase?

Friday, May 26, 2006

A couple months ago, Jason once again uttered the words, “You haven’t read (insert book title here)?” This time it was a book by Anne Fadiman, “The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down”. The entire book is captured in a few lines: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, And the Collision of Two Cultures.

I liked the book because I like anything that explores the psycho-social aspects of any culture and the history of that culture. I really like to learn about cultures different than my own. I liked the book because it makes you look below the surface. It makes you squirm against prejudices you perhaps weren’t even aware you had.

I liked the book because the author tried not to lay blame, but to find a way to bridge the gulf between cultures.

I liked the book.

But I found myself having to constantly be aware that I was reading it with my Western Medicine is best prejudices. I am part of the medical community. I was schooled right here in the good old USA and received probably only a smidge more education on cultural differences than the medical students.

This is a story primarily about the doctors who made decisions about the child, Lia, who is central to the story. They made the decisions they thought were best for the medical care of the child. They thought the parents were non-compliant. There was a bad outcome, which may or may not have occurred whether the complex medical regime was followed to the letter or not.

This is my complaint: while the doctors were portrayed as caring competent professionals who were only doing what they thought best, the nurses were portrayed as mean and angry, only interested in having a quiet, compliant patient.

Okay. Here’s the thing. Nurses have a degree of responsibility that is completely out of line with their degree of authority. If anything goes wrong with any patient at any time, it is the nurse’s fault. (I know of a nurse right now who is fighting an official complaint made against her for not providing adequate pain medication, resulting in a patient’s suffering – she was late giving a dose because another patient’s heart had stopped and she was performing CPR. Where was another nurse to give the dose for her, you ask? There were only two of them for the 20 patients; they were both doing CPR until help arrived.)

So, you have a child in the hospital, with parents who don’t speak English, with no translators available, physician orders that the parents don’t want to have followed, orders that are reasonable for patient care, so the nurse is bound by law to follow them, add to it the other four or five patients that that one nurse is caring for. Sure the nurses are frustrated. But the constraints placed on them by law and their licensing board were not explored it any shape or form, they were the only bad guys in the book.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

I had in the back of my mind to talk about a book, "The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down". It is the story of a Hmong family with an epileptic child and her American doctors. I was asked my opinion as a neonatal/pediatric nurse. And it sprang to mind after reading (the way too early) frustrations of baby docs at patient "noncompliance". All I gotta say about that is get used to it.

But I've been rambling on incessantly recently. So a random kitten picture will have to suffice until I collect my thoughts on this wonderful (should be required reading) book.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Hurricanes for Yankees

Tropical Wave:

This is rain. For Pete’s sake.

Tropical Depression:

This is a thunderstorm, not the beginning of the end.

Tropical Storm:

Begin watching the hourly Weather Channel ‘Tropical Weather’ updates every so often. If you are a weather nerd, get a Hurricane tracking chart and begin plotting the storm’s course. (Note to amateurs: get a pack of colored pencils and plot the storms in different colors. Why? Because.)


Panic!! You are going to DIE!! Realize the Caribbean is a long way away. Begin watching the twice hourly storm reports on the Weather Channel. If you cannot remain home to monitor this potentially life, limb and property threatening situation, compulsively check internet weather sites (I prefer Weather Underground, personally.)

Natives will begin to tell you stories about a friend of their cousin who was trapped in an air bubble inside her refrigerator along with a great white shark that had washed up with the storm surge in Hurricane Hugo. Don’t believe them. Unless it happened in McClellanville, then it might be true.

Understanding Hurricane Categories:

Okay, so the hurricane is now officially within 1000 nautical miles of your home and is predicted to pass within 100 miles of you, maybe, if the winds turn sideways and blow the moon one millimeter to the right. How do you estimate the level of panic to engage in?

Category One:

If this is your first hurricane, please feel free to pull out all the stops and panic as much as your heart desires. Buy everything on the hurricane supply list, engage in all the safety precautions. Or do like the natives: beer, chips, bring in the lawn chairs and the dog.

Category Two:

Same as above. Unless you live on the beach and the storm is coming in at high tide. Ignore the apocalyptic frothing weathermen. You are not going to die. Put the garbage cans in the garage.

Category Three:

Okay. Now start paying attention. DO NOT LISTEN to the local weathermen! Note the current location of the hurricane, its direction and speed of travel, then do the math yourself. Subtract six hours from ETA because that is how long it is going to take you to get from Charleston to Summerville and you should be safe in Summerville.

Do NOT put tape X’s on your windows. Tape will not stop a flying tree. You will look like an amateur and your neighbors will laugh at you. If you are rich, you will have ready made titanium shutters that just snap in place for every window on your house. Aren’t you special? If you are a normal person, you will go to Lowe’s and stand in line for 10 hours to buy plywood, then the Pig for beer. Then you and your idiot cousin will spend the day drinking and cussing and nailing random bits of wood over a couple of windows.

Category Four:

If you are a complete idiot, stay. Have fun. When the nice policeman comes around, just give him your name, address and next of kin’s contact information politely. Don’t tell him he is ruining the mood of your hurricane party.

If you plan to evacuate, it’s best to leave about three days before anyone knew there was a hurricane coming. If you wait until the last minute, bring lots of water and books. Blankets and a shovel come in handy for those urgent calls of nature on the side of the highway in full view of the other 100,000 refugees. Food for at least 12-24 hours is also a good idea for that lovely 0.0025 mile per hour “Up Close and Personal: I-26 Tour”.

Category Five:

The weathermen are finally correct: YOU ARE GOING TO DIE!!

Monday, May 22, 2006

Three years ago, I awoke in tears, with a misty memory of a dream demanding all my attention. I got up and went to the computer and wrote down what the little girl in the dream told me:

You are 4 or 5, but the age doesn't really matter, it could be any age. And no-one needed to explain it to you, the silence of the table. Loud metallic collisions of mix-matched silverware against cheap K-Mart plates are the dinner music of your kitchen.
And the words finally spoken. You don't need to know what they mean, the tone is enough. The half chewed mouthful of chicken turns to sand in your mouth. You are frozen, your gaze fixed on the suddenly fascinating landscape of your plate.
Keep eating. Keep eating, don't look up, don't say anything. You risk a glance at your cup of milk, desperately wanting to reach for it. A sip, that's all you need to help swallow down the lump. You must keep eating. But the glass is too full, your hands too shaky. You know if you try, you will spill some.
You push green beans into a neat pile while you work on swallowing. Waiting. Waiting. Soon it will come. Another exhange of words. The tears. Dishes crashing. A chair toppling backwards onto the faded dirty linolium. The pleading. Yelling fading away as the voices move to the back of the house. The slamming door.
You open your mouth to try to breath past the lump in your throat. Eat. Just keep eating. Clean your plate. Be a good girl. Drink the milk, careful now, don't spill any, but do it now before he comes back. Finish all your green beans. Good girls eat their veggies.
Then it comes, the opening of a door, the sound of heavy footsteps up the hall. Time stands still. You forget how to breathe.
He comes into the kitchen, his face twisted and his eyes, so different, like a monster's eyes. Those eyes don't look at you, but at your plate. He hesitates and you waver in an agony of indecision. Should you speak? Smile? Be quiet?
He relieves you of the decision with a curt, "You done?"
"Yes sir."
He waves at the table. "Clean up this fucking mess."
A moment later the television blares the living room. You scrape the plates as quietly as you can and stack them ever so carefully in the sink, having to go up on tip-toe so you can set them down without any clanking. You upright the fallen chair, push the others back into place and with a paper towel, wipe down the tabletop.
Even then, it isn't over. The sound of the television leaves you not knowing what to do. If you go in the living room, you may be bothering him. If you go to your room, you may be ignoring him. You walk quietly to the doorway between the two rooms, testing the atmosphere.
"All done?" he asks.
"Yes, sir."
He pats the couch. "Come watch the game with me then."
You climb carefully up on the saggy, stained couch cushions. There is a baseball game on. Very dangerous ground. He has tried many times to explain it to you and gets angry when you don't remember.
You sit very still, no jiggling or wiggling, no sir. You are a very good girl. You strain to hear any sound from the back room. After a while he gets up and goes into the kitchen.
That sound. The firm crisp sizzle of a can of Budweiser being popped open. For the rest of your life, you will be able to tell the difference in sound of a soda can versus a beer can being opened.
When he comes back, you take a huge chance. "The guys in the white shirts are the Atlanta Braves, right Daddy?" You had been studying them while he was in the ktichen.
He answers with a grunt and drinks down most of the beer in one swallow. His eyes have that look. That small hard look. You fold your hands together on your lap and wonder what you can do or say.
He yells at the television. All the time it seems. You look over at him during a commercial break. "You should be an umpire, Daddy. You are smarter than all of them."
Maybe if you can make him smile. Maybe if you can find the Daddy who sometimes brings you presents and gives you the best hugs. Maybe.
You words just seem to make him angry. He talks about things you don't understand. The boss. The government. Your mother. He lapses back into silence but he doesn't seem angry anymore, he looks sad.
You rise up on your knees and reach out to give him a hug. "I love you, Daddy." It isn't a betrayal to your mother who lies weeping on her bed behind a closed door. It is an attempt to help her. If you can make him happy, if you can make him smile.
He pushes your little arms away. "Christ, get the fuck offa me. Almost made me spill my beer. Isn't it your bedtime or something?"
And you've failed again. You lay in bed that night, listening to the pop of beer cans, the blare of the television eventually drowned out by closer voices. And you don't have the words for it but the anger and venom and hatred in those voices burns through you. Burns right through the blanket that is over the pillow that is over the hands that are over the ears. Burns right through and damages something in your soul.

That little snippet of a dream went on to become a full length novel. When people ask where I "get my ideas", they don't really believe that I don't find ideas, they find me.

Friday, May 19, 2006

I hate migraines. Really. I do. It's not so much the pain, as I'm fairly lucky with mine, I rarely get incapacitated. It's photosensitivity and the visual disturbances that leave me capable of nothing except staring at walls.

But that was yesterday, today is today and I have once again proven my insanity to the lady who runs the One Hour Photo machine at CVS.

Isn't that the sweetest face ever?

Duuude...this is some good sh..stuff, maaan.
Fresh nip, far out.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Yesterday was the anniversary of the day of my birth. I'm not a big birthday person, I've never had a party (since becoming an adult) and it often takes me a moment struggling with my math skills to come up with an accurate age. I simply do not care about the numbers.

As I have told many people, each passing decade seems to get better and better, so what's to argue or regret? Life is good. Like just this week. I got to meet some very interesting and very friendly people. I got a bunch of new music - Jackson Browne and the Allman Brothers - good thing Jason doesn't know what happens when you mix a Southern gal, Lynyrd Skynyrd and alcohol. Yeeee-haaaw! Kid, I kid. I got one of my mom's secret ingredient German Chocolate cakes. Yum.

And perhaps the most unusal gift I received came from Mother Nature herself. I was sitting out on my little "dock" at the creek, watching the tide roll in. I noticed that the current didn't seem quite as swift and that the water was almost to my toes. In a few minutes, the scattering of leaves and sprig of pinestraw that were passing by slowed to a stop. After what I'm sure was less than a minute, the leaves did a slow spin and turned to head back down to the Ashley River.

I'd never actually watched the tide turn before. It was amazing.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Now the albinos are upset about The Da Vinci Code. I read where there have been 68 evil albino characters in movies since 1960. That is a lot since, I suppose, the albino population can't be very large. So maybe they have a point.

I haven't read the book. Nor do I plan to. Not that it offends me or anything, but that I've heard it isn't that well written. I tend to "get going" as someone so delicately puts it (others call it ranting) when I read something that is poorly written but managed to get through the labryinthe of the publishing world and make it to print. But that's a topic for another day.

I really don't get the uproar. It's fiction. I understand that it is fiction based on some centuries old conspiracy theory, but it is still fiction. I can even slightly understand where Christains might not like Jesus being portrayed in a manner that is inconsistant with the teachings of their respective branches.

But weren't we, as a nation, just rolling our eyes and sneering at the Muslims who were rioting over images of Allah? Yeah, I know, it is a far far worse reaction to kill people and burn buildings than to hold press conferences denouncing the book, the movie and everyone associated with it, promoting it or even planning to see it.

It's the same issue though. It's the same egocentric attitude. My religion is right, I am right, you are wrong. It is silly and wrong to be upset about a cartoon image of your (false) God, but it is a horrible thing to make a movie depicting my (true) God in a less than perfect light.

My God's better than your God. Which is what both Christians and Muslims believe. So how do we ever hope to have peace when neither side will allow that others have the right to believe differently?

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

After a long month of avoidance and denial, I have come to the conclusion that I have accomplished nothing more than some excessive 'throat-clearing' in my work-in-progress.

It isn't all crap. Just most of it. Blech. Time to crank up the printer, find any one of the ten thousand red pens that the kittens have distributed in various closets and under chairs, sofas and rugs and get to work.

I hate not being able to write a perfect first draft. Really. I know. I'm crazy. It should be possible.

I just, as many amateur writers do, started in the wrong place. So I just have to rewrite. That's all. No problem. Sigh.

I think a nap is called for at this point.

Monday, May 15, 2006

When I was on call Saturday night, I spent some time flipping through the TV channels. I stopped when I saw a face I knew I knew, but couldn't place on one of the news channels.

The very pretty woman was talking about post-partum depression and how in her case it almost led to post-partum psychosis. At one point the interviewer said something inaudible (at least to me) and the woman cut her eyes at him. "Tom who?" she said in a tone that could have opened flesh.

Well, now I like this chick. While I was fumbling for the remote to turn up the sound, the woman said, "His mission impossible to is carry a baby and give birth. Then he can have an opinion." (I'm quoting from memory so it may not be exact)

Then it dawned on me. It was Marie Osmond, who now has eight kids, and had an extremely bad time with PPD.

How much of a heinous disgusting man-pig do you have to be to get Marie Osmond that pissed off at you?

But I found a wonderful new respect for her. She's lived it, survived it and made it part of her mission in life to help other woman.

Go Marie!

Sunday, May 14, 2006

I am a bit discombobulated this morning. I am very German, I love my routines and my normal routine is completely out of whack. I was out sick from work on Friday, a rare thing, but fever plus stomach bug isn't something you tend to want to share with brand new humans. Then I went to work as usual Saturday, only to be sent home after four hours for low census. I was officially "on-call", meaning I had to go back if they needed me. I ended up sleeping on the couch because of my phobia about not hearing the phone ring if I am comfy in the bed. I woke up at seven a.m., sweating and covered in cats, Sutu sitting Snoopy-the-vulture-like on my chest, staring down at me, ever so politely asking if I had entertained any idea of feeding him as he was about to starve to death.

Then I went to bed and slept another couple of hours, because I am still working a 12 hour night shift tonight. But I feel completely at loose ends. I don't know what to do with myself during the daylight hours on a weekend.

The good part is that I actually get to go spend a couple of hours with my mom on Mother's Day, something I haven't been able to do in four years.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Thor the basket case.

Yes, I am perfectly comfortable!

Ooops, I mean, I meant to do that!

Friday, May 12, 2006

My hanging out at the creek side buddy. He was either trying to scare me or impress me with his display.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

You know, I try not to resort to mindless fluff all the time. (Pictures of the best kittens on the planet is NOT fluff, thank you very much!)

And I try not to be a person too caught up in my own personal stuff to care about the wider world.

But there is a limit.

Today I had to meet my mom at the auto repair shop and drive her to work without having had a shower. We have a house guest who likes 45 minute showers. Jason apparantly can take a three minute lukewarm to cold shower. I cannot.

Then I had to try to figure out what the hell my mom should do about this so-called prescription program that I truly believe was designed to so bewilder and annoy the elderly (and the daughters who have to slog through it) that the entire program fails. I really can't see any improvement for poor and working poor seniors (why do you think my mom is approaching 71 and still working full time? For her health/prescription plan) The cheapest Medicare option (and there are dozens and dozens of options) is still way more expensive than the one she has now. So she doesn't want to sign up, because it will be more expensive. But then, how expensive is it going to be if she has to sign up later? And gets "penalized" for not signing up now?

This drives me insane. The plan should be: if you are retired, here are your drugs. Even just have a co-pay on a sliding scale depending on your income. For Pete's sake.

Then I just spend $600 on new glasses. My insurance covers an eye exam, but not glasses. They want you to know you are blind, but not do anything about it. See, I have to get bifocals and I am (really) just about legally blind. So my only options for bifocals that my lenses will fit were these big ole giant Sally Jesse Rapheal glasses. So I bought two pair. One for distance. One for mid-distance so I can see the computer screen both here at home and at work without hunching forward.

Then I found a really cool shirt that I really like.

Then I came home to a message from my mom asking if I'd cured all her Medicare blues yet. (NO)

Then I made the giant mistake of turning on the news while I ate lunch.

I can't deal with it today. It makes me just want to scream until something ruptures. Someone please explain: 1. Why was the NSA allowed to deny investigators access to the information it needed? When did the investigated get to start running the show? 2. Just what exactly does the government plan to do with all those millions of phone call records (thanks BellSouth, first you call my freaking house six times a day, now you give my records away?) And, how much freaking money was spent on gathering, sorting, and maintaining these records? Enough to pay for my mom's blood pressure medication? Enough to send a home health nurse to visit an at risk infant so it doesn't die in its first month of life?

Okay. That's it. I'm done. Cute kitten pictures at eleven.
Loki learned how to open the cabinet under the sink - where all the cleaning supplies are kept. Until we can get a childproof lock, Jason used these plastic ties to hold the doors shut. Funny the things cats find endlessly fascinating. They spent several hours trying to figure it out.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Yesterday evening as I sat on the back porch, watching Jason try to blind/maim/burn himself with a power drill and a treated wooden planter, I noticed a little tiny bird sitting near the ground in the branches of the Carolina Jasmine I have growing on the fence.

I went to get a closer look. That's when I noticed Mamma Mockingbird on the fence post. I couldn't quite hear her over the power drill, but I know that mockingbirds are vicious little snots about their babies. So I backed off. I figured she was waiting until the humans cleared out to rescue her fledgling.

Later that evening, I went out to check on the baby, as I was worried about him. There is a lot of wildlife roaming through my back yard, especially at night. And for my concern, I got dive bombed by both Mamma and Pappa Mockingbird. I tried to explain to them that I was just as worried about their baby as they were, but they weren't having it. And I was having Hitchcockian bird flashbacks and had no desire to be all pecked up like Tippi, so I went back in.

This morning, I went to check again. See paragraph above.

This afternoon, after Jason and I celebrated Confederate Remembrance Day by having lunch at Atlanta Bread Company. I went to check again. Baby bird was flying around with his Momma. Safe and happy.

But she still threatened to dive bomb me.

I may let the cats out.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The headline screams at me from the monitor. “U.S. has second worst newborn death rate in modern world, report says.” (CNN) I click to MSNBC. The news there isn’t much better: “U.S. gets poor grades for newborns’ survival. Nation ranks near bottom among modern nations, better only than Latvia.”

World wide, four million babies die every year. Two million in their first day of life, two million more in their first month.

Four MILLION. That is almost 110,000 a day. Most who die are in third world countries, 99% according to research done by the Save the Children organization. Melinda Gates wrote in a forward to the Save the Children report, “It’s tragic that millions of newborns die every year, especially when those deaths are so easily preventable. Three out of four deaths could be avoided with simple, low-cost tools that already exist, such as antibiotics for pneumonia, sterile blades to cut umbilical cords and knit caps to keep babies warm.” (CNN)

Simple. If we could stop trying to kill each other and start trying to help each other. The poorest outcomes for both mothers and babies are in countries in which there is war or civil strife.

The statistics for America are that for every 1,000 babies born, five will die in their first month of life. We are tied with Hungary, Malta, Poland and Slovakia on this. It is even worse if you are an African-American mother: nine babies die for every 1,000 born.

Why? Lack of preventative health care. Poverty. Our abysmal teenage pregnancy rates. Poor maternal health.

Emory University health policy expert Kenneth Thorpe: “Our health care system focuses on providing high-tech services for complicated cases. We do this very well. What we do not do is provide basic primary and preventative health care services. We do not pay for these services, and do not have a delivery system that is designed to provide either primary prevention, or adequately treat patients with chronic diseases.” (MSNBC)

What to do about it? That’s the problem. Sex education works. No it doesn’t; it promotes promiscuity. Abstinence works. No it doesn’t, it keeps teens ignorant of birth control options. We are as confused about the solution as we are about sex itself.

From the American Medical Student Association 1998-1999 National Initiative on Teen Pregnancy:

“Even with decreases in the birth rate over the past several decades, the birth rate to teenagers in the United States is considerably higher than in most other industrialized countries. The birth rate to teenagers in the United States is twice that of Great Britain; more than four times that of Sweden and Spain; seven times that of Denmark and the Netherlands; and 15 times greater than the birth rate in Japan. However, teenage sexual activity in the United States and these other countries does not vary significantly. There are several possible explanations for the higher birth rate in the United States. In the United States, society identifies teenage sexuality, not just teen pregnancy, as a social problem. According to one article, this negative focus on teen sexuality causes adolescents to feel greater embarrassment about obtaining contraceptives. Other reasons for the higher teen pregnancy rate in the United States are less access to contraceptives and health care for adolescents and a larger poverty class.”

I call this the “good girls don’t plan sex” problem. Despite the constant in-your-face sex in movies, songs, music videos, television programs, magazines, despite every hormone in a teen’s body screaming for sex, it is still thought of as "being bad”. So therefore, if a girl goes out and gets contraception before she has sex, then she perceives herself as being “bad”. So what does she do? She “lets” herself get “swept away” in the moment. Then it was just an accident and she isn’t a wanton slut who wanted to have sex.

And sex education in high school, whether abstinence-only or the full blown deal isn’t going to help much. Studies prove that these programs work, each in their own way. But our (U.S) age at first sexual intercourse still one of the lowest (15.8 years)

The problem is that like most social problems, Americans want it to be simple. This is the problem, this is the solution. Be solved.

But it doesn’t work like that. Teen pregnancy, teen sex is a complex problem. Girls get pregnant for a whole lot of reasons and for many of them, a course in Understanding Your Body isn't going to help much. Especially since we tend to wait until high school to provide sex ed and by then, the danger group is already having sex, if not their first babies.

In all the conflicting data out there on this subject, a few truths stand out. Girls who delay sexual intercourse and/or use contraceptives for birth control and STD protection: come from intact functional families or have an involved, caring parent who supports and encourages them; have a good relationship with their father; have been encouraged to excel at school; have high self esteem.

I’d go on, but you get the point. Girls who have been sexually molested, girls who grow up feeling unloved, girls who perceive they have no future, girls who are looking for a way out of an abusive family situation, girls who have given up on themselves are much more likely to engage in sexual activity and less likely to use contraceptive.

Sex education needs to start early, in infancy. From birth to three years of age, a child’s brain is still growing, still laying down pathways and developing a core personality. From elementary school, a child is learning who they are and how they fit in to the world. They are learning what they can become.

Sex education does not have to mean body parts and hormone cycles. It means self esteem and confidence.

And I know I left out the boys who are 50% responsible for this problem. But the facts are that boys do not get pregnant and give birth. Girls still bear the brunt of responsibility in child rearing. Girls have to learn to protect themselves and their futures. Whether that means knowing how to say “no” or knowing how to obtain and use contraceptives without fear or shame, that depends on the girl.
Ten years ago, a very nice orthopedic surgeon patched up the inner workings of my right knee and told me that any further work would be useless. He said the only cure for my disintegrating joints is to replace them.

Which sounds so tempting. Take out the old, painful, can't do anything joints. Have yummy fresh new joints that allow me to do all sorts of wild and crazy things. Like stand up. Or kneel down. Or simply squat to retreive something off the the floor. Hey, I could ride a bike again!

But then I really think about it. And even if I wouldn't get fired for taking three to four months off for the operation and rehab time, I don't know if I could force myself to do it just yet. I mean, it's not like I'm in a wheelchair or something.

It's just the idea of sawing through the bones in both my legs, then drilling screw holes in them to attach titanium (or whatever it is they use now) knee caps, makes me cringe a bit.

Plus, I'd have to have them both done at the same time because I am a major whiney ass titty baby about pain. I don't think if I did one, I could ever make myself go back and do the other. And Jason would probably strangle me out of sheer frustration and misery.

But the surgeon had said I'd have to have it done before a certain age and that age is rapidly approaching and he is turning out to be right. And it pisses me off because this is all my father's fault. He and his lousy ass yankee genes. Everything bad is from his side. Malfunctioning joints. Graying hair at 25. Alzheimers for Pete's sake, every-one on his side is eat up with it. Only good thing I got from him was my height. My mom's side has the good stuff, young skin, a tendency to drink excessively and eccentricity (read: mild mental illness, but in a fun way).

So I guess I need to start planning this. Save up all my time off at work, be extra nice to the boss so she won't fire me. Be extra nice to Jason so he won't kill me. Concetrate on how I could buy a Mini-Cooper if I have new knees, or a VW Bug. I could so totally get in and out of a Bug if I had functioning knee caps. I could actually throw out that three year old bag 'o frozen peas in the freezer. (Flashback: Jason rummaging thru freezer for dinner, "What about these peas?" Me: NOOOOO!! Not the peas! Never, ever eat those peas!")

And, an extra added bonus (see list of "good" mom traits): narcotics!

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Picture in leiu of thinking weekend

We sent my mom to New York City for her 70th birthday. She and her sister from California met up there for five nights/six days. They saw three Broadway plays, went to museums, shopped and generally acted like giddy girls. That made me happy.

Friday, May 05, 2006

I took my mother for a doctor's appointment this morning. She was getting a nerve block and they required her to have someone to drive her. Fine.

So we get there and of course, the waiting room is almost full. My mom gives her name to the receptionist. The receptionist asks if she has a driver. My mom gestures to me like I'm a prize on the Price is Right.

"Yes. This is my daughter."

I smile.

Then she does it. Again.

"She's a NURSE."

Receptionist lady doesn't give a rat's patootie, she's got a ton o' nurses back there with her. But every little old lady and man in the waiting room swivels around to stare at me. One lady even moved her purse off the chair next to her. She did everything but pat the chair seat.

See, my mom doesn't hear it. No, this is the South, people are too polite to interrupt our conversation. No, they wait. They wait until my mom is called back.

When I'm alone.

"Oh, excuse me, did I hear right? You are a nurse?"

I want to shout, "NO, I am not. My mother is crazy. She has Alzheimers. She doesn't know what she is saying. She thinks my brother is Douglas MacArthur."

But of course, I can't do that. That wouldn't be polite. And it'd be a lie.

See, they have questions, these little old ladies and men. They have detailed medical histories. (The first time I met my late next door neighbor, she told me how big her hemorrhoids were. Thanks for sharing.) They are the last of the generation that never question their doctors, so they are a little confused on diagnoses, medications, treatment courses.

But I don't know nothing 'bout no old people. I am lucky, because I have that copout. I'm a neonatal nurse. If you are over two weeks old, I don't know what to do with you.

I know it isn't just nursing. I'm sure doctors get asked for free medical advice, lawyers for free legal advice, accountants for free tax evasion hints.

But I'm supposed to be NICE about it. I'm SUPPOSED to answer all their questions because I'm a nurse. I'm supposed to be all Julia Margolis on ER and hunt you and your answers down on my own time and travel 100 miles into the most dangerous neighborhood on earth just because I'm a NURSE.

If a doctor or lawyer shuts down someone looking for advice, well, that just how they are. What more could you expect from them?

But I'm supposed to just be thrilled to death to discuss your seeping wounds, your diarrhea, your hemorrhoids, your blood sugar levels, your oozing rashes. And look at them too! With a smile.

I have a friend who is a teacher. He gets discouraged when he tells people what he does, they say "Oh, that is horrible. I couldn't do that."

Everytime he says that, I roll my eyes. No one ever expects him to stop grocery shopping to teach them how to solve a quadratic equation, do they?

Don't get me wrong. I like my job. I really do. When I'm at work. That's all.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Sometimes I just have to laugh at myself. I really am an idiot. I was on my front porch, black Sharpie pen in hand, laughingly sneering that the crazy yard lady across the street is apparently out of town and is having people come over not to feed/water any pets, but to tend to her yard. She has babysitters for her yard!

I thought that was weird, then I remembered that I was on my way out back with aforementioned Sharpie to remark the grave stones in my kitty graveyard out back.

So who is weird?

Answer: we all are in some way.

(Jason don't look)

In memory:

Miss Kitty

Our sweet sweet baby who deserved so much more life.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Okay. I've never considered procrastination a bad thing, but since I've been caught at it twice in about as many weeks, I figured I'd better get off my lazy butt.

I have completed the package for the agent. It only awaits Jason's label making skills. Which means I tried and failed miserably to figure out how to make big labels. I can make small labels. Really, I can.

I have vacuumed and swept and dusted the entire house. That includes the big chore of vacuuming all the cat hair off of chairs, sofas, cat trees, cat beds, curtains, and hunting down and killing the fist sized hair balls that will someday morph in to actual real live cats one day.

Then I finally finished the big job. The room formerly known as my son's, which is supposed to be a storage-for-his-stuff/guest room. I had it all nice and neat, his things boxed up and labeled. Musical equipment over here, computer equipment over there, clothes here, books, CDs and DVDs there.

Then he came home for ten days.

So, I've repacked, restacked and recleaned the entire room. The cats are happy because I've rotated the box fronts and now they have entirely new surfaces to scratch down to literally nothing.

I have paid bills, I have washed dishes. I have even remembered to take something out of the freezer for dinner. Although I noticed Pennachio's sign said it was "filet and lobster" night tonight. Yumm-O!

I have carried some stuff out to the shed. I have left a pile of stuff for Jason to put up in the attic. I know my limitations and that ladder with these knees and that elbow....don't think so.

I have captured the cats who escaped while I was taking stuff out. Sutu and Thor. Sutu went right back inside when I told him. The guy next door (not the old guy, the guy with the ugly pile o' trash) got treated to the sight of moi in my lovely pink and red polka dot pajama bottoms and hot pink t-shirt standing in the middle of the yard and yelling, "Thor, you better get your skanky kitten ass back in that house right now!" You really do have to yell at him like that. I swear he is the product of some weird science project gone awry. He has a dog brain in a cat body.

But he is sooooooo cute.

Okay. I can begin procrastinating again now.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Why do people get all huffy in traffic along Highway 61? It's 61, dude. No, there is not a wreck ahead slowing things down, this is the way it is. All. The. Time. Stop swinging out to make sure that there is traffic in front of me. Go live some where else if it's going to give you a stroke or at least try to pull off the road before you have it.

Why do I pay good money to let some-one slather hot wax on my eyebrows and rip the hair out by the roots? (Actually there is an answer to this one. It's because while Brooke Shields may be able to get away with the caterpiller eyebrow look, I, being no Brooke Shields, cannot.)

Why do I get all teary eyed when that old couple from around the block go out for "walks" on their matching Hover-rounds?

Why, when presented with a loblolly pine seedling, did I have to warn Jason not to plant it too close to the house or the insurance company will raise the rates or make us cut it down as soon as it gets grown.

Why am I sitting here thinking up why things when I should be finishing the query package for the agent that was recommended to me?

Okay, I'm going now.

Monday, May 01, 2006

My mom bought me a diary for my tenth birthday. It was one of those cloth covered books with the little teeny-tiny sliver key to lock your thoughts away. I recorded the events of my life for two days before I realized I could do better.

I started making up stuff: adventures out on the high desert (we were living in El Paso, Texas at the time), daring rescues of helpless kittens, brave stands against mean teachers, even one sizzling romance in which I handed the object of my affections a note in math class, with the age-old question," "Do you like me? Circle: Yes No Maybe". In my story, the note came back with the "Yes" not only circled, but with two exclamation points.


Then my two older brothers found the key and gained access to my entire body of work. It was shared. With many. You-know-who included. My first critiques were not kind. The worst though, was the editorial review.

The entire story came out after my mom caught me and Mike fighting in the hall. Well, I was fighting, clinging with one hand to his shirt, flailing away madly at his back with the other. He was swinging his body from side to side, bouncing me off the walls, trying to dislodge me.

I was sent to my room for hitting my brother (of all things! He was 15, I was 10. He'd once bounced on my stomach until I threw up!) and pending review of my diary.

Later that day, after my dad got home, I was called to the editorial review board, I mean the kitchen. My parents were concerned. They wanted to know, did I know I was "making up lies" or did I really think these things were true? Since I hadn't made any conscious acknowledgment to myself that I was actually writing fiction, writing essentially what were short stories, it never entered my mind to use that defense. I did my best to explain, that yes, I knew it wasn't true, I was just trying to make my diary more exciting.

I was so ashamed that I sat on my bed and tore every page in the diary in to the smallest bits I physically could. It took me many many years to "come out of the closet" with the fact that I was still writing. And hanging out with other writers. And I liked it and it was a big part of who I am. And I'm not going to stop writing.

I wish writers had a snappy little motto. Maybe I'll write one.