Friday, June 22, 2012

Rumors of My Demise

have been exaggerated. I am still alive and reasonably well. I've just been busy, and much has been happening. In 2011, my father, my uncle, and my beloved Dachshund, Gus, passed away within the space of  4 months. My employer went out of business, and the job offer I had fell through. My best friend in Memphis, Joe, and I grew apart to the point that we went for weeks without speaking. I spent the next eight months looking for a job and working as a temp.

On February 4 of this year, my mother became extremely short of breath. I rushed her to the hospital at about 10pm because her breathing didn't sound right. I got them to come and get her in a wheelchair so I could drive across the parking lot to the spots for ER patients. By the time I got inside (less than 5 minutes) she was on the table with 7 people standing around her. I felt like I had just walked into an episode of "Trauma: Life in the ER." She proceeded to have a massive coronary on the table. Her lungs were filled with fluid, and she had a urinary tract infection. Her kidneys were not able to work sufficiently to draw the fluid off her lungs, even with the help of strong diuretics. She had to go on dialysis for 5 weeks. Her heart rate was erratic for the first 2 weeks, so she kept going through the revolving door from the ICU to the step down unit and back again. After 3 weeks in the normal hospital, she went to the rehab hospital for 2 weeks because her heart was so weak, she couldn't walk without assistance. She still needs a cardiac bypass, but the cardiac surgeon decided that she needed more time for her body to gain strength. She has to wear an external defibrillator at all times in case her heart goes into arrythmia. It's funny how you can get up one morning, think your parent looks ill, spend you day trying to persuade her to get medical treatment, and not know that 24 hours later your life will have changed irrevocably. If we could see the future, most of us couldn't cope.

Of course, I had to catch bronchitis and get so sick that I ended up in the ER. I spent 4 days in bed with fever, wheezing, aches and pains, etc. I did manage to stay hydrated with broth and Sprite. I spent most of that time in a cough-syrup induced coma punctuated by trips to the bathroom and calls from my oldest and best friend who was a great source of support through that time. I am so thankful for my friend Gary. He has been loyal and steady since we were 6 years old.

Mom is home now and improving a little every day, but her activity is still very restricted. I am trying to work, manage a household, and keep all the daily business of housekeeping done, so it doesn't leave much time for indulging in creative efforts. Also, with all that has happened, my creativity seems to be shriveled up like a TV dinner pea.

I still miss Gus every day. After 17 years, I acutely feel the absence of the comfort I got from his presence.  I know his is still with me in spirit, but it is hard not to have him with me physically. He was a constant source of love and support for me, and he gave me more strength than I realized. He died in my arms on an April night when I got home from work. Even at the end, he was loyal. He didn't go before I could say goodbye to him. He had gotten to the point where he could no longer walk on his own. He still didn't want to abandon his house training, so I would lie him on a puppy pad. When he used it, he would whine to let us know so we could change it. I wish I could have done more for him. It happened at a time when I had no resources to use to help him. He didn't deserve that sort of life in his golden years. I still have Cash, the dog Joe gave me, and I love him dearly, but I'll never have another dog like Gus. 

I wish I could do more for my mom, too. I am scared by the prospect of my mother having heart surgery. It is a HUGE surgery, involving breaking bones in the chest, cutting into the heart and the large veins near it, and sometimes involving incisions in the arm or leg to get a vein. The patients have to remain entubated after surgery, and they can have dementia like symptoms if the heart is stopped and they are put on a heart-lung bypass machine. I am a terrible caregiver, so I am not sure I am up to the task.

I have learned now that I am officially middle-aged. I have had to accept the fact that things can happen to people (and pets) that I love, and I cannot stop them. I have had to wrestle with choosing not the best alternative, but the best alternative out of a group of shitty alternatives from which no one would want to choose. I have learned that losing a loyal pet is worse than losing a friend or a lover. We lose friends and lovers all the time. While we think the world revolves around this, it really doesn't. I miss Gus a thousand times more than I've ever missed Joe. People come and go in our lives, but our pets remain constant as long as we treat them properly. I have had to make things work when there aren't enough hours in the day, enough strength left in my body, or enough concentration left in my mind to cope. Somehow, you get through it. You can eat salad from fast food restaurants every day because most days, you don't realize what you're eating anyway. You make it to the end of the day even when you think the first thing you want to do when you get in the house is crawl in your bed and pass out even before it gets dark. You can load the dishwasher when you feel like you can't stay awake for another second. You can get up 15 times in a row at one minute intervals to get someone things they want when you could have gotten up once and completed the  list the first time. Just consider all the exercise you're getting by jumping back up as soon as your butt hits the couch. It costs a lot less than a gym membership. To me, these are things that can only be accomplished by the middle-aged. It takes time and experience and patience to cope with such things. Young people cannot cope with the lack of control. Young people want to be certain of everything. Much of life, I have learned, is not at all certain. You have to tolerate the ambiguity.

I still miss my Uncle Vernon every day, too. Out of all my mom's brothers, he was the one who was most like a dad to everyone. All us wayward kids who had an absent parent sort of gravitated toward him. His house was always a kid-friendly place. You didn't have to worry about getting dirt on anything, forgetting to put your stuff away, or falling asleep on the couch. He didn't get mad if we were painting the fence for him and we got more paint on each other than we got on the fence. As we got older, he taught us the value of a good work ethic and how to make decisions by listing the good and bad things about each choice and deciding logically based on how we felt about the criteria. He was a good, family man, and I never heard anyone say a bad word about him. I can still hardly talk about him without crying. I couldn't tell you how many times in the past year and a half that I have picked up the phone and started to dial his number for our five minute conversation (he rarely talked on the phone more than five minutes) and have had to stop because I remembered he is no longer there. I have wanted to be strong and support my cousins during this time, but I have failed at this. Every time I try to comfort them, I end up blubbering with them comforting me.

My dad--there's a subject. We were never close. I always felt like my grandpa and my uncles were more like fathers to me than he was. He wasn't a bad man, just one who put his own needs and happiness ahead of everyone else's. For a long time, I thought I hated him, but I never really did. For most of my life, I just felt indifferent about him. By the time I realized it, he already had another family, and my mom's family was MY family. So, whose fault is this lack of a relationship? Mine? His? God's? I kind of felt like he was the adult and the parent. Maybe he should have been the one who tried harder to have a relationship with me. But, for almost 30 years of that time, I was an adult, too, so was it my responsibility? Was it no one's fault? Does there have to be blame? It was what it was. We didn't hate each other, so I suppose that's a positive thing. I had hoped that we could at least be friends. However, he died of a massive coronary at the dinner table at the age of 66, so I can't get that chance back.

Work--it's a good thing. I don't have the world's best job or the best pay rate, but I LOVE pharmacy. When I get up in the morning and go to work, I know there is nothing else I'd rather do. Dealing with the people sucks sometimes, but how many people can get to middle age and say that they have spent most of their working life doing something they truly enjoy???? I am glad I was out of a job when I was because it made me available to my mom when she needed me. It also gave me time to grieve without having to worry about whether I was being nice enough to people. Sometimes people expect more than they're entitled to expect in terms of ass kissing. I am glad to be back at work, though, because it keeps my mind focused and I feel like I make a difference. It gives me a break from being a caregiver at home, and it keeps my life balanced. When I get tired there, I get to come home, and when I get tired of home, I know I'll have to go to work.

Well, that's pretty much where I am and why I started this blog and then abandoned it. I don't know that I am capable, at this point, of writing anything anyone would want to read. All of this sounds like too much drama. Who needs the Soap Opera Network when you can read the saga of Shakespeare's Cousin? Who wants either? I do appreciate your friendship and support. I do feel better for having written this, even though posting it and inflicting it on others should probably be illegal. I think Mercutio has been doing a great job with the blog. I am thankful for his friendship and for the diverse content he brings to the blog. Thanks for being my online friends. I will try to post more when I'm in a better frame of mind. Now I am going to go fall into bed and, hopefully, be comatose in the next ten minutes. My little dog is snoozing on the recliner footrest, so it's time for bed. Nite!!!

Friday, April 13, 2012

The May-Apple

This is a group of May-apples, also known as the American mandrake.

You can see one tiny flower over to the right. It's quite a beautiful flower, really, though each plant produces only one.

The leaf is one broad radial shape. Most are nine-pointed, though there is some variance.

The plant produces a lemon-flavored fruit about mid-summer.

We'll check in on the May-apples from time to time to see how they're doing.

More on the May-apple to be found here.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

From a Skeptic’s View: The Media and the Right

This item is cross-posted at Publius’ Forum.

I’m something of a skeptic, and especially so where politics is concerned. I’m aware that both the Left and the Right misrepresent themselves to some degree, and political advertisements are exactly that— advertisements with political content— and their objective is the same as any other advertisement— they’re trying to get something out of you.

So, I really didn’t take it seriously when I heard complaints about how the mainstream media (MSM) is biased against Republicans.

I’m no partisan, and I’ve always been a split-ticket voter. I consider the person to be of greater importance than their party affiliation. Locally, the big election is for County Coroner, and I don’t see it as particularly important if a Democrat or a Republican does that job.

Historically, I was a lifelong Democrat, up until about 2007 or so. A lot of that had to do with my concern with local politics rather than at the national level; and frankly, I didn’t pay attention all that much. I was a fairly typical blue dog Democrat, and I fit the profile.

My first big break with the Democratic Party was when I was in a forum with a group of “progressives,” and they were advocating an end to equitable representation of racial minorities. This might sound odd to some of you, but they wanted to push their agenda on abortion, and racial minorities tend to be a bit more socially conservative. I found that to be nothing short of monstrous. But the experience clued me in that the Left means what they say only long enough to argue for a specific policy position, after which no one knows what position they may take. And my skepticism was on red alert.

Later, I came to the understanding that the Left’s use of the word “Tolerance” entailed believing whole-heartedly and without question each and every policy position as they themselves did. The moment I exercised any manner of independent thought on any subject, I could no longer be “tolerant.”

As noted previously, I’m a fairly typical blue dog. I’m a blue collar worker, and a journeyman in a trade union. I supported Gov. John Kasich’s (Ohio) position against public employee unions more than that of Gov. Scott Walker (Wisconsin), because Kasich included police officers and firefighters as well as public employees and teachers. Anyone with a passing knowledge of labor history will understand this as the old split in the AFL and the CIO from 1935 - 1955. Unions have been a part of America since 1609, but they really picked up steam during the years of the industrial revolution; and not only the counter the excesses of the robber barons, but those of the government as well. I see it as extremely distasteful that public employees (including teachers, police, firefighters, and postal employees), the ground troops of Team Gov, should be unionized. It’s nothing short of subversive to both our government and our unions.

I don’t care for FOX news. I find Hannity to be nothing other than a party tool, and a grasping one at that; contrived. I find Glenn Beck to be nothing other than a clown. But I like Bill O’Reilly. I had a very good friend that encouraged me to watch his show, because she said that we were a lot alike. I didn’t believe it, because I had already bought into the hype about him. But I watched his show, and I do like him. I don’t watch anymore, because I don’t own a TV. But O’Reilly and I tend to view things in much the same way. A notable instance is the recent Rush/Fluke hubbub, where I referred to Fluke as a “stooge.” In talking with my friend, I found that O’Reilly had much the same thoughts, but referred to Fluke as a “pawn.” So, even without watching his show, I still come to pretty much the same conclusions independently.

I feel fairly confident in stating that I don’t believe that Mr. O’Reilly would consider me to be “intolerant” due to the fact that I considered the facts independently and came to my own conclusions.

As I said, I never did believe this whole thing about Left-wing bias in the mainstream media. I get a lot of my news from NPR and the BBC, and from the internet (Yahoo news) and various newspapers. As stated by commenter kenB at the League of Ordinary Gentlemen:
FWIW, speaking as an avid NPR listener, I can hear the liberalness in almost every program, including ATC and Morning Edition. I trust NPR to be careful with the facts, but the reporters’ background assumptions leak into the interviews, the way that they present the R vs D points and rebuttals, the story selection etc. And obviously many of the non-news programs are unapologetic about their politics.

I didn’t always notice this — it was only once I started regularly visiting non-liberal blogs/sites and questioning many of my own prior political beliefs that I recognized those same beliefs at play elsewhere.
This is very much in keeping with my own experience. I would note that the selection of topics often displays a bias as well.

There have been a number of events over the past two months that have made me a believer in the concept of media bias on a large scale. From what I can tell, they have gotten away with it for so long that they really don’t see a need to pretend about it anymore. And it’s sort of tough to convince a skeptic like me.

I would like to look at those news items over the last two months that inclined me to alter my view, explain in brief my own positions in these matters, and then look at other egregious examples over the past ten years. I believe that anyone with any degree of objectivity would come to the same conclusion.

The Rush/Fluke thing was sort of obvious. It was very much contrived. Where the Clinton administration in 1997 was encouraging churches to extend their community outreach into other areas, a policy which continued under the following Bush administration, with the incoming Obama administration we saw the articles of faith of those churches violated in extraordinary ways, and for the sake of Leftist political agendas, again and again. The first item of note was the decision in Illinois that Catholic Charities must make referrals to same-sex couples in their adoption services— a decision that led to them suspending all adoption services. Forcing penalties for not providing contraceptive coverage in their health insurance was just another step in the government takeover of the churches. And I want to say: Thank God for Senator Roy Blunt for standing up to this sort of government over-reach. As noted in his speech before the vote on the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act, there was nothing in the bill that each and every member of the Senate, except for its newest members, hadn’t already voted in favor of before.

To recap, there were three primary principles at play here. One is the separation of church and state as guaranteed in the First Amendment. Where the doors of the church stand, the United States of America ends and the Kingdom of God begins. There is no overlap between those two jurisdictions. The second is that of positive liberties vs. negative liberties. Basically stated, negative liberty is the view that people (meaning government) need to leave me alone to do what I want to do, while positive liberties refer to the view that someone needs to bend over backwards to kiss my butt because the world is so unfair. The third is the wholesale destruction of all social institutions other than government, which is part and parcel with the Leftist agenda; that government should take over the role of the church, the role of the family, et al, until no other social institution would stand other than the government. They believe that this is the only means that “fairness” may be obtained. The conservative view is to be distrustful of the government; that these other social institutions are needed to provide a counter-balance to the power structures, and that these other social institutions produce desirable benefits in and of themselves.

So, granted, there is more to it that simply the issue of religious freedom. There was never anyone in favor of preventing people from purchasing contraceptives or obtaining a policy that would cover them— it was all about requiring that someone else should make that purchase.

Now, the great over-arching theme that Democrats have been spouting, and that the MSM has picked up, is the “Republican War on Women.” What a crock! Even when Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus stated quite plainly that this was not the case, those words were turned against him by the typical Left-wing hacks in their contrived disregard for any element of the truth.

Before we go on here, let us look back in order to realize that, even though the contemporary “progressive” movement pretty much began with the Port Huron Statement and is not related to the progressive movement of the early 1900’s, abortion was high on the list of policy objectives for those early progressives, although in the form of eugenics (along with, as noted in the article linked, a graduated income tax, restrictions on immigration, prohibition, and women's suffrage).

But let us not forget that eugenics was always at the heart of the abortion movement in the US. It’s the very same movement as today; they’ve just changed their line of reasoning a little bit.

While former the governor of Kansas, Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, was diligently ensuring that Kansas would elect a Republican as their next governor, Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) was quoted in the New York Times as stating that:
Republicans were attacking women’s health care as part of “a systematic war against women.”
Shortly thereafter, the ink began to fly concerning how Republicans have lost women voters, and the president played up to this by hosting a conference on women and employment.

But this didn’t occur in a vacuum. At the same time, ABC news was reporting that married women favored Republicans, while single women favored Democrats. There’s nothing unusual about that; it’s been that way for a long time. Also fairly standard is that men who identify as independent tend to vote Republican, while women that identify as independent tend to vote for the Democrat.

There’s a lot more material to cover here, but the post has run on too long. I will continue on in Part Two, which will be posted at Publius’ Forum tomorrow, and at this site a week from now.

In Part Two, we will look at some of the news items that led me to the conclusions stated here, and at their over-arching themes; including the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fl., Mike Daisey’s profile of Chinese manufacturers, Climategate, the inherent dishonesty of Paul Krugman and some basic economic fundamentals, social Darwinism, opposition to science (including pesticides, BPA, breast implants, and genetically-modified foods), the “precautionary principle”, Larry Summers and Newt Gingrich.

As I said, with the abundance of evidence at hand, I believe that anyone with even a passing interest in objectivity would come to the same conclusion.