Sunday, September 27, 2009

Healthcare CRISIS!!!! Seriously.

Healthcare Schmealthcare.

Not being political today, folks (that is 2 posts in a row! yay for apartisan me!) - just talking about healthcare. As in health care. As in what happens to a person when the person ends up in the hospital. As in....don't leave anybody you love unattended in a hospital. Because they will be unattended. As in.....totally unattended.

First for the disclaimer: there were perfectly lovely people working at the small-ish hospital where my dad was. Perfectly lovely over-worked and under-staffed people. So there. Now the people at the gigantic Methodome Hospital where my dad didn't go but where I had my last baby? Well.....I'm sure there are nice people there but I have never met one. That was off-topic but it felt nice.

Anyway - my dad tripped on a curb while taking my kid to a concert. Broke his leg and his arm. It was all quite exciting and hysterical (on my part) and then it very quickly became quite un-exciting and quite un-hysterical on the part of everyone else.

The miscommunication that goes on in hospitals is astounding. The non-listening that goes on in hospitals is astounding. The doctors not calling each other back or calling the nurses back and the nurses being afraid to call the doctors and the CNAs being afraid to call the nurses and the massive huge gigantic ridiculous amount of charting and paperwork and computer work and recording work is beyond astounding and results in the hospital's arse being covered at the expense of the arse of the poor patient. In short, if the chart says oxygen was given......even if the patient doesn't have the little nose-thingys in his nose and the oxygen is just basically shooting into the atmosphere because it is hanging on the rail of the bed - out of reach of the patient with the broken arm - it doesn't matter. Because the chart says the patient is on oxygen. It doesn't matter if the patient receives the oxygen - what matters is that the chart says the patient is receiving the oxygen. That way - if the patient dies from lack of oxygen - all the grown-ups in the room (or the dum dum dummmmmm courtroom) will look at the chart and see that it says the patient was given oxygen and then everything is settled except for the fact that the patient is dead.

When my dad had not received breakfast (for the second day in a row) I went to the nurses' station and said, "My dad has not received his breakfast." And the nurse did not say, "Oh my! I believe you! After all - you would know if your dad has received breakfast since you've been here all night.....let me take care of that RIGHT NOW." Instead, she typed something into the computer, looked at the screen, and said, "He received breakfast today." Done. Go away. I am a Busy Person taking care of people via this here computer. As you might imagine, my dad was quite relieved to hear that he had had his breakfast because the computer said so. That little nano-byte was quite filling.

We laughed a lot in the hospital. Because, except for the fact that his life was hanging in the balance and he was quite uncomfortable, it was a very entertaining experience. It was quite amusing...the whole nonsensical hospital care thing.

I have found that we often react to stress around here with humor. Often tasteless humor. We can't help ourselves. The kids and I made a card for my dad that exhibited the kind of tasteless humor I'm talking about. We used a little inside joke from the only Sarah Silverman episode my dad ever saw. Sarah is known for being tasteless. I heart her. *another disclaimer - we do NOT sit around watching Sarah Silverman with our little kids.

So, on the show Sarah is volunteering at a nursing home and she tells the patients, "You're not cold. You're just dying." My dad loves that line and uses it often. Since he and I had frozen our rears off the first night in the hospital - I thought it would be an appropriate Hallmark line for a get-well card. So we put an adorable kitten on the front of the card and Sarah Silverman's face inside and it said, of course, "You're not cold. You're just dying."

I cannot tell you how many nurses and CNAs were drawn to this adorable kitten only to open up the card and then look at me as if I were Hitler.

*speaking of how cold it was in there - we mentioned to a CNA that our teeth were chattering and she looked at the thermostat on the wall and proclaimed, "It is 95 in here." Since we could see our breath we asked for blankets, anyway. Even though, you know, it was 95. Because the thermostat said so.

Being the good daughter that I am, I often tried to comfort my dad by reminding him of just how lucky he was. I would say something like, "Perk up! So you have a broken leg and a broken arm. At least the healthcare bill hasn't passed. Because dude - if it had passed? Well, let's just say that if anyone looked like they were a candidate for a death squad it would be you."

This, of course, would cheer him up immensely. "Hey," I'd tell him. "No problem. That's what I'm here for."

So. Back to Daddy. He came through the surgery brilliantly. He has a great surgeon who looks like your average high school quarterback. And he loves what he does. In fact, when he talks about what he does he can barely contain himself. And when you think about what he does and the instruments he uses to do it (many of which can probably be found in the tool shed behind the house) his unbridled enthusiasm is creepy. And kind of adorable. But I must say that I am happy he is an orthopedic surgeon because I'm pretty sure his only other career option would have been serial killer.

When inpatient rehab was brought up my old man pulled an Amy Winehouse. He didn't want to go. No. No. But he did go and that is where he currently is and believe me - this situation would need another blog post. A Big One. Maybe later. Right now? I am exhausted from all of this institutionalized care and excitement.

Signing off as a Sardine Daughter

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Ye of Little Faith...That's Me

Even though the temptation is killing me, I am NOT going to write about Healthcare Reform OR just how much money I should send to Rob Miller OR the failed Child Indoctrination Plan unsuccessfully executed by the President of the United States of America (at least it failed here in Texas where most schools refused to show the address - but truly - we're considering secession - so maybe we're not really a good example of mainstream Americana).

Anyway - YES you can breathe a big old sigh of RELIEF because I am not writing about politics today. I am going to talk about religion, instead. And just in case you're tensing up again, you should know that I LOVE religion.

I love Religion so much that it has been very hard for me to leave it behind in order to pursue my own spiritual path. But leave it behind I have. And it is working really well for me.

I was raised without religion and rebelled by becoming Catholic for a few years. It didn't stick.

However, I am still drawn to religious people. Really Religious People. I'm not talking about people who subscribe to a narrow set of ideals and values that they believe should be strictly applied to everyone. I'm not talking about the proclaimers, the witnesses, or the evangelizers. I am not drawn to them. In fact, I am somewhat appalled and repelled.

I'm talking about religious souls who derive such peace, pleasure, spark, rapture, tranquility and sincerity from their faith that they just leak it from every pore. They aren't concerned with judging me as I experience my own journey, or with influencing me except through the joy and devotion of their own lives. They know who they are. They assume I know who I am. They don't need to tell me who I am or who I should be. They don't attempt to share their versions of God or the Universe, except for their generous acts of charity. I love these people. The result is that I have rarely met a priest I didn't love (okay - there are a couple...the one that comes to mind is a guy who taught a course about Catholicism at a Catholic university I briefly attended...the course was required and he was pissed about it...he didn't want to talk to non-Catholics, he apparently hated young people in general, and he was sexually frustrated on top of it and I really only remember him yelling, with spittle and the whole bit, that our genitals were not our playthings).

I adore nuns and since I have never attended parochial schools I have never met a mean one. Most of the ones I have met are feminist hell-raisers trying to recognize the Feminine Divine...also probably just a tad pissed off that they can't be priests. A few I've met were merry and charming...some were peaceful and serene and motherly.

I'm not just hung up on Catholicism, although I SOOO dig the standing and the kneeling and the candles and the rote prayers and the crossing and the Latin singing and other neato stuff (I like rituals VERY much). I have friends who are ministers of one sort or another....Presbyterian, Methodist, Lutheran, and Mennonite. I have two friends currently in seminary. I love and appreciate what their religions mean to them.

Gospel music makes me cry. Give me a Black Baptist minister and the beautiful sing-song of his tirade and I am in Heaven. Unitarians make me warm and fuzzy. I am all-inclusive.

My inclusiveness, of course, embraces non-Christian traditions. When I see a Rabbi I want to pinch his cheeks and hug him and break out into Hava Nagila while spinning around the room. I want a yarmulke.

Muslims? I want to sit on my knees and face Mecca and pray. I want to stop everything I'm doing several times a day to remember my connection with God. I want to be devoted and humbled. I want to fast for Ramadan. I once listened to an Imam "preach" (sorry, don't know what else to call it) and his speech bore the remnants of the Sunday Southern gospels he'd obviously experienced in his childhood...and I was so moved and so thrilled and so excited that I turned to my husband and said, "That's it! I'm a Muslim!" But of course, I'm not. I'm not anything. And the following moment I found myself equally enchanted by the glory and magic of a Hindu musical performance by lovely young girls with jewels on their foreheads (this was at a celebration in honor of Gandhi). And I was entranced.

And nothing but NOTHING makes me happier than a Buddhist monk. Seriously, folks. How could they not make you happy? I listened to a Rinpoche chant/sing in that really really really low thing they do. I was hooked. Monks, I have discovered, are not chatty. And since I feel the need to pick up the slack for non-chatty types I appear somewhat insane around monks.....on and on and on I go....only pausing to take a deep breath and swallow now and then, thereby demonstrating my lack of inner peace (and quiet - internally i am a very noisy person).

I don't discriminate against New-Ager's, either. I want to sit at the feet of Eckhart Tolle while he espouses the power of Now. But just for a moment because Now eludes me pretty much constantly. Well, not constantly. I have my moments of presence now and again.

I've never met one, but I'm sure I would be enamored by a Pagan Priestess. I would want to kiss the flowers in her hair and smell the earth on her skin.

I want to whirl with a Dervish, chant, sweat, and drum with a Shaman, and bathe in the moon beams of a Solstice night....radiating in the love of a Celtic goddess. Likewise, I want to clap with the choir in a full gospel church, cry throughout the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday, and wash the feet of my children on Holy Thursday. I want to feel the thickly incensed air of Midnight Mass.

I might do some of these could I resist? But I will forever wear the "My Name Is..." visitor's tag. I'm the perpetual religious visitor. I'm the guest of graciousness.

I want it all and I think that might be why I can't seem to have any of it. One faith doesn't have more merit than the others to me. While they share many Universal Truths...there are still the eternal meddlesome differences that hang me up. In truth - while I admire them - I don't believe in any of them. And if I were going to believe, I would have to pick just one....because that is really the way it works. And if I really admit the truth here - it is this: Much as I want to be devoted to God - I am not. I am not sure Who/What God is. I have, thus far, been unable to find Him/Her/It. I am currently not looking. That is usually when you find things, anyway. When you're not really looking.

Oh sure, I see "God" in my children and the sunset and the quiet rise and fall of the puppy's little chest while she sleeps.....that is all very sweet in a greeting card sort of way; but that is not the God I sought. I wanted The Proof. I wanted the Burning Bush. I wanted to know how a world with so many different religions, each believing that it alone has all the answers, is supposed to keep from blowing itself up. I wanted to know how a world inhabited by so many beings whose first priority is their own comfort and well-being, can ignore the fact that if there IS a God - surely He/She/It doesn't want us to destroy ourselves by destroying our one and only habitat. I wanted the answers to the age-old questions....why am I here....why is there suffering....where will I go when I leave.....Knowing that the religions of the World all claim the answers to these questions simply results in my believing none of them. About these answers, anyway. For these answers? I want to hear from God Him/Her/Itself. Which is unlikely. At least for now.

It was Andre Gide who said, "Believe those who seek the truth; doubt those who find it."

I am a seeker. But I doubt myself every bit as much as those who have found their truths. That is the nature of the seeking. And the seeking has worn me out; hence the "no longer seeking and hoping it just falls on top of me while I sit here typing" angle I'm currently working.

So for now, I'll sit on the sidelines and admire those who have found their answers. They inspire me. They make me happy with their costumes, customs, rituals, and holidays. I am happy FOR them. But I accept the fact that I just can't seem to pick a team. Maybe I'm not a team player. It seems that religion is more of a spectator sport where I'm concerned. And I enjoy watching it...with curiosity and respect and joy....knowing that it isn't mine and never will be.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Back in the Can for a Texas Tradition

This is the floor of my van - just behind the front seats. Yes, it is disgusting. And yes, that is the tail of a wiener dog among the debris.

Luckily - the rest of the dog was poking out the other side of the seat. It would be gross to just have a tail and no dog.

We were all piled in the van like....well....sardines in a can. Me, Jeff, five kids, one grandpa, and two dogs. Pulling the old travel trailer towards a place that is a big summer tradition for a good number of Texas families....Garner State Park.

Garner is an awesome park. It is one of the most popular parks in this here state of Texas. It is named for John Nance Garner (known as Cactus Jack) of Uvalde. He was US vice-president from 1934 - 36. Situated along the beautifully clear and sparkling Frio River, just a few miles outside of the massive town of Concan, Texas (population about 300 give or take), and about 30 miles outside of Uvalde, Texas (where my mom grew up) - it has about 1,420 acres of beautiful land. And yes, the Frio River is muy frio. You've got to dive in. Wading in won't get you past the nipples. You have to just go for it. For those of you who live in states where you have not had triple digit temps for 57 days in a row? Yes - we are wimps when it comes to cold water. We don't have snow melts here or anything like that. Our claim to fame is our Frio River - which you would probably only consider mildly refreshing. But we are used to swimming in tepid swimming pools. So cut us and our goosebumps a little slack.
Anyway - the park was established in 1941 and we are proud of it. There is a dance hall - my own mama danced there as a teen - and everybody takes to the floor. All throughout the campground, on the weekends, you can hear the music. That is a cool experience but we prefer to go to the park when it is empty. As in the first week of school.
And that is what we did.
We literally had our area of the campground (there are many) to ourselves. Peaceful? Not really. We had 5 kids, a grandpa, and 2 dogs with us. But it was very, very, very nice. And just what I needed.

We hiked to Crystal Cave. We swam in the Frio and napped on her banks. We swung from ropes and splashed into the deep, green pools. We made a fishing pole and tried to catch fish. We snorkeled and pretended to be Jacques Cousteau (okay, maybe that was just me). We dreamed. We climbed ancient cypress trees. We ate Jeff's delicioso carne guisada under the stars while sipping some vhino verde. We roasted the obligatory marshmallows. We were not attacked by zombies in the lonely, deserted campground, although Joel made sure everyone had considered the possibility. We had a run-in with a skunk that merely resulted in Papa and Daddy quickly vacating the campfire...skunk seemed unaffected. He had apparently run into papas and daddies, before - just lookin' for some crumbs.

Here are some pics - in no particular order

And this one? Is my favorite picture.

Happy Back to School Everybody!
Signing off as a Refreshed Sardine Mama