Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Taking on Big Problems

I want to thank fellow blogger Snowflake for her latest post on how no one has the market cornered on problems. I will be the first to admit that it takes me a while to actually talk about my problems unless they are relatively minor and have to do with some day-to-day complaint. Usually my husband is an easy target, especially when he is acting like my supposedly non-existent fourth child, but so I digress. This last year has been a challenging one in our community and 2010, in many ways, does not seem to be off to a better start for some. In and amidst all of these goings on, we somehow manage to stay on course. Nothing big has plagued our family, thank God and I really have more than my share to be thankful for. It does not mean that I do not have problems. Just because they aren't big doesn't mean that they aren't there. I think that it is easy in the midst of big problems to talk about them with people that you might feel are not experiencing this depth of problem themselves. Gee, I hope that made sense. Probably this is a good idea since talking about them with someone who has the similar depth of problems may lead to wallowing and one upmanship and could just get downright uncomfortable.

This last year has taught me much about myself and how I handle and react to problems and stress in the lives of others. Often I can be a very good listener and I hope an understanding one, because I have learned how to take care of me. If I forget what I need I can quickly feel overburdened. I used to think that I could actually help people solve their problems and help them find a plan. In this last year, many of the problems that I have faced with friends have been so monumentally big and so impossible to solve that I have learned that one doesn't always need a plan. In fact, a plan might often not be forthcoming for months or even years in some cases.

If there is one thing that I want to be remembered for at the end of my life it is that I was a good friend. Sometimes I realize that I am not and no one ever is, there are limitations. I can listen, I can support, I don't need to internalize everything, I can take a breather and still be a good friend. This is the best that I can offer and in the end, most of the time, it is probably enough.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Feeling Grown Up

Although I am chronologically an adult, often I feel like an older adolescent or very young adult at heart. When I look in the mirror I realize that this is not true. Sometimes after pausing to look at myself closely, I have to ask myself the inevitable, self-examining question that I am sure most adults ask of themselves at least once in a lifetime, "What have I done with my life?'

Today I did a very grown up thing and bought a ticket to a rather large fundraising luncheon to take place here in my small home city next month. The organization, PACE, is raising funds to build a large performing arts center here where I live. Initially I decided to purchase a ticket and go because a friend of mine is hosting a table and invited me.

Then I had another one of those moments in the mirror and realized that maybe I should find out more about this organization and see if I might want to get involved. It turns out that I could really get behind this organization. When I was younger, I always thought that I would be more of a hands-on person, doing the labor with the people so to speak. Now I am thinking that maybe I might be a bit more interested in getting involved from the fundraising end and getting experience in a more adult role. some point I might actually even join a board.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Warm Fuzzies

"How to Train your Dragon" is a great movie, especially for kids. I will be the first to admit that I am not what you would call a "warm, fuzzy" person, but this movie left me feeling that way. The messages about peace and understanding over war and fighting were terrifically presented in this feature, great messages for kids and adults to see over and over again. The hero of the story, "Hiccup," does not fit in with his viking heritage. The vikings are at war with the dragons and Hiccup can't seem to fight them. When presented with an easy opportunity to kill a dragon, he finds that he is unable to do that either. Through his unique relationship with an injured dragon, Hiccup comes to learn more about dragons and understand them. He realizes that they are not the monsters that his people have depicted for generations. Through a series of daring events, Hiccup is able to help the vikings understand the dragons so that the two sides can live in harmony together. Not a bad way to spend an early Saturday afternoon.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

What's Wrong with those Lyrics?

Actually my daughter didn't ask that (What's wrong with those lyrics?) when we had the discussion tonight about how pretty much none of Lady GaGa's song lyrics are appropriate for a school talent show or for anyone under about high school age for that matter. Like most children in elementary school, my daughter has been exposed to some of Lady GaGa's less obvious tunes, minus that little diddy about the sick beat and riding on a disco stick of course. Part of the reason she has heard some of the music is that it has been played for her in the homes of other children. She has, thankfully, missed the inappropriate message in "Let's Dance." You know the "hidden" message about being drunk out of one's mind and barely able to stumble around the dance floor. It is too bad that the song is about drunkenness and dance floor sex because the beat is incredible and really does make you want to dance. I told her that I was really sorry that "Let's Dance" is about being drunk and "Paparazzi" is about a stalker and neither would probably pass muster with the school as talent show dance material. She is beginning to think that my idea of sticking with "old tunes" from the 70's (like she did last year) may not be such a bad idea after all.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Oh Sting Why?

Why would a beautiful man like Sting ever do this to himself? Grow the abundant facial hair I mean. He looks like a lumberjack! I know that he had this "look" when marketing his new Christmas CD last December, I do so hope that it is gone by now!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Health Care Changes, Here to Stay?

Obama has done it. He has signed national healthcare reform into action, now he can claim to have done something big and significant as part of his presidency. I was concerned that I wouldn't like the reform at all. My family is spoiled in that we have a great insurance plan and I don't want it tampered with in any way. I realize that I am in the minority of Americans in this regard. Much of the reform will actually be helpful to my job. Especially the part that won't let insurance companies deny coverage for a pre-existing condition in children. I am very disappointed that there isn't more reform in regards to mental health care which is in a perfectly deplorable state in this country. Having navigated the ins and outs of mental health coverage, or lack thereof, with a friend of mine trying to get services for her mentally ill husband, I know more about the need for reform in this area because I have seen the paucity of it first hand.

I must say that I am not overly thrilled with the notion of people being penalized for not having health insurance and I am wondering if health care providers will be required to provide services for those on less than premium plans. As far as I can tell, this new bill makes no provision for what health care providers are required to provide and not provide. Whether we like it or not, health care is a for profit industry and if the government plan does not provide good monetary returns, there are undoubtedly many health care providers who will be unwilling to provide for those with such coverage. Molina and DSHS are good examples of that now. As far as I know, the private rehabilitation clinic that I work in is the only one in this vicinity to provide care for Molina patients. Even at that, we don't take on too many. At a 33% reimbursement for services, most private companies can't afford to.

The other concern that I have is the cut back in medicare payments to hospitals, home health agencies, and skilled nursing facilities. In skilled nursing facilities especially, it is quite challenging to find quality help that stays employed with the facility for any length of time. Reducing medicare payments to hospitals may result in more "drive through" care for the elderly. While it is true that we need to reduce costs and spending, it is also true that the elderly get sick more than the rest of the population and often require the most in terms of health care. Any cut backs in this area concern me because the aged and infirm are some of the most vulnerable of our population.

Although this may be a good start, in some ways, for a full-system overhaul, it still leaves many loop holes and, I think, opportunities for health care providers to mismanage and short change care in an effort to make the bottom line. Some of my biggest complaints with our current system are that health insurance companies are often in charge of medical decisions and these decisions are made only in terms of cost, the job of insurance companies at present seems to be avoiding payment for services, CEO's and managers in the insurance system are, in my opinion, overpaid when compared to those providing direct health care, COBRA payments following loss of employment are astronomically ridiculous, and too many middle class workers cannot afford or qualify to receive benefits. Additionally, with the new healthcare legislation, I see the Cadillac taxation policy on higher end insurance plans having a negative effect on union employees who desperately need good plans. There is also the potential issue of employers providing better and better benefits in lieu of salary increases.

Representatives across the country are already revved up to fight the new legislation based on constitutional concerns. If one part of the new legislation were to change or be removed, the entire plan will topple so it is kind of a house of cards at the moment. Meanwhile I will be waiting to see if this landmark legislation does anything to improve the morals of the insurance industry, if that happens, I won't be disappointed.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Three by Dove and One by Quijada

My eldest daughter and I went to the ballet last night. We had great seats. She takes ballet and I thought it time for her to see something more cutting edge than "The Sleeping Beauty," "Swan Lake," or "The Nutcracker." Those are all good ballets to watch when done well, but it was time to mix it up so to speak.

Ulysses Dove was an independent choreographer who combined modern dance and ballet flawlessly in my opinion. The first Dove vignette entitled "Vespers" was based on memories of Dove's grandmother and the women that she worshipped with in a small wooden building. The dance was modern and balletic at the same time and involved quite a bit of balancing and coordinated dance movements using wooden chairs as props.

The next dance entitled "Red Angels" used only four dancers, usually on-stage two at a time, and clothed in red leotards. Dove chose red for this number because for him "...the angels of the senses are red." Thrilling and athletic with a bit of the demon vs. angel thrown in. My only complaint, it was too short.

"Serious Pleasures" was the last dance performed. It was described in the program as "a merciless battle between spirit and flesh." I should add, layers of sexuality that thankfully went over the head of my ten-year-old. This may sound odd, but the set and dance moves were part underground gay bar and S&M dungeon, but in a pleasing and aesthetic way although I know that must be very difficult to imagine.
Victor Quijada is an artistic director and choreographer mostly of hip hop and to see hip hop and ballet combined was quite an original experience. The stage was "stripped." All of the staging curtains were up, exposing behind stage lights, ladders, scaffolding and such and the dancers wore street clothes. The stage began to curtain towards the end of the dance and was fully curtained when the dancers moved off of the stage.

I am one of those people who is really moved by certain types of artistic expression. Often I am moved by different kinds of dance. Generally I am moved in some way or another by artistic expression in any form as long as it is well-done.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

This Movie Broke My Heart...

I watched this movie the other night courtesy of Netflix instant play, thanks Maryam and Suzanne for the recommendation. This was one of the darkest and most gritty movies that I have ever seen. It takes place in Romania in 1987 and it is about abortion. In 1987 I was dimly aware of the social/political situation in Romania only because I was in college at the time and read the lesser known newspapers. Several things stood out in this film, the first being the relationship between these two young women and what the one went through for her friend who was seeking the abortion. The other was the lack of privacy in all levels of society experienced by these people. From what I have read, Romania was experiencing a severe housing shortage at the time, medical care was limited, abortion was illegal and women were being forced to carry every pregnancy to term and encouraged by a government that told them it would provide for their children. Times, in short, were quite desperate.

I have become increasingly disillusioned by American cinema. Independent and foreign films are the ones that I have been drawn to as of late. When I heard that Avitar was in the running for best pictures, it put the cherry on the sundae of my disillusionment. Now, for special effects, Avitar is probably great. But best picture should involve a riveting and hopefully somewhat original story line. The best picture should be one that makes the audience think. 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days is not a must see for everyone, but it certainly puts a face on the often over-politicized and depersonalized issue of abortion.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Two Famous Kisses

Several days ago I was reading about these two kissing pictures. Unfortunately, I can't remember where, maybe in a book. The narrator was lamenting the fact that so many young women seemed to take the Doisneau print with them when going away to college. He questioned why this kissing print and not some other kissing photo like the one taken in Times Square on V-J day in 1945. Well I felt sort of caught out so to speak as I own a Doisneau print, quite a nicely done copy I might add, and I got it...guess when...that's right, when I went away to college. Frankly, I just happen to think that the Doisneau print is one of the most romantic photos I have ever seen, a lot of women young and old seem to feel this way. The romantic impact of the photo was not diminished even after I found out that the photo was supposedly staged. Even if it was staged, it still looks spontaneous and the couple had to have summoned up some passion for the pose because that is what comes through to the viewer. Unlike the V-J day photo, both parties actually look like they want to be in a lip lock. That has always bothered me about the V-J day photo, the solider who I am sure is relieved to finally be home, has a death grip on the nurse, her back is stiffly arched and she looks almost as if she would pull away if she could. I know that this photo is supposed to represent joy, victory, and hope for the future, it is a well done photo caught at the perfect moment and I can see relief and hope in it. I guess that, when it comes to kissing, I think more in terms of romance, passion, and dreams. I see that in the Doisneau. That is why I took it to college with me and that is why it hangs on my wall to this day.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Time Management-Take it in a New Direction

Last night I read an interesting article in the latest edition of the Utne Reader. It was a discussion regarding attention and focus. New research suggests that we don't have a finite amount of attention, each of us can tap into more attention and focus by directing ourselves to attend and focus on the right things. In regards to the right things, we are all different I have been thinking about this lately and realize that I direct more focus and attention than I would like to things that aren't really important to me such as, picking up my house, doing laundry, running never ending errands, and driving.

As a mother it is essential that I do some of this, but I have been thinking about how to gift myself with more energy and attention to important things and I realized that those seemingly meaningless tasks bring me no joy whatsoever, but the outcomes bring me happiness. I like the house to be clean, I love the smell of clean laundry and it is nice to have a choice of what clothes to wear, I like to check "done" on my to do list, and driving usually means that I am doing something that a) needs to be done for myself, b) is important for my children, or c) may be taking us somewhere where we actually want to go. So, in that light, all of these things that take my time and attention are important and need attending to.

What needs to change is how I make these necessary activities part of my life and enjoy said outcomes without allowing them to take over. I will start with picking up the house. What makes me eternally joyful and ever so happy is when my children and my husband actually clean up their own messes. To that end I will be directing more attention to teaching my children how to do this. I doubt that I will be able to actually teach my husband how to pick up after himself, but I have heard the children remind him to do so on more than one occasion and that is a start. For me, there is always meditation or copious amounts of red wine. Messes don't seem to bother me as much when I engage in either one of those activities.

Whenever a mother says that she wants to "be happy," it is considered selfish. I can say without a shadow of a doubt that if I ain't happy, this household of mine isn't very happy either. I don't mean this in a selfish, surface kind of way. True inner happiness is important, mother or not. In this most people are the same. People are happy when they are able to attend to things that bring them pleasure. Attention is an ethereal concept. I am trying to make it more solid. The Utne Reader article recommends using some form of meditation, or having periods of time when you are able to empty your mind and "zone out." Apparently it is during these periods of time that humans are able to recharge their capacity for creativity and center on the things that are important. This has always been challenging for me, I sense that is the case for many of us type "A's," but I have to say that I am getting better. Yoga at least once a week has been a good start. Sitting down and actually completing this post without jumping up to attend to every argument going on between my children or to clean up the leftover dinner food has been another. Day by day, hour by hour...

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

It's that Time of Year Again!

It's that time of year again and with two Girl Scouts in the house, I am slowly, or maybe quickly, eating my way up that scale! Forget ordering in bulk and freezing to have all year long, if I ordered in bulk I would probably eat in bulk right now!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Television Series Addiction

Yes, it is true, I am officially addicted to the BBC Dr. Who telly series. THANK YOU MEG! I can blame her all I want, but I am addicted to the story line. I am not typically much of a science fiction fan, but I buy into the fantasy elements of the story lines in Dr. Who so it works for me. Sadly, this duo, David Tennant and Billie Piper will be replaced in this new season (actually Billie Piper has been off the show for a while now). I will miss them, but I have no doubt that I can probably get used to the replacements. It seems somewhat odd to be addicted to a television series again. I used to have my line up of shows and then the screen writers strike came (yes, I know that was a long time ago) and there was nothing new on for a very long time and I just lost interest in my old favorites. This is a fairly common cycle with me and television though, on and off again addictions. Sometimes I just prefer to read or futz around on the computer or talk to my family (what a novel idea!).

At any rate, I was going to post a rant today about how I have been needing to do everyone elses jobs for them all morning. There are some low hanging power lines that cross the PUBLIC street in front of our house. The garbage service is refusing to pick up our trash and after two hours on the phone with a number of different possible power line sources, nobody wanted to take responsibility for the problem. I was actually forced to call the city, which is not something that I ever like to do. Aside from taking the power lines down myself and re-setting them I was really out of options. It felt much better talking about the joys of Dr. Who. I think that I will just reflect on that right now and take three deep breaths.