Monday, September 28, 2009

This time it should be put to rest

Bad people do bad things. Good people do too.

It's important to remember this as the European community seems to be up in arms about the arrest of filmmaker Roman Polanski in Switzerland. Polanski has been a fugitive for decades after he pleaded guilty to having unlawful intercourse with a minor. He fled before his sentencing. He's been a very public "person on the run."

It's shocking what he is accused of doing decades ago. His victim, now a married woman with children of her own, continues to be assaulted in this case. The court system seemed to bungle the prosecution and has been unsuccessful at closing the case.

There are different stories about why Polanski fled. Was he fearful of a media-hungry judge? Did he just not want to serve out his time? He made a choice. He fled the country to France and continued to make films.

His victim asked earlier this year to have the case thrown out. She said in a CNN.com article:
"Every time this case is brought to the attention of the Court, great focus is made of me, my family, my mother and others. That attention is not pleasant to experience and is not worth maintaining over some irrelevant legal nicety, the continuation of the case."
I get what she's saying. She's the only one who makes sense to me today. Filmmakers at the Zurich Film Festival are lamenting his arrest and talking about his great contributions to the film industry. Others are raving about what a talented artist he is. A French official said Polanski was of "great general esteem." Others made is sound like his drugging and raping of a 13-year-old child was some benign indiscretion.

I'm shocked by their descriptions. He behaved criminally and pleaded guilty to it. This wouldn't be an issue today, if he had stayed in the United States to be sentenced. Our justice system is not perfect. There are plenty of examples in Texas to show it doesn't always work. But, we are supposed to play by the rules.

The case and all its flaws are out in the open. The director and all his flaws are out in the open. Surely, this time, this case can be put to rest. It would be in the best interest of everyone.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A look at the way we die

I thought much of the health care reform debate had fallen off the radar until I came across this Tweet from @mike_gamble: "Extraordinary Article! - The Way We Die Now."

I clicked The New York Times link and immediately writer Timothy Egan had me hooked. He found a perfect story to share how we die in this current system. An 88-year-old woman, the mother of a governor and physician, had to make a choice. Die at the hospital or die at home?

She chose her home and her family over the hospital complex. Medicare didn't help with this choice. Her son noted that while Medicare would pay for the tests and treatments in the hospital it wouldn't pay for the $18 an hour non-hospice worker to help his mother during her last four months of life.

Egan's piece also takes an interesting look at an issue that people don't want to talk about. He wrote: "More sensible voices have since joined the debate, asking how we reform a system that lavishes most of its benefits on a cure for the 'disease' of aging."

Another nugget from Egan's piece: About $67 billion — nearly a third of the money spent by Medicare — goes to patients in the last two years of life. The need to spend less money at the end of life “is the elephant in the room,” Evan Thomas wrote in “The Case for Killing Granny,” the cover story in last week’s Newsweek. “Everyone sees it but no one wants to talk about it.”

This summer, the debate became supercharged with rhetoric as the threat of "death panels" was tossed around like a tennis ball. From my personal experience as a caregiver, I have read many stories about government, hospital and insurance intervention on choices that should be left up to the individual. Those stories were from more than four years ago. So, this issue isn't new.

I'm all about living, but we as a nation really need to take a look at how we die.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

100 days

On Sunday, I was following a line of Tweets which included a note about a fast approaching deadline. There are 100 days left in the year. So, what are you going to do?

I certainly did not pull out a calendar and count. I opened a fresh Word document on my computer and began typing.

What do I want to do during the final 100 days of 2009?

I've written down 15 items so far. They all deal with organization, work, goals and more work.

Some are simple like keeping my e-mail inbox under control. While I'm out and about, I have a nasty habit of checking Twitter. If I find an interesting Tweet with a link, I send an e-mail of it to myself. The result: My inbox is filled with about 20 e-mails of Tweets just crying out for me to check them out.

Other items are more challenging like trying a new method to finish up my memoir. I've hit a brick wall in recent weeks. I need to carve out a good chunk of time for that to work.

I have the time to complete the items on my list. I read enough blogs to know that people, who have less time than me are more productive. I kept my list small. I wanted it to be manageable.

I'm writing this post as a reminder that I have a list. I won't bore anyone with it here, but I'll print out a copy to monitor my progress.

Here's to 100 days and my list.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Did you hear the Grey Poupon tale?


I was punked Monday.

"So, Andy do you know a G. Poupo in Northfield, Illinois?" I called him from the post office parking lot. No.

So I opened the mysterious package and it contained a jar of Grey Poupon mustard and a small blue Christmas tree with a gold star on top. A strand of blue chord adorned with individual packets of Grey Poupon wrapped itself around the tree. Part of a comics page wrapped a jar of mustard. All identifying newspaper date lines were removed.

"OK. We've been punked by the Jensens." I told Andy after discovering the Grey Poupon. I'm mumbling about the G. Poupo, "How did I miss that!"

"Where was it mailed from?" Andy stayed focused. While the return address of Northfield, Illinois means nothing more than the company's address, the USPS label says Appleton, Wisconsin.

"Do you have relatives there?"

"No," he said, but he suspects his parents did it.

Barb and Howard (Andy's parents) disavow any responsibility. Whether we believe them or not is another story. After all, Barb tells us the tree is likely one they received years ago, but who knows. "We sent that to Gary and Joyce."

It all makes perfect sense when you think about it. Cousin Carrie created the trees (yes, there are multiple Grey Poupon jewels floating about) and sent them to relatives. The recipients then sent them to other Jensens.

It's all very simple really. In the early 1990s, Andy's Uncle George and Aunt Mae with grand kids and Uncle Carl and Aunt Lois with Andy's parents were driving along. They became lost. Carl pulled up alongside George's car and one of the grand kid's said, "Pardon me, do you have any Grey Poupon?"

I heard the laughter and the long tale about the Grey Poupon the day before Andy and I married. They kept that family secret until the last possible minute. The story involved lots of Grey Poupon jars mysteriously shipped around the country to aunts, uncles, cousins and grandchildren.

One of the better stories revolved around a fast note, which mistakenly addressed Aunt Carl and Uncle Lois. So, what do Carl and Lois do? They corrected the mistake by cross dressing. Carl became an Aunt and Lois became an Uncle.

I have pictures to prove all this, because the Jensen clan, which included eight siblings, created us a wonderful scrapbook for our wedding. Each sibling created a page of pictures and information about his or her family. As one of the newbies in the family, I can now put a face with a name.

Before we left family after our wedding, we received a jar of Grey Poupon. Andy's parents gave it to us. I warned them, "I loved mustard so much in the second grade I wanted to change my name to mustard." I feared my addition to the family could single-handedly extinguish the Grey Poupon legend. We ate part of the jar on the honeymoon and I used the rest of it in a recipe from that Grey Poupon booklet Lois gave us. Yummy. Delicious.

I fell victim to temptation to get into the Grey Poupon capers during a Thanksgiving trip to spend with the Jensen clan. We bought Grey Poupon in Oklahoma and quietly slipped it in bags of Texas treats.

Now, the Jensens have struck again. The conspiracy theories are floating.

Plan A is always to eat it, but this jar is out of date. That's one of the warnings I received after the wedding. "Some jars have been floating around for years and years."

Off to Plan B. What is Plan B? I can't tell you that. Let's just say a Jensen relative will be getting a blue and yellow, delicious treat.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

ASU researcher addresses caregiver syndrome

There are lessons for caregivers in here. Take a moment to read this.

Leaders need to lead on health care debate

When I was in the throws of chaos from my late husband's medical condition, I reached out to strangers on the Internet.

I found Mary Koch and John Andrist. They were older than Jimmy and me, but very similar. A newspaper background. A life-changing stroke which left John with Locked-in Syndrome. John and Jimmy had the same condition, but were living under different circumstances. John was cared for at home while Jimmy lived in nursing homes.

I relied on Mary and John during those years — an e-mail here and a note there. Each idea or encouragement helped me and Jimmy as we struggled through a health care maze, which often felt more like a war than a journey.

Jimmy died at 37. I called Mary that night. I couldn't share this news with her through an e-mail. John died at 75 almost two years later.

I met Mary on May 30, 2008, when I married Andy. She had kept in touch with me through the years and traveled to Custer, South Dakota. She wrote about our wedding. It's something Andy and I cherish.

Mary, who shared her caregiving journey through a weekly newspaper column, began writing "A Widow Bit" following John's death. You can find it here.

On Sept. 2, I received her latest installment "Confessions of a former reformer." I hope she will post it on her site soon.

The Institute of Medicine claims that each year more than 18,000 people in the U.S. die because they had no health insurance — that's higher than our annual homicide rate, Mary says.

Another point she makes:
I gave up reading murder mysteries in favor of books on health care policy issues. They’re scarier. Most recent: Overtreated: Why Too Much Medicine is Making Us Sicker and Poorer by Shannon Brownlee.
I’m going back to murder mysteries. It’s clear “whodunit” to American health care reform. At the beginning of the year, a large majority of Americans claimed they wanted fundamental changes. Now folks are fleeing the reform camp faster than a pot grower scampering from his field when the government helicopter arrives.
The problem? Too many of us have pretty good insurance and care. Expensive, yes. But we’re willing to suck it up – or let our employer or Medicare suck it up. Reform means change, and people look forward to change with about as much delight as a root canal.
I am tired of all the muck around the debate. I'm tired of all the crazy ideas being floated. If people are concerned about saving lives, we need to quit blaming the Mainstream Media, Congress and those people, who are yelling and foaming at the mouth at these town hall forums.

We need to think about those 18,000, who apparently die each year due to a lack of health insurance. How do we solve that problem?

I believe our leaders just need to step up and lead on this issue. Sometimes, leaders have to make difficult decisions without 100 percent support of the people. It happens in local government all the time.

A local leader has a vision for a new courthouse or administrative building to improve services. Taxpayers, who walk into the old buildings once a year, don't see the need for the new buildings or the tax increase to pay for it. I can think of a handful of county and city projects that were approved in communities with strong opposition. Were the projects needed? Yes. Did the opposition get over it? Eventually.

There will always be someone, who will disagree or say it won't work or say it shouldn't be done. If leaders listen to those people only, no new buildings or parks would ever be built.

I think there is enough ingenuity in this country to get this done — despite the chaos surrounding this issue. Our leadership needs to do what it is supposed to do — lead the way on this issue.