Sunday, July 29, 2007

Health Care Dreams

It's been a week since I saw Michael Moore's latest film Sicko. So many important ideas and issues were explored that I've no doubt it will take more than a week, and probably more than one viewing to fully "get" it.

During this week, one particular idea keeps pushing its way into my consciousness: How would my life (and the lives of my family and friends) be different if I had access to complete health care services without having to worry about the cost or how it will affect my insurability.

I've allowed myself to briefly imagine what it would be like to go to the doctor and be completely honest about my health; to ask for help and get it without having to contact the business office first. To be able to schedule an appointment for my child without having the receptionist tell me that they'll give me a time, but I have to pay the bill in full before the doctor to see him.

Since seeing the movie, I've daydreamed about allowing the pharmacist to fill all the prescriptions, instead of just the one's my insurance company will fund. How much healthier would we be? What if I didn't have to decide whether my burning headache is bad enough to take the $10 pill that might take the edge off. Would I be more productive? Of course I would. Instead of frantically applying Head On directly to the forehead, and hoping I can avoid swallowing $10 in search of relief; I'd see the doctor, take the medicine and have more energy for taking care of my clients.

What if my mother could have gotten a bone scan years ago? Could she have avoided the severe osteoporosis that caused her to fracture her spine simply by tripping in the living room? If she wasn't so worried about whether she'd end up in another argument with the business office at Tulsa's Springer Clinic and Blue Cross, would she get the weekly B12 shots her doctor prescribed and that she knows gives her enough energy to do more than wait to die?

Imagine if I didn't have to call the hospital before I take my child in for a lab test to ask how much the test will cost? (Of course no one can tell you the exact cost -- it's like buying a car, they adjust the price according to what they think you can afford.)

We're so proud to be Americans. We talk all big about how we're the "richest nation" and spew words about strength and business and the economy, but the fact is that this rich nation of ours refuses to do what other nations don't think twice about: Provide for the health of its citizens.

Someone interviewed in Sicko summed it up pretty well: The reason they have public health care in France is that the government is afraid of the people, and the reason they don't have public health care in America is that the people are afraid of the government.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Reading v. Ritalin

"She's reading too much," Caryn whispered. "She gets on her bed and just reads books." She carefully puts her cigarette into a big glass ashtray and watches the smoke. "I don't understand how this daughter of mine can just sit in there all day."

On the table by the ashtray sits a half finished game of Yahtzee and two sweaty plastic tumblers of Big K cola on ice. A police scanner chirps in the other room; on the black and white TV Jerry Springer is talking to someone who has just pulled off her shirt. As predicted, Caryn's daughter Hailey is in her tiny bedroom, squinting in the yellowish light, devouring the first Harry Potter book. The July heat pounding on the trailer's metal roof, the racket from the scanner and TV, the squealing tires on the highway outside -- nothing enters Hailey's consciousness while she's lost in her books.

They are truly poor. The census bureau would consider them homeless -- they're just staying in this tiny trailer with the couple who own it. Caryn stays on the couch, Hailey gets to use the second bedroom. Sometimes a teenage mom and her 3 year old also sleep on the living room floor. As long as the guys next door aren't crazy-high on meth and revving their Harley engines late at night, though, it's an okay place to stay.

Caryn can't read. She's tried to learn, really tried, but she simply cannot do it. So she can't understand how it could be okay for an 11 year old girl to stay inside reading on a summer's day with no school. She worries that maybe something is wrong with Hailey.

Hailey's IQ is well-above average. I know this because when she was younger, she spent a few weeks in a psychiatric hospital where they tested her IQ, diagnosed her with ADHD, sent her home with a Ritalin prescription and the phone number to my office. Her choice to read in the quiet of the darkened bed isn't a function of anything more ominous than the desire to stay cool. This is something Hailey's mom can stop worrying about.

Hailey's a little surprised to see me when she comes into the room, then she grins widely, takes a big gulp of her mom's cola and grabs my hand saying, "You're taking me to the library today, right?"

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Her "hardest decision"

The Focus on the Family piece which just played on KSPR's 5:00 news, featured a young woman who became pregnant and gave her baby up for adoption. The woman said deciding to give birth and then give up her baby was "the hardest decision" she'd ever made

Why didn't she make a decision to use birth control, or if she wasn't willing to do that, simply decide to not have sex?

Those decisions are easy.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Thinking things better next time

The lawn mower must have died while I was asleep. One day it was in sad need of a new blade but running at top speed, the next day the blade was still dull, but the engine was barely running. Briggs & Stratton on Valium.

I used the tranquilized mower a couple of times. It putted along so quietly I didn't even need to crank the iPod to cover the racket. Eventually, though, it switched from Valium to Thorazine and even the most energetic pushing only resulted in shredded grass. (It doesn't help, I am aware, that the grass was shin high and in need of a hay baler instead of a mower.)

New push mowers start at about $139. The thinkingthings abode sits squarely in the middle of two lots, so pushing a mower around it, even with the Young One's energy, takes more than a few hours. It's a lot of work, in other words. So, my eyes were continually drawn to the "Budget Mowing" sign hung on the board at Dillons: "Most yards $20!" it said. After a few weeks "$125 for the rest of the summer!" was added to the poster.

I started thinking things. I thought about how I could avoid buying a new mower, and avoid the hours of pushing and/or nagging the Young One and the Other Half to mow the hay field, by simply calling Budget Mowers and passing the task off to professionals.

I called them.

Oh they'd be happy to take on the yard. They said the first time would be $40 since it was so tall and obviously two lots, but that they'd stick by their $125 for the rest of the summer deal. I stopped thinking things at that point, and said "whoopee!" I signed the check and the yard was mowed. Not a great mowing job, really, but then I supposed that might be directly related to the fact that it was getting taller by the moment. They'd be back every other Friday the man said. Then they went directly to my bank and cashed the check.

Last Friday they were supposed to be back. The grass was pretty tall again, and definitely needed mowing. By 4:00 I was feeling very stupid, and very ripped off. I finally called the man, who said that with the holiday they were behind a day and would be there on Saturday. I felt significantly less stupid, and even made sure hoses and lawn stuff was out of their way.

Saturday morning, just as I was heading out the door to go play psychotherapist to a five year old, the men and the mowers showed up. Oh how happy I was! No more hay field! No more worry that I'd been ripped off!

Oh how wrong I was!

After a few hours of therapy I return home to find a little piece of note paper taped to the front door. "I can't mow anymore," it read, "$40 first time, $30 this time, $55 refund." They'd managed to mow the front yard, and about four strips of the back, and then apparently just gave up.

I clutched the note and scoured the porch looking for evidence of the refund. Nothing. I called them -- "This number is not reachable" a mechanically-happy voice told me. Not reachable?? what the heck does that mean? Disconnected? Blocked? Dropped in the lake?

The awful feeling that I had in fact not been "thinking things" very clearly was getting stronger by the minute. I could have bought the damn mower for that $125. Now I'm stuck. Gasoline has sucked every "extra" penny I have and now I've paid someone for something I'm not going to get, and they're not reachable.

Sunday afternoon I tried the number again. This time the guy was reachable. He says, however, that he'd taped the $55 to the door with the note. Ha. Even as silly as I am feeling for even hiring these people, I know better than to tape $55 to a door! He says he'll "get back with me" about the refund.

I hate confrontation. I really, really do. But I'll keep trying to get the money that is owed me.

I will certainly think things through more carefully the next time I decide something is going to save me time and money.

And I guess I'll be buying a lawn mower.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

The place to be

Saturday afternoon at the Lone Pine recycling center is most definitely hot. Not sunshine hot -- although the sweat factor today was way in the red zone -- but Paris Hilton hot.

Like the laudromat during the ice storm (Any Dryer in a Storm), the recycling center is a people-watching bonanza.

Cars and SUVs are parked nose to tail in front of each huge metal Dumpster, more cars and pick-ups line the center lane. By the plastics bin, an bookish elderly man with safety glasses sliding down his sweaty nose, is wandering about looking for an open section for his milk-crate of tin cans. Later he pulls away in an ancient Subaru wagon with 5 faded and peeling "power of pride" stickers arranged across the back bumper.

There's two thirty-something women dressed in capris and tanktops, carefully inventorying their Goodwill donations for the receipt. "Do purses count as clothing?" one asks the Goodwill worker. A simple shrug of the shoulders lets the ladies know that this man, who is drenched in sweat and surrounded by other people's cast-offs, couldn't care less. Undaunted they continue to count: "38 pairs of shoes, 2 bags of books..."

The gorgeous woman unloading her empty soda bottles is clad in only a sports bra and cut-offs. This chick doesn't sweat, she glistens. Everywhere. Nobody's really noticing her, though, so eventually she lowers her head, dumps the last bag and jumps in her Trooper to leave.

Two couples drive up to the yard waste bins and almost simultaneously begin lugging huge bags of grass clippings up the steps. A woman dressed in a pink t-shirt and keds stands with her hand on the open trunk, directing her husband's every move. "Don't you want to take them both?" "Why did you leave that bag down stairs?" "Gosh, honey, let's hurry. It's so hot!"

Springfield's spokes-model for those who don't quite get the whole carbon footprint concept is the perfectly coiffed blonde woman who drives her silver M-class Mercedes SUV from bin to bin. She idles the big vehicle at each stop, presumably to keep the AC pumping. No sweat on this lady. She doesn't glisten either. The little polo player on her crisp white shirt is visible from across the lot and she carries her tin cans and wine bottles in matching white baskets.

Folks carry their bottles and cans in paper bags, plastic laundry baskets and milk crates, green garbage bags and old grocery sacks. Glass bottles crash as bags of beer bottles are dumped into newly opened bins. The aluminum bin isn't as popular today, but it requires some abstract reasoning to fit larger-than-average plastics into the last open Dumpster.

A couple of guys are in the staff shack, looking more than a little stoned and leaning into a fan's breeze. They're not too thrilled to come back into the heat to sell bags of mulch to middle-aged gardeners who are anxious to buy the rich dark mixture for ripening tomatoes. Gardening's got to wait, though, since neither guy can come up with a way to make change for a $20. "Supervisor went to the store and he's got the money, I guess."

The sun, the asphalt and the smell of old beer and rotting grass are oddly relaxing today; people seem a little more willing to smile and wave pedestrians across the driveway. A few even toss change into the donations box on the way out.

Al Gore is right. If we take it one step at at time we can make a difference in the destructive path of global warming.

And hey, taking the recycling in is a whole new way to be hip.

Monday, July 02, 2007

8 is enough

Thanks to My Corner of the Sky for including me in the 8 things you don't know about me meme. At the risk of compromising my anonymous-blogger status, here goes:

1. I secretly think these meme things are fun.

2. I collect first edition hardback books by Chaim Potok. My 11th grade English teacher made us read The Chosen -- I was hooked by the second page.

3. Every time I take the Beliefnet Belief-O-Matic quiz (answer some fairly intense questions and they'll tell you what world religions correspond to your beliefs) Liberal Quakerism lands in the top 4.

4. My addictions: Popcorn and Afrin. Breathing is a good thing. So is the fake butter flavor at the Springfield 8.

5. My music: Jackson Browne. It's all about the lyrics. And the politics.

6. I rode a horse for the first time at age 4. "Old Mother" was the pony I clung to at the now-defunct Ginger Blue Resort in Noel, Missouri. When they moved me up to "Brownie" and let me hold the reins I was in heaven. By the time I was 11 I put every dime I made into a box until I could afford to buy "Ebony Miss," the quarter horse that got me through teenage angst and hot Oklahoma summers. And yeah, I'm a city girl. A Hammons Hotel now sits where Ebony was pasture boarded oh so many moons ago.

7. Long before there were cell phones, my dad got a CB radio. His "handle" was rock doc. He christened me with the handle the pebble. He was geologist. I was his kid. I miss him every day.

8. I labor over these silly blog posts way too long. Geez, no one even knows it's me. If I'd put this much energy into my schoolwork, I'd have had a full ride to Harvard. Or not.

Curiosity abounds, so to these local bloggers: Consider yourselves tagged: Slice of Home; Lost Chord; Minutia; Ozarks Yin and Yang