Great Expectations


14759539961_1a3f5b7ec4_z

The heroin epidemic, the culture wars, a broken jail system, a broken education system, too much corruption in politics at all levels, too much greed, too much anger. As we face this upcoming presidential election that few average people actually want, accusations are flying: This is all the Millennials’ fault, it’s because of liberals/conservatives, it’s because of greedy politicians, it’s because of those who are uneducated/those who are educated, it’s because of sin, it’s because of religion, the arguments never end.

And yet there is a root cause, a common thread among all this: The fault lies with “The Blamers”, I’ll call them, and they are everywhere and of all ages. Blamers are quick to point fingers, swift to judge and condemn, and slow to apologize. Here a few examples of how Blamers work.


When a certain little boy jumped into the gorilla pen at the Cincinnati Zoo this spring, social media blew up with outrage from Blamers who, knowing almost nothing about the situation, had already tried and condemned the boy, his mother, the zookeepers, and zoo management in what amounted to an online mob-lynching.

Thankfully, there was a good deal of intelligent and thoughtful push-back-commentary from those who actually knew about parenting, and those who realized that accidents sometimes just happen. Where did the vitriol and judgement come from, lamented one popular author via Facebook. Where does it come from? From older people who’ve forgotten what parenting is like, and younger people without kids. It comes from folks with unrealistically high expectations.


The entire year of 2016 has been one diametrically opposed debate after another: guns, drugs, presidential nominees, parenting failures, religion, political parties, ethnic races, wealth status, and more. There is no middle ground allowed on any of these topics. If you propose measures for simple, common sense gun laws, you are labeled a liberal control-freak (is that a contradiction in terms?). If you believe in no restrictions, you are “clearly” responsible for every mass murder in America.

Where does it come from? It comes from people with unrealistically high expectations, either of their own superiority or the banality of others. Blamers, who seem only motivated to avert responsibility away from themselves without ever really thinking about the issues, attempting to compromise, or conceding that the other side might have a point. Whatever it is that’s happening, you need to know it’s not the Blamers’ fault! Is it possible this is a sign of a guilt complex? For, by refusing to talk to all sides, by casting the blame on others so quickly, these problems are never solved and are in fact exasperated. What is it Blamers are so afraid of?


Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” – Genesis 3:11-13, Blame: The 2nd Original Sin

I follow a few emotional abuse blogs but have become frustrated with the many 20-somethings who seem to think their childhoods were from the pit of hell because their parents were less-than perfect, not because their parents were genuinely abusive. There is real abuse, and emotional abuse is “a thing” but these young adults cannot see that people are multi-faceted, that people can be wrong in one thing and still right in another. These young adults cannot see that sometimes crap just happens and their parents did their best.

14577371037_80362ef8e0_zWhere does it come from? These young adults are not “spoiled”, they have been drilled to think that anything less than perfection (as outlined by their parents/celebrities/authority figures) is simply not trying hard enough. Accidents don’t happen, they are made. These young adults are understandably angry that, after having been held to impossibly high standards by their parents (and often failing and then believing their failures to be an ineptitude of their own selves), they see their parents gave themselves slack when humanly necessary, while never giving their children that same grace.


I have seen first-hand the pressure, the high expectations, the workload of so many students. They are expected to be Straight-A students, scoring high on standardized tests, while also striving to be an athletic or music or science star, while also being in several clubs, while sometimes also holding a part-time job, while also staying positive in mind and healthy in body. These poor kids are crushed under this load, which is meant to pave their way into college, which then in turn is meant to pave their way to a successful (read: money-making) career and easy (read: materialistic) lifestyle.

At the same time, if these kids are not able to handle so much (and who could?) parents turn to labels and/or legal hoops to get their kids out of actually learning. They search until they find a doctor who will affirm a made up “disability”, they hold kids back in school so Johnny will be more competitive as an older child, they push kids forward so Suzie will be more impressive as the youngest child in her grade. If those tactics don’t work, parents can always use their favorite whipping boy: teachers and/or administrators.

Where does it come from, this drive to be “perfect”, the perverse need to be razor-sharp no matter who gets hurt or how deeply? Where does it come from, the arrogance of “knowing” you’re right without having to actually consider all sides, or the  hypocrisy of squeezing kids into college so they can be educated, and then promptly dismissing that education with the words, “dumb college kid”?


Claims of police brutality and racism are running rampant, with few actually evaluating each case, preferring instead to draw blanket and sometimes wild conclusions about “the other side”. Two years ago, in a Walmart in Beavercreek, Ohio, a young man was shot by police after a 911 call was made. While verbal shrapnel and blame flew, the long and short of that particular incident was that everyone was wrong, with the exception of other shoppers, one of whom died from fear. The result was protests for months outside Walmart, coupled with fear of retaliation from all parties, anger, and resentment on all sides.

Where does it come from, the fear and anger? Surely there is some truth on both sides, but those great expectations have reared their ugly heads once again, telling lies and causing strife, inciting violence and more agony, where there should be unity and a resolve toward peace.


There are Blamers in every generation and in every culture. At the same time they condemn others for a seeming lack of hard work, Blamers don’t want to do the hard work of taking on proper and personal responsibility for their problems. They just like to watch the world burn, it’s entertaining and invigorating for them. It’s time we stopped listening to the Blamers, “La-la-la! I can’t hear you!” Now let’s fix our country.

17969660910_c1591d9b53_z

 

On Fostering a Dog

Originally written 2/1/2015

It lasted just two weeks. It was dirty, it was tough, it was an emotional roller coaster. It was warm, it was soft, it was needy. It was a black lab puppy that my children re-named “Sammy”. IMG_3827_1aIt was the first time we had fostered an animal, and the second dog we had ever taken care of as a family. The first dog had been, of course, a lovable black lab named Jill. Two weeks prior, during Christmas, my husband and I decided to sign our family up for fostering through our local animal shelter. He and my daughter had been volunteering there for a few months already, and she, at ten-years-old, had fallen in love with every cat and puppy there. She told her brother (aged seven) about them, and they had both been begging for a dog since.

My husband and I knew we were not prepared to take on a dog full-time, but we thought we could compromise by fostering. The kids were excited as we explained what fostering was and what it meant, emphasizing we would not be keeping the dog. Every day they asked when we were getting our foster dog. When the foster care coordinator called to see if we could take a black lab puppy, we became as excited as the kids. My husband picked her up on his way home from work, along with a kennel, leash, collar, toys, bones, and puppy chow.

What a sweet, adorable, dog! She reminded us so much of Jill. The first night we had her after the kids had gone to bed, I cried and cried. It was so nice to have a little, fuzzy body in the house again with floppy ears that felt like velvet. It was lovely to feel her snuggle up against me on the floor or sofa while she slept. I told my husband, “I want to keep her”, and he concurred.

By the next evening some of the puppy love had diminished a bit. Sam had us up an hour earlier than usual, she kept trying to investigate our old cat who wanted none of it, and had had a couple of accidents on the floor. Towards the end of the week I was feeling somewhat frazzled: More accidents on the loveseat and floor, trying to juggle taking walks in the January cold with three kids and the dog who wanted to pull me every step of the way, attempting and failing to keep ahead of Sammy’s predilection to stray socks, not to mention the barking, the whining, the escape-out-the-front-door attempts, the dog trampling and using the bathroom in my backyard flower beds or the deck, the muddy paw prints on my clean floor and furniture, even after I had carefully wiped her feet with an old towel. And we were never allowed to sleep in.

I was glad we only had one week left, “Are you sure we can’t take her in early?” I asked my husband. But during the second week, we had all begun to figure each other out and settle into a routine. IMG_3815_1aThen the shelter called: Sammy needed to go in to be spade. We could leave her at the shelter to recover until Adoption Day (Saturday), or we could come pick her up again. We picked her up after her surgery. She slept all the next day, and the following morning she had bounced back to her energetic little self. We tried keeping her resting and still, but she didn’t find that tolerable. Instead, Sammy chased the toddler, who squealed with delight, up and down the hallway.

And then it was Adoption Day. Despite our repeated warnings that it was coming (both for the kids and ourselves), we all felt a little anxious as we drove to the shelter with Sammy in the backseat, wedged in between the kids. It was a downright unceremonious drop off. A lady we had never met led us to Sammy’s prepared pen, guided her in, and quickly shut the door. Sammy looked confused, but we tried to reassure her: She wouldn’t be there long. She was too cute and sweet. I believed she would be adopted that day.

We turned to leave the poor pup amidst all the much older, much louder dogs’ carrying on. We were near the door when the toddler suddenly went back to Sammy’s cage to let her out. My son kept asking us, “Why can’t we adopt her?” We all took two steps into the quiet hallway, and my ten-year-old daughter burst into tears. No one from the shelter asked us any questions, there was nothing more to be done. We went silently home, everyone lost in their own thoughts. I felt sad, but also relief. Sammy was a good dog; we would miss her.

A few hours later I called the shelter to find out how Sammy was doing, “She was adopted today!” the lady cheerfully told me. I shared the news and the kids took it well. It’s been a few weeks now since Sammy found her new home. It’s been oddly quiet in the house, and none of us have gotten outside as much as we should have. We’ve been sleeping in a lot and socks are all over the floor. I wonder when our next foster dog will arrive?


Spoiler alert: After fostering several more puppies, kittens, and cats with SICSA, we finally experienced a “foster failure” and adopted Ginger, a sweet Lab-Pitt mix in Sept. 2015.

 

IMG_0663_1a

Such an adorable pillow and chair hog!

War! What is it Good For?

Peace, love and understanding; Is there no place for them today? They say we must fight to keep our freedom, but Lord knows there’s got to be a better way.  – Edwin Starr, War

Trench warfare_z

WWI Archive, Flickr Commons

I was watching a documentary on diets the other night when a European doctor quipped, “Americans love to have an enemy.” I was stunned. How insightful, and as I considered the statement, I concluded he was right!

No matter the issue, we Americans do love to have an enemy to identify, attack, and annihilate. Be it obesity, cancer, politics, foreign relations, politics, AIDS, or poverty, we describe it as “war”; “fighting” against something or other. War on cancer, war on poverty, culture wars, the fight against obesity, and it of course spills over into religions too.

On the positive side, these are evidences we are a passionate people. We are willing to sacrifice and put ourselves on the front lines for whatever cause we believe in from feminism to religion, atheism, education, the environment, and many others. We are not afraid to protest, sign petitions, call our government, and otherwise make our voices heard.

All people need a purpose, a hope, and a reason to persevere through life, but living in a self (or media)-manufactured war zone day-to-day is unbalanced and exhausting. We do unnecessary trauma to ourselves and others who we tend to wrongly view as “the enemy”, in the name of war.

“But now, for the first time, I see you are a man like me. I thought of your hand-grenades, of your bayonet, of your rifle; now I see your wife and your face and our fellowship. Forgive me, comrade. We always see it too late.

Why do they never tell us that you are poor devils like us, that your mothers are just as anxious as ours, and that we have the same fear of death, and the same dying and the same agony–Forgive me, comrade; how could you be my enemy?” ― Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front

Destruction of WWI_zWar is made to appear glorious in the media. War is always painted as good guys (“you”) vs. bad guys (“them”); good vs. evil. In reality, it isn’t usually so simple. In reality there are typically passionate people fighting viciously with other passionate people in a bid to conquer evil or establish justice, as each side would view it. Sometimes, ironically, as both sides would see it.

“All for one and one for all, united we stand divided we fall.” ― Alexandre Dumas, The Three Musketeers

With this 2016 Presidential election coming up in November, I have never seen my beautiful, diverse country so stridently divided on nearly every issue. Emotions are running very, very high as most everyone is terrified of “the other side” and are choosing to vote not their conscience, but their fear. Why would politicians want a divided, unsettled populace?

[If your enemy’s] forces are united, separate them. If sovereign and subject are in accord, put division between them. – Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Politicians know that war is good for three things: unifying a country by giving it national purpose, boosting economy, and gaining power for themselves. Religious leaders understand the same things. By giving their followers something to fight for, they mobilize people to action and make a lot of money in the process. In the end, it is only politicians and religious leaders who win.

Let us not destroy our country and our people in an effort to make America her best yet.

“Anger may in time change to gladness; vexation may be succeeded by content.
But a kingdom that has once been destroyed can never come again into being; nor can the dead ever be brought back to life.” ― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Shell of a building WWI_z

Say it again…


Read More About It:

The Top 10 Reasons American Politics are Worse than Ever

Strangulation on Medicine: My Life as a Pain Patient

Imagine, if you will: Waking up morning after morning, with sudden, inexplicable, extreme pain in one side that leaves you bedridden for a few hours, then a few days, a few weeks, a whole year.

Imagine not being able to find the source of the pain. Spending every week with a different doctor. Spending at least $200 on each doctor. Trying at least one new prescription every month. Spending at least $30 on each prescription. Watching the medical bills pile up, knowing you are the sole cause of each one.

IMG_9121_1a_watermarkImagine watching your young children struggle to learn to live without you. Being unable to volunteer at your child’s school because, although you have the time, you don’t have the physical stamina. Being unable to attend most school events, and seeing the disappoint on your children’s faces when you have to tell them, “I’m so sorry, baby, Mommy just can’t do it.” Spelling bees, science fairs, choir concerts, end-of-school picnics, and most painful, 5th grade graduation.

Imagine seeing your spouse become literally bent over and graying early under the stress of being essentially a single parent, plus the stress of being a full-time adult care-giver, while holding down a full-time job, and doing all the cooking, cleaning, and fixing, while also going to school part time.

Imagine being unable to visit your beloved, aging grandparents who live 5 hours away. Or being unable to visit best friends who live 1 hour away. Being unable to attend weddings of dear family and friends because they are “too far away” at 30 minutes to 1 hour. Being unable to travel more than 15 minutes by car. Being unable to walk more than 10 minutes-on a good day.

Imagine being a house-bound invalid at age 31, feeling your muscles becoming a little weaker every day. Swallowing your pride to buy a cane, and using that cane (in public) to support your bad leg on those lucky days you do get out. Imagine shopping for electric wheelchairs since not walking seems to be the new normal, and you are being driven crazy from being stuck inside for so long. Imagine shopping for walkers at age 31. Imagine the embarrassment of personally knowing many people, twice your age, more active than you.

IMG_1646_1a

Me, my dog, and Poe. This is where and how I spent much of my life for 2 years.

With “Care” Like This…

Imagine having your insurance company refuse to pay for things that might shed important light on your problem, or help make it better. Things like MRIs, prescribed back braces, insurance-required physical therapy, any number of expensive drugs or treatments.

Imagine having your primary care doctor whom you’ve known for 7 years, refuse to treat your pain, because new laws prevent him. Imagine him suggesting you are overreacting,and your pain can’t be as bad as you say, even though he just looked at your x-rays and declared your problem will never get better, and cannot be fixed.

Imagine your doctor prescribing a medication that does nothing for your pain, but causes brain dysfunction in the form of a manic episode. Imagine that when you tell your doctor this, he suggests you see a chronic pain specialist who cannot see you for at least 1 month, will insist on giving you invasive, risky, epidural (link) injections that may or may not help your pain, but are terribly expensive and painful.

Imagine your doctor, after telling you you will not get better, brushing off your request for disability papers because you are “too young”. Imagine your doctor brushing off your request for an expert opinion in the form of a neurosurgeon referral, or brushing off your request for further testing.

Imagine, if you will: Being unable to think or work. Imagine feeling so very tired all the time, or anxious too often, or deeply depressed. Imagine feeling worthless, no, more than worthless, a real burden on the ones you love most financially, emotionally, mentally, and physically. Imagine wanting to end your life, and planning it, at least once a week. Imagine crying for hours at a time, because there seems to be no end to the pain, the frustration, the uncertainty, the bills.

IMG_9220_1a_watermark


The Solution to Your Problem is Simple…

Now imagine, if you will: At the end of the year, finally having your chiropractor (whom you have been seeing for insurance-required, but not insurance-paid physical therapy) order an MRI. Imagine, after a fight with your doctor who was annoyed you went over his head and had an MRI, while also insisting on a neurosurgeon referral, finally landing a doctor who reads the x-rays and MRI, understands your problem and (could it be possible after all this time!?) fix it.

Imagine hearing the news you were dreading, that you will need a spinal fusion (a major, delicate surgery, with a long recovery) and discectomy; that your lowest vertebrae are separated, and have been for years and years; that this has allowed a spinal disc to slide out of place, forcefully compressing a nerve; that this is the cause of your inability to walk, to ride in a car, to sit comfortably, to sleep through the night, to live well. Imagine scheduling your surgery and feeling like all the pieces are finally falling into place; there is a light at the end of the tunnel!

Imagine, if you will: A slow recovery that begins with immense pain and not being able to walk, to dress yourself, to bathe yourself, to lie down, to sit outside. Imagine feeling very old and very frail. Imagine every month expecting to turn an invisible corner in pain relief, energy, and movement ability, but only seeing little, gradual bits of progress here and there. Imagine that month 3’s post-op big accomplishment, is going to the store (accompanied by a driver, because you have hardly driven in well over a year), by using the store’s electric cart and your back brace. Image month 4’s big accomplishment is making it through a brief session of physical therapy without needing a 3-hour nap afterwards.

The Right to Suffer:

Imagine everything you do/can do depends on how well your pain is managed: Getting necessary and wanted exercise; getting (finally) out of the house; getting around the house; sleeping through the night; doing a few light chores; having the energy and ability to focus on things you love like reading, playing board games with the kids, having visitors over, sitting in your garden swing, or just laughing.

Now imagine, if you will: Your surgeon, the only one familiar with your case, your surgery, your history, not legally being able to manage your pain after just 3 months. Imagine being referred by your surgeon to your primary care doctor, who refuses to treat your pain (but only tells you that after an office visit), and refers you to a chronic pain specialist who cannot see you for at least 2 weeks, who has little knowledge of how to treat acute (short term and surgery) pain, who has little knowledge of spinal fusions or surgeries in general, who changes your medication 7 different times in 3 months, who prescribes super-expensive medicines that you cannot pay for, who prescribes medicines that make you so sick, you are either in bed or in the bathroom all day, meaning your spouse must work from home to watch the kids, making you worry about his job security, which makes you anxious for how to feed your kids.

pain scale

Imagine this chronic pain specialist under-medicates you for 3 months, insists on treating periodic, break-through pain with 12 and 24 hour narcotics which make you sick, which are MORE likely to produce addiction. Imagine, that despite doctors’ promises about proper pain management, when you finally refuse to be a guinea pig anymore, and ask for the simple, effective, economical medicine option, you are treated like an addict despite all the urine tests you’ve taken to prove you are not, despite the good faith contract you signed at the office just to be seen, and despite all the paperwork that double-checked your claims, medical history, and medicines across your entire provider network–hey, whatever happened to HIPPA laws?

Doctors said that the vast majority of the patients who need pain medications don’t abuse them. Source

IMG_9200_1a_watermark

The way is shut.

Imagine having a pain specialist who you cannot get in touch with for 3 days when your latest prescription, filled only 3 days prior, gave you diarrhea, chills, major migraines, insomnia, and finally a psychotic episode in which you cried for 3 hours and stormed out of the house at 5am, pacing the front yard like an animal as your spouse watched horrified from the front door.

Imagine having a pain specialist who accuses you of breaking your signed pain contract with them, because you told them in order to make it through the weekend, you had to cut old medicines from right after the surgery in half, since you couldn’t get in contact with them. Imagine having to tell them this, because at first they thought you hadn’t taken anything over the weekend, therefore you didn’t “need anything now”. Then imagine them dropping you as a patient like a hot rock.

Imagine:

Without pain management, not only can you not do what you need to or want, you begin to get cranky. You lash out at your kids and spouse without reason, like an animal in pain, because that’s what you are. Imagine finally collapsing into a tired, depressed heap, contemplating the cleanest ways to end your life, to end this pain for good.

Imagine:

  • Knowing that government officials who don’t know you, who are not doctors, who don’t see your pain, assume you will abuse the legitimate medicines that make life livable for you.
  • Knowing that these officials have made it effectively, though not “technically”, impossible to get what to you, is truly a life-saving medicine.
  • Knowing that the “stats”, “facts”, and “research” that are behind the new laws that have made it impossible for you to get help, are very, very skewed and without actual merit.
  • Hearing glib, pain-free people cheerfully announce that exercise, meditation, and a funny movie will remove their pain as well as any pill.
  • Knowing that real drug abusers who have been breaking laws, can get their addiction meds, often free, while your legitimate, provable, documented, legal medical condition is treated with contempt by law makers. *Sign a petition here!
  • Knowing that pain patients all over America, “the land of the free”, are needlessly suffering so that some politicians can look good in photo ops and in newspapers.
  • Knowing that we don’t allow animals to suffer like the laws have made actual people suffer.
  • Knowing that pain patients have a small voice, because they are too broke from trying to follow the burdensome laws suddenly imposed on them for things outside of their control; because they are too tired from fighting pain and doctors all day, all week, all month, all year long, to use the last of their energy to make their voices heard in politics, rather than spending time with family.

Imagine:

Spending all day trying to find another pain specialist, but being told by the first promising 4 they would not take acute pain cases, and could not recommend any one who would. Imagine calling your surgeon, desperate for help but being told their hands were legally tied. Imagine calling your primary care doctor, but being told they would not do anything, and to go to the ER if the pain “was that bad” (it’s not; you don’t need morphine injections, you just need something a bit stronger than acetaminophen, and you certainly don’t need an extra $6,000 medical bill).

Imagine not being able to take even ibuprofen, per your surgeon’s instructions, or being afraid of liver damage from too heavy acetaminophen use, or being on the phone for 5 hours, trying to find someone, anyone who can or will help.Imagine hanging up exhausted at the end of the day, and having nowhere to turn.

While nerve pain seeps into your side, your muscles begin to stiffen, and you desperately try to ward off an aching back and tailbone (you know, those parts that were recently severed and have bones, new hardware, and deep tissue working to heal) by sitting on an ice pack. The ice pack your now-defunct pain specialist told you not to use (although your surgeon recommended it), along with discontinuing those muscle relaxers your surgeon prescribed.

Imagine all this, if you can…

IMG_9222_watermark

Take a walk in my shoes

See also: On Opioids: OneYear After DEA Reforms and On Opioids: America’s Drug Addiction and the Wacky Laws that Perpetuate Them


Take Action Now!

Garnering Support for Pain Patients, Media Sample Letter

Garnering Support for Pain Patients, Political Sample Letter and Petition


Learn More:

Opioid Epidemic, Drug-Mix Overdose Death

Pain Care Shouldn’t Be Political Theater