Friday, August 27, 2010

Make Your Signs Bigger

Every day on my way to work I drive past our county court house. Once in a while there are protesters in front, demonstrating for or against something. I firmly believe in the right to protest, and I certainly admire those that take the time to stand up for something that they believe in.

I think the largest group I have seen there was about forty people. Most of the time it's about ten, a few times one or two people in lawn chairs with big signs propped in front of their legs.

Here's the problem. I never know what they are protesting about. On t.v. coverage of protests we always see easy to read signs. We have a nice audio of the chanting. In reality, at least here, I only have a few seconds to glance while driving by. If they are chanting, I might here the sounds of their voices, but never what they are saying. And their signs? Never can read them. They might have one word I can make out quickly: "Fight..." or "Stop..." or "Support" but the rest of the words are too small to quickly read. And unlike the televised signage, the signs I see are usually filled with words. Like twenty or thirty words. Not really getting the message across.

I'm not sure what audience the protesters are trying to reach. If it's the few people strolling around that part of town that day, or the employees at the county courthouse then I guess they are making their point. But if they are trying to inform the community at large---the people that drive by--about their beliefs I'm afraid they are missing their mark. It actually makes them look a little pathetic and inept--not smart enough to make their signs big enough or condense their concept into fewer words. This is a college town, and there should be enough educated people to be able to manage that simple feat.

I know that this weekend Glenn Beck, a man who makes his living off driving fear into the hearts of white America, is planning a big rally in D. C.. It's supposed to be remniscent of the march on Washington and giant rally that took place on the same date about forty years ago. When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. made his famous "I Have A Dream Speech".
Beck's followers are the antithesis of people who support real freedom, equality, and opportunity for all Americans. There are too many of them in this country, and I'm sure they will be out in force. And I'm sure their signs will be nice and big and easy to read, and probably spelled correctly. Perhaps that is the difference between genuine citizen protests and rallies that are backed by sponsors promoting their particular agenda.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

What Do You All Have To Say That Is So Important?

Yesterday I was driving to work behind a man that was simultaneously smoking a cigarette and texting while he drove. I know this for sure because he kept holding the phone up to text one-handed. I'm still not sure how he was steering (?his knees?) but I do know that he drove ten miles under the speed limit down a long road that had double yellow lines. (Double yellow lines mean that you cannot pass another car).

It seems like everyone is texting all the time. The other day I was driving home from the store. A young guy on a bicycle was on the road ahead, weaving on and off the road. When I was young, the only time you saw an adult male on a bike was when they'd lost their driving privileges because of drunk driving. Although that isn't true today, I was wondering if that was the reason this guy was bicycling. When I pulled next to him I could see that he was texting while he cycled.

People I work with all seem to carry their phones and in random moments pull them out and text. It's against all the rules, but who's going to tell? In the cafeteria at work, nearly every solitary diner sits and texts throughout their meal. (I like to read a book.)

Let me be clear, I text. It's not my primary source of social interaction. I can understand that it's a handy way to communicate. I would much prefer that people text than to have to listen to their one-sided phone calls everywhere I go. But this constant constant texting every spare moment. What can they possibly have to say that is so important?

Recently, Dr. Frank Ryan (a plastic surgeon in California) crashed his car and died while tweeting a photo of his dog in the car with him. I'm sure he thought it was a cute moment to share. Apparantly the concept of pulling over to take the picture, or waiting to send the picture was too much trouble. It cost him his life. Of course there are accidents every day caused by people texting and tweeting when they should be paying attention to other things. Now they are talking about passing laws against texting while driving. I'm not sure how easy it would be to enforce them. The scarier part to me is that they have to make a law to enforce what should be common sense.

As the saying goes, 'common sense' isn't common enough.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

We Live In A Crazy World

I work in a hospital and I see all kinds of situations. Yesterday, a patient left against medical advice. We knew why, but it wasn't written anywhere. He didn't want the diagnosis to appear in his medical file. If it did, he would probably lose his job. So he refused medical treatment, and his decision will probably shorten his life. Yet it was more important to him to hang on to his job, and his insurance, for as long as possible. I know changes are coming, but not soon enough. These stories play out every day in the middle of America.

Another patient, recovering from heart surgery. Snuck out of the hospital to have a cigarette. With her oxygen tank still attached. Guess what happened?
I'm a former smoker. I know how tough it can be to quit. Whoever snuck in those cigarettes to her...I hope they feel real good about themselves. She's in the burn unit now.

Then there was the lady who was discharged after a long stay and multiple surgeries. Sent home on a strict diet. She decided to celebrate at McDonalds instead. She collapsed right afterwards. Only out of the hospital for eight hours.

What are people thinking?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Illinois Governors

When most Americans think of corrupt State politics they think New Jersey or Louisiana. Both States seem to have a long long history of politicians ending up in prison. Of course the City of Chicago is famous for it's dirty politics--but as anyone from Illinois will tell you--Chicago isn't the whole State. However, Illinois governors have gone a long way in giving the State a corrupt reputation.

A most recent example, former Governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich, was impeached and removed from the Governor's office in 2009. He had his trial last month, there were 24 charges. The only conviction--a local headline said it best: "Blagojevich Is A Liar". After 14 days of deliberating, the only charge the entire jury agreed on was that he had lied to the FBI. For the rest, one juror-one holdout resulted in what is called a ''hung jury'. That means the jury could not reach an agreement based on the rules for that case. Luckily for Blagojevich, the rules were that the jury had to be unanimous.

Blagojevich is the second consecutive Illinois governor to be convicted for illegal activity while holding office as Governor. If he goes to prison he'll be the fifth Illinois Governor in my lifetime to serve time.

In case you are not familiar with the Blagojevich case (it may not receive the same publicity as it does in the greater Chicago area), he was Governor of Illinois when Barack Obama became President. Obama had been a Senator from Illinois when elected, and when a Senator leaves office before their term is up, the State's governor can appoint someone to complete the term--or serve until a special election is held.

There is evidence that he was trying to 'sell' the Senate appointment to the highest bidder. In fact, fears that such a sale was about to take place prompted his arrest in December of 2008. In recordings of his discussions it seems that was his intent, but it was considered difficult to prove. Other charges are based on his attempts to have editors at the Chicago Tribune newspaper fired for allowing written criticism of his policies. Even worse, there were charges that he was trying to obtain a campaign contribution before releasing State funds for a children's hospital. The whole case against him was based on his demands for something in his pocket any time the State, or he, gave anything out.

Blagojevich is a lawyer himself, and even though there are countless recordings of him making demands, the charges were difficult to prove. He worded things very carefully. Yet his entire defense was along the lines of "he wasn't corrupt, just naive and stupid."

As crazy as it sounded, it seemed to have worked for at least one juror. But prosecutors plan to retry the case. I don't know if a new trial will make a difference. As usual, no matter what, lawyers get richer. Meanwhile, another sleazy politician gives Illinois a bad name. Want to know who will win the Governor's election in the fall? Probably the man most likely to go to prison.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

It Means That the Terrorists Have Won

I try to keep away from politics at work. Like any group of thirty or so people I'm sure there are a variety of beliefs regarding religion and politics. Unfortunately, it seems those of the conservative and/or Christian Evangelical persuasion are always the ones eager to spout their beliefs--and look around eagerly for any and all to dare to disagree.

Without thinking enough about what I was doing, in the early days of my employment I used pencils festooned with Barack Obama's name, celebrating his inauguration. I had been given a box of them as a gift. There are certain forms that require pencils only at work. The cheap mechanical pencils they supply fall apart and break, and we are always in short supply. So I grabbed a handful of my gift pencils and put them in my pocket one day. I used them and lent them without thinking much about it. After all, if you are desperate for a pencil, who cares what is on the outside?

One day a co-worker, in a voice shaking with rage, told me to get that pencil out of her sight. "How dare you bring that to work!" she exclaimed. "It disgusts me to see his face. And this is no place for political statements!"

"But it's just a pencil. And he's already elected, it's not like I'm using them for a campaign promotion." I tried to calmly explain.

"Just keep it out of my sight." she said still shaking with anger.

I kept using the pencils until that handful ran out or disappeared. I've brought in a few more now and then, but also purchased a box of plain yellow pencils to carry too. This co-worker will occasionally make comments about how she watches Fox News constantly because she wants to know the truth. She tried to engage me once on the topic---"Did you see that story on Fox News about (whatever the drama of the day was at the time)?"

"I don't watch Fox News" I said.
"Why! Don't you want to know the facts?"
Refusing to engage, I just told her that I didn't have a television. I don't. I obtain all of my news on the internet. I watch programs and movies online. Then I moved my work to another area.

Of course the recent controversy over the Islamic community center and mosque two blocks from ground zero is all the rage now. Recently that same co-worker, accompanied by two of her conservative pals, ambushed me in the break room.

"We are talking about those Arabs trying to build a mosque by Ground Zero. Surely even you understand how wrong this is!" she told me. "It's an insult to all Americans and it is like they are spitting on the families still suffering from the tragic deaths of 9/11."

"I guess that means the terrorists have won," I answered. I could see that I confused them. I couldn't decide which part to point out first.

The irony that our country was settled by people running from religious persecution. That a firm separation of church and state was one of the first amendments to the Constitution. That if we used the same logic, then no Christian churches should have been built in the South after the Christian men in the KKK started burning crosses on the lawns of Catholics and Jews (they didn't just hate Blacks).

Or should I point out that the Imam of that mosque is known for preaching moderation, and should be encouraged? Or that New York is a huge city and there are probably countless things within two blocks of 'ground zero' they may find offensive? Or that they don't live in New York and will probably never go there so it really isn't there business...

No, what upsets me the most, and what I finally said was this:

"A few weeks ago Congress rejected a bill that would provide health care for all the men and women that helped rescue people at ground zero, that helped clean up the mess. And no one in the Conservative media cared. A few Republicans were on TV griping about the cost. The cost of giving them health care. That was not very patriotic. All the flag-waving, all the moaning about the tragedy of 9/11--but really no one cares about the survivors, or the rescuers. Except when trying to promote their own agenda.

Suddenly, instead of trying to fix a real problem so many people are all excited about building the Muslim equivalent of a YMCA. Really? This deserves more time and attention that the lack of health care for those 9/11 workers? I think that is way more important. And that if this represents a majority view, then our American ideals are just a sham anymore. Since the real goal of the terrorists was to rip into our society and economic system--and both seem to be collapsing around us--I guess that means that they already have won."

I got up and left without giving them a chance to respond. Because I don't care what they will say, it will just be more nonsense they are repeating because it reinforces their prejudices, and their belief that they are exceptional and more important than anyone else.

I'm just glad that we do have a Bill of Rights in our Constitution. Even though eight years of the Bush Administration and their eager followers just about destroyed a good chunk of it with the "Patriot Act". It's still there to cling to, especially that very first amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...

Working Afternoons

I work the afternoon shift, from 3 to 11:30 p.m. I am a night person. I just don't want to sleep before three or four a.m.anyway. Most days I wake up around 11 a.m.

Around 2 p.m. I'll leave for work, sometimes running a quick errand on the way. My workplace is located downtown, it's not a huge town, but the hospital is adjacent to a university. Parking is at a premium. As a new employee I was given seven typed pages of instructions designating where people in particular departments were allowed to park on each shift. They take it very seriously. I once parked in the wrong spot and my supervisor was immediately notified. I was told that we are allowed one 'error' and any future errors were marked against us in our file. It could affect future raises and promotions, etc..

So I'll drive through the enormous parking garage to my designated section and park. Then trek to the elevator, a glassed-in concoction that has become a sauna ride during this hot hot summer. I've given up on wearing makeup, it just melts off my face during the elevator ride.

I hike across the street--there are signs telling cars to yield to pedestrians. Most people do, but during shift change they get a little edgy if too many people cross and force them to wait. I tend to run into the same people on the way in, all of us working the afternoon shift.

It's about a five minute walk to my unit through a sprawling old building. I head into the locker room, already crowded with others trying to get items in their locker, put lunches in the refrigerator and attend to last minute details. Then to the time clock to punch in by scanning my badge. Sometimes it's frustrating. The earliest I can punch in is five minutes before. Yet if I am one minute late I am marked 'tardy' and once again have marks against any possible future raises or advancements. In fact, too many tardies are grounds for dismissal.

Naturally, the twenty other people in my unit are all trying to punch in at the same time too. The time clock doesn't always co-operate, sometimes you have to swipe your badge several times. In those last few minutes it can get really tense, Waiting to punch in and the people ahead of you keep trying to swipe their badge.
Then finally it's off to the floor.

It's always busy here, and shift change is especially chaotic. I find my dayshift counterpart. We work overlapping by half an hour to transition all that is happening as smoothly as possible. The phones ring, people interrupt, and the chaos can be crazy. Before I know it, dayshift is gone and I'm on my own.

No two nights are ever the same. Most are very hectic, and time flies. Our cafeteria closes at 7 p.m., so everyone rushes to get their dinner break in. Most nights, it's eleven p.m. before I know it and I'm rushing to finish up my duties before I leave.

Then it's a reverse treck to the parking garage and home. Another hot night in middle America.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

I Kissed Your Dad!

There are millions and millions of people in the greater Chicago area. As I've mentioned previously, I moved away for many years and returned last year. While I was gone I got a divorce and took back my maiden name.

Yesterday I wrote a check for some groceries, and the cashier recognized my last name. "Are you any relation to ____ ?" she asked. The name wasn't familiar. However she looked about twenty+ years younger than me, so she might be referring to the child of a cousin I'd know.

"I'm not sure, I have so many cousins." I answered. Both my father's parents came from huge families, ten and twelve children. Those children went on to have slightly smaller families of four to six children. Most of those children are already grandparents or will be soon. I am not even sure how many cousins I have.

The cashier persisted. "His parents are ___ and ___ ---do those names sound familiar?"

"Well, if her maiden name was ____, I do know who they are. Actually I was friends with her sister in school, we were excited that her big sister was marrying my cousin. That was forty years ago!"

The cashier became excited. I could see the lady in line behind me was getting angry, even though the cashier had been ringing up my order through all this. I began gathering my things trying to pay quickly and make a quick and polite exit.

"Then you might know my dad!" she said. "He was best friends with the guys in the _maiden name of childhood friend__ family!" I could barely remember my childhood friend's name, but out of politeness I asked "Who is your dad?"

"_____ ______ !" she said. "He married ___(another old schoolmate of mine_)."

Although I hadn't even thought of his name in years and years, the minute she said his name I saw his face. Leaning in to kiss me. He was the biggest crush I had when I was young. I tried and tried to flirt with him for years although I was terribly shy back then.

Then one day at a party we were dancing and he leaned in and gave me a kiss. I think I was about sixteen at the time. By today's standards it was a very innocent kiss. But the thrill I felt then was unforgettable.

We talked for hours that night. The next day he called and asked me to a concert--as part of a large group of friends going. Still, he had asked me! It would kind of be a date. I was so excited. My mother refused to let me go. Why?
He was one year younger than me. She thought it was shameful and that I would look 'desperate' going out with a younger guy.

It broke my heart to tell him. He avoided me after that. Ahh he was so cute!

"I had the biggest crush on him!" I blurted out. "He was a good kisser too!"

"Oh, gross," the cashier said. "I can't even think of my dad that way. I mean, he's a grandfather for heaven's sake."

I was a little embarrassed for being indiscreet, yet I thought it was kind of fun.
"Well, once upon a time your dad was a hottie," I told her. I know we're all old now, but you'll understand some day."

She started laughing,and said "maybe". "Can I tell him I saw you?"

"Oh sure," I told her. "I don't know if he will remember me, but I'll never forget him."

I took my groceries and moved on. Who would have thought, in this area teeming of people, that sometimes it's like a small town?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Happy Birthday Mr. President

Today is the President's birthday, he is 49. One year shy of the big 50. I know he has lots of critics. And I am fairly cynical about all politicians. There is no doubt that the deck has been stacked against the middle class for the past thirty years.

Yet I still have faith that he will still do what he can for the country and the middle class. I think he took on an enormous job--wars, economy, and a Republican party that cares only about themselves and holding power.

I am not saying Democrats are innocent, but of the two parties the Republicans seem to care less, and their whole philosophy is to help the rich get richer. Since the days of Ronald Reagan they've been succeeding.

Our only hope at all has been change, and I do think President Obama is working toward that goal.

Of course the phrase "Happy Birthday Mr. President" brings to mind the infamous sultry singing of the song by Marilyn Monroe to President Kennedy. What a different world we live in now! And the current President will be spending the evening in Chicago---with his immediate family scattered around the world.

While he dines in Chicago with friends on this hot summer night I hope he is able to relax and have some laughs. I'm sure he could use a few.

So I wish him happy birthday----and many more!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Doggy Day Care

I wonder if they have doggy day care in other countries? This has evolved from people boarding dogs when they have to go out of town, or be in the hospital. If there isn't a reliable person available to let the dog in and out, and make sure of their food and water supply there are two choices:
(1) pay a stranger to do it
(2) board them at a kennel

Some people don't feel comfortable allowing strangers (even if they have formed a business) access to their home. Boarding your dog generally meant your dog would spend most of their time in a cage, with some outdoor access. There are wonderful reputable kennels, and then there are those that put on a good front--but rely on the fact that your pet can't talk and tell you what really happened.

Many years ago my ex and I boarded a dog at a supposedly reputable kennel and left on a two-week vacation. We came back a few weeks early and drove directly to the kennel without calling. Only to discover our dog in a drugged haze. Apparently they kept things 'orderly' by keeping all the pets drugged. We were pretty upset, and not long after another family filed a lawsuit against the kennel because the drugging by inexperienced workers killed their dog.

In most households today both adults work full time, often for long hours. People (myself being one of them) want the pleasure of having a pet, but may live alone or in situations where there isn't anyone available to let the dog out.

When I obtained my dog 11 1/2 years ago, I was in an entirely different situation. For the first ten years of his life I always had people available to let him in and out (although I did board him in a local kennel a few times). I never envisioned a time that might change.

We've been together too many years to part now. Yet sometimes (as in yesterday) he couldn't be left alone.

I had heard from a few co-workers about a new Doggy Daycare facility in town. It included a large indoor play area. That appealed to me because it is still extremely hot outside, and my dog is an escape artist. Even at his advanced age, most fences are small obtacles for him. Whether he goes over or digs under, he will find a way.

This facility had a large, indoor area. There were raised areas for dogs to climb and lie down, and various toys for dogs to climb and run through. It was very clean, no doggy smell. I have an 80 lb Husky. He gets along with all other animals so I wasn't worried about him joining the group. There were about ten other dogs dashing around--of all shapes and sizes. Including Westies, Schnauzers, and another Husky. I liked the way the two workers stayed with him and the other dogs as they all got used to each other. After a few minutes he was happily trotting around with the other dogs and I left.

I had to leave the party early because the facility closed at 8 p.m. on Saturdays. It was a 45 minute drive, and I was a little anxious about how things worked out for him for the day.

When I arrived he was sleeping in a corner. The woman working there said he had run around and played off and on, but mostly laid there. Considering his age, and that he has arthritis I wasn't too surprised. But everything seemed to have gone well, he seemed very calm. I'm glad that I've discovered this alternative.

Daycare for dogs might seem a bit decadent, the money spent might seem to some a bit wasteful. But my dog is my family. In a situation where I had nowhere to put him, and nobody to care for him on Saturday it was a wonderful blessing.
And he must have had fun, he's still pretty tired from his day.

Hungry Guests At A Three Ring Ceremony

As I mentioned in my previous post (Party Prep) my cousin P. and her husband T. celebrated their 25th anniversary. I was astounded by the amount of food prepared and thought there would be tons left over. Boy, was I wrong.

But let me go back to the beginning. The weather was cloudy and threatened rain, but at least it was cooler than it had been for weeks. The the front and back yards were decorated with tables and balloons and other decorations to add to the festive air. My cousin and her husband stood in a garden arbor complete with trickling fountains. His uncle offered a lovely blessing, and repeated a poem that T. had written for P. after they first married in 1985. What T. didn't know was that P. was going to surprise him with a wedding band. What P. didn't know was that T. had bought her a ring, and himself a wedding band. So his uncle pulls out the box that T. had given him, and explained about the two rings--I could see P.'s shock and knew she was thinking 'so how do I mention the ring I have?" After they exchanged the rings that T. had bought, she whispered to his uncle. He announced a new surprise--another ring! So she slipped that ring on another finger--and it might have been the first ever 25th anniversary vow renewal three-ring ceremony.

We put out food, and more food and more food. I could not believe how much people were eating. Within two hours almost all of the food was gone. I'm not talking food like carrots and potato chips. I'm talking beef, chicken, sausage and saurkraut, lasagna, an array of salads and fruits. And of course lots of sweets--cakes, cookies, and other delights.

This party was an Open House--meaning people were welcome to come and go--from 3-10 p.m.. We put the food out at four. At six my aunt was panicking and sent her granddaughter to the store for more. I felt bad for teasing her about getting too much food. Clearly, I was wrong.

It was a nice gathering. T. also surprised P. with a live band. Guests were fishing, preparing for boat rides, playing yard games like bean bag toss, and the band was setting up when I had to leave. I'm sure the party went on well into the night--since all the neighbors were there I don't think anyone complained!