Friday, September 25, 2009

Busy Times

The fall season is defnitely the busiest around here. We are heavy into football with Younger Son, a high school junior, playing JV and varsity. We also make as many Auburn games as we can and if we're not there in person we're watching them on TV. And the boys have tickets to the Titans' home games this year.

We are also in a season (that will probably go on for a while) where we have a lot of friends whose children are getting married. Wife, Older Son and I will hop a plane for Dallas in the morning and attend one of those weddings. The young man getting married is a longtime friend of Older Son's from Little Rock, and his parents are good friends to Wife and me. It will be a quick trip but will be worth the effort.

Daughter and her friend who lived with us over the summer are coming in later today and will go to tonight's game with us, then stay the weekend, even though we're leaving early in the morning. They'll have fun hanging out at home, though, and watching out for Younger Son.

It is during this busiest of times that Wife has chosen for us to go on our 25th wedding annversary trip. Readers might remember from an earlier post that she saved the money for and planned this trip.

We will fly from Atlanta to Barcelona next Thursday. Not having to board a plane in Nashville means we don't have to add another leg to the flight and for flying-averse people such as Wife and me, that is a good thing. We can make the short drive to Atlanta and get a direct flight.

We will be in Barcelona a couple of days before we get an a cruise ship that will take us to ports along the Mediterranean in France and Italy. I am sure it will be a lovely time. Not only did Wife plan the trip, she has also made all the arrangements for tours and excursions.

The good thing about cruising is that there is a minium of packing and unpacking and trying to find places to eat. I have only done one previous cruise, to Alaska with the whole family in 2006, and I loved it.

If there is a negative, I'm sure it will be that we will hit some high points but not have as much time as we might prefer. But hey, I am not in any way complaining.

As I have gotten older, some of my mild fears about certain things have grown into greater fears and some of the things I once had no problem with, welll, those things now bother me. Like flying, for instance. I no longer enjoy it. From going through security to being cooped up in that cabin to landing and taxiing to the gate, I just don't care for it. I feel a lot safer and more in control on the ground.

Funny, when we got married, Wife was the white-knuckle flier and I was not very patient with her. Somewhere along the way, though, I caught it from her. So I am no longer much help to her as I am just trying to get through it myself.

All that to say, I won't be dropping in here for a while. I go to Dallas tomorrow, get back late Sunday then work in Memphis Monday through Wednesday before leaving for our big trip next Thursday. We get back to Atlanta on the 10th but will spend a couple of days with Daughter at Auburn before we finally come home on the 12th. Her new members are being initiated and she will be speaking at a banquet, so we need to be there. Also thought it would be a good way to crash and get over jet lag before we re-enter real life.

For those of you who pray, I would ask for the following entreaties:

-- That there are no terrorist attacks in any country while we are gone, especially those we are visiting.

-- That the plane on which we are flying, each way, will take off, cruise and land in a smooth, non-remarkable way.

-- That Older Son and Younger Son, staying together at our house, will be safe and that Older Son will use the wisdom and maturity of his almost-24 years should any decisions need to be made of any importance.

-- That I won't have to take the Valium that a friend has given to me just in case a panic attack comes my way. More specifically, that there would be no such panic attack.

-- That Wife and I are safe on all parts of this journey and that we will return rested and refreshed.

Talk to y'all later . . . .

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

It's gotten really bad

In one week’s time here is what we have witnessed in the U.S.:

-- A Congressman yells out, “You lie!” to the President of the United States while the President is speaking to a nationally televised joint session of the House and Senate.

-- A world renowned tennis player who has made millions of dollars and has enjoyed privileges most could only dream about bursts out with profanities and throws a tantrum worthy of a three-year-old when she disagrees with the call of a line judge.

-- At an awards ceremony, a performer walks up to a fellow performer as she is accepting an award, pulls the microphone from her hand and explains to the crowd why another performer should have in fact won the award.

When did it get this bad? When did people like this – people of privilege – lose all sense of decorum and good manners and decide they can say and do anything at any time?

And that’s all I have to say about that.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Open House

Wife and I made the annual trek to our high school’s Open House last night. With Younger Son, our last child, now a junior, this was our next-to-last visit.

We opted to skip the big convocation at first and just go for the classroom visits. I know, I know, we are probably just cheating ourselves and when we don’t know something that’s going on at school we will have nobody to blame but ourselves

BUT this is our third and final child to go through the school system and we have sat through, ad nauseum, the speeches where they introduce all the principals and teachers, then plead for money, countless times. We know the teachers and principals by now. We give the money they ask for. Haven’t we earned the right not to sit through this?! And you know Wife and I are big rule followers and it took a lot of discussion for us to get our consciences clear enough to skip it. But we did and we’re OK.

Anyway, the way they conduct the Open House AFTER the boring meeting is by giving you a copy of your child’s schedule and letting you walk through it, going to each class for about seven minutes. Bells ring and everything. During your “lunch” and “study hall” you can loiter in the halls and visit with other parents – you don’t even need a pass.

To be doubly bold last night, we even skipped a class (Wife and I are definitely living on the edge)! It’s Weights and Kinesiology and Younger Son takes it as an elective so, in the off-football season, he can do his workouts and not have to stay after school. We’ve met the teacher and we know what they do in class. Besides, it was way on the other end from where we were.

The rest of the night we followed the rules to the letter, attended every class and learned what was expected of Younger Son. (This is, of course, so we could go home and interrogate him about everything).

To say things have changed since I was in school would be a gross understatement. Every teacher has a website and e-mail address. Many of the assignments are e-mailed from student to teacher. One of Younger Son’s current tasks is to prepare a Power Point presentation about the “gilded era” of the late 1800s. Good thing I don’t have to do that.

One of the coolest things about technology in the classroom is the advantages it gives students. If you forget to take a textbook or assignment home, you can more than likely find what you need online. Yes, even many of the textbook units are available at the click of a mouse and most of the teachers post the assignments on their websites. This eliminates the 9 p.m.-or-later frantic phone calls and/or visits to friends, begging them to borrow their book or assignment. We have been on both ends of that one through the years.

The Open House is really a lot of fun. I enjoy walking the hallways and sitting in the desks, pretending I am a student again (but thankful I am not). We are blessed to be in a superb school district with top-notch teachers who really care about students succeeding. The corollary to that is, in our community, we also have great parents who are supportive of the schools. The halls were so crowded last night with moms and dads that you could hardly move. What a great message that sends.

As we left, Wife commented with relief that no teacher shrieked, gasped or widened his/her eyes when we disclosed whose parents we were. That represents extreme progress from the time we first met Younger Son’s kindergarten teacher eleven years ago, who told us we had a very “active” (translated: wild) child and it would be very nice if he would “learn to use his inside voice.” I remember smiling politely and assuring her we would work on that.

I knew full well that this teacher would soon learn that Younger Son came to this earth equipped with only one voice -- kind of like indoor/outdoor carpet -- with one volume, with no control switch. I figured she could learn to live with that just as I had. And I really don’t think her sudden decision to retire that year had anything to do with that.

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Healthcare Quandary

I am as conflicted and confused as ever over the healthcare issue.

I have been reading just about everything I can get my hands on, including some great thoughts from my fellow bloggers, to try to be as informed as possible. I have asked the opinions of people I respect. I have talked to doctors.

I have listened to conservatives tell me how this is the beginning of socialized medicine; how, if the “public option” happens, the private insurers will be driven out of business and the government will become bigger and bigger; and how we will eventually have to wait weeks/months/years to obtain medical treatment we might need. I have also been told the proposed healthcare legislation has provisions that encourage euthanasia for older patients (this is not true).

Those more to the left allow as to how we are the only industrialized nation that does not assure healthcare for its citizens; how we have allowed the insurance companies to take over and run healthcare and, in so doing, cut out a major portion of the population via their various denials of coverage (Nancy Pelosi has called the insurance companies “villains”); and how upwards of 45 million are uninsured, which is unacceptable.

I have read authentic stories of patients in Canada and the UK who have, in fact, died while waiting for some procedure due to the government red tape involved. There are also accounts of patients from other countries, who in fact have some form of government insurance, coming to the U.S. to get treatment and paying from their own pockets due to the superiority of care in this country.

I have also read heart-wrenching accounts of hard working middle class Americans going bankrupt because of a catastrophic illness; a father whose Down Syndrome daughter was denied coverage because of her “pre-existing condition” when he changed from one insurance provider to another; and, maybe the most preposterous of all, a happily married couple who, upon recommendation of a hospital social worker, divorced so the husband, who contracted early-onset dementia and could no longer work, could qualify for Medicaid by not having to count his wife’s income.

It is enough to make one scream. And, after all this reading and studying, I am really not any closer to having a firm opinion. Here, however, are my thoughts today:

-- I think the Obama administration, though perhaps well intentioned, has done a horrible job of presenting the healthcare package to the American people. Although regular readers here know that I respect the man a great deal, sometimes I watch and listen to the president speak on this matter and think that he really doesn’t get it. He comes across as arrogant and impatient. I feel like he’s telling me to just get on board and let him work out the details. And that’s not Democracy, folks.

-- President Obama went on a popular national radio show recently to tout healthcare reform. There were callers to whom he spoke. To one of them he said, emphatically, “I guarantee you we will pass healthcare reform.” Really?! Seems a former president and his wife tried to make the same guarantee back in the early 1990s and look where it got them.

-- I am tired of people crying “socialized medicine.” Socialized medicine means the government essentially owns all the hospitals, and the doctors work for the government. A “single payer” system means the pay to the healthcare providers is funneled through the government but the providers are all still independent. They are not the same thing. As I see it, socialized medicine is not even on the table. A single payer plan, of sorts, would happen via the public option, but we would still not have a complete single payer system because private insurers would still exist. This is NOT socialized medicine. Maybe it's coming, but this is not it.

-- Along those lines, Medicare, enacted by the Johnson administration in the early 1960s, is an example of a single payer plan. Seniors who are on Medicare have their bills submitted directly to a government entity that pays them. I am sure it has its flaws but there are many elderly people who are very protective of it and, understandably, don’t want to lose it -- a lot of the same people who are so upset about the public option. A little ironic, it seems.

-- Insurance companies should not be painted as the “villains” in all of this, a la Nancy Pelosi. Some time ago, healthcare costs skyrocketed so that every person now must have health insurance to avoid bankruptcy in the event of a catastrophic illness. It was not always this way. For many years my dad, who was self-employed and the breadwinner for a family of four, did not carry health insurance but, rather, he “self-insured.” Today that would hardly be possible. Because health insurance today is not what it was originally designed to be, the companies have had to make drastic changes. They’re in the business – surprise, surprise – to make money so, just like any business, they are going to design themselves to have as few costs as possible and retain as much cash as possible. Because the cash they dispense goes to pay for our very wellbeing, it’s very personal to us as consumers. But it’s silly to call them “villains.”

-- My friend Steve wrote a great piece in which he questioned the whole matter of how healthcare today is so tied to our jobs. Getting health insurance is pretty much expected in this country when one applies for work. Steve hits the nail on the head, saying, “the fact that our healthcare is tied to employment is one of the reasons we are in this mess.” Wow, I could not agree more on that one. Why in the world should it be so? Would-be entrepreneurs are constrained from following their dreams because they need a job that provides health insurance.


My heart is heavy when I hear of hard-working American people who are denied coverage for healthcare. I have heard the accusations of laziness, making bad choices, etc. But I am careful not to judge another’s situation. Thank God, I have not been in those shoes. Not yet anyway.

Be that as it may, I still have a big problem with more and bigger government. Yes, we’ve had Social Security and Medicare around for a long time. But that doesn’t give me much comfort. I will be honest: the “public option” really scares me.

Although I am a little more informed than I might have been a few months ago, I am not any closer to a strong feeling either way.

I am prayerfully hopeful that our representatives from both sides will come together and tame this beast that is called healthcare. It is going to take hard work and it is going to take compromise. Arrogance, name calling, yelling and making outrageous exaggerated claims will not get it done.