KOK Edit: Your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM)
KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) Katharine O'Moore Klopf

Friday, April 28, 2006

A Painful Day at Work

Ed on the bed that he designed and built for usPainful for my husband, Ed, that is—not for me.

He is a cabinetmaker (there he is in the photo at the left, on the bed he designed and built for us) in excellent physical shape and is quite strong. He was lifting a huge sheet of wood at work today—knows the proper way to do it to avoid damaging his back—when the wood suddently shifted, making his left elbow "feel like scrambled eggs," and he struggled to set the sheet down without dropping and destroying it. (It was obscenely expensive pear wood.)

He called me, and I insisted that he just not shrug off the pain but instead tell his boss that he needed to get to the local hospital to have it checked out. Turns out that he tore the ligaments to his bicep. A surgeon is now looking at his arm and says that if Ed were, say, 70 and retired, the treatment would be just to rest the arm. But because Ed's 44 and does a lot of heavy lifting at work, the surgeon's recommending surgery to repair the damage.

The tricky thing is that Ed's job is in Southampton, home to the filthy rich who can afford the kind of cabinetry he creates, and that's over an hour's drive from here ... and he drove our old stick-shift Toyota to work today. He insists he'll be able to drive himself home, especially because his right arm (his shifting arm) is just fine. I want to drive out there, with an in-law, in our van so that the in-law can drive the van back and I can drive the Toyota home with Ed in it. We'll see how that discussion turns out. The smart money is on me.

Updated 3:45 p.m.: Ed's trip to the emergency room and the upcoming surgery should be covered by workers' compensation, so we won't have to pay the $100 ER trip deductible and the $500 hospital stay deductible that our own insurance policy would mandate. But he can't have the surgery—and the MRI that the surgeon wants before surgery—until it's approved by workers' comp.

Ed's arm's in a sling, and I browbeat—er ... talked—him into allowing himself to be driven home. His parents are driving their car out there, and one of them will drive their car back and the other will drive the Toyota back. I text-messaged him several times in the course of our discussion and included mentions that my brother, our 23-year-old daughter, his parents, and several friends said that he should listen to his wife. And besides, my brother and daughter texted him too. ;-)

The surgeon told him that his type of injury is rare, but in Southampton, where he works, the surgeon does at least two surgeries a month for people with the same injury. That's because the "trade brigade"—which is all of the tradesmen like Ed—is so large out there. There are enough millionaires out there to need the services of a great many tradespeople.

Updated 3:45 p.m., April 29: Ed's surgeon tells him that the procedure he'll undergo will entail using chitin screws to reattach the biceps ligaments to the bone. The ligaments will then eventually regrow their own attachments to the bone, and the screws will eventually be absorbed by Ed's body. Chitin screws are available because of research on horseshoe crabs.

After surgery and physical rehab, his arm should be back to near normal strength within 6 months. We can't afford for him to lose much time from work, so other than recuperation from surgery, he won't take any time off. He's right-handed, so there's still a lot he can do at work, especially if the other cabinetmakers move large things around for him.

The surgeon who'll do the procedure once repaired a broken arm for singer Billy Joel. That's cool.

Updated 9:05 p.m., May 1: Ed's wearing an arm brace that looks like the one here, except he doesn't have the shoulder strap. It has a locking device at the elbow, which keeps him from bending his arm any way that the surgeon doesn't want him to. As he heals, the surgeon will unlock it progressively a little bit more each time, so that he can move it. This is a good thing. Otherwise, I'm sure he'd have been trying to do foolish things with his injured arm this weekend. As it was, he was doing everything humanly possible to overwork his uninjured arm, I guess to reassure himself that he can still do plenty of things. (I admit to doing just about the same thing last summer when I broke my right arm.)

Updated 1:55 p.m., May 4: Surgery is scheduled for Tuesday, May 9. The orthopedic surgeon, a very nice guy, isn't willing to wait the 18 days or so that it will likely take for a response from the state workers' comp board, so he's going to do the surgery Tuesday and duke it out (if necessary) with workers' comp afterward. The procedure will be considered ambulatory surgery, so I'll have recuperated enough by then from the miserable cold I have to drive him to the hospital, wait through the procedure, and drive him back home again. The only downside is that the hospital is in Southampton, where Ed works, and is just over an hour away from here, so we'll be leaving at the crack of dawn, because surgery will likely be scheduled early in the morning, to avoid the commuter traffic.

Updated 12:55 a.m., May 12: The operation went well on Tuesday; the surgeon was pleased. Ed had told the surgeon that I'm a medical copyeditor, so after the procedure was done, the surgeon came out and showed me diagrams of what he did to Ed's arm. Ed is taking pain medication and a prescription-strength anti-inflammatory, so he's feeling pretty good. The surgeon wants him off work completely for two weeks. The boys and I will get spoiled by having him around all of the time. He's such a sweetheart that they would love to skip school for the whole two weeks just to have more time with him. Many thanks to all those who sent healing thoughts Ed's way.


Sunday, April 23, 2006

My Sons

Neil and Jared at play

My sons, Neil (11) and Jared (4), playing at a local park


Thursday, April 20, 2006

"I Am the Decider"

I am the decider! Give a listen to "I Am the Decider."

Check out this great new piece by the same artist.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Becoming Who He'll Be

NeilI’m going to like the adult my middle son Neil will become.

He’s 11 years old and in sixth grade now. That sounds so unremarkable, but it’s not.

His early childhood was very stressful, both for him and for my husband Ed and me. He has severe attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD) and depression. The depression’s not surprising, considering how society treats round pegs who don’t fit the standard square holes, but it also may in part be genetic. Before we got his medications for both conditions and his classroom setting sorted out over the years, he was a frustrated, angry, sad child. In third grade, in a public-school classroom of 25, he’d get overwhelmed with all of the distractions and demands on his concentration and hide under his desk, sometimes refusing to come out. He’d misinterpret other children’s behaviors and be teased or bullied because of it.

He’s come so far since then, and I can see glimpses of the man he will be one day.

He occasionally fights with his 4-year-old brother, Jared, who sometimes deliberately provokes him and sometimes just overreacts because he doesn’t understand that Neil’s underdeveloped social finesse isn’t intentional. And then when Jared waits outside our house with me for Neil’s bus to drop him off after school, Neil will often leap off the bus and give his brother a bear hug, even picking him up and holding him. (And that can be funny, because Neil’s thin as a toothpick and of average height for his age, while Jared looks like a future linebacker and is as big as the average 6-year-old.)

Neil will initiate long, involved conversations with Ed and me about politics, poverty, hunger, and social injustices. Admittedly, he hears us talking about these issues, but he isn’t required to be interested in them. He’s very passionate about his stances on them and intends to work to make the world a better place one day.

Because he attends a public middle school for children with learning disabilities, he encounters children with autism and emotional disorders. This morning at breakfast, he asked me what bipolar disorder is. He wanted to understand a bus mate’s moods. He went on to explain that he thinks the boy is making progress in self-control and that he was glad that the boy could now safely join in the games in gym. He added that the boy “doesn’t feel very good about himself” and that he often gives him pep talks.

He still calls us Mommy and Daddy, not yet having felt the adolescent need to distance himself from us. And what touches me the most is that after all those early years, when his untreated AD/HD made it uncomfortable for him to stay still long enough for snuggling, he now will nestle up next to us on the couch or come into my office for kisses and hugs.

Puberty’s sneaking up on him, though. When there are mild sexual innuendos on a TV program that we’re all watching, he asks us if what he suspects is the meaning is correct, then laughs embarrassedly when it is. Of course, being the way we are, Ed and I use every teachable moment that comes up to explain issues about sexuality and gender identity and self-respect and respect for others. And Neil blushes and says, “Stop! They teach us about that stuff in school!” And we explain that we don’t depend on the school to do our job, that he needs to hear our stances. We tell him that we don’t want him to see sex as a scary or “dirty” or forbidden, and that we want him to know all of the facts.

His mind is filled with the inventions he’d like to produce when he grows up. He builds working lawn mowers and ball-and-socket joints and complex motorized gizmos with his K’Nex construction set. He dreams of finding a cure for AD/HD and for mental illnesses and cancer. He wants to be a rock star and has grudgingly acquiesced to our requirement that he learn to play the acoustic guitar before he buys himself an electric guitar with his saved-up allowance. He’s growing his hair long in anticipation of his future rock-god status.

He uses large cardboard boxes as bird-watching blinds. He'll sit motionless inside them for a half hour at a time, observing the sparrows, grackles, bluejays, cardinals, chickadees, titmice, and mourning doves eating from our front-yard bird feeder or pecking at the seeds that fall to the ground from it. He's loved birds since he was very small. As a little toddler, he'd climb onto the bench by the front window in our kitchen, point excitedly as birds flew by, and shout, "Deet-deets, Mommy! Deet-deets!" Deet-deet was his baby word for both tweet-tweet, meaning bird, and tweet, tweet, the sound birds make. When he was 18 months old, I even embroidered a picture of many kinds of birds perched outside a cluster of species-specific birdhouses, because I knew that one day, he'd want to hang it in his own home, next to a pair of binoculars.

He’s sweet and gentle and serious and analytical. I think he’ll do just fine. And I adore him.


Saturday, April 15, 2006

Happy Easter!

How Jesus might really have looked
Illustration by BBC Photo Library
Cover of the December 17, 2002, issue of Popular Mechanics,
illustrating the cover story,
"The Real Face of Jesus"

Because my blog stats show that this picture is very popular, I'm posting it again this Easter. May everyone everywhere, of whatever religion or of none, stop for a moment to realize that there is holiness in every person of every racial, ethnic, religious, and social group. Every person is worthy of respect and honor and kindness.

Easter Jesus Christ God respect honor kindness EditorMom

Friday, April 14, 2006

The Waiting Game

Well, now the VA hospital wants my father-in-law, A., to hurry up and wait (backstory here, here, here, and here) for his prostatectomy. You have cancer? Don't worry; we can just leave it in your body for six to eight weeks, no problem.

A's doctor called this morning, after canceling the surgery yesterday that he'd scheduled for April 18, to say that his department head at the hospital, during case reviews this morning, said that A. must wait 6 to 8 weeks for a prostatectomy because of his "tendency toward getting infections."

Sounds as if the hospital's looking out for A's best interests, doesn't it?

I'm not so sure.

Of the three prostate biopsies he's had within the last few years, all have been at the same VA hospital and two have resulted in infections requiring his hospitalization. I've found several medical studies that show that the rate of infection from properly done prostate biopsies is 1% or less.

Doesn't sound to me that the docs at A's VA hospital are that competent.

sandwich generation in-laws intergenerational prostate cancer Veterans Affairs EditorMom

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Thinking About Becoming a Freelance Copyeditor?

Want to become a freelance copyeditor? Maybe you're ready to leave the corporate world or you'd like to have the flexibility that working for yourself can offer. How do you market yourself to establish and build your business? Do you know what skills you need, and what resources are available for you to develop those skills? What computer resources will you need? And what about money—how do you charge for your work, budget for the slow periods, and deal with invoicing and contracts?

"Getting Started as a Freelance Copyeditor," a 16-page onscreen booklet from KOK Edit, will tell you what you need to know. I'm the author; I have 22 years of experience in publishing, half of it as a freelancer.

To purchase this information-packed booklet by credit card or bank-account debit for only U.S.$40.00, go to the "Payment" section here. When you're prompted to input an invoice number, just type in Getting Started. Once I receive your payment, I'll send you the booklet by e-mail.

publishing skills business clients marketing

Foiled Again by the VA Hospital

It's always hard to convince my father-in-law, A., to do the healthy thing. For once, he was convinced ... and now the VA hospital is going to make it impossible for him to be convinced again. (Backstory here and here and here.)

A's prostatectomy was scheduled for Tuesday, April 18. He'd finally listened to his doctor's recommendation that he not work the following weekend. And just now, he gets a call from the hospital that the operation will have to be postponed because there are too many other procedures ahead of his on Tuesday.

I can't see A. telling the country club where he has a music gig that he's taking yet another weekend off. Plus, if the procedure isn't done before April 23, hospital regulations will require him to redo all of the preop testing. Sigh!

sandwich generation in-laws intergenerational prostate cancer Veterans Affairs EditorMom

Monday, April 10, 2006

There's Being Optimistic, and Then There's Being in Denial

You know, my father-in-law causes me to use the word argh (and a good many rude words) more often than anyone else does.

If you've been following his saga (see this and this), you'll know that A. has prostate cancer. He's now passed all of the tests required for him to have a prostatectomy; he just has to get an X-ray tomorrow. His doctor says that his bone scan shows that the cancer hasn't spread to his bones ... but he does have osteoporosis, which is why he's now bowlegged and has been getting shorter over the years.

Meanwhile, he's been continuing to look for part-time music gigs. He's a jazz-and-blues vocalist and pianist, and he's stuck in the '70s—which is ironic, because he'll turn 70 himself at the end of May. It's been harder and harder for him to get bookings over the years because hardly anybody wants to hear the stuff he plays anymore. But immediately after getting out of the VA hospital last week after being treated for an infection caused by a prostate biopsy, he managed to book a 9-month weekends-only gig at a local country club. His dermatologist, who loves music of all kinds, had used his contacts at the country club to get A. a tryout there.

I'm happy that A. is going to be doing what he enjoys most for the next 9 months, but he's so focused on the income it'll bring in that he's going to put on hold—for as long as a year—the knee-replacement surgery he was so desperate to have. It was because of all of the tests he had to undergo to be cleared for the knee replacement that his prostate cancer was found.

And today A's doctor says that his prostatectomy will be scheduled for Tuesday, April 18. Guess what he plans to do on the weekend just after the surgery? Perform at the country club on Saturday and at a private birthday party on Sunday. His doc said that he wouldn't advise A to do so.

I asked my mother-in-law, D., to tell A. that I said that he should get another musician to fill in for him that weekend or he'll pop his abdominal stitches from the prostatectomy when he moves his keyboard and sound equipment in and out of the country club and restaurant, and that he'd not make a good impression having to be taken away from a gig in an ambulance.

But I'm betting that even that image won't sway A.

Argh! #^$@(*!

Updated 10:35 p.m.: Well, I don't know what changed A's mind, but the good news is that he's not going to be working next weekend after his prostatectomy. Thank goodness!

sandwich generation in-laws intergenerational prostate cancer Veterans Affairs EditorMom

Pentagon's Top Operations Officer Tells Why Iraq War Was a Mistake

If, after seeing the poor decision-making skills and lack of morals the Bush administration has exhibited, you still think the war in Iraq has merit, please read what General Greg Newbold, who voiced his objections to the war while on the job and then retired, partly because he opposed the war, had to say to Time magazine:

From 2000 until October 2002, I was a Marine Corps lieutenant general and director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. After 9/11, I was a witness and therefore a party to the actions that led us to the invasion of Iraq—an unnecessary war. Inside the military family, I made no secret of my view that the zealots' rationale for war made no sense. And I think I was outspoken enough to make those senior to me uncomfortable. But I now regret that I did not more openly challenge those who were determined to invade a country whose actions were peripheral to the real threat—al-Qaeda. I retired from the military four months before the invasion, in part because of my opposition to those who had used 9/11's tragedy to hijack our security policy. Until now, I have resisted speaking out in public. I've been silent long enough. ...

What we are living with now is the consequences of successive policy failures. Some of the missteps include: the distortion of intelligence in the buildup to the war, McNamara-like micromanagement that kept our forces from having enough resources to do the job, the failure to retain and reconstitute the Iraqi military in time to help quell civil disorder, the initial denial that an insurgency was the heart of the opposition to occupation, alienation of allies who could have helped in a more robust way to rebuild Iraq, and the continuing failure of the other agencies of our government to commit assets to the same degree as the Defense Department. My sincere view is that the commitment of our forces to this fight was done with a casualness and swagger that are the special province of those who have never had to execute these missions—or bury the results.

Flaws in our civilians are one thing; the failure of the Pentagon's military leaders is quite another. Those are men who know the hard consequences of war but, with few exceptions, acted timidly when their voices urgently needed to be heard. When they knew the plan was flawed, saw intelligence distorted to justify a rationale for war, or witnessed arrogant micromanagement that at times crippled the military's effectiveness, many leaders who wore the uniform chose inaction. A few of the most senior officers actually supported the logic for war. Others were simply intimidated, while still others must have believed that the principle of obedience does not allow for respectful dissent. The consequence of the military's quiescence was that a fundamentally flawed plan was executed for an invented war, while pursuing the real enemy, al-Qaeda, became a secondary effort. ...

To be sure, the Bush Administration and senior military officials are not alone in their culpability. Members of Congress—from both parties—defaulted in fulfilling their constitutional responsibility for oversight. Many in the media saw the warning signs and heard cautionary tales before the invasion from wise observers like former Central Command chiefs Joe Hoar and Tony Zinni but gave insufficient weight to their views. These are the same news organizations that now downplay both the heroic and the constructive in Iraq. ...

The rest is here.

Happy Birthday to My Baby!

Happy birthday, Becky!Today my oldest baby turns 23. Happy birthday, Becky! I love you and am so proud of you.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Top Reasons for Impeaching Bush

From Democrats.com, the top reasons for impeaching Bush:

  • Invading Iraq without any threat to the U.S.
  • Lying about Iraqi WMD to Congress and the American people
  • Causing the deaths of over 2,000 U.S. troops and the maiming of over 10,000 more
  • Failing to provide adequate equipment and armor to U.S. troops
  • Allowing illegal torture and murder of prisoners
  • Causing the deaths of 100,000 Iraqi civilians
  • Spending $300 billion in just two years for an occupation that could last for decades
  • Letting Halliburton steal billions through no-bid contracts
  • Using vast quantities of depleted uranium weapons that will poison Iraq now and for generations to come

September 11
  • Ignoring countless warnings of an attack in the U.S.
  • Reading My Pet Goat during the attack
  • Letting Osama bin Laden escape from Afghanistan
  • Holding no bureaucrat accountable for ignoring warnings
  • Delaying and obstructing the 9/11 commission investigation
  • Turning Afghanistan into the world's largest opium producer

  • Allowing international terrorism incidents to quadruple and trying to cover up the facts
  • Failing to secure our borders and ports to prevent terrorism
  • Creating a new generation of terrorists through the invasion of Iraq and the killing of 100,000 civilians
  • Letting terrorists buy high-powered weapons inside the U.S.
  • Letting North Korea build nuclear bombs and missiles that can cross the Pacific Ocean
  • Refusing to shut down Pakistan's nuclear weapons exports

Foreign Relations
  • Turning the world against the United States
  • Preparing for another war—with Iran
  • Signing treaties that cost America jobs and undermine American laws

  • Letting gasoline prices double, at devastating cost to the economy, while oil companies make record profits
  • Letting corrupt companies like Enron steal billions from consumers and employees
  • Cutting taxes for the rich and turning a $5 trillion budget surplus into a $5 trillion budget deficit
  • Adding trillions to the national debt, which our children and grandchildren will have to pay off with interest
  • Letting millions of American jobs go overseas

  • Letting bureaucrats wiretap Americans without a court order
  • Locking up suspects for years without charges or trials
  • Arresting nonviolent protesters at Bush events
  • Packing the courts with right-wing judges to outlaw abortion
  • Ordering federal courts to interfere in the Terri Schiavo tragedy
  • Taking away our right to sue corporations through class actions
  • Taking away our right to declare bankruptcy under Chapter 7 and forcing middle-class Americans into debt slavery

  • Stealing the presidential elections of 2000 and 2004
  • Refusing to investigate the disenfranchisement of tens of thousands of voters in Florida and Ohio
  • Promoting black-box electronic voting machines without paper trails
  • Embracing dictators in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Russia, and China
  • Overthrowing democratically elected leaders in Haiti and Venezuela

  • Allowing global warming, which will cause massive environmental damage
  • Allowing more toxic mercury in the air and water
  • Allowing oil drilling in wilderness areas

  • Illegally outing CIA agent Valerie Plame, an important anti-terrorism official
  • Letting a gay male prostitute (Jeff Gannon) roam free in the White House
  • Paying journalists to give favorable coverage to the administration
  • Relying on an earpiece for answers during debates and press conferences
  • Going AWOL from the Texas Air National Guard in 1972 and covering it up ever since
  • Defending the most corrupt member of Congress (Tom DeLay)

Time for a New Flag

I'm so fed up that I'm having a flag maker create this custom flag for me, so that I can fly it on the flagpole in my front yard that's taller than my house:

Flag: Impeach Bush and Cheney Now! (Design copyright © 2006 by Katharine O'Moore-Klopf.)

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Will the Massachusetts Health Insurance Plan Work?

This week, Anonymous posted a comment here:

I'm curious what you think of the ... Massachusetts legislation [link added] requiring health care for all. I haven't looked at it too much since I don't live there. Have you? If so, would similar legislation in NY State have helped you out, or would you still make too much money to get much help?

The answer: If my family and I lived in Massachusetts, we wouldn’t qualify for either the state Medicaid program or for the state’s subsidizing of our health care insurance premiums. That’s because our annual income is more than 300% of the federal poverty level, which is about $50,000 for a family of three, according to the Boston Globe, and would extrapolate to about $67,000 for a family of four, like mine. But if you read EditorMom regularly, you know what we’ve gone through to find affordable—that’s not to say efficient and patient-friendly—health care.

I’m glad to hear that at least one state is trying to make sure most of its residents have health insurance. It’s about damn time. I’m just not sure how well the Massachusetts plan will work. Here’s how it’s supposed to work, says the Globe:

The bill, the product of months of wrangling between legislators and the governor, requires all Massachusetts residents to obtain health coverage by July 1, 2007.

Individuals who can afford private insurance will be penalized on their state income taxes if they do not purchase it. Government subsidies to private insurance plans will allow more of the working poor to buy insurance and will expand the number of children who are eligible for free coverage. Businesses with more than 10 workers that do not provide insurance will be assessed up to $295 per employee per year.

All told, the plan is expected to cover 515,000 uninsured people within three years, about 95 percent of the state's uninsured population, legislators said, leaving less than 1 percent of the population unprotected.

But a Massachusetts resident’s earning an income that puts her above the federal poverty level doesn’t necessarily mean she can afford to buy her own health insurance. What if she’s a single mother who owns a small home and is putting a child through college? If we extrapolate again from the poverty-level figure reported in the Globe, this single mother with one child would be earning about $33,000 a year. What should she give up to be able to afford insurance: A stable place for her and her child to live? Her child’s education, which may condemn that child to a subsistence-pay job? Payments on the used car she bought to get her to and from work? Heating and electricity?

Massachusetts legislators have said that they expect the average monthly premiums under the new plan to be about $325 for individuals and about twice that for families. Now, I’m not that hypothetical single mother—though I once was here on New York State’s very expensive Long Island and I couldn’t afford anything more than an illegal garage apartment—but don’t you think that $650 a month for insurance (twice the postulated premium for individuals) is a hell of a lot of money? My husband and I together make monthly mortgage payments of about $1,300. That Massachusetts family premium is half a mortgage, if it’s for a small 1,400-square-foot home like the one I own. How in blazes would my hypothetical single mom afford a mortgage and a half?

What I think has to happen is the creation of a federal single-payer system. It would be financed by every income earner’s having a specified amount, based on annual earnings, deducted each pay period from his or her paycheck and every self-employed person’s making payments to the insurance system at the same time that he or she makes quarterly estimated tax payments to the feds and the state (if living in a place with state income taxes). Medicare could be revamped to be the system’s insurance provider.

This can happen, but only if Congress pays attention to the fact that three states (Maine, California, and Massachusetts) have been making serious efforts to fix the train wreck of a health care system that we have. Want to get motivated to push Congress enough to do something? Think about this: Most members of Congress pay premiums that are ridiculously low [rate info provided by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the human resources department for the federal government] when compared with their salaries.

health care insurance self-employed Massachusetts Congress EditorMom

The Perfect Reason for Impeaching Bush and Cheney

If Bush's authorizing leaks—through Cheney—on Valery Plame's CIA status isn't grounds for impeachment proceedings against both men, I don't know what is.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Have Senator, Will Trade or Build to Suit

The latest news about Senator Russ Feingold has made me envious. I'm stuck with Hillary Rodham Clinton, she who rode into politics on her husband's coattails and still supports the war in Iraq. Yes, I also have the generally decent Chuck Schumer, but I want a matched pair. Says yesterday's press release from Feingold's office:

Responding to a question posed at his Kenosha County listening session over the weekend, U.S. Senator Russ Feingold said he strongly opposed the proposed civil unions and marriage ban facing Wisconsin voters this November. He also expressed his support for the right of gays and lesbians to marry. Feingold holds listening sessions in each of Wisconsin’s 72 counties every year. Later this year, Feingold will hold his 1000th listening session as a U.S. Senator.

“The proposed ban on civil unions and marriage is a mean-spirited attempt to divide Wisconsin and I indicated that it should be defeated,” Feingold said. “It discriminates against thousands of people in our communities—our co-workers, our neighbors, our friends, and our family members. It would single out members of a particular group and forever deny them rights and protections granted to all other Wisconsin citizens. It would also outlaw civil unions and jeopardize many legal protections for all unmarried couples, whether of the same or the opposite sex. We shouldn’t enshrine this prejudice in our state’s Constitution.”

At the listening session, held at the Village Hall in Paddock Lake, Wisconsin, Feingold also expressed his support for the right of gays and lesbians to marry.

“As I said at the Kenosha County listening session, gay and lesbian couples should be able to marry and have access to the same rights, privileges and benefits that straight couples currently enjoy,” Feingold added. “Denying people this basic American right is the kind of discrimination that has no place in our laws, especially in a progressive state like Wisconsin. The time has come to end this discrimination and the politics of divisiveness that has become part of this issue.”

Clinton and Schumer have said they oppose same-sex marriage, though Schumer supports same-sex civil unions.

And though Feingold is sponsoring a resolution to censure Bush for illegally spying on Americans, neither Clinton nor Schumer has signed on.

I'm sure Feingold isn't perfect, but at least he acts on his conscience instead of posing for meaningless photo ops and sublimating personal convictions to win votes the way Clinton does. (Whatever happened to health care reform, Hillary?) I'd love to trade Clinton for Feingold. Wisconsin, are you game?

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Member of the Serious Sex

I handle the finances in my family because I'm the one who's good at it. I'm the one who makes all the appointments and navigates the customer service labyrinths. I'm 46 and have a good deal of life experience. I have an IQ of 142. I'm no shrinking violet; I've taken on many an authority figure and corporation and won.

Yet when I deal with male auto mechanics, male home appliance sales reps, home-remodeling supplies deliverymen, and male credit card customer service reps, I'm thought to be the airheaded little missus. If I'm with my husband at the moment, their eyes flick over to my husband because they're waiting for the "real" authority to speak up. If I'm alone or on the phone, I'm asked questions that insinuate that I don't know what I'm talking about. Back when I married my husband and we both hyphenated our surnames, I even encountered one credit card customer service rep who refused to change my husband's surname on our account, telling me that men "can't" change their surnames.

And my husband's boss and coworkers (all men)—he's a cabinetmaker—can't seem to fathom the concept of a woman (me) owning her own business, or even holding down a job, so they don't understand my husband sometimes taking time off from work to handle family emergencies rather than leaving all the crises for me to deal with. He actually thinks my job is as important as his. Imagine that!

Seems that if you don't have a penis, you don't count. Maybe I should buy a cadaver penis to carry around with me so that I can say, "Here's my dick—now take me seriously."

discrimination sexism self-employed feminism gender culture patriarchy EditorMom

Monday, April 03, 2006

Trying to Teach the In-laws Assertiveness


You'll remember that my father-in-law, A, has been hospitalized because of an infection due to a prostate biopsy and that his doctor discovered that he has prostate cancer.

Earlier today A called D, my mother-in-law, to say that for some mysterious reason, A was being released from the VA hospital today before his prostate had been removed. A, who avoids confrontation and speaking up for himself in every situation, didn't know why he was being released and didn't have any details! Part of his behavior is explainable by his having untreated attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD).

I asked D a series of questions, while she was waiting to hear from A that he was ready to be picked up, trying to get more information. She said she got nowhere with the receptionist in the A's doctor's office. I said she should keep calling back, asking questions and saying that she needs the information because A is prone to either asking no questions of doctors or asking the wrong ones and to forgetting (no, he doesn't have Alzheimer's or senile dementia; he just has AD/HD) or misinterpreting what doctors say to him. She shrugged, which I took to mean that she wasn't going to do anything more—because she generally doesn't assert herself.

I called my husband Ed and asked him to leave work so he could go to the hospital with D to pick up A. I couldn't go because someone has to be home here with our sons, I'm facing a client's deadline, and at least Ed, because he's not self-employed like me, could get vacation pay for today. Someone had to go with her because she gets flustered when talking to authority figures and so probably wouldn't get enough info either. I asked Ed to channel me—to be firm about not leaving until he got answers. I even printed out a list of questions for him to take to the hospital and ask the docs before he and D bring A home.

But by the time Ed got home (he has an hour's commute) and was ready to go with D to the hospital, A's doc had called and given D the full scoop. This happened only because I pushed her to insist that as next of kin, she be given information. When I asked her why she hadn't insisted, before my urging, that the doctor get back to her with details, she said she didn't want to have him performing surgery on A after having been aggravated with her.

Since when is politely insisting that you be taken seriously a crime and enough to piss off a doctor? I don't understand people who are afraid to speak up for themselves. Many times over the years, I've explained to both A and D that being assertive doesn't equal being hateful. They seem to think the two are the same, so they're never assertive.

Here's the truth about A's medical situation, as told by the doctor and neither misinterpreted by A nor with any details left out:

The doctor had told A, when he first found the prostate tumor, that A would undergo prostatectomy "soon." Allan, in true AD/HD fashion, interpreted that to mean "now, while I'm in the hospital for this infection." But before he can undergo the prostatectomy, he has to undergo several tests. Before he will be released this afternoon, he'll undergo one of the tests: a bone (radionuclide) scan, to determine whether the cancer has spread to his bones. (The doc didn't say this, but if it has spread to his bones, he's f*cked.) After the prostatectomy is done, he can get the knee replacement done. If the time span from when he got all the preop tests done for the knee surgery to when the knee surgery can actually be done isn't too long, okay. If it is too long, he'll have to undergo all of those tests again before he can get the knee surgery.


Updated 10:20 p.m.: Ed and D did both go to pick up A from the hospital; it took the pokey hospital staff a good 3 hours to discharge him and do the bone scan. We don't have any idea when we'll get the scan results.

Plus, there's this: Ed and I are strongly urging A to get his prostatectomy—and eventually his knee-replacement surgery—done somewhere other than the VA hospital. Of the three prostate biopsies he's had within the last few years, all have been at the VA hospital and two have resulted in infections requiring his hospitalization. I've found several medical studies that show that the rate of infection from properly done prostate biopsies is 1% or less. A's experience and the lack of communication among staff members at the VA hospital spell incompetence to me. If the doctors there can't get a relatively simple procedure (that's how the research reports describe it) right, are they going to get major surgery right? I wouldn't bet my own life on it. But A, always a can't-see-the-forest-for-the-trees kinda guy, refuses to think about that. He'd rather go through the VA than go to a hospital through Medicare ... because he'd have to pay more money under Medicare. Me, I think living is more important than money. But hey ... what do I know?

sandwich generation AD/HD ADHD self-employed in-laws intergenerational prostate cancer Veterans Affairs EditorMom

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Not an April Fools' Day Joke ... Maybe

At long last, I'm writing with an update on my health insurance woes—and it's good news. (You've all read my health care horror stories—here, here, here, here, here, and here—and many of you kindly offered advice and sympathy.)

You may recall that GHI was discontinuing the plan I qualified for as a member of a independent business owners' association. The monthly premium, which my husband Ed and I paid in full ourselves, was $930. The plan with which GHI is replacing its old one costs between $1,100 and $1,400 a month for family coverage; we can't afford either price.

After an exhaustive search, I found a plan, with a broker's help, offered by HIP called HIP Classic. Under it, family coverage premiums are $737 a month, a visit to a doctor's office costs us a copayment of $30, and prescription drug copays are $10 for generics and $20 for brand names. The reason that the premiums are so much lower is that the copayment is $500 for each hospital stay and $100 for each emergency room visit.

The good news, in addition to the lower monthly premiums, is that instead of our having to come up with enough money to write a check for the entire premium at the end of each month (because the insurance was not offered through anyone's employer), the premiums will now be deducted from my husband's weekly paychecks in equal amounts, making it much easier to budget. And no, my husband's employer isn't helping with the cost of the premiums; because the company employs fewer than 10 people, the money to do so just ain't there. At least the premiums will still count toward our medical deduction on our income tax forms.

But in view of the mess that is the U.S. health care system, it is highly appropriate that our coverage under this new plan begins today, April Fools' Day.

Updated 4/6/06, 1:47 p.m.: Here's an additional, belated April Fools' Day joke—GHI is buying HIP, so I'm sure the company will screw up HIP. What's more, we get to continue using the evil Express Scripts for mail-order medications. When we were HIP members just over 2 years ago, members could go to drugstores, where they could watch a live pharmacist and ensure that their prescriptions weren't lost. Now everybody's in mail-order hell.

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