Sometimes I Feel Like a Piece of Bologna

Friday, October 30, 2009

Fiction Friday: The Swiss Courier

It is August 1944 and the Gestapo is mercilessly rounding up suspected enemies of the Third Reich. When Joseph Engel, a German physicist working on the atomic bomb, finds that he is actually a Jew, adopted by Christian parents, he must flee for his life to neutral Switzerland. Gabi Mueller is a young Swiss-American woman working for the newly formed American Office of Strategic Services (the forerunner to the CIA) close to Nazi Germany. When she is asked to risk her life to safely "courier" Engel out of Germany, the fate of the world rests in her hands. If she can lead him to safety, she can keep the Germans from developing nuclear capabilities. But in a time of traitors and uncertainty, whom can she trust along the way? This fast-paced, suspenseful novel takes readers along treacherous twists and turns during a fascinating--and deadly--time in history.

This book reads like an episode of “24,” (which I love, BTW). It starts out innocently enough, and then like a roller coaster, takes the reader on twists and turns, switchbacks and dead ends. Being impossible to put down, it’s responsible for far too many late nights for this writer. I was particularly impressed with the detailed historical details. It’s well researched, making it feel quite authentic. If you enjoy mysteries, suspense or historical stories, you’ll love The Swiss Courier. I sure hope there's a sequel!

I’m delighted to be part of the Swiss Courier blog tour, sponsored by Litfuse. Check out other tour stops here.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Pelosi Reveals House Health Care Bill

Pelosi Visits Homeless Prenatal Program In San Francisco

Today House Speaker Nancy Pelosi unveiled the house version of health care reform – all 1990 pages of it. She claims the measure will cover 96 percent of Americans once fully phased in, and it includes the much-debated government option. But it also carries a $1 trillion price tag over 10 years. She expects to bring it to the floor next week. She pays for "reform" by cutting seniors' care, raising costs for small businesses and taxing middle-class Americans. It still covers abortions and probably covers illegal aliens. From a quick skim-through, it looks like it covers everything for everyone while disguising the real cost by moving a huge spending provision ($200 billion) to a stand-alone bill and claiming it's not related to health care reform. The whole bill has been written behind closed doors with no input from Republicans or the American people.

You can download a copy of the bill here. You have until early next week to read it. If you care about your own health care, or that of your parents and children, you need to start calling Washington. Happy reading.

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Monday, October 26, 2009

Health Care Bill Being Negotiated in Secret

Does it bother anyone else that the health care bill is being crafted by three senators and a handful of White House officials, with no input from the Republican leadership? The Washington Times offers an excellent article today exposing the refusal of the Democrats to allow any participation by the Republicans. The closed door approach also leaves out the American people, who will be affected by whatever eventually passes.

Remember how during the campaign, candidate Obama promised the ultimate in transparency? For example, he told a town hall audience in Chester, Va., in August 2008,

"I'm going to have all the negotiations around a big table," "We'll have the negotiations televised on C-SPAN, so that people can see who is making arguments on behalf of their constituents and who are making arguments on behalf of the drug companies or the insurance companies. And so, that approach, I think, is what is going to allow people to stay involved in this process."

Well, that’s not quite what’s happening and whether you voted for him or not, this ought to concern you. So far, the only parties to the Senate discussion are Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus of Montana, and Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut, who led the work on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee bill. White House officials seen attending the meetings include Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, health care "czar" Nancy-Ann DeParle, and Peter Orszag, director of the Office of Management and Budget. Republican leaders have been summarily uninvited, and no bill has been posted for either the American people or the rest of the Congress to review.

Folks, this is not how government should be conducted. This bill will affect one sixth of our economy and every American (and more than a few illegal’s). If you're my age, the outcome is going to affect you, your aging parents, and your children and grandchildren. It will contain something that everyone will hate, and little that most of us will like. If you agree, be sure to write your representatives and express your outrage. If you are anywhere near the Tea Party route, consider showing up with your sign. You can find a schedule here.

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Friday, October 23, 2009

Fiction Friday: Daisy Chain

Daisy Chain is perhaps an unusual book to start off Fiction Fridays. At multiple levels, it isn’t an easy read. It’s complex, literary, and heartbreaking. It’s also a book with more truth than many of us want to believe. It’s a story of many questions, many layers, and few answers. But it’s worth the effort to read.

The location: Defiance, TX.
The year: 1977.

Jed Pepper and Daisy Chance are best friends. In fact, Daisy’s decided that 14-year old Jed is going to marry her. Then she goes missing. Suddenly, immediately after they’ve left their usual meeting place: the church. Jed knew he was late and in trouble, so he didn’t walk her home. Now she’s disappeared and he’s the last one to see her. And her last words were, “You’ll regret it…”

Now he feels guilty. Confused. He’s investigated. Meanwhile, life at home is unpredictable. Unfair. Abusive.

Weeks pass. No word from Daisy. Life goes on. The investigation turns up nothing. Jed copes. Sort of. And he never gives up hope, even when everyone else does.

This book is haunting and challenging, but the complex characters make it well worth the read. My only complaint is that many of the story lines don’t resolve. There are loose ends that will hopefully be addressed in the next two books – and the second one, A Slow Burn, just came out. It’s in my stack and I can’t wait to read it!


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Introducing Fiction Friday

Stacks of books in library

I’ve been receiving a lot of fiction books lately, so starting tomorrow, I’m starting something new: Fiction Friday. At the end of a busy week, we all need a respite. I’m finding that reading a chapter or two of fiction refreshes my mind and lets me think about more pleasant things than caregiving, aging, health care, and all the other heavy topics we deal with here. I hope you’ll enjoy some of my reviews and that you’ll be motivated to pick up a good book and relax for a bit.

Photo Credit: PicApp


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Time to Sign up for Medicare

Businessman and man signing documents

My hubby turns 65 in December and we’re way behind. Between his summer of medical problems, his recent surgery, and caring for Mom, we haven’t even begin to look at his Medicare options. Frankly, we don’t want to. We have good insurance. We’ve had it for 30 years. We like it. We don’t want to change. But apparently he’s required to move to “the government option” at 65, regardless of his choices. So we need to do some quick work, learning the difference between Medigap and Medicare Advantage (which BTW is under attack from Congress and may not be here next year).

Of course, all of this could be a moot point in a year if the Democrat-run Congress has its way. Within a year or so we’ll all be under the public (read: government) option fighting for access to underpaid physicians. And seniors will be the least served as the government takes a reputed $450 billion from Medicare over the next ten years to provide services for a mere 16 million more people, including (yes, Joe Wilson was right), illegal aliens.

But enough whining. What’s your experience? What should we do? What are the stumbling blocks? What do we need to be aware of? I remember the debacle of trying to understand Medicare Part D for my stepdad. Never did really conquer that one. Now we need Parts A, B, and D. And C? And J? I just read Nearly 65? Time for the Medicare Maze and cringed. It’s a good overview, though, and offers links to other helpful resources. Guess I’d better get busy… Help!

Photo Credit: PicApp

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Friday, October 16, 2009

Being a Hospital Advocate

Doctor talking to woman in hospital

This has been one of those weeks. My hubby had lung surgery on Tuesday. It went well and he came home today. But it’s been a while since I’ve sat at the hospital for a week. Last time was the week before my stepdad passed away. This, of course, was not as intense. The surgery was serious with some unknowns, but all went very well.

One thing I learned (again) is how important it is have a healthy advocate in the room with the patient. I was able to stay aware of all of his meds, treatments, and instructions. He seemed to be groggy and not tracking well for several days. They would tell him something and 20 minutes later he was asking me what he was supposed to do. I’m sure that the anesthesia stays in the system for a few days, but whatever the cause, he really wasn’t tracking.

It’s also important that the healthy person is a little pushy. Assertive. Alert. For example, they had him on a liquid diet for several meals after the doctor had changed him to regular. Somehow the instructions didn’t make it to dietary. He’s diabetic who controls his levels with medications. They were giving him insulin with every meal – meals that were full of carbs and sugar. I was able to advocate for a better diet, get a dietary consult, and get meals substituted. I was able to ask about the meds they were giving him and question why he needed some of them. Or get the one that upset his stomach changed to something else. Yesterday a phlebotomist came in and prepared to draw several vials of blood. The nurse and PT were there, but no one questioned it. I did. Why did they need more blood? After I started asking questions, the nurse asked who had ordered the test and the PT started looking at the paperwork. Oops. Wrong patient…

This is in no way to criticize the care Hubby received. It was generally excellent. He had some amazing nurses and other caregivers. But the reality is that they are very busy. They move fast. They keep a lot in their heads. Errors happen. So it’s up to you to learn all you can and advocate for your loved one.

How do you do that?
  • Read as much as you can about your loved one’s condition. Some reliable sites for good info include Mayo Clinic, Medline,  and WebMD.
  • Ask questions. If you don’t understand the answer, ask more questions.
  • Keep good notes. A binder is helpful. You’ll be prone to forget or get confused, especially if your loved one is going to be there for a while or if his case is complex. You may be the only caregiver who has the whole picture.
  • Write down the names of the people serving you and know what they do. Don’t ask the RN to clean up the mess in the bathroom or the physical therapist to change a medication.
  • Learn the hospital routines. When are meals served? When does your doctor make rounds? Is there an ice machine or refrigerator with gelatin and puddings that you can get for your loved one? Are they measuring fluids—input and output?
Yes, it's a challenge. But I have faith. You can do it.

Photo: PicApp

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace

Pearl Girls from Michael J Garvey on Vimeo.

Do you have a situation in your life that's like a grain of sand in your shoe? Something that rubs a blister, then a callous? Most of us GenSandwichers do. Whether it’s caring for our aging parents, worrying about our kidults, or facing the impact of our own aging processes, we seem to have opportunities every day to develop character as we grow in grace. In fact, I spent the day at the hospital with my husband, who had surgery. I'll be there the rest of this week. You know what that does to my schedule and all of the important things I need to do! Just another opportunity to develop patience!

I’ve been reading a wonderful book that offers insights into those grains of sand as they slowly form pearls in the hidden places of our hearts. Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace is a compilation of short stories written by women who've taken their annoying grains of sand and allowed God to turn them into pearls. Edited by Margaret McSweeney, the book features stories by both well-known and little known writers.

As an added incentive, Margaret is donating all proceeds from the book to two charities:
WINGS (women in need growing stronger). The proceeds will help fund a Safe House in the Chicago suburbs. It costs $50 a night to provide safe shelter for a woman and her children. During this economy, WINGS is receiving even more phone calls for a safe place to stay. Already, the Pearl Girls have provided 60 nights with the advance royalties.

Hands of Hope. The proceeds will help build wells in Uganda for school children. Can you imagine a child at school without a water fountain in the hallway where he or she can grab a quick sip of water in between classes on a hot day? These children have to drink from puddles and other water sources which carry diseases and parasites. It costs $12,000 to build a well in Uganda. Already, the Pearl Girls have provided funds to build ¼ of a well.
So if you need a bit of inspiration along the way, join me in reading Pearl Girls. You'll gain new perspective on that annoying or even tragic situation in your life.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Here’s a Scary Fact

Busy mother on telephone
Photo: PicApp

While reading Find your Strongest Life last week, I came across a frightening fact. Author Marcus Buckingham says,

“When we multitask, we’re dumber. How much dumber? A recent study for Hewlett Packard exploring the impact of multitasking on performance revealed that the average worker’s functioning IQ drops ten points when multitasking, more than double the four-point drop that occurs when someone smokes marijuana. (The analogy the researchers used is that a ten-point drop in IQ is equivalent to missing one night’s sleep.”

Now that’s a scary thought. When is the last time I didn’t multitask? Isn’t that the definition of a GenSandwicher? I type while on hold. I talk to Mom while cleaning off my desk. I write my blog while watching TV. I click onto email and Facebook far too often when I should be writing or studying. I wonder how smart I’d be if I could focus? And I wonder if there is an age-adjustment? Does my IQ drop even more because I’m over 60? Hmmm. Scary.

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Monday, October 05, 2009

Boomer Women Feeling Stuck?

I guess you’d say I’m in my second career. Or third. Or… who’s counting. What I know is that now that I’m an empty nester and GenSandwicher, my work and my options have changed. The masters degree I received in 1975 was helpful for the years I worked in the field. It did little or nothing for the years I home schooled my son. Now the work I do doesn’t require a degree, but I’m back in school finally studying a passion I didn’t even know about in 1974-75. Am I stronger? I think so. But I still feel I’m missing something. I still wonder what I’m really supposed to do with the rest of my life. Or is it too late to really become someone significant or should just drift through the next 20 or so years? Do you ever feel that way?

That’s why is was excited to be invited to review Marcus Buckingham’s new book, Find Your Strongest Life: What the Happiest and Most Successful Women do Differently. In fairness to Buckingham, I’m sure his primary audience is young professional women climbing the corporate ladder -- something I gave up on 25 years ago. But he does talk about women who choose to stay at home with their children – something I chose to do 25 years ago. He doesn’t talk a lot about us older women looking for a new direction. Thus, I found myself a little disappointed.

I was also a little confused by what I think was his primary message – the happiest and most successful women follow their passions. OK. And then… In my case, that’s precisely the problem. I have many passions and many things I do well, but also many responsibilities I don’t enjoy but can’t delegate. How to hone that into a 60-something life--that’s my question.

He offers a test at StrongLifeTest to tell you which of nine Life Roles are primary and secondary for you. It’s somewhat useful, although it seems very short and I would have liked to see the actual rankings. I came out Teacher and Creator. No surprise. But in reading the descriptions in the book, I would have liked to know my score on other roles I resonated with or didn’t resonate with. It seems that the point is to find opportunities where I can fill my primary roles and when possible, avoid roles I didn’t score as high on. He also encourages us to be intentional in looking for the lead roles and reframe the moments that don’t bring us passion. Good reminders. Admit it. We often just do what we do because we think we have no choice. Often we do and those are opportunities to grow and change.

But what do I do with Caretaker? I’m sure I scored very low on that one, but that’s much of my life through no choice of my own. I do balance my caretaking with many functions that fall into Teacher and Creator, but for now and for 18 of the past 25 years, Caretaker has been a primary role. And no, I wasn’t always happy or totally fulfilled, but I did manage to find a good life within that role (by being a Teacher and Creator whenever possible--which is his point). While Buckingham encourages that we strive for imbalance, sometimes that just isn’t possible. And when it is possible, is that the best way? My Teacher continues to try to teach my mom a better way to manage her life, but I do it at the expense of just loving and caring for her. Thus, she’s delighted when my brother (the Caretaker) comes to visit, but me, not so much.

So, if you’re unhappy in your life role or trying to reshape your aging years, this book could be useful. It may give you a different way to approach even the unchangeables. And if you have a daughter just starting out, it could save her from some of the mistakes we made.

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Thursday, October 01, 2009

Amish Peace

On a couple of trips to the east coast, we’ve visited Lancaster, PA. I’ve always been fascinated by the Amish and love driving around the Pennsylvania countryside. Their properties are pristine, with laundry drying in the breeze and cattle grazing in the fields. I’ve enjoyed the antique stores, the furniture stores, and the living history attractions. There’s something fascinating about these people who live in the present as if it were the past. I’m amazed by their creativity in solving problems and wondered at what they consider “OK” and what’s off limits. And why.

I confess that there are many times when I’m multitasking like a one-armed paper-hanger-- caring for Mom, running my business, managing my home, and going to school-- that I long for a simpler way of life. Maybe I should become Amish?

Well, that’s probably not going to happen. I’m too addicted to my computer and the Internet. But I’ve enjoyed reading a new book by Suzanne Woods Fisher and for a few hours, immersing myself in the ways of the Amish. The book is called Amish Peace: Simple Wisdom for a Complicated World.

In two to three page chapters, Suzanne tells stories and looks at the beliefs of the Amish, explaining why they do what they do. The thing that surprised me was that their beliefs aren’t just old fashioned or legalistic. Each decision is based in firmly-held beliefs. The elders have carefully thought through each decision--often based on family. For example, she says they don’t heat any room other than the kitchen/great room. Not because they’re cheap or can’t afford it, but because that motivates the family to spend the evening together – kids working on homework, Mom sewing, Dad reading. They are all together. They don’t eschew cars because they’re primitive, but because they want to limit the distance people can go from home and family. Telephones are not forbidden, but they're housed in a telephone booth outside to discourage long conversations. They prefer visiting face-to-face, and dropping in is encouraged.

The Amish care for their elderly and disabled in their homes, and there seems to be no chaffing at the responsibility. It is simply what is expected. They exhibit a stoicism that is refreshing in a world of whiners.

Each chapter ends with several questions asking how we can apply these principles to our own lives. Not that we should become Amish, but rather that we should make deliberate choices about our lifestyles rather than allowing the culture to define us. Take some time and read this book.

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