Dumbo Elephant

dumbo

I think I must have a bit in common with some Republican legislators. They don’t seem to understand where babies come from. I didn’t really understand either, at the age of eight or nine.

When I was a mid grade-schooler, there was a scandal in our family’s social circle. Someone’s teenage daughter had magically become pregnant and was seemingly forced into a quickie marriage. I didn’t want this awful situation to happen to me! I even approached my mom about it. She hemmed and hawed, eventually mumbling something along the lines of “You don’t need to worry about that.” But she gave me no specifics… nothing. So I put two plus two together and got five. I assumed that females just naturally had babies… all by themselves… they just grew inside women at some random time in their lives. It must be a kind of lottery thing, where if and when you got pregnant was just a matter of chance.

This must be the same conclusion that Republican Representative John Shimkus (IL) has drawn and still believes. He questions why men should have to pay for prenatal and maternity healthcare, after all, men don’t have babies! Well, John, I later found out that it takes two to tango, and a woman doesn’t just grow a baby all on her own. In fact, I have it on good authority that men are 50% responsible for that baby growing inside the mother’s “tummy.”

Yep, who knew healthcare was so complicated!  I’ll try to break it down simply. Insurance of any kind is based on pools. Healthcare insurance companies are hoping that young, healthy people will offset the costs of the old and sick. The aggregate monies are used for all types of healthcare that one individual may not ever use. I, for one, can guarantee that I will never have a  PSA screening for prostate cancer. It doesn’t mean that I am screaming from the rooftop that I shouldn’t have to pay for this service with aggregate funds. In fact, with this logic, I shouldn’t  have to pay for vasectomies, prostate surgery, and the majority of heart disease interventions. I hope I never need cancer treatment, but I don’t begrudge my part of the aggregate pool being used for people who do.

You see, John, it’s not like going into a cafeteria, picking out the dishes you want, and paying just for what you have selected. It’s more like entering Disneyworld. Everyone pays the entrance fee, but everyone’s experiences are different. Some don’t get to ride Dumbo, for whatever reason. It doesn’t mean those who miss this ride get a refund.

The reason maternity care was mandated in the Affordable Healthcare Act is that insurance companies were refusing to offer it, or charging exorbitant amounts for it in the individual marketplace. Why? Because it costs a great deal, they didn’t want to cut into their profits, and it wasn’t required. Does anyone really think that we need to be worried about insurance companies and their profit margins?

In fact, I believe the problem with insurance isn’t the people using it, it’s the institutions. Exorbitant drug and medical supply prices, non-for-profit hospitals making so much money they must constantly build, expand, landscape and buy art to use up their assets, and insurance companies acting as gatekeepers and decision makers to keep their profits up.

Oh, my favorite part so far, no Medicaid coverage to Planned Parenthood unless they stop offering abortions. Planned Parenthood supplies many basic healthcare services to a wide array of women, not to mention birth control. Take this away and where will they go? Eventually some will visit the emergency room, often the go-to “clinic” for the poor.  The hospitals get the profit, and the system is billed at an extremely inflated rate for services that could have been prevented or performed much less expensively at Planned Parenthood. Everyone’s healthcare costs go up to share the burden, while hospitals, drug companies and insurance companies benefit.

It comes down to a couple of basic decisions. Frist, should women have access to birth control? In fact, let’s be honest. Should poor women have access to birth control, because women with means will always be able obtain what they need with regards to both birth control and abortions. Do we believe restricting access to birth control will somehow lower the abortion rate? More importantly, do we think, as a society, we should help to assure more babies are born healthy, or is this an unbearable onus on the prosperity of health insurance companies and too much of a burden for those of us who contribute to the insurance pool, but will never use the service?

And John? I have something to tell you. When mommies and daddies love each other very much, sometimes they lie down very close together, and sometimes this creates babies…

 

 

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All My Mundanity

tad-the-1rst-liza-colby-played-by-marcy-walkder-all-my-children-6096388-468-602

As a young(ish) mom, I treasured time with my little boys, but sometimes I needed a break, especially during the long, hot summer stretches of school vacation. I am sure my kids were not so very different from any others, but in my defense, Son 1 did like to jump on our bed around 6 a.m. every day and gleefully ask “What are we going to do now?”

Favorite activities when the boys were little included playing grocery store (yes, just as riveting as it sounds), hitting trees with sticks and my personal favorite … painting. This art endeavor involved about twenty minutes of set-up, two reams of paper, smocks, tarps, and another trip to Costco for more paper towels. Evidently the object was not to create a picture of perfection, it was all about quantity and speed. The more pieces of paper with a wide swipe or two of color, the better. The boys would lose interest in this exciting endeavor in 4.2 minutes. Clean-up lasted upwards of an hour. When Hubs returned home, he would be inundated and, of course, appreciatively stunned at the sheer volume of artwork.

Lunchtime was my respite. I made their meals and then plopped them in front of the television for an educational episode or two of Barney. Yes, I own it. You were a better parent, pat yourself on the back. I grabbed a plate, sat on a stool and turned on the kitchen television to watch All My Children. This was not really my fault, as it was an addiction first started in college. The gateway event was an almost mandatory daily dorm gathering where we breathlessly followed Tad’s every mischievous and/or nefarious adventure in dear old Pine Valley.

As the boys grew, Son 1 started referring to the program as The Dr. Manly Show. He often would stroll through the kitchen and ask things such as “Whose evil twin has shown up today?” “Anyone back from the dead?” “How is that pesky amnesia going?”

One day, Son 1 finally asked, “Why do you watch such ridiculous drivel?” “Mind candy,” I replied.

He looked me up and down, shook his head and said, “I think you might just be the dumbest smart person I know!”  Ah, he knew just how to charm a mother’s heart …

Eventually All My Children went the way of so many things of my youth … size eights (and then tens), the ability to keep my eyes open past 10 p.m., and the belief that everything happens for a reason.

I must say I did miss the daily drama of it all. As we are now empty nesters, our excitement consists of things like “What’s for dinner?” and “Did you remember it’s trash day tomorrow?”  In fact, I love the idea of a “Real Housewives of St. Louis.” Viewers could watch us mowing the yard, walking the dog and dozing in front of the television in the early evening. The cliffhanger end of season … Who drove the car last? That’s who should fill it up with gas!

So I was susceptible. First Donald Trump came into my periphery. Like a train wreck, I couldn’t look away. The twists and turns of the election were a surprise to me, much like Tad sleeping with Liza’s mother!

Then Amazon Prime offered me three free months of the Washington Post, you know, that fake news organization that’s often the first to uncover D.C. shenanigans.

Ultimately, I found Donald J. Trump’s tweets. I confess, they are the first thing I look at every morning. It’s not so much for the content, but for the errors. I can’t help it. I am an editor at heart, and the man can’t write himself out of a paper bag. He also does not understand the 140 character thing, and rants in two and three continuing posts that are quite hard to follow, yet somehow seem to reflect the disorganization thus far in the White House. Hey Donald, here’s a secret for you, TwitLonger.

I also enjoy reading Facebook in this new era of gloves-off partisanship. People I know personally, really nice people, love to pick fights and hurl abuse at those who have divergent views. Why not? Our president (precedent?) does this daily.

So now, once again, I can enjoy drama vicariously. As a bonus, Son 1 works in the heart of the action, the U.S. House of Representatives. If only he weren’t such a rule follower (so much like Greg and Jenny!) and would spill some beans for his poor, gossip-craving mama.

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And I’m Not Wearing Pants!

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One of my life credos: No good ever comes from drinking blue-colored beverages. I first learned this in the mid 1980’s, where a local watering hole served “Blue Whales,” complete with immense amounts of liquor and a plastic blue whale toy perched on the side, just waiting to gouge an eye when defenses were lowered.

I violated this edict, along with a few others, this past weekend celebrating Mardi Gras, St. Louis style, with very appropriate-for-the-occasion friends.

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I will brag and say I was one of the few participants not consuming beer during this day-long celebration. Our float’s keg was tapped at 9 a.m. by … (I’m not saying, but I am married to him), much later than many other float krews. Before I get on my moral high horse, I will say I did enjoy a lovely glass or two of breakfast Bordeaux.

I also am no longer a Jello shot virgin. I don’t like Jello, and I don’t like vodka (since the Great College Incident of 1982), and it was blue, so it seemed a reasonable choice? Yuck!

The pre-staging area for the Mardi Gras parade was in a giant parking lot just south of the stadium. Floats start arriving around 7:30 a.m., and it becomes a giant tailgate party. Food ranges from snacks to full-on buffets, every float has a keg or two, and not coincidentally, a porta potty. There is great camaraderie, music blasting, as everyone strolls along, sharing food, booze, and admiring other floats and costumes. Hey, you know it’s a great party when the Anheuser Busch Clydesdales show up (those crazy party animals!)  Also, it was cold, very cold; wind tunnel, chattering teeth cold. I was dressed in layers, and my Catwoman costume morphed into a stuffed sausage getup. I still froze.

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The parade finally starts at 11 a.m. Around the corner we go, to sparse onlookers, sporadic groups of two and three. Then … into Soulard itself, holy Batman! Crowds of mostly millennials, sometimes 60 deep, screaming for beads beads beads! As these beads cost a penny or two, and each float, well, floats in them, it is quite amusing the see the frenzy and tussling over such booty.

Many spectators were dressed in their Mardi Gras finest (I’m talking to you, purple and gold suit guy). I only saw three boob flashers, one was tolerable from an aesthetic level, the other two, well, bless their hearts for trying. There were a few children. One mom I saw was shielding her baby with her body, protecting him from the onslaught of flying beads. Perhaps this a good example as to why this is not really the best activity for little ones. That is why they have the family-friendly pet parade the week prior.

But she is not the worst example of parenting I have ever seen. That honor still goes to the teenage mom in Disney World who was filling a baby bottle with Diet Coke for the cherub in her arms. But that’s another story …

Too soon, the parade ended. It was just as I got the hang of throwing the beads. Although I am right-handed, I found that I had better aim and accuracy with my left. That makes me ambeadextrous, I suppose.

We soon were on our way back to the staging area, rolling through residential streets and then busy roads. I briefly lived up to the nickname the boys gave me years ago, “The Funcrusher,” when I realized we were 30 people, many having consumed more than one alcoholic beverage, zooming along at 35 to 40 miles per hour, standing on a backless flat-bed. Oh well, I distracted myself by yelling “You love Mardi Gras!” to every passerby.

Afterwards, many krews rent out space in nearby bars to congratulate and/or commiserate. Luckily ours was not in Soulard proper, but nearer the stadium. We never had to actually go into the crowds, which is my favorite type of mingling.

There was still plenty to see and fun to be had, topped off with the woman coming up to our table, apropos of nothing, and announcing “And I’m not wearing pants!”.  No, you weren’t, just Ghostbuster undies. This will be added to my collection of memorable sayings, and I will enjoy rolling it out on suitable (or unsuitable) occasions.

mardi-gras

 

 

 

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With Friends Like This …

friend

When I was deep in the trenches of the early child-rearing years, and perhaps once again through sons’ teenage turbulence, I longingly yearned for quick acceleration to the “easy years.” Certainly in one’s forties or fifties, life would be less stressful. Kids would be grown and gone, money problems eased, professional life set … May I just say, from the perspective of fifty-five, hahahahahaha!

Earlier this week, hubs and I were awake, talking at 2 a.m., discussing a myriad of trying and disconcerting issues. We finally came to the realization there are no “easy” years. This is life. Fabulous and awful, filled with agony, ecstasy and everything in between. The best we can wish for is someone to love, a great sense of humor, and the ability to see more sun than clouds.

But, I think, another thing everyone needs is one of those friends. The one who is the life of the party. The one who always makes you laugh, often while shaking your head. The one who reminds you that adulting is highly overrated. The one whose party pictures you sometimes hide from your adult children.

We are blessed with one of those friends. In fact, Son 2 precedes this person’s name with “The Legendary…”  every time he speaks of him. We’ll just call him “TL” for the rest of the story.

TL has been a friend of Hubs since seventh grade. He has had a seat next to us on life’s rollercoaster for the majority of our years on earth. In fact, he is the reason I met Hubs in the first place, as he was dating my college roommate. We married, they married, and we four are still the best of friends.

Oh, TL has calmed a bit. We seldom get kicked out of places with him anymore. In fact, his wife now calls him “The Old Goat” as he sometimes actually has to be (very minimally) talked into new and different adventures.

But the Old Goat still, at times, gets a wild hair and can be quite rambunctious. We are spending the upcoming Mardi Gras weekend with him, as I can’t think of a better person to accompany us in this debauchery. But I must confess, we do have an ulterior motive.

You see, Hubs and I belong to a club where we really don’t belong. We found ourselves members for two reasons; the main being that Hub’s old tennis club was bought out by this fancier establishment, and they offered a really good deal. Also, we joined for nostalgia. My dad was a member for over fifty years; we held many family gatherings there, even our wedding reception (where TL and Mrs. TL were best man and bridesmaid, of course.)

Now we have decided this club doesn’t really fit our needs, our pocketbook or our future. We are planning on quitting. So …

For this Mardi Gras weekend, we have reserved two overnight rooms at the downtown club, one for Mr. and Mrs. TL, one for us. In the back of our minds, we are kind of hoping that TL somehow reverts back to his youth and gets us kicked out of the club for some form of unseemly behavior. With two nights, we are giving him not one chance, but two! Then we won’t have to quit, problem solved.

And as Groucho  Marx stated, “I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member.”

I’ll keep you posted.

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A Day as a Debutante

 

Those of you following along may remember I have made a bucket list of sorts, full of St. Louis-y things I want to experience before we sally forth to Colorado. Now that the pendulum of our move is swinging more towards “when” instead of “if,” I am slowly accomplishing said activities. One was attending the Veiled Prophet Ball.

I have been to the debutante ball once before, when my elder niece was presented. This time it was her younger sister. They are both stunningly beautiful, inside and out, and I was proud to watch each take part in this ritual.

I don’t really know the specifics of the Veiled Prophet organization. I know, much like fraternities and sororities, it presents itself, first and foremost, as a charitable organization. I don’t know how you become a member, but I am pretty sure my breasts (among many other reasons) disqualify me.

Son 2 often states that it was a good thing I didn’t have girls. He asserts that I would put them in Amish clothes and never let them out of the house. This idea may have been influenced by a morning I drove him to high school. I pulled in the parking lot, looked at all the girls walking by, and said “You didn’t tell me it was ‘Dress Like a Prostitute’ day.” He replied “Everyday is, I LOVE high school!” and jumped out of the car.

If we would have had daughters, I don’t think they would have been debutantes. Foremost, I would have been their mother. And we don’t really run in those social circles. And if I were going to spend that much money, I would much rather go on a fabulous vacation. But to each his own. Our family is filled with diverse opinions, but the cornerstone is love, acceptance and a few partially hidden eye rolls and head shakes, mostly from the other side. I mean, really, imagine being related to me…

So here is my report, for those of you who want a peek into this long-standing St. Louis extravaganza. First, it was quite fun dressing up all fancy-pantsy, with hubs in white tie and me in a (thankfully borrowed) full-length gown. It was like getting to go to prom together, a rite of passage we missed because we didn’t start dating until after college. Of course there were some differences; my date is follicullarly challenged, and my gown covered way too much of my goods for any self-respecting high school girl. And, of course, my escort wasn’t preoccupied wondering if he would or would not get some. To be honest, I am a pretty sure thing.

So first, guests meander around outside the ballroom, purchasing overpriced drinks and assessing gowns and gloves (leather, yes… any other type, how gauche). Then, it’s time! Guests are seated and the presentation begins: men in silly costumes, sporadic music, former queens, present debs, special maids and then the new queen, whose name is, I have no idea. (I hope for her sake this evening is not the highlight of her life.) The production takes about seventeen hours. During this time (remember the pre-gaming?) guests are not allowed bathroom breaks, so I recommend Depends to anyone attending next year.

The presentation over, the guards open the doors and a stream of anguished women gushes towards the limited potties. Have you ever seen those National Geographic shows where the wildebeests are stampeding through a narrow channel to get to the watering hole? Yeah, like that. Bars are open once again to soothe any disgruntlement.

Mingle mingle mingle, judge, judge judge, then finally off to the Queen’s Supper. Unfortunately it was held in the Siberian Ballroom, temperature about 21 degrees. First up, all the debs and dads dance, which no one can see because everyone in attendance crushes the dance floor to try and witness this special moment.

Dinner was, in a word, ridiculous. I won’t say how much it costs per person, but I will say you could go at least two or three times to the most expensive corporate account steak house in St. Louis for the price of one seat. I noticed many of the debs’ fathers had bleary-eyed, rather dazed looks on their faces. I initially attributed it to the free-flowing alcohol, but looking back, it probably was because they were calculating how much this eight hours of frivolity was costing them. The food, well, we wondered why the waiter kept pointing out the sauce on the table and recommending we pour it over our steaks. He told us three times. Didn’t help. I don’t know how you can really have a tasty sit-down dinner for 2,000 people, and neither does the hotel.

After dinner, (you know, like 1 a.m.) more dancing for the young-uns. Many of the old folks (like us)  call it a night, missing out on the wee-hour breakfast, which the younger generation asserts is a highlight. Our Uber chariot carried us home.

So, yes, I had fun. Like I used to tell my kids when they were young and complained about the menu at different holidays, “It’s not about the food!” I am glad I attended. I am equally glad I will never have to go to another one.

Diametrically opposed to that event, this weekend I will be dressed up as some sort of generic superhero, throwing beads to everyone (except boob flashers) from a Mardi Gras float. I say generic superhero as costume-wise, we suck. So far, all we have are capes. I would dress up as my personal favorite superhero, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, but I don’t know if I could pull it off.

I do believe the before and after pictures from Mardis Gras will be much more amusing than the ones from the ball. And I believe my sentiments above, about having fun yet glad I won’t have to do it again, will apply here as well.  Stay tuned for the stories …

 

 

 

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Welcome, Kind of …

against-immigration-leaving

In the mid 1990’s we moved into our grown-up home, with room enough for two boys, two cats, a dog and some gerbils (?!). The community was reputed to be welcoming and warm. And it is, kind of … just not in my neighborhood.

Unknown to us before purchase, there is a bit of a turf war. The neighbors whose houses were built in the 1960’s resent the neighbors whose houses were built in the 1990’s. The story goes that the land used for the newer houses was a pristine wilderness ripped out for greedy home builders. The reality is that it was a dilapidated farmhouse with neglected acreage.

We soon learned that there is a neighborhood association with surrounding streets, but our street of newer houses is excluded. We would walk our dog and talk to neighbors, and when they found out where we lived, they would (jokingly?) say “Oh, we can’t talk to you.” This happened as recently as 2016.

What I don’t understand is how they feel it was okay to tear up “pristine land” in 1960 to make way for their neighborhood, but not in 1990? Can someone explain this to me? I understand that most people would like to look out their back windows and see trees instead of houses, but if you don’t own the land and the developers are following all of the ordinances, how is that different from when you built?

It reminds me of immigration. Unless someone is fully Native American, we all come from immigrants. We are so thankful that our ancestors were allowed onto these shores, but are not so sure of welcoming others.

On one side of my family, I have deep roots in America. My father’s side came to the United States in the early 1700’s. My mom’s side of the family is more recent. I am not sure if my grandfather came to the United States as a baby, or he was born here. I do know he only spoke German until he attended grade school. He also felt discrimination because of his ancestry during World War I and World War II. He stopped using his name, Frederick Heinrich, and switched to just initials, F.H. He couldn’t do much about his last name, Blomeyer. Luckily it wasn’t something like Tanaka, or he would have faced much greater hardship, perhaps consigned to a  U.S. internment camp like the horrific experience  120,000 U.S. citizens and legal residents endured during the second world war.

I would guess that most (but surely not all)  of our ancestors immigrated by legal methods, whatever they were at the time. I don’t think anyone would dispute that we want immigrants vetted, and we want them to enter our country legally and fairly.

I recently listened to an interview on NPR with a border patrol officer in Texas. He said the biggest problem was our own system. The border crossers from Central and South America know what to say to get temporary sanctuary, something along the lines they are being forced to join drug gangs, or forced into prostitution. This gets them immediate entrance into the U.S. Because of our system overload, the hearing is set for years in the future. In that time, the petitioners often disappear to blend into other cities of the country. Yes, they shouldn’t do that, but isn’t it our problem the system is set up and run that way? A wall doesn’t solve the problem, and this loophole takes time away from the border patrol looking for the drug and human traffickers, the real bad guys.

I think we also all would agree that immigrants from countries that are a hotbed of terrorist activity should be closely examined before allowed entrance. This process, surely not foolproof but the best we  have, gives out limited green cards and visas to carefully screened candidates. These are the people that were held up at airports by the ban this weekend… the people who followed the rules and were thoroughly examined, who just happened to be from rather arbitrarily picked countries on a list* (which did not include the home countries of the 9/11 terrorists).

So as we have our system set up now, the illegal immigrants south of the border gain entrance by cheating the poorly designed system, while the people who follow the rules of a rather stringent vetting are being punished.

Walking my dog yesterday in my divided neighborhood, I notice a note blowing in the breeze. I looked down to read it. “Don’t forget the potato salad.” Hmm, I wonder how that turned out. This, of course, has nothing to do with anything, but it made laugh. We all could use more of that these days. And most of us would agree that generally, potato salad is a good thing, and a nice addition to the table.

*For more info, do research on your favorite not extremely biased news source. There is a great article in the Wall Street Journal, as well as the BBC. Sorry, I can’t get my links to work. These seven countries were based on a bill President Obama signed in 2015. Our country has a list of 38 countries whose citizens can come into the U.S. without a visa, i.e., without any vetting. Obama closed the loophole so that citizens with dual citizenship with one of these “friendly” countries and a country deemed an area of terrorist activity would no longer be able to come into the U.S. without a visa. It also required anyone who had recently visited any of the countries considered terrorist areas to also have to apply for a visa. Not a ban.

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Ah Yes, I Remember It Well

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2016.

Many are glad it’s over. There were so many heartbreaking world events; terrorism, refugee crises, wars, civil unrest, murders and political strife.

I was shocked to see the vitriol and anger espoused from different factions in our political process. People I know personally to be universally kind, considerate and just plain “good folk” took to social media and did things they never would do to a person’s face … name call, make fun, berate. The country seems more divided than I have even seen. This was 2016.

Yesterday in the grocery store, a nice young man asked me how I was. I said “Fine, and you?” He smiled and answered “Fantastic. I woke up this morning. It’s a gift every day.”

So 2016. I’m still here. My loved ones are still here. Most are healthy. Hubs and I celebrated our thirtieth wedding anniversary on our favorite island with our two sons and our dearest friends. Son one graduated law school and is gainfully employed at his dream job. Son two graduated college and is employed, figuring out what his dream job will be.

We ourselves finally fulfilled our own dream and bought property where we want to spend our future.

I remember nights of laughter; quiet, peaceful times at home, simply reading and reflecting. Dinners with friends, family holidays, dog walks, sunsets and sunrises.

Son two, after working non-stop (extra kudos to those in the booze biz over the holidays!) with only Christmas Day and New Year’s Day off, is exhausted. A few days ago he filled his car with gas and accidentally dropped his wallet. Not thinking there was a possibility someone would turn it in, he still returned to the gas station thirty minutes later, when he realized his wallet was missing. Someone had turned it in, everything intact.

Bad things happen. They always do and always will. But if Anne Frank can believe most people are good, I certainly can, too. When the big picture looks gloomy, sometimes the smaller snapshots are beautifully hyper focused, and perhaps even more important. My resolution for 2017 is to be grateful.

2016, thank you for your 365 gifts. 2017, I am excited to meet you!

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