Monday, September 11, 2006

Nine Eleven

Today, on its 5th anniversary, we are supposed to be remembering the victims of 9/11. Have we at some point forgotten them? That attack, which was not the first on U.S. soil, nor the last, is seared into the brain of every American and it is to the advantage of our president and his party to make sure it stays there. What we need to keep our wits about; however is not the event, but the aftermath. The media excess, the political campaign buttons. The current administration used that event to plunge this country into chaos. We were divided, intentionally I firmly believe, and we now hate, not only the terrorists, but each other. We have watched our freedoms dwindle, our savings disappear, our already tarnished world reputation turn into ash. We have put our generation and our children's future generations into a debt that will last many lifetimes. We have made a place in history that will be derided for time eternal.

As for those who were lost? They behaved admirably or they didn't. They were lost and their friends and families suffered that loss. It was a horrific way to die, but there are many horrific ways to die. We are watching some of them daily. Leftover landmines that blow the limbs off children; starvation in unconscionable numbers; genocide that seems of little importance, occurring as it does in oil-poor regions of the world; eradicated disease (eradicated in countries that can afford it); famine; drought. Do we turn our attention to those atrocities, that terrorism? Nope, not media gold, not exciting politics.

But wow, that Bin Laden! As long as he remains alive, he will keep the political fires burning. That's why (does this make sense?): Let's have a war in Iraq!! Let's destroy Iraq! Let's rain terror down on the heads of tens of thousands of innocent men, women, and children who had NOTHING to do with 9/11. Let's destroy THEIR lives forever (doesn't that make US terrorists?).

Now they ask us to "remember the victims of 9/11." How could we not remember? WE are the victims of 9/11.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Blue Jay

He dropped a piece of thread on his way to the suet feeder out back. I didn't pay any attention as I was busy tying up a tall potato vine. Later on, I glanced down and saw something kind of purple and a little bit shiny and I still didn't pick it up. Then something about it caught my eye. It was familiar. I leaned over and looked. Turns out to be a thread over three feet long. It has shiny purple and turquoise bits of thread through it and is very distinctive and I know where I have seen it before. It's the thread I used to sew the quilt for my son's AIDs quilt panel. The panel was turned over to the Names Project in October 1996 and is stored there now with the other 45,000 panels, but that's another story really. What I am concerned about now is the thread.

All day long I have pondered that thread and each thought has led somewhere else, to a different subject with more questions. I will admit, for just a brief little while, the thought of why it showed up brought tears to my eyes, as there is no logical explanation for it. I do not use my sewing stuff very often, it has been possibly six months since I last opened the container. I never use it outdoors and that particular thread has only and will only ever be used on Ed's panel. There is a good rule of thumb I try to apply in cases like this, "don't look for answers where there are none."

So, I will mostly let it go. If there is a God, all questions will be answered in due time. Where the thread came from is so insignificant as to be almost laughable. There is, after all, the question of why a 31-year-old who had never harmed a soul gets to go through hell and then die. I presume God will answer that one also. The gut-tearing pain of those who love him will be answered or not. Does it really matter? Who are we to demand answers? Perhaps, I should say, to desire answers, for desire them we do. We want to know why and we have wanted to know for so long about so many things, that we have come to expect that there must be an answer.

Shortly before he died, by then a skeleton, almost not human, we were watching CNN - the shots of refugees trying to escape the genocide going on in their country and he said, "I am so ashamed." I thought briefly that he meant he had not raised his voice to protest this country's betrayal, but now I'm pretty sure he meant he was ashamed that he felt, perhaps for one second, afraid and sorry for his own death. It would have seemed to him selfish to be thinking of himself when there were those tens of thousands with nothing but hollow eyes and fear. He would have thought that then. He had entered into that space where all becomes clear. And I had not.

He said to me one day 3 or 4 months before he died, "I am not afraid to die." He looked at me and he said, "it is harder to lose someone you love than it is to die." For once in my life I understood instantly what was happening. He was trying to give me a gift with no strings attached, a gift I could carry with me until I reached my own grave, a gift I could choose to accept or let be. He attempted to alleviate my pain - this young man who was going through something unimaginable - he tried to leave me something priceless. And he did.

Eddie, I do not know who you were. But somehow, as every day unfolds in this life I have left, I think I have to thank my father for sending you. Surely you two conspired and I have messed it up horribly, or think I have. Will that someday too turn out to be something else entirely? Will I glimpse a clarity that will allow me to rest?

There go those questions again.

Monday, August 7, 2006

Previews of My New Home

When you saddle a horse, I think you wait till he takes a breath and then cinch him up. That's kind of the way I feel, like every time I take a breath, someone cinches up and there's that much less room to breathe. Pretty soon the turning around space won't be big enough to, well, turn around.

Thursday, August 3, 2006

Black-headed Grosbeak

He is sitting there on top of the suet feeder - I am not much of a photographer; this guy deserves the best - he has a lovely voice and always sings a few notes when he arrives (to let me know he's here I think). His song reminds me of a poem, " a golden bell hung in my heart." It doesn't hurt that he is also a magnificent beauty. His mate has a lovely warble also, which I understand is common among the finches. She is not quite so brilliantly colored, her breast being more of a pastel shade of his bright tequila sunrise. His back is black with very bold white stripes and hers is more brown, sparrow colored, but she does have a very strong white stripe on her head. They are both about the size of a robin.

When I first saw this bird, I thought someone's parrot had escaped. Both he and his mate are somewhat elusive. While the nuthatches, chickadees, and woodpeckers don't seem to mind me being around, this bird prefers that I either stay very still or not come outside at all. They do not like sudden movements or noise. Still, I considered myself lucky to inch the screen door open and get this picture before he flew off. I lived here nearly two years before the Grosbeaks got bold enough to visit the bird feeders. Now I see them nearly every day. They are often the first birds in the very early morning and the last in the evening, with an occasional fly-by during the day to pluck a tasty morsel.

Why would anyone ever put a bird in a cage? It seems insanely cruel.


"Ethics, too, are nothing but reverence for life. That is what gives me the fundamental principle of morality, namely, that good consists in maintaining, promoting, and enhancing life, and that destroying, injuring, and limiting life are evil." - Albert Schweitzer

"The true rule, in determining to embrace, or reject any thing, is not whether it have any evil in it; but whether it have more of evil, than of good. There are few things wholly evil, or wholly good. Almost every thing, especially of governmental policy, is an inseparable compound of the two; so that our best judgment of the preponderance between them is continually demanded." - Abraham Lincoln

Everyone has been accused of something they didn't do. Usually it happens when you're a kid, but it has happened to all of us once or more than once. It feels bad. Mostly because the louder you yell, the more it seems like maybe you DID do it. Remaining silent, refusing to dignify a false accusation is more honorable - at least it feels that way, but doesn't always exonerate.

I wonder though, might it be a bigger sin, a greater failing to NOT be accused of something you DID do?

Wednesday, August 2, 2006


Click on the link above. Listen, watch, think. What is this craziness and why does it go on? What kind of a world has been happening while we were taking care of *other* things? What is depicted in the link is the result of our country's greed and utter disregard, not only for the world, but for the desire, and right, of each of us for peace, health, education, and life.

Who are we really if we keep turning our backs on those who have no voice (read "money, power, position") and must suffer with what we have wrought?

Start making calls to your representatives. Write letters to your newspapers and your politicians. Make a difference in someone else's life. Start now, today. Go to your grave (hopefully in the far, far distant future) knowing that you have made a difference, that you cared, that you tried.

It may be the most important thing you do in your life and you may never see the result. That is the true meaning and blessing of giving and sharing, not the 35 cents you occasionally drop in a jar on a counter or the $250 you give to Mercy Corp - though please don't stop doing those things.

What we do for others, though it is difficult and may cost us in time, effort, and money, is more important than any kind of material or personal success we are lucky enough to find in our lifetimes.

Tuesday, August 1, 2006

The Land of Beginning Again

"I wish that there were some wonderful place

Called the Land of Beginning Again

Where all our mistakes and all our heartaches

And all of our selfish grief

Could be dropped like a shabby old coat by the door

And never be put on again." - Louise Fletcher Tarkington

Those words are excerpts from a poem I discovered in high school. Whatever was going through my head about those words then is a mystery to me now. Something entirely different than what I am thinking these days.

There have been so many people to forgive, including myself. In so many ways that has been the hardest part of all. It is an ongoing process - a few steps forward, a few steps back. A constant battle of judgment, redemption, accusation, bewilderment, and precious moments of peace.

The ability to forgive is, in my estimation, the most important lesson we can ever learn. It has the power to bring health and healing to hearts, minds, and bodies. It has the power to bring us back "to the land of beginning again." It is, however, oh so difficult to master. The words, "forgive me, I forgive you, I forgive myself" are so very easy to say, but they are only just words. They bear repeating over and over. They need reevaluation, reassertion, and the touch of a hand. They need to be repeated out loud, and silently to no one who is there.

When an offense insinuates itself into your awareness, those words need to be used to beat it back to nothingness, for the offense is now gone in fact. It was provoked out of selfishness, confusion, ignorance, maybe even fear. There can be no explanation, there needs be no explanation other than life is what it is.

Forgiveness heals the giver and often, only the giver. It is all that is necessary, though it is a monumental task and may require a lifetime. The idea of forgiveness should always be close by. It is necessary for a peaceful death. It is necessary for a graceful old age. It is required of us before we can pass to generations the knowledge we have stored up for them. Practice it.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

There never was a reason

It was a lie then and it is a lie now. The parents who felt it necessary to believe, or what reason for their child to die? The wives who saw their dreams evaporate in thin air. The children who woke up and had no daddy. It was a lie then and it is a lie now. We can stop it. Only we can stop it. Life is 100 years give or take a decade. Ten years to play, to feel safe, to learn love. Ten years to grow and learn and plan for life. Ten years to fall in love and marry. Ten years to raise a family, to plan a future. Ten years adds up pretty fast, one right after the other. Yet, we let them steal it from us and the words they use; patriotism, freedom, dignity, security, way of life. All those words are down the drain the moment that soldier knocks on your door and says, "I'm sorry . . ." They aren't coming home, your son, your daughter, your husband, your wife, your father isn't coming home. Life stops at that moment and it never really starts again.

Those left must struggle with the questions, must make up the answers. There are no answers. War is good for the economy. Unless of course, you happen to be in it. Unless your child is in harm's way. Where do you go? Where do you run to? where is a safe place? We see the pictures, day after day, running from the war, the wives and children, the old people. Their homes are gone. Yet the band keeps playing, men in suits keep shouting patriotic phrases, blue stars and gold stars go up in windows everywhere. They mean nothing. They mean someone is shooting at your child, husband, father.

It means nothing. Hero means nothing. For someone to be a hero, someone else's child must die. Short of their alloted 100 years, give or take a few decades. Just time to build one small ravine in the Grand Canyon, or contemplate a smear under a microscope. Just time for the spinners of lies to weave another reason why. Ask them. Are their children in harm's way? Are they? Do their wives wonder if they are ever coming home? Do their parents think of all they have saved and hoped and dreamed of for their child? Will he be a taxi driver, will he find a cure for cancer, will he write a poem, will he sing, will he dance, will he fashion thoughts and ideas, will she be president?

It is all a lie and we are all sheep. We follow, sometimes willingly we shout their lies with them, sometimes we wonder, sometimes we protest. But it is not until we lie down and do not move that they will know. Stop. Stop it now. Life is for every soul living, for laughter, for building a home, for courting, for smiling at children, and petting the dog. Life is for every one of us. Life.

Contemplate instead the unimaginable richness of life were the resources now dumped into death and destruction instead used to bring us all together, to assure that no person goes to bed hungry, in pain, or in fear of tomorrow. Think of it - imagine it! Imagine.

No Bravery

Click on the link above and then wonder. . .endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights. . . and the pursuit of happiness.

And the right of powerful countries with enormous resources to kill you for no reason whatsoever.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Bye-Bye American Jobs

After reading the article in the above link, I thought back and remember quite clearly riding in the back seat of my uncle's Hillman fifty years ago. It was a small bit of a car and it hardly used any gasoline at all. Of course, it was from Japan, kind of a rarity at the time. There were mostly big American cars and trucks back then, many sporting bumper stickers that said, "Buy American." Snicker, snicker.

I don't pretend to understand the global market much better now than I did then, but I do understand one thing. We are getting screwed. Corporate America is raking in the bucks and we are paying for it dearly. Oh if only we had all paid more attention to those bumper stickers.

This situation came painfully home to roost for me in the last few years. I had returned to work after my son's death in 1996 and found myself becoming more and more unable to cope with the job and my grief. I quit my long-time job with Boeing in 1999. Five years later, after living on my retirement and also losing much of it in the stock market fiasco of Bush's regime, I needed to return to work. I wanted to work from home as I still did not feel able to cope with the commute and dealing with lots of people around me, so I chose a *profession* that I felt would interest me a great deal, as well as take advantage of my typing and language skills. The added benefit was that I could do it at home. The profession was medical transcription. This course is offered at Everett Community College and can be taken entirely on line and paid for by a student loan from the government. I did ask the school if a person of my age could hope to obtain a job after completion of the course and was assured that oh yes, there are lots of jobs out there.

I took the class, enjoyed it tremendously and did very well. I also became indebted to the tune of several thousand dollars.

It turns out I asked the wrong question. The right question would have been, "will I be able to support myself on the lower-than-minimum-wage money that I would be making?" Of course, I didn't realize at the time it would be less than minimum wage, but they don't tell you that at school. You think you may have to cope with some ESL docs (English as a second language, accents ranging from light to heavy), but that, surprisingly, was not the biggest problem. They don't tell you that you will be competing with a growing monster in India and the Philippines. These people are being trained (although you are never told that your work is helping train them), likewise, you are never told that they get the *normals* the docs who can be understood, the docs who enunciate and do not speed talk, slur, exercise while dictating, drink, drive, drug, all while dictating YOUR medical records. Then you find out that medical transcription is being offshored just as fast as they can do it. Your doctors, your clinics, your hospitals are all pushing for this. They don't care about your records and who sees them. HIPAA? What crap. The bottom line is the only thing that counts. Your medical records are shipped overseas, seen by people over whom there is little, if any, control of privacy, and sucking American jobs right "off shore."

Everett Community College, as well as a plethora of other medical transcription schools are still graduating students by the thousands. Why? Because they can. Yes, there are jobs, but since you are a newbie, you will get bottom dollar for at least three years. Will someone else support you that long? Good for you. You will be required to produce thousands of lines a week in order to retain your job. Most of the time, you will be hired as a independent contractor. Why? Because then the employer does not have to pay ANY taxes. You do. That is 15% and you had better get that saved first. Also, you will never qualify for unemployment or workman's compensation. Of course, any benefits will be paid for by you. Let's say you are making 6 cents a line. Do the math honey. Then there is voice recognition, for which, if you are lucky, you will make 3 cents a line. This is doable if only you have a decent connection - I'm talking about your employer's ability to deliver static-free transmissions every day with no *server down* errors. If only you didn't have to fight carpal tunnel, back pain, knee pain, no vacation, no sick leave, no employment security, and no help from any union ever. The unions have no interest in you, neither do you qualify for the same protections other employees have in your state. You are not an employee and you will be extremely lucky to ever be hired with that designation. If you are hired as an "employee," you will be required to perform at an nearly unachievable level to maintain that designation. You are only paid when your fingers are on the keyboard. You will be expected to provide either DSL or cable, hundreds of dollars worth of resources, headphones, wav pedals, various software, and your computer must be maintained at your expense. Remember, every moment you are not typing, you are not making any money. Need to go to the bathroom? Not getting paid. Need a cup of coffee? Not getting paid. Have to get up and stretch? Not getting paid. Forget ergonomics, forget moving your eyes from the screen to protect your vision, forget getting off your ass to protect yourself from deep vein thrombosis, forget resting your hands, arms, shoulders, back. You are not getting paid when you are not typing. That doesn't sound all that bad until you start figuring out exactly what it means. These points are never touched on by any schools.

So, on top of all that, enter offshore workers primarily from India and the Philippines, and you have competition that you cannot beat. They will press you more and more to do voice recognition work, which is basically editing the mess that either voice recognition software has produced, or one of the thousands of non-English-speaking *medical transcriptionists*. They will want to pay you half to less-than-half of what you get for straight dictation and voice recognition work is very difficult. Many transcriptionists think it is even more difficult than straight transcription. Why? Because you have to pay extremely close attention to both the voice and the printed word so as not to miss any error, particularly in dosages, medications, or diagnoses. The offshore workers are earning so little money (compared to what they would have to pay you - big salaries though for THEIR countries) that the companies are making huge profits from medical transcription, even though they must also hire American transcriptionists to clean up the mess of this offshore work.

I worked for three companies in a year and a half. Focus Infomatics (a company owned and operated from India with connections in the states that never hint as to their ownership) - the company I hired on with had an entirely different name (Rider and Associates operating out of Oregon) who never once explained that they were owned by Focus and that we would be working for an Indian company whose main concern was training people in India to take over our jobs. Then I went to MedQuist. On the MT boards, easily one of the most talked about and despised medical transcription companys in America for their underhanded and dishonest treatment of their workers. Medware, the company I last worked for, is exactly the same, even while being touted as "Employer of the Year" by AAMT. AAMT professes to be for transcriptionists. Most transcriptionists understand that AAMT is for transcription companies. Furthermore, they advocate off shoring medical dictation. Medware's ads state "consistent work." From Thanksgiving 2005 until after New Year's 2006, there was virtually no work, or their server would go down many times a day, sometimes for hours (remember, not getting paid when fingers not moving, even when it's the company's fault). One time, they said, don't worry, we will pay for this downtime. Uh huh. I got $8.75 for being down all day long. I have the paperwork to prove it. I have the paperwork to prove how they misreported time so that it looked like they were at least paying minimum wage. I finally threw in the towel when after being *requested* to work the two days I would normally have had off, and then reporting in for my normal shift after working those two days, there was no work. "Oh, the Indians must have taken it all. They aren't suppose to do that." Right. That really helps pay the rent. I lost my temper and was fired for "insubordination and lack of respect." I thought insubordination was NOT doing something you were requested to do, and I wonder, who disrespects who? I worked very hard and very long hours for them, did everything they asked, suffered through two months (over Christmas no less) with virtually no paycheck, and they demonstrated a total disregard for me or my work and a very cavalier attitude when I would nearly beg them for work. My transcription has never been less than 98% accurate, usually over 99% accurate; I can produce 1000 lines a day given even minimally decent dictators and server connections, and I have a very strong work ethic.

Offshoring. Bush says it's good for America. I wish someone would explain that to me and the thousands of other American workers who have spent their lives paying taxes, working hard for "the American Dream." What a joke. It's good for American big business, not good for America. Now I am out of work again, in debt to the tune of thousands of dollars, finding it difficult to get another job or even some kind of training that I don't have to pay for.

Offshoring. Illegal aliens. I believe everyone has the right to a job, but that also includes my own right to work, my own right to not have my survival eroded by other countries and my government's need to curry favor in the eyes of other governments at my expense.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Wake up to these words

My breasts aren't as important to me as they used to be now that I'm no longer breast feeding or in competition for the attention of sexual partners. However, they are mine - ALL mine - and when they misbehave, it attracts my attention. Any female who has ever had a period, a child,or entered menopause understands that occasionally our breasts will be a source of discomfort. It's usually a hormone thing and although it sometimes lasts for several days, it is part of life and so we adjust and accept.

On Thursday last, that would be July 13, 2006, I noticed some slight discomfort in my right breast. It piqued my curiousity because normally this discomfort would be felt in both breasts, not just one. It was a lovely summer day and I am an avid gardener so I ignored it and continued with my weeding. On Friday, the breast was bothering me a bit more. I noticed pain in my nipple when my arm brushed my breast or when my shirt rubbed against my nipple. This was annoying, but there was also something in the back of my mind trying to work its way to the front. Something I had heard about a kind of cancer that is often overlooked, but which can be deadly. I looked for information at , ,, and

It turns out, the kind of breast cancer I was trying to think of is inflammatory breast cancer. A very scary prospect. By the time I had read until my eyes felt like two white onions in a martini, and my mind was stuffed with images of some very unfortunate looking breasts, it was late Friday night.

Saturday morning I appeared at the local walk-in clinic the moment it opened (it appeared there were other folks with the same idea - they must have camped out overnight). In any event, I only had to wait about an hour and a half before seeing the doc. Let me interject something here; the doctor was young and drop-dead gorgeous. When he walked into the exam room, I nearly got up and walked out. His manner was very professional however; which went a long way towards overcoming my reticence (and AWE!) about exposing my, let's just call them *mature* breasts. Besides, I was scared.

The doctor examined me very carefully; I have a lump beneath the aureole of my right breast and it is inflamed. Inflammatory breast cancer has symptoms that mimic mastitis. The doctor gave me a prescription for an antibiotic and asked me to make an immediate appointment with my regular doctor for follow up. Today is Sunday. It is another beautiful day and I have enjoyed it tremendously. An added treat; the little mobile home I rent is on 20 acres of woods and across from my front window is a large meadow. Into that meadow this morning came a doe and her fawn, a sight that is quickly vanishing from this once rural environment. The peacefullness of a doe grazing in a meadow is a fine gift for me. The lesson is not lost.

It was a moment of happiness descending without notice. I thought of the many times someone I knew had to go in for a biopsy and my response was, "don't worry, most of the time there is nothing there." I will never give that response again, for even though true, that moment is not lightened by reassurance, it needs only an arm around the shoulders and silence.