Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Male Call, Advice from a Gal

Why is it that men do not seem to know how to use the medical system in this country? Let me re-phrase that -- men do not seem to know how to use the medical system in this country appropriately and efficiently.

Let me give you an example. A fifty-something friend of mine typically uses Urgent Care for a minor skin problem he has had for over three months. Overkill. Why not schedule an appointment with your physician for next week? Waiting another week will probably not make any difference. Another case in point - a thirty-something friend of mine is battling asthma, and instead of going to his regular physician, he went to the Emergency Room earlier today, where he was prescribed cough medicine with codeine by a physician who did not know his personal asthma history. Several hours later, my friend sent out a message on Facebook several asking "friends" if they had any "home remedies" for asthma. When I contacted him by phone after seeing his Facebook post, I could hear him wheezing over the phone but he did not want to go back to the Emergency Room at 11 pm. He promised me he would contact his regular physician tomorrow morning, arrange to be seen the same day, and bring his current asthma medication with him.

How can we get a message through to the male sex of our species? The Emergency Room should be used for true life-threatening emergencies, like heart attacks, strokes, car accidents, serious asthma attacks and allergic reactions. Urgent Care should be used for medical problems that need to be seen the same day (such ankle sprains, cuts that need a few stitches, and probable ear infections) on those rare occasions when your "regular physician" is unable to see you that day.

And, EVERYONE, male and female, should have their own "regular physician", a doctor with whom you have had some previous contact, a doctor who knows your personal and family medical history.

So, why don't guys have a better understanding of how to use the medical system? I think its pretty simple - they just don't have the experience women do with using the medical system. Even young women see their gynecologists on a regular basis, every year or two. Sometimes men have not been to the doctor in ten years. Expectant mothers see their obstetricians regularly over the course of their nine month pregnancies. I hate to sound sexist, but new mothers are usually the parent to take their babies to the doctor. (I have based this on scientific evidence from looking around the waiting room during my many recent visits to my family physician for my own medical issues.) Women are just used to the system, and better at using it more appropriately and efficiently. We know when junior needs mom to hold and calm him all night through his virus-caused low-grade fever, and when a sudden spike in temperature warrants a trip to the Emergency Room.

Men continue to use Urgent Care Centers and Emergency Rooms for minor illnesses and accidents. I can think of only one thing to do to get the attention of the men in our country -- run free medical information usage ads during the Stanley Cup Finals or the Super Bowl. There is only one problem -- I cannot imagine that this idea will trump beer and pickup truck commercials, at least not during my lifetime.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Male Call, Advice From a Guy

There is a column in the San Jose Mercury News that I like to read. Often I would share my thoughts on various columnists in the Mercury News with my good friend Tim Shannon, who also read the same paper. Education and budget cutting thereof was a favorite topic of discussion. But there is one column that we both especially enjoyed reading, and the column is entitled "Male Call".

I don't know who writes this column, as the listing at the end of the column simply says to contact One of the staff on this column certainly must be a guy. The comments ring so true; if a woman writes this column, she is very, very male savvy.

I had stopped receiving the paper last August, after I lost my job and sold my house in Santa Clara. The news was too depressing to read this past year anyway. Today, on my morning walk, I passed by Tim's house, as I usually do on my way to "downtown" Willow Glen. There on his front porch sat yesterday's Sunday edition, carefully placed on top of his stack of firewood by the front door. The paper appeared to be just waiting for a willing reader, so I took it with me. Now I had two papers to carry home - Tim's Sunday edition, and the Monday morning edition I had just purchased at Starbucks, because the paper ran an article on education "furloughs" on the front page. "Furlough" means the state has given the California state school districts the right to cut up to five days of classes for the next school year, due to budget distress, without being financially penalized by the state.

"Male Call, Advice from a Guy" was in rare form today. The subject was entitled "Guys are masters of fashion apathy". I didn't even wait until I got home to read the article. I read and walked at the same time and busted out in loud guffaws as I walked home down my neighborhood sidewalks in the mid-morning hours of a quiet Monday.

I am convinced that only a guy could write a column like today's column. If I'm wrong, I'll eat my shorts.

King John

Grief fills the room up of my absent child,
Lies in his bed, walks up and down with me,
Puts on his pretty looks, repeats his words,
Remembers me of all his gracious parts,
Stuffs out his vacant garments with his form;
Then have I reason to be fond of grief.

"King John"
Act III, Scene 4
William Shakespeare

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Its Over

Tim has been "waked", his body shipped to Illinois, and funeral held. His body has been buried in the ground, a hole dug in the earth, in a cemetery in his boyhood town. An amazing Memorial Service has been held at the high school where he taught for 24 years, a fitting tribute to a wonderful teacher, mentor and friend. All the services and ceremonies, which we humans need to help us through the grieving process, are over.

Tim is gone.

And yet.....I find that I am still in disbelief. I have gone through this grieving process before, having lost a son, my only child, when Sean was only 17. I know well the many different stages and faces of grief. I know of many things I can do to help myself through this process. I wish I could leap six months into the future, and skip the heartache which is the constant traveling companion of grief. I know leap-frogging time-travel is not an good alternative in the long run for dealing with this process we call grieving, and yet, I do so wish for sweet relief.

Tim, you left us far too soon. I miss you terribly already. Sweet dreams my friend, sweet dreams.

Saturday, April 24, 2010


After my son died, almost ten years ago, at the tender age of 17, I poured out my grief in writing. Actually, in writings, emphasis on the plural. I wrote in a journal, almost daily, for a long, long time. I wrote down my dreams, of which there were many, often guilt-plagued, for years. And I wrote "letters" of my thoughts and many questions, which I gave to the one person other than Sean's father who knew my son well as a young man. I left hard copies of these usually long, and often rambling, letters in the high school mailbox of Sean's drama teacher, mentor and role model, Tim Shannon.

There was another reason Tim was the lucky recipient of my writings. Unlike my many well-meaning friends, he didn't give me advice or make judgment of any kind. And yet, I always knew that he read everything that I wrote, as I often asked him questions about things I had referenced in my letters. I felt totally comfortable revealing my anguish and grief and guilt-ridden feelings to him.

A few years later, Tim was forced to adapt to the realities of the modern world and actually check his email on a regular basis (ie, daily), which made it even easier for me to write to him, although by then my writings had shrunk in length, frequency, and depth of emotion.

Shortly after my son died, I found in his belongings, in his backpack, in his wallet, a sheet of paper with his friends-and-fellow-theatre-students' names, phone numbers and email addresses. The sheet of paper was actually a half sheet of plain white paper which had been folded up small enough to fit in his wallet. I recognized most of the names. And among the names was the only adult on the list, that of his drama teacher, Tim Shannon, and his school office phone number and his email adddress. The email address read "tjshannon@....."

I still remember the first email I sent to Tim. It was one line which read "So, what does the "J" stand for?" The reply I received was typical "Tim", short and to the point. It simply said "Joseph".

Thursday, April 22, 2010

All My Children

All of your children leave home, eventually. If you are lucky, they leave home for the "last time" before they turn thirty. Recent statistics show that the average age a child leaves home for the last time is 28. At least, those were the statistics before the current recession. When some statistician recalculates the numbers ten years from now, the average age might well be even higher.

I ran into a couple who have been my long-time friends of some thirty years at a classical music concert at a local community college recently. Their two "boys", who are quite intelligent, are now 29 and 26....and, after years of college and graduate school, both are currently guessed it, at home.


Tim is dead.

There I said it, I wrote it in black and white. But it still does not seem real.

Every time I see the Fremont High School home page, and see Tim's photo, and the "news", I am taken aback. Every time. I just keep thinking if I read "the news" often enough, it will sink in, but so far, it hasn't.

The words are incongruous. Tim is...working in the auditorium, mowing the lawn, brushing the dog....but not, "dead". Being dead is not doing something; being dead is doing nothing. And how can Tim be doing nothing?

I asked him once, when he was staring off into space with a far off look on his face, what he was thinking and he said "Nothing". You can't be conscious and be thinking about "nothing", unless you're dead.

So now, my dear friend, I guess at last you truly are thinking about nothing, nothing at all.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


When someone dies, we want to know certain things, like "how" and "when" and "where". When someone dies at a very young age, we also want to know "why".

Why him or her? Why did he/she leave us at such a young age? Of all people, why did she get cancer? Why did it happen to him and not to the guy next door? Why did I survive when others died?

We can get factual answers to the how and when and where. But there are no answers to the "why".

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Is Tim Truly Gone?

I cannot believe that Tim is truly gone. I went down to the high school auditorium today, after the school day had ended, and spoke with some of his stagecraft students. It seemed as if Tim was just in another room of the school, perhaps checking his mail in his office, about to stride into the auditorium from a lumber run or from talking to Sue, the Assistant to the Principal, at her desk just down the hall. The students asked me to come back in a few days, during Stagecraft class, and maybe I will. If Tim doesn't show up then...maybe his absence will make his death seem more real. But right now, I keep asking myself if Tim is truly gone.

Monday, April 19, 2010


Do pets know when their masters have died? Do they sense when someone who had been taking care of them is not coming back?

I'm not so sure that your pet snake or goldfish is affected when one owner leaves and another takes his place. As long as they are fed, they seem to hold up quite well emotionally. But what about your cat, or your dog? Do they feel something if you, their loving owner, has been away for a long time? Do they sense the fact that you will not be coming back?

Cats are pretty independent and very territorial. Any cat I've ever had was content to be petted by strangers, fed by strangers, and seemed very happy as long as she was paid any attention at all. As independent as they like people to think that they are, cats really do need "people attention". I'm just not sure they are especially sensitive as to who gives them that attention. All the cats I have ever taken care of were highly and willingly adoptable, and most thrived on the attention of my friends, neighbors and passersby.

Dogs on the other hand are a different story. Their loyalty is definitely with with their masters, not to the place in which they live.

Tim's dog, Truff, has been left by Tim before, when Tim went on vacations. Truff is an older dog who has difficulty walking. Tim has been his master for a very long time. Tim's son Greg or the next-door neighbors or friends have taken care of Truff when Tim went away before. Tim has only been "gone" for two weeks so far. But I sense that Truff knows something is different this time, even it he isn't quite sure of what is going on. I have been over to the house several times since Tim died, mostly to prune flowers or bushes that needed a little bit of TLC before Tim's family arrives from the mid-west later this week. The dog seems to sense that something is amiss, that something is different his time, as he goes in and out and in and out the door, walking around and around the yard, as if looking for a missing toy or bone.

I think Truff is missing Tim, the one steady person who was always there throughout his short dog life. Do dogs "know"? I think they do.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Candle Burning

There is a candle burning on my dresser tonight, a candle burning in the dark, with a small flame that I can see clearly when I open the door a crack, illuminating the photos of Tim and Sean that sit next to each other on my dresser top.

Mother's Day

Mother's Day is coming up in less than a month. How to spend Mother's Day has always thrown me for a loop, at least since my son Sean died. My mother died when I was only 13, Sean died shortly before his 18th birthday, nearly ten years ago, and my step-mother died less than a year after Sean was gone from my life.

I was never big on celebrating Mother's Day and Father's Day, but it was important to me to encourgage my son to remember the two fine people who had showered love (and toys) on him since the date of his birth. Even though these two days are artificially created "Hallmark Holidays", I thought it was important that Sean think of someone besides himself occasionally. We are such a child-centered society in the U.S., especially when a couple has only one or two kids to dote on, and when the economy is booming. Children of my son's generation never wanted for anything, at least until the recent recession.

After both Sean and my step-mother had died, nine years ago, I have pretty much been at a loss for what to do with myself on this day. Most friends of mine either have mothers, or sons and daughters, or sisters who are mothers, and they celebrate the holiday with them. I do have a sister who is a mother, but she lives on the east coast, and while I will call her to wish her a Happy Mother's Day, what do I do with the rest of my day, while most other families are taking their Mothers out to brunch or dinner?

Well, this year, I have a plan. I have two friends who are young mothers. One lives nearby and is a first time mother of a three month old; the other lives in Los Angeles, and has a toddler and an infant. I can't get down to LA for Mother's Day, but, with the help of cell phones and Facebook and YouTube, we can share photos, and even toddler babble. (Sometimes, I love high tech.) The other young mom I can visit, if not on Mother's Day, then perhaps the day before. And there is a third thing I am planning to do. I have another friend who is also a Mom, who I have not seen in quite a while and who I am unable to visit at the moment. She has two young childen. I am going to send her something on Mother's Day to enable her to share some quality time with her children, or possibly without her children, so she can be a better mother to her kids once she has de-stressed from her day.

This year, I have good reason to look forward to Mother's Day. Three good reasons, and I am thrilled.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

How Well Do We Ever Really Know Anyone?

Indeed. How well do we ever know the people we meet throughout our lives - our friends, our families, our colleagues, our neighbors, our acquaintances from church or chorus or book clubs, or even our spouses? I've been thinking about this a lot lately, since the death of my good friend, Tim Shannon.

I met Tim, Sean's technical theatre teacher, through the eyes of my son and his friends. After my son was killed in an accident during his senior year in high school, theatre teacher Tim could do no wrong in my mind. Tim let me come down to the high school often, buy pizza for his students during Hell Week, and really get to know what attracted my son to technical theatre in the first place, which had been Sean's passion in life. Technical theatre was what kept Sean from heading down a path of self-destruction in high school, providing a creative outlet for a bored teenager in the form of designing and building sets for high school plays.

And now, after knowing Tim only from the student perspective, I have had the chance to meet a few people from other parts of Tim's life. I have come to realize and understand that Tim was not the god-on-a-pedastal where I had placed him after my son died, but a human being, with faults. He had arguments with his wife, he had disagreements with his son, he probably left the toilet seat up. He mowed the lawn, took out the trash, and fed the dog. Mortal, as in vulnerable to the reach of the Grim Reaper's grasp. Mortal, just like the rest of us.

Where in the World?

Where in the world is Tim Shannon????

Whenever I would go down to the high school to visit Tim and his drama students, after my own techie son had died during his senior year, as I poked my head into Tim's office, which was always filled with theatre students, sitting everywhere, my question inevitably was, "Where's Tim?" Even if he knew precisely when I was coming down to see him, he was rarely in his office when I got there, usually popping in the door a few minutes later.

Initially, it bugged me. If I made an appointment to see him, I expected him to be there, waiting for me. But, eventually I just got used to it. Tim was inevitably a few minutes late. And when he did arrive, with this big, charming grin on his face, you just couldn't stay mad at him. It was just who he was.

It still does not seem real to me that he is no longer part of our earthly world. I pass by his house, a few blocks away from my own, and it seems the same, his old blue van and new green sedan parked behind one another in his driveway. I expect any minute for Tim to emerge from the house. His neighbors all talk about seeing Tim mowing his lawn, without his shirt on. It seems like he is just inside the house for a few minutes, perhaps getting a drink of water before finishing the lawn job.

But I know, when I go down to the high school next week to help out with the next drama production in any non-technical way that I can, that I will feel his absence. At first, it will be like it always was, because Tim could be in half a dozen places - his office, the classroom with the small stage which was attached to his office by an inner door, the auditorium, the mailroom, talking to the Assistant to the Principal a few doors down the hall, backstage, in the theatre department storage room, running out to Orchard Supply for a few minutes with his blue van to pick up supplies. Tim was usually in motion, someone who didn't sit still for long, although he loved sitting at his large, old oak desk, which he insisted on having moved into his new office after they renovated the building and gave him a bright, shiny, new space in which to sit and work.

Next week, as I sit in the auditorium watching the goings-on of the actors and crew, I think I might finally feel that his bodily presence is gone, the bodily presence that always greeted me with a big bear hug. I can pretend for a little while that he is just in another room of the school, gone for a lumber run, or out back in the theatre storage area. But eventually, even though I know that the auditorium is the place where I will most strongly feel his presence, alongside the presence of my son, eventually, I will feel the loss of his not being there. Not being there to greet me, and tease me about something. Not there to direct his students, who were constantly peppering him with questions. Just not there, not striding quickly down the auditorium aisle, or standing at the bottom of the stage, writing something on his ever-present "To Do" list.

When the students get back from Spring Break on Monday, they will feel his absence acutely as well. Some other drama teacher will be there to teach them, to run them through their paces, to make sure the musical comes together. But it won't Tim, our precious Tim, and that will finally make what has happened change from the surreal to the real. And we won't like it one bit.

Tim's Chair

There is an old saying is that nothing is certain in life except Death and Taxes. I suppose this is a true statement. But during April 2010, this common old phrase became a grim reminder for me.

I am usually well prepared by April 15th, the one date of the year everyone over 18 knows means Tax Day. I have usually sent in my taxes well before the due date. But, not this year. This year, I barely filed my tax extension on time, never mind filing the actual return, late in the day on the 15th. I almost missed filing by the notorious date altogether, and I'm a licensed CPA. Thank god these days you can file electronically with the Feds, because in my still disorganized state, in part due to moving only a month earlier, without electronic filing, I would have missed the deadline altogether. I still have not ordered a printer to go with my new laptop, and I found out this past April 15th that they turn off the computers at the local branch library five minutes before closing time at 6pm, no exceptions. On top of that, life threw me a curve ball on April 6th, in the form of the Grim Reaper come down to snatch a good man before his time, and this event turned my world temporarily upside-down.

As I write this, I am sitting in what I have come to refer to over the past week as "Tim's Chair". Its an old fashioned armchair, with huge metal springs in the seat, which show through the thin, shiny, ripped black covering on the bottom of the seat, if you turn the chair up-side-down. The chair's upholstery has an ivory colored background, with a large teal blue and rose colored floral pattern. I know this description makes it sound quite ugly, but its actually very pretty. The chair fits me perfectly, as not all chairs do, (when I sit up straight, my feet actually touch the floor, from toe to heel) and yet the seat is large enough so that I can sit cross legged, barefoot, as I watch old re-runs of Star Trek (the Jean-Luc Picard version) on late night TV.

The day I bought this chair, from a Consignment Store a few blocks from my house, was the last time I saw my good friend Tim Shannon. I borrowed his van so I could run down the street and pick up the chair before the consignment shop closed at 5:30 pm on a Friday evening. The chair was a steal at $50 and I had to snag it before someone else saw it sitting in the store window with its most excellent price tag, calling out to passersby, "Buy Me". When I returned Tim's van after delivering my new chair safely to my own home a few blocks away, I saw my good friend Tim for the last time.

We had a nice conversation in his driveway, about a subject we so often talked about - a drama student he knew. Except that this particular drama student had dropped dead of a congential heart defect in his college dorm room, about a year ago, at the tender age of 19. Little did I know that the man I was speaking to in the driveway of his tidy grey house with the white trim, would drop dead of heart failure a few days later.

Although he never saw it, I will always think of Tim when I sit in my chair in front of my TV. To me, it will always be "Tim's Chair', and I when I sit in it, I will smile and think of my good friend, Tim, happily discussing a drama student he knew, as we so often did, in the driveway of his comfortable home, one spring evening in April, 2010.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Latching on and Letting Go

"Latching on" evokes in me memories of having a baby at the breast, an experience that fathers will never be able to experience. "Letting go" happens much later, sometime after your child's 18th birthday.

I thought of these two phrases today while deadheading the yellow rose bush in front of Tim Shannon's tidy house in San Jose. Tim, my son's high school drama teacher, dropped dead last Tuesday, at home, at the young age of 49.

At certain points in our lives, we all latch on to something or someone. I latched on to Tim after my son was killed in an accident in his senior year in high school. I latched on to Tim and his high school drama students and never let go. Tim, and his high school drama students, were instrumental in helping me to cope with my son's untimely death.

We all have to let go of something or someone in our lives, whether it be letting our aged parents move on to the next life, or dealing with our children leaving the nest for the last time. I had to let go of my corporate accounting image after I lost my job as a Accounting Manager over a year ago; it took months before I was able to accept this change, and I went through a significant depression in the process. But, I have had a chance to heal, and have come out of the experience a better person.

So, now I have to let go of someone, my good friend, Tim Shannon, who listened to me and listened to me and listened to me when I was grieving the loss of my son. My good friend, Tim, who gave me gentle advice after I lost my job and became depressed. I am not quite ready to let go of Tim, this wonderful man who was mentor/role model/father figure and friend to so many young people who rolled through his classes at Fremont High School. But, I'm working on it.

Coming Out

I think its time, time for me to come out of the closet. No, I am not gay. I am a writer. There, I have said it, in print, for everyone to see. I was a closet blogger, having only told a few close friends, and now I'm not. Now I'm free to be who I really am, a writer.

I am putting the link to my blog on my Facebook page, regardless of things I have written in my blog in previous posts that might affend some of my family.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


There is no joy in Sunnyvale - mightly Timmy has struck out.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Greeting Cards

I found myself today at the CVS Pharmacy, where I had gone to buy cough drops for my never-ending cough-due-to-allergies. After I put the cough drops in the basket, I wandered over to the greeting card aisle. I am one of those people who, upon finding a great card or two (or three or four), buys several of each, even if its no one's birthday or holiday. Who knows when you will need a card at the drop of a hat, because you forgot a birthday, or remembered the day before Father's Day you never did get around to going to the pharmacy or bookstore to buy a card. The real reason I buy cards ahead of time is not because I'm organized. Its because I'm forever forgetful of dates. Doctor appointments, birthday parties, I even missed the Fourth of July one year. I have graduation cards, sympathy cards, birthday cards, Father's Day cards, Easter cards and Valentines, which I keep on hand, because...well, you never know when you'll need one. I hate going to buy a card the day before the event only to find that the only cards left are the "sucky" ones (an adjective a young friend recently used in a conversation with me).

And so, there I stood today, in front of the greeting card display. I had been here only the other day, a week ago in fact. I had just found out that a friend of mine had lost her 19 year old son a while back (I had just found out) so I was buying a card for my friend and stocking up on sympathy cards that I found and liked. I found a card that I really liked, so I bought three of them. Little did I know that the next day I would find out that Tim, one of my closest friends, had suddenly died, at the young age of 49. And so, I found myself back at the greeting card rack today, in the sympathy section once again. I needed at least four sympathy cards - one for Tim's parents, one for his son, and one for his siblings, plus the one for my friend. I found two very nice sympathy cards and I bought two of each. Because, you never know when you are going to need a really great card.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

If Only

Life is inherently unfair, as has been proven to me time and time again, most recently in the death of a dear friend who was only 49 years old. Tim Shannon was a most beloved and popular teacher at Fremont High School in Sunnyvale, and a most beloved colleague and friend as well. As one of Tim's former students remarked to me the other night at the candlelight vigil, "Why Tim? Why couldn't one of the sucky teachers have died?"

If only life was fair, Jeremy, if only life was fair.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


The sun is still shining, the tulips are blooming in front of the high school, the auditorium door is open and yet, there is still no Tim Shannon. The world should have stopped and paused in honor of this gentle teacher's passing, one who touched so many people's hearts and souls, but on and on and on the earth spins, oblivious to the massive, palpable outpouring of sorrow from the hearts of all those he touched. My heart is ripped apart by your stranding us here in the wide wake you left behind. You are simply not replaceable.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Sad, Sad Day

Its a sad, sad day in Sunnyvale. Beloved high school drama teacher Tim Shannon is dead.

Saturday, April 3, 2010


Today is Easter Sunday, a day to celebrate rebirth, resurrection, and new life. For Christians, it is a time of rememberance, a time to celebrate the Son of God resurrected; for the less religious and for children, it is a time of Easter egg hunts, Easter baskets, and new spring clothes. I remember celebrating Easter as a girl in the 1950s, back when that spring holiday meant new Easter "bonnets", white gloves, white patent leather shoes with a matching purse and a new pastel colored dress to wear on to church on Sundays. (The dress was worn over a stiff petticoat which made it stick out like a ballerina's tutu.)

No one knows exactly when or where the Easter Bunny legend began, but their are some logical suggestions. From several websites chosen from an internet search, it appears that the Bunny (or E.B.) was the logical symbolic choice for spring festivals that celebrated fertility in an era that predated Christianity; the furry little bunny rabbit is one of the most fertile creatures on earth. During the Dust Bowl years in the 1930s, when the soil of the Texas panhandle and adjacent states literally blew away, the dirt so sterile that it would not even support the growth of a single blade of grass, for some reason the rabbit population multiplied like crazy. I will spare my readers the gory details, but the cute, continuously reproducing little bunny rabbit did not exactly endear itself to the western farmers of that time and place.

My brother has a pet rabbit, a house rabbit, a mini-bunny, which he and his wife affectionately call Bun-Bun. Bun-Bun is quiet as a mouse and has very soft fur and big brown eyes. He hops around the living room waiting to be petted. He is quite cute, kind of like a small dog that doesn't bark.

I have different bunnies in my house. These are bunnies that I come after with a vengeance, similar to that of the Dust Bowl farmers in the 1930s. My bunnies are not cute with big brown eyes, just waiting to be petted. My bunnies hide under the bed, just waiting to attack me. My bunnies are Dust Bunnies and they are to be eliminated as quickly as possible with swift strokes of the dust mop.

You see, I have allergic asthma, and one of the main things I am allergic to is dust mites, little microscopic critters that live in carpets and mattresses and bedding. Dust mites live on the dead skin cells shed by humans and animals. Dust is really a disgusting combination of all kinds of gross things, including....dust mite feces. The dust mite feces contain a protein to which some people are allergic, and I happen to be one of them.

Although my step-mom tried really hard to instill a certain level of cleanliness in her children, I am sure my siblings and I do not always meet her expectations. I have never really cared much about keeping my house dust free. Actually, dust is not a problem as long as it is not disturbed and distributed into the air. But everytime you walk on a carpet, or sit on an upholstered sofa upon which any airborne dust has landed, you spew dust mite feces into the air we all breathe. And, for some of us air breathers, that's a problem.

I now have hardwood floors with no carpeting. I consciensciouly mop the floors each week with a damp mop so that no dust takes flight. I have taken down the drapes. I try to keep the cat out of my bedroom, albeit with limited success. I am on a mission, to wean myself from my seasonal asthma medication, as soon as it is medically advisable and I am not coughing my lungs out every day.

Once I became conscious of the cause of my medical issue, I began to see specks of dust everywhere - on the hardwood floor in the hallway, on the glass top of my clothes bureau, on my shiny new laptop. Our long haired cat is nature's own dust mop, dust bunnies clinging to her underbelly of sweeping hair, dragging them from one room to the other.

So now, I dust. Often. The floors, the top of my bureau, my nightstand, any place that specks of dust might land on. I vacuum the permanent carpeting on the staircase with a vengeance, using the highest suction power that our modern, upright, dust mite-filtering vacuum cleaning marvel can muster.

I have become a Dust Buster.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Good Friday

Today is Good Friday.

Christians memorialize the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ on Good Friday. When I was a child in the 1950s, on the East Coast, Good Friday was a holiday, and a holy day for Catholics. My family went to church in the afternoon, at 3 pm sharp for Good Friday services. (3 pm has been memorialized as the time of Christ's death.) Women and girls wore black lace veils on their heads. The service always seemed quite long to me, as the priestly procession paraded around the interior of the church, burning incense (I can smell the sharp, sweet vapors of the incense right now), and reciting the Stations of the Cross. After services, we went home and had a simple fish dinner (no meat on Fridays) and went to bed. After services, we did not go out to the movies or have a fancy dinner. We were memorializing the day our Saviour had been put to death. It was a solemn occasion.

I have not been to church services in 30 years or more, except for funerals and weddings. I am sure many things have changed, but I also sure that Good Friday is still celebrated by reading the "Passion" of Christ and reciting the Stations of the Cross and is still considered the most solemn holy day in the Catholic Church.

Holy Saturday always seemed to me to be a waiting day, a non-holiday stuck smack between solemn Good Friday and glorious Easter Sunday. For anyone unfamiliar with Easter, in Christian religions, Easter celebrates the rise of Jesus Christ from the dead, and supports the basis of Christianity, as the resurrection is the ulitmate proof for believers that Jesus Christ was indeed the Son of God.

Personally, I have always been more impressed by the lessons taught by Jesus than by his death and ressurection. Lessions such as "Love they neighbor as thyself" and "'Whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do unto me". His turn-the-other-cheek philosophy replaced the old eye-for-an-eye philosophy. His mandate to feed the hungry and clothe the naked resonates with me still, especially in today's society where many who want to repeal our newly passed health insurance law still manage to call themselves Christians.

I do not read the Bible, but I remember Christ's willingness to cure lepers, the outcasts of society, and stand up to the wealthy. "It is more difficult for the wealthy to enter heaven than it is for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle". He taught forgiveness and compassion and cared little for material goods. Even though I no longer consider myself a practicing Catholic, I learned valuable lessons from the teachings of Jesus Christ.

When my son died, almost 10 years ago, we remembered him, we mourned him, but we also set up a scholarship fund for other students, in a tribute to a young man who did not have a chance to leave a legacy of his own. A pay-it-forward kind of thing. So, I am wondering, why do we not do something similar on Good Friday, in order to pay tribute to this man who taught us how to live and love our fellow man? Of course, Christians should remember what happened to Jesus on Good Friday. But what about remembering all who have been persecuted, for their faith, for the color of their skin, for their sexual orientation? What about doing something for others instead of giving up candy for Lent? Instead of kneeling in church for three hours, why not donate money to a charity, do some volunteer work you would not ordinarily do, participate in a Sierra Club activity to help save the Earth from global warming, or visit a lonely elder in a senior center?

If we were to attend Jesus' memorial service today, I think that he would be expecting much more from us than wailing over his death. I think he would want us to remember the lessons he taught, and, as his disciples, expect us to act on them. Help those less fortunate than yourself. Protect the earth. Love thy neighbor as thyself. Perform one small act of kindness, on this day, a Good Friday, in 2010.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Health Care Reform

I have two Republican friends, three if you count my dad. One of these friends ,who is just several years away from being eligible for Medicare, is vehemently opposed to the new health care reform bill. The other friend just votes the same way her husband does, something not as uncommon in this country as you might think. And my dad is simply my dear old dad, so he is forgiven for anything, including his political views.

The health care reform bill has been in effect for less than a week, and already the news is reporting "Nation still divided on health care" whereupon Obama replied "Its been a week folks. So before we find out if people like health care reform, we should wait to see what happens when we actually put it into place. Just a thought."

My friend who is opposed to health care reform thinks it will bankrupt the country and that the poor in this country will abuse it. What is it costing all of us to take care of those poor people who cannot afford preventive care, and instead end up staying weeks in the hospital to treat an illness that could have been prevented or mitigated if treated sooner? What about a friend of mine who has his own consulting business, who has paid his "dues" for years, whose twenty-seven year old son has a serious but non-life-threatening disease but who would not be able to get health insurance without a job that provided it?

What about me, a 56 year old female, who is not employed at the moment, but who, previous to this recession, has always been employed since graduation from college? If not for Cobra, I would not be able to find a company that would insure me due to...asthma. Yes, asthma, a generally controllable and treatable condition that thousands of people have. I have never had cancer, don't smoke or drink, no longer have an appendix (this is a plus because I can no longer get appendicitis), have low blood pressure and cholesterol, am not overweight or a couch potato, certainly won't be getting pregnant, what's not to like about me?

Oh, yeah, I have seasonal allergy induced asthma. How could insurers possibly be expected to insure me?

Blooming Out All Over

Yes, spring has sprung, at least in California, and things are blooming out all over. I am talking about the flowers, no doubt.

The other day I dropped by the high school that my son used to attend. In the drama teacher's office was a young woman who I had known several years ago when she was in high school. Last May, she graduated from college. She was a girl in high school, and four years later, she came back a young woman. Yes, I know this is what happens in life, kids grow up. But when you do not see these young people for four whole years, it is a dramatic change when you see them again. I've seen it time and again when these young people come back to visit Tim, their high school drama teacher, and I am always pleasantly surprised. The boys change too, of course, but it is the young women who surprise me the most.

Maybe its the tomboy-type girls who are attracted to Tim's stagecraft classes. Often their all consuming passion in high school is mastering power tools or working the light board. They come to crew calls faces scrubbed, dressed in jeans and tee shirts, hair pulled back, with non-existent hips. They come back to visit four years later wearing make-up, hair casually styled, hips rounding out their jeans. I am always stunned that the high school girls I knew come back to visit four years later as young women. Because in my mind, it was just yesterday that they were girls and today...voila!....young women.

But it is not only the physical change I see when they return. I also see something else, something that is in a way, even more dramatic. They return, no longer girls asking their high school teacher for advice, but young women confidently expressing ideas and opinions of their own. Of course, this is to be expected, as the college years are the last phase in becoming an adult, but, it surprises me still.

I notice something similar when I watch the winter Olympic games -- slim hipped young teens execute demanding jumps without much style, and come back four years later confident young women with full figures and incredible poise on the ice.

Yes, things are blooming out all over..