Friday, September 26, 2008

Sunday Scribblings - "Tale of Two Weddings" - 9/28/08

The Tale of Two Weddings:

My two sons were married within a year of each other. I need to say upfront that nothing is more important in my life than my three kids and now my two (soon to be three) grandchildren. I have always enjoyed participating in their lives. The weddings of my sons were very significant occasions my life.

The first son was married in an outdoor ceremony on the grounds of one of the many beautiful country clubs that the Myrtle Beach area is famous for. I was a groomsman and very proud to be part of this event. As father of the groom, I honchoed the rehearsal dinner. It was held in a clubhouse on the beach and I had it catered southern style: barbecue and all the fixin’s. Many of the guests were from the north and had not experienced a genuine pig picking. Since most of the attendees were coming from out of town and arriving early, we elected to invite all invited guests to the rehearsal dinner, instead of the customary participants. Nearly all of them were able to attend. As a result, we ran low on food long before I was ready to stop serving. I ended up running to a local pizza place and buying a dozen or so pies to supplement our spread. It was a great party and everyone seemed to enjoy the day. The wedding went off without a hitch, even though we were worried about an outdoor affair in the sweltering heat of August. I have many fond memories of that weekend, which I felt very much a part of.

The second son was married in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, a God-awful place, which looks like Myrtle Beach without the attraction of the beaches. The ceremony took place in one of those tacky chapels that usher one wedding out one door as another is entering through another door. The proprietors were rude and surly, as was the photographer. I was not a part of this wedding at all. The rehearsal dinner was a weenie roast at a cabin in the mountains conducted by one of the bride’s many uncles or cousins. I was invited, though I definitely felt like a crasher at a family reunion. I was such an outsider to the wedding that I was told I would not need a tux, until the last minute when it was decided that it would be better for the wedding photographs if I did not wear my golf attire, so I was allowed to rent a tux. It was not necessary, since I was only included in one photo (which I did not receive a copy of), while even the most obscure, shirttail cousins of the bride were posed in every possible combination. Anyone viewing the wedding album would assume my son is an orphan. I am surprised my son allowed to keep his name. Not even a hyphen. But, I felt the most sorry for my ex-wife (mother of the groom) who was shown absolutely no respect at the wedding. She was not even escorted into the chapel. She had to find her own seat and endure the same embarrassing questions by other guests that I did: “Who are you? With the bride or groom?” While a child's wedding is of great importance to the dad, it is doubly so for the mom. She flew across the country to be dissed. I have exactly the same amount of happy memories of that weekend as I have photos to commemorate it.

I have been counseled to use this forum to discuss things that bother me in lieu of my previous method of holding it in until I destroy property and inflict grievous bodily harm on others. When the Sunday Scribbling’s prompt was “Wedding”, this is the first thing that came to mind. It was not written to hurt anyone’s feelings. It is just an honest account of these two events and the contrast in the way they were conducted.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Thursday 13 - Would Another Depression Be So Bad? - 9/25/08

With all of the turmoil about our economy, the calapse of huge corporations, and widespread layoffs, there is a lot of fear among the American people that we are in a recession and headed for worse. It made me ponder whether or not a depression would actually have an upside. My father's generation survived the Great Depression and the lessons they learned served them well their entire lives. Subsequent generations (including mine) have not experienced the hardships that built the character of our nation. My Thursday 13 this week are thirteen things that came to mind that might be benefits of another depression in America. Don't get me wrong, I am not saying a depression would be a good thing, I am just saying.............

1) An end to the entitlement mentality that permeates the American society.
2) A rallying together of families, neighbors, and communities in order to survive.
3) The end of farm subsidies and paying farmers not to grow crops.
4) A chance to let the rest of the world operate without our participation as our focus will be domestic.
5) The return of the work ethic into American society.
6) Narrowing of the gap between the haves and have-nots as everyone becomes a have-not.

7) People will learn do it yourself skills to become self-sufficient.
8) Oil producing nations will have a huge surplus as our needs for oil becomes greatly diminished. They would gladly exchange oil for food.
9) The return of the extended family.
10) The end of the debt based economy.
11) A reintroduction of basic values.
12) The illegal immigrants would go back home and there would be no jobs to outsource abroad.
13) There would be nothing of value for thieves to steal.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Medical Insurance

A hot topic these days for politicians is affordable health insurance for all Americans. That sounds good on the surface, but for it to be beneficial the entire system needs to be revamped. For those not familiar, let me explain the situation that exists, at least for me.

I currently have health insurance but that does not guarantee that I will receive quality medical care. Top doctors, particularly specialists, are not in my network. The majority of the providers that are in my network received their medical training somewhere like Haiti and operate their practice from a van they share with a carpet cleaning service. Cutting edge, state of the art procedures are not available to me. Blood letting, sorcery, and sacred dances are the treatments I can realistically expect.

The reason the best doctors do not choose to participate in my care is that they can’t make any money. If a doctor agrees to participate in a network it means he essentially allows the insurance carrier to dictate how much he will be paid.

Many actions are not covered and many others require pre-authorization in order to be covered. Let’s say I need a treatment that the doctor charges $2,500 for. If the course of action is covered the insurance company may only authorize $175 for that procedure. Between the insurance company and myself, we will pay the doctor $175. So the doctor must write-off $2,325. It is not hard to understand why the top doctors are not willing to play that game.

Should I choose to survive and visit an out-of-network doctor that actually has a fighting chance of curing what ails me, I am essentially on my own. The doctor bills me $2,500 and I am obligated to pay that amount regardless of whether my insurance company participates or not.

So if a few million additional sick people are dumped into that system, the few participating doctors will be so overwhelmed that the chances of actually seeing even the least qualified doctor prior to being pronounced dead becomes very slim. Countries with socialized medicine, such as England and Canada, have long waits for needed procedures.

Many of you have seen the television commercials for the Cancer Treatment Centers of America. They are amazing hospitals that boast the most advanced cancer treatment and an amazing success rate of cure. But most of us will never be able to afford that level of treatment. I took this statement directly from their website:

What are my responsibilities?
As a courtesy to you, we will file your insurance claim based on the information you provide. Your signature will be required to assign benefits directly to the hospital and physicians. We encourage patients to review their policy so there are no hidden surprises that might occur. We will work closely with you and your insurance company to expedite the process. Unfortunately, we may not always be able to obtain prompt or full payment from your insurance company. If that happens, you will be expected to assist in expediting the claim and resolving any balances due.
Why do I still have a balance if my insurance company pays 100% of Reasonable and Customary Charges?
Some insurance companies base payment on the average charges for all hospitals in a given area. This practice does not take into consideration the specialized nature of care at certain facilities managed by Cancer Treatment Centers of America and may not cover the full cost of the care you receive. You may be responsible for any balances. You are encouraged to discuss your coverage with your insurance company prior to treatment.
What are my payment options?
Since patients are financially liable for all medical services received, we offer alternatives for patients to pay their balances. The payment options may include cash, personal check, money order, credit cards and short-term payment plans. We accept Visa, Master Card and Discover. Should you have any open balances, you may be asked to pay them prior to further treatment.

It is exactly like everything else in life. You get what you pay for.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Ashley Thomas Poem

My lovely teenage niece wrote this beautiful poem. It was obvious I was the inspiration for it. For most of her short life, she has assayed, unsuccessfully, to save my eternal soul. My sister has encouraged this effort and I am thankful for their interest. They frantically pray for me and good thoughts can never hurt, regardless of one's beliefs. I wish I could temper their Christian zeal with a bit of open-mindedness, but that is not going to happen. In their thinking, an axe murderer and I have the same status. Regardless, this is a wonderful, well-written, poem and I wish to honor it here. It is nice to have someone trying to keep me out of hell. At least I will be there with Gandhi and the Dalai Lama. I love you, Ashley. Keep writing.


If you’re lost in the valley of darkness
and you don’t know what to do
Just look up to the Lord
And He will guide you through
If you don’t know which way is up
Just bow your head and pray
And I promise you
The Lord will show you the way
Towards the end of your journey
There is two roads you will find
You will have to choose one
And leave the other behind
There is one that’s wide and broad
That many people take
Until the end when they realize
That there must be some mistake
Because this road leads to destruction
Everywhere you turn
And the only thing you can see
Is the fiery pit that burns
The other road is narrow
That not many people take
But at the end they realize
That they made NO mistake
Because at the end of their long journey
They’ve finally reached heaven’s gate
And they no longer have to worry
About making anymore mistakes
Which one did you choose?

(JULY 2008)

Friday, September 12, 2008

Sunday Scribblings - "Coffee" - 9/14/08

One of the many unwritten rules in a military office environment is that the first person to arrive for duty makes the initial pot of coffee for the office. The coffee is number one priority. The defense of our nation and combating the spread of communism will not begin for the day until the coffee has been made available. This task is not delegated by rank or position (obviously Generals don’t make coffee), but chronologically. First in was the barista. I am sure that with the abundancy of Starbucks, the task has changed to picking up coffee as opposed to making it, even on foreign soil.

I was a bad team member as I have never been a coffee drinker. When I was the first arrival, the second person in would make the coffee, bitching and moaning all the while. In several different duty locations this become a morale issue. It was very important to some people that coffee be available as early as possible. I not only did not drink it but I did not even know how to make it, nor did I wish to learn. Once at each duty location, I would relent and make a pot that was either the consistency of motor oil or seltzer, depending on how many scoops I chose to include or how much vinegar I added. For some reason, I was never asked to brew again. Sometimes, just to be cruel, I would offer.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Skooter's Annual Check-up

I am sure that both of you who read my postings have noticed that I have focused on Skooter recently. Well, before he came into my life, my creativity account was bankrupt. I was as clueless as Ferris Bueller’s parents. He has inspired me to write again. So bear with me. I am not changing the name of my blog to “The Adventures of Skooter.”: But it does have a nice ring to it.

I took Skooter to the Vet for his annual check-up at the Carolina Forest Veterinary Hospital. It was a very nice, highly organized clinic. They have treatment rooms just like in a homosapien doctor’s office. Your pet doesn’t come in contact with any of the other animals being treated, preventing the obligatory butt sniffing and chaos that would surely ensue in the waiting room.

It was obvious that the veterinarians and their assistants (there were several of each) on duty honestly love animals.

You only have to watch a single episode of House to realize all doctors do not have affection for their patients. I’m sure you are thinking, “Hey moron, House is not a real doctor.” Well, I want to believe he is. If I am having a seizure, bleeding out, or have some disease that I can’t pronounce, I want Greg House working on me. I don’t care how big a jerk he is to me. When I am flat lining, I could care less about bedside manner. Just cure me.

But I want a vet who is nice to my dog. As they were examining and vaccinating Skooter, their soft reassuring voices eased his anxiety. The vet that treated him even called me at home to see if Skooter had any ill effects from the injections. He showed genuine concern.

All of this professionalism and care did not come cheap. I had not owned a dog in several years nor have I ever owned a dog in the south, where parasites and disease run rampant and it is a full-time job keeping the legions of worms out of a dog’s colon. About all you needed in the northwest, where I come from, are a rabies shot and a flea collar. I am certain that for the price of Skooter’s vet visit, the Cartwrights could have had the Ponderosa’s entire herd treated. But it was worth every Doubloon for Skooter to receive a clean bill of health. Nice that one of us is enjoying wellness. Skooter’s weight of 32 pounds was ideal for a 5-year-old male beagle. At my last check-up my weight was perfect for a 5-year-old blue fin tuna.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Sunday Scribblings - "miracle" - 9/7/08

This week’s Sunday Scribblings prompt is “miracle.” It didn’t immediately elicit any ideas other than the very obvious. I have witnessed many miracles in my life, both large and small, but in time I can rationalize and trivialize even the most miraculous and impossible happenings. Though I believe in supernatural events, I compartmentalize them in my mind, and don’t dwell on them.

I recently had a small miracle affect my life in huge way. In an effort to simplify my life, I had unintentionally eliminated any purpose for living. I had no reason to get up in the morning, so I often didn’t. I could sleep 18 hours a day and eat the other 6 hours. When I went for my annual physical at the VA, I discussed this with my doctor. I said that maybe I needed to see a mental health provider. He said that unless I had post traumatic stress syndrome, that the mental health clinic would not see me. Soldiers returning from Iraq have overwhelmed them. He prescribed some anti-depressants and sent me on my way.

In the meantime, a friend of mine had encouraged me to get a dog. I am a dog lover, but did not think I could handle the responsibility of caring for one, when I could hardly care for myself. Anyway, I am a big dog guy and live in a condo. The rules of my condo limit me to a dog of 25 pounds. I am not fond of little, yippy, ankle biters like Chihuahuas and such and cannot imagine walking down the road with a shitsu on a leash. That is almost as bad as having a cat. Guys with cats scare me. But women with lots of cats terrify me even more. I know there are cat lovers reading this that’s asses have just clenched a bit, but I have valid reasons for my opinion of cats. The first is that I am horribly allergic to cats. If I walk in a house containing a cat I will know within a minute. The second and more profound reason is that I once had a cat spray my gym bag. If you have ever had a cat baptize an article of clothing, you know what I am talking about. There are no detergent commercials that claim to remove that odor.

So I decided to visit the local Humane Society, which is one of the most heartbreaking places on earth. There were lots of great dogs, but they were all large dogs, certainly over 25 pounds. I guess it is just like with orphaned children, the larger ones are hard to place. If I had room, I would adopt the lot of them. The dogs, not the children. I came home and looked on Craig’s list. Again, I could find no suitable dogs. So I posted a short ad promising a good home to a small dog. I received several responses, but the one that caught my eye was one from Steph for a five-year-old beagle, named Skooter. Though small, a beagle is definitely a man’s dog. We corresponded via email a few times (Steph and I, not Skooter) and made an appointment for me to come and meet Skooter. I took him for a test ride and a walk and we bonded immediately. I took him home that night and he has been by my side ever since.

He has the most amazing internal clock. Regardless of what time we retire for the night, each morning at 7 AM, I hear the patter of his toenails on my hardwood floor and see his tail coming around the bed. Then his adorable face and sad eyes appear on the side of my bed.. He is ready to eat and go for a walk. In that order. I now have a reason to get up in the morning. This might not qualify as a miracle in the precise definition of the word, but meeting Skooter was a miracle for me.

I have a long way to go to get back to mental well-being, but having a loving companion is a good start. It is hard to be depressed with Skooter sharing my life.

He also enjoys sharing my new 800 count Egyptian cotton sheets while I am on the computer.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Skooter and I Bracing For Hurricane Hanna

Hurricane watch is tough duty.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Thursday Thirteen #21 - 13 Boats Skooter Allowed To Pass Our Balcony

Skooter has crowned himself King of the waterway. He surveys all boat traffic that passes our balcony. He watches closely and only barks if they stop or have a dog on board. These are 13 boats that passed Skooter's intense scrutiny and were allowed to pass without incident.

Note the machine gun on the bow of the Coast Guard vessel. Lots of drugs are transported on this waterway. The Coast Guard is equipped to intercept such smugglers. Perhaps they could use Skooter to sniff out contraband. He can certainly sniff out bacon.