Again, Mr Romney, you are speaking from your gilded gated "every need met" world.  Allow me to introduce you to mine.

I am almost 60, an SLE patient who has no insurance coverage.  I was hospitalized in May 2011 with low platelets (~37,000 when normal is !50,000-400,000+.  I was in danger of bleeding to death internally.  I went to the county charity clinic, where I met with the most incredible incompetence.  Mostly, they just don't treat the poor patients with the same kind of respect and concern I got/get from doctors I pay.  I have retained my private rheumatologist, although I didn't go for a year, and that's why we didn't catch the platelet issue until it was so severe. 

Now I cannot take the medication that was keeping my lupus at bay because it destroys platelets.  I also cannot take aspirin or NSAIDs such as Ibuprofen for the pain in my joints.  Nor can I afford the medication I need, Ben Lysta.  Why?  It's $2000-$3000 a pop, and the first three doses are to be taken 2 weeks apart and then once a month after that.  I am still taking prednisone, which isn't really controlling my lupus, and my doctor estimates will take 5 years off my life.

I have been turned repeatedly for SSDI, despite the fact I cannot walk more than about 100', suffer from exhaustion so badly that I often require 12-14 hours of sleep, and suffer pain in my joints on a daily basis.  Right now I am taking 50 mg of Tramadol 4 times a day to get through the days. I'm not old enough for SS & Medicare, and if Congress raises the age requirement, I won't live long enough to collect.  Even if they don't, I might not live long enough to collect.

My husband has high blood pressure, and he is not covered either.  We lost our insurance when your friends the Koch brothers outsourced his job to India in 2009.  He has not found a job.  The first year, he didn't even get a nibble at anything suitable.  So he took care of my late 80s mother and me, the house and the yard, the shopping, the laundry, theerrands.  Mother died 21 November 10, and in the midst of her final days and the funeral, he got a call from a headhunter, which he missed because he was ferrying me around and sitting with my mother in ICU, and taking care of my needs.  By the time he got the message, it was too late.  

My brother is an attorney, and he has been paying all our bills, including house maintenance and some modifications for my condition, and supplying all our basic needs.  I have a computer because he believes, that since I am often housebound, I need the intellectual stimulation. We also have a television because we never go to movies unless we get free tickets.   He has also been paying for my medical care.  He is 62 and about to retire from the law.

I had a friend who died from a curable cancer in 2009.  He had no insurance, and could not pay for the ongoing treatment.  So he got a pain prescription and died a long slow death.

My cousin, who is bipolar, has a heart condition, and is in charge of her 58 year old mentally challenged sister, had a breakdown not long before their Alzheimer's patient mother died.  She had no insurance, and despite her pleas, the EMS took her to the NEAREST hospital instead of the charity one.  They said that was their policy.   She now has a $25,000 bill from that NEAREST hospital, an income under $20,000 a year, and goes to the charity clinic run by the county.  If she has a heart attack, the EMS will take her to the NEAREST hospital, where she will once again incur charges she cannot afford. The NEAREST hospital to her house is about 5 blocks away and a for-profit institution.  It's also the nearest one to my home.  So guess where the EMS would take my husband or myself if we have a medical crisis at home?

We have elected to die rather than have that happen.  If we were eligible for medical care under your plan, we would not be able to afford the premiums.  the only quote I have gotten is close to $2000 a month.  So yes, Mr Romney, people ARE dying for lack of insurance, and it is not because we have "chosen" not to be covered.  You simply do not have any concept of the realities of live for the unemployed, the disabled, the underemployed, the working poor, or anyone in the REAL middle class (which, statistically is about $30,000 to $80,000, NOT those making $150K - $500K., as you seem to think.

Look through my posts.  I invited your equally clueless wife to come viist me some montjhs ago.  I promise you, we could give an education you've never had.
 
 
If you're wondering where I've been lately, I have been outside working to bring my yard into compliance with the desires of my "neighbors."  I use this term exceedingly loosely because there is nothing truly neighborly about them.  Mind you, I wouldn't care if they went about their lives and let me go about mine.  What I object to is that they never come to see if they can help, they just cowardly tattle to the teacher (in this case the City of Houston) when I don't meet their OCD, anally retentive, control issues sense of what things could be like.  

To be honest, I don't many of them by name. What I do know is that most of them arrived in this neighborhood after I did.  When I arrived in June of 1957, most of this area was still woods, open fields, or farm land.  I heard coyotes howling at night.  there were bats swooping out of the sky to eat the mosquitoes, lightening bugs, and yes the odd rattlesnake in our yard.  What do you expect?  Immediately behind our house were acres of piney woods.  I reckon I learned to dispatch a rattler to meet his maker with a garden hoe by the time I was 6.

These people can call in anonymously and get me in trouble -- threats of liens and big bills from the city to clean up my land.  Let me make it clear.  I don't have 2 or three junked up cars sitting out front.  It's just that we had a drought last summer, which allowed bermuda grass (where the heck that came from, I have no idea) and some weeds (ditto -- I know I didn't sow 'em) that got GASP över nine inches tall!  Some weeds, not a whole yard full.  The grass was about three inches tall.  We have been battling to get the yard in shape ever since last fall when the drought and pine bark beetles took out six of the large pines which were living here when I arrived.

I cannot describe how seriously the stress of the threat, along with the hours of physical labor, has impacted my health.  I'm not supposed to be out in the sun.  So I found shaded areas where I could work.  We do not have thousands of dollars to spend on this project, so my husband and I are doing it mostly by ourselves.  My brother did provide some money to pay for tools and maintenance supplies for them, and for some temporary labor.  The latest purchase today was a 48"two man crosscut saw.  We needed this to cut up the REALLY big logs.  These are 6-8' lengths of loblolly pines, all upwards of 55 years old.  Some of them were probably in the 75-100 year old range.

What I can tell you is that every joint in my body aches, and I am so tired that I fell asleep outside several times over the last couple of days while working.  I have chopped two or three brush piles into mulch.  What looks like a huge brush pile reduces to about 1 cubic yard of mulch.  I did this with a set of pruning shears.  I have also sawn up, with a bow saw, about a dozen or so branches 3-6" in diameter.  We did find a bargain on a chipper/shredder which takes anything up to 1-1/4"diameter, so I spent a few hours feeding that as well.  Anything over 6" and under a foot in diameter gets the chainsaw.  My husband does that. Anything over a foot is gonna get the crosscut saw.

There's another solid week, two weeks of work to be done, and I'd appreciate any prayers you care to offer for the strength to keep on keeping on.  I was barely walking this morning.  I worked until the bottom dropped out of the clouds and then I came inside.  I gotta admit that I didn't get as much work done today, because I hurt so badly every time I pull the pruning shears shut to cut a limb that I have to stop and will the pain away.

I have decided a couple of things.  One, I am going to find the money to put privacy screening -- like they have on tennis courts -- around my backyard.  I have a couple to the south of me that have been calling the city on us for forty years.  Complete assholes the pair of them.  She's a nosey gossipy pretentious cow whom I have done my best to avoid since her family moved in around 1960.  He's so compulsive he went outdoors in very hot weather to mow his 1 1/2"buzz cut lawn to 1/2"one year and had a heart attack.  I don't want this for my husband.   They also violated the city's water rationing last year to keep their freaking lawn green!  I resented this because when I went to take a shower I was lucky to get water at all.  Did I call the city on them?  Noooooooo.  Nor on the other neighbors who were also violating the restrictions.  I'm not the kind of person who tattles, snitches or looks for ways to make life difficult for other people, even when they do it to me.  However, when I take all these sawn up pieces of my old friends the trees to create bed edgings, I am going to place some in this pattern facing their plate glass window: n9m.  Maybe I'll make it a recurring pattern.  They steal my Meyer lemons every year anyway.  

Behind me is another jewel of a neighbor.  He came to the fence to talk to my husband one day.  He wanted us to cut down all the yaupons that make up our back hedge "because they drop leaves in my yard."  "It sure would help me out," he says.  When my husband told me, I gave a few minutes thought to remembering what he'd done to help us out.  Since I came up empty, I let my husband's answer to them stand "Feel free to cut off the branches on your side of the fence.""  This OCD also wanted us to cut down a pine tree in OUR YARD because it dropped needles on his yard.  We offered to rake them up, but he said no, that tree was going to come down in a windstorm some day, and it should come down.  He'd pay for it.  This exchange occurred while we were cutting down the dead trees and that was one of the two living pines left.  Then he started in ragging us about the pine logs two days after they were cut.  Since he's not my boss, or my father, or anyone whose opinion about anything means a damn to me, I ignored him..  Privacy screen him out too!.

To the north, the neighbors aren't so bad.  Her grandfather was a pain in the ass when he lived there, but we made our peace with her mother, and she and her husband, while they have some annoyingly noisy dogs seem to be pretty good hearted live and let live people.  

The other thing I decided is that modern Americans are woosies that our Founding Fathers would be ashamed of.  I have a deeper appreciation of those brave souls who entered the deep woods, swamps, and such over Carolina, Virginia, Georgia way and hacked down all those trees by hand and made them into log cabins, tool sheds, barns and the like.  It's damned hard work!  And I didn't have to take down the 90' trees by hand either!   I'm trying to imagine what would have happened in 1730 if someone had called all his neighbors together and said "Let's implement something called deed restrictions that mandate everyone having a St. Augustine lawn in front of their cabin, and not letting any weeds get over 9" tall on their land nor having any undergrowth over 9"tall.  Oh and no dead, decaying vegetable matter such as leaves or pine needles or fallen twigs."    I swear I hear laughter and calls for commitment to the state asylum for the insane!

On the bright side, I got to watch a number of lovely songbirds flitting about my trees in my little glade on my NW corner.  Lizards, skinks, anoles, and even a bunny live in my overgrown area.  Not a pet rabbit, but a wild one.  I haven't seen much of him while I've been working ;  I think he's afraid of us.  My husband put out some rabbit food for him though.  Sadly, my bees have departed, probably as a result of the heavy spring rains.  I have a clematis virginia, known also as Virgin's Bower Flower on my north gate, in full, luscious bloom.

I've also made a couple of vine birdhouses when I take a break.  One-and-a-half really, but I'll get it finished.  Now I have to get in bed before I fall apart. 
 
 
This may seem a silly thing to be thinking about at 5:39 am on a Sunday morning, but I have a mind with a few little unique wrinkles.  My way of saying I'm a little weird.

There's an idea that's been knocking about in my head for a few days.  I generally rely on motorized carts to get me around stores.  Anything larger than a typical convenience store, and my knees and hips, sometimes my ankles start hurting so badly I want to scream or cry.  On at least one occasion I did cry from the pain.  when stores don't have them, or don't have enough of them, my husband has to push me in the wheelchair, with me pushing the shopping cart, which is hard on him as he is aging and has high blood pressure and a bad knee which was repaired poorly after and ACL tear.  So I favor stores with a fairly large supply of shopping carts:  Randall's, WalMart & HEB come to mind.  Kroger sometimes has enough, sometimes both of them are gone.  ALCO has one, and I almost always can count on getting it.  If not, they have a wheelchair with a basket, which has to be pushed.

One of the major disadvantages of the standard motorized cart is that eye level is about the second shelf from the bottom.  With bifocals, reading labels, prices, etc. on the higher shelves requires a neck contortion I can not do.  I'm not sure a person without RA could do it either!  Maybe that TV ad character with the flip top head could.  

A few days ago, my husband and I stopped into a WalMart at Wirt and Long Point in Houston.  Sitting in front of our parking space was a cart clearly designed for a child, but what appealed to me was that the seat was large enough for an adult and up high.  So I climbed on for a test drive and my husband pushed me into the store, intending to return the cart to its storage spot and get a motorized one.  However, as soon as we entered the store, I discovered a huge advantage to this cart for me. I could see the upper shelves!  I could also see the signs over the aisles sooner.  So we conducted our quick, and fruitless (they didn't have the product I wanted at that location) trip with me in the kiddy cart.  Of course, there a few disadvantages.  The seat was really too flimsy for an adult weight.  There was some steering problem which might have been related to this weight issue, or might have been related to the problem one often has with older carts where the wheels twist around and stick in a non-optimal position as it ages.  At any rate, I started dreaming of the "ideal" cart.

I found some great things on the web, like this bicycle shopping cart, but no image of the cart I rode in at WalMart.  I guess I'll have to call up there and get some information. or go up there and take pictures.  I've never seen anything like it anywhere else.  With a few modifications, I think it might be the ideal shopping cart for the disabled AND children.

A couple of remaining problems, after the seat height issue, are the controls.  Unless you turn them off every time you stop, if you lean forward to put things in the basket, or rearrange things in the basket, you end up leaning against the controls and making the cart move.  I've goosed another shopper or two this way!  the second is that when you're shopping, you're facing the end of the aisle.  Twisting in the seat is not always a good option.  perhaps the seat could be set to face the aisle shelves, or the seat swivel 180 degrees?  The final problem is no place to put a coupon notebook; perhaps an attachment similar to those standup plexiglass cook book holders, wide enough for an open notebook OVER the controls could solve a couple of problems...
 
 
If you have been reading my blog, or any of my pages, or my Facebook page, you know that I have SLE (Systemic Lupus Erythmatosis).   What you may not realize is that this is primarily "a woman's disease," as 90% of the patients are women.  Most of them are 15 -45, the childbearing years.  For some enlightening information about pregnancy and lupus, please read this study in Japan about pregnancy outcomes and lupus  .

Women of color, across the board have higher rates than white women.  I once had a former Texas benefits evaluator tell me that "lupus is a made up disease by people who are too lazy to work."  To me, it was clear he was referring to Black women.  Black women have higher death rates from breast and cervical cancer, higher rates of STD's and teen pregnancies, higher infant mortanlity.  SOURCE:  Debunking the myth.  Black women, Hispanic women, Native American women all have higher rates of lupus.  Black women have more severe outcomes more often.  Poor women without health insurance have a harder time getting the help they need to treat lupus.  SOURCE:  Lupus Fact sheet

For some information about lupus symptoms in general, please read this article about two lupus patients.  

My diagnosis was originally made by a gynecologist to whom I had gone for a simple pap smear.  At the time, I had health insurance.  I no longer have health insurance, and my best option for pap smears is Planned Parenthood.  Read one woman's story about not affording to go anywhere but Planned Parenthood.    

Please make yourself aware of two FACTS:
1.  NOT ONE TAXPAYER DOLLAR GOES TO ABORTION.  That has been prohibited since the 1970s.
2.  Abortions are only 3% of their services  FACT SHEET HERE

Finally, let's talk about SOCIAL SECURITY and Disability and Social Security Supplemental Income.  I worked from age 15 until about 40.  I've been fighting to get SSDI so I can get Medicare to cover my lupus medications.  First they told me I ought to be able to work (in 1995) because I am educated.  Know many employers who want employees who fall asleep on the job, or who miss work frequently because they cannot drag themselves out of bed and stay awake long enough to bathe, dress, and get to work?  Or who catch the flu and the miss weeks because the immunosuppressant drugs they take for lupus don't fight the flu well and leave them with bronchitism pneumonia and a lupus flare in which their joints swell and cause agonizing pain?  If so, please send those employers my way!  I'd love to work, use my brain again for pay.  Of course, it has to be low stress and pretty free of deadlines, because stress makes my lupus worse, and I never know which day I'm going to wake up and be unable to stay awake -- which makes it difficult to meet those deadlines.  See this blog for another person's perspective.

The next time I applied for SSI/SSDI  they told me my $3000+ savings account made me ineligible for  SSI and I no longer had enough qualifying quarters for SSDI.  I appealled and they told me I wasn't disabled!  NOIT DISABLED?  I cannot shop without either my husband pushing me in the wheelchair or an electric cart.  Some days my knees hurt so badly the 8' from my bed to the toilet  has me in tears.    I cannot stand in lines for more than 30 seconds without the knees and hips begging me to sit down. That's not disabled?

Now their story is that we cannot prove I was disabled WHILE I STILL HAD ENOUGH QUALIFYING QUARTERS.  THEY have the 1995 records with the doctors names, but OOPS  I can no longer get those records because the doctors who made the disagnosis, and who treated me, destroyed the records 10 years after my last visit.  I'm SURE those records are in the SS records;  they just demand that I produce them, knowing I can't.  

So now I'm still 5 years too young for SS and Medicare.  What if they raise the retirement age?  First how will we tap into our retirement accounts without penalty to pay for medical expenses?  I will NEVER see my SS money that I paid into the system all those years I worked (sometimes at 2-3 jobs at a time!).  I WILL NOT LIVE LONG ENOUGH!

Let me repeat that  I WILL NOT LIVE LONG ENOUGH!  I can no longer take Methotrexate because my platelet levels drop too low and I am in danger of bleeding to death internally.  The prednisone I have been on for over a year now will, according to my rheumatologist "take five years off your life."  It also induced Type II diabetes, which is implicated in heart disease, even if I didn't have the extra clotting factor from lupus.   The Hydorxychloroquine (Plaquanil) no longer controls the disease by itself.  I also cannot take aspirin, NSAIDs like ibuprofen.  So I take ginger and turmeric for the constant pain.  Some days it works, some days it doesn't work so well.  I need Ben Lysta, according to my rheumatologist, but she's not going to administer it.  It's about $2000-$3000 a pop.  I think it's once a month.  I tried to get onto a drug trial, but the diagnoses (both of which I think are wrong) the county hospital gave me of non-alcoholic cirrhosis and heart failure keep me out of the trial.  I need a liver biopsy to rule out the cirrhosis, and an echocarcdogram for the heart failure.

My only hope is Obama's health care plan, because I could not be denied coverage for pre-existing conditions.  If I cannot afford the private health insurance or the high risk pool insurance, I could, as I understand it, get Medicare without having to be on SS, SSI, or SSDI.  So think twice before you pull the lever for someone who wants to repeal Obamacare;  that lever pull will be a death sentence for me and many others with my illness or others like it.  Of course, it you want to be a good, compassionate Christian, you can send me money at PayPal to help with my medical expenses. Leave a comment on this website and I'll send you my email.  They are. or would, if I were seeing the doctors I need to see and taking the meds I need to take run from $3000 in a good year for routine meds and visits and tests to upwards of $24,000 if I had to be hospitalized.  My brother is currently supporting us and paying our medical expenses.  He's nearing retirement age.  He spent years paying for our mother's needs because her SS didn't cover the utilities, food, out of pocket medical expenses.  Now he has us, and his own family.

SO please look into your heart and see if you want to pull my plug by voting to kill "Obamacare
 
 
I went shopping yesterday with a friend. Normally, I ride the electric carts or someone pushes me in my wheelchair.  However, my friend and I figured we could get my wheelchair out of my car, but probably not back in.  So I decided to rely on the kindness of the stores.  At Bed, Bath and Beyond, there is no cart to ride on, not even a manually operated wheelchair.  So I toughed it out and trekked through the store leaning on a regular shopping cart.  At the end of a circuit of the store, my knees were killing me.  The next stop was Randall's, who, God bless them, have several electric carts available for shoppers.  Here, the only problem I encountered was other customers.  You see, like many stores now, Randall's had some moveable stands in the aisles.  The problem was that one of them was placed right by the product I was shopping for..  You may also not realize that a  pair of bifocal wearing eyes has to be positioned just so to be able to read the labels on the shelves.  Unfortunately, that position is more or less right in the middle of the aisle.  Between my cart and the freestanding displays, I was blocking traffic..For the first minute or so, I was alone on the aisle, so there was no real problem.  Then along comes a woman with her cart, in a hurry.  She walks up right in front of my cart, purses her lips and stands there, waiting for me to get the hell out of her way.  Now, for my shopping purposes, it would have been better if I could have pulled forward.  No, I had to put down my shopping list and coupons and back the cart up since she was firmly planted in front of me and clearly not in the mood to back up herself.   Once I moved, she sort of flung her hair, huffed and pushed past me, making her displeasure at having to wait on me abundantly clear.  I wanted to wheel around and run my cart up her ass!  OK so she's gone.

I moved back into position and resumed my interrupted shopping task.  The next person comes up along the aisle behind me.  Oddly enough, I didn't see her as soon as she pulled up behind me.  Instead of saying "excuse me"  she must have stood there a bit waiting for me to move out of her way.  Since I was consulting my coupons and the labels on the shelves, I was unaware of her presence until she coughed.  Sort of the disabled shoppers version of having the person in the car behind you honk if you don't jackrabbit forward as soon as s light turns green..  Again, I put down my list and coupons, interrupting my task again and move out of her way.  For the next fifteen minutes, I experience this sort of thing at least a dozen times, including a time that someone had gone around me and was now purusing the shelf in front of me as someone again comes up behind me and eventually loudly clears her throat.  The woman in front of me seems completely oblivious to what is going on, so I turn around in my seat, and smile sweetly and say "I'll be happy to back up and get out of your way, but you will need to back up and give me some room so that I can."  She looked at me like I had just pointed a gun at her and demanded all her money and the groceries in her cart.  I won't even attempt  to describe the incident with the woman on her cell phone.  The point of this is that what would have taken me a maximum of two minutes to do ended up taking over 15, because every woman who came down that aisle clearly expected the disabled person to get out of their way.  Only one woman who came down the aisle was at all polite to me, saying "no no, I was looking at something, you're fine." when I said "Oh, sorry, let me get out of your way."  Strangely enough, the few men who came down the aisle were exceedingly polite.  One of them, as I stretched to reach a product, took it down from the shelf and said "Is this what you were trying to get.?"  On almost every aisle, this scene was repeated.  On the frozen foods aisle, a woman barged up and opened a door that was clearly blocked by my cart, slamming it into my cart while she reaches in through a 2" crack and tries to extricate an item that's wider than 2"!  At least she didn't glare at me.  She didn't even meet my eyes, just stood there, holding on to the selected item, until I moved out of her way.  

One of the advantages of a liberal arts education, is that one learns about the behavior of rats left to breed uncontrollably in a closed cage, and how they react to each other when resources such as food and water become artificially scarce.  My friends, we have become a society of such rats.  I am convinced.  What was scarce during my shopping trip was not food or water, but time.  Everyone is in a hurry, and the weak are just climbed over by the strong.

Of course, it goes beyond my shopping trip last night.  It is in our social policies and practices, where the poor, the poorly educated, the traumatized young, the disabled, the homeless, the mentally ill are seen as inconveniences and blamed for their situation. While nobody is yet crass enough to say it, the body language and the attitude is clearly that we should just die and get the hell out of the way of the strong.  How dare we hope for financial help.  We should just get jobs and quit feeling sorry for ourselves.  You know what?  I don't feel sorry for myself.  I feel frustrated by people who don't acknowledge reality.  There aren't enough employers willing to make enough concessions, and many of the ones who do make concessions offer inadequate pay as the price for making those concessions.  Why?  Well, there are plenty of healthy rats they can hire!  Healthy rats who will do the jobs of 2-3 rats and take their stress out on....the unhealthy rats like me.  The employers are also in a hurry to get their work done, get their product out on the shelves and sold, under pressure to maximize the benefit for the cost.

When I look out at the wider world, I see the same thing happening in other nations.  I can't help but think it has something to do with the population growth.  If you look at it, Earth is a "closed cage."  Now while I grant that God has the power to suddenly make its surface double in size, He has yet to take any steps in that direction. I am the kind that asks "What does He want of us?  We were commanded to love Him, to love our neighbors as ourselves, and to be stewards of earth."  I don't think He wants us to be a society, or a world, of rats, scrambling over each other to make sure each of gets "MY ___"  (money, food, water, dream estate, etc).  To me, the real signs of Christian commitment are how one treats the less fortunate, the sick, the elderly, the disabled,, the damaged -- regardless of whether they have served in the military or not., whether they are "just like me," belong to the same political party, race, age group, economic class, etc.  Perhaps it is also time to ask ourselves if God really wants us to breed without limit and overwhelm this earth to the point that we live in a constant state of war over water and food.  Forget oil.  You can live without oil.  Humans did so for thousands of years.  You cannot however,live without clean water to drink, food to eat and air to breathe.  Think about it, and get back to me. And be warned, the next time I go shopping and am treated the way I was yesterday?  I won't get out of your way.  I'll make you wait, because my time is just as valuable to me as yours is to you, and I am worth every bit as much as you are -- mobility impairment and little electric cart and all.  I am God's child just as much as you are, and while you may not love me (and I 
 
 
One of my Facebook friends posted one of those inspirational motto thingies this morning, and one of the lines was about making changes not excuses.  The odd little idea popped into my head that what we need today is more people willing to excuse others.  I also thought maybe we need to learn to distinguish between excuses, reasons, and explanations better.  

As I often do, I went to the dictionary to make sure I wasn't imbuing the word "excuse" with some connotative subtlety it doesn't really mean.  The definitions I found online were  "attempt to lessen the blame attached to a fault or offense" and "a reason or explanation put forward to defend or justify a fault or offense,"  "to make apology for," "to forgive entirely or disregard as of trivial import," "to grant exemption from or release to," "to allow leave," and "to serve as an excuse for."  Among the synonyms were "pardon," " forgive," " justify,"  "absolve," " remit", and "condone."
 Merriam-Webster   - The Free Dictionary  

Ah, there it is!  "Forgive."  We excuse wounded veterans for not being able to get work. Or we give employers incentives to hire them, give them retraining.   I am not in disagreement with this.  Pretty much everyone else we tell "no excuses, get a job."  Yet many of them have legitimate reasons they are unable to obtain work: chronic debilitating diseases, mental handicaps, mental illnesses which interfere with the ability to perform up to corporate standards.  Some of these could indeed work, if certain modifications in expectations were made.  These things need no excuses from the persons with these reasons. We are blaming people for things over which they have no control.   Yet we often ask them to defend themselves for these conditions that result from chance, not choice. 

The changes required are changes in our social expectations.  We cannot expect a brain damaged person to work as fast, or learn as fast as persons with normal abilities.  We cannot expect someone with a debilitating chronic illness to put in as many hours, or show up every day.  

Some employers do make exceptions.  They are to be commended.  There just are not enough employers willing to take the time to fit these people into their structure.  

Another category of people are those who cannot obtain a job through decisions or judgments made by employers.   We can pretend that discrimination does not exist, yet the statistical evidence is that it does occur in hiring, promotions, and raises.  Is it any wonder that "liberal arts" have been disparaged?  The disparagement makes it easier for some of  us to live in denial.

It strikes me as odd that this is the case in what is also often referred to by those calling for "no excuses" as a "Christian nation."  Christ spoke often of forgiveness, charity, care for the poor.  How can someone with Christian values not possess the wilingness to excuse others for that which they cannot control?
 
 
For me, the greatest blessings have always been the people who come into my life.  Some of them stay.  Some of them go.  A few became lifelong friends; others were around for a few years.  Many of them are momentary or casual encounters, such as retail employees, clerks in offices, medical personnel at hospitals.

I have blogged before about two of these people.  Tonight I want to write about another one. He works part-time at the ALCO Store here in Houston.  He also works at Auto Zone.Nothing wrong with his work ethic!  

Twice now, during my shopping trips I have had the opportunity to talk with him.  He's a young Black  with children.  I haven't asked his age, but I'd guesstimate it in the 27-32 age range.  He's cheerful, considerate and extremely helpful.  Tonight I ventured into ALCO alone, so he helped me take my purchase out to my car and load it in.  We were chatting about one of the items I bought, and I discovered he was born with a heart murmur.  I told him of losing my father at age 46, just days after my 10th birthday and how it tore my life apart.  I begged him not to eat so much salt, since heart disease in Blacks takes more of them  at earlier ages than it does Caucasians.  Then we chatted a bit more about nutrition and its importance in combating heart disease.  

That conversation took a glissade into living each day as if it were your last.  We both felt that that attitude goes a long way toward putting things into perspective.  It's very hard to remain depressed, angry, or selfish if one asks one's self each day "If I die today, how will people remember me?"  It's also hard to rush through life oblivious to others and to the beauties that lay around every corner, whether that beauty is the laughter of a child, a carefully tended flower garden in a run-down area of town, or something else.  

"I try to do God's work every day," he said.  Now in one of my smart mouthed moments, or with someone who knows my warped sense of humor well, I might have retorted "So what's wrong with God today that He can't do his own work?  He call in sick again?"  Instead, I commented that we never know just what it is that God wants us to do every day, or in our lives.  We may think we know, but only God knows.  Maybe it's a kind word to a stranger badly in need of kindness, something seemingly inconsequential.  The conversation ended with him telling me to take care of myself because, he said, "I love seeing you up in here, moving and smiling.  You have a beautiful smile."

Each of us has an opportunity to be a blessing to someone each and every day.  It need not be a grand gesture.  Nor need it wait until Christmas when one is feeling generous.  Hold the door open for a person in a wheelchair, even there is someone pushing them. (You might be surprised how hard it is to open a door and push someone through, even the person being pushed is helping.)    Take a couple of cans of food to the local food bank every week.  People have to eat all year long.  Order an extra packet of vegetable seeds and send them to a community garden in an "urban desert."  If you see someone at the gas station driving an old beat up car, wearing old clothes, pay for an extra gallon of gas for them.  You can think of a 1000 ways to do little things for people, at little to no cost to you.  Suspend your judgment about whether they "deserve" it.  Do you think God withholds His grace because "(s)he didn't deserve it?"  If that question gives you a problem, perhaps you could look up "grace" in a dictionary and rethink your answer.
 
 
The ITO Club stands for "I'm Totally Oblivious."  It consists of people who move their days without ever engaging their minds on the people and situations around them.  I came up with this idea while driving in Christmas shopping traffic.  You know, the drivers who block exits from shopping centers, streets where people are waiting to turn on to the freeway feeder, back out without looking to see if anyone is coming.  Those people.  Some days, all of us belong.  Each of us can have a day so crammed with errands and minor crises that we cannot get our mind off them long enough to look around and see what is happening around us.

Last Saturday at IKEA, I had a particularly disturbing encounter with a member of the ITO Club.  This woman and what appeared to be her mother were in line in front of us.  Mind you, on such shopping expeditions, what we do is form a little train with my wheelchair and the shopping cart.  I hold on to the cart handle and put my feet on the rail beneath it and steer it by exerting pressure on the side we need to turn.  My husband is the "engine in the rear" who provides the forward momentum.  One consequence of this arrangement is that when my bag (it's not a purse, more like a beach bag) rides in the child seat.  Well, guess what?  I cannot see OVER it.  When the cart is full of stuff, I cannot see under it either to see what is directly in front of me.  Another disadvantage is that if I turn to speak to my husband without shouting over my shoulder, occasionally my legs will shift and scoot the cart forward a little bit.  This is what happened Saturday.

I bumped the back of the lady's big yellow shopping bag, completely by accident.  Ron said, "don't hit that lady's rear."  I immediately pulled the cart back with my feet and apologized.  In a few minutes, the lady and her mother stepped forward, and I took the opportunity to stretch my legs out a little.  I have this hinky knee and when I keep it bent up for a long time, it starts whining.  What I hadn't seen was that when the lady stepped forward, she had set her bag on the ground BEHIND herself.  So I bumped the cart wheels into the bag.  I guess I pushed it into the back of her legs.  I don't really know, I couldn't see the bag. She whirled around and growled something I didn't quite catch but it ended with "..what you're doing."  Her tone was both irritated and condescending, like she was speaking to a child.  I said, "I'm sorry,  I couldn't see that your bag was in front of my cart"  She didn't say anything, and she didn't move the freaking bag either!  She just stepped forward one more step.

I got really steamed.  Granted, I'm sure she was inconvenienced.  However, I didn't mean to bump her bag.  What really griped me is that she seemed to completely ignore that anything she had done had contributed to the incident.  Nor did she make any allowance for the fact that I was coping with a wheelchair and a shopping cart.  I said "WOW!  You don't have to be so rude about it.  It was an accident and I can't see over this cart or under it.  I had no idea your bag was on the floor in front of it."  She completely ignored me.  Her mother looked at her and gave a supercilious little smile that screamed "well we both know SHE is the rude one."  I wanted to bowl her off her feet with my cart!

What the Christmas holidays taught me was that a lot of the world has apparently either never given a thought to what shopping from a wheelchair must be like, or they assume that if you are in a wheelchair, your legs don't work at all.  I got several surprised then instantly suspicious looks when I would use my feet to scoot my wheelchair along an aisle, or I would stand up to see something on a shelf.  It's not that I cannot stand or walk.  It's that I cannot do so for long.  the looks I got seemed to reflect a suspicion on their part that I wasn't disabled at all but somehow using the wheelchair for some kind of ulterior motive.  More than once, as I negotiated my way through a store, I got glares as if I were taking up too much of the aisle, or moving at the wrong speed.  Maybe I do both those things.  What floors me is the apparent expectation that I should be moving around as if I were not in a wheelchair, or stay the heck out of the stores.

I am happy to report that a number of people were incredibly kind, even getting things down off high shelves for me, or offering help I really didn't need.  By and large these were Asians, Hispanics, Blacks, and the Caucasians who were kind were largely not American born (I could tell because most of them had accents.)  The most ITO Club members were almost completely Caucasian Americans.  I'm not sure what this says, but from where I sit it certainly suggests a cultural difference in attitudes toward the disabled adults of the world.  I say adults because I have never witnessed anyone behaving toward a child in a wheelchair the way they behave toward me.  I will note that the lady whose bag I injured (I never actually bumped her person) and her mother appeared to be Hispanic, not of the Latin American variety, but the South American. The lady had a slight accent similar to the ones I have heard in Argentinians, Chileans, Colombians, but I could be mistaken.  So it's certainly not exclusive to any group to be rude or to be kind.

What made me laugh were the people who either spoke more loudly or talked in really slow, precisely enunciated sentences with very short words.  I'm neither deaf nor simple-minded.  Still, I give these people points for making an effort be polite and helpful.   The ITO Club can kiss my rims!
 
 
This house has an accumulation of things dating back to before 1957 when my parents bought it.  What's worse is that it has an accumulation of things from 4 generations and 6 households.  My mother's parents' things, my parents' things, my own things from when I lived alone, my brother's things from when he lived alone, and my husband's things from when he lived alone, and what we brought home from my father-in-law's after his death.  To be fair, the last two households don't account for much of the "stuff" around here.  More stuff seems to keep coming in. Not sure how with our reduced financial circumstances.

As long as my mother was alive, it was her house.  She had this vision of  the house as she and my father intended it.  Changing anything, getting rid of anything, was harder than getting  Sarah Palin to go away. My brother has now moved out, into his bride's house, which is about the size of a postage stamp.  They're building an addition, but ti's slow going.  Mostly because her own mother has moved here from Oklahoma, and my sister-in-law's time has been occupied by that instead of meeting with the architect, contractor, etc.  So most of his "stuff" is still here.

 If I look at the whole, it's overwhelming.  So I have adopted a "five minute burst" philosophy.  I spend five minutes doing what I can.  On good days, those bursts come close together.  On bad days, I might have as many as two bursts.  On the worst days, I have none.  I focus on the progress, not what remains to be done.  I realize most outsiders would walk into this house and see what has not been done. To the judgmental of those observers, I'd say "Spend five minutes HELPING rather than criticizing."  


The point of this little blog is this:  Is there an elderly, disabled, or both person in your life?  In your neighborhood?  Give them 5 minutes of help once a week. What a blessing it would be to me if just a handful of people gave me 5 minutes of help once a week.  A dozen people giving me 5 minutes a week is an hour of help.  It takes very little time to make a big impact in someone's life.  Look around.  Someone needs 5 minutes of your time.