Let’s Do It Like They Do on the Discovery Channel (March 1, 2013)

Scared Panda


Although I work in a creative field, one of the personal attributes that instills the greatest amount of pride is the ability to think logically and rationally. Although knee-jerk instinct is often emotional or sentimental, I am proud of the fact that I am usually able to take a step back and evaluate the potential short and long-term effects of a decision.

Yeah, but all of that good sense goes right out the window when we’re talking about anything involving a trip to the doctor’s office. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: a young mother takes her 5 year-old daughter for booster shots right before the start of the kindergarten school year. The mother’s 3 year-old daughter needs a shot too and comes along for the outing. The mother has chosen a Catholic charity as the vendor for the immunizations as the family is on a tight budget. The nun in full habit (this was the early 1980s) who has been assigned to the little girls decides to start with the younger one, surmising that she may be the more scared patient. She whips out her air gun and gently walks the toddler through the procedure before the injection. The 3 year-old barely moves and doesn’t make a sound. The perfect disciple.

The 5 year-old witnessing this exchange decides that, despite her sister’s fortitude, she wants nothing to do with what’s coming and takes off at a full bore run. Cue Hollywood-style chase scene with mother and a pack of nuns hitching up their skirts in hot pursuit of the runaway kindergartner. Our heroine manages to evade the villains for long one stretch of hallway and a full flight of stairs before being snatched by her angry and embarrassed parent. With mom virtually sitting on top of the hysterical child while clucking Sisters lament the little one’s irrationality, the nuns finally manage to disperse the inoculation.

I will leave it to the reader to decide which child was me.

This anecdote was chosen for its physical comedy as well as to drive home the point that not much has changed. Several years ago my ex-husband Eddie drove me to the emergency room to seek help for a violent gastrointestinal infection. The IV inserted into my arm dispensed necessary electrolytes as well as antibiotics that would immediately start to attack the bacteria. In principle, I understood this. In practice, the unnatural feel of a tube extending from my arm won and it was only by calling in nurses with restraints that the IV was permitted to continue its work. If you think I bore Eddie’s traitorous behavior with silent resignation, then you haven’t been following this post. I am the nightmare, worst case scenario patient about which medical students are warned.

Tomorrow morning, bright and early, I am to undergo to CT scan with contrast in an attempt to identify the underlying causes of a chronic, cluster migraine condition that has grown persistently more acute and resistant to treatment. I have scheduled the procedure first thing in the morning so as to decrease the amount of time I have to overthink, perhaps even flee the scene, before the doctors can do their work. This strategy will in no way prevent me from spending a sleepless night imagining all sorts of innovative horrors that cannot possibly live up to the hype, but this is the best I can do to work around an absurd and delirious self that I barely recognize.

When it comes to enduring emotional trauma, I am a veritable Odysseus with a seemingly endless capacity to pick myself up and move forward. Yet the idea of a pinprick elicits foolish hysterics of which I would otherwise be ashamed, if I weren’t too busy dropping banana peels while bolting out the door.

Pity the long-suffering partner who has volunteered to escort (perp walk) me to this appointment. Neither one of us has had much time to consider the actual possibility that the CT scan will reveal a larger problem, busy as JC has been deflecting my attempts to evade the whole experience. So manipulative has this baser self been this week that, well aware groundless emotional appeals will fall upon my partner’s scientific-minded deaf ears, she has resorted to more logical-sounding budgetary concerns. As we know America’s health care delivery system sucks, and even with a “Cadillac” insurance plan, the CT scan will still run upward of $1,000 dollars I don’t have. JC says this is why God made credit cards (an avowed atheist, this retort is an obvious dig at my willingness to grasp any straw to avoid the scan – harrumph!).

I have worked for years in therapy sessions, through writing and silent contemplation to attempt to understand and overcome this situational Dissociative Identity Disorder – to no avail. A simple comprehension that the CT scan is a pathway to unlocking a year’s worth of on and off pain and misery is not enough to calm Crazy Becky, or dissuade her from concocting ever more desperate plans. As calmly as I sit here analyzing and disavowing her refusal to engage reality, I also understand that when the moment comes, all bets are off.

Why is rational self-control so difficult, especially for a grown woman in possession of her faculties, completely aware that the actual discomfort of the scan cannot outlast the torture she inflicts on herself and others? Just a drop of fortitude would expedite everything for everybody. I hate Crazy Becky just as much as everyone else does. But she takes control at the mere smell of hospital antiseptic. It’s at moments like this that it becomes starkly clear when all is said and done, I am not the cosmopolitan thinker I imagine. I’m just a dumb animal obeying a carnal flight or fight response, a lemming going over the cliff, unable to understand she’s running toward her own, avoidable misery.


The Real America (August 26,2010)


It seems that the modern political trend is to never unchain ourselves from the madness of American election cycles. The moment the ballot box is emptied and the winner declared, campaigning starts anew. This leaves little time for say, governing and serving the people, which is the ostensible job of legislators. More and more it seems that our politicians look at messaging, photo ops and pandering toward the “middle” as their full-time jobs.

Thus every couple of years, we are treated to divisive, nonsense “issues” that are designed to unite each respective party’s base and distract the electorate from the truth – that since the last time we cast our votes, in effect, nothing has changed. In 2004, we were treated to Republican rhetorical humdrum about attempting to rewrite the Constitution to formally outlaw gay marriage. This was a lot easier than having to account for the systemic intelligence failures and increasing body count of the Iraq war of choice. Though the effort to insert discrimination into the Constitution would never have worked, Republic strategists got what they wanted. Their base, newly mobilized and energized by the terrifying thought that the mechanics of romantic partnership might be above their pay grade, turned out in droves to re-elect W. Because nothing, not the impending burst of the housing bubble, the long practice of corporate off-shoring that disemboweled opportunities for the American work force, or the hundreds of billions of dollars wasted on unnecessary combat, is scarier than same sex couples running around willy nilly without the blessing of the far right.

I know I am coming off rather partisan here, and admittedly I lean pretty far to the left in comparison with the right-hooking trend of today’s voter. But I am equally disgusted with Democratic leadership. As it was in 2004, they have assumed the defensive position (has nobody told them they actually WON both houses of Congress in 2008?) and allowed their foes across the aisle to determine the talking points.

Instead of using the run-up to the November elections as an opportunity to clarify their positions, to explicate the complicated pieces of legislation passed in the last two years – really important work in the areas of health care and financial reform that John and Jane Q. Public have yet to fully comprehend – they are allowing the conversation to veer once again toward disharmony. Thus instead of conveying in clear bullet point fashion what health care reform really means for the average American family, how their lives and balance sheets will improve incrementally, Obama and the Democratic leadership are permitting themselves to be dragged into the Tea Party trenches. When conversation turns toward repealing the 14th Amendment say, or the current outrage du jour – the “Ground Zero” mosque plans, Democrats inevitably fumble. How happy was I when Obama stood up and declared that the planned center was the very essence of freedom of religion and unity that makes this nation great? Yet how soon that pride turned into sadness the following morning when the President flinched, bullied by Fox News into clarifying that he was not commenting on the “wisdom” of following through with the planed mosque.

Sometimes it gets so that I lose my sense of reality. Following the news cycle, reading punditry online, watching the President who was elected in a wave of “change” enthusiasm, punt on the potentially politically unpopular, it is easy to get sucked into a demoralizing listlessness. Have we all become so angry and dogmatic that there is no room for a true dialectic anymore?

However I was witness to ample evidence this past weekend, in my own backyard, that perhaps many of us are just tired of talking. It appears that if there’s one thing we can all get behind, in a mutually respective and tolerant way, it is the right to party. I watched the happenings of a two-day street festival from the comfort of my balcony. Rather than experience the event on the ground, my bird’s eye view of party goers acted as nectar for the writer’s muse.

I live in a rather eclectic and diverse community by any standard, one of the northernmost neighborhoods in the City of Chicago. The vibrant area is marked by a huge population of recent African immigrants, Latinos, artists, musicians and a sizable LGBT enclave. I wondered, given the toxic socio-political environment in which we wade, if any of the current intolerance and anger would find its way to the streets of Rogers Park. I sat for two days like an armed sentry guard, on high alert for the first signs of unrest. I was people watching until my eyes hurt. I was determined not to let anything escape my notice.

You know what I saw instead of the looked for disharmony? Good fathers with healthy children of all races and sexual orientations, with excited youngsters running into their arms. I saw older men of every religious bent drinking too much and embarrassing their wives with outdated dance moves. I saw an energetic member of the counterculture perform an impromptu rhythmic hula hoop routine to the delight of the neighborhood children. I saw kids of every conceivable background, uniting to do what kids do: chase each other around and throw trash into large puddles of water. No angry, bigoted word emerged from any corner of this raucous event.

And that’s when I wished with all my heart for recording equipment and my own national TV station. I wanted to capture this colorful embrace of summer, and life itself, and make this the headline story on the evening news. “This just in! People still know how to get along and have fun! Film at 11.” Sadly, this has become the untold story in a nation that has lost its appetite for setting the standard of civic engagement in the free world. But maybe, just maybe if we could release ourselves from the chokehold of politicians and the media, the habit of being told who we are and what we want, we could learn to enjoy each other again. Maybe if the rancor were cleared from the air, we could begin to start solving the numerous problems facing our nation. The energy is out there, and some of it, lo and behold, is hate free.

Town Hall Terror (August 12, 2009)

Can we all agree in a nonpartisan way that this ghettoness is a black eye (another one) on our country and needs to stop immediately? I am all for vigorous public debate and dissent, no matter what my friend Timbo says. I am not so sure I love all parts of Obama’s health care reform plan either, but the President has demonstrated a willingness to talk it out. Disrespectfully shouting each other down, intimidation – how in the world does this help us sort out the issue and implement change in a viable way?

I have trouble believing it, but it seems there are in fact those who desire status quo health care policy. I understand that a lot of people simply fear change, but there’s just no arguing that health care as it is in America costs too much money and doesn’t work the way it should for many of us. Even when one has “good” insurance, you just can’t afford to get sick. Preventive care? Almost nonexistent.

My point however is not to state my allegiance to health care reform, though I am 100% behind it. I have been so disgusted and disappointed each day for the last week plus that I have turned on CNN to find reports of animal behavior at Town Hall meetings designed to educate and answer questions about the proposed plan.


It seems that fear has become a great instigator. I am afraid too, about many things, but I know well that being a little scared can help you make smart decisions, or it can leave one inert. When it comes to health care reform, we can’t allow the latter, as we did 15 years ago. It’s too important to our economic recovery, and our wellness as Americans. Stop the madness!

Homecoming (April 11, 2009)

In all the excitement of the week, both positive and negative, I almost forgot to mention the good news regarding the next phase of my road warrior husband’s career. He has been, for the most part, happily working away in Denver for Comcast. Of course he has missed our home and the cats, but has found himself suprisingly content with the work he has been doing, and with the camaraderie of his colleagues. I had asked him to keep looking for jobs in Chicago, but the truth of the matter is, he had stopped searching. However, that does not mean companies stopped looking for him.

One such interested party was Blue Cross/Blue Shield right here in Chicago. At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, this was a posting that many of Eddie’s fellow IT consultants had heard of and wanted badly. In this economy, health care is one of the few “safe” industries left. The attractiveness of a company of that size, with that capacity to take on exciting projects, such as the Electronic Health Record work that President Obama has highlighted as critical to the future of health care, cannot be overstated. Anyway, Blue Cross told my hubby when they met him face to face, that they had received well over 100 resumes for the job. Here’s the irony: one of those hundreds was not from Eddie. As I said, he had stopped looking. My husband, oddly not one to take all the credit for his career success, even though he is more than willing to do so in most social situations, has basically concluded that his lucky number simply came up. Hogwash, I say. When you have it, you have it, and Eddie had it all along. It still saddens to me to see the confidence fallout he is left with after a bruising January and February.

So, Eddie is coming home. This week will be his last flying to Denver. He begins his new assignment, a manager role (I confess I am guilty of bragging – sue me), Monday, 4/20. Heh heh. 4/20. Oops, sorry. At least for the first couple of weeks, it appears he will not have to travel at all. And when he does, the trips will be shorter. Blue Cross has already talked salary, benefits and vacation time with him, so selfishly for me, this is a great gain as well. As you all know, I am about to join the ranks of the unemployed. I have been the one providing the health insurance coverage while Eddie has chased the big dollar contracts. So now, with this gig being a permanent one, the heat is turned down even lower on my behind.

At any other time, these developments, basically all I have prayed for since 2009 began, would have me streaking through the streets with joy. But I have had a good stiff kick to the face this week which reminded me that money, climbing the corporate ladder and all the accoutrements that come with it, are fleeting, and in the end, meaningless. I am just happy to have Eddie home with me. That’s where he belongs.

Get Covered Illinois Uses Humor To Upend Republican Obamacare Lies (November 19, 2014)


A report issued this week by the U.N. Population Fund estimates that 1.8 billion people worldwide are between the ages of 10 to 24 years old. This is the largest number of global youths in world history. In a New York Times story about the data, writer Somini Sengupta summarizes most important conclusion: “Whether [the young people] lift their nations to prosperity — or tear them to shreds — will depend…on how swiftly governments can respond to their demands for decent education, health care and jobs.”

While a majority of the surging youth population is concentrated in the impoverished countries of Southeast Asia and other hubs (with 350 million in India alone), the United States boasts a full fifth of its residents in this age group. Reiterating that these numbers are more than just informational, Sengupta urges, “Countries that do not tend to their young people now are likely to see higher fertility rates and poorly skilled work forces. The report calls on countries to pay particular attention to the needs of girls and young women, including the need for sexual and reproductive health services.”

Thus, the timing seems like it couldn’t be better for this clever ad from Get Covered Illinois, the Land of Lincoln’s health insurance marketplace. In an effort to boost lagging Obamacare enrollment for the young and healthy, which also provides the vital risk pool balance necessary to contain costs, the commercial takes aim at the invincibility trope of youth. It targets the under 30-somethings using a healthy dose of realistic fear, mitigated with humor.

At the same time, the tag line of Get Covered’s ad, “You’ll be OK, probably,” could and should have been highlighted by Democrats in the run-up to this month’s mid-term Gubernatorial and Congressional elections, as the actual Republican alternative to Obamacare. The commercial features young Illinois adults frolicking in spring meadows (clearly the footage was shot WELL before open enrollment as the daytime high is 16 degrees in Chicago at present). These happy people are sporting neck braces, eye patches and casts formed of bubble wrap, cardboard and duct tape as they promote and celebrate a “Luck” health care plan made just for them!

Cute antics aside, I wish the commercial would go farther in acknowledging the malevolent forces at work in the other ear of America’s youth. Take this headline from conservative writer John Fund at the National Review: Young People Should Say No to Obamacare. One of Fund’s more dubious arguments is that, “whether they are slackers, students, or software engineers, young people are smart enough to figure out that they can easily wait to sign up for coverage until after they get sick.”

Really? Coming down with the common cold is one thing, but according to costhelperhealth.com, “Without health insurance, non-surgical treatment for a broken leg typically costs up to $2,500 or more for a fracture that requires a cast.” I don’t know many 20-somethings that have $2,500 on them at a given time. I don’t know many 40 or 50-somethings that do either. The cynical advice to America’s youth from GOP leadership amounts to this: We’d rather have you in bankruptcy court than participating in a successful program that provides access to quality care for millions more people. Because Obama hates job creators. Or something.

To go a step further, I also wish Get Covered would send a more forceful message to the young women of Illinois. While the U.N. Population Fund report acknowledges that “sexual and reproductive health services” are critical to the socioeconomic stability of a nation, the GOP willfully sticks its collective fingers in its ears. Illini ladies: no matter which Republican tries to tell you that repealing Obamacare will result in easier access to birth control, it’s just not true.

In an era of cynical and disingenuous political branding and advertising, I appreciate the Get Covered efforts to break a dangerous Republican stranglehold on the young public. Refusing to buy health insurance via the Affordable Care Act exchanges isn’t cool and rebellious. It doesn’t make you edgy. It just puts everyone at needless risk, and makes our country less affluent, productive and healthy.