Thursday, September 20, 2012

Shake it out

The amazing Florence.

Regrets collect like old friends
Here to relive your darkest moments
I can see no way, I can see no way
And all of the ghouls come out to play

And every demon wants his pound of flesh
But I like to keep some things to myself
I like to keep my issues strong
It's always darkest before the dawn

And I've been a fool and I've been blind
I can never leave the past behind
I can see no way, I can see no way
I'm always dragging that horse around

And our love is pastured such a mournful sound
Tonight I'm gonna bury that horse in the ground
So I like to keep my issues strong
But it's always darkest before the dawn

Shake it out...

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Frances Ensor Benedict

Our beloved grandmother passed away on Sunday, after 94 years on this earth. She was an amazing woman, a devoted mother, grandmother and great-grandmother who was an enthusiastic democrat in a decidedly red state. Sharp as a whip, she had a wicked sense of humor. And the most beautiful, soft and melodic voice that I could listen to for hours. She was a true Tennessee lass and would occasionally have a Jack Daniels; Which she would generously share, as told by my cousin Gordon who witnessed her give a thimble-full to a stunned bird after it flew into her picture window--causing it to then fly into her chimney. Clearly a little too much Jack! 

She was my first pen-pal, a practice we continued for nearly 25 years until she couldn't really write letters anymore because she had a hard time seeing. Though I continued our tradition, simply writing bigger in hope that even if she couldn't read it, the steady stream of letters and postcards would keep her updated on our goings-on and let her know I was thinking of her, even though I was far away.

She loved family and was passionate about genealogy, spending years researching both the Ensors and Benedicts, even making pilgrimages to England to visit graveyards and hunting down lost records. Five years ago when she moved herself from her home in Cookeville, Tennessee to a retirement home, she hosted our last family reunion blow-out and handed post-it notes to everyone, instructing us to put our names on anything we wanted to take home with us. She had already moved what she would be keeping to her new home, and wanted the family to take the rest before it was donated to charity. I asked for two things: my grandfather's pipe (though Grandma B. wasn't entirely sure if it was my grandfather's or her father's-- but either way, I was happy for the heirloom); and a delicate, hand-painted teacup and saucer that my Grandmother and Grandfather won playing Bingo on their first date when she was 15. A few weeks later, a very heavy box arrived at my apartment in Chicago, carefully addressed in my grandmother's beautiful handwriting. Upon opening it, I found a much loved cast iron skillet. My grandma knew how much I loved to cook, and likely thought that every happy home needed a traditional skillet. Made all the more special knowing it was one that she had cooked with. There was a card, but no note. I guess she just thought that I needed it. :)

I know that I am extremely blessed that I have lived most of my life with doting grandparents. To know the unconditional love of a grandparent as a child is a privilege. To know your grandparent as an adult is an absolute gift.

I love you Grandma B. 

Frances Ensor Benedict
May 16, 1918-September 2, 2012

With Aunty Mikie

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Elderly woman at a counter in a small town

One of my favorite sad songs.
I seem to recognize your face
Haunting, familiar, yet i can't seem to place it
Cannot find the candle of thought to light your name
Lifetimes are catching up with me
All these changes taking place, i wish i'd seen the place
But no one's ever taken me
Hearts and thoughts they fade, fade away... 
Hearts and thoughts they fade, fade away... 
I swear i recognize your breath
Memories like fingerprints are slowly raising
Me, you wouldn't recall, for i'm not my former
It's hard when, you're stuck upon the shelf
I changed by not changing at all, small town predicts my fate
Perhaps that's what no one wants to see
I just want to scream...hello...
My god it's been so long, never dreamed you'd return
But now here you are, and here i am
Hearts and thoughts they fade...away...
Hearts and thoughts they fade...away...
Hearts and thoughts they fade, fade away...
Hearts and thoughts they fade...

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

High Juice

It seems that after 4 years, I'm still learning the native language. I was in the grocery store looking for juice concentrate (here referred to as squash-- yeah, don't get me started). I wanted 100% juice (none of those fillers for this house), which proved impossible to find. So I settled for the normal stuff until stumbling upons what in this country is called "High Juice." High meaning, lots-o-juice, apparently. It's still only 50% juice but hey, at least it's high.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Planning and decorating

I've been busily planning layout of our new house's "great room" (combined kitchen/dining/living room) in the new house:

We have a lot of things that will more than fill the place (despite having a lot more room), but there are some basics that we need to fill in-- like sofas (I HATE our current one, so it's staying) and a DINING ROOM TABLE! Hurray!! In all my adult life I've never had a place big enough for a dining room table. (Okay-- that's not exactly true; but I've never had one just the same.) So I'm happily pinning tables and chairs to go in our converted stables. I'm also currently obsessed with this:

I have an eye on it for the guest room/TV room.

Now, let's just hope the move doesn't fall through too...

Friday, July 13, 2012

Spoke too soon

Offers rescinded. I hate real estate. And people who mess around with it.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Remind me

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Absence make the heart grow fonder?

Well, hope so! Work, travel, work travel and here we are in the middle of winter-- errr, summer? It flipping feels like winter seeing as it's 50 degrees and it's rained EVERY SINGLE DAY for the last month. Okay, so maybe that's Spring. but either way, the heat is on and it's JULY. Toss in some HAVE AN OFFER ON BOTH HOUSES and WE'RE MOVING (thank you sweet lord), it's all busy all the time over here on this little island. More news about the selling and the moving to come. In the meantime, here's what I got talked into doing at my recent 15 year reunion.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Holy renovation, Batman

This time not ours (well, sort of ours), but our neighbor's.

We live in what's called a "terraced house"-- U.S. translation=townhouse. Meaning, houses that are all connected. Since we're in a mid-terrace, that means neighbors on either side. These houses are over 200 years old, so they're not particularly well-insulated. Meaning we can often times hear into the next house if there's a lot of people over or music is particularly loud (which thankfully due to very quiet neighbors, is very rarely the case). We've been lucky because in the four years I've lived here, one of the properties neighboring ours has actually been empty. As I was moving in, Betty was moving into a retirement home. Betty had moved into the house when she was first married to her husband at the ripe old age of 18-- 70+ years ago. She had raised her family in this home, and her kids, even though mum had moved out, were reluctant to sell.

Well, sell they (finally) have, and considering the place hadn't been touched in over 80 years (there's still an outdoor toilet-- don't worry; Betty did have indoor plumbing as well; the outdoor toilet is just a bonus), it needs a lot of work. Work that started yesterday. They're literally GUTTING the place. Walls are coming down-- and rather loudly. It's making my kitchen cabinets (and subsequently all the dishes) shake. When I opened the medicine cabinet last night, a ton of things flew out (including my electric toothbrush which is now cracked).

Oh-- and did I mention I work at home?

I'm finding it hard to concentrate with the constant pounding (are they taking a sledgehammer to the walls or something??). It sounds (and feels) like they're going to come through our wall... Ughhhh. What I can't figure out is how freaking long can it take to knock down walls? These houses are SMALL. Plus, we have new neighbors on the other side of us, so there's lots of drilling and hammering coming from that direction too. On the bright side (as MRN pointed out), work on this street means more occupants and hopefully rising house prices. Between Betty's house and our corner property (as well as a few others on the street), things might be looking up for good old Grange Street. I doubt it, but one can hope.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Still a wannabe

Clearly a wannabe BLOGGER considering the two month lag in posting. Yikes! Wish I could feign grand adventures but alas, it's just life getting in the way as usual. Between house renovation (the other one, not ours... we've finally thrown in the towel and hired professionals to finish it. And somehow one week in we're already £3K-- nearly $5K over budget), work and gorgeous weather (ummm-- it might  have been our summer), there just doesn't seem to have been any time.

(It's SNOWING in Scotland... and due to come south in the next few days. This after 80 degree weather last week. WTF.)

All things aside, wannabe still refers to my wanting-to-be a wayfarer. It seems that life is also thwarting THOSE plans. I was due to go to China at the end of the month for work-- CHINA! Beijing and Shanghai, to be exact. I was so excited-- I've never been to Asia, and have always wanted to go; and to be able to go on the company dollar and get my bearings on a work trip was all the better. Alas, it was not meant to be. Timing due to some follow-up treatment from my January surgery is happening this month and it can't be postponed. Which means I miss my chance to go to China. Argggh. But did you know you can fly to China from London for less mooh-lah than it costs to fly to NYC? And there's a direct flight to Beijing. Who knew? Of course, I'd be going on my own because MRN has absolutely no desire to go. Any takers? Come on-- I know you want to come with me to China!

:( Maybe next time.

Friday, February 03, 2012

You get what you pay for-- sort of.

So, I  had to have a surgery this week. It was related to a recurring problem that I had to have surgery for about 5 years ago in the U.S. (though not as invasive and extensive as that U.S. surgery which knocked me out of work for two months). While this one was just a minor day surgery, it underscored the marked differences between a private vs public health care system.

When you say private, people automatically go to "expensive." So why is that in the public system that I now live in, I actually pay significantly more than I did when I lived in a private system? Yes, people-- that's because public-- or social, health care isn't actually free. It's funded by taxes-- my taxes. The way the system works, the higher your income is, the more your taxed (for everything, but that includes your health tax). This goes to pay for not only your own health care, but everyone who can't afford to pay for theirs. That's the idea behind a social health care system. Do I fundamentally believe in this? Actually, I do. I agree that the people who have more can afford to (and should) give more. But as a consumer, I also believe that I need to get top quality and excellent customer service for my money. And here, I don't (though this isn't exclusive to the health industry by any means).

The other problem with this system is the people who can but who don't. Meaning-- the millions of people who are "on the dole" (claim benefits and income support in this country) who are fraudulently claiming public assistance (and thus, not paying taxes). Arguably there are people who need these benefits-- the frail and elderly, the mentally ill or disabled. But there are plenty who do not. Believe me-- a lot of them live in my neighborhood. So my tax dollars are not only paying their rent, for their cars, their childcare, their take-out, their pub outings and their 40" flat screen TVs, but also their health care. That, I have an issue with.

My recent hospital experience was markedly different from my U.S. experience. Keep in mind. It actually personally cost me MORE in the UK than in the U.S.

  • Months of in-depth consultations with my doctor (also my surgeon) pre-surgery so that I fully understood the procedure and the risks / benefits
  • Once the surgery was decided upon, I picked the date that was convenient for me (I asked for a month out so I could prep work for my being out; but could have had it the next day if I wanted to)
  • All tests are scheduled and completed in one day(well, 20 minutes in fact)
  • On the day of the surgery, they were waiting for me, everything prepared
  • Met with the doctor pre-surgery to go over any last minute questions or concerns
  • Was introduced to the surgical team who would be looking after me-- nurses, medical students, another surgeon, anaesthesiologist
  • Went into surgery-- 6 hours later in recovery, doctor sat with me to go through the results and what was done
  • Taken to private room (with lake views and wifi-- but that's just a bonus)
  • 5 day hospital stay in which a doctor came to see me at least 2 times a day, a nutritionist planned my meals (though I also had access to room service whenever I wanted it), nurses were in and out actually taking care of me
  • When it came time to leave, a discharge planner met with me for about 30-45 minutes to go over very detailed printed instructions, my medications, my prescriptions, things to watch for regarding infection and also the date and time for my follow-up appointment at my doctor's office the next week (and weekly, appointments for the first 4 weeks after surgery followed by a final appointment before going back to work. All scheduled in advance).

  • Primary care doctor refers me for testing
  • One month later I get my appointment for blood tests and ultrasounds
  • One month later I go back to my primary care doctor who refers me to a specialist
  • Two months later I see specialist
  • Specialist has not received test results, so orders new tests (rather than getting the ones that I have already had done)
  • One month later I get the appointment for the new test-- another month out
  • A month later I get an appointment to discuss the test results with the specialist 
(NOTE: There is no choice when it comes to appointments. They send you a letter in the mail telling you when you need to be at the appointment, If, God forbid you have a job, or kids and can't drop absolutely everything to be there on the appointment time and date, you're basically screwed. Yup-- it's another month-- or two-- until you can get back in. They don't take kindly to you not doing as you're told. When you have to change it because you're traveling, have client meetings or, I don't know, in California for Christmas, they get pretty high and mighty and you get delayed another few months).
  • More tests because they couldn't see what they needed (on the day the ultrasound technician could have made that decision and tested a different way, but health care professionals are not empowered to do so). Another month.
Are you beginning to get the picture?

From start to surgery, it was about 16 months. Yes, people-- nearly a year and a half. Sure, it wasn't life-threatening, but I did have a time sensitive issue (driven by government restriction for a specific treatment because of your age). Even still-- the experience and sheet frustration with the system (not to mention utter waste and expense-- I had to repeat the same tests five times for various reasons... some of them having to do with sheer laziness in my estimation).

As for the actual surgery and hospital experience? 14 hours for a less than one hour surgery.
  • Hour 1: Arrive at hospital. Wait 4 hours to be taken into surgery. In this time I had a 5 minutes or less each with: 1) the nurse 'who would be taking care of me for the day' (this was the only time I saw her). She officially "admitted" me to the hospital by confirming I was who I said I was (though no ID was required); 2) my doctor who would be performing the surgery (confirmed who I was; asked if I had an questions, ushered me back to the waiting room because she's very important and busy); 3) the anesthesiologist.
  • Hour 4: Walked myself into the operating theater; Sat on a gurney for another 30 minutes waiting; Given drugs to knock me out.
  • Hour 5: Woke up in recovery room; Wheeled to ward-- 4 others in the room with me.
  • Hour 6: Nurse came in and said the doctor didn't need to see me because "everything went well." I'd get a letter with an appointment in a couple of weeks for a follow-up. (Whaaa??? Ummm-- no, "this is what we found, this is what we did, you're going to be great??") She then informed me that when I drank something, ate something and peed I could leave.
  • Hour 8: They brought me some water.
  • Hour 9: I rang the nursing station to tell them I needed to pee, and ask if they need to measure or make sure I did? (No)
  • Hour 10: I asked if I could be discharged. They asked if I'd had something to drink (yes), peed (yes) and eaten something (no). Ummm... that is because I wasn't brought anything to eat?? "Would you like something to eat?" Ummmm... YES. I'm freaking starving because it's 4:00 p.m. and I haven't eaten anything since 8:00 the night before.
  • Hour 11: They bring me toast. I wolf it down.
  • Hour 12: I ask again if I can be discharged (yes). Can someone take my IV out so I can leave (yes... in about an hour).
  • Hour 13: I change into my clothes, IV stint still in place.
  • Hour 14: Nurse removes stint and tells me I can go. Ummm.... discharge plan? antibiotics? pain medication? things to watch for in case of infection?

Apparently not. I was instructed that I could take up to 400 mg of ibuprofen for pain (that's 2 pills people). And then they wished me a good evening (well, not really-- I wished them a good evening) and we walked out. On the ride home I consulted WebMD and a couple of other websites to do some reading on post-surgery care for my condition and to inform MRN what he needed to look for in case I had a raging infection that knocked me unconscious. (That didn't happen, but I'm just saying).

Yes-- public health care is BRILLIANT. (that was sarcasm in case you didn't pick it up).

So for my money, I'm paying more for horrible service, really poor (and I would argue, completely irresponsible) quality of care where the patient is treated like a number who doesn't really need to know what's going on, and year-long waiting times. Freaking awesome.

Disclaimer: My lawyers (if I had them) would tell me to include this: This is my personal experience with the U.S. and UK health care systems and it does not reflect the views or experiences of any person, company or organization other than myself.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Coconut Willie...

... lives in a tree!

Oh, how this record (yes-- as in vinyl... I'm that old) brings back memories. AB and I used to lie on the floor in our bedroom in Hawaii and listen to "The Adventures of Coconut Willie and Pukahead" over and over and over again. Who is Pukahead, you ask? The magic menehune, of course! It's probably one of my earliest memories... though, I'm sure it's muddled with several others of listening to this and our Disney record collection ad nauseam over the course of many years (and boy did our older sister love us for that).

Alas, I could not find the original Jack de Mello version. Though, lucky you-- I did find Aunty Genoa Keawe singing a version of it on YouTube (disclaimer-- she's not my aunty; that's just what Hawaiians call elders, whether they're related to you or not). You gotta love YouTube.

They come to Waikiki-iiii. They come to Waikiki to see his opu swing!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Happy New Year!

I was trying really hard to beat my 2006 high of 137 posts in one year, but fell pitifully short in 2011. I think I'm going to give up and instead write things that are pithy, witty, insightful and relevant.

Oh, okay-- so who am I kidding?

Instead, why don't I start off the year with my New Year's Resolution. It's pretty simple: Be.Happy. However that manifests itself (being more positive; not sweating the small stuff; not getting (overly) stressed out about work or money; spending money on fun things like vacation; letting up on MRN about mess and clutter), I figure that's a good rule to live by. If it doesn't make me happy? I'm not doing it. Seems pretty easy. I'll let you know how it goes.