Katy McKenna Raymond  
Personal blog of christian writer Katy McKenna Raymond in Kansas City, Missouri

Personal blog of christian
writer & fallible mom
Katy McKenna Raymond
in Kansas City, Missouri

Katy is represented by
Greg Johnson at
WordServe Literary

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What Kind Of Fool Am I? (#1349)

OK, just for the record: I make the singular worst April Fool’s joker in the UNIVERSE. I totally spaced out coming back to fallible and making it clear that I am NOT entertaining an offer in the six figures for the fallible name, though such an offer would be entertaining indeed. Sadly, I’ve been offered nothing at all—-but neither am I in the market to sell.

Next foolish item: I have decided to try my hand at veggie and fruit gardening for the first time ever, except for that one year when Scotty was a toddler and he’d pick the tomatoes and eat them whole before I could catch him. We only attempted tomatoes and green peppers and succeeded at both, but our next-door neighbor was a gardening guru and made us feel inadequate with our pitiful offerings, just over the chain-link fence from his bounty.

But now, 28 years hence, I’m feeling braver. I also am not as deathly frightened of bees and wasps as I used to be, perhaps because I’m deaf in one ear and therefore buzzing is automatically reduced by 50%, tricking my brain into believing the threat has diminished. Also, I forced myself finally to first read and then view “The Secret Life of Bees.” I’d resisted the book for YEARS because I knew darned good and well that it would end up having SOMEthing to do with bees, and I just couldn’t handle that.

Reading the novel first eased me into the whole bee-keeping story, and I asked myself, “How bad could the movie be, really? Those bees don’t want to sting you!” (Yeah, right, that’s what they all say….) The movie was as amazing as the book, and helped me overcome another layer of fear.

So….I’m planning on trying to grow tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, lettuces, carrots, strawberries, green beans, and peas. I’ve already sown some seed in tiny paper cups, pushed my large breakfast table under the big bay window in the kitchen, and added cookie sheets of seedling-hopefuls to the sunny spot.

Who can say whether I’m being foolish to think I can learn some new tricks at my age? All I know for sure is that I’d better take notes about what works and what doesn’t, because by this time next year, I won’t remember!

Finally, on this Foolish Monday, I’m thinking more about our finances than ever. Here’s the deal: We’ve been going through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University at our church, and it’s been great. I think we’ve done 6 of the 13 weeks now. We have heard some sad stories from others in the class about foreclosures and job losses and uninsured medical bills, and since we go to church in a prosperous part of town, it’s shed a lot of light on how some of our own parishioners are hurting. I guess I was not expecting there to be such serious difficulties as are represented by this group, but it just goes to show that the economic downturn is no respecter of persons.

We decided to take this class (even though we have no debt except for a small mortgage) because we knew we could buckle down and do better for our own future and in order to be a blessing to others. I’ve found myself second and third-guessing every frivolous unplanned purchase, until by now I usually skip all the guessing completely and simply walk away. Continuing to add to our travel fund is MUCH more important to us than geegaws and trinkets and whatnots, so why waste time shuffling through bins of junk?

Maybe I’m more of a fool than I know, but I read a Money Makeover online this morning that really got me going. A forty-year-old childless couple, combined take-home income of $75,000. No debt except for the house, on which they have THREE mortgages—-one of them an adjustable ready to re-set this month. That, evidently, is why they panicked sufficiently to seek a makeover.

They purchased the home five years ago for $325,000, requiring two mortgages just to make the deal happen. Since then, they’ve opened a HELOC and borrowed extensively. They now owe $400,000 on their home, and the article did not say what the current value of the home is. I can only imagine that it’s less than $325,000.

Here’s the kicker: They are budgeting a TOTAL of $100 for savings per month. They have NO retirement accounts at all, and only a few $100 bills have actually accumulated in this savings account. Now, they used to have credit card debt which they managed to clear up, so turning that around and beginning to save of course is a positive. But then the article revealed how much cash they each receive per month to spend “on anything we want that’s not in the budget.”

People! The husband and wife EACH get $560 per month to blow! Doug and I each get $50 per month, and we feel rich at that! Ha.

Tell me if I’m the biggest fool alive or what, but I do not think this couple needed a money makeover. I think they need to split the monthly $100 they are now putting in savings, and call that their splurge money. Then they need to EACH send $560 per month to their savings/retirement accounts. Problem solved.

Am I missing something? Besides a six-figure deal for the sale of fallible.com, that is?

If you’re feeling foolish about something today, go ahead and weigh in here!

Posted by Katy on 04/06/09

Ten Years And One Little Fallible Word Later (#1348)

Ten years ago this month, Doug and I happened upon an article in Wired Magazine that would change the course of my life.

The piece was about how few (1760, to be precise) English words remained available to those wishing to register a one-word.com domain name. The very day we read the article, we pored over that list and decided that fallible was perhaps the best one-word domain we’d EVER heard of, even if 24,000 or so other single words had already been registered.

Since then, the word fallible has come to define me. (Of course, my husband and children will assure you that the word applied in spades long before I registered it!) Why, I have been in a public restroom in line with dozens of women at a conference, introducing myself to the lady next to me, when all of a sudden another gal far behind in the queue (waving to author Tammy Alexander!) shouted out for all to hear, “Hey, you’re FALLIBLE!!!”

I couldn’t deny it then, and I can’t now. The opinions, outlook, values, theories, beliefs, and advice presented here are so flawed as to be laughable, and that’s when I’m not even trying to be funny. But you know what? I persist in being fallible because, well, it’s been nothing if not one of the greatest privileges of my life to be able to entertain you on this site.

And, perhaps, even to inspire you. I hope that’s the case, because there’s a dearth of genuine inspiration in the world these days. If the good Lord sees fit that I should be allowed to dispense even a bit of it, I’ll be more than satisfied.

Which, O fallible readers, is precisely why I’ve decided to turn down the offer I’ve received to buy out fallible.com for a price that’s so obscenely high that it, all by itself, would put me in the Dreaded Top Five Percent Of All Income Earners, and well, you KNOW what that means.

I don’t want to pay the tax on such an enormous income, and besides, who knows what nefarious purposes the prospective buyer of my name might have in mind? I’ve got my good reputation to protect (never mind that I was temporarily banned in the Kingdom of Bahrain for writing about, ostensibly, panties….) and would never allow fallible to fall into the clutches of disingenuous owners.

I may have to add a few paltry ads to comfort myself over the loss of this missed opportunity, though. I hope you’ll understand.

Posted by Katy on 04/01/09

Crass Envy (#1347)

I’ve been completely fascinated this past week with all the media references to the supposed rage that exists in the general public against those employees of AIG who received ginormous bonuses after the company took taxpayer bailout dollars.

First of all, I don’t think American citizens are as stupid as American politicians think we are. In general, I think we get it that many corporations defer the compensation of their key employees, in part in an effort to retain them for an extended period of time. Heck, anyone who’s ever seen Chevy Chase in National Lampoon Christmas has to feel for the guy when his entire year’s budget is dependent on a promised bonus that turns into a pitiful pittance.

Even in spite of the fact that tour buses have now taken crowds of envious folks to view the homes of the AIG employees in question, and to insist that those rich people ought to be paying the overdue rent of the touring masses who could have paid their rent if they hadn’t bought the bus ticket, I still believe most of us would side with Chevy.

One of the reasons we would side with Chevy is that it’s becoming really difficult at this point not to be suspicious when we’re told by our leaders that the citizenry is “enraged,” especially when we’re told that our fellow Americans are only enraged by one specific minor-in-the-grand-scheme-of-a-meltdown item of interest. It’s hard not to be reminded of Bill Clinton bombing, what? a baby-formula factory, or was it an aspirin factory? back when he seemed to be attempting to divert attention from his shenanigans with Monica Lewinsky.

If you’d like to read a resignation letter from an AIG employee whose bonus was retracted, take a look at this.

After I read it, I had a much better understanding of how certain members of our citizenry are taking the fall for those who have truly been party to grossly negligent fiscal policy. And I’ve pretty much decided that from now on, whenever I’m told I should be enraged, I’m going to take a closer look at why and not accept anything at face value.

Of course, I run the risk of finding myself enraged at the true culprits rather than the ones who are being made scapegoats. But that’s a risk I am perfectly willing to take.

Afterword: My commenter Suzan pointed out that the tour bus was hired by ACORN. It figures. Read all about it here.

Posted by Katy on 03/25/09

Better Not To Mess With The Little Woman (#1346)

Doug and I have been inundated with car problems and when we’re inundated, we get testy.

OK, I get testy. Let’s face the facts here. Doug is a brilliant graphic designer, musician, and lyricist. He also makes a tremendous latte. I am a competent patient advocate, a bread baker and sprout grower, and a wannabe published novelist. I am also very good at doing lunch with my girlfriends.

You might as well know, though, that it takes more than the two of us to change a lightbulb. 

Still, we’re adults, and when we’re dealing with car problems, we hope to be treated like adults. And by that I mean that we expect not to have our intelligence insulted, even if our intelligence isn’t exactly in the automotive field. You know what I’m sayin’?

So two weeks ago, the good car (which is now 7 years old and has 100,000 miles on it) started misbehaving. It seemed to me like a transmission problem, since I had to baby the car on its way from 0 to 45, and if I didn’t that needle on the RPM thingie would shoot to the right and scare the bejeebers out of me.

I warned Doug not to get on the highway until we had it checked out, but he forgot and nearly got killed when he couldn’t build up speed fast enough to merge into the flow of traffic. That day we bit the bullet and took it to the transmission shop our erstwhile mechanic recommended.

To their credit, the transmission shop said it checked out fine from their perspective and they drove it back over to the general mechanic. The next day, that guy called with the diagnosis. Doug was away at a meeting and when I saw his name on caller ID, I picked up.

“Yeah. Can I speak to Doug?”

“He’s not here at the moment. I see this is about our car. May I take a message?”

“Well, if you DO, am I just going to have to explain the whole thing over again to HIM?”

OK, see. Right then, I was so tempted to say, “Only if you do a really terrible job of explaining it the first time.” But I didn’t. I bit my tongue, and then I lied and pretended to be the stupid little wife he took me for. (Doug and I are both mechanically disinclined. We are NOT stupid.)

“Oh, you’re right,” I said. “I wouldn’t be able to take this message and convey it to my husband correctly.” Never mind that I take copious notes during Other People’s Doctor Visits, in a stalwart and successful attempt to apprehend for them the healthcare for which they’re so dearly paying. “I will have him call you the minute he gets home.”

I was hoppin’ mad by the time Doug returned the mechanic’s call thirty minutes later. When Doug hung up the phone, he turned to me and said, “It’s the catalytic converter. Unfortunately, the part is only made by GM. The labor is cheap, but because we have to use the authorized GM part, the whole thing’s gonna cost us over $1300.”

“Except for, you know what?” I said. “It’s not.”

Poor Doug. He knows when my Irish is up, there’s gonna be heck to pay. But the way I look at it, heck is still a lot cheaper than $1300. And the fact that the mechanic had soundly insulted me, when he doesn’t even know me well enough to know that I DESERVE to be insulted on this subject, made Doug instantly decide that THIS was exactly why God invented the Internet.

Within 5 minutes, Doug realized that it was a complete falsehood that we needed a GM part for the repair. He found an online company that sells nothing but catalytic converters, called our unhappy-to-be-found-out mechanic to make sure he would install the part (which has a 5-year warranty), and then ordered the part.

My sweet man saved us from being TAKEN for $1000! The mechanic finished the work yesterday and the car runs great. I do not plan on ever using this guy again, for obvious reasons. He lies, cheats, is sexist, and thinks we’re google incompetents.

But I will say this about him: He pushed me just far enough to guarantee that he lost a customer and we saved a mint of money.

Not so great for him, but my ever-growing Passbook Savings account couldn’t be happier.

One of my best money saving strategies is to, as Ronald Reagan used to say, “trust but verify.” To save even more money, you might also try skipping over the trust step completely.

Whatever you do, enjoy the $1000!

Posted by Katy on 03/24/09

Spring Has Sprung! (#1345)

My husband, an incurable romantic, couldn’t stop himself this morning from telling me how gorgeous I am. I know, I know. Get him a new prescription for eyeglasses, right? In the meantime, I decided to enjoy the moment and compliment him right back.

“Oh, yeah?” I said. “Well, you’ve got a physique like a Greek god.”

In true fallible style, he hesitated for only a second. “You mean….broken off in parts?”

Posted by Katy on 03/20/09

Our Grandparents Still Speak. Will We Listen? (#1344)

One of my favorite things about listening to Dave Ramsey on the radio is when he says his tag line. “We give you the same advice your grandmother would, only we keep our teeth in.”

No matter how many times he says this, I smile. Because I am distinctly remembering things my grandparents taught me, and mottos they spoke and lived by. I’m talking about my mom’s parents here, by the way, since my father was an immigrant from Scotland and his parents were dead by the time he came to this country in 1946.

Baga (my father taunted my two-year-old self into attempting to call my grandmother “Old Bag,” and Baga is what I came up with. It stuck!) and Papoo (no, we weren’t Greek, but my older brother Patrick—-God rest his soul—-christened Grandpa, and his chosen name stuck, too) were two of the best role models a kid in the 50s and 60s could have possibly had.

Papoo was a college graduate, who worked 40 years as a CPA for the A&P grocery chain—-The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company. He and Baga (whose given names were actually Carl and Bernice) married in 1925 and in 1930—-after the Great Depression had begun—-their only child, my mother, was born. A point of interest for me has always been that of the couples my grandparents were friends with over the years, many of them had only one offspring.

My mother (a Protestant by birth) married a Catholic and we kids were raised in the Catholic church. The only only child I ever knew was my own mother! But I wonder, as I look back at my grandparents’ lives and those of their contemporaries, whether many of them decided not to have more children because of the tenuous times in which they lived.

Unemployment in those bad old days, they say, reached 25% at its worst. Papoo, though, never missed a day of work. In 1935, the A&P transferred him to the office in Kansas City, where Mom grew up and still lives to this day. I’ve got to think that for my grandparents to have come of age in the flapper era and then to find themselves as young people in the midst of a national disaster must have been sobering, no matter how they cut it.

All I know for certain is that they were the hardest working, most resourceful people I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. My mother led an advantaged life, though I don’t think she quite sees it that way even still. She had dance lessons and piano lessons, and at the age of eight, she was given a magnificent grand piano that now graces the home of my youngest sister, Bridget. My grandparents were never ostentatious, but when they spent money, they purchased the highest quality items, intending to use them for a lifetime and then pass them down through the family.

I’ll just add that all my favorite pieces of furniture, I inherited from them. I LOVE having a black-and-white photo of my toddler-self standing in the middle of Baga’s velvet-upholstered Victorian settee that now graces my living room. The sense of continuity that comes from treasured objects that have spanned multiple generations of one family never ceases to comfort my soul.

During WWII, when my mother was in high school and they’d moved from the city to a house on five acres, my grandparents raised chickens. Lots and lots of chickens. They didn’t just raise them for the eggs, either. They slaughtered the darned things and sold them to all the nearby restaurants as an additional source of income. My mother still rues the day she got pulled into the chicken operation. All she wanted was to go rollerskating at the rink with her girlfriends on Saturdays, and instead she got stuck plucking the feathers out of chickens for a few years running.

Papoo even wrote a book about how to raise chickens, self-published it, and sold 5000 copies through mail order. It was a true kitchen table enterprise, garnering them even another stream of income. Sure, Baga did the patriotic thing and worked in a factory during that time, and I have in my possession some leftover ration coupons to prove they lived under the same constraints as other citizens. But they always managed to hang on to entrepreneurial spirits, which served them fabulously well their whole lives.

In 1947, they moved into a beautiful house they had build on 160 acres. Maybe they should not have moved in as soon as they did, since the first winter in the house they had no central heat. In fact, much was unfinished when they took up residence, but they weren’t deterred. And they stubbornly refused to borrow money to build the house. It was cash on the line, baby, or no house for them! I believe they miscalculated that they would have the cash to put in the heater before the snow flew, and paid for it all winter with the shivers.

But a miscalculation was not an excuse to go into debt. One of the things Papoo told me solemnly in a moment we shared driving down the road when I was 12 or so was this, “Whatever you do, Kate, NEVER take out a mortgage!” Trust me on this, he was NOT talking about a home equity line of credit. He meant a FIRST mortgage. He must have been mortified that my parents took out a 20-year mortgage on the house I grew up in, even though they DID pay it off in 11 years.

When I graduated from high school, Papoo bought me a brand spankin’ new car. A 1972 purple Gremlin. I named her Kiki. I will never forget the shock on the car salesman’s face when my grandfather counted out twenty-five $100 bills to pay for that purchase. It went without saying that I should NEVER take out a loan to purchase a car!

Baga once felt the need to give me this salient piece of wisdom: “There’s never a reason for you or your clothing or your home to be dirty. A bar of soap still costs a nickel, and anyone can afford a nickel.” That lady scrubbed us, herself, the laundry (can we say “wringer washer”?) and her white tile and grout to within an inch of our lives.

Papoo, before a massive heart attack forced him to retire at age 59 and he began sub-dividing his property into 1/3 acre homebuilding sites, raised Black Angus cattle for the family’s consumption. I felt bad when I realized I was being served Debbie, Mary Jo, or Claudia, but the homegrown corn-on-the-cob we picked and cooked right before dinner and the ice cream made with peaches from Baga’s trees softened the news considerably.

What I’m trying to say is that my grandparents married and raised a daughter in tough times. They lived through the Great Depression and then WWII, and while they did not go through the type of suffering so many did, they were careful to structure their habits in such a way as to ensure the family’s well-being. For them, that meant NO debt EVER. It meant a substantial amount of savings to see them through a crisis. It meant always thinking up and implementing supplemental strategies for income, to protect them in case their primary source of funds were cut off.

It also meant passing on the homespun wisdom that served them well, and making sure their daughter and grandchildren were educated in the principles of living well within our means.

Let me just say that in these days, I’ve been thinking of them a lot. And cherishing the example they gave me, since of them it could truly be said that they practiced what they preached.

Any wisdom you’ve been handed down that is serving you well during this economic downturn? No sense in putting it to waste! Feel free to share it here.

Posted by Katy on 03/17/09

Right Of Refusal (#1343)

So here’s the deal. Doug and I have been going through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University at our church. You should know that even though we attend church in a very advantaged neighborhood in Johnson County, Kansas, there are some hurting folks in this group.

We’d be hurting, too, if it weren’t for One Fantastic Thing: Two years ago, we thought we’d help a young couple out. We invited our daughter Carrie and her fiance Marc to a Dave Ramsey live event in Kansas City. Their wedding was quickly approaching that June, and we knew they’d be starting marriage with some significant debt.

Who knew but what Dave Ramsey could get their marriage started out on solid financial footing?

By the end of a few hours inundated in Dave’s personal energy, they came away resolved to live like no newlyweds they knew, so that later they’d be able to live like no olderweds they knew. And they have done FANTASTIC. Their discipline and commitment—-especially in the face of friends who buy houses and furniture and take their second honeymoons within six months of their first—-has amazed and delighted us.

But what surprised us even more was the way Dave managed to light a fire under US. Two years ago right now, our debt—-because of Kevin’s final year of hospitality management and business schooling which occurred in Switzerland, and paying for Carrie and Marc’s wedding—-had spiraled into something completely unacceptable. We had a couple of credit cards at 0%, but you know what? Interest rate or not, WE OWED THE MONEY. We also carried a balance on our HELOC, at a low rate of interest, but again. WE OWED THE MONEY.

I committed that night at the live event. I knew it would take a few more months before we could radically reverse the direction we were going in. But by the morning after Carrie and Marc’s wedding, we would begin. And so we did. If I told you how deeply we cut to make a debt-free life possible, you might recoil in disgust. There were times I nearly did, but then we’d pay off one bill entirely and start on the next one and I would get fired up all over again.

Happily, in one year’s time, and before the market crash of the fall of 2008, we had gotten completely out of debt (except for a small mortgage on our house) and had also amassed much more money in emergency funds, car replacement funds, and all the rest. And then we got absolutely clobbered in our 401K, but you know what? The sting of losing money in our retirement accounts is SO MUCH less than it would be if we were also struggling to make ends meet on a daily basis.

Here’s my resolution going forward: No matter how grim the news, I’m following Dave’s lead and refusing to participate in the recession. Heck, if it turns into a bona fide depression, I’m gonna turn down that offer, too. Of course, we can’t expect that our business will continue completely unscathed (although so far, it has….), but we can expect of ourselves that we keep thinking, keep regrouping, keep building upon ideas we’ve got for new streams of income, and NEVER agree to victimhood status.

I’m also continuing to enjoy my beautiful Passbook Savings Account, a throwback to my childhood and early married years. EVERY time the passbook comes back to me in the mail, updated with my new (higher!) balance, I IMMEDIATELY write a paper check (I think the tactile experience of paper and ink makes this process work for me….), fill out the deposit slip, and mail it back to them in the stamped envelope they provide.

Doug and I find ourselves, like everyone else, in the midst of a downturn. Sure, we’ve lost some value in our home (though I don’t think much….) and some retirement assets. But we can easily manage our attitudes, our savings, and our business in such a way that the recession doesn’t eat us for lunch.

Millions of households and obviously a huge number of businesses are insolvent in our nation, having borrowed their way out of prosperity, and I’m afraid some truly abysmal policies will come out of this recession/depression that will plague our country for decades to come.

As for me and my house, though, we’ve decided we’re just not going to play along.

We refuse to participate in this recession, and I hope you exercise your right of refusal, too.


Posted by Katy on 03/13/09

Summons (#1342)

Yesterday, I read that Blogger and Twitter founder Evan Williams, a young man I actually corresponded with by email seven or so years ago about a business idea my husband and I had, was summoned to the White House in order to offer his advice about the abysmal economic crisis in which we now find ourselves.

I hadn’t yet signed up to follow Ev on Twitter, but I did so, post haste. He gave a number of updates throughout his day at the White House, and also posted a picture of himself standing next to Ivanka Trump, with the House in the background. He didn’t say so in so many words, but it seemed clear enough that Ivanka had also been invited to share her brilliance with our current administration.

Then, this morning, I come upon this story, which manages to encompass EVERY cause of our current debacle (irresponsible lending, greed, belief that markets can only go up, spending your own children’s future, believing that spending should come before or instead of earning, trusting in complimentary sirloin-tip buffet soirees to assure you that you’ve made sound economic decisions, and all the rest of it) in a few easy-to-read but difficult-to-digest words. Ivanka, evidently, was hugely a part of this failed undertaking of the Trumps, which only recently occurred, and has now been rewarded by being treated as if she’s all that and a bag of Perrier.

Is THIS what the leaders of our country need? To be counseled by the (admittedly brilliant) guy who runs Twitter, who asks his 200,000 followers “What should I say?” before leaving to share his answers with the administration? Does the United States of America now NEED the advice of Ivanka Trump, a young woman who told investors in a Baja resort that a Trump property COULD NOT FAIL?

We’re falling far and fast here, people. Our problems are way too serious to be rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. We don’t need another summit every fool day on the economy, health care, education, and shovel readiness. And trust me, I am NOT saying Obama is responsible for this mess. As much as I admired some things about George Bush, I lost my remaining respect for him the day he said, last fall, “I am abandoning my free market principles to save the free market.”

Sorry, O fallible ones. It just doesn’t work that way. A principle is something you hold so dear and so constant that it eventually becomes the ONLY thing you can’t and won’t abandon. Otherwise, it is no principle at all, but only another half-thought-out weakly formed opinion.

I am aligning myself with some age-old economic principles, ones I have never taken the time to understand, study, or devote myself to—-until now. I’ve realized that I can no longer entertain the luxury of believing that printing presses should invent new money ‘round the clock. Or that the Federal Reserve should intervene in the free market by manipulating interest rates, thereby keeping the boom and bust cycle artificially exacerbated.

In fact, here’s what I really think, and it happens to agree completely with what my banker father believed until his death 25 years ago: There should be NO central bank in the United States of America. The Federal Reserve system should be abolished, and the free markets should be allowed free rein. In addition, we should rue the day that Richard Nixon, in 1971, completely disconnected our economy from the gold standard once and for all, and should do everything in our power to move toward a financial system that is NOT based on fractional reserve banking but that is based rather on a REAL MONEY economy.

If I had understood half of what Ron Paul was saying one short year ago, I would have given far more money to his campaign than I did and I would have fought far harder to see him and his ideas promoted. Interesting that we now have an unfolding crisis in which all Paul preaches is coming home to roost. In my opinion, he remains the only presidential candidate that could have helped us navigate these waters, but alas, it wasn’t to be.

Instead, we move the chairs around on the deck just so, tap our feet to the beat of the orchestra, and imagine that the giant iceberg that’s already ripped away half the hull is just another sign of global warming.


Posted by Katy on 03/07/09

Nationalize Me, Baby! (#1341)

You might remember that before the first bail-outs became law last fall, I expressed my utter disdain for them. I compared the situation to a parent who’s trying to decide whether bailing her wayward son out of jail (after she’s warned him repeatedly not to miss the court date assigned to him because of a usurious traffic ticket….) would ultimately be the best thing for her son or not.

You probably have guessed my conclusions about the parent/son situation. Three nights in jail won’t kill the kid, and just might cure him. And THAT would make a mother happy, indeed.

But the bailouts, of course, happened. I believe we now refer to last fall’s wealth distribution as “TARP 1.” Is there any doubt left in anyone’s mind that the acronym TARP (Remind me: WHAT does it stand for?) will eventually (and soon) be followed by all manner of numerals?

It’s all got me thinking a lot about the subject of nationalization, and you know what? If I make the topic of nationalization as personal as I made bailouts, I come to an entirely different conclusion. In fact, in only a few moments, I came up with a list called

Fallible Stuff I’d Like To Nationalize:

1. My urinary tract infection. Seriously, people. Peeing every 35 seconds? It is not fair that my bladder should have to shoulder the weight of this burden alone. And since everyone else is already peeing anyway, why shouldn’t they each go one extra time per 24 hours, so that I don’t have to spend the rest of my natural life on the toitie?

2. Blog commenters. I am happy for Dooce and the several other got-in-on-the-ground-floor bloggers who win their Bloggies year after year for Best Design and Best Content, etc, but honestly, isn’t it getting old for her to have thousands of commenters, half of whom don’t even like her? I say that blog comments should be nationalized. If Dooce coughed up several hundred of hers, and the other Top Tier Bloggers did the same, I could end up with more people who don’t like me. Doesn’t that seem right to you?

3. Purses. I went to the same high school as Kate Spade. At the Catholic girls school we attended, we were all trained to view marriage and motherhood as somewhat secondary to career goals. I was paying attention and made excellent grades in school, but is it MY fault I preferred being a stay-at-home mom to designing handbags and forging an empire? Since Kate and I share common roots, I believe it’s correct that we now share purses. Nationalize the whole darn line, I say. If I got to choose my ten or twelve free faves during the Purse Nationalization Act of 2009, I would even agree to pay shipping. I AM a capitalist, after all.

4. The Moms. Although it’s taken a while for me to embrace the wisdom of this idea, I am now more than willing (eager, you might say) to nationalize caretaking responsibilities of The Moms. If you think that the fact they both live in assisted living facilities makes it so that “someone else” takes care of them, think again. Someone else might help them bathe and dress, but the THINKING falls to us. And without the thinking, they wouldn’t last long. I think it’s high time thinking was nationalized, especially when it comes to appropriating many, many others to think about what’s best for The Moms and then just DO it. Without me needing to tell them. That would be heaven.

5. My rear end. An inch here, an inch there, pretty soon every underendowed woman in the country could be amply supplied. It’s a sacrifice, yes, but one I am willing to make for the common good. I’m euphemistically referring to my bottom-line scheme as TARP, also: Troubled “Assets” Redistribution Plan. Any takers?

6. Housework. It is SO not my problem that we have a house that is too big for our current needs. It’s not like I could have foreseen this when we built the house fourteen years ago! We had three kids living with us then, and it seemed like they’d be with us forever. Don’t tell me I should have done the math and predicted a time when Doug and I would only require a few small rooms to suit our purposes! That kind of rational thought has NO PLACE is a discussion of The Housework Nationalization Act of 2009. I don’t expect you to feel sorry for me, especially if you have seen my house and are maybe a little jealous because it’s actually very nice. But I DO think that if you are young, energetic, and in possession of a strong back, you should have no choice but to throw a TARP over this joint. I’m free this morning. I’ll be expecting you (bring your cleaning supplies, I’m running low!) at ten.

Anything you’d like to nationalize, while the nationalizing’s good? Hopefully, Dooce is feeling the love and has already sent some of her commenters my way…

Posted by Katy on 02/23/09

Our Fallible Wedding (#1340)

Thirty-two years ago this morning—-yes, we had an eleven o’clock wedding—-Doug Raymond and I exchanged vows that would determine the course of the rest of our lives.

imageAnd, of course, the rest of my life with this man has been the stuff of dreams. The one thing that has amazed me day after day, year after year, is that he is a man of integrity. I believed I knew his character when I agreed to be his wife, but who can know for certain? As it turns out, Doug is still the man I married, a man whose constant kindness and compassion have made all the difference in my life.

Now, just for fun and (at our ages, it must be said) for posterity, I’m going to share 32 Things About Our Fallible Wedding Day, most of which our own children probably don’t know. And in a very real sense, I write this for them: Scott and his bride Brooke, Carrie and her husband Marc, and Kevin. Everything about our marriage pointed to the family we would raise together, to the joy God had in mind for us when He planned to give us these children. So kids, this one’s for you!

1. The night before our wedding, we rehearsed at Second Presbyterian Church in Kansas City, and then went to Doug’s parents’ house for a homemade spaghetti dinner. Most of the girls wore full-length dresses that night, and the men wore suits and ties. I wore an ivory muslin and rust velvet-trimmed Gunne Sax dress, designed by Jessica McClintock, who still designs fabulous clothes. I wore a necklace by 1928, a new company at that time and one I still purchase to this day. I looked like a million bucks and Doug looked hot. HOT. But we were Jesus Freaks. We didn’t talk like that! Ha.

2. I decided to spend my last night as a single girl with my parents, in my old bed in The Dormitory. We moved into that house when I was six, and Liz, Mary, and I had twin beds lined up in a bedroom with two dressers and one small closet to share. The beds took up most of the space, needless to say. But by the time I got married at age 23, I’d already lived away from home for five years and hadn’t spent a single night in that bed during those years. I’m surprised I got any sleep at all, but I did.

3. My mother made me bacon and eggs at the crack of dawn on February 19, 1977. If I’d only stuck with a nice low-carb diet like I had that morning for my entire adult life, I’d have never had the crazy weight problems I’ve battled, but THAT’S another story. While I ate Mom’s breakfast, Doug and his groomsmen were eating a gourmet meal of Egg McMuffins at McDonald’s. We were very easy to please in those days.

4. I acted as my own personal assistant. Washed, dried, and curled my hair. Painted my nails a pale caramel color, and did my own make-up. My father expressed his horror over the dark russet colored lipstick I had worn for my newspaper photo pics, and so for my wedding, I wore a lighter shade that nearly matched my nails. He seemed happy with that, which was good because…..

5. Dad was extremely unhappy we were getting married in a Presbyterian church. Only I did not know this. Doug and I were both raised Catholic, but started going to a non-denominational Jesus People Bible study as teenagers. The group happened to meet in a Presbyterian church, and the church happened to be gorgeous. Dad would have had to bribe the priest to get us married in the Catholic church, and while he wasn’t above bribery, it never occurred to us how hurt he would be over our decision. After he died (when I was 30), Mom told me he almost could not walk me down the aisle. He was from Scotland, you see, and the Catholics and Presbyterians didn’t exactly mix it up over there. If only I had known…..

6. My mom and her friends spent several days making the food for the reception. Unlike most of our friends who only served cake and punch, we had sandwiches! Roast beef and ham on buns. And mints from a fantastic new spot called Laura’s Fudge Shop, now called Laura Little’s Candy Kitchen. And M&Ms. We did not, however, have booze. My parents never forgave me for that, as it embarrassed them and also forced them to have an after-reception party at their house for the drinkers. (We only popped in long enough to see my drunken uncle ash his ciggie on the priceless Persian rug, and then it was off to the airport for us.)

7. When we arrived at the church, me in my purple Gremlin and my parents in their ginormous station wagon, I soon realized I had forgotten my shoes. I had paid $42 for them at Chasnoff’s, a swanky store in which you could find off-season items like leather ivory heels if you got lucky. Some sweet soul took my car and went back for my shoes, the only misplaced item of the day. I haven’t lost them since, by the way. They’re in a plastic bag in the hope chest.

8. My wedding dress cost $160, a small fortune. It was the first dress of many I tried on, but I needn’t have bothered with the others. I knew that dress was perfect the instant I saw it. It was a size four, but they had to cut away half of it for it to fit right. Sheesh.

9. Coincidentally, $160 is the same price Doug and I paid for all three rings: his wedding band, my wedding band, and the engagement band into which we had set the diamond from his grandmother’s engagement ring. These days, they say to plan on spending two months’ salary on an engagement ring. Who comes up with this stuff? Back then, I was making $800 per month and Doug made $600. If he’d suggested spending $1200 on a ring, I would have backed out of the deal. And by the deal, I mean the marriage.

10. I have receipts for all expenses pertaining to our wedding and honeymoon. The kids will find them someday and chuckle, the way I still do when I run across the hospital receipt for my own birth. (No health insurance back then, you know. For $140, Mom and Dad brought me home free and clear.)

11. The trend of taking photos before the wedding was just beginning in 1977. We took all the photos we could, stopping short of seeing each other prior to the ceremony. That was a tradition I could not bear breaking. The WOW factor of waiting is like the wonder of not knowing the sex of your babies until they arrive—-a treat we also enjoyed with each of our kids. When I took my father’s arm, I looked up and saw Doug waiting for me by the altar. Those beautiful green eyes of his let me know he liked what he saw. He wore an ivory tux with brown velvet bow tie and cummerbund and he looked HOT. Smokin’ hot, only we were Jesus Freaks and we….well, you know.

12. There were no camcorders then, and no one in attendance had a movie camera. Somewhere in this house, though, we have an honest-to-goodness reel-to-reel audio recording of the ceremony. We haven’t listened to it once in 32 years, because we couldn’t figure out a way to play it in our 8-track. Ha.

13. I walked down the aisle to “Fairest Lord Jesus,” played by a classical guitarist friend of ours. The traditional bridal march was out of the question, because for my whole life my father had sung, “Here comes the bride, fair, fat and wide….” to that tune. Kind of ruined it for me!

14. I wanted Doug to sing to me during the ceremony, but he said he wouldn’t be able to get through it. He’d written a beautiful song with words straight out of Hosea, “I will betroth thee unto me forever…..” A friend of ours sang it, and did a great job, but all these years later, when Doug sings it, I still weep.

15. I also expressed a strong desire, during our wedding planning, for bagpipes. I am sorry, but my family has pipes at every wedding and funeral, and sometimes in between. Evidently, the French do not share this tradition. Doug flatly turned me down, though in the past ten years he’s become a huge fan of Celtic music and now can PLAY the bagpipes. Ah, well. There’s still my funeral to look forward to!

16. I had five bridesmaids—-my sisters Liz and Mary, and my friends JoAnn, Dorothy, and Annie, plus my darling baby sister Bridget, who was ten and acted as my junior bridesmaid.I am close to all these women to this day! Doug is very good friends with all but one of his groomsmen, also. We have a randomly shot photo of that guy stashing a present from the gift table under his tuxedo jacket, and we don’t know what became of him after that…..

17. As much as we adored our pastor “charging” us to obey every Scripture in Ephesians, Corinthians, and several other books of the Bible, both of us were looking ahead to the part about “kissing the bride.” Someday, though, we WILL get that tape out and go over the instructions again, in case we overlooked something. Needless to say, we did not overlook kissing.

18. We received tons of groovy gifts, including several cards with $5 enclosed—-a typical amount one might expect from peers in those days. My parents gave us two dining chairs to go with the table and four chairs I’d purchased earlier. Doug’s mom and dad gave us a stand mixer. We also received, from a dignified older couple, a green ceramic hanging frog ash tray. And—-from a girl who had a crush on Doug and did not care for me one wee little bit—-a squirrel cookie jar.

19. We spent our first night together in Miami, at the airport hotel. We thought staying near the airport would be a great idea, since we’d be leaving there the next morning for Ocho Rios, Jamaica. How could we know that it would be hotter than blazes in Florida, that the air conditioner would be broken, that we would have to open the windows to survive, and that the planes would land and take off RIGHT OUTSIDE OUR WINDOW? Seriously, how could we know that??

20. By the time we were getting on the plane to head for Jamaica, Doug’s father was having a heart attack. His mother contacted my mother and they debated whether or not they should call us. Doug’s father was in the advanced stages of malignant melanoma and had barely been able to attend the wedding. In fact, he was too sick to stay for the reception. But a heart attack?

21. They decided not to call us. We went to Jamaica, blissfully unaware of what was happening on the home front. When we arrived back at the KC airport one week later, I called my mother to let her know we were on terra firma. “Go straight to the hospital,” she said. “Your father-in-law is not doing well….” Jack made it home from the hospital, but died two months later.

22. I’ve always asked myself what we would have done if his mom had called us before we got on that plane. Would we have skipped our honeymoon? It’s haunted me enough over the course of our marriage that the story actually makes its way into the novel I wrote. In the novel, they skip their honeymoon.

23. We climbed that crazy waterfall in Ocho Rios and we’ve even climbed it once since then. I’ve got some Tarzan and Jane pics to go with the first climb. My rust-colored one-piece suit cost over $30 (off-season, again!) and I still have it. I looked FINE in that suit. On the second climb, ten years ago, let’s just say I did not wear my size-tiny suit.

24. I had a couple of showers, but don’t remember any of my friends giving me lingerie. There was no Victoria’s Secret back then, although I suppose for the gutsy, there was Frederick’s of Hollywood. I wasn’t that brave! The store now known as Dillards used to be Stix, Baer, and Fuller, and they had a beautiful lingerie department. For our wedding night, I purchased a traditional white peignoir set—-a long gown with a matching robe. I still have it, and when I pull it out to take a look, I try to imagine it fitting successfully over a broomstick. It’s that skinny. Sigh.

25. At the all-inclusive resort where we stayed called “Tower Island” (it’s now a Sandals), we were served three fantastic meals each day, typically from a buffet. This is when I learned that Doug is extremely picky and won’t eat anything he doesn’t recognize. For some meals, they dished out only native foods, and Doug sulked while I ate him under the table. This still sometimes happens today.

26. One night in Jamaica, we decided to spring for a meal in a restaurant in the town. We made reservations at Moxie’s, the place with the best reputation. We knew it would cost us ($38!), but we thought it would be fun. We sat at a table on the multi-terraced grounds and enjoyed several moments of peace before THE HUGEST ROACH I’VE EVER SEEN scampered across our candlelit table!!! I totally freaked out and demanded a table inside the restaurant, where the manager actually came to our table and told us that all Americans are WIMPS.

27. We wrote our own vows. I still have them, on ripped out stenographer’s pad paper. I wrote mine in ink, but I believe Doug wrote his in pencil. Neither sheet has faded.

28. I have my intensive to-do lists from those days. Pages and pages of contact info for photographers and bakeries and florists and dress shops. Lists of ideas for gifts to present to our attendants. All the tourist info about Jamaica and notes comparing resorts as far as features and prices, and info from the airlines, as well. An index card for each invited guest, with their address and phone numbers, to which I later added a description of the gifts they gave and the dates I sent thank-you cards.

29. Doug has one note to himself: Get fitted for tux. I had to write myself a note to remind him to read his note.

30. When we’d been married around 25 years, I came upon two thank-you notes I’d written and never mailed. I tracked down the gift-givers and sent the notes!

31. When we visited my parents upon arriving home from Jamaica, my father asked us why we weren’t tanned. He wasn’t known for subtlety.

32. We’re still not tanned.

Doug, I can only say that there are a million memories of not just the beginning of our life together, but of every sweet minute with you. Thank you for making them stick.

Posted by Katy on 02/19/09

Not-So-Fine Print (#1339)

Who knows how many freakin’ pages long the current stimulus bill is, but here’s betting there’s not one elected official in a hundred who knows what’s in it.

If the elderly Ted Kennedy knows, I gotta think the so-called health care portions of the stimulus package might make him raise a bushy eyebrow. After all, he is doing everything possible to fight off one of the most aggressive types of brain tumors known to man, and I imagine his treatments are costing a pretty penny. Maybe he pays for his medical care privately, but even if that’s true, under the new stimulus bill, his private doctor would be considered a renegade and would come under the scrutiny of the feds.

But let’s suppose for a moment that Senator Kennedy has health coverage provided to him by the taxpayer, as part of his compensation. He’s no young whippersnapper, you know. And when the European-style health rationing INCLUDED IN THE CURRENT STIMULUS PACKAGE becomes law, the HealthCare Czar will begin to dictate which remedies, tests, surgeries, and medications are deemed appropriate for someone with such a measly number of years left on this earth.

Senator Tom Daschle, before his pesky tax-evasion problems goosed his backside out the Crummy Healthcare Clinic door, contributed his last efforts toward a collection of wrong-headed ideas found buried in this behemoth of a stimulus:

“Daschle says health-care reform ‘will not be pain free.’ Seniors should be more accepting of the conditions that come with age instead of treating them. That means the elderly will bear the brunt. Medicare now pays for treatments deemed safe and effective. The stimulus bill would change that and apply a cost- effectiveness standard set by the Federal Council (page 464).”

Now, don’t get me wrong. I really don’t mind rationing my own health care. In a very real sense, I do that already. Doug and I, as the only two employees of our corporation, have high-deductible health insurance, with high premiums, and a health savings account on the side. We each have an individual policy, and in a bad year when we both require medical care, we are each out-of-pocket $3000 before the insurance kicks in. And that’s with spending $800 per month in premiums for the privilege.

We think once, twice, and then a bunch more times before going to the doctor. But you know what? That’s OUR decision, based on our own unique set of circumstances and how we’ve chosen to allocate our limited resources. Our doctors, of course, are consulted in matters in which we know we need their professional opinions about how to proceed. But it’s never crossed our minds ONCE to seek the advice of the GOVERNMENT when attempting to determine whether or not we “deserve” to be treated.

Read this article, O fallible ones, and tell me what YOU think. Do you want your healthcare determined by a board of government officials, who intend to go so far as to impose penalties on doctors who fail to withhold care according to federally-regulated “cost-effective” standards?

I’m getting a strong sense that a bunch of old folks are about to get offed, courtesy of the Unread Stimulus Bill of 2009.

Hang on to your hat, Senator Kennedy.

Posted by Katy on 02/10/09

Funny Ha-Ha, Or That Other Kind Of Funny? (#1338)

You know how your credit card company might do you the favor of freezing your account temporarily and notifying you if some untoward charges suddenly accrue to your name?

I’ve never faced serious fraudulent transactions personally, but in a way being able to say in a tone full of righteous indignation, “I beg your pardon! I did NOT order the Hope diamond to be shipped to a slimy thief in Madagascar by FedEx! Reverse those charges immediately!” would make me feel good about my finances right about now.

And what if you actually SPENT what the credit card company believes no one but a common criminal could have spent, and that by virtue of your excellent FICO score? I can only imagine how I’d feel if I had to say, “Um….no, the charter of that Lear jet to take my friends to see the total eclipse of the sun in Nova Scotia didn’t just happen to whomever Carly Simon wrote ‘You’re So Vain’ about. It happened to me, too….” Doh!

Lucky for me, I don’t have either of these problems, which represent two sides of the same coin. Technically, I don’t even have very many same coins, but I digress.

What I do have is a letter from the Savings & Loan I referred to in a recent post, the one where I have an old but newly revered Passbook Savings Account. It should be noted here that I opened this account back when my mother was a teller at this institution, circa 1982. Mom’s boss was a great guy named Steve, and while Mom retired maybe fifteen years ago, Steve remains constant as the manager of the branch where I’ve been sending Checks Of Unusual Size for the past couple of months.

Steve KNOWS me. If I were to walk into the the Savings & Loan today, he’d greet me by name and ask after my mother. We go so far back, some of our adult children weren’t even born yet when I began to make deposits (and yes, withdrawals) at that very building. And while I don’t hit the bricks and mortar often, my brother does, and he keeps Steve up-to-date on the whole family.

So, this letter, signed in Steve’s own hand and addressed to me specifically, apprises me of the fact that suspicious activity may be occurring in my long-dormant Passbook Savings Account, and that I should contact him instantly if someone other than myself is making these REGULAR AND LARGE DEPOSITS.

This is about the best thing that’s happened to me this year, in the financial realm. You’ve GOT to wonder when suspicion begins to be attached to a DEPOSITOR (especially when I am signing checks for deposit that match the signature card they have on file, and filling out a detailed deposit slip, and enclosing my coveted Passbook Savings Account Book so that they can update my balance and I can smile with satisfaction….) and letters are sent by Savings & Loan officers who’ve known the account holder FOREVER.

Coming under scrutiny for saving money has made me think more than twice about the twisted state of affairs we—-as a nation—-now find ourselves in economically. But it’s also made me wonder how much better off we’d all be now if everyone’s passbooks had been showing strong entries on the deposit side since 1982.

Good old Steve could have saved a noble sheet of paper, leaving more for the Feds to print money on. And I’m pretty sure THAT’S what’s really meant by going green.

Posted by Katy on 02/09/09

Test-Driving Your Medical Power-Of-Attorney (#1337)

If you are over the age of eighteen, you should have put into place legal paperwork naming another individual (or better, two) to act as your power-of-attorney for health care decisions in case you become incapacitated.

Unfortunately, you cannot assume that if you are married, or have a parent or an adult child, said person will automatically function as a decision-maker if you can’t. In fact, the exact opposite may be true. These days, whenever my husband or I see a new doctor, we make sure to sign the form that allows the other one access to all our medical records. It’s amazing the information you are not allowed to find out about your own spouse, unless you’ve signed this paperwork. I always tell my health care providers that if I am not available to receive their calls, they may give my husband the report and/or leave a detailed message on my voicemail.

But beyond those types of aggravating but usually non-lethal situations, you will eventually—-if you live long enough, which is precisely the outcome I hope to produce by writing this post!—-be called upon to function as power-of-attorney for a spouse, family member, or friend, or you will require these services from someone you trust.

I’d like to encourage you today to give this decision some very serious thought. You might be married to the NICEST, KINDEST, MOST NURTURING AND CARING person in the universe, and because of that, he or she might just prove to be the worst choice to help you navigate the roiling waters of the healthcare system if you are not able to fend for yourself. Your sweet spouse might be constitutionally incapable of creating the kind of ruckus in the plodding, paint-by-numbers hospital setting that is sometimes (read:often) required if your sorry situation is to be salvaged.

Estate planners and others who guide you into putting these important documents in place will almost always say that usually it’s advisable for spouses to act as medical POAs for each other. My advice? Sure, sign your spouse up. But make sure you add a second person, whose name will usually follow a clause in the document that says your second choice will come into play if your first choice is “unavailable, unwilling, or incapable” of acting on your behalf.

When you really need someone to step up to the emergency plate for you, you’d better have SOMEONE in your line-up whose views about end-of-life measures and whose abilities to communicate, question, verify, substantiate, research, and follow-through are impeccable.

You want someone willing to suspend his or her own interests in order to advocate for you when you are unable to care for yourself. You want someone whose personality is unflinching in the face of those pesky authority figures called doctors, nurse managers, and hospital administrators. You want someone who can and will google the heck out of your symptoms, diseases, and injuries, and not take no for an answer when he’s told they’ve “done everything they can,” unless he knows for sure that it’s the truth.

I am NOT talking about keeping your loved ones alive forever, attached to plastic tubing and masks and needles, with a clothespin pinching their index fingers to make sure they’ve got sufficient O2 for the next second’s need. I have absolutely no interest in being tied to this earth beyond what seems reasonable to God Himself, and when I function as power-of-attorney for my mother, I keep that firmly in mind.

However, I also realize that often, with even a modicum of appropriate health care, a terribly ill patient can be restored to a reasonable quality of life. The job of the power-of-attorney in those circumstances is to make sure——against what can often be nearly insurmountable odds—-that effective health care is attempted and achieved.

Assuming you have named at least one person to be your own power-of-attorney, I suggest you give him a test drive during your next medical situation. Even if it’s not a bona fide emergency in which you lose your ability to act on your own behalf, you can still—-by paying attention—-get a good idea of how your POA might behave in more difficult times. Does he take notes? Ask salient questions? Ask about the types of tests the doctor might do? Bring up important points of your medical history the doctor might not be aware of or taking into consideration? These are all good clues about how he might function when the screws really start to turn.

Apply the same standards to yourself, as well, if you have agreed to function as power-of-attorney for another. It truly is an important—-and often life-saving—-responsibility and shouldn’t be agreed to lightly. Unless you really intend to be there for that person when things get as bad as they can get, you might want to pass on the “privilege” to someone who is up to this particular life challenge. It is NOT for everyone!

In any case, add at least one alternate name to your own powers-of-attorney, and if you serve as power-of-attorney for another, you might ask that person to add another POA, too. Consider grown children who share your values, or friends you’ve witnessed handling their loved ones’ care in a competent manner.

While there’s not always safety in numbers, in the case of having a couple of POAs, I don’t think it hurts a bit.


Posted by Katy on 01/30/09

Nor Do I Play One On TV! (#1336)

Over lo these many years, which sometimes feel like many more than they actually are, I’ve developed something of a medical professional persona.

I say persona, of course, because it’s not possible for me to actually be a medical professional, if by that term one means someone who has received at least a modicum of formal education in the field. My formal education, which forces me to tick the box “some college” when filling out online forms to receive free samples from WalMart, consists primarily of credits in subjects that make my heart beat faster: American and British Literature, Speech, Composition, Western Civilization, Novel Writing, and Creative Writing. To my mind, I’d have a thoroughly well-rounded education if I wound things up with Art History, Photography, Interior Design, Graphic Design, Vocal Performance, and Theater.

I would probably still complete a degree if I weren’t so darned afraid of math and science—-the two fields in which I find myself immersed in “real life” on a daily basis. HOW did I end up the bookkeeper for the business my husband and I own? I LOATHE tax forms almost as much as I resent our tax liability. I intensely dislike managing cash flow for a small business, since it requires a diligent setting-aside of money during the great months to compensate for the not-so-great and sometimes, well, I don’t feel like being diligent.

But here’s the thing: Even though math is not my favorite subject, I am competent to a fault. And therein lies my downfall.

The same is true with medical stuff——which in addition to math, involves plenty of the science I have always dreaded. Because of an unrelenting amount of personal experience——with my own body, the bodies of The Moms, and the bodies of various and sundry other friends and relatives——I now get asked CONTINUALLY by medical professionals whether I am an RN.

This question usually arises after a short conversation in which I am able to recall from memory my mother’s medical history dating back to 1964, including the dates of her gall bladder surgery, her parathyroid surgery, her liver biopsy, and the fall in which she shattered both her elbows.

I throw medical terminology around with the best of them, and in a way, I think it gives the real pros a bit of a thrill to know they’ve got a live one on the other end. But it’s not just words, either. I actually know how to suction a trach and administer a tube feeding. It’s amazing the stuff you learn when you must, in order to be the friend and caregiver God has called you to be.

But here’s the deal: Because I’ve saved a few lives here and there, folks are now coming out of the woodwork to say they “want me on their team” when their own bodies begin a sorry decline. Typically, these folks are married to very mellow spouses, who might not even recognize common signs of impending death like not breathing or having a pulse, but instead interpret these subtle signals on the part of the grievously ill to be simply indications that the poor, overwrought soul has finally “relaxed.”

Relaxed, my eye! Whenever anyone I know relaxes, I get them to the ER, fast! And so therefore, yes, my reputation is spreading as someone who just might be able to save your life in a pinch, too, and who wouldn’t want to stay in that person’s good graces? Mine’s a hard gig, but somebody’s gotta do it.

In the meantime, my dear husband is also getting requests from our aging acquaintances, since they’ve seen him, too, exude a quiet confidence in the face of life’s most stressful situations. He has a small notebook in which he notes their names when the solicitations come in, so determined is he to be of service whenever the need presents itself.

I worry about him, though. I know how exhausted I’ve become trying to care for the physical needs of those under my wing. I’d hate to see him meet the same fate. But what can I do? He seems resigned to his future as he adds each notation to his book, and assures all who request his services that he will remain stalwart in the face of challenges, and would not dream of failing them during the hour of their need.

So, here’s the arrangement: I’ll handle everything until they croak. Then he’ll play Irish whistle at their funerals.

Honestly, we’re both more than gratified to have made the cut.

Posted by Katy on 01/27/09

The World-Wide Web, Minus—-Apparently—-The Kingdom Of Bahrain (#1335)

imageTell me the truth, dear fallible readers. Do you find me and my writings ban-worthy? Because, according to a long-time reader in the Kingdom of Bahrain, the Ministry of Culture and Information is (in the words of the old Pace Picante Sauce advert) “gonna have to shut me down.”

Honestly, I think I’m the most uncontroversial girl in the known universe. I only rarely speak of my strongly-held political views, and in case you’re wondering right this second what those might be, let me just say I heart Ron Paul. A lot. In fact, the more I read and hear the stuff he wrote and said a year ago, or two years ago, the more I realize how RIGHT he is about the condition in which this country finds itself (the United States of America, not the Kingdom of Bahrain. I barely knew what body of water Bahrain found itself in, until today, never mind which STATE).

In addition to only linking to t-shirts with goofy politicians’ quotes (and NO, I did not mean to write “politicians’ goofy quotes”) for a measly few weeks out of a very long election cycle, I also have refrained from publicly either rejoicing or regretting the election of President Barack Obama. What’s done is done, and I am far too classy a blogger to air the dirty laundry of my negative attitude here.

You deserve better, as does the Kingdom of Bahrain! And while it’s true that a wikipedia article about the nation refers to its law against the line-hanging of ladies’ underwear in public and the display of a shop mannequin clad in lingerie, I truly had NO IDEA that I might have offended the sensibilities of the Minister of Culture (and Information!) by mentioning my unmentionables with, I guess, one too many mentions. Sigh.

I also try not to fallibly dwell on the vast variety of religions out there, though I do sometimes refer to my own Christianity and the person of Jesus Christ, who’s saved me from sins far more grievous than those which have caused my writings to be blocked from the eyes of readers in at least one ENTIRE COUNTRY. The Kingdom of Bahrain, I believe, is largely Muslim, and I understand that one reason websites are banned is if the nation’s religion is disrespected. Have I somehow attacked the fair people of Bahrain by saying I am a Christian, and that they, quite probably, are not? (By the way, it should be noted that I never said this until just this moment….)

It seems difficult to imagine that Islam could be the blog-ban bullet, but right now, a good old-fashioned Catholic examination of conscience might be in order on my part, just in case.

Praise, politics, and panties aside, there remains my most recent faux-pas. That pesky word S-E-X, clearly positioned for all the world except Bahrainians to see in the title of a recent post. But didn’t the Minister of Culture notice the question mark at the end of the title? Isn’t the CLEAR implication that NO sex, either real or imagined, was actually engaged in by the two parties having the very extremely non-sexy conversation detailed in the post?

“Excuse me, Mr. Minister of Culture and Information, but I do not think that question mark means what you think it means….”

Take a peek at the message that popped up when my friend in Bahrain tried to do a little fallible reading this morning. At the bottom of that page, my friend linked to an article about the websites that have been banned. There are supposedly only 68 banned sites IN THE WORLD, but it looks like the list is growing.

As for me, I think I’ll just go ahead and proclaim this The Fallible Year Of Blogging Dangerously. Why not just say EVERYthing I want to say, and let the bans fall where they may?

Do you think the Minister of Culture has banned fallible from his own personal computer? If not, perhaps there’s still hope of me making at least one more friend in Bahrain.

And while it’s too late for any Bahrainians besides the Minister of Culture to read this message, I apologize for offending you. It was never my intent.


Posted by Katy on 01/24/09

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