Monday, January 25, 2016

Nursing Homes

My dad spent a total of a month in three different nursing homes in 2015.  The first was the worst.  It was so bad, we despaired of him making it out alive or at least sane.  I made a deal with God that if He got my dad home again and healthy, I would write a letter to the powers that be about the awful conditions at that nursing home.  My dad did make it home OK, and he is healed now.  So a few weeks ago I sent a letter to two places, describing my dad's experience at the home.  If you want to do this for your loved one, here are two websites that can help you:

Here is an excerpt of the letter I wrote:
"So I write this in the hopes that you do something about it.  The elderly and infirm need us.  They need us to stand up for what is right.  To do what they are unable to do themselves.  I hope you consider this and other complaints that I have seen investigated.  I know that in some measures this center is not much different than others across the USA.  That does not make it a good center by default.  It just describes the sad state of affairs that our nursing homes are in!  Our elderly have worked all their lives and sacrificed so much for their families and their communities for this?  This is the reward they can expect from years of paying their taxes?  To be cared for by temporary staff that have little inclination of what they are doing, and don’t seem to care either?"

During this time I also did some research.  I found a website that ranks nursing homes:  From what I read, it seems accurate.  I also found another website that helps you get whatever services or help you need for your senior:  Aside from the nursing home rating site, the other sites are for Minnesota, but something similar should be in your state.  I also learned that when you enter a home, you get a patient bill of rights.  If you don't, ask for one; they are required to give you one.

My mom advocated for my dad every day.  If she was not there, I don't know if he would have survived.  I know the nursing assistants are minimally educated and trained, but that is no excuse for laziness, abuse, or neglect.  I know it is a sucky job, one I don't think I could ever do.  But that is no excuse either.  The elderly are vulnerable humans.  They don't always have the ability to defend themselves.  So it is up to the rest of us to do it.  I know it's hard to put your parent in a home.  There are some good ones out there.  I have seen them.  But if you can choose, choose wisely.  Listen to your intuition.  Ask questions.  Demand answers.  You are the consumer, you are paying the staff's salary.  You know what's best for your parent.  Think about what they have done for you.  Then think about what they would want you to do for them, if you can.  They deserve to live their lives out in dignity.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

I'm Not Racist

About 15 years ago I worked as a special needs coordinator in an inner city child care center in Minneapolis.  I helped children with special needs get the help they needed.  I got along with the staff for the most part, a few not liking me or not willing to work with me because they were not willing to make changes in their classroom to help the special needs children I was trying to help.  Some teachers I just didn't like because they were controlling and not loving, or just standing or sitting around, not doing their job.

Such was the case for two new aides, who happened to be black.  I was talking to another staff person in that room, who I liked, and thanked her for being there.  I told her I was glad she was there and that I thought she was doing a great job.  I thought we were having a good conversation when I made a faux pas.  I complained about the two black aides in that room.  I shouldn't have complained at all to anybody about any staff, but as usual, I spoke before I thought.  Even though this teacher that I liked didn't know me, she went to our boss and accused me of racism.

I was shocked that she would say that.  To me, it suspended logic.  Why would I take this job, knowing that I would be helping children of all races?  Why would I tell this new teacher, a lesbian, that I thought she was doing a great job?  If I was racist, wouldn't I also be prone to being homophobic?  And finally, as someone who knows what it is like to be discriminated against because of my appearance, why would I be racist?

Even though I have been bullied many times through the years in my various jobs, this was the most painful thing I ever experienced in my employment.  I loved the kids I worked with, of all races.  I got along great with some of the staff, of all races.  I have worked with people who were racist.  I just couldn't believe that someone would accuse me of such a heinous thing.

I felt like it ruined what credibility I had with the staff.  It was hard not to feel paranoid about what people were thinking or saying about me.  I tried to keep doing my job to the best of my ability, but I always had that incident in the back of my mind.

So when people accuse others of racism, or anything other "ism," I want to take a better look.  I want to look at the whole person, not just what they sad one time.  It depends on what a person says, does, and believes.  It is not just a word ill-said.

I used to think my grandpa was racist against the Japanese.  Some men who served in the Pacific theatre during WWII called the Japanese "Japs."  So did my grandpa.  I used to correct him as a kid, I thought I knew everything then.

But as I grew older and learned more about the war, and about what my grandpa experienced during the war, I learned a few things.

I learned that when you have an enemy in a war, it is easier to do battle with them if you don't see them as human.  So you create a derogatory name to describe them.  In this case, Japs.

Also, my grandpa saw the destruction the Japanese military did on the many little islands in the Pacific.  These islands were inhabited by natives who had nothing, and yet, this was taken away too.  Their lives were changed by a selfish dictator who wanted more power, no matter the cost.

So I began to realize my grandpa wasn't racist.

It is not an easy thing to know someone, to understand.  It is much easier to judge and accuse, and damn the consequences.  We all do that.  I know I do.

But I implore people nowadays to do just that.  At least don't accuse someone of something so heinous until you see the whole picture.  If you don't have time or the inclination, don't judge at all. I know, I am just as guilty and need to take my own advice!  But realize the destruction that happens when someone is accused of an "ism."  Just because someone is in the "majority," it doesn't mean their feelings don't matter, or that they are without problems.

All lives matter.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016


Over the last 6 months, since my dad fell, I have spent a lot more time with my parents' dog, Minnie.  I stayed there for a total of 6 weeks, helping my mom out and keeping Minnie company.  Not only did Minnie comfort us when we were trying to cope with my Dad's injury, she was a great comfort to me in my own grieving for my beloved pet, Chocolate, who passed away a year ago.

Minnie loves to just sit on our laps and be loved, or take naps with us on the leather couch.  She also loves to run around outside and bark at all the woodland critters, telling them to stay away.  Unfortunately, she also likes to eat animal poop!  But she is good hunter.  Last summer she killed 4 young groundhogs.  But usually, the chipmunks and squirrels are too fast for her, as they can run up trees.  But she doesn't give up, she keeps trying, in the hopes that someday, she will catch her prey.
Minnie loves her mommy and daddy.  She was so depressed the first few days when Dad was gone that she wouldn't eat her food.  When he came back, she was so excited, leaping and barking all over the place.   Actually, she does that whenever they come home, as if they had been gone forever.  She is not at peace until they are home.

She also protects us.  She protected me against a big, hyper dog, growling and barking at it to stop.  She protected my mom against a woodchuck, wrestling with it until my mom was able to kill it with a few good whacks from a shovel.  And she protected her doggy cousin from a big, scary dog that tried to attack her, by jumping on it and trying to stop it.  For her troubles, she got a few bites, but she was OK.
I love this dog.  I look forward to seeing her when I come over.  She always gets so exicted.  How could anyone not love that cute little face?  I am so glad mom and dad asopted her.  She is just what we needed.  And she needed us too.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Nibby II

When I was growing up, I had a beautiful Siamese cat named Nibby II.  We had just lost Nibby I and I was bereft of a best friend in the form of a pet.  So we bought Nibby II at a home breeder two weeks later.

Fast forward to two months ago, I painted a portrait of Nibby II at Cheers Pablo, like the one I painted of Chocolate.  

Nibby II was a mix of Lynx and Seal point Siamese.  She slept with me under the covers every night, "massaging my back."  During the day, if my bed was made, she either slept under the bed in front of the heat vent, or followed the sunny spots on the floor around the house.  She just liked to be warm.  But she was also a lap cat, and she loved to have me carry her around.  

She didn't live as long as our first Nibby, who lived 18 years.  Nibby II only lived 13 years.  She died within 24 hours of a vet visit.  I really don't know what happened.  The vet said there was nothing wrong with her, but I knew there was.  She had been pooping upstairs the last two  years of her life.  I don't know if she was trying to avoid our new dog, Trixie, the rat terrier.  She used her litter box, which was in the basement, to urinate, but she pooped upstairs.  

Losing my cats were the greatest loss of my life.  I gave so much love to them, that when they died, a it seemed my whole heart went with them.  It's not just in the losing of a loved one.  It's in losing a part of my identity as a cat caretaker.  Something that depended on me as much as I depended on it.  I suppose that is why it is so hard for me to get over that loss.  Not that one ever gets over it, but it does get easier as time goes on.  

It is hard to get enough love back to pour into another living being.  That is why it is taking me so long to get another pet, if I do.

Until then, I appreciate the blessings these pets have had on my life.  They were a gift to me, as I hope I was a gift to them.  And for that I am eternally grateful.