Sunday, August 28, 2011

Work Ethic

I have been stewing about this for about 24 hours and the only way I am going to let this go is to write about it. Writing keeps me sane.

My daughter is embarking on a career as a paralegal. She has a challenging, good-paying job with a former professor of hers—as far as I am concerned, the ultimate complement to your worth, skills and knowledge is being hired by a former professor. Heck, I’ve been lucky to have been hired for freelance jobs one of my former professors at SJSU, and he is the current department head! He’s asked me to do research for a mass communications textbook, and to prepare a collection of papers for the department’s certification process. I’ve also worked for another of my former professors, a practicing PR professional with her own business, providing written materials if she gets too busy and bogged down with work. I guess you could say having lived it, I know how meaningful it is to have a professor’s respect.

So I couldn’t be any more proud of this kid—she’s overcome a learning disability and has emerged into a good writer and researcher and problem-solver. In other words, she’s inherited some of my skills. She would never in a million years acknowledge this, but she did tell me once that her friend Sara said to her “You know where those skills came from, right? Your mom.” Quite the complement.

Yesterday she was working on something—she maintains confidentiality as well as I did when I was working as a nurse, perhaps even better. I have no idea what kind of cases she is working on other than sometimes she will say “People are disgusting.” Whatever it was, it was making her crazy and she had a hard deadline of 7 p.m.

Anyway, she called her dad, or he called her, to ask if a money transfer between his bank account and hers had gone through. She jokingly said to him, “I want to retire.”

His reply: “Well, I hope your work ethic is better than your mom’s.”


Okay, here is a bit of my personal and work history. I was married three months shy of being 19 years of age. No I was not pregnant, and I had finished only a couple of semesters at a community college, taking prerequisite classes toward applying for a nursing program. My college career was not an immediate success; as a matter of fact, I dropped out of San Jose State after about 10 weeks into my first semester a year and a half before I married. I was 17 years, 2 months of age when I started college, utterly unprepared and way too young. My grades were fine, I just was socially inept and terrified.

In other words, the only work I could do was in the fields (yes, farm labor) and assisting my mother with farm labor payroll. But that was in no way going to be my career, and my husband and I both knew that.

I hurt my left knee in November of 1976, dislocating my kneecap and eventually requiring surgery. After a couple of years (still working for my mother and working in the fields for cannery tomato harvest and chili pepper harvest in December) I was able to jump with both feet into finishing the nursing degree, driving 80-plus miles a day for classes five days a week. I finished the nursing degree in January 1982, took my boards in February, and reluctantly took a job at the local hospital in June, a dinky 42-bed place that I really did not want to work at. While going through nursing school, I worked hard to impress the staff at the hospital in Carmel, about an hour-and-fifteen-minute drive from where we lived in the hopes I’d be hired there. My left knee was slightly problematic pain-wise, so during breaks and meal breaks I’d ice the knee so I could finish the shift. The pain was not horrific and I did not need pain medication. We did not own a home, but my husband did not want to move from the city we lived in, so I compromised and worked where I did not want to work, ever.

I was hired as a part-time employee, because that is pretty much how they hired nearly all nurses. At times, part time meant three or four days a week, an 8-hour shift. After orientation, I found myself on the night shift, and did not adjust well. Every dime I made, we saved for a down payment on a home. Eventually we had nearly enough in savings to buy a home, and along with a gift of $8K from my parents, we found ourselves homeowners, and I was 5 months pregnant.

I was able to work until my 28th week of pregnancy, and was working nearly full-time hours, when I woke up one morning with a horrific headache. I was supposed to go to work that afternoon but thought I should have things checked out before I was to go to work (by then I was working the 3–11 shift, much better for me, and I really wasn’t needed on the night shift as there were some nurses who actually preferred that shift). Instead of reporting to work at 3 p.m. that day, I reported to the hospital as an inpatient with pre-eclampsia. No more work for me until delivery, which was accomplished at 37 weeks. I was back to work six weeks after my daughter was born.

For the next several years my knees got worse and I suffered a few back strain injuries, but I was one of the go-to nurses, living less than 10 minutes away from the hospital I’d frequently be called in to work different shifts if things got busy with labor and delivery patients. There are too many times to count when I’d receive a phone call at 1 a.m., be asked to come in to help out, and then be asked to stay for the day shift, or be asked to work a p.m. shift after working the 7 to 3 shift because of multiple laboring women, consequently working anywhere from 12 to 16 hours.

Not bad for someone with no work ethic…

Because my back and knees were getting a bit worse (at the tender age of 32), I went to work at a nursing job that was a bit more sedentary, one where I would not have to do bedside care nursing or any janitorial clean-up work (on the p.m. and night shift, because there was no janitor on duty between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.). I’d hurt myself a couple of times slipping in amniotic fluid and lifting and moving heavy equipment. At my new job I had inmate workers who did patient care and custodial duties; all I had to do was vital signs twice a shift, pass medications, change dressings, and chart. Easy job, and finally a full-time job with great state benefits. Except I got hurt one night, blowing out two discs effectively ending my career in April 1989.

The next several years are a blur, three major spine surgeries, dealing with disability pay and eventually a permanent disability settlement, and three years driving to Seaside on nearly a daily basis to take my daughter to a private school. I did manage to get a job in nursing, sort of, as a worker’s comp case manager, which I did for about 18 months as a part-time worker, perhaps 20 hours a week. The job required lots of driving, something that irritated my back and caused much wasted time, as the bulk of my work was an hour north of where we lived. There was no talk of moving. Our daughter started club swimming after she finished at the private school, so that was a daily trip 80+ miles roundtrip every day after school for three years or so.

I quit the worker’s comp job around the time my father died. All of the driving was not good for my back, so I returned to my mom’s business for a couple of years doing overflow work for her until I decided I had to do something with my life, build on my education and perhaps find something new to do. I started as a full-time student in September 1997 at the same community college I’d earned my nursing degree, attending classes 5 days a week, and transferred to San Jose State in September 1999. I graduated in May 2000, taking 18 units a semester and one winter session in order to get out of college quicker, driving 100+ miles 4 days a week, and maintaining a 3.75 GPA. My degree was in PR, and there was no work in south Monterey County. I needed to move north, but again, not happening. I did get a part-time job editing for a transportation study department associated with the university; the job was do-able by telecommute but they were happier having me onsite. That job started the month I graduated from SJSU.

While I was attending SJSU, my daughter was attending community college. She was desperately unhappy at the local high school where she was getting no assistance for her learning disability and was failing from school. She was much happier being able to take only two or three classes at a time in college, though math remained a problem for her.

Finally in the summer of 2001, I was sick of driving several times a week to San Jose, and my daughter needed to go to school without the distraction of two hours in a car every day. I elected to move north, leaving my home, and I am sure a not real upset husband (other problems in play not worth discussing here). Ever since I moved up here, I have been looking for full-time proper work, and until the economy tanked, I was able to pick up enough work to pay rent and keep a roof over our heads and food in the ‘fridge. I returned to school in December 2003, graduating with a master’s in sport management in May 2005, that degree coming from the University of San Francisco, and again with a stellar GPA.

I apply for jobs at least once a week, and have applied for so many these 11 years I cannot possibly count. I do not get interviews, and the one I did get, I was passed over for a person of the correct ethnicity who could not do the job, but she was Latina, and that is what it was all about. I apply for PR jobs, writing/editing/desktop publishing jobs. Things I can do. I let my RN license lapse last year, I could not afford to pay for required fingerprints or the licensing fee. Yes, all under $200 but I did not have it to spare.

Meanwhile, whenever any freelance opportunity comes my way, I grab it. No job was too small, and I’d even edit grad student papers. But this spring with the budget crisis work came to a screeching halt around June.

Not that 2010 was a great year. I earned less than $20K, supporting myself and my daughter, who was in school full-time and not employed. Her father claimed her as a deduction on his taxes. I haven’t done my taxes in several years because I can’t afford to pay anyone to do them for me.

I have pushed my body to do things it has no business doing, put off dealing with health problems because I cannot afford to go to the doctor even with insurance. I have gone without medication for weeks at a time—and one really should not take chances by not taking medications for asthma and high blood pressure. But I have, and I am about to do it again in a couple of weeks.

This year I will be lucky to earn $12 to 15K. I made it this far with help from my mom and stepdad, something I feel really guilty about. I earned enough to pay rent through July, and that’s about it. There is no work available to me until October at the earliest because of the federal and state budget crises, unless of course I manage to get another job before then. My daughter does not get her first paycheck until early October.

On a regular basis I go without meals. I have not bought clothing for myself, other than redeeming gift cards from my mom, since March 2008. I need new bras. I need new shoes. My cats need vet visits and dental cleanings. My car needs new tires and an oil change, which doesn’t matter, because I am not supposed to be driving a car with a clutch and I know it’s not safe for me to do so. With my daughter finally getting a job, there is hope for paying rent. In the meantime her dad has had to help, as many of the paralegal jobs are in the Bay Area, as are my daughter’s friends and her life—and he doles out the money, enough to pay rent, enough to keep us a month behind on utilities, and a food budget of $100, maybe $200 for two people. My daughter eats elsewhere, and her social life is utterly unaffected. I was able to buy groceries myself until early July.

I am usually hungry, in pain, perpetually looking for work and I have no work ethic (I was given some money to get some groceries, so I bought brain food for my daughter as she's going to be working from home for a couple of weeks). I am not looking for martyrdom, but all of a sudden he’s Mr. Perfect, the victim in all of this? I am sure he’s not missing any meals, gets his prescriptions when he needs them, and enjoys his paid vacations going gambling God-knows-where. He has sacrificed so much to get our kid through school... if he had his way she'd have struggled at Hartnell, dealing with the driving like I did, never finishing a course of study, and probably getting married to some local chump. So much easier.

Karma is a bitch … and I do hope I live long enough that my daughter gets what I have done for her, to ensure her success, to make sure she has a great career and a fulfilling life.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Exercises in Frustration

I really don’t know why I believe any economic news coming out of Washington, D.C. nowadays. All I have to do is look at my situation and I can say with all honestly I am not better off than I was in 2008, and I am probably worse off this year versus last, and last year was a real stinker! I’ve not bought groceries since just before July 4; there is no milk in the ‘fridge, and I’ve not had a loaf of bread in the apartment for three weeks now.

I’m self-employed only because I cannot get employment from someone, anyone, other than contract work. Yes, working from home allows some flexibility but it is so full of uncertainty and frankly, at times it is just not fun working alone! There are times that I wonder if I had known the future—that I would still be under- or unemployed after earning both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree—would I have worked to get those degrees at all?

My answer is still yes—my brain enjoyed the challenges of college and as an older student I was eager to learn and better able to sift through the bullshit that college can be. I enjoyed being a mentor to 20-somethings and being mentored by 20-somethings. I made friends in college who remain friends today. Working with others is what I miss most about this self-employment crap.

I am beginning to wonder though—will I, and the millions of talented under-and unemployed people over 40 who are just waiting for a chance to rock a job going to have to wait until January 2013 for the pendulum to swing back and hopefully change the job hiring climate to looking for experienced and motivated workers, and those job applicants becoming a prized commodity?

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Growing Old is Not for Sissies!

Let me preface this by saying that 54 years of age is not and should not be old!

But in the past several months, I have nagging little health issues that are probably a consequence of my younger days atop a horse. Specifically, I have nasty pain in both hips, pain in my right shoulder (probable rotator cuff) and female problems. Of course my back and knees are ongoing issues but I am pretty used to them.

I have been holding myself together trying to get my daughter “raised.” And she has been getting job interviews and I am hopeful something will come to fruition—and soon. I am so tired of trying to maintain a household on my crappy income—two people living on what really isn’t adequate for one person.

I have a perfectly good house and husband located two hours to the south of where I sit at this moment. Had I not moved up here to at least try to get good work for myself (and I define good work as work with benefits… which I have not gotten anywhere close to in 10 years of trying!) and live closer to several colleges, my daughter might well be married to some local guy, utterly dissatisfied with her life, living in a place with limited opportunities.

If she gets a job, I think it’s just fine if I choose to move back home; the limited work I do can be dome remotely, with maybe a trip to San Jose once a month, if that. I could also start dealing with my health issues, having what little income I can earn go toward co-pays and doctor bills. At any rate, I am hoping my daughter gets a job soon … now if only I could make her understand just how bad my hip pain is, and how it’s turning me into a hermit!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Sleep-Deprivation and the Blessed Pope John Paul II

I do need to get a good night’s sleep in the worst way! For a change it’s not pain keeping me up, but television. First I pulled a nearly all-nighter watching the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton early Friday morning. Just as I caught up with sleep, I remembered that this weekend was to be that of Pope John Paul II’s beatification ceremony, and tripped over a live broadcast.

I have no doubt that John Paul was someone special and utterly worthy of sainthood. Maybe he isn’t as flashy as many of the “older” saints, but in our time, when a miracle has to be something very special to attract the Church’s attention.

John Paul II was so charismatic, something that is impossible to see on television. No doubt that is where most have seen him. I was one of the lucky few to have breathed the same air as he, at Carmel Mission in the fall on 1987. I’d volunteered to provide emergency medical services for media covering the Pope’s visit to the Monterey Peninsula. He presided over mass at Laguna Seca raceway, and following that mass, was headed to the mission for lunch with priests, take a short nap, and then head to his next stop, which I think was San Francisco.

The Monterey Diocese set up big-screen televisions for us to watch the mass, so we could feel closer and also know what was going on. I can’t remember the exact time John Paul II was to arrive at the mission; I believe it was noon or 1 p.m. The media room was at the back of the mission, situated in such a way that we would not be able to see him arrive or depart. Yes, all of us volunteering were disappointed we’d not see him, but there was a kind of peace in knowing we’d served him somehow…
As the day drew to a close, we were told that John Paul wanted to thank the volunteers who were not able to lay eyes on him. A decision was made to have him depart the mission from a different entrance/exit; he would exit into an open area, walk to his limo, and then the limo would drive on a circular path so as many of us could see him as possible.

Watching him walk out was so unreal… John Paul II was still very active and fit, and had some sort of energy around him. I know that sounds stupid, but it was just a feeling I’d not yet ever experienced. I was far enough away I could not see facial expressions; I was standing quite far from the limo. But the Pope had decided he wanted us to be able to see him, and he wanted to thank us. He drove right by me, and though I am sure everyone felt the same, I just know he looked right at me.
There was a grace, a sense of peace and a sense that I was close to someone extraordinary. He did his famous wave, and kept it up until the limo was on the straight driveway and out of our sight.

I know the moment was extraordinary, because to this day, I can close my eyes and recall a 20-second memory clip of John Paul II in the limo, driving in that circular drive, looking at me. I do not have any other memories that play in my mind’s eye that long. Yes, I have flashes of special moments, but Pope John Paul II is a full 20-second memory clip that I can recall by closing my eyes and asking for it. When John Paul II lay mortally ill, I could recall that memory and would pray for him while it was playing. When I heard he’d passed, I was at an Oakland A’s game. There was a moment of silence announced on the loudspeaker, and I closed my eyes and recalled that memory.

Okay, so that might not be a spectacular miracle. To me it is enough to know that John Paul II did and does have God’s ear. Last night I prayed to the newly-Blessed John Paul II and congratulated him and gave thanks for him giving me the opportunity to lay eyes on him. John Paul II is no doubt the only pope I will have seen in person in my lifetime. Sure, I wish I had a photograph of John Paul II during that visit, but I think my 20-second memory clip is far more valuable.

Friday, April 15, 2011

A Cautionary "Old Age" Tale, and Some Advice for New Nurses

I’ve had a bit of a rough day today with pain and all… my back aches, my left hip hurts. I’m getting my neurotomies on Tuesday so the end, for awhile at least, is on the horizon. I need to earn a little more money to see an ortho doc about my hip. I have three projects in various stages of readiness; two have tight deadlines that I won't meet if I can't sit at my desk.

So it’s been one of those days I have been reflecting on how I got here, all beat to shit. There are two reasons why I am such a physical mess today: horses and working as a nurse. One gave me pleasure, the other money and heartache.

I rode daily from fifth grade to my senior year in high school. I rode anything with a mane and tail that I could climb on. Several times that meant I climbed on something a bit rank and paid the price by hitting the pavement. But I wouldn’t change a thing, because horses kept me out of a lot of trouble and you truly do not know companionship with an animal until you have teamed with a horse. I miss contact with horses on a daily basis. I love my cats, I really do, but there is nothing like the challenge of an equine.

The second reason I am paying physically is from working as an RN in a small community hospital that enjoyed being understaffed. I suffered too many back injuries to count, doing work that should have been done by housekeeping or a nurse’s aid. Might I have put up with the pain longer had I been properly “engaged” in the job?

I remember a pair of days when I showed up to work and the other RN was an older woman, older than I am now, who worked v-e-r-y slowly and was usually better at passing medication all day. It was all she could do to keep up with the medication needs of anywhere between 10 and 24 patients. There was everything at that hospital—med/surg, OB & newborns, pediatrics, and a 4-bed ICU/CCU. As I recall there were no critical patients in that room those days. During the day shift an RN would be called upon to stay with a patient in post-anesthesia recovery, which was the ICU. Same location, slightly different duties.

One of us had to be charge nurse. I stepped up, but the director of nurses said “Rose is older than you, so she’s charge nurse.” So I passed pills, took care of a couple of post-op patients, and took care of a woman in labor while Rose sat on her duff and took “reports” from nurses’ aids. I did the work of two RNs that day. I didn’t even have time for lunch. Rose took hers. And both breaks.

The way that hospital was set up, all the meds nurse did was pass pills (scheduled and as needed) and make sure she charted what she had done on the medication record. IF she had time on her hands, she could volunteer to help where needed. Because Rose was so slow, that seldom happened. Because Rose was so slow, if I had a patient who needed a pain med, I’d get the chart, find out what I could give, go to the medication cart where Rose was no doubt hanging around, ask for the narcotic key and medicate the patient myself. Rose usually made patients wait awhile, because she didn’t want to wreck her train of thought.

Fifteen minutes before the shift was to end, there was a medical admission from the clinic next door—I believe the guy was a possible pancreatitis, because the doctor told me the patient was an alcoholic and to give him some Librium STAT to keep him in the bed. Rose should have taken that patient and prepared his nursing assessment, but she said, “I am busy charting and getting ready for report, you do it.” She wouldn’t even take the doctor’s call—I was called to the nurses’ station from another patient’s bedside to take the admission orders! Again, something Rose as charge should have done.

So when I claimed 2 hours of overtime that day the supervisors flipped. (I did not finish my paperwork and the paperwork of the new patient until 5 p.m., shift “over” at 3:30 AND I’d had no lunch break that day, because if I didn’t do it, no one on my shift would have!) I told them Rose had been utterly useless, that I had done the bulk of the work that day (easily verified by looking at the patient charts, I was flying!) and that I would NEVER be put in that situation again. “You either work me as charge, pay me that differential and I’ll run around and do the work while Rose plugs along passing her pills, or you will not expect me to work with Rose as the charge nurse EVER again.”

A month later I looked on the schedule, and lo and behold, there were two RNs scheduled for one anticipated slow day—me and Rose. There was a “C” by Rose’s name, which meant she would be charge nurse. I went to my immediate supervisor (the one who made the schedule) and said, “I told you that I will NOT work in that situation, and if you don’t fix it, I won’t show up. I will NOT do the work of two nurses because one is too slow!”

Their excuse for doing it again: “We want to engage Rose more.”

Mind you, she was retirement age then. I was in my late 20s or so, and had worked as an RN for six years at that hospital. I was the nurse who never refused a shift. I was the nurse physicians inquired about regarding my availability to take care of their laboring women or women who needed elective labor inductions. I was the nurse who would come in for the night shift and stay for the day shift, or work the p.m. shift and stay into the night shift to help.

And which nurse SHOULD they have tried harder to engage?

I did not work that shift. Well, I didn’t work it as it was… I was taken off the schedule for that day, but the place got busy and asked me to come into work, which I ALWAYS did. There was Rose, plugging along with her precious pill cart, where she needed to be. I delivered babies, covered ER, and had a great day with a nurse closer to my age who worked as charge twice a week.

So what is the moral? Don’t kill yourself doing your job, because 20 years later, no one cares. You have to care for yourself, NOW. Be careful, and make smart priorities. You will thank me in the end.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


You never know who you will trip over using Facebook. Today I reconnected with a classmate who I thought “had it all” in high school—ran with the A-group, was popular, and got good grades effortlessly. I’d seen her name in common with other friends I’d reconnected with, but because she was part of that A-list, I figured she would not at all be interested in connecting with me. She was never really nasty toward me; we simply went in different circles. I wanted to be where she was; to the very wise movie “Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion,” sums up high school society and pecking order well: I was not part of the A-crowd, or the B-crowd, or the jocks, or the C-crowd/dorks.

One of my oldest friends was part of this A-list. I’ll call her Lee because her name is very unusual and if she’d ever Google herself, this would pop up! She and I met when we were four years old; we lived about 5 miles out of town within walking distance, perhaps a half-mile from each other. I remember one of our early play dates, playing with Barbie dolls and Breyer model horses. Lee and I took dance class lessons on Saturdays; her mom drove us into town because my mom didn’t drive at the time. A few years later, Lee would walk to my house on Saturday mornings to watch “The Beatles” cartoons, because her television wouldn’t get it. This was in the days before cable, before satellites. Because we lived in a canyon, television reception was limited, and her family didn’t have access to a high enough hill to place an antenna like my father had. Consequently, our television got two stations and hers only one. Take that, kids of today with hundreds of channels!

When Lee missed a month of first grade with a kidney infection, I had to face her scary teacher and get her homework every day on my way to the bus. I was released from my class five minutes early to pick up the homework, and then her mom would come over and pick it up, and give me stuff to take in the next morning. In fourth grade, when I was sick with both kinds of measles and missed the entire month of February, she did the same for me. When each of us finally got horses of our own, we rode all day every weekend, and would jump off the school bus at our respective stops, change into riding clothes, catch our horses and ride until dark.

But around 4th or 5th grade, Lee started hanging out exclusively with a bunch of girls who were simply the “it” crowd—wanna-be cheerleaders, girls who had high fashion clothes, girls who wore hairpieces, girls who were getting attention from the boys that you wanted to get attention from, girls who were getting breasts! We’d ride the school bus into town, and she and I would sit together several stops until one of the A-listers got on the bus. Then I had leprosy and she pretended not to know me at school at all.

And the people she ran with were, in hindsight, bitches. Probably the two worst were Penny and Ann. They started sprouting breasts before junior high. Penny in particular was very pretty, the youngest in her family, the treasure. And she expected to be treated like one. She was always picking verbal altercations with me, saying stuff like “So and so told me you were talking shit about me.” This continued from 4th grade all the way through high school.

Ann also had breasts and a waistline. In seventh grade her mother bought her a fall to wear in her hair. She wore an actual bra with cups. She and I should have been friends because we had the same knee problem—dislocating kneecaps. I remember it happening to her several times in physical education. I felt so bad for her, but she was such a bitch at other times, I stopped trying to be sympathetic or give her comfort when her kneecap dislocated.

There was a Cathy, like me. Her family lived down the street from my aunt, who lived in town. Her younger sister was one of my younger cousin’s best friends. No matter to Cathy, she was dismissive and treated me as a subhuman.

Paula was the daughter of a farmer, so because our fathers ran in the same circles, she was nicer to me. Same with Deanna; she lived on the same street as my aunt. Deanna had an older brother who was pretty cute, with longish blonde hair.

I’d read Deanna’s comments on friends’ Facebook pages. I knew who she was but did not reach out to her. I figured she still had the A-lister attitude toward me, though in adulthood, Stacey was nicer to me—our daughters were close in age—and Lee and I had carpooled our kids to a private school over an hour away for two years. And horrors of horrors, when I married, Ann had the guts to show up to my wedding uninvited. Her brother had been our best man, her parents were of course invited but I purposefully omitted her name on the envelope. At least she was nice to me on my wedding day, and was nice to me when her brother married a year or two later.

I’ve avoided class reunions because until ten years ago I did not think I measured up. I hadn’t finished a 4-year degree, and had kept in touch with few in my graduating class. I hated high school and wanted to distance myself from it.

I connected with Deanna today and learned that they HAD seen me throughout school, or at least she had, and remembered some specific things/incidents we had in common, most notably the recollections of a school play in 6th grade where I played the lead. Yes I was quite the actress.

She remembers me, as I was—a sarcastic, smart gal with strawberry blonde hair who didn’t have a boyfriend because I didn’t play stupid. And she shocked me when she told me she’d been on the periphery of that A-list, and it was only after she’d moved away to college that she realized what having a true friend was, and they apparently weren’t that.

Moral of this story: Isn’t it strange just how erroneous your perception of things can be?

Friday, April 1, 2011

Writing Inspiration

George again. He was a beautiful man. What is sad about this photo is the cigarette he always had in the 1960s—that is what killed him.

I’ve tripped over an excellent writing opportunity today and I need quick inspiration! It’s a pretty heavy-duty bit of writing that must be completed by May 1. So instead of staring at a blank computer screen or blank piece of paper, I decided to try an old technique from fifth grade. That was a long time ago, okay? Like 1966… so their “old stuff” works best for me, from Sgt. Pepper (summer of 1967 between fifth and sixth grade) and before that. The “new” stuff, except for a few songs, usually something by George, just wasn’t as inspirational for whatever reason. Maybe it’s because they weren’t as inspired anymore, at least until 1969’s Abbey Road, which was released when I was in 8th grade. I was old enough to be able to appreciate their music but a few years to fully participate, and by that I mean ever see them live. I have two friends who did just that, and I am so jealous, though it wasn’t about the music, hence the Beatles gave it up in August 1966, when I was still 9 years old.

I used to get much inspiration from listening to the Beatles music. I don’t know why. It clears my mind, points me in the right direction. I sing my heart out to the music and for some reason, what I need comes to me. Perhaps it’s a case of what
George Harrison said about songs—they are out there, you just have to find a way to grab them.

Tonight I found myself listening to their music but taking a conscious effort to hear George’s voice where I knew it should be, as he didn’t sing on every song. He had a distinctive nasally voice that didn’t fit every song. And yes, the inspiration came to me and I know exactly what I am going to write, but I have this overwhelming sadness remembering how I felt in late November 2001 when word got out George wasn’t doing well at all, and was about to lose his battle with cancer. And the day he died I simply could not hear any Beatles music or look at his image. Of course I bought all of the commemorative magazines but I stowed them away. It took me a good two or three years before I could hear a song with his voice somewhere in it and not get teary-eyed. And less than a month later, when my grandmother died of the same thing George did, I was still so empty over losing him that I could not properly mourn her.

Anyway, I write these few words to thank George for sending me inspiration, like he always did. Thank you for leaving the music you left… I have my lead and the angle I am going to take on a difficult bit of writing. You always come through for me.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Lost Music, Sometimes Found

George Harrison and his Turkish Angora cat Corky

It’s an early Sunday morning and I’ve just watched the movie “Now and Then” for the second time this week. For those who may not have seen it, “Now and Then” is the female version of “Stand By Me.” It is set in 1970; the main characters a year-and-a-half to two years younger than I was at the time, but there wasn’t much difference between what they did to keep themselves occupied during the long summer months. I remember the summer of 1970 very well; I’d graduated from 8th grade, and we started the summer in Lodi looking for Nazi gold (seriously! One of my father’s dearest friends from childhood felt there is Nazi gold buried on a property near Lodi, and my dad and uncle gathered the brood and we all watched and waited for a bulldozer to find it—needless to say we didn’t!), and I ended the summer with a bang by starting my period a week before reporting to high school. In between we’d ride horses during the morning and evening hours (sometimes with a transistor radio looped over the saddle horn, though the local AM station really played poppy stuff unless you requested something else), and hang out by my parent’s new pool during the heat of the day. Probably the “worst” thing to happen that summer was coming to the understanding that the Beatles had indeed broken up, the breakup having been announced that spring—and just as I was getting old enough to fully appreciate their music to the point of picking up a guitar and teaching myself to play.

Music used to be a big part of my life. From the 5th through 7th grade I took clarinet lessons in school, so I used to be able to read music. The clarinet doesn’t really have a place in rock music though… I have always loved guitar-driven music with creative vocal harmonies and catchy lyrics—not to the point of being a fan of the really “poppy” stuff, because the guitar licks just were not there. Besides loving the Beatles’ music, I also liked Cream, and the Beatles’ protégées Badfinger, and I especially remember a song called “All Right Now” by a band named Free being all over the place that summer. Notice a trend? They are all British, and all very guitar-driven!

Unfortunately for me, I chose not to have a whole lot of fun in my high school classes. I’d wanted to graduate early, so I took nothing but college prep classes, which left no time for any music classes. I changed that my junior year when I finally had enough and dropped out of Spanish III to take guitar; during my senior half-year I took choir, where my voice was identified as being contralto and when I discovered that when acting I could do nearly anything, including sing, though I did my best singing when stoned on pot. Yep, I was quite the little pothead.

I bought all of the Beatles sheet music and taught myself the rhythm parts (I had two sets of Beatles’ music books—one with rhythm guitar tabs, the second lead, which I never really got good at). I came to appreciate just how hard the guitar is to learn, and I’d chosen to learn to play on a steel-stringed Yamaha acoustic I bought for $75 with my own money. I learned to change strings, to tune by ear, and by the summer of 1972 was comfortable enough to play in front of people, to the point I traveled around Spain for 6 weeks carrying that Yamaha acoustic and jamming at night. I’d never be a George Harrison (though he was my favorite by that time, hence I’ve used this photo of him I recently tripped over—what a beautiful man he was!), but I could play and sing most of the Beatles’ songs, a couple of Badfinger’s songs, and some Neil Young stuff, too.

Every so often I’ll hear songs from the early 1970s and remember that there was good music despite disco being shoved down everyone’s throats by the middle of the decade. I’ll wish I still had that Yamaha acoustic—my stepbrother learned to play on it and I think he sold it, which makes me very sad, that guitar had truly gone to battle! I’ll listen to certain songs that fit my vocal range and sing my heart out. Tonight’s song was from “Now and Then”—Badfinger’s “No Matter What.” That lead to a pair of Badfinger songs: “Baby Blue” and “Day After Day.” And yes, I used to be able to play those songs, and in public, too!

There are times I am tempted to buy another acoustic guitar—I’m betting I still can find my Beatles’ sheet music! I wonder if returning to music might be good for me …

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Jaded? Cynical? I Guess I Am …

Jaded: 1. fatigued by overwork : EXHAUSTED 2: made dull, apathetic, or cynical by experience or by surfeit (jaded network viewers; jaded voters)
Cynical: 1. CAPTIOUS, PEEVISH 2: having or showing the attitude or temper of a cynic: as
a : contemptuously distrustful of human nature and motives (those cynical men who say that democracy cannot be honest and efficient — F. D. Roosevelt)
b : based on or reflecting a belief that human conduct is motivated primarily by self-interest (a cynical ploy to win votes)

How has this bit of self-assessment come about?

While watching coverage of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan over the past couple of days, I could not help but notice the difference in behavior between the Japanese people and how Americans behave in time of disaster. Specifically, thus far I have not seen, heard or read a thing about widespread looting and vandalism anywhere in the affected areas. I vividly remember seeing news videos during Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, including people openly stealing from stores—and not stealing food or other things one needs to live, but stealing televisions, electronics, pretty much anything not tied down. I remember that people affected by Katrina demanded that “the government” do something for them. I remember stories about FEMA queens demanding their government assistance, receiving debit cards intended to provide assistance in acquiring food and lodging, and using those federally-acquired funds to buy flat screen televisions and designer handbags.

I’ve not seen any of that behavior from the Japanese people. From the outside, it looks like many people heeded the tsunami warnings, and though I expect the death toll will be in the thousands, the fact that so many people did survive tells me they did not sit around waiting for the government to “do something” for them, specifically evacuation. No one expected the tsunami wave to reach 6 miles inland.

I am glad there are United States military assets able to help in search, rescue and recovery. That’s one reason to ensure our military is always at the ready for humanitarian missions. I expect the Japanese people will rebuild their nation quickly and efficiently, and find a way to improve things. I also expect that Japan does have the economic backbone to finance rebuilding efforts themselves.

Here comes my jaded, cynical attitude.

Why is it in time of natural disaster it’s expected that the United States pick up the pieces for every damn country that suffers a natural disaster or war? While Japan is indeed a reliable ally today, a little thing called Pearl Harbor and World War II is still an important piece of history and there are still people alive today who vividly remember these events.

It was the United States, or rather U.S. dollars, that rebuilt Japan. Japan’s economy is in much better shape than ours. We have millions of people who are un- or under-employed through no fault of their own, people whose unemployment “benefits” may be long gone or expiring soon. We have American citizens and families going hungry and without creature comforts that many others take for granted. But it’s not glamorous to talk about them, and it’s not glamorous to donate money or goods in our own nation. You don’t see celebrities making appeals for the regular American who may not have endured a natural disaster but who is enduring joblessness through no fault of his or her own.

Charities are of course popping up to help Japan in this time of crisis. However, I’d think that what is really needed are goods and services, provided by human beings, not money. Japan has the money; Japan can pay for those goods and services. American farmers certainly can produce what the Japanese people need, but it’s up to Japan to ask for what they need. A story on CNN revealed that there are food shortages, specifically rice, bottled water, fresh produce and bread. I think the United States produces those things in abundance and I’m sure the U.S. will be happy to provide those goods.

My second question is why the crappy behavior from Americans in time of disaster, a la Katrina or even times of civil unrest—why do Americans find it so easy to commit vandalism and thievery? They aren’t breaking into stores to steal food and water—they are taking physical goods. Those same Americans expect the government to “do something,” to fix whatever they think is wrong or unjust by giving them something. I’m sick of people being so non-self-efficient, and I look at how Japan is coping, and wish that Americans could be more like the Japanese.

I also wish that people residing in the United States, citizens and those here legally—people enjoying economic success and who are in a position to help Americans less fortunate would do so—but I suppose helping American citizens simply isn’t glamorous enough.

Why am I such a Negative Nelly? I really didn’t used to be this way. I want to believe that people are inherently good and honest, but the past ten years have taught me otherwise. Especially since late 2008, times have been very tough for others and myself. It seems that the ability to get good gainful work is a crapshoot and it’s a case of who you know and if you are lucky enough to run in a circle where cronyism is the way of doing things. It doesn’t matter if you are good at what you do, or know you could really rock a job, if given the chance. It hurts like hell to see people less qualified get that great job—and it hurts worse when racism is involved.

I am cynical and distrustful because of the job that community college district did to me. I purposefully grossly underbid my services in the hope—and with the promise from the chancellor herself—that my thoughtfulness and lack of greed would be rewarded by hiring me for the job once the district was able to budget for the full-time position. Once she’d hired someone else for the job, she didn’t even have the decency to speak to me about why I wasn’t awarded the job after doing the job for nearly two years—and doing that job well. Or at least I was told I was doing it well. So much for kindness and trust—where does that get you? Screwed over, I guess.

Same goes for the place I’ve provided editing services to for over ten years—I turn my work over quickly, I have not asked for a pay raise in 6 or 7 years, yet for some reason, I haven’t received any work from them since December. Why? One of my guesses is one of the usual over published, full-of-herself Ph.D.-educated authors doesn’t like for me to edit her work because I catch holes and biases in her research, so she’s made complaints and the new research director found it easier to sell me down the river as opposed to say to this researcher “Well, maybe she is right about errors in your stuff.”

Submitting resumes is an act of futility, but I guess I enjoy self-flagellation?

Being burned as much as I have, it’s pretty hard to see any good anywhere in humanity. Hence, I trust my cats more than pretty much any human right now!

This doesn’t mean I won’t continue to try to deliver a random act of kindness whenever I can—but I will stop believing that I will receive any kindness or consideration from others. Today I let an elderly Japanese woman cut in line ahead of me at Costco. She had an armful of foodstuffs; I had a full cart. Why make her stand behind me, I said to myself, and motioned for her to get in front of me. She said “Really?” and I replied, “Of course, why make you stand there? You go ahead of me!” Once she was done, she turned to me and with a huge smile offered her sincere thanks.

It’s just that easy to melt a jaded cynic’s heart, if only for a few seconds.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Musing on Academic Success and Failures …

Me as a hopeless 17-year old with my friend Marie Sprugasci, who was my maid-of-honor at my wedding. Marie was just so darn spunky! She's now an elementary school teacher. I'm the blonde.

I don’t romanticize my academic career prior to working toward my B.S. and M.A. I seriously hated high school, except for a few teachers and classes. I was not popular, and never really found my niche. Some teachers accused me of being lazy. In hindsight, I probably had a learning disability that affected me ability to grasp the abstract thinking required in algebra. But because I was supposed to be “bright,” any problems I had in algebra were of my doing, out of laziness or spite.

Thing is, I really didn’t have a problem with math until 6th grade. My teacher, a fine instructor named John Andes, took a group of his brighter kids, including me, and wanted to “introduce” us to some higher-thinking math. It had to do with thinking of math systems in different “bases.” The “base” we work in is base 10, in other words, numerals are grouped by tens. That’s really as much as I got out of it. By the time the school year was done, I was hopelessly confused.

Then came junior high, switching teachers and subjects throughout the day for the first time. I found myself in “A” rail everything except for math, which was “C” rail. My math teacher was a man Mr. Yeager. We called him “Bird” because he had severe, sharp features like a bird and wore his hair in a crew cut.

He was the first teacher I had that I hated. I was so confused in his math class, confused to the point that I didn’t even know how to ask questions. I received my first D from him—up until then my lowest grade had been a C in penmanship in 4th grade!

My lot got no better in 8th grade. I was still C rail math because I was too smart for D rail. I was again stuck with Yeager. And again I learned nothing. Adding to my problem was my English teacher, Mrs. Grote. She too looked like a bird, except she was small and skinny, and an even worse teacher than Yeager.

I received my first F from her, in English, a subject I’d always excelled. My mother came in and had conferences with Mrs. Grote and Mr. Yeager. To this day I think the only problem I had in English with Mrs. Grote was I didn’t understand any of the directions she’d given—ever. The math problems were chalked up to laziness. I was getting high marks in social studies, science, and Spanish.

Things did not look much better for me going into high school. Because of my crappy grades in math and English, I was going to be put on the “career” track; in other words, enrolled in office classes in the hopes I could work as a secretary. At the time I had aspirations to be a veternarian, but the high school counselor, Mrs. Olsen, suggested I not think about pursuing that as a career. It was only at the cajoling of my mother that I was put into the “college prep” path, and put into one of the higher-functioing English classes, because by that time it had been determined I was simply bored with whatever it was Mrs. Grote had tried to teach me.

I was lucky that I ended up in the classroom of Dan Hoffman. Sure he frustrated me (Can anyone remember diagramming sentences? I thought “How useless,” but I confess that I use those skills whenever I am editing a poorly-written academic study.), but I learned from that man. I went on to take drama and journalism classes from him, and in a large part, he gave me the confidence and knowledge to craft powerful words.

Of course there is also the bad, and he came in the form of Mr. Quatre. He was the algebra teacher, and because algebra was required for college, I was put into a 2-year Algebra I class—designed to cover the subject a bit slower for students who struggled.

I never made it past the first year of that two-year course. I re-took the class my sophomore year with the same results—Ds and Fs. The only time I got an acceptable grade was the semester we did word problems. To this day I can set up word problems, but the operations just confuse me.

The traumas I endured in algebra stuck with me well into my 40s. I was math-stupid, and pretty much any and all four-year degrees required some sort of math. Even while earning my AA which allowed me to write the RN boards, I avoided taking pre-algebra. In order to graduate, I had to take a basic math test and pass with a 75. I waited until a week before my coursework was done, and passed with a 76.

In my early 20s I again tried algebra at the college level, at a night class. I cannot remember the teacher’s name, but I know I worked my butt off doing homework, which I earned As. However, at testing time, I’d go blank, and was grateful for a C. Going into the final I had a B based on my homework—I didn’t show up for the final, knowing I’d tank. The teacher offered for me to make up the final or accept a C in the class.

I was no dummy—I took the C!

A good 15 years later, I decided I really wanted a 4-year degree. By this time, the math required for a PR major was statistics. The prereq for statistics was intermediate algebra. I was still math-phobic, and spoke to a counselor at Hartnell College (the community college closest to me) who told me they had teacher on staff named Ken Rand who had a way with math-stupid people. I was lucky to be able to get into his class.

I worked harder for those 4 units than I have in any other class before or since—including nursing classes, science classes, and anything at San José State or the University of San Francisco. Mr. Rand gave his students the opportunity to have a signed “contract”—a promise from the student that he/she would ask questions in class, would do all homework, attend all classes, and participate in class. If you did all to his satisfaction, the lowest grade you’d get was a B. But it was no cakewalk. I spend at least two afternoons a week in his office, learning about quadratic equations. I also spend 4 to 6 hours a week in the special math lab Mr. Rand has sent up. He’d also give us a practice exam the night before an exam—and that practice exam consisted of the kind of questions we’d be asked on the real exam.

I earned an A from Mr. Rand. To this day, I give him full credit for my academic success. I was able to take statistics the following semester, and although I liked the class, my math anxiety came back in full force. I’d get As on my homework, earned an A+ on my class project, but when it came to exams, I’d look at the questions and ask “When did I learn this?”

I am done with math, period.

To end this entry, I’ve made a list of my favorite, and least favorite, teachers or professors I have had the pleasure or mispleasure to know.

Elementary School Favorites: Miss Dvorak (2nd grade); Mr. Andes (6th grade)

Least Favorites: Mrs. Bryan (4th grade, she just scared me, she was so strict!); Mrs. Nunley (5th grade, a waste of a year. She was very discouraging toward my creative writing attempts. I had a thing for science fiction…); Mrs. Pitcher (physical education; she did not believe I had knee problems…)

Junior High Favorites: Raymond Miller (social studies, 7th and 8th grade). LOVED his class and his way of engaging students. He’d have a weekly current events “college bowl” quiz and I’d usually end up on the winning team.

Least Favorites: Mr. Yeager (7th and 8th grade math); Mrs. Grote (8th grade English)

High School Favorites: Dan Hoffman (9th grade English, drama 10th through 12th grades, journalism 11th and 12th grade); Larry Sonniksen (Agriculture 9th and 10th grade). Yes I was an aggie, in FFA and all that; Stephen Highfill, 9th and 11th grade Spanish. My Spanish used to be good enough that was a teacher’s assistant for Mr. Highfill in 11th and 12th grades.

Least favorite, and the one who had the most negative effect on my life: Ed Quatre, 9th and 10th grade Algebra I; Mr. Campbell, 10th grade science—KILLED my interest in science until I had to take biology classes for nursing school.

College/University Favorites: Ken Rand, Hartnell College. The MOST influential teacher I have ever had; Dr. Lucindi Mooney, English 1B and Literature. Ultra-picky when grading my writing, which in the long-term has been very helpful to me. Debby Figurski, RN program at Hartnell College; threatened to fail me when I did not thrive in my ICU rotation, she made me get off my butt and want it more. Judy Duffy, RN program. Taught OB nursing, which ended up being my favorite area of practice; Connie Powell, RN program, taught pediatric nursing, which I hated, but she so obviously loved it she could not help make you care more about it.

Chris DiSalvo, San José State University, public relations instructor; Dr. Bill Briggs, SJSU, mass communications instructor. Sad thing about Dr. Briggs is I did not appreciate how brilliant he is until he was no longer my professor. Dr. Dennis Wilcox, SJSU, public relations professor. Dr. Wilcox is another of those brilliant, but I got it too late types… Dr. Kathleen Martinelli, SJSU public relations professor. Just makes it look so easy … Dr. Dan Rascher, University of San Francisco, master’s program sport management—made economics fun. Dr. Maria Veri, USF. Reminded me of the importance of accepting and embracing cultural differences.

Least Favorite:

Ms. Brown, SJSU, marketing professor. I HATED her class, 120 bodies and most were in the class because it was required of their major. I still don’t really get the point of her class—and didn’t until grad school.

A pair of female professors at USF, I have conveniently forgotten their names. One was a marketing teacher who did not understand the NHL or how inept it can be; the second was the sport law professor who was confused by my research paper about civil RICOs and the Alan Eagleson mess with the NHL Player’s Association in the 1970s. My lowest grades in grad school from the two—a pair of B+, messing up my grade point averages. Hags.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

My Last Word (maybe) on the Michael Jackson Stuff

Thanks to my conspiracy theory friends for contributing to this entry. You know who you are!

Let me remind anyone tripping over this that I am not a fan of Michael Jackson, the Jackson 5, or that genre of music. So when I heard that Jackson had died in June 2009, I thought, “How sad for those kids,” but not “Oh my God, the world has lost a living saint!” as it seems so many people think or feel. They argue, “Look at his humanitarian efforts, look at how much money he donated to causes for children! He cared about the earth!”

Well that’s all fine and dandy. No one really knows where Jackson’s heart was on those issues. Was his “famous” generosity actually a way to pay less in taxes? Was it his way of atoning for possible questionable behavior around pre-pubescent boys?

I’ve written it before and I’ll write it again: At worst he was a pedophile, at the minimum he exhibited some confusing behaviors around elementary/junior high-aged boys (never girls). At best he was a very talented entertainer, at worst someone who came along at the right place at the right time and was discovered. What I can write with certainty is he was a human being full of self-loathing because of what his father did to him. And that’s a fact—how many people go through so much effort to distance themselves from their father by subjecting themselves to plastic surgery to look less like him (and ultimately look like an alien, related to no one on earth, except for his sister LaToya)?

My friend Sprocket at her blog Trials and Tribulations attended the hearing for Conrad Murray, the physician responsible for Jackson’s death by abandoning his heavily sedated patient. Her blog entries brought out the best and worst in Jackson fans. I believe it is possible to be a fan and be able to understand that Jackson’s death was utterly avoidable, that Jackson’s behavior in seeking a doctor to put him to sleep using a drug that is NOT approved in any way, shape or form for insomnia, and that he has left a legacy of music that many people love.

Said rabid fans are also convinced that Murray is being undercharged, no matter how concisely it is explained to them that the law, currently as written, does not allow for anything other than involuntary manslaughter at the time of Jackson’s death or today. In other words, if the same thing happened today to a person as famous as Jackson, or a nobody like me, the worst that could be charged is involuntary manslaughter, unless there is malice. (“I want that person dead, so I’m going to do it with propofol.” That’s malice.)

But oh boy, the conspiracy theories surrounding this death are friggin’ hysterical. I refuse to “visit” any links sent to T & T proving those conspiracy theories. AEG did it, Sony did it, I am sure there are more but I refuse to investigate. I think for shits and giggles I will share some of my own, along with theories brought by friends.

1. The “this case is just like a repeat offender drunk driver running over someone and killing them while drunk, hence malice, hence second degree murder” argument. Proof: Conrad Murray delayed calling 911 and then made himself unavailable immediately after Jackson was pronounced dead 'cause he was chemically impaired on whatever.

2. The “This is a federal case and the FBI should be involved ‘cause Murray was on the phone to someone in Texas when Jackson stopped breathing in California” argument. Only problem is Murray wasn’t doing anything illegal by flirting with a girlfriend in Texas, unless he was trying to sell her something stolen or illegal.

3. The “Jackson died of sleep deprivation” argument. So to best buy into that one, you must embrace what you remember (erroneously) of your high school biology and assume that Jackson’s sleep deprivation caused hallucinations. The ensuing stress response caused kidney failure and cardiac stress. The chest pain, renal failure, and hallucinations drove MJ to recklessly climb onto the roof of the rented mansion, seeking relief from insomnia, whereupon he slipped and fell, impaling himself on a large syringe of propofol held innocently by Conrad Murray who was busy making dates. Sadly, AEG had not anticipated this situation, thus no insurance coverage. The beneficiaries of this conspiracy were Tito and LaToya, who placed the banana peel on the roof, in the hopes MJ would just accidentally fall to his death and allow them to take over MJ’s bankrupt empire.

4. (This goes with the above) Jackson was being held by AEG and was tortured and deprived of sleep to get him to comply with showing up to rehearsal. MJ was being a bad boy and not practicing, so they had Dr. Murray take care of the problem.

5. G.W. Bush did it.

6. Dick Cheney did it, and waterboarded poor MJ, too.

7. Bush, Cheney, Obama, bin Laden, Kadaffi, and Kim Jong Il did it. It was the one thing they were able to agree upon.

8. It was Kim Il sung, who ordered the hit from his deathbed. (In 1994.) MJ's music has always threatened stability in that region. Kim Il Sung was a huge MJ opponent, and feared MJ's music would drive the North Korean empire into ruin.

9. PepsiCo did it. They meant for him to burn alive when he had his little "accident" that got him hooked on drugs. They didn't mean for him to live long enough to do that. Joe Jackson told them to do it!

10. There is also a distant association between the Jackson family and JFK’s extended family (former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, married to JFK’s niece Maria Shriver), which had something to do with the conspiracy faking the lunar landing. Jackson knew the lunar landing was fake, and his dance step, the moonwalk, was a secret code in acknowledgment. Both MJ and JFK (both of whom have "J" in their names) are now dead. That is no accident.

11. A pentagram has 5 points—and the Jackson 5 had five members. The “hit” on MJ was ordered by the devil!

12. Conrad Murray was born in Grenada. Grenada contains the letters A, E, and G. Murray was chose for that reason—AEG knew he would comply because they shared letters of the alphabet!

13. The Vatican is involved, too, because the Jackson Family are practicing Jehovah's Witnesses. It had to look like the Muslims or Hindus did it.

14. Paul McCartney ordered the hit, because MJ bought the Beatles’ catalog before Paul was able to buy it for himself.

15. The executors of the will did it so they could play around with all of the recordings Jackson left, so they could have full-time work and get paid lots of money by Jackson’s estate.

I am a firm believer in Occam’s Razor, that the simplest theory that fits the facts of a problem is the one that should be selected. The more people involved in a conspiracy makes it more likely that conspiracy will be uncovered. Over 2 ½ years after his death, no one has stepped forward (other than conspiracy theorists) to say there was indeed a conspiracy to kill MJ. No one has been able to prove how the main so-called conspiracists, Sony and AEG entertainment, were going to benefit from a dead Michael Jackson. There is not enough insurance in the world to make it profitable to have a corpse on their hands, allowing them to collect the insurance funds.

I also believe that the LA County DA performed an extensive investigation and would have upped the charges had they been able to find a reliable witness who could say Murray showed malice toward Jackson. Truth is, Jackson himself hired Murray, and demanded AEG hire/pay him to be Jackson’s personal physician. MJ did not need a cardiologist, he needed multiple specialists, doctors who would have said “no” to his request for propofol and benzos. While Murray is responsible for abandoning a patient receiving unacceptable medical care, MJ is the one who picked that incompetent physician.

If Jackson fans want to pursue any of their conspiracy theories, I suggest they form a group, collect the funds, and hire a private investigator or ten. Build an unshakable case. Look at both sides, pro and con. Make sure your evidence is valid and admissible in court. Only then do you take your unshakable case to the DA. They will appreciate all of the work you have done."

Or let LaToya and and the rest of the Jacksons pay for it. Just don't spend a dime of taxpayers' dollars on investigating something that has already been investigated and is going through the courts in proper fashion.

A heads-up to would-be negative commenters: Don't bother to send me links proving the various conspiracy theories. I will not approve the comment nor will I check out the link. However, I will approve people who see this post for the tongue-in-cheek entry it is, and want to add their own conspiracy theories to the lunacy. This is MY blog and there is no freedom of speech unless I like it!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Happier Things

I have not written much about my first love, horses. It’s about time I do.
I was always a horsey kid. I cannot remember a time when I didn’t love them. My mom has a photo of me, perhaps at the age of 12 to 18 months, sitting atop a neighbor’s horse (the horse’s name was Sammy), holding onto the saddle horn. I have no memory of that photo.
One of my earliest memories, perhaps at the age of three, is that of me feeding a horse from our backyard in Eureka. In hindsight, that horse might actually have been a mule, but that’s of no matter. I remember waiting for that equine’s daily visits.
My first horse was a pony named Dynamite. My non-horsey dad brought him home one day while I was at dance class. I vividly remember being dropped off by the neighbor, whose daughter was my age and at that time my BFF. The gray pony was tied to the swing set in the front yard. I think my dad was busy building his pen.
Years later I learned that the pony was a stallion and probably only half-broke. My dad borrowed a saddle from one of his cousins, and the bit we used on him was a ring snaffle with no stopping power. My riding lessons consisted of being put on Dynamite’s back, and being told to kick and cluck. I am sure that he ran off with me too many times to count, straight up the hill behind our house, toward the low oak trees that grew on the property surrounding the house. I remember one time that Dynamite had done just that, and my dad was not going to climb that hill and rescue me. I was crying, kicking that little devil, trying to pull him around and point him down the hill.
There was also the time Dynamite cornered me and bit me on the shoulder, managing to get his mouth and teeth all the way around my scrawny left shoulder. Again my dad rescued me—that pony was like a pit bull, with his laws firmly locked and me screaming hysterically.
That pony was gone by the time I started kindergarten. I bought my first real horse when I was in 5th grade, with my own money earned from babysitting and working in the fields. From that time, until 1997 or so, I was owned by at least one horse.
Here I am 50 years later, horseless. So I try to live vicariously by looking at horses from afar, wishing I had a place to keep a horse, brave enough to defy my doctor who told me that horseback riding was not a good thing for a fused back.
So for today, I am sharing two images of horses that have touched me and made me miss my horses all the more. One of the photos, that of the dark bay horse, is Zenyatta, 2010’s Horse of the Year, and one of the best thoroughbred mares to grace the track. She’s only the second racehorse I have been attached to, the first being the immortal Ruffian.
We know how that ended. Zenyatta’s story is much happier—she’s recently retired and waiting to go into heat, when she will be bred for her first foal. Z’s handlers have a website for her, with a daily blog entry. It’s so sweet that her people love her so much, that she is more than a machine. Z herself has obvious personality, and I am excited to meet her first not-yet-conceived baby.
The other two photos are of a paint mare that recently went through an auction ring in New Jersey. I do not know her name. With the economy in its present slump, many well-loved horses find themselves at auction, with no buyers, and no hay at home to feed that horse anymore. This mare, said to be a family horse, lived that nightmare on Wednesday night. She ended up in a feedlot pen, that is, she was headed to slaughter in Canada. Of all the horses that ended up in pen #10, she is the first one I would have taken home.
She had until today (Saturday) to find a home, or there was a very good chance she would be headed to Canada. Last night I learned she was still there, and I just sat here by myself and cried. Not only am I on the other side of the country, I had no money to buy her or even call the sales barn and offer to pay for her food for a week, just to buy her more time.
This morning I learned that pretty paint mare been purchased and would be rescued from pen #10. It was a nice way to start my Saturday.
Even though it makes me sad, I think I will take the time to write about my horses. Now if I can find photos …

Friday, February 4, 2011

Observations on the Craziness that are Michael Jackson Fans ...

I certainly have been neglectful in writing for fun, haven’t I? It’s certainly not due to being too busy with work, but that’s a rant for another day.

I’m still crime/trial watching, but not as much as I would like, because my daughter thinks I am a doddering nutcase when I do so. However, how can anyone who grew up in the 1970s miss what is going on with the manslaughter trial of Conrad Murray, the physician who was Michael Jackson’s “personal physician,” a man about to be convicted of involuntary manslaughter for gross negligence in Jackson’s death in June 2009.

To me it’s a cut-and-dried case, and I won’t write about that in more depth at this time. What I will write about is how the crazies come out whenever Jackson is mentioned.

My friend Betsy, who not only enjoys reading and writing about crime, lives close enough to the courthouse in Los Angeles to attend trials that pique her interest. She’s worked very hard to be a professional when writing about crimes, and because of her professionalism in blogging about other trials (most noteworthy most of Spector I and every day of Spector II), has earned the respect of the courthouse’s public information officer, and is now considered a member of the media—and that’s a big deal.

Last month she braved LA County public transit and attended the aforementioned Dr. Murray, knowing she would likely “watch” the proceedings from a media overflow room. Working against uncomfortable chairs, less-then-perfect visuals and challenging audio, she took notes during prosecution witness testimony, and posted to her website, Trials and Tribulations.

That’s when the lunatics came out in force. Said lunatics are fans of Michael Jackson who honestly believe a saint was murdered and that Jackson was the victim of a widespread plot.

Hey kooks, here’s the truth: your hero, who was most likely a child molester at worst, someone who no doubt crossed the line with inappropriate behavior with children, a man who bought his three children, a man who hated himself so much he endured who-knows-how-many plastic surgeries, died because he wanted to dictate his own medical care. After he found a doctor who would do what he wanted, he hired the man, a cardiologist by trade, Jackson told the doctor what he wanted and got it. Jackson could have, should have, bought the very best multidisciplinary health care for himself—sleep specialists, pain control specialists, addiction specialists—any of which could have made a difference and helped him sleep at night.

Jackson made a poor choice of doctors. He did not need a cardiologist—he needed sleep. And being knocked out with whatever general anesthesia agent one desires is not a treatment for insomnia. Period. Plain and simple, Jackson must have liked the feeling of being woozy—isn’t that what addicts do? I watch enough Intervention to see common threads, regardless of what the chemical of abuse is, addicts love the effects, be it feeling down and drooly or wired and paranoid. So what if narcotics were not found in Jackson’s blood after his death—there are plenty of ways to get that floaty feeling, and benzodiazepines fit the bill nicely. I am sure that Jackson’s postmortem hair sample is chock full of interesting information.

It’s been quite amusing reading some of the comments Betsy’s gotten from readers from all over the world. Some are pretty rational, but many are rants about how she should make the district attorney’s office charge Murray with first-degree murder and give him the death penalty immediately. Others are certain Murray is a scapegoat for a larger conspiracy, that AEG wanted Jackson dead and because AEG does business in LA County, the DA’s office won’t really properly investigate and find the masterminds of this “horrific” crime.

Recall that Jackson’s child molestation trial was heavily populated by fans that dressed like Jackson, wore t-shirts with Jackson’s image, and waited outside just to have a glimpse of their hero. There is no doubt that Murray’s trial will bring out the same kind of kooks.

So I guess this is my rhetorical question for today: what is so lacking in those people’s lives to defend a very flawed human being years after his death? Whenever anyone says or writes anything they believe is unflattering to Jackson, they become unhinged and accuse the writer of bias, prejudice, being a “hater,” jealous of Michael’s God-given talent—on and on. What makes a person be a fan of something to the point of blindness? I truly loved the Beatles, but I understood from a young age each was an individual, each flawed, and perhaps John, Paul and George worthy of my admiration for their musicianship and ability to write memorable music.

I don’t immerse myself in all things Beatles. I don’t spend money on memorabilia. I have a hard time understanding how anyone could worship anything or anyone like Jackson fans worship him? Why waste so much effort on someone who simply made music? And why make other people miserable with rantings, ravings and unkindnesses—especially toward those who do not fall in line with their thinking?

I’ll be researching and writing an article for T & T about the psychology of conspiracy theories. Perhaps I should also research why some people become so fanatical about someone (usually a celebrity), to the point of being blind and oblivious about that person’s faults. There is only one perfect thing in our universe, and we’d be better served being fanatical about Him.

P.S. Can you tell I am not a fan of Michael Jackson? Never was, never will be.

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