Category: Life Lessons


Messaging

Guardian Writers Ed Pilkington and Tom McCarthy wrote a stunning byline.

“When the definitive history of the coronavirus pandemic is written, the date January 20, 2020, is certain to feature prominently. It was on that day that a 35-year-old man in Washington state, recently returned from visiting family in Wuhan in China, became the first person in the U.S. to be diagnosed with the virus.

On the very same day, 5,000 miles away in Asia, the first confirmed case of Covid-19 was reported in South Korea. The confluence was striking, but there the similarities ended.

In the two months since that fateful day, the responses to Coronavirus displayed by the U.S. and South Korea have been polar opposites.”

In the months since, U.S. leadership dithered, procrastinated, became mired in chaos and confusion, got distracted by the individual whims of its egotistical leader, and now faces a health emergency of daunting proportions.

Let’s face it, Coronavirus messaging has sucked. On one hand, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (N.Y.) extended the order for non-essential workers to stay home until April 15. One the other, Lt. Governor Patrick (TX) urged a return to work, saying the vulnerable should sacrifice themselves for the greater good. 

In the political world, messaging either looks good or bad. In the real world, messaging is hollow. Until a few hours ago, I didn’t understand how consequential America’s lack of preparation.

I reside in a heavily impacted State. The lake looks peaceful from here. Eerily calm. Inviting. Save for a hearty lone soul; everyone’s disappeared, including Sunday afternoon joggers, walkers, hikers, and lovers. For the residents of my building, messaging meant little. Going to the store, I noticed how empty our underground parking was. Empty parking stalls meant an empty building. Everyone left, probably wishing to spend time with those closest.

Disasters do not respect messaging. Coronavirus has no respect for messaging. Neither does it distinguish victims by age. The economy will return, but a person who dies stays dead. I’m reasonably positive Chef Floyd Cardoz (59) would not appreciate Lt. Gov. Patrick’s message. Neither would CBS Journalist Maria Mercader (54), nor singer Joe Diffie. Likewise, I presume Jeffries Group CFO Peregrine “Peg” Broadbent (56) would have loved a few more years just like the Illinois infant (under a year old).

A March 29 tweet from Trump was different but claimed a similar, yet subtle message.

Because the “Ratings” of my News Conferences etc. are so high, “Bachelor finale, Monday Night Football type numbers” according to the @nytimes, the Lamestream Media is going CRAZY. “Trump is reaching too many people, we must stop him.” said one lunatic. See you at 5:00 P.M.!

If any of you have read my blog posts, I often claim to remind myself of Rabbi Brad Hirschfield’s comments from “Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero:”

“You want plan? Then tell me about plan. But if you’re going to tell me about how the plan saved you, you better also be able to explain how the plan killed them. And the test of that has nothing to do with saying it in your synagogue or your church. The test of that has to do with going and saying it to the person who just buried someone and look in their eyes and tell them God’s plan was to blow your loved one apart. Look at them and tell them that God’s plan was that their children should go to bed every night for the rest of their lives without a parent. And if you can say that, well, at least you’re honest. I don’t worship the same God, but that at least has integrity.

It’s just it’s too easy. That’s my problem with the answer. Not that I think they’re being inauthentic when people say it or being dishonest, it’s just too damn easy. It’s easy because it gets God off the hook. And it’s easy because it gets their religious beliefs off the hook. And right now, everything is on the hook.”

Truthfully, part of me wishes that either Trump or Lt. Governor Patrick (TX) would give their ‘message’ to any family having lost a loved to the Coronavirus. I wish Patrick would explain, face-to-face, how that family should be proud that their loved one took it for the team. In the words of Hirschfield, “At least that would be honest.”

On March 27, Dan Patrick published the following tweet. 

“If you encounter any type of fraud or price gouging, you can contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at (866) 720-5721 or by email at disaster@leo.gov. You can also contact the @TXAG’s Office here: https://bit.ly/2WMxgA0.”

I called and reported Lt. Governor Dan Patrick was fraudulently posing as a caring politician. “Yeah,” the respondent stated. “You’re not the first.”

In the aftermath of Hurrican Harvey, I was in southern Texas. I worked for several weeks. I will say that when people came to get a hot meal, they’re hungry. They weren’t looking for prayer. Simply giving them a bottle of water and asking them how they are doing provides them an opportunity to talk. And before you know it, you’re hugging people, giving support, and offering something more durable than a blessing.

“Fuck off” is not a spiritual message.

Truer North

In his book The Heart Aroused, David Whyte quotes a poem written by a woman at AT&T:

Ten years ago

I turned my head for only a moment

And it became my life

In the pillar of crisis, either prior to or just after, every person decides to explore its meaning, and their own meaning. It’s a moment when we turn our head away from the accepted ways of doing things and consider potential changes.

Stephen Covey captured similar themes. “If the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster.” Covey discovered that the lives of many successful people were a mess. Having the choice to live again, Covey wrote, many would choose a very different path.

The Coronavirus reminds us to reflect. Often. Things change rapidly in our warp-speed world. We seemingly drift from one place in our life into areas we never to have consciously chosen. I chose many things in life many would have been shocked. At times, I’ve wandered both the gutters of life and over mountain pinnacles. Yet in truth, I remember more gutters than pinnacles.

Effort and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.

Without constant reflection, we never discover our ladder leans upon the wrong wall. During this mandated time away from work, repurpose your vision. Understand your destination. Ensure your path is toward a ‘truer north.’

Poor Me

In the backdrop of US Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams’ “somber” message “I want America to understand — this week, it’s going to get bad,” Trump tweeted:

“I watch and listen to the Fake News, CNN, MSDNC, ABC, NBC, CBS, some of FOX (desperately & foolishly pleading to be politically correct), the [New York Times], & the [Washington Post], and all I see is hatred of me at any cost. Don’t they understand that they are destroying themselves?

In a heightened level of anxiety and fear, throughout history, our leaders have risen to the moments before them. Trump? Not so much. His tweet claims, “Poor me.”

As the White House plays catch-up, a deadlocked Congress struggles to cope with the pandemic’s, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) got infected and decided to share it by attending the Senate Republican lunch meeting and swimming in the Senate gym’s pool. Remember folks, Sen. Paul is a physician.

These days, leadership comes not from the White House, but Governors. Almost to a person (Florida Governor excluded), there has been deliberate and pragmatic action. Each has come to the right place in history … where truth is the best weapon. 

The Italian general Giuseppe Garibaldi told his men: “I do not promise you ease. I do not promise you comfort. But I do promise you these hardships: weariness and suffering. And with them, I promise you victory.”

Though the roads may be empty, we are not alone. 

Part of me wishes Cuomo were our President. Not because he’s a Democrat, but rather because he chooses accountability. “I don’t take responsibility at all,” Trump said several days ago. Cuomo welcomes accountability. “If someone wants to blame someone, blame me. There is no one else responsible for this decision.”

Democratic strategist Lis Smith nailed it. “The daily press briefings out of Washington and Albany over the last week have provided a split-screen in leadership. Whereas Governor Cuomo has been ruthlessly direct, faithful to the facts, and in command at all times, the President has lashed out at the media, sowed confusion, and shirked responsibility at every turn.”

Nearly every spiritual doctrine claims. “Do no harm.” Mr. President, people are dying. America is starving for leadership. Yet, all we get is confusion. Unfaithfulness to facts and ruthless. “Poor me.”

No, Mr. President. “Poor us.”

As many noticed, I’ve been off the blog for six days. None of that was intentional. I’ve been working 12-hour days on a Coronavirus task force (team) for a large hospital. Having pandemic planning experience, executive management thought I would be a fantastic addition.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy what I do. I love working in the healthcare field, mainly the technology arena. So, working under tight restraints, compressed timelines, and a lot of moving pieces, you have to be able to deliver. 

The first day was not an overt shocker – I’ve seen it before. It’s often repeated. However, if you want to understand why the Trump Administration and others are so whacked out, read my first ten minutes of being on my company’s Coronavirus Task Force.

“Hey, welcome to the team. Your experience will be invaluable.”

“Great. Glad to join the team. So, what’s the plan?”

“The plan?” he quizzically asked.

“Well yeah. The plan?” I affirmed.

“You mean the Pandemic Plan?”

“Yes. The Pandemic Plan and our next steps,” as I sat.

“Sure. Carol? Please forward a copy of the quote, plan, end quote.”

Flipping through the first ten pages, I looked up. “Ah. This is a blank Pandemic Plan downloaded from the Internet.”

“Yup.”

“You’re saying there is no plan?”

“Yup.”

“We have operations in three-quarters of the US states, and we have no Pandemic Plan?”

“Yup. Management mothballed it in 2016, only to dust it off for Coronavirus.”

Idiots are leading idiots, including the President’s claim that hundreds of thousands will get better by going to work; that the virus would magically disappear; that anyone who wants a test can get one; that the flu is worse; a vaccine is just around the corner; and that we are the most prepared country in the world.

Jesus Christ, either 200,000 plus Americans or the Coronavirus will disappear. Someone pass me a Corona.

In the constant battle to stay abreast of the epidemic, I still have to care for aging parents. I also have to care for my employees, ensure medical supplies get shipped to healthcare facilities across the country, beg the government for testing kits, and have to care for myself: the post-tumor treatment with a side order of Parkinson’s. If this seems like a tall order, it is. But it’s no different than any other person.

Each of us has challenges, trials, tribulations, joy, and peace. Congressional physician, Dr. Brian Monahan, stated the virus would hit 70 – 150 million Americans – roughly half the U.S. population. Therein lay a vital lesson: Coronavirus lessens for no man. Every hour at my desk, I become more convinced that my parents will die from it. And at 60 years old, having underlying health issues myself, I am likely to be a graph plotline on some statistician’s graph. I accept I will succumb. It’s not if, but rather, when.

If statistics prove true, 3.6% of the infected from Coronavirus will perish. While that average is breathtaking, a particularly brutal, yet often undisclosed, statistics indicate 8% over age 60 who get infected will die. In the U.S. alone, the median elderly population above sixty nears 60 million. if true, 2,000,000 older Americans are likely to perish. When thinking of Coronavirus under those terms, Parkinson’s means little. Aches, pains, tremors, and lack of sleep loses perspective. My goal, if there is one, is to try and help as many as possible.

Tossing aside the notion that Democrats went to Wuhan, China, and started the epidemic, President Trump put on a serious face and addressed the nation. He didn’t discuss the lack of testing available for healthcare clinicians. He didn’t explain his repulsion for medical experts. Neither did he consider informing us why his administration cut the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) funding nor his bumbling response to the disease’s spread.

In a time of crisis, when Americans required a president, Trump’s dystopian viewpoint was clear: “Sucks to be you.” 

As the rhythms of life close, he offered no guidance, no policy, no answers. The Trump team seems best suited to answer one question: How can I make this pandemic worse? In his speech, Trump pleaded for an end to finger-pointing, only later to say this was a foreign disease. Just two days prior, Trump retweeted a quote from conservative activist Charlie Kirk. Kirk, who is the founder and president of the conservative student group Turning Point USA, tweeted that the U.S. needs a wall on its southern border to protect the country from Coronavirus.

As we enter the weekend, American’s witnessed the NCAA canceled basketball tournaments; the stock market plunged; an outcry was heard from Europe; Broadway was silenced; the hiatus of the NBA, MLB, NHL followed by a shitload of school closings. 

As most Americans work, personal issues take a backseat. We march on. We always do. For me, my focus remains attuned to the needs of healthcare facilities across the country. How can I serve? How can I make someone’s day a little better?

Why goes back to China – not to the days of Kung Fu, where Shaolin Priests walked in harmony with nature. Instead, go to Wuhan. If you do, you’ll find my reason. Death.

The reason Wuhan, China, experienced so much death was for lack of resources. There were only 110 critical care beds in the three designated hospitals. In Italy, the Coronavirus overwhelmed the country’s health system, particularly in the north. More than 80 percent of the hospital beds in Lombardy, the hardest-hit province, is being occupied by Coronavirus patients. 

The U.S. is likely to experience the same fate. In the U.S., our entire medical system has approximately 200,000 hospital beds. Much of our U.S. healthcare system is pretty streamlined. So, an excessive increase in patients will rapidly strain resources. It’s estimated that we have about 100,000 intensive care unit beds in the United States. In a moderate outbreak, about 200,000 Americans would need one. If the Coronavirus closely followed the Spanish flu outbreak (1918), we would need more than 740,000 ventilators. We have roughly 62,000 full-featured ventilators on hand. 

Trump is right. “Sucks to be us.”

Just prior to summer, my intern informed me he had received an opportunity to interview at Google. Asking for my advice, I told him to, “Go for it.” We went through pro’s and con’s, the fact he may have to ditch his girlfriend should she not find Seattle appealing, and whether he liked Seattle’s Best or Starbucks. (Seems like one on every corner). Inquiring of how to prepare, I told him, “Drink four of your favorite beers in 30 minutes and watch Fantasia backward.” In all seriousness, “There are lots of websites with tons of sample questions out there. Maybe they’ll ask how you would decipher a provider’s ‘Explanation of Benefits (EOB).

An EOB is a health insurance provider statement describing the costs it will cover for the medical care you’ve received. In reality, it’s a ‘swindle sheet.’ I received my EOB (or lack thereof) for February’s tumor surgery this past Saturday. I envision the EOB creator found the most niche way of paraphrasing just how beautiful one’s benefits are while simultaneously informing how much is not covered.

“Greetings, Member. Had you had no insurance, the original cost of this surgery would be over $5 grand. However, since you chose a physician and surgical center under contract, and the fact you chose to check yourself out versus staying overnight, we’ll knock off $2 grand. 

Costs were calculated based upon the full moon cycle during the week your surgery was performed, the associated gravitational pull, multiplied by the total square miles of depleted water in the California basin, then divided by the remaining number of brine shrimp in the artic. In summary, we’re covering half. Therefore, your estimated costs are $1,500.

Thank you for allowing us to be of service. Remember, we believe you’re special, but so are we.”

The exact cost was $1,540, for there was a forty-dollar copay.

The American Bar Association claims healthcare is a human right. Understanding the EOB is not. Having worked in healthcare since 2006, there’s no rhyme or reason for the EOB. The average ‘Joe‘ can’t make sense out of it. The facility would better serve by saying we’re ‘f•••ing you’ for half the bill. ‘Being F’d‘ is something the average ‘Joe‘ understands. Just once I would love a Trump supporter to hand Trump an EOB and ask him to explain it. But here’s the catch, Trump has promised that repeal will end with “a beautiful picture” – a beauty that ends upon receiving the EOB.

Here’s what I wish the hospital said:

“We’re sinking our tentacles into your a••, and we’re going to drain your bank account of every possible dime. And, if that isn’t enough, we’re going to drain the gas from the car used to drive here. We understand you’ll have to push the vehicle upon departure. However, on the positive side, your physical therapy gets off to a great start.”

Next time you receive an EOB, remember that top administrators at U.S. hospitals are paid exceptionally well. CEOs make $400,000 to $500,000 a year, not including benefits (such as stock options). Administrative expenses eat up as much as 25 percent of total hospital expenses we pay (much higher than in other countries). For all the chatter and talk about free healthcare, no single candidate has explained how they will prevent the average ‘Joe‘ from getting tentacled up the a••. Neither GOP, Democrat, Socialist, nor Independent has been able to state how they would turn the good ship ‘Healthcare‘ around.

I’m fortunate. I can pay the bill. Millions can’t. And spiritually speaking, I believe in healthcare reform, but we need a robust framework, not a ninety-second campaign pitch. The average ‘Joe’s‘ of the world demands it.

About That Ex

Lindsay Crouse Op-Ed stirred memories. Her article, My Ex-Boyfriend’s New Girlfriend Is Lady Gaga, was intriguing and probably brought tons of memories for many a reader. She recounted the sequence where she saw her boyfriend with Lady Gaga while watching the Superbowl, eloquently noting “Gaga was ‘wearing 2020’s hottest new accessory: a normal boyfriend.’”

Normal? What’s normal?

I admit, one of my exes is not a famous singer, sports personality or politician. However, the ex that makes me relate is a well known, highly visible, often seen member of the pro-life community. Thinking again, maybe she’s political. 

I don’t classify the relationship boyfriend-girlfriend. We were only together for eight weeks. It was passionate. No. It was hugely passionate. It was the type of passion where electrical sparks flew upon meeting. When locking eyes, it was like ‘holy s•••.’

Like Ms. Crouse’s relationship, mine faded, with each pursuing other opportunities. Outside of this blog, I no longer have a social presence, and only three people knew of our relationship. I know my ex has a boyfriend. She’s had that same boyfriend for years and might be married. Therefore, no one texts saying, “Have you seen the new boyfriend?”

Occasionally I see my ex on the news. When I do, I marvel. She’s amazing. However, comparing any current relationship against her might seem motivational, it means little. Our relationship was ten years ago. Now that I have Parkinson’s and maybe only a few years left, she might be better off. I am not a Harvard finance guru, don’t have a law degree, haven’t saved an endangered species, cured cancer, nor flown in space. I am average. I work and blog.

Hanna Gold summarized Crouse’s thoughts. I couldn’t say it better.

“If your ex starts dating Lady Gaga, he is far gone, buh-bye, see ya, so long — your ex belongs to Lady Gaga now and follows her from Lake Como to Dubai. Which also means he will never be at the same party as you again. Nobody you know is personally acquainted with his girlfriend. Sometimes you nostalgically skim a People magazine in the checkout line; it’s no different than if he had moved to Montana and started a blog. He shall suffer the ignominy of being compared to Bradley Cooper in a cowboy hat for all his days.”

Come to think of it, I am not Bradley Cooper, but I own a cowboy hat. Hmm. I wonder if my exes’ studmuffin knows? Ah, probably not. Regardless, when you see your ex on television, wish her/him the best, and be glad you’re not in the view.

Because It’s Wednesday

Understanding ‘down days’ has been easy. I ignored them. For the past five or six years, I never understood why I felt great one day while stuck in second the next. Since doctors readily dismissed my symptoms, the only avenue left was ‘out of sight, out of mind.’

Yeah. I get it. The approach wasn’t the best plausible approach, but it was the most effective.

How do you feel today?”
I am feeling slower,” I’d respond.
Any idea why?
Hell, I don’t know. It’s Wednesday.

I’ve written about this before: For close to a decade, pain has been a companion. Legs were stiff as far back as 2010; neck stiffness graced my presence in 2014; neck and shoulder pain announced itself in 2016; and arm spasticity followed in 2019, with on and off twinges of the foot, hand and finger issues. During such times, mental fortitude and daily, a multi-daily dose of pain medications were downed like M&M peanuts in a snack bowl.

As the years drifted by, and while doctors could detect the problem, fortitude and drugs allowed to forget. With them, I was equal. No one knew.

A year ago, I was informed that only two good years remained. “Prognosis is poor,” the report stated. Post-surgery, I thought the surgeon might have bought additional time. Last Friday’s Parkinson’s diagnosis was a shot across the bow, a reminder to accept the frailty, the beauty, and the levity of life.

The tumor was my blessing. Maybe via that and Parkinson’s, I can relearn the opportunities of profound growth and how to access gifts untapped. Maybe in the next year, I get more family photographs, visit Zion and Bryce Canyon, and walk along the Snake River Canyon.

I know there will be some dark days, some scary twists and turns. And I will find comfort in the kindness of others. They will be my angels along the highway – never forgotten. God and Ms. K. will provide strength and support from which I always drew.
Lastly, there’s my internal staff: Fortitude. Always had it, always will.

In whatever you do, I wish everyone health and an appreciation for all that life offers.

If that doesn’t work, blame it on Wednesday.

Negativity

Cosmic Traveler Blog posted a quick read regarding Negativity. I loved it. Her key takeaway is:

“It’s of recent weeks that I’ve experienced some of the most negative and destructive people that I’ve had the misfortune to come across in a very long time.. Of course I’m talking of social media (not here) social media with all its good and bad..its been in the news recently for all the bad and for very good reasons, SO how do you deal with all this negativity.. step AWAY..far AWAY from people like that, take NOTHING they say to heart, hope that one day THEY find the peace THEY seek.”

Stop by her blog and take a look.

UB

 

Parkinson’s. … Parkinson’s. Another crossroad of life – my life. Four days post-Parkinson’s, I remain quiet. Not a word. Not a soul. And unlike my tumor, to which I told only a selected few, nothing.
Like my tumor, I don’t want Parkinson’s to by my identity. I know it will (eventually), but not now. Not yet. I can’t handle this being the forefront of life. Just can’t.
I don’t want to be dependent. In Tuesdays with Morrie, author Mitch Albom noted the loss of control that leads people to rely upon others unconditionally. For me, Parkinson’s represents a loss of self. Maybe it’s the fact someone gets to wipe your a••. Not sure if that’s good or bad.

Albom’s work was about his conversations with a former professor, Morris “Morrie” S. Schwartz. One night, Schwartz was talking to Nightline host Ted Koppel.

“Well, Ted, one day soon, someone’s gonna have to wipe my ass. It’s the ultimate sign of dependency. Someone wiping your bottom. But I’m working on it.”

In my way, Parkinson’s scares me more than my tumor. Depending upon the story, Parkinson’s is slow. And while cancer can be as well, the thought of losing my mind, my thoughts, my most inner secret is worrisome.

The good news is that I know I will die. I have too much negativity in this old body to make it too much farther down the road—arthritis, Cervical Stenosis, a tumor, and now Parkinson’s. But dying is more than negativity; it’s about the positivity that I understand my death, and that to live better despite it.

A significant part of me is not to whither against the hard rain darting past my hat. I aim not to disappear. The key for me is the daily query of one repetitive question, “How do I make the best of it?” I believe in the life hereafter. I believe Ms. K., will meet me. I believe in a spiritual force. I believe in God. I believe in love.

And that’s where I want to live. And that’s why I will probably say zilch until I absolutely must. I prefer to live in the center of those items just listed then in Parkinson’s. I should have done that all along.

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