Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Wednesday at the Wellfleet Library

A few days before leaving for the Cape I was in Goodwill browsing the books and I came upon a copy of That Quail, Robert-- a 1962 edition. I'd never heard of the book before, but the title caught my eye-- turns out it was written by a woman who lived in Orleans, MA all her life; one of her good friends lived in other words, a Cape Cod book. Very charming.

The rental cottage:

twenty cups and dinner plates

but only four forks.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

I haven't forgotten

Yes, I still care about my blog and my readers, but since I've gotten out of the hospital I've been so far behind in everything else-- my job, Arise, and my personal responsibilities-- that I haven't been able to build up the momentum to post. Now I am off on vacation, and what with arranging house sitting, cat care, etc., I'll be lucky to leave the house on time.

Looks like one of my cats will be coming with me. Right this second he's at the vet's, where he's been since Wednesday with a blocked ureter. Assuming he is well enough to leave (which he probably is, but I'll find out within the hour), he will have to come with me because I can't expect my housesitter to recognize if he is getting sick again.

Ah, Wellfleet. Some people go on vacation for adventure, but I go to relax, and once I'm at the Atlantic Ocean, I feel like I've been there forever.

My sister and I are splitting the cost of a laptop, and the Wellfleet Library has wireless, so I hope to post while I'm away.

I still care about: homeless people, poverty, the fate of our environment, food and hunger, and the wellbeing of my home community, Springfield, MA-- and, of course, my children, granddaughter, friends, animals and poetry!

Talk to you soon.

Friday, August 15, 2008


Check out this site, Fed by Birds, for some pictures of moss:

No War in Iran

It's pouring now but the rain held off this afternoon long enough for 200 people to surround Springfield's Federal Building. We had speeches, signs, all the usual props that go with an anti-war demonstration...and determination to speak out against the possibility of war.

I won't say that anti-war activists aren't tired....we are. But still we rise.

Half an hour or so into our demonstration, three guys with two sign each stood across the street from us, protesting our protest. Unfortunately for them, that meant they couldn't wave at the passing cars and get honks of confirmation. I don't remember all of what their signs said...some reference to the "Loony Left"...but the one that stuck in my mind said, "Peace is achieved when our enemies are defeated." I guess it can seem that way sometimes.....but I'm more inclined to believe peace is achieved when we can turn our enemies into friends.

Our permit to protest was from 4 - 5 pm. About 4:45, two cruisers arrived and four officers got out. One of them told us that at 5 pm, we would have to leave. Ellen from Arise, one of the planners, negotiated an extension so that the monks and nuns from the Peace Pagoda could finish their prayers. A few minutes after 5 o'clock, we were finished...for the moment.

Tonight CNN's Jack Cafferty reported that U.S. troops serving abroad have donated to Obama at six times the rate they've donated to McCain! Hmm...wonder what that could mean.

Some comments emailed to Cafferty about why:
Michael from Greenfield, Wisconsin writes:
As a Vietnam era ex-Marine veteran with a son who is in the Army and was wounded in Iraq in 2003, I would never give a penny to John McCain. I personally do not know any other veterans who are donating to McCain either. Jack, veterans hate war, wrong wars, and the people who talk so cavalierly about waging them. Usually those who never served during war, or never served at all, are the ones who talk so loosely about war. The veterans who I knew that liked war were either stupid, crazy, homicidal, or all of the above. Where does that leave McCain?

Ronald writes:
As a resident of Arizona and a combat veteran, I have had occasion to contact “our” senator on a matter of interest to veterans. Not only did his staff do nothing, they didn’t even have the courtesy to acknowledge they received my emails (2). McCain can say he is “always there” for veterans, but that is just hot air. Contrary to what George Bush said, both he and McCain opposed the new GI bill.

Shana writes:
As an active duty sailor who has been in the Navy for the entire Bush administration, I am tired - sick and tired of fighting in a war I opposed from the beginning. I did donate to Obama’s campaign because the U.S. needs change and not more of McBush. Who wants to spend 100 years in Iraq if need be? Not me. If McSame is elected, I would have spent my whole 20 years in the military in Iraq.

David from Tampa, Florida writes:
Jack, The reason is the lower ranks, guys with their butts on the line doing the dirty work, want to return home quickly. They will support that candidate who will extract them from harm’s ways, they hope. Higher-ranking officers, who spend most of their time brown-nosing for their next promotion and are in the rear areas and pretty much out of harm’s way, support those they believe will increase their lot in life. Respectfully a Vietnam era vet.

Alphabet riddle

A, B, D, G, O, P, Q, R, U-- what do these letters have in common?

Picture Walgreen's and K-Mart-- these are the huge (and often lit and therefore heated) letters where little birds choose to nest. Look for yourself the next time you are there.

Stumbling around on the web, I found a Found Poem someone had written which perfectly describes an experience I love to have-- I'll stop thinking about writing a poem about it, because this one is perfect!

Mervyn Peake

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Liberals: two views

(A bit dated, but not by much.)
Love Me, I'm a Liberal

By Phil Ochs
(Born 1940, died 1976)

I cried when they shot Medgar Evers
Tears ran down my spine
I cried when they shot Mr. Kennedy
As though I'd lost a father of mine
But Malcolm X got what was coming
He got what he asked for this time
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

I go to civil rights rallies
And I put down the old D.A.R.
I love Harry and Sidney and Sammy
I hope every coloured boy becomes a star
But don't talk about revolution
That's going a little bit too far
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

I cheered when Humphrey was chosen
My faith in the system restored
I'm glad the commies were thrown out
of the AFL-CIO board
I love Puerto Ricans and Negros
as long as they don't move next door
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

The people of old Mississippi
Should all hang their heads in shame
I can't understand how their minds work
What's the matter don't they watch Les Crain?
But if you ask me to bus my children
I hope the cops take down your name
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

I read New Republic and Nation
I've learned to take every view
You know, I've memorized Lerner and Golden
I feel like I'm almost a Jew
But when it comes to times like Korea
There's no one more red, white and blue
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

I vote for the Democratic Party.
They want the U.N. to be strong
I go to all the Pete Seeger concerts
He sure gets me singing those songs
I'll send all the money you ask for
But don't ask me to come on along
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

Once I was young and impulsive
I wore every conceivable pin
Even went to the socialist meetings
Learned all the old union hymns
But I've grown older and wiser
And that's why I'm turning you in
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A hint

Alphabet puzzle:

I've decided that it only fair for me to give a hint for my puzzle before I give the answer-- so the answer will be tomorrow and today is the hint.

The answer is really more about habitat than alphabet.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Making Springfield Green : slower than molasses

Every so often I give Springfield Mayoral Aide Darryl Moss a call to ask if a "Green Point Person" has been identified/hired yet. Just to refresh people's minds, here's what Domenic Sarno said at his inaugural address:
  • We will designate a municipal official to coordinate and manage our "green" initiatives.
  • We will consider the environmental impact in procuring goods and services.
  • We will critically evaluate our use of energy of all types and institute measures to reduce energy consumption.
  • We will develop and implement smart growth policies that encourage "green" design and sustainable development.
  • And we will look at ways to reduce the city's carbon footprint and to remediate existing environmental issues.
On Friday, Darryl said he thought someone had been hired and he'd call me back with the name, which he did not do. Today when I finally got through to Darryl, he told me that the person I wanted to talk to was Brian Connors, and gave me a number. It turned out to be the Economic Development Office.

"So, I understand you're the new point person for green development."
"No, I'm not," he said.

Turns out that the city has just posted a job opening for a business development position which will include green development.

So let's say the position is advertised for a month. Then another month for interviews and picking a candidate. So now we're talking nine or ten months from the beginning of Sarno's term.

I suppose I shouldn't assume that just because no municipal official has yet been hired or appointed that no progress has been made on the other environmental goals Sarno set. I'm going to try to find out. But then again, who will I ask?

An alphabet riddle

In their capital letter form, what do the following letters have in common?

A, B, D, G, O, P, Q, R, U

Answer tomorrow.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Baby talk no good for Alzheimer's patients

I don't usually print an article in its entirety but, given experiences during a recent hospitalization, this one really hit home:

Don't treat Alzheimer's patients like they are children, researchers say

August 7, 2008

Researchers from Kansas have offered a rare glimpse into the interior world of Alzheimer's patients with a new study presented at a major international conference in Chicago. The study, while small, is highly suggestive: Key findings indicate that patients - even those who may seem deeply disoriented or cognitively impaired - dislike being patronized or treated as if they are children.

This suggests that a sense of adult identity remains intact in people with dementia, even when individuals aren't able to remember how old they are, where they are, what day it is or which family members are alive and present. How people experience Alzheimer's disease, especially in its latter stages, is a mystery because those with the illness lose the ability to articulate their thoughts and feelings.

In the Kansas study, researchers tried to get around this hurdle by videotaping 20 elderly men and women living in three nursing homes during the course of a day as aides helped them bathe, brush their teeth, dress, eat and take their medicines, among other activities.

Researchers then analyzed the tapes, assessing how the manner in which staff interacted with patients influenced patients' behavior and the quality of care.

They discovered that when nursing aides communicated in a kind of baby talk for seniors - using a high-pitched sing-song tone, comments like "good girl," diminutives like "honey" and language that assumed a state of dependency ("Are we ready for our bath?") - Alzheimer's patients were twice as likely to resist their efforts to help.

Chicago Tribune
Copyright © 2008, The Baltimore Sun

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Rounding the edges of murder's knife

Hundreds of people gathered at Christ Church Cathedral today for Steve Donoghue's memorial service-- so many people knew him.

Steve loved to sing-- everyone mentioned it, and talked about how he could make you laugh even when you didn't feel like it. Steve's friend Maggie had helped go through his things and found two thick notebooks full of songs Steve had written. She hopes to make an album of his songs.

A family from Longmeadow knew Steve as a kid when he babysat for their children. He knew the entire score of "Wizard of Oz" and would say to the children, "I'll get you, my little pretty!" The woman who spoke talked about how sometimes they had to close the door to Steve, when he was drinking or drugging, but there was always a next time when the door was open.

Two people who spoke saw Steve just moments before he was stabbed. They'd walked as far as Dunkin Donuts when they saw police cruisers headed for Bliss St. They went back, somehow knowing, and were with Steve at the hospital when he took his last breath, so he was not alone.

The Springfield Police Department got a huge round of applause for how determined they were to find Steve's killer and how quickly he was apprehended.

Darlene from Loaves and Fishes talked about how Steve was always bringing her flowers-- he'd pick them from around the Cathedral! Rev. Jim Munroe from Christ Church Cathedral was also a recipient of flowers-- none left outside the Cathedral, but many put into his hands by Steve.

A number of clergy who knew Steve spoke, and one of them-- don't remember who-- reminded us that Steve would have been the first to forgive his killer. They acknowledged those of us there as Steve's family.

We speak, so often, of "the homeless" and sometimes don't remember that each person is an individual with his or her own story. Steve was more than just homeless. He was a friend and a warm light for so many. Today, at least for a while, we all savored that warmth.

Steve, you will be missed by so many.

Monday, August 4, 2008

A patient's search for dignity at Baystate Medical Center

I just spent the last three days as a patient at Baystate Medical Center. Suffice it to say I will live. I don't fault the medical care offered there-- much of it is excellent. (Only one mistake-- I hope-- and one near-mistake in my case.) But in the eleven and a half hours it took to me to get from the emergency room to a room of my own, I witnessed or experienced many different varieties of injury to the human spirit.
My first stop is a chair right next to the security guards' office directly opposite the ambulance entrance. The guard on duty is a hefty blonde named that someone calls Kel.. Ambulance services and fire and police departments from surrounding communities pass through those doors and there is much colleagial mingling.
A young woman comes through the ambulance entrance accompanied by a police officer. She's been crying very hard, her face is red and she has a tissue pressed to her eyes.
The guard says to two colleagues, "Bet she's headed for the crisis unit. 'I hate men, I hate men!'" she mimics.
I can't believe what I'm hearing.
Seeing as she's standing right next to me, I say, in a low voice, because it is not my intent to embarrass her, "You shouldn't talk like that in front of other patients." She looks at me and glowers, says nothing, and goes back in her room, where two of her colleagues are hanging. Voices grow hushed.
A minute later one of the men comes out, leans against the doorjam, and says, to no one in particular, "Well, I thought it was funny."

Three hours later I am finally sharing a chilly examining room with two other people, one of them a frail-looking elderly man who had already been hooked to an IV. He is sitting on the side of his cot, trying to put on his shirt but getting tangled in the process. (It's impossible; I know, I've tried it.)
A nurse comes in and in a teeny tiny high voice she says to him, vowels rounded, words cadenced, "Oh, Mr. Wilson, look what you've done, now just lay right back and let me untangle you." She's talking to him like a baby!
"Laying back has nothing to do with it!" he snaps.
"You're right!" I call over. Of course she just wants him to lie down. Later he and I talk and he tells me he's an engineer.
"Retired?" I say.
"My dad was a civil engineer."
"Too much tromping around outside for me," he says.
We chat until someone comes to move him to a room. I find him to be a rational, intelligent adult who just happens to be 82 years old.

Finally, at 12:30 a.m., I am moved to a room in the Springfield building. The woman in the next bed has her TV on! And loud! I'm going to myself, Oh, for Christ's sake, I'm exhausted and this is ridiculous. I ask the woman, who is non-English-speaking, to please turn down her TV-- using gestures and pointing. She looks at me blankly.
I say to the TA, "Can you please ask her to turn down her TV? Isn't there any kind of a curfew about how late TVs can be on?"
She looks at me blankly.
"People have a right to have their TVs on," she says.
"And how does that compare to people's right to have peace and quiet in a hospital?" I ask.
"Why don't you just climb into bed, honey, and I'll get you a sleeping pill?"
That does it.
"Don't call me honey!" I snap, knowing I'm about to be labeled the bitch of the ward. But at that point I just don't give a damn.

The next day I write out a note and tape it to the end of my bed.
"Please don't call me 'Honey' 'Sweetie' or 'Cutie.' Please call me by my name or leave out the name altogether."
I know this form of address doesn't bother a lot of people-- maybe, in fact, in this cold, cold world, some people are even grateful-- but to me when medical personnel address a patient in this way it simply increases the power imbalance between them, and patients are disempowered enough as it is.

How anyone gets well in a hospital is a small miracle.