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We Must Do Better and Insist on Better Health Care (A Collaboration with a Purpose Post)

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Sorry ’bout the lengthy title there, folks…on with the show, er, I mean blog.

collaboration-healthall

I am especially cognizant this year of World Health Day due to the myriad of health problems my family has suffered over the past year. Because of all the times we’ve been to the doctor, or in the hospital, or in the rehab center, I am more aware than ever about how we need better quality health care in the United States. (I can’t speak for the rest of the world, though my fellow bloggers have done so brilliantly. Links will follow at the end of this post.)

What I’ve seen shocks me. (And I thought I was unshockable.) A woman who needs hearing aids was in one of the rehab centers my family member dealt with this year, and can’t get them because she can’t afford them. She is over sixty-five, is retired, has Medicare–meaning, she does have state-sponsored insurance that’s subsidized by the federal government–and she still can’t afford hearing aids.

This affects her quality of life.

This affects how she can interact with her family, her grandchildren, and those working with her to help her heal up so she can go home.

There’s something wrong with a country that doesn’t find a way to help someone who needs hearing aids find a way to get them. (She is willing to pay, mind. Her daughter told me that. But it’s a matter of making it affordable so she can, and still eat, pay her bills, and afford her medications.)

Or how about this? I, myself, have dealt with a problem trying to get any help with my vision. I have Obamacare. I am eligible to be seen and get glasses, which would be subsidized (but not free)…yet every time I try to set up an appointment, and I’ve been trying now for over two years, I am told there are none.

So, I continue to wear glasses that are over two years old. My backup pair is over ten years old. My vision hasn’t changed much in all that time, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t have a checkup or get another pair of glasses that is perhaps a little bit more up-to-date than my backup pair.

How many other people are out there who can’t afford to pay full price for glasses, thus wait to be seen, and then never get an appointment because it’s supposedly always full?

Then, there’s the problem of paying for medication. My family members have radically different insurance. One has no help at all to pay for her prescriptions. Another has some help. But when your medicines can cost over $300 per month — yes, one of the cardiac meds my mother takes is at least that expensive — the co-pay is still plenty high. And when you’re on a fixed income, in retirement, coming up with that high co-pay is damned difficult.

Why is this considered acceptable?

Then, there’s the problem of getting doctor’s appointments when you’re sick. (I know first-hand about that one, too.) Getting your doctor’s office to even call you back is a pain in the buttinsky. And then, if you do get to talk with a nurse, they just send you to urgent care anyway, so why did you waste your time?

In short, there are major problems with health care.

Right now, we have a proliferation of forms, a proliferation of HMOs, PPOs, and all sorts of other alphabet-type agencies, that basically boil down to, “No, we’re not going to help you.” And that is utterly unacceptable.

Mind, there are wonderful people in health care. I’ve met more great nurses and doctors (much less PAs and CNAs) than I can shake a stick at. These people genuinely want to help, but they are overwhelmed by paperwork and there aren’t enough slots to see everyone who needs to be seen. And nothing at all seems to get done whatsoever about fixing these systemic problems.

The World Health Organization has done this World Health Day since 1948, to call attention to the need for better health care for as many people as possible. (Preferably, it would be for every single last one of us, and that is indeed their goal.) And this year, their slogan is called #HealthForAll.

I think we badly need to be reminded that health must be cultivated. We have to have enough resources to help people get hearing aids when they are on fixed incomes. Or afford expensive cardiac medicines when they are on fixed incomes. Or have access to doctors, nurses, and appropriate care, while being treated as the human beings we are rather than an inconvenience or worse, someone to be brushed off and ignored.

So I’m pleased that the Collaboration with a Purpose group wanted to talk about World Health Day this year. It is something that is close to my heart. And it is something we desperately need — better health care, for as many people as possible, in as many ways as possible, so we all can live better and happier lives.

Because if you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything.

Period.

Now, please go check out my fellow Collaboration with a Purpose group members, as they all have interesting takes on the subject. (Links will be added as their posts go up.)

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Do All You Can…

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…even when it doesn’t feel like it’ll be enough.

That is my motto, right now.

As I continue to struggle with my health, I have to remind myself that sometimes, doing all I can means to rest. Recover. Eat as much as I can (with a raw throat, that’s not easy, but it is again possible), and in as balanced a way as I can…take probiotics, to keep the antibiotics I’m on from destroying my gut bacteria…laugh, because it’s better than crying. (Or pulling my hair out.)

I continue to work on my plotting exercise (I talked about this yesterday), and will hope this will keep me from going stir-crazy.

I did write a thousand words today, though it was a different sort of exercise entirely, and was prompted by home internet problems. (I hate that, but it’s a very minor woe, all things considered. At least I can get out and use the internet elsewhere. So it adds a step when I am not at my best. So what?)

And I looked at the two edits in progress, figured out where I am, and have a good idea where I need to be starting tomorrow to finish them both up.

So, I’m staying on top of it as best I can. And am doing whatever I can, even though as I said above, it truly doesn’t feel like enough.

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 13, 2018 at 9:59 pm

Thinking, Writing, and Illness

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Most of us have to deal with illness, and somehow get things done. But when you’re sick (as I am right now), and you are an independent writer and editor, what are you supposed to do about it?

That sounds ridiculous to say, doesn’t it? Because we all struggle with illness. Very few people have charmed lives, and even they have to deal with the illnesses of beloved family and friends (or, sometimes, four-footed companions).

Still, when you’re in my position, and need your mind to do your work, but your mind isn’t at its best, and your body definitely isn’t either…what’s to do?

I’ve been trying to plot a book. This isn’t normally what I do, as I take an idea and run with it; I’m a pantser, not a plotter (that is, I sit down and write whatever it is, and then fix it on the fly). But plotting can’t hurt me, and thus, I’m trying to do that now and see where I get.

This is an exercise given to me by my friend Chris Nuttall (and if you don’t know Chris’s work already, go to Amazon and put his name in there; that’ll give you an idea). I often edit Chris’s work (my latest for him include THE ZERO EQUATION and THUNDER AND LIGHTNING, co-written by Leo Champion; I intend to talk more about both books in upcoming days, once I’ve regained a bit of my energy), and I know how he tends to work; he comes up with plots first, then writes, then tweaks (sometimes, if warranted), then sends to me (or another editor), then fixes, then I (or another editor) may see it one last time if the changes warrant it — otherwise, it goes up for sale. (This is for Chris’s independent work. The work he does through Twilight Times Books, Elsewhen Press, and 47North is a different story.)

I think his thought is interesting. And what I’m trying to do now is figure out who my characters are, what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, and just what’s going to happen along the way. (I also know, me being me, that some of this is subject to change. But it gives me a starting point, and it makes me feel a whole lot better to have work to do along with my editing. Which, by the way, I can still do — I just need a bit more time to do it right now, that’s all.)**

So, there’s thought behind this. Reasoning, purpose, function, and my hope is that it’ll flow into a form that is sensible, logical, and yet feels lifelike and real, like my “pantser” (seat of the pants, natch) novels do. (Or at least I hope they do.)

I’m glad to be able to continue to edit, though a bit slower than usual. I’m also glad that my friends, including Chris, came up with something for me to do of a writing nature so I wouldn’t feel stir-crazy while I’m not at my best. (Writing takes more out of me than editing, just as playing music takes more out of me, physically, than composing it. Though all of them require a goodly amount of mental and physical energy, some are easier to do while ill than others. I hope this makes some sense.)

Now for the big question: What do you do when you feel lousy, but are a creative person and need to express yourself? I’d appreciate hearing any tips you might have in the comments.

———-

**I suppose this is a good time to explain what I’m dealing with: exacerbation of asthma/bronchitis, an ear infection, plus a particularly wicked sinus infection. (I have two antibiotics, a steroid, and have to use my rescue inhaler four times a day until this is gone. When I get sick, I guess it’s go big, or go home. Except I am home…)

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 12, 2018 at 6:44 am

Posted in Books, Informational Stuff, Writing

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Of Shouts into the Void…and Cats

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Earlier tonight, when I was about to go to sleep (as it was very late night, or very early morning, depending on your point of view), I got a call from a distraught friend.

You see, he’s a cat lover. He has a cat — a rather feisty, elderly cat that doesn’t like other cats, or too many people, either. He treats this feisty, elderly, cantankerous cat like royalty (my other cat fancier friends are no doubt adding, “As the cat deserves”).

But the reason he was distraught was also because of a cat. A stray, that had once been a well-kept house pet — my friend said he could tell — and was still willing to believe a human being would help rather than hurt.

My friend couldn’t bring this stray cat into his home, even though he desperately wanted to. (I know this because he called me, and we discussed it at great length.) His own cat would’ve hurt this littler, younger, gentler one, he thought. And he, himself, is disabled, and has recently come off some medical treatment that made him a bit weaker than usual. (And usual isn’t exactly strong anymore, though I hate to point that out for the sake of my friend’s machismo.)

What he did do, though, was take some cat food out, some water out, and went and held the cat for an hour while it ate and drank. He petted the cat. He tried wracking his brains to see if he could find anyone in the Tampa, Florida, area who might be able to foster a cat, as this one needs some medical attention as it recently looks to have gotten into a fight. (Perhaps with a raccoon, perhaps with another cat.) Its eyes were affected, and my friend was very upset at leaving a half-blind cat outside, at the mercy of the elements (as it’s chilly tonight in Tampa — perhaps more temperate than my own Wisconsin, but cold by their standards, and not good for a cat that really shouldn’t be out in the darkness, alone, when it doesn’t seem to be seeing very well).

I told my friend he did all he could. He did more than some would do, considering his levels of physical limitations, and considering his own very ornery and unruly cat. (I know he’s not going to like me calling her that, but his cat definitely is.)

But that doesn’t help this particular stray cat. Not enough, anyway…though the food and water my friend gave the cat may help the poor little guy survive another night alone, outside. (And I devoutly hope it does.)

My friend was also livid that a pampered house cat — which this must’ve been at one time — had been tossed to the curb like so much garbage. He said that in his area, there aren’t many shelters that will take animals for very long without euthanizing them (though there are a few shelters that are no-kill, or at least want to be, he said they are overcrowded, overloaded, and underfunded). And he’s worried that a cat like this one — providing it sticks around (and he checked on it four or five times in the next several hours, and the cat had stayed right there, waiting for him, which broke his heart, and mine, all over again) would be euthanized immediately due to the recent fight and the damage to at least one eye.

This is where the “shout into the void” comes in, folks. Because I’m with my friend on this one. I do not understand, at all, why anyone would treat a pet like that. And thinking about anyone treating a beloved family pet that way just makes me want to scream.

Maybe it won’t be heard, thus the “shout into the void” concept. But it makes me so angry, to think about this poor little guy out on the streets, way too far away for me to drive to, to rescue the poor dear, and no way to know if the cat will survive this night — or not.

Rather than kicking a beloved pet out, do the responsible thing if you can no longer take care of your animals: Give that pet a good, loving home somewhere else.

I know that years ago, my mother and I adopted a very elderly dog that, like this cat, had been abandoned in the middle of winter. This dog had cataracts in both eyes, couldn’t hear, and was so matted when it was brought in that the shelter people had no idea whatsoever what type of dog it was. (It was a Lhasa Apso.) We were horrified that a dog like that had been abandoned at such an old age, left to fend for itself in the middle of a Wisconsin winter…that the dog had survived its ordeal was wonderful, but why did it have to go through it at all?

(Needless to say, that little dog was better off with us, and had a couple of good years where he was pampered, well-fed, well-treated, and basically lived the life of Reilly.)

I know that there are many stray animals out there in need of loving homes. There are more cats, dogs, and other assorted pets that have been left on the sides of roads or maybe ran away and couldn’t find their way back home.

My hope is, that by writing this blog, you will think about how you can help the neglected animals in your area. Many are loving, affectionate, and really want a “forever home.” But for whatever reason, they are out there, alone, in the dark, without food, without water, without shelter…and I find that so unconscionable, I just have no words for it.

So please. Do whatever you can to help the less fortunate among us, including the animals. Because they often get forgotten, and they can’t speak for themselves.

We must do it instead.

Be Good…to Yourself?

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Folks, I have been thinking about something for the last week or two. And I hope it makes some sense.

We see all sorts of bad stuff on television, on the internet, and any other way we consume media these days. And it can be hard to keep going. People dying in Florida at a school shooting (why, oh why?) is only the latest awful thing to take over the airwaves.

This affects everyone, whether you know it or not. People dying when they don’t need to is hard for society as a whole to bear. And it seems to happen over and over again.

So, why am I saying to be good to yourself, rather than all the stuff I normally say? It’s simple. I think in addition to talking to your legislators (if you feel the need), making donations to groups you support (including those supporting responsible and safe gun ownership), you need to remember to take time for yourself in your day, especially when times are hard or bad.

Most of us don’t do this. And then we wonder why we get worn down to nubs at the end of the day.

I have friends who have multiple jobs, and also write. I have other friends who are like me; they try to help their family members and friends as best they can, do their work, and cram in writing whenever possible. (Tonight, mind, I’m also cramming in a concert with the Racine Concert Band, another thing I enjoy doing.)

We don’t remember that we, ourselves, are the priorities in our lives. We think about others. We don’t think about us, because we’re taught not to, and the few who do seem to think about themselves at all are so blatantly narcissistic, any reasonable and decent person wants no part of that.

But there is a continuum, you see. You don’t have to be a narcissist to be good to yourself.

All I ask you tonight is, try to do something good for yourself every day, if only for five minutes. Listen to some music you haven’t heard in a while but you really like. Read a chapter of a book you’ve been meaning to get around to. Take a bubble bath. Go find one of those massage chairs (or ask a friend) and get your neck and/or back massaged.

That way, it’s easier to do everything else you need to do — including when you need to deal with bad news you’d rather not have to deal with (such as the latest school shooting) — with a fuller heart.

Written by Barb Caffrey

February 20, 2018 at 7:35 pm

Quick Update

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Folks, I just wanted to let you all know that I am still alive.

(Yeah. Really.)

The last week or two has been challenging, and I haven’t enjoyed my time much. While I have managed to read a number of good books (including Deborah Harkness’ A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES, a book I had wanted to read for over a year, and Audrey Sharpe’s two fine space opera books, the latter being THE CHAINS OF FREEDOM), and I’ve written a little bit, I’ve mostly had to rest.

And I find rest boring.

So, I read and re-read favorite books, including a number of Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s Liaden series, the three Allie books of Katharine Eliska Kimbriel, and the two Zero books by Chris Nuttall. I thought a lot about the stories I was working on, and talked with other writers about their stories. And I did just a little editing here and there, to keep my hand in…as I truly do hate doing nothing.

Of course, I haven’t been doing nothing. I’ve been recovering. But it feels like nothing, and I won’t pretend it doesn’t.

Granted, I have the philosophy that “work does a body good.” But sometimes, when your body is worn-down, all you can do is rest and prepare your next assault on the “work fortress.” And that’s where I’ve been, the past two weeks.

I look forward to getting back up to speed soon, though. So keep watching this space…as you never do know what I’m about to say next. (Is that part of my charm? I’d like to think so.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 22, 2018 at 7:23 pm

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Dare to Risk (Even When it Hurts)

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Folks, it’s been a while since I’ve written a post like this, but here goes:

The most important thing in life is this: You need to remember to dare to risk. Even when it hurts. And even when it doesn’t seem like the risk is worth the reward…do it anyway.

Why am I writing this?

Well, as a writer, every time I sit down to do something with a story, I’m risking the chance of failure.

But as a person, every time I open myself up and am vulnerable to someone, I’m risking the chance of being completely and totally misunderstood. Or unappreciated. Or just…nothing.

I know that. I am not a fool. And I choose to dare that risk, at least in part because it’s the only way, sometimes, to learn something…even if it’s something I’d rather not.

And there are other reasons to dare that risk, too.

Daring to risk is possibly the most important thing I can do, or any writer can do, or any creative person of any possible permutation can do, because it is the only way to express what needs to be expressed. And feeling the pain, sometimes, of risks that don’t work out is necessary, because none of us get through this life unscathed.

I’ve written before about the apocryphal Buddha story–the “search all around the world, daughter, and see if you can find anyone who does not suffer, then report back to me.” Buddha knew, in that story, that every single person had faced suffering of some sort or another, and that it was impossible to live a human life without it.

Now, being married to a Buddhist, I know that suffering is not to be avoided. It’s part of life, as obnoxious as it is to us, and yet thrusting it away causes bigger problems.

Why am I saying all this?

Simply this: I believe, very strongly in fact, that sometimes we have to be prepared to take our lumps. Daring to risk does not mean you’ll always succeed…and it certainly doesn’t mean at all that you will ever succeed, for that matter. But the risk is worth it for its own reward, that of knowing you did everything you possibly could, and then some, to make your dreams come true.

That sometimes there’s nothing you can do? Well, feeling that pain allows you to better inform the stories you write, and make them feel real.

(At least, so I’m telling myself right now. There has to be a reason for it, and that one is as good as any.)

Anyway, don’t let the bad days stop you from daring to risk it all for art, for love, for friendship, or for anything else you feel is worthwhile.

Because the moment you stop risking, that’s the moment you stop living. (Got it?)

———

By the way, folks…later today, I’ll be writing about two books I think you should keep an eye out for, Jason Cordova’s DEVASTATOR (out next week) and Kayelle Allen’s BRINGER OF CHAOS: FORGED IN FIRE. Both are second books in two very good series; both feature believable science and speculation, some darkness, some light, some romance, and are generally cracking good reads. So if you haven’t read Jason’s CORRUPTOR yet or Kayelle’s BRINGER OF CHAOS: THE ORIGINS OF PIETAS either, you really are missing out…can’t wait to tell you more about these two interesting stories. (No, I’m not always doom and gloom, or reminding you to take risks. But yes, do take that risk.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 5, 2018 at 1:14 am