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Blue Wren

Updated: 2014-10-02T23:12:47.129-07:00


I'm outahere.


No, no, I'm not going to stop blogging. I like blogging. But I've moved Blue Wren over to WordPress, so I humbly as you to click over to me there. I made the move because I wanted a little more flexibility regarding the look of the blog, using my own photos for the header, etc. I hope you'll put my new address, in your favorites and visit soon.

Showing 'em how to do it


Senator Barney Frank speaks truth to a wingnut.

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Finally. I hope the rest of our Congressional Democratic leaders took notes.



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The right to decide


Right now one of the big “issues” surrounding health insurance reform is that by putting a mandate for coverage of “end-of-life counseling” costs into the bill, we’ll be condemning the sick, the disabled, the injured and the elderly to euthanasia.This is ridiculous. I recently had that counseling myself. I had a routine quarterly appointment with my VA rheumatologist a few weeks ago. During the pre-appointment check-up (weight, temperature, blood pressure, “how are you feeling today?” questions), the nurse surprised me by asking, “Have you thought about doing an advance health care directive?”Caught off guard, I stammered that I had, indeed, thought of it, but hadn’t followed through.So she explained exactly what it was and went on, saying gently that while this sort of thing is uncomfortable to think about when we’re relatively young and healthy, we never really know what tomorrow might bring. By filling out an AHCD, the nurse explained, I can make it clear how I wish my family and doctors to care for me should I ever become so severely ill or injured that I’m unable to make that decision myself.This is both sane and sensible. I wouldn’t want to be a living vegetable, kept alive indefinitely by machines, running up horrendous, impossible hospital and doctor bills that would certainly bankrupt and impoverish my family. What a horror! I don’t know anyone who would want that, personally, but I realize that there are some people who feel that as long as there’s life, there’s hope for recovery. I respect their feelings, even if I don’t agree.The thing is, by having an advance health care directive available, people who do want heroic measures taken to keep them alive can make that perfectly clear, in writing, in the directive. And it’s a binding document.The AHCD takes that horrible decision out of the hands of my grieving family members and makes it my decision, no matter what.The VA nurse at my appointment was doing exactly the “end-of-life counseling” that would be covered by every health care insurance plan if the bill passes. All it means is that rather than having to pay for that counseling, the individual would get it for no cost. I don’t know about you, but I think arguing against free counseling is pretty silly. The VA nurse didn’t force me to do anything. She simply informed me of the potential importance of such a directive, filled out voluntarily by myself. She told me how to get the paperwork through the VA should I wish to go ahead. She also explained that I could change that directive at any time after it was made. I’d simply submit a new one if I changed my mind regarding what sort of care I wanted at the end of my life.And that was it. Sure, it was a surprise to find myself talking about my inevitable death in such a routine way. None of us really wants to think about that. But I left that appointment knowing more than I had before I walked in. I left with something to think about. And I’ve decided that I will, indeed, fill out that paperwork and take the simple steps necessary to make it legal and binding. Instead of frightening me, the idea gives me a sense of peace, knowing that when the time comes for me to die, I’ll die. That event will be hard enough on my family without bankrupting them by dragging it out indefinitely.Want to learn more? Click on this link for a good explanation of what an advance health care directive is.Update: Well, so much for having your health care provider cover "end-of-life counseling." "... it appears, according to the Wall Street Journal, that the Senate Finance Committee will not be including a provision to reimburse Medicare doctors who provide end-of-life counseling to dying patients in its bill." Hooray, health care insurance reform opponents. Your malign misinformation and propaganda campaign won one for the Gipper.[...]

Inspiration in odd places


After zipping down-mountain to take my daughter’s fiancé to the doctor following his shoulder surgery, we stopped at Wal-Mart for a prescription. As we were leaving, we passed an elderly woman with a little dog.

“What a cute dog,” I said.

“I walk him a mile every day,” she beamed. “And I just turned 90!”

“No! Really?”

“Yes!” she laughed. “I stay  real busy. That’s how I do it.”

“Well, happy birthday!” I said. “That’s wonderful!”

A second elderly lady joined us. “I just turned 90, too,”she grinned. They were obviously friends.

“Happy birthday to you, too!”

Now that’s inspiring.

Why do they want to kill Grandma?


Well, they don't. Proponents of health care insurance reform want your insurance to cover end-of-life counseling. Think "living will." It's so you can decide what you want done if you're terminally ill. Pull the plug, or don't pull the plug? It's up to you.

In addition, the ugliness we've been seeing at town hall meetings about health insurance reform isn't a "grassroots" movement. It's an orchestrated attempt, by big corporations and the Republican party, to keep Americans like you and I uninformed, terrified, and angry. They're manipulating us into acting against our own best interests, gang.

Here -- watch Rachel. She's just about the only one on TV these days telling the truth.

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Visit for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

Put up or shut up


House Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) challenges House Republicans to put up or shut up regarding government run health care, which they vehemently oppose, by introducing legislation to repeal Medicare, here and now:

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"In the end, despite Wiener’s “double-dare”, all the Republicans voted no (how often do you see a unanimous “no” vote?), thus proving on the 44th anniversary of the signing of the Medicare Act that nobody’s going to mess with Medicare anytime soon."
--Matt Yglesias


It’s personal


Health care reform, with a single payer system like that in Great Britain and Canada – or at least, a public option for health care that’s affordable for all Americans regardless of income – is vital.Fifty million Americans are without medical insurance in this country. Many millions more are a mere paycheck or layoff away from losing their health insurance. Individual insurance is so inordinately expensive that many people simply can’t afford to buy it. Many of those who can are denied because of pre-existing conditions.This really has got to change.As some of you already know, I’ve had rheumatoid arthritis since I was 28 years old. For almost 15 years I suffered frequent, painful flare-ups of the disease that often rendered me temporarily disabled. One day it would be my hands; the next an ankle; the one after that a hip. I even had it in my jaw. Each flare lasted anywhere from 24 hours to five days. Sometimes there would be a brief reprieve between flares; more often there was no reprieve at all.For a great portion of that time I was under the care of an internal medicine doctor – the nearest rheumatologist was a four-hour drive away. We tried just about everything available to the Army medical system at the time – NSAIDs, injected gold, malarial drugs, aspirin and Tylenol. None of them had any effect at all on the RA, though a lot of them came with bad side-effects. To ease the pain when the flares were unbearable, I was given opiate painkillers in limited amounts. I was even hospitalized once. Eventually, no longer believing that modern medicine could do anything to help me, and fearful of adverse side-effects, I stopped taking any RA drugs – except the opiate painkillers, which were the only ones that worked even a little. They had no effect on the disease, but at least they muffled the pain.Eventually the RA flares became less frequent. Then they stopped. I was normal again. I could walk without limping and gimping. I could use my arms freely, twist caps off jars and open doors without first steeling myself against the inevitable pain. And oh, I was glad. The RA was in “remission.” I went backpacking, fishing and camping. I hiked. I lived without wondering each morning when I got up which of my joints would plague me that day. And after a while, I started forgetting how it had been.But rheumatoid arthritis is incurable. For its own mysterious reasons, it sometimes does go into remission, often for many years. It’s a disease of the autoimmune system – the body actually turns against itself, attacking the synovial fluid between the joints and causing inflammation and pain. And it attacks different individuals in different ways. One person might have it for years and years with only minor pain and little or no disability. Another will contract it and be wheelchair-bound, unable to walk, within a couple of years. Some people end up with twisted, gnarled wrists, hands and fingers. RA can also attack the body’s internal organs, like the lungs, the heart, or the vascular system. It can cause blindness.I lived flare-free for almost ten more years. Then, in 2007, my hands started flaring again.I was unemployed. I couldn’t afford individual health insurance. Fortunately, I’m a veteran, and although I had to wait nearly a year before I was destitute enough to qualify, I was able to get medical care through the Veterans Administration.Today I’m being treated for RA by a VA rheumatologist. I’m back on RA meds. I’ve been lucky so far – while my hands ache and twinge nearly every day, they’ve not got so bad I couldn’t use them. Not yet. And so far, beyond a few, thankfully transient twinges here and there, no other joints have been affected.There are new drugs available now that weren’t the first time I went through a period of “active” RA. The ones I’m taking can slow the progression of the[...]

Mr. Potter gets a clue


Surfing the ‘net over coffee this morning as per my usual habit, I clicked on a link posted by Duncan Black of Eschaton for a Bill Moyers’ Journal video.I didn’t watch the video, but instead read the transcript, which is conveniently placed directly below the video. And as I read, my blood began to boil.Moyers was interviewing Wendell Potter, who until he retired recently, was the head of corporate communications for CIGNA, the gigantic health care insurer. Potter, during the course of the interview, proceeded to blow the top off what’s behind the current opposition to health care reform in both American political parties.We all know that health insurance companies are in the business for profit. What we may not know (or perhaps would rather not believe) is that they’re in the business for profit even if it means bankrupting us with catastrophic health care bills, denying us coverage for vital treatments and care, or even dropping us and allowing us to die. Their bottom line is profit. If you or I get too sick, despite faithfully paying premiums year after year, then to hell with us. Will we die without treatment? Who cares? That’s our problem if we start costing our health insurance provider more than they want to pay. If we start cutting into their profit margin, we’re dead weight.This didn’t come as huge surprise to me. What did was Potter’s candor. Apparently he’s afraid of going to hell if he continues to sit by, complicit, while the health insurance company he worked for and all the others profit from American illnesses and death. Potter, on a whim, visited a health care expo in Wise, Virginia. There he saw hundreds of uninsured Americans lined up to see doctors who’d volunteered their time and expertise in an attempt to bring some sort of health care to those who couldn’t afford it. Potter was stunned. He went back to his job shaken and unsure about what he and his company were doing to those who relied on them for, in many cases, their very lives.“And it was hard to just figure out. How do I step away from this? What do I do? And this was one of those things that made me decide, "Okay, I can't do this. I can't keep-- I can't." One of the books I read as I was trying to make up my mind here was President Kennedy's "Profiles in Courage." And in the forward, Robert Kennedy said that one of the president's, one of his favorite quotes was a Dante quote that, "The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of moral crisis, maintain a neutrality." And when I read that, I said, "Oh, jeez, I-- you know. I'm headed for that hottest place in hell, unless I say something."Mr. Potter finally got a clue. He testified before Congress in support of a public option that will allow all Americans to get quality health care, regardless of income or health, and in support of health care reform.Most of us know of someone who’s had medical procedures or medications denied because their health care provider refuses to pay for it, even with a co-pay. Some of us know people who've had their provider drop them entirely. And some of us know people who cannot get health care insurance at all –or who face huge monthly premiums that are beyond their means – because they’re already sick. It would cost the provider way too much to help them, improve their quality of life or even save their lives. This is a horror.It is vital that health care reform includes, at the very least, a public option. Please watch the Moyers video or read the transcript. Then call or write your representatives in Congress and tell them to make fair, affordable, quality health care available to all Americans, not just to those who can afford to feed the profits of the health care industry while praying that they never, ever get really sick.[...]

100 Words – Day 11: Nightfall


Sun’s down. Stars prickle the blueblack sky. There is no city light here to dim the view of sparkling red Mars, low on the horizon. The air is soft, a caress of fleeting coolness in harsh mid-summer. A cricket chirrups in chorus with the tree frogs. The robins have gone to sleep in spite of the crazy hilarity of one or 12 coyotes downhill, a cacophony of laughter rippling the still night air like whale songs in deep water. The fan whirls while the dog sighs, sleepy at the foot of the bed. The cat rumbles, snug against my hip.

100 words - Day 10 of 50: Fat clothes


I have three big bags full of clothes. I’m donating them to the local hospice thrift store; I need the closet space. Some of the clothes are pretty old. Some are almost new. They’re my “fat clothes.”

They’re all up to four sizes too big for me now. Today I wear the size I wore about 20 years ago.

This is a big step for me. I’ve never banished my “fat clothes” before; I was afraid I’d need them again. But I know I won’t. I’ve learned.

Those stuffed bags represent decades of blumphy discomfort. They no longer weigh me down.

Almost 3000 words: Spirit Walk


This is the beginning of an unfinished story I wrote a couple of years ago. I'd love to hear what you think.My friend Ellie says I should write this so I guess I will.I was born on the reservation in Montana on October 25, 1969. My father, Terrell Gray Wolf, was 17. My mother, Rosa Spotted Owl, was 15. They were just dumb kids and they never got married. Terrell died when I was five months old. He got beat up behind a bar by a bunch of drunken Anglos. He probably deserved it, he was always getting too drunk and picking fights. He had a bad temper. That’s what my uncle Henry Spotted Owl says. When I was three Rosa got tired of living so she drank some Drano. There were no more women in the family to take me so Spotted Owl and his woman Jewel Limpy took me. I don’t remember these things. Spotted Owl told them to me. He says my father was big like I am now and my mother, his youngest sister, was very pretty. He says if she hadn’t started drinking maybe she would be alive now, but almost everyone drinks too much. Spotted Owl thinks alcohol is the Anglo way of killing off all the Indians the slow way. Sometimes I think he’s right. He says he drank too when he was young but he stopped when he was 15. He went on a spirit walk then because old Jim Running Horse told him he should do it before the alcohol took his spirit away. Spotted Owl says while he was on his spirit walk Old Grandmother walked with him a while. She told him he would be a good medicine man. He thought this was crazy because she looked like a mouse and she was very funny, but he never knew mice could talk before, so he decided maybe she was right. He took her advice and it worked. He is a good medicine man. He has helped many of the People and even some Anglos.I was in trouble a lot as I was growing up. Jewel Limpy got sick from diabetes when I was 10 and went away. I think she had a sister in Oklahoma so she went there. I missed her because she was nice to me. Spotted Owl missed her too but he never said much about it. I had a bad temper like my father and I drank too much with my friends. I also liked to smoke weed, which was better than drinking because it didn’t make me angry. But weed cost too much and it was harder to get, so mostly I drank. I did OK in school but I had trouble with reading so I just listened hard but the teachers didn’t say all the things I needed to know.When I was sixteen I got into a big fight at a party with some Anglo kids in Ashland. We were all drunk but the cops only arrested me. I stayed in jail for ten days because a girl said I tried to rape her and I beat up some of the boys. They beat me up, too, but that was different. It was true I wanted to sleep with the girl, but not that I tried to rape her. The Anglo cops didn’t believe me, though. After a while the girl’s spirit felt bad so she admitted that she had lied about me trying to rape her. That was brave because she was in a lot of trouble with her parents. I was very glad she decided to tell the truth. I never saw her again. Her family went to live somewhere else. I hadn’t done anything wrong but get drunk and get into a fight. Lots of people did that, so the police let me go home.Spotted Owl was mad at me for being stupid like my father and getting drunk and fighting and trying to sleep with girls. He told me I was dishonoring my ancestors. I knew he was right but I was mad at him for saying it. He said I should take my spirit walk but he thought I wasn’t strong or brave enough. That made me even madder so I did it. I wanted to prove that I was a man and not as weak as he thought I was. I lost track of how long I walked but Spotted Owl told me later it was 12 days. At first I thought it was stupid to walk all over the prairie. I thought Spotted Owl was stup[...]

100 words - Day 9 of 50: Young people today


(image) Oh, he looked a sight!
Young people today had no sense of decorum, Gertrude thought as she surveyed the young man standing in her kitchen. He held a steaming bowl of her mutton stew, wolfing it with a soup-spoon as if he hadn’t had a bite to eat all day. He wouldn’t sit down proper at the table – said he had no time, he was due at the dance in just 15 minutes – but she couldn’t see why that meant he had to stand to eat, like he was a young horse. All that was missing was the feed-bag.

100 words - Day 8 of 50: Dusk walk


(image) Dusk gathers, the shadows beneath the great trees deepening. The earth is dry and spongy from the fir and pine needles slowly, slowly dissolving into the soil but if he steps just so, even in his thick-soled hiking shoes, he makes no sound. The air is sharp and chilly; a light breeze lifts his dark hair and caresses his ears.
A jay – a Steller’s, with its aquamarine and royal blue body and wings, its sooty-black, tufted head and feet – scolds him. Shhh, bird, you’ll alert them to my position. He steps deeper into the trees, making himself a shadow, invisible.

100 Words – Day 7 of 50: Why peppermint tea?


(image) Summertime and peppermint tea. They go hand-in-hand, like winter and gloves or autumn and orange leaves. Spring and changeable weather. You get my drift.
My reasons for loving peppermint tea? Three:
1. Gloriously refreshing on hot days, made strong and mixed with lots of ice.
2. Blessedly therapeutic boiled, steeped, set on a kitchen table and inhaled while tenting a towel over your head. Clears blocked sinuses in minutes.
3. A tea brewed from peppermint leaves is so whimsical and magic, it’s hard to believe it exists. It’s a faerie drink.

100 words - Day 6 of 50: Girl in black


(image) Later, on the train, Tom took his laptop out of his briefcase and, sitting with it on his knees, started typing.

“I met the most intriguing young woman today,” he wrote in the journal space under the day’s date. “Her name is Emma. She works in a book shop in the Canal Road. She was wearing black from head to toe, a black clip in her hair, jet chips in her ears, a slim black dress and black Mary Jane-type shoes. Only her skin, rose-tinged porcelain, and her lips, pink as dawn, provided contrast.

“I think she is quite beautiful.”

100 words – Day 5 of 50: Little white lies


(image) It had been a fishing trip, a fact-finding mission. Tom had known the man for years, and he was often a very good source of information, moving as he did through the shadowy world of arms buyers and sellers. A devout Muslim, he had no more moral problem with his work than did the Christians from whom he often bought his inventory. What Mohammed did was perfectly legal; in fact, he’d purchased this particular high-powered automatic rifle from the Americans.

He felt a little bad about his white lie to Emma, but he couldn’t have told her all that, anyway.

100 words – Day 4 of 50: Sunday bells


(image) Church bells sounded through the heavy sea-fog, flat and fey, everywhere but nowhere in the small German city on the sea. The bells competed with lonely foghorns. Seagulls mewed. In summer, when the sun bathed the cobbled streets and stone buildings in clean yellow light, the church bells sounded bright and reverent, a soundtrack for red geranium petals drifting to the sidewalks. But when the wind blew topsy-turvy the Sunday bells wavered and rippled, and in heavy rain the peals sounded underwater, as if they were calling Neptune and his mer-people to worship.

There are no church bells here.

100 words – Day 3 of 50: Firewood in summertime


(image) Mr. Wren and I bought three cords of firewood this week. We had it delivered – read “dumped on the driveway” – and then stacked, all ready to go. We won’t need it for three or four months, but there’s a quiet security to knowing our
winter’s warmth is already paid for and waiting. Now we’ll have the chimney sweep out with her odd, spiky brushes and traditional black clothes. She brings us good luck: no chimney fires in bitter February.

The almond wood smells spicy-dry. It evokes chilly days and warm sweaters in the middle of short-sleeved, barefoot summer. I’m smiling.

How my garden grows ...


Sometimes when the muse returns after a long absence, she comes loaded for bear. Other times, like now, she knocks politely on my mind and asks to be allowed in once again. I'm letting her in. She brought a camera and told me I should tell a garden story. So here it is: Mr. Wren is a master gardener (I am decidedly not). He has ideas about gardens and their creation. This year, he wanted to try straw-bale gardening. The idea is that you plant your vegetable starts in holes forced into bales of straw that have been soaked thoroughly. In the hole goes soil and the small plant. Doing this means that many of your plants are at about knee-level, meaning that you don't have to kneel or bend to reach them, which he appreciates because of his disability. Me too -- I'm not as young as I once was.So he placed the bales for planting. I weeded out about a half-ton of soil and compost that had been ... seasoning ... and we filled the empty middle sections of the bales for further planting. All this took place in late April. I lost 10 pounds in the doing. No complaints.Once everything was planted,we waited. And now things are growing like crazy. The tomatoes have little yellow flowers. The crookneck squash has big orangy-yellow flowers and a couple of actual squashes. I took the first one this morning and am now considering the best way to serve it. Battered and fried? What a temptation.I got to work on the rest of the garden in May, clipping and deadheading and weeding. More weight loss. I can't complain. And the result of all that work is a thriving, colorful garden that makes me smile. The foxgloves were glorious. The blackberries are coming and so are the grapes. Daylilies glow and roses are blooming in Technicolor. Even with the gray June we had, everything is busting out in wild, fecund good health.Butterflies flutter and loop. Bees hum. Even m'ol dog Logan is getting in on the fun.I'm looking forward to August, when the tomatoes will be nearly ready for picking, the crooknecks will be overwhelming, and the Japanese eggplants purple and sublime. I intend to make spaghetti sauce by the gallon, eggplant parmesan, and salads filled with bright yellow crooknecks. Not to mention yellow and red bell peppers and fiery little jalapenos. I musn't forget The Girls, our five Rhode Island Red hens. They're strangely menacing but they give us four or five big brown eggs a day and eat up all our stale bread and elderly store-bought veggies, along with scratch and feed. Nice Grrrrls.This is what I've been doing during the long blog silence. I've been reading, too. Organizing old stories and considering which to bring back to life. I've missed you all, but it's been good. Really. [...]

100 words – Day 2 of 50: Summer gray


It was the strangest summer she’d ever spent in sweltering-hot Northern California. Nearly every day in June was gunship gray and cool, but there was no rain. The daytime house looked winterish, flat and shadowy inside. Flowers bloomed (image) without benefit of sunshine. Tomato plants grew. Haunting wind-chimes dingled in the breeze. Twice, thunder ba-boomed. Once, hail rattatatatted for thirty seconds.
Years ago, her elderly friend Magrit in Germany complained the weather there had changed drastically since she was a girl. She blamed it on jet contrails.
Oh cool, quirky un-California June. Global warming? Or just the bitter surprise of age?

100 words – Day 1 of 50: Inspiration


(image) OK. I note that Blue Girl is doing the 100-word, 50-day challenge again. As you may have noticed, I have not written anything for quite a long time. Why? My muse has deserted me. For the last couple of months I’ve been unable to think of anything I care enough to write about. Or maybe I haven’t been able to think of anything to write about that I want to share.

Anyway, I think I’m back. I’m going to follow in the inspirational BG’s footsteps and make myself write 100 words every day for 50 days.

Let the Earth bear witness


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By the Waterboys' Dublin singer, Mike Scott.

Attaboy, Jesse


Former Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura calls torture torture on The View:

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I'm thankful for people like Ventura for having the guts to tell the truth on national TV. I actually clapped.



Rep. Barton (R-Texas) seems to think he stumped Energy Secretary Steven Chu with this tricky question:

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Incredible. People like Barton are making decisions about our lives in the House of Representatives. No wonder this country is in such deep trouble.

Hat-tip to TPM.