Saturday, December 17, 2005

Family Ties

It's that time of year when everyone gets together for the holidays. I very much enjoy celebrating Hanukkah and Christmas with both sides of my family--they're a terrific group of people. When I lived in New York, I remember talking to a group therapy class I was in (we were learning to lead groups but for all intents and purposes, all of us should have been participants). The entire group groaned about going home for the holidays with their respective families. The group described the putdowns, insults, and general malaise they felt when being around their family members. There was not a single person in the group who liked their family but me. Okay, this was probably a select sample of misanthropic New York grad students who had run away to New York and were living alone to isolate themselves from their follow human beings, but I do have a point here.

My point is that many people do not get along with their family members for one reason or another--and it is sad. However, why not make the family friction into a learning experince for you and the kids? Dadvocate gives an example of how he no longer feels comfortable around his family because of the difference in political views which, in turn, may affect his children. This is indeed, a concern.

However, in the raising of children, perhaps it is best to expose them to different groups of thought and help them to sort out why Aunt Becky or Uncle Tom is the way he or she is and to learn to understand their differences. This does not mean buying into whatever asinine thing the relatives want to say, but rather using it as a springboard to help children understand and broaden their perspectives on how people behave. And who knows? Aunt Becky with her liberal views may be the one who pushes little Johnny into a great career in the army or little Debbie into advocating for male rights after her son is forced by feminists to be medicated for his masculine behavior. Or on the other hand, Uncle Tom's racist views may lead another child to examine his own prejudices and decide to become more aware of his own racist attitudes in daily life.

So maybe rather than becoming upset and boycotting family members, we can see them as a training tool for ourselves by learning about patience and for our children by teaching them the intricasies of human psychological functioning. After all, in our work life and in the world of everyday living, we must learn to interact with and deal with people we do not agree with or necessarily like and the sooner kids learn to do this successfully--the better.

Update: Okay, I admit defeat--the stories in the comment section are heartbreaking--I can completely understand why some of you are unable to cope with abusive, threatening and just plain obnoxious families. Thank you for sharing your stories here and I hope you will continue to post, not only about your bad experiences, but perhaps share how you overcame the dysfunctional family curse yourselves. All of us can learn from your experiences and those who have not learned to cope thus far, may learn something.

Friday, December 16, 2005

It's not Worth the Hassle

The American Medical Association is concerned about a proposed pay cut in Medicare reimbursements but some doctors say it's not about the money.

"Surveys conducted by AAPS show many physicians ALREADY refuse new Medicare patients. In fact, about 33 percent. But even more alarming is that 40 percent already restrict services the services they'll perform to current Medicare patients. (See Disheartened Doctors, Patient Problems: AAPS Biannual Survey of Physicians on Medicare and Patients' Access to Care, Journal of American Physicians & Surgeons, Winter 2004.)

"But here's what you need to know: the reason they do so is NOT because of money. When asked, it's the government 'hassle factor.' The two leading reasons given were 'billing and regulatory requirements, and hassles and/or threats from Medicare carriers/government.' Payment rates were down the list.

"So it's really about FREEDOM, not the money.

Having dealt with Medicare and Medicaid frequently in my practice, I can vouch for how these doctors feel. The red tape is great and there is always a nagging threat that you will be accused unfairly of doing something wrong after an audit or investigation with a government bureaucracy. It is easier not to deal with the hassle of Medicare or Medicaid which means I either work pro bono at times or take on very few clients with these means of payment.

Update: The Medical Blog Network has more thoughts on Autonomy for Doctors and Patients.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Do You Really Need those Christmas Lights?

I went Christmas shopping yesterday after work--it lasted about twenty minutes. I wandered around a few specialty shops in Knoxville looking for some gifts for my sisters. Is it my imagination or is everything really expensive? Maybe I'm just a cheapskate but $118.00 for a plain dumb t-shirt is a lot to me. Multiply this by twenty or thirty gifts and I could fund an IRA (or a SEP in my case) for the year. That is what I would rather do. I have never understood why people spend so much on gifts or luxury items and then complain that they have to work two jobs, have no retirement or are forced to suck up to a boss they hate. I have never done that--nor would most people if they didn't buy items that they can't afford. This overspending seems to be a lifelong problem for many Americans.

I always laugh when I read articles such as this that describes why young people are in debt. The cause--rising college costs and easy access to credit cards they say. Uh, could it possibly have something to do with making $42,000 a year and spending $25,000 on your wedding? I realize this is not an expensive wedding but if you are in debt and crying about leading a "poor lifestyle" at the age of 29, it seems like you would pay off your debts first and have a tasteful but inexpensive wedding.

Now, of course, once you are married, you have to outdo the neighbors on the decorations every Christmas. The same people who will tell you that they are too broke to live the "American dream" are able to part with up to $4500.00 for a professional decorator at Christmas. And then, there are the elderly who tell you they are broke and living on a fixed budget yet are getting in on the Christmas action:

``A good percentage of our customers are elderly,'' said Clint Marsh, who is licensed and insured to hang the lights. ``You're helping people out who are afraid to get up on a ladder and do it themselves -- or are unable.''
Still, others concede that for some, the motivation might be to keep up with -- or perhaps even outdo -- the Joneses.
Each year, U.S. households spend $50 to $60 more on holiday decorations than they did the year before, with many blowing more than $8,000 on pulsating lights, mechanical reindeer and inflatable Santas, said Britt Beemer, chairman of America's Research Group in Charleston, S.C.

At this spending rate, it is no wonder so many boomers feel that they have not saved enough for retirement.

Axe Chops off Toddler's Leg--Mother was just a Bystander

A 21 year old mother in Australia chopped her toddler son's leg off with an axe--her "punishment?" Looks like a stay in a church run psychiatric group home. Luckily, the police were compassionate to this young mother--after all, why console the kid who just had to have his leg reattached when his mother had to suffer through this horrible ordeal? Apparently, the mother is only being held until March of next year. So in Australia, this is what constitutes justice if you are female--wonder what would happen to a man who chops off a toddler's leg if the Aussies are already up in arms if a man sits next to an unaccompanied minor on a plane? Thanks to reader,Trevor, for pointing out the article.

Update: Well, here is the answer to my question about justice in Australia for men--here is a man who had the audacity to drag around a tree branch--he got four months in jail--thanks to commenter Dave for pointing out this absurd tidbit.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Keep Your Boys out of those Dangerous Hallways

The Tampa Tribune ran an article posting the results of a self-report survey of the school district's middle and high schoolers views on sex, health and safety. More boys than girls admitted being physically abused by their significant other. Here are some more results of the survey:

More male high school students - 16 percent - reported being physically hurt by their significant others than female students, at 11.8 percent.

•More than 9 percent of male and nearly 12 percent of female high school students said they were physically forced to have sex.

"I know that is happening, because my son constantly gets letters from girls who want to do sexual things to him," said Paula Thomas, mother of five children ages 9 to 16. "It starts in the sixth or seventh grade."

At school, the Citrus Park mother said, "They know to stay out of certain hallways because of the girls."

Sounds like these Tampa school girls could use some anger management classes as well as sensitivity training in sexual harassment. Thanks to reader Fred for pointing out this article.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Maybe there are Monsters under the Bed

Here is an interesting article looking at how fearful women are of crime in Britain (Thanks to reader Trevor for pointing this out). Single women are keeping knifes, bats and clubs under their bed for protection against burglars or rapists. Seems reasonable to me but the article portrays the women as a bunch of nervous ninnies who have been watching too much television and are worrying needlessly. The Brits seem determined to keep women from exercising any self-defense techniques that might require them to be active in their own protection. Here is some sage advice from a forensic psychologist who apparently would rather see women raped or killed than use a weapon against an intruder:

Question marks in any case surround the wisdom of keeping a weapon close at hand.

"I would want people to think very carefully about exactly what they would do with a weapon and what the costs might be," said Dr Gilchrist. "If they are trying to deal with their fears, there may be more appropriate ways such as contacting local police for advice and information, installing panic alarms, having a mobile phone by your bed or having a light that you turn on to signal to a neighbour to call the police for you.

"If you encounter someone in your bedroom, a pretty high level of violence is needed to be effective and I'm not entirely sure people have thought through the consequences," she said.

Although the article points out that crime is dropping in Britian, others such as Bristish constable, Ben Johnson (who is American), point out that violent crime and break-ins where people are home are common:

Although overall per-capita gun crime is lower in Britain than in the United States, British criminals seem far more bold and less fearful of confrontation, injury or punishment, Johnson said. He attributed it to the fact that Americans are permitted to guard their homes with guns - and would-be burglars know it.

"Here, it's quite common that burglars will break in while people are asleep in bed in the middle of the night," he said. "It is a common thing, which I think does reflect on the legal right to protect your home."

Without the deterrent effect of a homeowner's gun, he added, "there's not that threat to burglars, so we have a much higher rate of home break-ins (with the occupants present), whereas in the States, it's close to zero."

Maybe instead of making fun of women for worrying about monsters under the bed, Britain should take the concern of these intuitive women more seriously. Laws that advocate for criminals would leave anyone feeling insecure and frightened.

Update: And they think the women are paranoid and overreactive in the UK--take a look at this article where police point real guns at a family for having a toy gun in their car--thanks to a commenter for pointing out this article.

Domestic Goddess

I am home today with a sick kid (just a cold) and doing housework. I suppose most people, particularly those of the Maureen Dowd persuasion, would think that reveling in this type of work would be a bit of a sell-out. I, however, see it as a chance to prove to myself that I can still function in the world, despite having a heart that pumps worse than most 85 year olds. I have been cooking lemon chicken soup which is incredibly good.

When my daughter was five, we went to a cooking class at Williams-Sonoma, where we learned to make several dishes. I have never been much of a cook due to being absent-minded and leaving things to burn on the stove--despite sitting only a few feet away reading. My husband bought some really bad cheap cookware at Target for me after I burned several of his nice Calphalon pans. I have a history of doing this since childhood. When I used to babysit, I burned a number of pans up and was chastised for it and later, I almost lost a roommate for ruining her nice cookware. Anyway, here is the Lemon Chicken Soup recipe--it's really quite easy even if you are a complete klutz in the kitchen:

Lemon Chicken Soup

16 cups water
one fourth Cup Fresh Lemon Juice
4T Chicken Base
one and one fourth Cup Flour
three-fouths cup Cooked Rice
6 oz. butter (I use cholesterol-free butter here)
2 Cups Cooked Chicken
Salt and Pepper to Taste

Mix water, lemon juice, and chicken base. Heat. Make a roux in sauce pan with butter and flour; cook 2 minutes. Whisk into simmering liquid and cook until thickened. Add rice, chicken, salt and perpper. Garnish with lemon slice and fresh parsley.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Potato Guns!

This weekend, my order for these POTATO GUNS showed up. At first glance, looking at the potato gun, I thought, what a dumb toy. Boy, was I wrong. The guns are a blast and a good way to get your kids outside and getting some exercise. Upon opening the potato guns, I loaded one and snuck up on my daughter and tried it out on her. My daughter, who is generally feeling pretty sluggish after school all week, laughed and ran after me. She picked up a couple of the guns and took them to a friend's house where they played all afternoon outside like kids used to do. They had a blast.

Remember when kids could play with toy guns and they were not a symbol of all that was evil in the world? My daughter doesn't. She warned me that she could never bring the potato gun to school without the risk of expulsion. The sheer joy of running around being a kid is denied to our children today. It is a shame--it is no wonder our kids are so fat today. The slightest hint of rambunctiousness is medicated out of them and diagnosed as ADHD. A pointed finger becomes a symbol of a weapon that requires therapy or suspension. The whole world is now a place where mean adults (especially males) will kidnap you if you dare venture out into the world. It is best to just stay home, watch tv and eat junk food to squelch whatever desire you have to be autonomous in the world. Do we ever realize what joy we have taken from our kids in exchange for safety?

Update: Gina from ginasrantings blog has tracked down some more potato guns. Amazon is sold out.

Update II: Look what Gina has started by finding more potato guns--groups of carpooling potato gun addicts--what will be next? Potato gun office fights?