Friday, February 28, 2014

Pulling Weed

I've had it up to here with marijuana.

Yep, this is probably going to be unpopular. And I haven't wanted to write about it, because in doing so, I expose myself and my beliefs. I open myself up to criticism and name calling and all that other stuff that I'd rather not deal with.

But seriously - I've had it. Once again, America has jumped on the bong bandwagon, thinking that the legalization of marijuana is the answer to all our economic and crime problems - plus it makes us look really, really cool.

In trying to research all the "pros" to legalizing marijuana, I found article after article touting the revenue benefits. In one, Milton Friedman, author and staunch marijuana supporter, writes in an open letter to the President, Congress, Governors and State Legislatures (and signed by 500 economists,) "The report shows that marijuana legalization -- replacing prohibition with a system of taxation and regulation -- would save $7.7 billion per year in state and federal expenditures on prohibition enforcement and produce tax revenues of at least $2.4 billion annually if marijuana were taxed like most consumer goods. If, however, marijuana were taxed similarly to alcohol or tobacco, it might generate as much as $6.2 billion annually."

But at what cost? And what's next? Crack cocaine?

I came upon an article that really spoke to every single issue I had with the reasons people think are good to legalize this stupid drug. Quotes like:

"Nobody goes to jail for marijuana." 
Maybe not - but I bet later in life they go to jail for something else. And yes, I do think it can be a gateway drug. I most certainly do. Not for everyone. I'm sure there are those who enjoy a hit or two and go about their day. For others - it's a search for something to escape - something to take away the pain. For those people, it's just the start.

"No one ever died of a marijuana overdose."
Maybe not. But I do know of cases where drivers impaired by marijuana have killed people while behind the wheel. Kinda the same thing.

"It is not worthwhile for a law to forbid people from willingly exposing their own bodies to harm by using drugs."
It's not worthwhile to advocate for it, either.

"Smoking marijuana isn’t good for you, but then, neither is drinking a beer.” 
Sorry, that's a lame excuse akin to, "If Johnny jumped off a bridge, would you?"

How about "legalizing marijuana makes every parent's job that much harder." What happens to all those anti-drug programs in the schools now? Do they have a little asterisk next to the word "pot"?  Oh, kids, drugs are bad. But if any of you are on Facebook or read the news, you'll see article after article on how great this Mary Jane stuff is. Even recipes!

A recent article stated, "In perhaps the greatest display of entrepreneurial spirit in modern history, a California Girl Scout has been selling cookies outside of a San Francisco marijuana dispensary." She's being hailed as an entrepreneur. Are you KIDDING ME??? At her age she shouldn't even KNOW about the munchies. To me that was a HUGE parenting fail and we HAILED her as a Girl Scout Cookie HERO! To the Girl Scout organization's credit, they were not in favor of her selling techniques (Kudos to GS.)

My point is, we're in over our head. Again. Whomever thinks that legalizing marijuana is somehow going to be good for the moral fiber of America is, well, smoking crack. No matter how much the parent tries to influence the child, there is SO MUCH propaganda out there in favor of it that I don't blame them for questioning MY morals and MY values - because they're in the minority.

I'm sure when this legalization occurred, the powers that be just assumed that everyone this would affect would be responsible about it and follow the rules. That's when the "we're in over our head" thing comes into play. On paper, this may seem like a really sound idea - a way to help our economy. Morally, though, I truly believe we as a society aren't mature enough to handle it - nor SHOULD we be.

How about the legalization of medical marijuana? I appreciate the fact that it does give relief for some conditions, and in that case I do believe it should be allowed in pill form under strict guidelines. However, I fully see that it will be abused by people "claiming" illnesses just to get a script. In fact, I know of a few. They don't NEED it. They WANT it. And it's really not going to be that hard to get it.

I can tell you the high schools in town have a HUGE drug problem. Marijuana is probably the most prevalent, because it's the easiest to get (SO easy) - and usually what the "newbies" start out with. There are an endless multitude of varieties, cut with who knows what kind of agents and ingredients and sold by who knows who. And when someone gets a weak dose, they have a tendency to move on to something else. Mollies. Skittles. Tabs. DMT. And I'm sure much more. If I had the balls, I could "out" many, many kids right now - just by posting their names. If I had the balls, I'd knock on some doors and have some very serious conversations with some very clueless parents. Because it needs to stop. And they need help. I just don't know that it would do any good. Parents don't want to believe it. "It's not that big of a deal." And sadly, if they WANT to do something about it, there is not much they CAN do. Legally and parentally.

So I'm in the minority, apparently - I'm not on the bandwagon. Because I'm against the legalization of marijuana. Not because of the economy, or the crime rate, or the tax revenue. I'm against it for the KIDS. Because they don't know any better. And the more the press and the public shove how WONDERFUL it is down our kids' throats, the less power the parents have.And that's a problem.

If you smoke weed and you're an adult? Knock yourself out. If you don't MIND if your kid smokes it? I guess that's up to you and I hope you really know your kid. But for those parents with young children - I fear for you. I fear for me and I have a 12 year old. Because I can't send a unified message to them. I can't keep it from them. Me telling them it's "wrong" holds less water when every news outlet says it's "right." All I can do is try to become as educated as I can so I am able to convince my kids that "just because it's legal doesn't mean it's good." Yes, critics. Just like alcohol and cigarettes.

But not quite.

Monday, February 17, 2014

"Do what's best"

I love this go-to saying. It's what you say when you don't know what to say or do. It's what you say to end a conversation because you don't have any answers and have run out of suggestions. It's what you think to yourself when you don't know what's best.

What exactly is "best" and how do we know when we're doing it?

On a small scale, take this inordinate shit ton of snow we have right now. I'm scared to death to drive on these roads, while others think it's no big deal. So what is best? To take your chances and white knuckle it to work, risking a head on collision for a client proposal? Or stay home and risk repercussions because others made it in and you were too much of a pansy not to? And while we're on the subject, when did it become hero's work to even say you were out in this? I was driving in this stuff today and I didn't feel like a hero - I felt like an idiot.

What does this even MEAN?????
On a grander scale, every day we are forced into decisions that fall to the "doing what's best" motto. From taking that job, to not taking that job. From starting a relationship to ending one. And if you're a parent, "do what's best" can change much more often than a teenager changes his underwear.

I feel like I am truly in a position right now where I don't know what's best. I am second guessing myself every minute of every day it seems. I've lost my confidence, my mojo, and whatever else it takes for me to take the bull by the horns and say, "Look here - THIS is how it's going to be." 

What's best for my mom, who allegedly has terminal cancer? Well, evidently it was hospice. That's what the doc said. The cancer has spread, he said. There's nothing more that can be done, he said. We'll treat her with pain meds, he said. So we did what was best. We put her in hospice.

Well that was more than three weeks ago.  She takes very few if any pain meds, and we had to fight for that. She's getting up in the chair (with assistance,) which astounds the staff. So guess what. She now no longer qualifies for "regular" hospice. Apparently she's not declining at the "expected rate" based on whatever regulations make up hospice. So she can STAY where she is, but under a different "level" of care. And 100% out of pocket. Or go back to the nursing home. We have elected to keep her where she is.

We're assuming that's "what's best," but we are literally going on faith alone. There's no documentation to tell us what her current health status is, and hospice does no testing. She's certainly not getting better, but there are no telltale signs that she's necessarily getting worse. She just doesn't follow any sort of "rulebook for the dying." So what's best? Evidently we just wait for laws to tell us and just follow along - and do "what's best" for her comfort and well-being, whatever that is.

In the past few months, weeks, and even days, I've had to make some very tough, very life changing decisions about my son. Nothing has been finalized yet, but the options have been researched, scrutinized, analyzed and discussed. I have screamed, cried, prayed, stressed, lost sleep and begged for someone to tell me what's best. I still don't know.

What's worse is that moment when you THINK you're doing what's best and you are met with anger and hatred from the very person you are trying to help - because they don't understand that you love them so incredibly much. And that you're trying to do "what's best," when that's really kind of bullshit because you're not exactly sure if what you're deciding is the right thing to do.

That's when I start second-guessing myself. What IS best? Is this best for HIM? What if I'm making the wrong decision? It's like staying in an unhappy marriage "for the sake of the kids" then realizing your kid is effed up because he grew up in a dysfunctional household. It's like driving to work to finish that big proposal and getting sideswiped on the Interstate. It's like a fly in your freakin' Chardonnay. I don't know.

You can't win.

In the midst of all this, I don't know what's best for me anymore. People say to "make sure you do things for yourself." What does that MEAN? Get my nails done? Eat a pint of ice cream? Buy a pretty new dress? Go on a date? A date? Really? Who in their right minds would start a relationship right now? Is that really what's BEST? Maybe it'd be nice for me, but I pity the other guy. Not so much what's best for him.

"Do what's best." I wish I knew what this elusive "best" is. I do what I think I need to do at the moment I need to do it. Unfortunately, many of these decisions I'm making are big and can't exactly be reversed. I yearn for the days when my idea of "do what's best" was deciding if I could ignore the cries on the baby monitor for just 10 more minutes, if I could pull off wearing spandex at the gym or or if I should really have that shot the bartender just bought me.

Those were the days.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

If I ran a hospice

Don't get me wrong. The Richard L. Owens Hospice Home is a lovely place, and only one of four hospice homes in the state of Illinois. Therefore, we are lucky to have this facility not only here in Peoria, but also within less than 10 minutes from most of my family's homes.

Here's a little background, courtesy of a June, 2013 article in Healthy Cells Magazine:

"The impetus of the home’s creation is rooted in the generosity and charitable spirit of Richard L. Owens and his wife, Hootie. Richard was a successful entrepreneur who was also an OSF lung cancer patient. He passed away peacefully with his family and friends in his Peoria residence with the help of OSF hospice care. Following Richard’s passing in 2003 and before her own death in 2010, Hootie continued the family tradition of giving, pledging $2 million to help build the OSF Richard L. Owens Hospice Home."

Fun fact: Back in the 80's, I was high school buddies with Rick and Dennis Owens, Richard and Hootie's sons. There were many a nights when we "partied" at their mom and dad's house when they were away. I find it ironic that years later, I am sitting in Richard's "home" once again, when he's not here. 

But back to hospice. Let's pretend there are no government and state rules and regulations and no Medicare red tape. Let's pretend we're not bound by laws that say what can and can't be done or allowed and that there are always exceptions and not all patients at this stage of their life are created the same. And let's pretend I have limitless amounts of money. That said, here's what I would do if I ran a hospice.

If I ran a hospice, the beds would be pimped out so they wouldn't look like hospital beds. They'd have headboards and canopies and bed skirts. The sheets would be flannel or 1000 thread count fine Egyptian cotton. The blankets would be as soft as a baby's bottom, not starchy and stiff like the ones you get on an airplane. The pillows would never need fluffing, would always be cool and would always smell fresh. The mattress would be one of those fancy, Sleep Number ones that would adjust to her comfort and support needs and wants. Oh, and the beds would be able to magically transform into chairs that could be wheeled out to a sunroom, or a porch, or an outside courtyard. If that's where she wanted to be.

And speaking of fresh, if I ran a hospice, it would smell like springtime. Not that canned smell you get in those air fresheners that give you a headache, but the real springtime. Like rain or lilacs or fresh cut grass. Maybe every room would have a customizable smell, like sawdust for a woodworker or the finest of food aromas for a chef.  

Not like this chair.
If I ran a hospice, the rooms would be bright and airy like they are, yet more comfortable. The chairs would be plush, with upholstered arms instead of hard, wooden ones. The backs would be high so my dad could rest his head back and snooze without doing that head bobbing thing. There would be footrests, or perhaps a coffee table to prop tired feet upon.

Not like this couch. Ouch.
If I ran a hospice, there would be a couch. Not a Styrofoam couch that converts to a table that converts to a recliner that converts to a bed that, according to my dad, is "just a little better than sleeping on the floor of the waiting room at the hospital." No, this would be a comfy couch, in a soft fabric that's soothing when you run your fingers over it. One that my dad or sister or brother could sink into if they wanted and take a nap under a blanket. One that would make us feel like we were visiting our mom in her own living room rather than the last room in which we may ever see her.

If I ran a hospice, there would be a smoothie machine with different flavors, available 24/7. That way, if she said she was hungry for one, we could get it for her right away, and not wait for the nurse to have the kitchen make one and by the time it comes, she's asleep or not hungry anymore.  There would be a multitude of yummy foods available in a softened form, like chocolate or cheesecake or cookie dough, just right for someone who has trouble swallowing or chewing.

If I ran a hospice, there would be a dial on the wall where you could choose a type of music to play in the room - from big band to showtunes to the classics. To me, the power of music is incredibly underutilized and underrated.  

OK, this might be a little much, but it's cool.
If I ran a hospice, the harsh, overhead lighting would be replaced by floor and table lamps and soft light. There would be more plants. And a fish tank in every room, soothing to watch during the day, casting just the perfect glow at night and just the right amount of white noise with its bubbling filter.

If I ran a hospice, I'd make sure she was was assigned a rotation of just a few nurses who would really get to know her and know our family. That way there wouldn't be the constant battery of questions every day that we and she have answered thousands of times before. There may still be the FLACC Scale and the Morley Makin Model, for I know there is an important place for both of these, but it wouldn't necessarily have to be applied to every patient. And certainly I would do my ultimate best to be respectful of the fact that the family - regardless of their depth and breadth of medical knowledge - does know their loved one better than I ever will and may in fact know more about her real "quality of life" wishes that I medically do. I would make sure every word spoken to her and every care given to her was done with the utmost of respect for her own dignity.

If I ran a hospice, there would be volunteers here who have been down this road. They would come in and offer to talk to my dad or me or my sister or brothers and help us through this roller coaster of emotions we go through on a daily basis. They would help us navigate the "what to expect" when we don't know what to expect. They would validate what we are feeling and help us manage those emotions. They would enlighten us as to how to help my mom. How to best take advantage of the time we have left with her. How to tactfully discuss how or what she is feeling and have responses to whatever she might say. They would be able to help the different members of my family who are in different phases of the grieving process. I wouldn't offer these services "after the fact" as bereavement services. To me, they are just as important - if not more important - now. 

If I ran a hospice, the windows would open, so she could feel the rain on her face for just a moment. Catch a snowflake on her tongue one last time. Feel the warm breeze send tingles all over her body. And most of all, so I could watch her close her eyes and raise her face to the shining sun. 

Again, this place is nice, and I'm thankful. It is their job to provide palliative care for those at their end stages of life. But if I could, I'd strive to treat each person as more of an individual and as special as that life itself. I'd make sure that person was given the quality of life they wished for and deserved (given my limitless means.) I would leave no wish ungranted, no want unmet, and no words left unspoken. If I ran a hospice.