Wednesday, March 24, 2010
I guess I'm thinking about this because so many of the people who are really angry about this health care bill aren't even going to be affected that greatly. We'll have to wait and see but I seriously doubt that "life as we know it" as privileged, decent income earning Americans is over. Most will continue to get really good care from really good doctors and in the end, won't really suffer much at all. I raise this because everyone who is mad about what Obama is doing will get over it. I survived Bush and those who hate Obama will survive his presidency and it is doubtful that most will see a real change in their day to day circumstances while he's president. But perhaps some poor people will be helped and I hope that in the end, we can all at least feel good about that.
I totally get that people have differing philosophies of governance. What's hardest for me to understand however is the vitriolic nature of the discourse. And Christians are not able to rise above this. The name calling is especially unhelpful. I've been called a commie/socialist in this debate. Others have said I've simply become too Swedish. If you've thought that, do you get how offensive that is? As if becoming Swedish is some great character flaw.
First off, most Americans don't even understand communism or socialism and they don't understand Sweden's social contract and they think that we're standing in bread lines or unable to see doctors or living in a desolate wasteland of horribleness. If you look around my blog, I think you'll see pretty quickly that we're enjoying a pretty great life. So even if you are mad about Obama's health care bill, at least stop calling him a socialist and referring to Europe in a derisive manner. The systems in Europe are different and they are working and they have not created societies of want or need or neglect. That would be America. (Sweden is by no means perfect. Wait time is an issue here but cost and access for all is not. And wait time can be skirted in emergencies. It's funny to me that one of America's values is wait time. We are also an impatient lot. I get that when you need care and you have to wait, it's no fun. But think about all the folks in this world who wait forever and never get any kind of care.) I'm just trying to get some perspective on how privileged I am because I realize that I live a much higher standard of life with many choices and numerous opportunities and that for most in our world, they don't.
The fact that there are so many poor people living in America with no means to get their basic life needs met, to me, is shameful for our nation. We say we don't want the Government interfering with our lives and yet clearly, we're unable to take care of this on our own, because we are not doing so.
One of the things that people seem really up in arms about are the new requirements for health insurance. We have requirements and minimums in our auto insurance laws, what's the difference? Why do we have seat belt laws and helmet laws? Or are those of you against the health care bill opposed to those as well? It's to protect the collective public and to seek to create a safer, more hospitable environment for all. Sadly, this sense of collectively caring for one another has gone woefully by the wayside in the US. And this is not socialism by the way. It's plain and simple caring about your neighborhood. It's one of the things I love about Sweden...people don't mind giving back a little more in order to create a greater good for all.
Again, I respect that others have a differing view of how to get things done or the role of the government in our lives, but I'm tired of the insurance companies having so much sway over what people can and can't do. I have yet to hear from a conservative what should be done to ensure care for those in need, to reduce the power and costs of the insurance companies, to enable people to sustain care even in chronic or previous contracted illness situations. Caps and exclusions are sinful and wrong. I'm happy to see them become illegal.
But I guess my question is this: Now that this is law, what's our responsibility as citizens? And for those opposed, are you the least bit moved by the care that might be extended to those less privileged than you? Or are you mainly concerned about the costs to your own bottom line or are you nervous about the government meddling in your daily affairs? Again...I seriously doubt that anyone with privilege and money in our society will have to change their lifestyle one bit as these health care provisions unfold.
Look, I know if you are on the other side of the coin from me, this is making you mad. Believe me, I know how you feel when I read conservative blogs. And I'm not making a case by case point about this health care law per se, I'm just trying to understand how we move forward. What's killing me are the conservatives who felt that Bush came under so much "unfair" criticism and yet now they launch their vitriol in a no holds barred manner. It's fine to criticize and disagree, but enough with the myths and fear-mongering. This is not a socialist plan, Europe is not the devil, and honestly, you will survive. I survived the Bush years with little impact to my day to day lifestyle. I feel badly about the collective hurt I feel his administration did and for now, we're in a wait and see moment with the Obama administration. But I have to say, the benefits to the poor and less privileged in our society will far greater outweigh the ways in which those of us with money and privilege will be negatively affected. And to me, that matters a great deal.
Friday, March 19, 2010
It was so nice to get back to Chicago early as I had some errands that I needed to attend to and it allowed me the chance to take a nap before leaving to meet some friends later that day. I was deeply blessed by the kind generosity of my friend Paul who gave me a key to his house so I could relax and also a key to his car so I could more easily get around. I found my way to a Trader Joe's in Chicago which is my favorite grocery store of all time. I have this bizarre fantasy of working there in retirement so when I walked in the store and saw a Now Hiring sign, I actually paused to consider the possibilities. Seeing that I was leaving for Sweden less than 24 hours from that moment, I realized that it was likely not quite the right timing! I picked up my flowers and wine and off I went. Still, the knowledge that a Trader Joe's exists quite close to one of my favorite areas of Chicago along with my personal flagship store in Palm Springs bring silly, meaningless joy to my heart.
That evening I enjoyed a wonderful coffee break with a friend who I have known for many years. We worked together on a church staff when I did my internship and through the years have managed to keep up with one another in spite of distances. She is a person with whom I feel very much myself and it was great to sit and chat in a cute little American eatery. From there I joined 3 families from our former church, with whom we have also managed to keep close ties and it was wonderful to laugh together and care for one another as we shared the ups and downs of life's journey together. Their kids have grown up while we've been away and it's fun to see that all have become reasonably responsible members of society!
My final morning in Chicago ended up being more hectic than I had hoped because I was, as usual, being a time optimist and trying to cram more activities than I really had time for into my time frame. Luggage is always a hassle when we return and I wonder why I always end up with 100 pounds of stuff to take back. The moment I am finally checked in and through security is when I finally start to calm down a little.
The final leg was very smooth and I realized that after 10 flights in 8 weeks, I had not endured one snag. No delays, no cancellations, nothing. What a blessing that was. On board, I was surrounded by a group of students from Western Illinois University which is in Macomb, Illinois. I know this fact because that is where I was born when my father was at WIU and I think the students were stunned and delighted to know that I knew their school that kind of sits in the middle of no where. They were on their way to Russia for a study trip and it is likely that for most of them the biggest trip they've ever taken was to Chicago. It was fun watching them settle in for the long haul. As for me, I was happy for the empty seat next to me and got ready to try and get some sleep.
And then before I knew it, I was landing in Stockholm and my friend Madeleine was there to pick me up and we walked in the door of my house and soon thereafter the woman who cares for Tanner walked in with him and I was home again.
Our house looked great, the dog was a wonderful welcoming committee, and it felt good to be back in my space again. I missed Doug as he was still on the road somewhere between Florida and Minnesota and I wouldn't be able to talk to him until much later that day, and that was only if I managed to stay awake late enough to catch him. So I unpacked, took a nap, went for a walk with Tanner through the snowy and icy streets of Stockholm, and ended the day by going to Book Club which was also a great way to re-enter my world here.
As it turned out, I was awake long enough to catch Doug just as they had pulled into his parent's house from their 3 day driving journey. It was great to sleep with his voice ringing in my ears and I was glad to know that he was safely back in Minnesota.
The 8 week journey was over and I was back home, thinking about work, and adjusting to a new time zone again. But I brought back with me the treasures of time well spent enjoying people I don't get to see much of, a renewed sense of love and understanding in my marriage, a joyful anticipation of joining our church family again, and a real sense that for now Stockholm is my home. The sabbatical is over but I believe the sabbath, the rest and the renewal is something that I will seek to continue to incorporate into my life on a more regular basis. Thanks for being part of this journey.
Monday, March 8, 2010
It was wonderful to wake up to a living room that was flooded with light and wander out onto the terrace to enjoy my morning coffee seaside. One morning, Doug’s sister Beth, had a very early flight out, so we were all up at 4.30. I’m actually kind of glad I woke up so early because watching the sun come up was certainly an incredible way to start the day. In fact, even as I write this blog, I am perched on the balcony, enthralled by the bright yellow sun that is casting reds and oranges and pinks on the horizon and lighting up the beach with an incredible hue that is hard to describe. One of the more stunning visual features of this sunrise is the way in which the sun’s reflection creates a pathway of gold on the water. It appears as though you could simply walk right up to the sun if you just stepped on the sold gold pathway its beam seemingly created on the water top. It is such a treat to experience the rising and setting set over the ocean. The crashing waves of the gulf provide a peace-filled backdrop to the days that break with spectacular beauty and warmth. The blue of the water, the white of the sand, the pink and orange hues dancing off the water make this one of the prime spots in the world to watch the day begin. I just love the amazing color palette that emerges as the sun journeys towards high noon.Long walks along the beach, delicious seafood and the influence of southern cooking have certainly left me more than full. I wonder when the day will come when I won’t have a belly ache at the end of the day from eating too much! It is fun to try to new things and I’ve certainly
I am so thankful that we have the chance to dip our toe back into this wonderful place and re-connect with those with whom we share a very strong connection indeed.
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
A few days before we were scheduled to leave I could feel the coming "funk" in my belly. I told Doug that I was struggling with my usual "hate to leave California funk" and he simply replied by saying, "I know." I said, "Is it that obvious?" To which he lovingly said, "Jodi, I've watched this happen every year for many years now. It's OK. It's hard for me to leave too."Usually when we leave California we are finished with our vacation and thus beginning the long journey into night that takes us back across the Atlantic to Stockholm. As our departure from California neared, I realized that we weren't actually leaving the States yet, but instead we still had a brief stopover in Chicago to look forward to as well as a wonderful stay with Doug's parents in Pensacola, Florida. The thought of lingering by the sugary white sands of Pensacola Beach for a few days perked up my mood. Even so, it's always hard to say good-bye to my folks, especially when health concerns continue to be present.
Sadly, our last week in California we also got news that one of Doug's sister's is quite ill as well. I am not wanting to discuss this in specific detail on the blog at this time, but your prayers for all involved are appreciated. It is hard news to receive and definitely reminded us again of how fragile life really is. My mom continues to feel good but tests are indicating that something is going on that may not be positive. The great news is that she is not symptomatic and so we celebrate how she feels not what numbers say. I am so thankful that she is so much more herself than in the years when she was so sick and that so much joy and thanksgiving has been ours to share with both her and my dad. My dad also has some lingering health concerns that he needs to deal with and so we are kind of in a wait and see mode. Doug's sister is awaiting deeper diagnosis and protocol for treatment. We become acutely aware of our position of living in Sweden during these times of uncertainty. But we thank God for the fruitfulness of this wonderful sabbatical and the time of joy and thanksgiving we've been given.
Our final day in Palm Springs was absolutely gorgeous...the kind of day that reminds me of why in the world I long to live there someday. We sat by the pool until 4.00, ran a couple of last errands and then finally won 3 games of cribbage in a row against my parents after enduring getting beat 8 times in a row! We didn't even the score but redeemed what otherwise would've been the ultimate humiliation. In the grand scheme of life, card game outcomes don't matter very much, but what I treasure about these games is how we laugh, rag, celebrate, gloat, prod, and enjoy one another's company whilst playing!
On the day of our departure, we went out for breakfast and I had delicious cinnamon french toast that took me through the day! It was mild and sunny at the airport. Check-in was a snap and a lovely glass of Pinot Grigio helped to ease the tug at my heart strings. I barely even shed tears this time around.