Monday, November 25, 2013

The Heathcare Mess, Part 1

I've been thinking a lot about this health care mess we have gotten ourselves into. I had huge hopes for universal healthcare, but it all just looks worse and worse as time passes. Many people in the US are quick to blame President Obama, but he didn't cause the problem. It has developed over many years, and it is going to take some serious changes from everyone to fix it. Maybe the Obamacare problems will be the kick in the butt that the US needs to straighten it all out.

I have some ideas that might help; you may have some of your own. No one is going to get anything done unless a real conversation gets going and we all accept that we have to make some changes in the way we live our lives. Everyone is to blame: insurance companies, hospitals, drug companies, doctors, and the rest of us who use their services.

The first thing we have to do is to recognize and accept some unavoidable truths:
  1. We are all going to die sooner or later.
  2. We have a lot of control over our health.
  3. We make a choice every single time we put a bite of food in our mouths, lift a drink to our lips, and plop down on our butts in front of the TV or computer.
Death is an inevitable part of life. We are all going to die whether we like it or not. There is no way out of this one.

A few days ago I read an article about the number of people who expect doctors to do everything possible to delay the end, even though that "everything" is outrageously expensive. Even though it often does no good. Even though it drags out the miserable painful illness of a person who is beyond being able to make that decision. That is crazy! Who wants to live longer if that time is spent in pain or without consciousness? And who is going to pay for that expensive treatment?

We all have a lot of control over our health. Very few of us can use the excuse that we don't have the knowledge required to stay healthy. There a thousands of books and internet sites with all the information anyone needs. There are libraries for those who can't afford books or the internet. Who can say they don't have the time or the interest to find out what they need to know? What can possibly be more important than maintaining good health? How many times do we need to be told that the majority of our health problems are brought on by our lifestyle choices?

We make choices every day that affect our health. Food is the fuel that powers our bodies. Some fuel is good, high octane stuff that is good for us; some fuel tastes good but offers almost nothing to nourish our bodies. What do you choose to eat? Is it healthy fuel or is it junk food? And what are you doing to keep your body strong? Are you getting enough exercise? Or are you sitting around in front of the TV or computer every chance you get? Little by little, we have slipped into such an unhealthy lifestyle. We don't get outside and move enough. We don't know anymore what to eat or when to stop eating.

I would like to see everyone able to afford the healthcare they need. However, I believe that we have to take some very harsh actions to make people take responsibility for their own healthcare. I hear people complaining that they don't like the changes that are coming about with their insurance. As hard as it may be to accept, the only fair way to do it is to make people pay according to their lifestyle choices:
  1. If you smoke, you should pay more for insurance.
  2. If you drink or use drugs, you should pay more for insurance.
  3. If you are overweight, you should pay more for your insurance, based on your weight.
  4. If you expect doctors to do everything possible to extend your life, you should pay for it.
  5. If you choose to have children, you should pay for maternity coverage.
Does this seem unfair? Look at it this way: Why should non-smokers pay extra to cover smokers? Why should people who eat right, exercise, and do whatever possible to stay healthy pay for those who don't? Why should everyone have to pay when someone chooses to have a baby?

Insurance should cover us for the things over which we have no control. Even those who try very hard to stay healthy will still get sick now and then, and some of us will have major medical problems, but why not do what we can to stay healthy and save the doctors for when we really need them?

So what do you think? Do you have anything constructive to add? Any ideas that might help? I'd love to get a real conversation going here.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Kindred Quilters Fabric Arts Group Exhibition

I have been very busy this week getting ready for and then participating in my art quilt group's show and sale yesterday. We held it in the beautiful garden of one of our members.

Although the small group has been together for about 2 1/2 years, I just joined this summer. We share ideas, try out new techniques together, and generally inspire each other at our weekly meetings.

The eight of us have very different interests, ideas, styles, and methods, but we enjoy getting together, throwing many possibilities into the mix, and seeing what we come up with.

Although there had been rumors about the existence of our group, this was our "coming out" party to let the expat community know who we are and what we do. We had a great turnout and a very positive response from those who came to see our work.

They will be hearing much more from us!

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Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Artist Inside All of Us

"Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up."                                  - Pablo Picasso

Throughout my childhood and into my teen years, I wanted to be an artist. I wanted to paint and draw, to take photographs, to work in clay, to play a guitar and to dance ballet. In my spare time, I wanted to try just about every crafty fad that came along. A high school counselor suggested that I focus on something reasonable like teacher, nurse, or mommy.

Teaching and nursing didn't appeal to me much, and then my parents told me there was no money to send me to college. I got married, had three kids, stayed home and took care of them and the house, and in my spare time I dabbled in just about every crafty fad that came along.

Many years later, I was 40, divorced, the kids were all in school and beyond, and I paid my own way to college. Staying home and taking care of the house and kids didn't pay very well, so I figured I'd better get serious and prepare myself for a career.

I loved every class I took, but I didn't allow myself to take a single art class; I had to be reasonable and serious. Fortunately, just as I was about to graduate, I came up with the idea of opening a quilt shop. I finally found a job that let me make a living in an art-related job.

I loved it! My customers and I became a quilting community. We shared ideas. I taught classes, but they taught me things, too. We all inspired each other to take on greater challenges all the time. When the problems of running a business took away the joy of the art, I sold out and moved away.

Near my new home in Washington, I joined a co-operative art gallery. Although I was the only quilter of the group, we all shared ideas and inspiration. The painters and the photographer and the stained glass guy and I were really all doing the same thing; we just used different materials to do it. That was when I realized the value of belonging to an artist community.

Of course, there are artists' communities all over the world. They offer creative environments that support the work of artists. Some are informal groups, some are organizations that provide short term residencies in small communities, and others are whole towns, like Sante Fe or Taos, New Mexico, that are full of galleries and art museums.

My uncle once took me to see some apartments in Long Beach, California, that had been built specifically for artists. Each apartment was a studio with a generous work space as the focus, but also included a kitchen, a bathroom, and a sleeping area. I would have loved that, and I was seriously tempted, but I was literally on my way to my retirement in Mexico when this happened.

I hadn't done any quilting for a few years, but I recently became involved with a fiber arts group. All of a sudden, it is as if I have come alive again after a few years of drifting along. Most days, I am in my studio for five or six hours. Inspiration is coming to me much faster than I can complete projects. I can't figure out what I was doing with my time before this.

Actually, this whole Lake Chapala area is one big artist community. It seems like almost everyone finds the artist inside of them once they retire here. We have theater groups, musical groups, writers, painters, potters, photographers, weavers, jewelry-makers, quilters (of course) and people creating all over the place. It turns out that once we retire, that artist inside of us has another opportunity to come out and express itself. Maybe this is what they mean by second childhood.

PS - It has been almost 20 years since I graduated from college and barely a day goes by that I do not regret that I didn't allow myself to major in art or at least take some art classes.