The Alien on my Face

As if this Barbie doll didn’t already come with a ton of accessories (glasses, compression socks, night guard…) I now use a CPAP machine. Heaven help me.

CPAP stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, and it’s a device used to help you breathe at night if you have Sleep Apnea. Which I do. Big time. According to my recent sleep study, I stopped breathing entirely 8 times during the night, and I had 225 hypopneas, which are shallow breaths that represent an airflow decrease. Good grief. No wonder I’m always so tired. Every night I’ve been fighting for my life.

It’s not like I didn’t already know this. I snore. And I had a sleep study about 15 years ago that indicated that I had sleep apnea, but this was before Obamacare. I had no insurance and couldn’t afford the machinery. So I had to just take my chances.

That, and I’ve known a bunch of people that have gotten sleep apnea machines and given up on them in sheer frustration. One friend sleeps hot, and his mask kept filling up with sweat, so he was constantly waking up feeling as though he was drowning. Another was a stomach sleeper like me, and could not get comfortable. A third nearly strangled herself with the air hose. And a fourth had her mask destroyed by her dog.

I’ve been living with this alien on my face every night for about a month and a half now, with mixed results. Once, I woke up with my heart pounding, absolutely convinced that I was suffocating. I ripped the mask off, but I was awake for several hours before that sensation of utter panic left me.

Another time, I woke up completely unable to exhale. The thing was blowing so hard that my mouth was blown up like a chipmunk trying to carry too many nuts. Oh, I was getting air that time. Boy, was I ever. But you have to be able to breathe out, too. Again, I had to rip off the mask.

More often, though, it’s simply the fact that I’m not getting a good seal, and the air is escaping around the edges of the mask and blowing up into my eyeballs. That’s a weird way to wake up. That, and like my stomach sleeping friend, it’s nearly impossible to get comfortable.

Another unexpected side effect is that I no longer remember any of my dreams. I’m sure that has to do with the fact that I’m no longer waking up several dozen times a night. But I miss my dreams. I have a very rich inner world.

I hate this CPAP. I mean, I really, truly, completely hate it. So why am I still putting myself through this torture? Several reasons.

First of all, I’d kinda like to live. I used to think it would be nice to die in my sleep. That would be the way to go. But it turns out a lot of people have died in their sleep when they didn’t have to. I’d really rather not be one of those.

Second, I now have a husband, and he gets to watch me stop breathing. That’s got to be really upsetting. I’d like to spare him that. And he’s also a reason to try really hard to stick around for as long as I can.

But most importantly, I have to admit that I’ve never felt more rested in my entire life. Once I stop my nightly fight with the alien and allow it to assimilate me, I sleep soundly. (I don’t even have to get up to pee as often. That’s an unexpected bonus.) And when I wake up, I’m refreshed. That makes a difference. Such a difference.

So I’m going to try my best to adjust to this hateful thing. I need to be the adult in my life and make the effort. It’s for my own good. Wish me luck.

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An Open Letter to President Obama

Dear Mr. President:

I remember crying tears of joy when you were elected back in 2008. It felt like this nation had turned a very important corner and that we, as a society, were becoming enlightened. I was very proud.

I also cried tears of relief when Obamacare was passed. It meant I’d have health insurance for the first time in over a decade. I was finally able to sleep through the night, no longer having to worry about what would happen to me if I got sick or injured.

I also watched as you brought the economy back, kicking and screaming, after the human wrecking ball that was George W. Bush. You had to start 30 yards deep in your own end zone with that one. But you did it. You also overturned his torture policies. Well done!

You reduced restrictions on stem-cell research, thus allowing science to take several important steps forward. You also strengthened the Endangered Species Act, and were the first president to openly acknowledge climate change.

I was particularly proud when you repealed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and made it legal for anyone to marry the person whom they love. This allowed many of my friends and family to live the happy lives they deserved, and share the rights that I’ve always had.

And you had the most diverse cabinet in American history. That was impressive.

We all know that in a Trump administration there will be a roll back of many of these accomplishments. It’s heart breaking. It’s frustrating. It’s the dark side of democracy.

But you have a chance to do one last, epic thing before leaving office, a last good-bye, if you will, to show the American people that the Democratic Party is still the party for all of us, it hasn’t totally sold out, and that there is hope for the future.

You could stop the travesty of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Show that we respect the sacred lands of people who have been here much longer than America has.  And speak out against police violence during these protests.

Yes, I realize you aren’t a dictator. But you can suspend construction until a proper environmental review is done. You can have the corps of engineers actively make efforts to reroute it. You can be the nation’s moral compass one more time. You can stand up. You can speak. Reagan wasn’t a dictator, but he said “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall,” and lo, the wall came down. If he could do that in Germany, you can do this right here in our own country.

I beg you. Speak up for peaceful protest, human rights, and the environment! And for God’s sake, do it before winter sets in. Let me look at you, one last time, with respect, as you take your final bow.

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Drudge Sludge

I have a dear friend who gets all of his news from the Drudge Report, and therefore spends the bulk of his time angry, scared, and bitter. Talking to him can be exhausting. It’s like being the opponent in a sadistic game of dodgeball. He lobs paranoid gobs of information at me, I dodge the insanity, do some research, and do my best to calmly parry with logic and the facts.

  • In 2008: “Obama is going to make us pay 10 dollars a gallon for gas!” “Er…first of all, the president doesn’t set gas prices. Second, if he did that it would be political suicide.”
  • “Vaccines cause autism!” “Uh… actually, even the scientist who started that rumor has since recanted and apologized. Here are about 30 articles.”
  • “The government just imposed a quota on disciplining African Americans in schools.” “Nope. The government has just provided guidelines so that minorities will receive the same punishment that whites are getting for identical infractions.”
  • “Obama didn’t vote for anything in the senate. He only voted ‘present’ on everything.” “Hmmmm… that’s funny. I’m looking at his voting record right now, and there’s an awful lot of ‘yay’ and ‘nay’ votes for someone who supposedly only voted ‘present’.”
  • “Snopes.com is run by paranoid, incompetent, hysterical liberals!!!” Sigh. “That reference you’re citing is from a blog. And that blog got it from a viral e-mail that has been circulating since 2008. Here is an article from a reputable source that dismantles that e-mail point by point.”
  • In 2009: “There are concentration camps hidden throughout the US and soon we’ll all be in them.” “Well, that will become obvious pretty quickly, when everyone starts reporting missing friends, neighbors and relatives.”
  • “Dennis Rodman and Barack Obama are close friends, so he must have sent him to North Korea on purpose.” “Wow. If that’s the case, Rodman sure trashes his good friend in the media with a brutal frequency.”
  • “You can’t get out of state health care with your Obamacare, you know.” “Okay, I just spent 20 minutes on hold with my new insurance company, and they say of COURSE I’m covered for out of state healthcare.”

Honestly, it’s emotionally draining.

Here’s the thing about the Drudge Report. If you read it, it quickly becomes apparent that the main theme is “Be afraid. Be very afraid.” And when you look deeper you discover that its primary sources are Fox News, the Daily Mail, and Rush Limbaugh.

Fox News is caught in lies so often, and promotes such a warped agenda, that it has become the butt of jokes internationally. The Daily Mail, with its plummeting subscribers list, is Britain’s fear-mongering equivalent. And Rush Limbaugh… don’t even get me started on that ignorant fool.

For your own mental health and the sanity of those around you, it’s best to get your information from a wide variety of reputable sources. The Drudge Report is not reputable. It’s risible at best. I’d sooner get my news from a supermarket tabloid.

Speaking of reputable sources, I’m just a humble blogger and this is simply my opinion. By all means if you wish to chow down on a healthy stew of racism, homophobia, misogyny and a lunatic fringe hyper-conservative fantasy, then the Drudge Report is definitely for you.

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[Image credit: interestingtopics.net]

Why I Love Obamacare

As an abysmally underinsured American, for the past decade I’ve been acutely aware of the passage of time. Every day that went by felt like it was one day closer to whatever catastrophic health problem was going to take me down. The company I work for thought it was decent and fair to provide its employees with insurance that had a 3,500.00 cap. I always felt as if I were one sprained ankle away from joining the ranks of the uninsured, and it terrified me.

Once, I tripped off a curb and as the asphalt was rushing up to meet me, instead of thinking, “What can I do to prevent this?” or “This is going to hurt,” my very first thought, even prior to impact, was, “I can’t afford this.” That shouldn’t be the case.

Another time I broke one of the bones in my foot and couldn’t afford treatment, so I hobbled around for six months on a cane while it improperly healed. I can feel it every time the weather gets cold, and that will be an ache that I’ll get to experience every winter for the rest of my life. That shouldn’t be the case.

Oh, believe me, I tried to get individual insurance, but due to pre-existing conditions, they wanted to charge me 900.00 a month. That shouldn’t be the case either. Before taxes, I only make 1700.00 a month, and I pay 700.00 a month in rent. That would leave me less than a hundred bucks a month for food, gas, utilities… Give me a break.

Could I get some kind of financial or medical assistance? Nope. I make too much money. My friends in other countries are shocked by my situation.

So when I finally, finally paid my first monthly premium for Obamacare and found it would cost me the same amount that I had been paying for my previous, crappy insurance, but that this coverage would be about a million times better, I hung up the phone and I got tears in my eyes. That’s one less thing to worry about, freeing me up for that pursuit of happiness that I was assured was my right according to the Declaration of Independence.

Let’s address the big old Republican elephant in the room, shall we? Yes, the website is a joke. Yes, it took me daily attempts for almost two solid months before I could get through that nightmare. But you know what? I did it. In spite of the frustration, I kept trying until I got through, because I desperately needed to succeed in this effort, and I wasn’t going to give up. It was too important.

Yes, the Republicans are flooding the media with absurd horror stories and warnings that they’ll take away your firstborn child, implant you with microchips, shuttle you off to a death panel, plaster close up photographs of your hemorrhoids on the billboard closest to your place of work, and force all the doctors in America to go bankrupt, but I’m here to tell you that Fox News and their ilk are spewing fifty gallon drums of liquefied manure.

Here’s the horror story that they don’t want to tell you. As more and more of us sign up, and as the dust settles, we’ll start to realize just how many lies we’ve been told over the years. We’ll realize that our employers have been screwing us over, and big insurance companies have been sticking knives in our ribs for decades. It isn’t Obamacare that has forced all of us off of our substandard insurance. Our insurance companies’ refusal to make the coverage meet even the most minimal requirements is what caused those jokes they called policies to disappear. The spiraling cost of medical care, the abuse of the pharmaceutical companies, and the greed of the insurance agencies wanting an ever increasing piece of the monetary pie is what’s putting the squeeze on doctors.

Once we all stop waking up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, worrying about the mildest of sore throats or the dullest of aches, affordable healthcare will become a regular part of our lives and it will be here to stay. All the boogeymen will crawl back under their dusty little Republican beds and life will go on. The term Obamacare will stop being a pejorative and instead will be considered a basic right. (And I’m making every effort to hurry it on its way by using it whenever possible, to de-criminalize it in people’s minds.)

Soon it will be big business waking up in a cold sweat, figuratively speaking, because they’ll have to accept the fact that if they had behaved decently in the first place, Obamacare wouldn’t need to exist. And they’ll no longer be able to hide the fact that because of their abuses, the vast majority of Americans actually want this. Really, they’ve brought it on themselves.

Whatever caused it to exist at this moment in our history, I’m extremely grateful that it does. So thank you, Mr. Obama! I know it feels like an albatross around your neck at the moment, but future generations will appreciate your courage and resolve. I can honestly say you may have just saved my life.

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[Image credit: beforeitsnews.com]

Security Guard Blues

Times being what they are, I was feeling the need to expand my career skills, and Security Guard work seemed the way to go. As the economy gets worse, crime goes up. As crime goes up, there’s more need for security. That was my thinking, anyway. Here in Florida, even unarmed guards must take a week of training to get licensed.

The first day of security guard class was surreal. The place was locked, so we were all waiting in the hallway. Then this guy comes in wearing a sleeveless vest over his polo shirt, and the vest was covered in patches. Auto patches, swiss army knife patches, things like that. And he said, “If you’re here for security guard school, follow me. March!” And I’m thinking, “Okay…” And it’s just me and three other students. The first guy I’m calling KGB. He’s this big Arnold Schwarzenegger- sized Russian guy who doesn’t say anything. Then there’s another guy I’m calling Bull Dog. He’s retired Marine. Then there’s the guy I’m calling “Twitch”. Now Twitch worries me. He’s fresh out of Afghanistan with such a bad case of PTSD that the poor guy practically jumps out of his skin if you even sneeze. And he keeps asking the instructor how much deadly force he can use in various scenarios. And then there’s little ol’ me. WHAT THE HECK HAVE I GOTTEN MYSELF INTO????

The class was predictably easy, but it was often an assault to my sensibilities. The instructor peppered every lesson with personal stories that often had nothing to do with the subject at hand, and were almost always offensive. For example, stories about how his wife, the “little woman” is such a bad driver that she can’t be trusted. How he thinks having to teach a sexual harassment module is ridiculous, but he has to make “those politically correct types” happy. But he just HAD to show us a hilarious foreign commercial in which a father was worried about his son because he played with Barbie dolls, but he grew up and was lying in bed with two blonds. Whew! What a relief. Oh and those damned Democrats! Don’t get him started on them!

Twitch and Bulldog were eating this stuff up with a spoon. KGB, I suspect, didn’t understand a word that was being said. During the first aid module the instructor was giving medical advice that is contrary to all current medical thinking, and he was drawing from his experience in war time. He suggested that you write what treatment you performed on the victim’s forehead, even if the patient was still conscious and was likely to remain so! As if a helicopter would drop out of the sky at any moment and whisk them away. Can you imagine how well that would go over? “Sit still, ma’am, while I write on your forehead.”

Once I figured out that the class was really all about celebrating what a hero, what a raconteur, what a guru, what an all-around great guy the instructor was, I was able to just disassociate myself from all of it, pay the hundred bucks, get through the week, and get my license. We all did. Even KGB.

License in hand, I quickly discovered that Security Guards in this state are paid for shit. It would cost me more to get to work than I’d earn while there. Never thought I’d say this, but I’m better off being a bridgetender! But before I discovered that, I did go on one disastrous interview. It was for a gate guard at a gated community. I pulled up at the gate and they told me to pull through, do a u-turn, park across the street and come in for the interview. I’m halfway through the u-turn when I see a Mercedes barreling toward me. So I try to speed up the turn to get out of the way, and my old land yacht takes out a plastic decorative light post with a big glass globe, which, of course, shatters into a million pieces. I pull into the parking space and I have one of those interior conversations. Maybe they didn’t notice. But if they did, and I don’t speak up, I definitely do not get the job. But if I do speak up, I probably won’t get the job. Oh, hell.

So I walk in and say, “In the interests of good first impressions, I just took out your lamp post.” Crickets. Okay, so no sense of humor at all. That’s good to know. We spent the next 10 minutes filling out an incident report. I considered making a quip about instant on the job training, but thought better of it.

Then he asked me if I had any military experience. “No? Oh, then you won’t make a good security guard. You probably wouldn’t know the difference between day patrols and night patrols.” “Does this job include patrol duties?” No. Then I told him my experience dealing with the public, and working traffic accidents and dealing with the criminal element on the bridge. And I told him the time an old lady got stuck on the rising bridge and I had to rescue her from the equivalent of an 80 foot cliff. (That’s a story for a later blog entry, come to think of it.) He scoffed at that, and said that was something any good Samaritan might do, but that wasn’t security guard material. Mind you, this is a man who had seen my resume and called ME to drive an hour for this interview in the first place.

At that point it was fairly obvious I wasn’t going to get the job (to my everlasting relief), but he asked if I had questions, so I asked about benefits. That sent him off on a rant about “obamacare” and how none of these people (indicating the staff who were across the room, listening to every word) deserve health care. His face turned beet red and spittle was flying from his mouth.

I left there feeling as if I was crawling out of the rabbit hole. I don’t think Security is the field for me. I could never be that humorless or self-obsessed.