Saturday, February 09, 2008

Decency: Come Back, Back, Baby

I am not a prude. I don’t blanch or even wince at the F word. I have even been known to use it myself, if rarely. I suspect that there has been profanity as long as there has been language. It serves more than one role in our culture: emphasis, machismo, daring for the young, and probably a host of others. But the point has always been that to use profanity is to step outside the norm for behavior in most settings.

One of the places profanity did not rear its ugly head was in media, cable notwithstanding. Lately, the casual use of formerly unthinkable language has begun to creep onto our airwaves and into our print media houses.

I’m not sure how you fire a billionaire CEO, but Tribune Company should certainly consider at the least muzzling theirs, or perhaps just not letting him address the troops. When was the last time the head of your company said “Fuck You” in response to a question you asked? It happened at the Orlando Sentinel for all the employees and, since it was videotaped and this is the 21st century, all the world to hear. Thinking perhaps Mr. Zell must have been provoked? Not so. His uncouth language was a punctuation mark in response to a rather soft-voiced young woman’s mildly posed question about journalistic policy. Hear it for yourself at

Was Sam chastened by the uproar that resulted? Apparently not. In a subsequent visit to the Los Angeles Times, while touring a printing plant in Orange County, Sam appeared shocked to learn that Times’ policy banned accepting advertising from strip clubs and gun stores. His response, “Everyone likes pussy. It’s un-American not to like pussy.” There are several accounts of this incident. This one provides a lot of detail and context:

Lest anyone think that Sam Zell is merely a one-man profanity parade, MSNBC anchor David Shuster on Thursday asked a guest on air, “Doesn’t it seem like Chelsea’s sort of being pimped out in some weird sort of way?” referring to Chelsea’s calls to celebrities and party super delegates seeking support for her mother’s Presidential bid. Hear it yourself:

Huh? Are you kidding me? In his grudging, halting apology the next day on MSNBC, Shuster referred to the phrase “pimped out” as slang and said that he didn’t mean it in “a pejorative way.” Right, he meant the warm and fuzzy way you say to a woman, “You bein’ pimped out? or are you just a ’ho all by yourself?

Of course, the common denominator in all of this is the imprimateur of business-as-usual and societal norm on the age-old pastime of men demeaning women. I attribute some of this phenomenon to the mainstreaming of rap. When rap first routinely referred to women as ’hos and regularly characterized them as disposable, worthless, and meant to be used by men, there was some outcry. Sadly, the people doing the complaining were simply labeled as unhip, even racist for not seeing the raw poetry and art in the form. If there was truth in the latter, it still did not negate the truth of the former. Recently, a number of noted members of the black community have begun to deplore some of the trickle-down impact of the negative portrayal of and language about women that rap has fostered. I hope very much that we all stand up and protest loudly. We can stop this very ugly trend.

Shuster’s mealy-mouthed non-apology was in no way enough. Hey, David, get your dick out of your mouth. As for Zell, billions of dollars apparently render one apology-proof. That does not mean that the rest of us should not speak up long and loud to say that his behavior is unacceptable. I want to hear the men of America, led by the men in the media, stand up and say that decent men do not use expressions like fuck you or pussy, or refer to others as pimps or to women as being pimped out in conversation or public discourse.

Sam Zell, grow up, old man. Apparently, your money was not enough to buy you a replacement for your thin skin. Oh, and by the way, there is a power imbalance in the employer-employee relationship that means you are held to a higher standard of conduct.

David Shuster, you disgust me. “Have you no decency, sir?” Oh, that’s right, you don’t. You’ve shown us that already.

Finally, from the Voice to the men of MSNBC including the usually level-headed and fair-minded Keith Ohlberman: I don’t care one whit about David Shuster’s body of work. It does not excuse, nor does it atone for his outrageous remark. Fire him. That’s what you would have done if he had called Barack Obama a pimp. This is no better.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Don Quixhotelier

One sign of a city’s development is its spawning of a pantheon of colorful characters. Of late, hotel magnate Harris Rosen seems determined to move from business and philanthropic leader into the “Oh, there he goes again” head-shaking category.

The first of his quixotic quests was his petition drive and simultaneous threat of a lawsuit aimed at stopping the city from proceeding with plans for the three new downtown venues. Mr. Rosen seems to believe that the citizens of our fair city are just not quite as smart as he is. Cloaking his self interest (he had lobbied hard prior to the votes to have the venues built on I-Drive near his major hotel properties) in the guise of helping Orlando, he seemed to be saying like the Great Oz, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.” Fortunately, the people are a lot smarter than Mr. Rosen gives them credit for. Needing 31,000 signatures to get on the ballot and coming up with less than 10% of that number, Rosen finally threw in the towel on this venture with his usual ill grace.

Mr. Rosen and his colleagues need to stop regarding the tourist taxes as their personal slush fund. While they collect the tax, it is not even their properties that attract the tourists in the first place. Since all Orlandoans bear the brunt of playing host to the tourists, all Orlandoans should be among the beneficiaries, through public projects, of the taxes. Not to fret, boys, no one is suggesting that we cut off our nose to spite our face. There will always be a big chunk of those funds dedicated to ongoing promotion of tourism for the area. That’s not enough for Harris Rosen, though. He wants to codify his ridiculous notion that all tourist tax dollars should be reserved by law for promoting tourism. Nice work if you can get it: Having state and local tax dollars doing most of the work of driving guests to your hotel while all of the profit from those guests goes into your pocket. Hmmm. Maybe the state would pay marketing expenses to promote me as a writer…nah, they’d never go for it.

Not content to stop there, Mr. Rosen is now tilting at the big windmills, uh, I mean wind storms, or at least at those who predict them. Last month, Mr. Rosen threatened to sue Dr. William Gray regarding his seasonal hurricane forecasts, which Rosen says are hurting his business. Huh? I never saw anything in any coverage of a Colorado State team forecast that said a lot of hurricanes (or any) were going to hit Orlando—or even Florida in the last two years. Those predictions label the season active, and attempt to predict the number of storms, the intensity, and the likelihood of a certain number of them making landfall somewhere. Lucky for us and sad for them that this year it was primarily Central America that took it on the chin.

What next Mr. Rosen? Want to sue the almighty for bad weather? Perhaps sue the people who are not staying in your hotels? Give it a rest, Mr. Rosen, before the rest of us don’t listen to anything you say—or worse, laugh at everything you say. As it is, we will definitely be looking for what’s in it for you when your next pronouncement comes out.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

The Bluetooth Blues

My Luddite tendencies caught me out again the other day. I was having lunch with a new friend this past week. I arrived first, and as I stood up to greet her when she came in, I saw her Bluetooth earpiece. The lunch was fun—a new place and writing talk (this is a buddy I went through November’s NaNoWriMo with). The whole time, however, stray thoughts kept drifting into my head about that Bluetooth. All the while that we were talking, was she receiving signals that she was missing phone calls? Was her attention split? Did she long for things to wrap up so she could count her voice-mail messages?

She wasn’t a good enough friend that I could have just blurted, “What’s that thing on your head, and will it go off?” For all I know, she could have turned it off before getting out of the car—leaving it only a strange, inert ear ornament. Meanwhile, I was the one with split attention. Trying to focus on what she said, but all the while wondering about this new implement of connection. In my reading lifetime, we are coming sooooooooooo very close to the science fiction I read as a youngster in which people were permanently plugged into “The Net” through implants. I’m afraid that early Sci Fi has stuck with me and informs some of my opinions. I just don’t think being always available is a good thing. I also think it is hard to be “in the moment” fully while festooned with communication devices.

Is there an etiquette for this? Should sporting a Bluetooth headset while in a public place be as much a faux pas as talking on one? Or have I already been marginalized, because I find it wildly annoying that people in the grocery line ahead of me or the coffee line at Starbucks are talking way too loudly about stuff I don’t want to know all the while transacting business? Transacting their business slower and with pauses, of course, since you can’t really do two things at once—at least not well. If I’m annoyed, what about the poor service person or cashier relegated to a status lower than that of some anonymous person not even there in the eyes (but not the ears) of the talker?

Excuse me, I have to close now. The inbox on my email just dinged.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Physician, Heal Thyself—You're Not Doing So Great with Me

Hey, Doc, are you wondering why we, your patients, are flocking to alternative medicine? Arrogant cretins (the word I wanted to use here also has six letters, but rhymes with sticks) that most of you are, you probably attribute it to patients’ ignorance and not your own failures. You would be wrong.

Once, years ago, I was going through a particularly rough patch with my physician. He was hectoring and paternalistic and would badger me about my weight no matter what I went into his office for. Now, don’t misunderstand me. Yes, I am overweight. Yes, I should lose weight for my health. Yes, he had a duty as my physician to address that issue with me. My problem wasn’t that he brought it up. It was how he delivered the message. He would sit in the chair across from me with his large, rotund stomach sticking out and his shirt buttons straining, showing me glimpses of his hairy belly through the gaps—while angrily telling me I was wasting his time because I would not lose weight.

Finally, after one of these sessions, I snapped and did something I have to be very pressed to do. The very next time I had an appointment, I confronted the doctor and told him that the last time he saw me he had been rude, patronizing and paternalistic. Further, I said that he needed to look at his own weight issues before being so angry about what he called my “failure to deal with” mine. He was extremely taken aback. It was probably like being bitten by his stethoscope. In a movie, he would have had an “Ah, ha” moment and taken a look at his bedside manner. In real life, he said that if I felt that way about it, perhaps we would both be happier if I found another physician. I said, “Perhaps we would, but this is an island, and there aren’t that many choices.” From my point of view, things improved after that. He was more respectful and consultative, rather than condescending, in subsequent visits, if a bit wary. He seemed quite happy, though, to tell me a few months later that he was leaving the island to take a position in another state. I was happy too with his successor, a woman. In fact, I believe he was the last male primary care physician I ever had.

I have wandered a little off point here. During those same years with Dr. Fat Daddy, my husband and I were in a car accident in which we both suffered significant soft tissue injury when our car was rear-ended on a freeway. I had gone to my doctor after the accident, where I was told to take ibuprofen and, effectively, don’t call me back. Not literally, but Western medicine has lots of little areas where doctors simply eschew to practice at all and one of those is soft tissue injuries. Probably, without costly drugs and procedures, there just isn’t enough money in it. A friend that I trusted suggested going to a chiropractor, something that I would never have done, thinking that alternative medicine was practiced by medieval quacks that couldn’t get into medical school. (Yes, the propaganda arm of Western medicine is highly efficient.) When my back continued to fail to hold the adjustments after a few weeks, the chiropractor referred me to a naturopath. It is here that we reach the crux of my point.

I remember that first visit so clearly. I am sure that I was struck by the contrast to all of the medical experiences that had gone before. The waiting room was full of soft, vibrant colors and eclectic pieces of art the doctor had collected. When I walked in the door, I was greeted by the receptionist with a broad smile and genuine interest. I asked to use the restroom, and I remember that the medical personnel that I passed in the hall all stopped and greeted me. Before I saw the doctor, a medical assistant snapped my picture with a Polaroid. That photo was attached to my file so that when anyone spoke to me or referred to the file, they were looking at my image. The doctor listened intently to my responses after asking me why I was consulting him. When I finished speaking, he asked me if there was anything else I wanted to tell him, and he waited while I thought about it.

Now, the point of this piece is not: Western Medicine Bad, Alternative Medicine Good, Unhhhh! It is that patients today are losing respect for Western medicine and flocking to alternative medicine because as Western medicine is being practiced, it has completely lost its focus on the patient. And, doctors, arrogant creatures that they have trained themselves to be, don’t get it. They don’t understand that much of the exodus is their fault. Fellas, let me put it in terms you understand. Dollars. People, your patients, your potential customers, are so disgusted by the level of care they receive and the manner in which you dehumanize them, fail to meet their needs and fail to treat them with basic respect, that they are willing to seek out alternative treatments FOR WHICH THEY HAVE TO PAY FULL PRICE OUT OF POCKET SINCE MOST ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE IS NOT COVERED BY INSURANCE. That is how much what you are doing sucks.

Let me give you another example. A couple of months ago I began experiencing worrisome symptoms. I went to my primary care physician who gave me the alternative of going immediately to the emergency room (in the Orlando area, an ordeal straight out of Dante’s Inferno to be in no way desired unless your demise is otherwise imminent) or to a specialist’s office that had the equipment she did not.

Since the series of visits to that specialist’s office would be a tale all by themselves, let me cut to the bottom line. After two highly unsatisfactory office visits and a battery of tests, like Daisy the Cow jumping the 10-foot wall of the slaughterhouse cattle chute, I bailed. Taking the time to do some research, I found another specialist who got high marks for competence and for patient care. And, in a relative sense, this doctor is a luxury sedan to the first’s cheap import sub-compact, but only in a relative sense.

In terms of the absolute, all of the problems of the Western Medicine System remain. In this system, patients are cogs traveling a conveyor belt that the doctor focuses on for only a few minutes (as few as possible since time, after all, is money) before the belt moves on bringing the next cog into focus. This system has been streamlined for the convenience and benefit of the doctor and of the system itself NOT TO MEET THE INDIVIDUAL NEEDS OF THE PATIENT AND THE PATIENT’S SITUATION.

Example One, Patient Records. After my harrowing experience at the hands of Specialist 1, I wanted a second opinion. When I made the appointment with Specialist 2 for the second opinion, part of the process was to sign a release to get my records from Specialist 1. I very much wanted Specialist 2 to have all of the results of the series of the expensive tests that Specialist 1 had performed on me. When I asked if those test results would be included in the records released to him, imagine my surprise and dismay to be told by both the staffs of Specialist 1 and Specialist 2 that “No, only the doctor’s notes about the test results would be sent.” But, I reasoned with them (in vain), how could Specialist 2 draw an independent conclusion and make his own analysis of the test results if he could not see the test results for himself? There was no answer. I was just told it was not done that way. Medical records person for Specialist 2 told me that there was no way she could get the actual test images. If I wanted them, I would have to personally go to the office of Specialist 1 and get them. Specialist 1’s Medical records person, expressing complete incredulity that I would want such a thing, did finally allow it was possible, but said that I would have pay $5 a page for each test results image I got. So, a patient and the patient’s insurance company may pay for tests and procedures, but the records of those tests and procedures are treated as if they are the property of the physician. Having ascertained this, it still took one solid week, myriad phone calls, and physical visits to both Specialist 2 and Specialist 1’s offices. (Medical records person at Specialist 2 lost the authorization form I hand-carried there—at her request.) Medical records person at Specialist 1’s office referred us to someone else in the office who never returned our phone calls. I emerged, bloody but unbowed, with the images from the key test, but never got those from the other tests performed. It was all worth it, however, when Specialist 2 referred to the images during my consultation, and the one he considered key was not the same one I had been shown by the medical staffer at Specialist 1’s office. (Never saw Specialist 1 himself about my test results—part of that horror story.)

Example Two, Make ’em Wait. My symptoms and the underlying medical situation were quite serious: A situation that involved possible mortality; a situation, depending upon the outcome of the tests, which could involve major surgery. In other words, something that was very anxiety producing. I remember that one of my reactions was to start a list of all of the most special moments of my life, in case that life was to have not much more to it. While I certainly had so much more I wanted to be and do, I remember being quite joyful and relieved at how long my list of special moments was. It was a list I could live with if it was to be all that I was given.

The end result of my consultation with Specialist 2 was that I had to have yet another test procedure. Because of his office’s possession of some cutting-edge technology, it was NOT the invasive procedure Specialist 1 had recommended. There was a chance it would not be definitive and Specialist 2 might still recommend I undergo the original procedure, but, to me, it was a chance well worth taking. At last, 42 days after I first went to my doctor with the symptoms, I was going to have the procedure that would supply the needed answers on the course of treatment. WRONG! Imagine my surprise that I underwent the test and my appointment to get the results of the test was set for 33 days later!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I still don’t have those results today.

Do you know what I have been doing in the interim? Telling myself that if the tests had revealed something immediately life threatening surely they would have called. So, no news is good news, right? I can just relax and wait until I see the doctor.

Now why would I have that confidence in the people, remember these are the good, competent practitioners, who have so far: 1. Lost, then miraculously found, my medical records release authorization. 2. Failed to set up the separate follow-up appointment their own office procedures call for regarding receiving my other lab test results. In the case of the latter, I learned that when someone else from Specialist 2’s office called me to ask about my lab tests. When I said that I had undergone the lab tests at their office and was awaiting the results, she informed me that I should have had a separate appointment set up at the time I had the blood drawn. It was then up to me to follow up and call to ask if I was supposed to have this other appointment scheduled, and to learn (they apologized) that “Yes, I did need to have it?”

Oh yeah, so there is no way they could screw up and make me wait 33 days only to tell me I might die any minute and I need major surgery or tell me the tests weren’t definitive and I need the invasive procedure anyway, but only after 33 days of waiting torture? Right? Hah!

And the real point here is why is this system set up to keep me in suspense about my health situation? Surely anyone in my position would be anxious about the results? After the doctor reads the results, why can’t someone in the office be designated to call and say, “The doctor wants to go over your results and treatment options in detail with you at the appointment, but he asked me to call and let you know that the tests do not show anything that is immediately life threatening or that will require major surgery. There were some important findings that will impact your lifestyle and that dictate your future course of care, and he will go over those with you at the appointment.” The relief would have been tremendous. But I have been denied that relief.

Perhaps if every doctor was forced in medical school to be a patient, really to be a patient. To be denied all except minimal information regarding their own body. To be forced to wait ungodly periods of time in institutional waiting rooms, or at home waiting for results more than a month. To be treated regularly with impersonal disdain, as if they had they IQ of a plant, as if their medical care was the concern only of the physician and not of the person receiving the care. To be called by their first name by strangers who then expect to be addressed by their professional title and last name.

Perhaps then there would be changes to this broken system. But until then, patients who are angry or disheartened or disillusioned will continue to seek care from providers who express interest in them as individuals rather than as billable items.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Meandering Musings

Rest well, valiant Barbaro. You captured us with your heart and courage, and you displayed those qualities throughout your brave fight. We’ll miss you, and we’ll remember you. Run free.

Self-destruct ’08. Why is announcing one’s candidacy for the Presidential race suddenly a signal for exhibiting all the oratorical grace of John Kerry? Could the Senator’s affliction be contagious? Perhaps we should ask Hilary. Hey, Hil, you don’t indulge in public man bashing while you’re still married to the bozo. Also, in the “Kids, Don’t Try this at Home” vein, leave the lightening up to people who were born with a sense of humor. Not to be outdone, Sen. Joe Biden launched his Presidential bid by referring to opponent Barack Obama as, among other things, articulate and clean. What, Joe, did you forget thrifty and brave? You have many defenders for this indefensible speech. I am not one of them. When is the last time you ever referred to any white person as either articulate or clean? My take? If it quacks like a racist . . .

How very sad that Molly Ivins will not be here to enlighten and amuse as we head into this campaign. Too soon gone, sister. Your unique voice and keen perspective will be sorely missed. Breast cancer has taken another light from our world.

Poor Charlie Crist. First, he missed out on an extravagant gubernatorial inaugural, forced by public outcry to settle for the good cloth coat version of a ball, and now he has to miss the Super Bowl freebie as host governor to show sensitivity for all the Floridians who lost lives and homes in this past week’s dreadful overnight storm. C’mon, govs just want to have fun.

Finally, bless all of the victims and survivors of the Central Florida storm. It seems to me the terror of being torn from a cozy bed into the total insanity of an F3 tornado makes the experience so much more dreadful, as if there was no safety in the world.

Sunday, December 31, 2006

2007 Here We Come Ready or Not

The best thing about the New Year is that favorite pastime of human beings: the chance to reinvent ourselves. Here is a whole year with no regrets, no mistakes, no missed opportunities laid out all shiny and clean in front of us. The flip side of that is the chance to pause in the act of moving along the slipstream of time to look back, to view our time just past from a broader perspective than today, this week, this month. I love both of those aspects of the holiday.

The part of the New Year celebration that has never quite worked out for me is New Year’s Eve. It is one of those occasions so freighted with societal expectations that for me the poor thing always withered on the vine with no chance to achieve the magic I was hoping for. Perhaps the worst was experiencing New Year’s Eve during my single years. It was a critical date night, but for some reason I never seemed to be in a relationship on New Year’s Eve. Writing that, it seems impossible that that was the case, but it is the way my memory records it.

Not having a date on New Year’s Eve meant that one was left open to the slings and arrows of their friends’ ideas of fun things to do on New Year’s Eve. Going along with that got me into some strange predicaments. Once in the 70s, a girl friend talked me into going to a New Year’s Eve party with her at one of her co-worker’s homes where I would know absolutely no one. Strike One. The house was beyond the suburbs out in the wilds where new developments were being completed, but no one lived there much yet. It was an enormous split-level monstrosity with three full floors of partying that became so packed with humanity that, had anyone checked, clearly would have violated local fire codes. Strike Two. The décor was ghastly. Now, mind you, this was the 70s when all décor was ghastly so this was pretty horrific. I remember it included a games room, complete with pool table, which had a safari theme—lots of faux (I think) animal skins on the walls, crossed spears, etc. Naturally, I lost contact with my friend in the crush. I felt totally isolated moving through this crowd thinking I must have been out of my mind to agree to come. Until midnight which brought us to Strike Three. That happy event apparently caused most of the males at the party to feel they had been granted an open license to grope, forcing me to evade several hands, tongues and, well, you get the idea.

By the mid-80s, I was married. Some of my favorite New Year’s Eve events took place at a friend’s cabin on an island north of the city. These were sort of adult pajama parties in that we all spent the night. Each couple or single brought some food contribution assigned by the hostess, kids were left with family members or babysitters and booze flowed freely. I look back fondly on that era when I had passed much of the angst-filled years, but was still young enough to party and recover. And, except for the occasional newly rotated-in girl or guy friend of someone, the core group were all very old friends, many of whom I had known since college. So, it was a comfortable group, where I felt free to be myself.

Even that tradition eventually gave way to mostly quiet New Year’s Eves at home, many of which we did not make it to midnight before going to bed! Now, life has moved on again. My recent New Year’s Eves have all been solo acts while my husband is working. I usually don’t go out, which would entail leaving the pooch alone to face the fireworks and other noise. In Florida, I spend a few minutes always hoping that no yahoos will be celebrating by firing guns into the air with the resultant stray bullets.

Now, 2007 has dawned all shiny and new. I can’t wait until I get up tomorrow and start mucking about in it. My wish for your New Year is the same as for my own: peace, plenty, and joy in the moments that make up our years and our lives. Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

So This Is Christmas

Christmas is a complicated season. For me, there is a gulf between my idea of Christmas and the reality of Christmas. For example, as the season approaches and I am far away, I long to be with my family at Christmas. If I were to be magically transported home, would it be good? Sure, I would love to see them all, love to experience all the family rituals, foibles, in jokes, genuine love and warmth. But would it be the experience of my pre-Christmas longings? Hardly.

Somehow the memories that make up the tug of longing and love and nostalgia do not include some of the harsh realities. Like a Christmas some decades ago when everybody drank too much, and we all watched my brother-in-law crawl down the hall on his hands and knees toward the spare bedroom in my Mom’s house. Or the time I stormed out in tears in 1986 after the family’s efforts to fit me back into the fold as if I was unchanged after 10 years living in another state hurt my feelings, only to have two of my sisters arrive at my nearby house in tears to beg my forgiveness, and we all ended up sobbing. Comfort and joy, indeed. Or going all the way back to when my Dad was alive and not a single holiday ever took place—or if it did, it was only a single one—without him erupting in rage over something.

How do we lose that complexity when we store the idea of Christmas?

The whole thing is such an emotional set-up. In the holiday-light glow of the Phantom Christmas, the Real Christmas with wrought-up feelings, dashed expectations, and a crushing burden of mostly imagined societal perfection cannot stand a chance.

I try to avoid the yawning gulf between Christmas Never and Christmas Present. My husband and I, both veterans of different types of crushed expectation wars, elect to downplay the holiday. We often choose not to exchange gifts with each other. We set up a low-key Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with only a few things that we enjoy doing. Walks, long drives, nature trips, movies and quiet meals together are among the activities we usually choose from. Our very favorite Christmases are the few we have allowed ourselves to be absent from both sets of family, and to travel somewhere. No tree, no stress, just us.

Still, just when I least expect it, it leaps out with a gotcha again. Like this year, when my mother told me not to try to call during the family Christmas Eve celebration, that she would call me. We had coordinated clocks, and I knew what time the get together was starting. Two hours passed. “Well, they had to eat and open gifts,” I reasoned. Three hours passed, then almost four. I knew very well these things seldom lasted much more than three hours, because everybody wants to get home and tucked in relatively early. Still, I fooled myself. “Well, they are just waiting until the end of the football game.” Then, there were no more excuses—and there was no call. And even though this kind of cavalier disregard of my feelings is not at all uncommon with my loving-in-their-own-way, but less-than-sensitive family, like Charlie Brown and the football, my hopeful view of the great Christmas that never really is, had me falling for it yet again.

May the gap between the Christmas you long for, and the Christmas you create be a narrow one. I wish you all some joy and much peace during these stressful days.