Cathleen Hulbert – LikeTheDew.com http://likethedew.com A journal of progressive Southern culture and politics Mon, 19 Nov 2018 13:02:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 http://likethedew.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/cropped-DewLogoSquare825-32x32.png Cathleen Hulbert – LikeTheDew.com http://likethedew.com 32 32 A Case for Mandatory Insurance http://likethedew.com/2011/01/24/a-case-for-mandatory-insurance-as-taxpayer-protection-%e2%80%93-and-not-a-tool-of-the-devil/ http://likethedew.com/2011/01/24/a-case-for-mandatory-insurance-as-taxpayer-protection-%e2%80%93-and-not-a-tool-of-the-devil/#comments Tue, 25 Jan 2011 00:20:39 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=17483 As a healthcare social worker I have strong opinions about the importance of equal access to medical care. My focus has been on “equal access” because I am an advocate for those with expensive health conditions – the people traditionally shunned by for-profit insurance companies. I admit that I have been less attentive to that aspect of health reform that aims to make all Americans carry some form of health insurance. It has never seemed particularly wrong to me. After all, we are now required to have auto insurance and those who do not comply come across as irresponsible or even criminal. But then again, I do not run a small business and I don’t have to worry about payrolls and the bottom line ...

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As a healthcare social worker I have strong opinions about the importance of equal access to medical care. My focus has been on “equal access” because I am an advocate for those with expensive health conditions – the people traditionally shunned by for-profit insurance companies. I admit that I have been less attentive to that aspect of health reform that aims to make all Americans carry some form of health insurance. It has never seemed particularly wrong to me. After all, we are now required to have auto insurance and those who do not comply come across as irresponsible or even criminal. But then again, I do not run a small business and I don’t have to worry about payrolls and the bottom line.

We all have our worries that keep us awake at night. I represent people with chronic health conditions, most of them born with a diagnosis that will challenge them all of their lives. There are many such conditions and many advocates such as myself working to help them get life-saving medicine when they cannot get insurance. Hundreds of thousands of Americans with hemophilia, diabetes and asthma, for example, have felt the sting of rejection by insurance companies. That includes many children as well as adults. To some insurance companies, even a pregnancy is considered a “pre-existing condition.” If you have insurance you might be stunned to know how many have been left out in the cold.

Government dollars have historically had to pick up the slack left by insurance companies not wanting to sell their products to those with actual health needs. In that sense, our system already had a strong public base of support long before health insurance reform. Unfortunately, much of this taxpayer-funded support has had to focus on extremely expensive emergency room visits when prevention and as-needed medication can be so much cheaper. It’s a bad business model as well as being inhumane.

The uninsured in America have traditionally included small business owners, job-seeking young adults who have dropped off their parents’ insurance, construction workers, shop employees, independent contractors — even those who work for gigantic, wealthy, international businesses such as McDonald’s, which doesn’t offer any kind of insurance option to many employees. These Americans don‘t qualify for Medicaid or Medicare and many would not take it if they could. They simply want the chance to buy private health insurance like the rest of us. And like the rest of us they want to pay premiums that are not so outrageous they make it impossible to pay other bills. This is another focus of health insurance reform.

The uninsured in America include many with pre-existing medical conditions who now cheer for changes brought about by the Affordable Care Act.  I know. As a social worker I’m often there when they are cheering. Finally, they can buy insurance, too. So why do others in our country act like this change in policy is un-American?

For a while now, television has occasionally sent me into a tailspin. I know that most people are good. So why do the passions of a large number of Americans lead them to believe that all of this change is a dangerous thing? To many President Obama’s healthcare initiatives even smack of socialism and evil. I am a student of human psychology and behavior and yet it has been hard for me to put all of the pieces together. I have wondered if the world is going completely mad.

Then I started really listening to what really bothers so many who are shouting for the repeal of healthcare reform. It is not, thank goodness, that these folks want their fellow Americans to go without medicine and suffer. The real thorn for many Americans is the mandate that ALL citizens should have some form of health insurance whether they want it or not. This change appears to shake them on a primal level that is not completely about the wallet. For them, it feels like a threat to personal freedom to have government mandating what seems like a personal decision. This is a separate issue from the fears of small business owners, a concern I do readily understand and support.

So let us get back to the car insurance thing. Americans are now required to have it. If you do not, you can be in big trouble with a branch of government called the police force. I would like to point out that healthcare insurance is very similar. If you choose not to carry it and you get in a car accident, for example — or maybe you get diagnosed with cancer — you cannot go back after the fact and buy insurance to cover the costs. Your choices are to pay for it all of pocket, which in many cases is simply impossible, or pass along the responsibility of your care to other taxpayers. That’s right, tax dollars will be spent to take care of you because you did not acknowledge that your health fortunes could change. That is a fact that will continue if we are not required to carry insurance for our bodies in the same way that we carry insurance for our cars. There is no free lunch and no free medical care. The latter is particularly true.

So think about it, you who want to exercise your so-called right to avoid paying for health insurance. (And I don’t mean those who have tried but can’t get it or can’t afford it because of outrageously inflated costs.) Those same taxpayers whom many healthcare opponents seem to care so much about will pay the doctors, nurses and other professionals who took care of you. What — do you expect them to work for free? Hospitals are businesses, too, and they cannot survive that type of mentality.

I have not seen anyone offering to sign a statement saying that this exercise of personal freedom means he or she is opting out of any type of medical care should there be an accident or serious illness.  And doctors’ professional oaths prevent them from honoring such a statement should they be presented with one.

No, our lives are simply too intertwined to make decisions without having an impact on others. Even a decision not to wear a seatbelt means that you might end up on a public disability program when a simple strap across your body could have prevented it and saved the country a great deal of money. We are in this together. Like it or not, our choices can pull money out of other people’s wallets. You might not want to pay for someone else’s Medicaid, but maybe I’m not particularly excited about paying for your medical care, either. Still, we rise above such things and pool our resources to run a nation that is as healthy as possible. And nothing about that sounds even remotely un-American.

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The art of becoming undone http://likethedew.com/2010/10/27/the-art-of-becoming-undone/ http://likethedew.com/2010/10/27/the-art-of-becoming-undone/#comments Thu, 28 Oct 2010 03:01:05 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=12200 Clarity came as I was having lunch with a friend. We were talking about how our innate wisdom as children has a way of getting knocked out of us as we grow up. My friend is younger, and male, but we were on the same page with this one. He told his story and I nodded, thinking about the well-meaning but false messages that organized religion had put into my innocent mind when I was small. Many people grow up in churches that nurture their spirits and lead them to the wonderful truth about themselves. Mine did not and that was the hand I was dealt.

But it didn't stop there. Our culture's "shoulds" have a way of falling like toxic rain. It fell on me and those around me as we walked, stumbled and sometimes ran wildly through adolescence. It came from every direction. It came in buckets from magazines. At some point I looked at a boy and decided that I wouldn't be complete without one. It happens to girls every day.

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Clarity came as I was having lunch with a friend. We were talking about how our innate wisdom as children has a way of getting knocked out of us as we grow up. My friend is younger, and male, but we were on the same page with this one. He told his story and I nodded, thinking about the well-meaning but false messages that organized religion had put into my innocent mind when I was small. Many people grow up in churches that nurture their spirits and lead them to the wonderful truth about themselves. Mine did not and that was the hand I was dealt.

But it didn’t stop there. Our culture’s “shoulds” have a way of falling like toxic rain. It fell on me and those around me as we walked, stumbled and sometimes ran wildly through adolescence. It came from every direction. It came in buckets from magazines. At some point I looked at a boy and decided that I wouldn’t be complete without one. It happens to girls every day.

It is so natural, of course, to want to explore this other human being. But when did I get the idea that there was no “me” outside of the “we?” When did I accept the notion that making someone else feel whole was my only ticket to wholeness and that acceptance and validation about my looks (by those who were no more happy or whole than I) were the very key to my survival? It was around this time, in my teens, when these myths took hold. I began to measure my worth by the amount of meat and fat on my bones, the length of my hair, how my skin looked, whether I had split ends and whether I was “cute” enough to snag a mate. I had to have a boyfriend. Anyone would do, really, so long as I was not alone. From ages 14 to my late 40s, I spent most of my time being someone’s girlfriend or wife. I tried hard to be what they wanted me to be because I couldn’t imagine surviving alone. How can you walk with one leg?

It all sounds so primitive. And in a way, it is. Madison Avenue isn’t completely to blame. If our cave-dwelling ancestors hadn’t sized up physical attributes and been determined to pair off and mate our species would not have made it. But I can chuckle about that now. That “mate-worthy” part of us is not the part of us created in God’s image and it seems silly to glorify it. The species will survive — or not — and it is not my primary concern. I know we are immortal spiritual beings just visiting this place, impossibly beautiful spirits fumbling around in flawed body suits. I get that now, so deep in my soul, that I can actually laugh at fashion magazines. They look like Halloween costume catalogues, at times cartoonish, at other times just empty. As if we all secretly know the truth about this game we are playing.

So at some point in the conversation with my friend Stephen, I looked at my current existence and said with clarity, “I am in a place of undoing.” I said it as an expression of quiet joy. As I heard the words come from me, I heard the peace in my voice and realized how lucky I am to be 53 years old and generally content. No mid-life crisis for this woman, although the ups and downs of life are as much a  part of my path as anyone else’s. I am full with something that won’t grow old — ever. It’s the grateful awakening of my spirit.

As our lunch plates were taken away, I explained to him that I realize now what I’ve actually been up to these past few years. I am undoing the false messages and the knots in my identity. They were born as I tried to please the “should makers” of our culture, the vampires of creative energy. As the chains loosen, that innate joy that was so much a part of my original make-up as a child is again filling me up. Becoming “undone” can be a very good thing. It can be a work of art.

And as I look around, I see that many friends also are becoming “undone.” I spent that same evening with a female friend. We toasted the one-year anniversary of her unexpected break-up with a long-time partner. I looked at her face, so peaceful and full of light and my heart felt happy that she has not only survived the year but has rekindled her love for herself. She now has a beauty with which no makeup or Madison Avenue costume can ever hope to compete. It is the beauty of someone who is free.

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Operation Coffee Cup: Harry S. Truman as a ‘Socialist’ http://likethedew.com/2010/10/08/operation-coffee-cup-harry-s-truman-as-a-socialist/ http://likethedew.com/2010/10/08/operation-coffee-cup-harry-s-truman-as-a-socialist/#comments Sat, 09 Oct 2010 00:15:48 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=11325 "Let's talk about socialism over a cup of coffee!"

I'm not a huge history buff but I ought to be. It's good for the soul to look back and realize that today's headlines will be tomorrow's footnotes. If that much.

I decided to follow a tip someone gave me about Operation Coffee Cup, a group sponsored by the American Medical Association to fight the creation of the Medicare system during the presidency of Harry S. Truman. Sure enough, there was such a thing. Some of the folks who now hate socialized medicine but are clinging to their Medicare coverage for dear life ought to consider that the two used to be considered one and the same by those who fought Truman on this.

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“Let’s talk about socialism over a cup of coffee!”

I’m not a huge history buff but I ought to be. It’s good for the soul to look back and realize that today’s headlines will be tomorrow’s footnotes. If that much.

I decided to follow a tip someone gave me about Operation Coffee Cup, a group sponsored by the American Medical Association to fight the creation of the Medicare system during the presidency of Harry S. Truman. Sure enough, there was such a thing. Some of the folks who now hate socialized medicine but are clinging to their Medicare coverage for dear life ought to consider that the two used to be considered one and the same by those who fought Truman on this. The more I researched this, the more I wanted to read. Yes folks, it’s all there in black and white. We are repeating ourselves.

From Roger Lowenstein in “A Question of Numbers” for the New York Times:

“The term [‘socialized medicine’] was popularized by a public relations firm working for the American Medical Association in 1947 to disparage President Truman’s proposal for a national health care system. It was a label, at the dawn of the cold war, meant to suggest that anybody advocating universal access to health care must be a communist. And the phrase has retained its political power for six decades.”

“The AMA conducted a nationwide campaign called Operation Coffee Cup during the late 1950s and early 1960s in opposition to the Democrats’ plans to extend Social Security to include health insurance for the elderly, later known as Medicare. As part of the plan, doctors’ wives would organize coffee meetings in an attempt to convince acquaintances to write letters to Congress opposing the program.  In 1961, Ronald Reagan recorded a disc entitled Ronald Reagan Speaks Out Against Socialized Medicine exhorting its audience to abhor the “dangers” which socialized medicine could bring. The recording was widely played at Operation Coffee Cup meetings.”

Yes, in a big jolt of deja vu, I saw that there used to be coffee cup meetings and political cartoons and newspaper columns about how the creation of a Medicare system would spell doom for the American way of life. Funny, but the AMA later did a reversal on its opposition to Medicare. This new system allowed folks to go see their doctors in rates that were unheard of before the system was created. Docs were getting paid and Americans were getting more health care, and who could possibly remember what the fuss was all about?

I believe that years from now, perhaps decades, the history of “socialized medicine” fears will see another paragraph added: The Tea Party opposition to health insurance reform will be in that paragraph and our offspring will read about it all and chuckle. President Obama, you are in good company. President Truman and President Frankin D. Roosevelt also had to defend themselves against charges of socialism. (Yes, the creation of the VA system to respond to the unique needs of U.S troops also was once considered a communist plot by those who opposed it.)

Personally, I’m a member of the red wine opposition party. I’m opposed to selfishness and greed when my fellow Americans’ health is at stake and I’ll drink to that any chance I get. My doctor says it’s good for my heart.

I need the wine as I continue to do my history reading: From the Archives of Slate Magazine, in a 2007 article entitled “Who’s Afraid of Socialized Medicine,” there is this prophetic paragraph:

“To some, the prospect that socialized medicine would still frighten anyone is absurd. Fears that “creeping socialism” might insidiously erode American freedoms are a relic of a distant age, like worries about fluoride in the water. Even so, the socialized medicine meme may have transcended the fevered ideological climate that spawned it. The words retain a talismanic power—a power that will soon be tested again.”

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Shotgun Shame: Why Some People Bully and Other People Watch http://likethedew.com/2010/10/05/shotgun-shame-why-some-people-bully-and-other-people-watch/ http://likethedew.com/2010/10/05/shotgun-shame-why-some-people-bully-and-other-people-watch/#comments Tue, 05 Oct 2010 23:05:05 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=11270 Bullying makes the news and grabs our collective attention when suicide happens. That's better than nothing. But just barely.

If we could freeze-frame the tragic headlines and rewind, we would see good people looking the other way. Bullying occurs in plain view of those who know better. It thrives on silent collusion. Why? There is a sick vein of shame running through 0ur collective systems: our school systems, our work systems, our cultural infrastructures.

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Bullying makes the news and grabs our collective attention when suicide happens. That’s better than nothing. But just barely.

If we could freeze-frame the tragic headlines and rewind, we would see good people looking the other way. Bullying occurs in plain view of those who know better. It thrives on silent collusion. Why? There is a sick vein of shame running through 0ur collective systems: our school systems, our work systems, our cultural infrastructures. Bullying actually is a variation on domestic violence and child abuse. These three forms of psychological violence often are intertwined and can occur in one family system, branching out when the toxic shame of a bullied soul becomes too overwhelming to contain. That is when the victim becomes the perpetrator.

And that is when a good person on the sidelines might privately let out a sigh of relief: In that brief moment someone else is the target of shaming. This isn’t as shocking as it sounds. From early childhood on, watching another get teased, bullied or tormented provides  momentary respite from the near universal feeling of being not good enough. The roots of this fear go deep and are stoked by religions and secular teachings that emphasize hellfire consequences for being imperfect. Combine this wounding experience with the need to save face and project a facade of strength even under fire and you have a river of shame flowing beneath the surface of even the healthiest looking adult. I would venture to say that this human experience could unite us rather than divide us if we could all find the courage to own it and find a safe way to neutralize it. But most people can’t bear to go there. It’s just too painful.

When we look at self-hatred, from the mild forms to the malignant personality disorders, we must separate it from the appropriate guilt that comes from doing the wrong thing. Learning to manage this uncomfortable emotion and grow in the process of repairing a wrong — that is a step toward becoming a healthy human being. It has nothing to do with the type of self-hatred, projected onto a target, that results in bullying-induced psychological trauma and suicide.

So let’s take another look at why good people often shrug their shoulders over bullying. Could it also be that we’ve all had a taste of bullying, maybe in the guise of tough love? Generations of bullied individuals might pass along the “toughen up” message to their offspring, producing the message that you have to learn how to take it in this world. You have to be strong. Don’t shrink under abuse.  Life is hard.

It never really works that way, of course. It stinks to be bullied, even if someone is supposedly doing it for your own good. Under the facade of the toughened up child/teen/adult there exists wounds from this kind of upbringing that create the need to get someone back.  You don’t think you are capable of being that childish? Think again. It is one of the most common impulses in the human psyche: the need to get someone back. For some, it happens in traffic. For others it involves yelling at the kids because somebody at work won’t get off your back. The greater the feelings of unworthiness, the more a human being is driven to find a target for the transfer of that shame. That means that the person who labels and hates all gays or all Muslims or all Christians or all of the people of a rival political party is dealing with massive amounts of toxic shame. And when this kind of shotgun hatred starts exploding, whether it’s within one family’s home or on the internet, somebody is going to bleed.

This article first appeared at open.salon.com

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I Bought Gas at a BP Station Today http://likethedew.com/2010/07/03/i-bought-gas-at-a-bp-station-today-2/ http://likethedew.com/2010/07/03/i-bought-gas-at-a-bp-station-today-2/#comments Sat, 03 Jul 2010 15:33:14 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=10223 Does that mean I have oil on my hands?

Initially my social advocate side decided to boycott when I watched the ocean being polluted as a result of a BP fiasco. I felt satisfaction when I drove by BP stations and few cars were at the pumps. I even found myself sizing up those few who were pumping gas and wondering, "What have YOU got against the ocean?" (I later learned that BP supplies gas to many of my other local gas stations, so going to Quick Trip wasn't doing sea life a darned bit of good.)

The problem with my boycotting stand on this is that I have a built-in aversion to scapegoating. And my own spiritual journey makes me aware of how quickly we humans project guilt onto others because of our own unbearable fear about being unworthy.

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Does that mean I have oil on my hands?

Initially my social advocate side decided to boycott when I watched the ocean being polluted as a result of a BP fiasco. I felt satisfaction when I drove by BP stations and few cars were at the pumps. I even found myself sizing up those few who were pumping gas and wondering, “What have YOU got against the ocean?” (I later learned that BP supplies gas to many of my other local gas stations, so going to Quick Trip wasn’t doing sea life a darned bit of good.)

The problem with my boycotting stand on this is that I have a built-in aversion to scapegoating. And my own spiritual journey makes me aware of how quickly we humans project guilt onto others because of our own unbearable fear about being unworthy. My decision to boycott wasn’t sitting so well with the side of me who sees the Oneness in all things. After all, I am guilty of being overly dependent on my car. I often drive when I could carpool or simply get off my behind and walk. It’s sort of like blaming the media for the crap we stayed glued to on the tube. Or blaming a social worker when an abused child isn’t protected well enough by an understaffed, overworked and fiscally neglected child protection system. Why blame the mirror? In this case, a big cultural mirror.

So today I drove into the BP station up the street from my house. There were one or two cars at first. By the time I finished filling my tank the place was packed. And I felt happy about it. Me, the social worker who will go the extra mile for the injured and underdog, me the lover of dolphins, turtles and whales.

Because BP is us. And the owner of my local BP station is a member of my community with a family to support and anguish over the folly of the  parent corporation. (I’ve been there in my lifetime. Have you?)

There was a thank you note taped to each pump at the station this morning, explaining that the station is locally owned and operated. I wanted to go inside and hug somebody.

So let’s stop the scapegoating and the finger pointing and good grief, let’s  stop making this a political event. We’re in this together. Those responsible need to make amends and pay for this mess. They should do time or pay huge fines if there are criminal elements to what happened. But I won’t make my neighbor any more responsible than I am for our country’s squandering of resources. This is our time to come together and do some soul searching about ourselves.

For more information about the author go to www.cathleenhulbert.com. A portion of the profits from her book, “The First Lamp,” goes to sea turtle conservation.

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So powerful on her death bed: A story of forgiveness http://likethedew.com/2009/12/28/so-powerful-on-her-death-bed-a-story-of-forgiveness/ http://likethedew.com/2009/12/28/so-powerful-on-her-death-bed-a-story-of-forgiveness/#comments Tue, 29 Dec 2009 03:24:24 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=7258 She was close to death after a long life and she was on a mission. With one foot in heaven, the elderly Josephine’s mighty spirit stayed with her frail body and would not cross over until a deep wound in her family was healed. On the day of her death, she was taken off of life-support and not expected to live more than a few minutes. But hours passed. Doctors were baffled at how this tiny white-haired woman, battered by severe respiratory problems, managed to now breathe on her own.

As I said, she was on a mission.  It was a mission of love.

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She was close to death after a long life and she was on a mission. With one foot in heaven, the elderly Josephine’s mighty spirit stayed with her frail body and would not cross over until a deep wound in her family was healed. On the day of her death, she was taken off of life-support and not expected to live more than a few minutes. But hours passed. Doctors were baffled at how this tiny white-haired woman, battered by severe respiratory problems, managed to now breathe on her own.

As I said, she was on a mission.  It was a mission of love.

She was born in Caracas, Venezuela in 1920. She raised a family. She endured hardships and disappointments as well as the joy and satisfaction of seeing her children and grandchildren grow and thrive. I met her when I was a little girl of 4. She would sometimes watch over me while my mother worked. She made me lovely clothes. She had a daughter my age, also Josephine, and we became close friends. I called her Jo. We are close today and call each other sister.  We confide often about the good and the bad in our lives, fearing no judgment from the other.  
So I came to know the story of how Jo and her younger sister Debbie experienced a rift in their relationship. It was the type of rift that many families know all too well. Disagreements grew until an abyss formed. It was dark and cold, that awful abyss between sisters. Occasionally a fire would flare up inside of it, a bitter heat that only sealed the doorway that had shut tight between them.

But their mother, wheelchair-bound in her last days, was destined to blow that seared door off its hinges.  Jo describes it as “divine intervention.” You see, elderly Josephine, who had requested that no extraordinary means be used to keep her alive, was herself doing something extraordinary.  Not able to speak with her voice, she was working in partnership with the Holy Spirit and was not leaving this world until the job was done.

As Jo recalls: “Our family gathered at her bedside anticipating the unknown. We held hands and prayed in English and in Spanish. We sang songs. We laughed, we cried. We told funny stories about our Mother, our Grandma, our Abuelita. When the time came to withdrawal her from all life support, our family stood firm in agreement that we did not want her to be alone as she passed. The minutes turned into hours and the morning turned into afternoon. She remained alive and breathing on her own despite enough sedation, pain medication and narcotics to knock out an elephant. All but three members of our family made peace with the fact that she was ‘gone’ and left the hospital telling us to call when the moment came that she finally let go.”

Jo knew her mother as someone who did not want to be tied to machines. So what was keeping her mother from that longed-for journey to heaven? She decided to clear her mind and pray. And then she heard her mother’s words as clearly as if she had spoken them out loud. Her mother was still waiting, she whispered directly into Jo’s mind, for her daughters to forgive one another. Jo opened her eyes, stunned. How could that happen? As she told this story, she recalled what had led to this point.

“Several months ago Mom was transferred to a nursing home closer to my house so I could visit her everyday,” Jo said. “It became a routine for her and let’s be honest, a bit of a chore for me. But family was always very important to her and I wanted to make sure she saw family every day. One day I arrived and she said to me, ‘I want you and Debbie to make up.’ Mom knew that Debbie and I were not even friends, much less sisters. I completely ignored her; after all, in my mind it was never going to happen. I asked her what she had for lunch and she told me she already had lunch with ‘Mamaquira,’ my grandmother who died in 1990. So I figured this request about Debbie was the dementia talking and I continued to ignore it.

”Now, back in the hospital room, at her death bed, these words came back to me, so clear, so painful, so obvious that this is why she was hanging on. I grabbed Marlene (a dear family friend and native of Venezuela) and pulled her out into one of those consult rooms. I asked her if she believed that this was the reason for Mom still being alive. She said, ‘Oh yes, Sister Jo, you have to go now and make up with your sister.’ It took Marlene several minutes to convince me that it was the right thing to do. She asked, ‘What would Jesus do?’ I knew the answer.

“As much as I resisted, telling her that there was so much pain and hurt, she kept urging me on. She quoted Bible passages and told me the Holy Spirit was inside of me willing me to do it. I should not hold back. She finally asked me what I was afraid of. And I told her. Rejection. She said, ‘You have to try, Sister Jo.’ So she left the room to get Debbie. The whole time she was gone I was preparing myself for Debbie to tell me to take a hike! As it turns out, Debbie was in Mom’s room resisting the talk with me as much I had resisted talking to her. When she came in to the room where I waited, I explained that I knew why Mom was holding on. She was waiting for us to finally make up.”

And what did Debbie, this other sister with pain in her heart have to say? She said, “Okay. I want my sister back, Jo.”  Yes, that door had been blown open. Their mother’s powerful presence was felt. They talked, clearing the air as quickly and honestly as they could. When they heard Marlene sobbing they rushed to the bedside, fearing that their mother had passed. But miraculously, she was clearly still breathing on her own.

“We realized,” Jo explained, “that the whole time we were talking in another room, Marlene was telling Mom in her native language that her daughters were doing as she asked, that we were making up. Marlene said as she was telling Mom these words, a tear came streaming down Mom’s face. It was now one of the few signs that she was still alive. I put my hand on my mother’s hand and Debbie put her hand on mine. I spoke to Mom and told her that we did as she had asked me to do so many months ago. I told her that Debbie and I were united as sisters again. Then Debbie spoke and told her that we promised to be sisters again and she thanked her for fighting so hard for us. Mom took her last breath. She survived 5 hours breathing on her own fighting for a relationship that had been strained for 13 years. Peace is a wonderful gift from the Holy Spirit.  She was a good mother and we know now she did the right thing. Her faith is what kept her alive until she could be a Mom one more time and tell us what to do.”

There is a saying that no more sacred ground exists than the place in which two enemies (or angry sisters) have become friends. Debbie and Jo have made their moment of mutual forgiveness a place of sacred ground. There is no turning back to blame because the past can’t be changed. They have only the present and they plan to make the most of it.

Mission accomplished. Forgiveness between sisters has become a crowning glory for one mother who refused to give up on her girls. Rest with God, dear Josephine.  And thank you. Something in me also has healed with the hearing of your story.


Photo: Jo and her mother.

Cathleen Hulbert, LCSW, is a clinical social worker in the healthcare field and a free-lance journalist with a background in newspaper reporting. She also is the author of “The First Lamp — A Story of Cosmic Illumination,” a time-travel tale about love, forgiveness and redemption. She lives in Roswell, GA. For more information about the author and the book, go to www.cathleenhulbert.com.

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Big life lessons learned in my car http://likethedew.com/2009/10/13/big-life-lessons-learned-in-my-car/ http://likethedew.com/2009/10/13/big-life-lessons-learned-in-my-car/#comments Wed, 14 Oct 2009 01:18:13 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=6155

masseratti_dick1255401582This is not my car. The guy standing next to it doesn’t own it, either. He just wanted his picture taken with a Maserati.

I’m related to someone who knows somebody who owns this car. If I did have a luxury sports car I think I might command more respect on the road. In fact I’m certain of it. I actually went for a ride in it one day. My brother dropped me off at my neighborhood car repair shop while he was borrowing this car for business. The mechanics stopped what they were doing to go gagga over it; then they were extra polite to me when I paid up and reclaimed my Honda. I think I had temporarily inherited the Maserati’s magnificent aura because they made more eye contact and smiled a lot.

Such is the power of a cool car.

Most of the time, my life on the road involves driving my 2005 silver Honda Civic around Atlanta and north Georgia to visit clients. I drive on city roads both narrow and wide as well as two, four and six-lane highways. I travel on highways that are under endless construction, on mountain roads that are curvy and paved and on long country roads that are mud and gravel. I am a healthcare social worker who does home visits with people who have illnesses in their family. When I get to the home of a client, I would prefer to be calm and clear-headed so that I can focus on the client’s needs rather than my own near-death experience. Too often, the latter is the case.

I don’t drive much higher than the speed limit because when I do speed I start sending out signals to the Universe: “I am breaking the law. Please send out a police officer to pull me over and give me a ticket!” Seriously. Why do some of my friends and colleagues speed consistently and not get stopped? They tell me that I must be bringing it on myself by feeling so awful about it. They actually claim that I am manifesting the officer and the ticket by focusing too much on getting caught. There is probably some truth to that.

Unfortunately, I can’t seem to use this twisted power on the people who ride my tail or suddenly pass me on the right before I know they are there — zipping by like rockets. It would be awesome if I could use my strange magnetism with law enforcement to call in a police officer to stop the guy who seems to want to attach the front end of his car to the back end of mine. Can he also be charged with sexual harassment because his car made a pass at me?

Another target of my “call in the police” power would be the driver who thinks that the space I was keeping between myself and the car in front of me  was being held specifically so that she could squeeze into it. Thanks a lot, lady, for eating up my safe distance. If I find a way to make myself feel guilty about your lack of road manners do you think a state trooper would instantly appear?

My least favorite drivers and the ones I won’t joke about are the mad weavers. They are the ones who wrecklessly flit from space to space, moving back and forth from one lane to the other as if the road were a giant moving game board and they are going for checkmate. It might be thrilling for them but I used to work in a pediatric emergency room. Whole families have been wiped out by drivers like that. I have seen children maimed and orphaned by these lunatics. I see them as weapons of destruction.

I don’t have much choice but to put up with all of them. Driving is a big part of my job now. Most people are considerate drivers and I have to remember that, even though I know that the bad one could ruin my day or my life in an instant. Here are some lessons I have learned while driving my car:

1.) Yes, I do quickly get into the right lane when I look in my rear view mirror and see a fast-coming car. I just want to be left alone to drive in peace. But if I’m in the right lane and someone wants to ride my tail, even though there is a lane or two on the left in which they can pass me, I take my foot off the gas and gradually drift to a slower speed. It always works and they go away. It’s one of my few passive aggressive moments and victory is always sweet. I never understand these drivers. It’s like they want to go fast but they don’t have the nerve to speed in the left lane where they are more likely to get caught. Sorry, dude. Pushing me with the front end of your car isn’t going to make the entire right lane adjust to your preferred speed!

2.) I have learned not to make mean gestures with my fingers because such behavior is ugly and it leaves me feeling ugly. So I try to confuse the menace sharing the road with me by giving him or her a thumbs up and a sweet smile.

3.) Crazed drivers beware. I have learned that when my adrenaline is flowing because I’m terrified I can remember license plate numbers and the company phone numbers printed on the sides of business trucks and vans. If you are driving in a company vehicle and you try to run me off the road, I will find the nearest place to pull over and report you. I am happy to say that business owners take this very seriously and they are always grateful for the call. Such behavior makes them look bad, too. And it puts them at high risk for lawsuits.

4.) I want to be a person who can quickly forgive and let go. Driving a lot helps me practice. I am certain that there have been times in my life when I was the person making some other driver feel bullied. It was usually because I had failed at time management that day and was running late. Or I was having a bad day and being in a car provided me with an anonymous way of acting out. To my “victims,” I am truly sorry.

5.) On the road, just like in life, I hope for the best and prepare for the worst. Driving defensively has saved my life time and again. When the cell phone rings I try to ignore it. If I drop something on the floor, it’s not worth my life. I move out of the way of dangerous people and recognize road rage as a tragic fact of modern life. I always, always, always adjust my speed for bad weather. If I’m on a winding road and the car behind me wants to go fast, I try to pull over somewhere safe to let that person move on down the road. I don’t need the tension. Neither does that client I’m about to see or the family member waiting for me at home.

6) Whenever possible, I show acts of kindness to truck drivers and fell0w travelers such as myself who are just trying to get by and do their jobs. When I do this, I always pray for a ripple effect of good will. Who knows? A kindness shown on the highway could even save a life.

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Politics as a spectator sport? http://likethedew.com/2009/10/05/politics-as-a-spectator-sport/ http://likethedew.com/2009/10/05/politics-as-a-spectator-sport/#comments Mon, 05 Oct 2009 20:47:32 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=6021

spectator_sportThere seem to be many Americans who view politics as a spectator sport.

If you are sitting in the bleachers and your team wins, do you feel like a winner? You can drive home smiling and honking your horn. But if your team loses, then, oh wow. Are you a loser? I personally don’t think so, but then again I’m not really into spectator sports. And when I do watch them, the team I’m cheering for certainly doesn’t define me.

A part of me wishes that I could get more into sports. I once said that my favorite spectator sport is watching my very passionate mother enjoy a football game. It’s a wonderful thing to behold, really, the way she puts herself into it and has so much fun. But when it comes to politics, the “them vs. us” dynamics of a football game doesn’t serve the greater “we” that is our country. That’s particularly true with a subject such as healthcare reform, in which cooperation and a lack of game-playing can save lives. With so much suffering going on, there’s no time for a football game mentality.

Given the current climate in which quite a number of Republicans seem hungry for a “fumble” by our newly elected president, I have a hunch that many Americans do view politics as a spectator sport. Afterall, where was this righteous gnashing of teeth when the mess that is our economy was being created? The sudden “rage of the right” doesn’t add up unless there’s a serious case of sore loser syndrome going on.

Okay, so maybe the team you voted for, the one that makes you feel okay about yourself, didn’t win this one. The  “sports” commentary is so telling. “Cheater! No fair! I’ll get you next time! We’ll crush you next time! You lied! You didn’t play fair! You’re not in this game long, Pal!”

In other words, if you’re against the current President of the United States, and his team is in control, you might be pulling your hair out, getting red in the face and feeling like the world is going to end. Your only relief will be a mistake by the other side, or at least something you can try to spin as a mistake.

44140130_2966030001_1121dv-obama-olympics-SJ-plusIn the case of America losing its recent bid to host the Olympics, the odd celebrating by many Republicans could seem completely anti-American until you look at it through the eyes of a football fan. The “other side” fumbled, according to them. That’s what it would be like if your self-esteem is based on the win/loss scenario that ends every football game.

Let’s say that half-way into his term, President Obama and his team manage to turn the tide on our greed-sick economy. The crisis that took years to create starts to ease because of his leadership. And let’s say that his leadership leads to some kind of healthcare reform that helps those struggling Americans who are now going bankrupt to pay medical bills. Maybe it won’t be a perfect system, but we’ll look back and wonder how we could have ever let things get so bad before.

That’s a win for all of us, right? I mean, you would think the answer would be “yes!”

I have a hunch that it won’t be for the side that is now displaying sore loser syndrome. I think it will actually hurt, at least on the level of ego. And that’s what this is all about. Ego. Because it will mean that their own team didn’t score a big whopping political touchdown.

Good grief.

I didn’t care for George W. Bush one bit and suffered for eight years while he was president. I was scared to death about the trends that were leading to the present economic crisis and I was mad at him for letting them happen on his watch. But I also respected the American system and the ultimate wisdom of the voters to correct mistakes. If you are waiting for the pendulum to swing the other way again, then at least be grown up about it. After all, you had your turn. And it was a long one.

And to those who can’t blog and yell and complain enough about our current president I would ask, “Where were you?”

Where were you during the years that this mess was being created? I hear your voice now, screaming that President Obama isn’t working fast enough to fix the problem. But were you using your voice when President Bush was in office? Were you blogging then about how things as we know it were coming to an end? Because they were.

Or maybe you just flipped the station with your remote because you thought your team already had won the game.


Note: Cathleen Hulbert posted this story first on her blog on open.salon.com.

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The courage to publish independently http://likethedew.com/2009/09/25/the-courage-to-publish-independently/ http://likethedew.com/2009/09/25/the-courage-to-publish-independently/#comments Fri, 25 Sep 2009 11:29:25 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=5907

41UTpJyKBdL._SS500_Here’s my story.

I started my journey as a first-time novelist full of hope and expectation that exactly the right agent, followed by exactly the right publisher would materialize at the proper time and represent me. After all, writing my time-travel tale was a joyful experience. No suffering writer here — just one woman happy to be the conduit for characters that were so human they were fun to be with. Their conversations seemed to happen in the next room with my eavesdropping ear pressed against the door. The ancient poetry that my beloved “fictional” kahuna shared glided effortlessly from her lips to my soul and my computer. Even Gabe, the heroine’s boyfriend, steadfastly linear and reluctant to embrace the mysticism in this story, decided to bare his soul to me. He made his fears so completely understood that I was ready to give him free passage to the story’s leap-of-faith ending. And he willingly obliged, boldly going where no psychologist had gone before. As it would turn out, even the dolphins and sea turtles that materialized in my story — heck, even the wind — were more verbal and responsive than the many publishers and agents to whom I wrote.

Now, I know this is to be expected. After all, who am I? Just one woman with a pen, computer, a passion for story. Sending out my query letters was at first an exciting experience, until the rejection form-letters came back in SASE (self-addressed stamped envelopes) wearing my own best penmanship to deliver news of temporary defeat. It hurt. I’ll admit it. It hurt badly. How was I ever going to break through this barrier and get noticed? Why was I even given this hope-filled story if I didn’t have what it takes to get it published? Fortunately, there is another side to me to balance out the sensitive writer. I have a tough skin and I love a challenge. I’m always cheering for — and assisting in any way possible — the deserving “under dog.” This time it was ME. And even when disappointment temporarily got the best of me and I thought once again about giving up, one of the characters started giving me a “Oh no you don’t!” lecture and I was back to hope. I knew that the people rejecting me had not read my story, except for one. And she turned out to be an angel. A highly regarded agent, she asked to read the full manuscript of “The First Lamp” twice, heightening my sense of anticipation and bringing me crashing back to feelings of defeat when she was not ready to take me on as a client. But she gave me some surprisingly good advice about my not-exactly-mainstream (and therefore harder to sell to a publisher) book-to-be. “I recommend that you self-publish right away,” she said, contradicting the old-school notion that this would be the kiss of death.

“Get it out there and show the publishers that you can build a following. Then come back to me and we’ll talk.” Now I’m not sure about building a “following,” but I am loving this chapter in the journey of “The First Lamp.” After comparison shopping for a way to go “independent” with my novel, I chose BookSurge, a subsidiary of Amazon.com. The staff could not have been more professional, and the cost of publishing my book was amazingly affordable. I remember the first time I went to Amazon.com and saw the cover smiling back at me triumphantly: “There. We did it. Now was that so hard?”

Six months later, I’m happy to report that the book breathes and lives. It has been to more countries than I have and so many more states. It speaks to people in its own way and then sometimes they speak to me and share insights that I might have missed. After all, half the time I was just taking dictation. I’m not the only person who is going to understand the layers of meaning in this book. And this circle of hope and anticipation keeps me going: to a sequel and short-stories and blogs like this one, where I have a chance to do what the characters in my book implore the heroine, Sarah, to do. USE YOU VOICE! Speak up with your powerful voice! So here’s my humble advice: Got Story? Go ahead and follow your dreams and try that traditional route. But don’t keep it in the computer too long. There is simply no need to do that anymore. And who knows where you and your book will travel — and what kinds of people you will meet?

My current project is to ask some of my favorite authors to read the book for an endorsement. Hey, it doesn’t hurt to ask. Some already have said “yes.” We’re just getting started.

Cathleen Hulbert, LCSW, is a clinical social worker in the healthcare field and a free-lance journalist with a background in newspaper reporting. She also is the author of “The First Lamp — A Story of Cosmic Illumination,” a time-travel tale about love, forgiveness and redemption. She lives in Roswell, GA. For more information about the author and the book, go to www.cathleenhulbert.com.

Information about the book from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/First-Lamp-Cathleen-Hulbert/dp/1439217416/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1253852527&sr=1-1

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