Friday, January 30, 2009


WASHINGTON — Gov. Mark Sanford might not have even known he was in the
wrestling ring when U.S. House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn delivered an emphatic
smack-down from Washington.

The State Newspaper, January, 30th, 2009

Whooo - go Jim Clyburn!

So before I get ahead of myself, let me pause and reflect. Mark Sanford, the economic conservative mouthpiece of the GOP, doesn't care about the unemployed or the under-employed, and certainly doesn't have a grasp on reality.

This is the man, who has been trouncing the Employment Security Commission, threatening not to sign a loan from the U.S. DOL (which he had NO choice but to sign - go ahead and call DOL, they'll tell you) to pay benefits to the unemployed in one of states suffering the worst from unemployment.

So U.S. Representative Jim Clyburn from South Carolina, the third most powerful Representative in the House added a last minute amendment, that bypassed the mouthpiece,and got the money to the SC Legislature.

After 6 ineffective years as governor, Mr. Sanford has choosen to grandstand on the backs of the unemployed, instead of getting his own house in order. The reasons that South Carolina suffers can be traced all the way back to the Civil War, but the lack of leadership and no efforts at bipartisanship have left the state in a shameful position.

Chose a ranking and watch how SC stacks up (all the latest stats available):

Infant Mortality - 3rd in the nation (U.S. Census, 2005 )

Most Dangerous - #4 (In sub-categories, in Assault, SC is #1, murder #4) (CQ Press, 2008)

Unemployment - 4th Highest (U.S. Census, 2007 )

Persons below poverty level: 11th Highest (U.S. Census, 2006 )

Traffic Fatalities: 3rd Highest (U.S. Census, 2005 )

Wow, talk about a state needing a Federal hand! And our Governor, who is well-off and married to a well-off woman would like nothing better than to spite South Carolina's collective face by refusing to take bailout money.

But our willy fox, Jim Clyburn knew the ways the political winds would blow and did an end-around our lame duck gov. Money desperately needed to repair roads and bridges will be making its way to SC DOT; children may get to go to class in safe schools; and the elderly will have cut programs restored.

It is time for South Carolina to take a hard look at itself. It's current government structure is not working for the benefit of the taxpayer. Yes, the Federal stimulus package is a quick windfall that may not be repeated ever. But South Carolina can make changes that would vastly improve the state of the state. And save it boatloads of money.

I think Sanford's idea of consolidation a great one - just why hasn't it happened? Why does it seem like he has more enemies on his side of the aisle than the other? Whatever happened to building politcal bridges as well as physical ones?

The statistics above point out a very sad fact about South Carolina - it's dysfunctional. Top to bottom and inside out, South Carolina suffers because no one has given a big enough damn to make things right. Poverty and lack of education and opportunity leads to violence and despair. And worse yet, people have convinced themselves this is how it is supposed to be that acting ignorant is okay; pollution acceptable; and the way things were are good enough for the next generation.

I am hopeful that a new crop of leaders will be inspired to try to make a change in South Carolina. If we can just carry some of the enthusiasm that sparked the nation to make a change, South Carolina may stand a chance. Amen.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Living on Workers Compensation

Listen up campers, I'm going to blog on a topic that a lot of don't know anything about, but if it happens to us, we wish we knew more about. The subject, Workers Compensation Insurance - the point of view, the significant other of someone who is collecting. If you are a Workers Compensation person from the other side of the equation, you'll not be happy reading this blog.

I am also going to write in a series, not just one. There is way too much for one blog to cover and give you enough information to help you muddle through the quagmire of workers comp.

Joe, my other half, got hurt quite seriously while on the job. It was a spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed for three days. After trying to work with the system for about 2 weeks, I got fed up and we retained the services of a lawyer. So please keep in mind the severity of your injury before you jump on the lawyer happy path. Severe injuries like a spinal cord injury or amputation or major burn will need legal assistance. A cut that heals normally with a few stitches and a few days, probably won't.

And as another aside, for anyone thinking they've hit it big by getting a workers comp claim, please do all the really injured people a favor, and jump off a bridge now. Seriously.

So here is some the information YOU need to know about workers compensation, what it is, what it isn't, and what you need to do to make sure you are getting the appropriate level of care.

Workers compensation has a long and checkered history in the United States. Check out Wikipedia for more on how it got started. But please note this from the opening line on the Wiki article:

" a form of insurance that provides compensation medical care for employees who are injured in the course of employment, in exchange for mandatory relinquishment of the employee's right to sue his or her employer for the tort of

Did you catch that? Workers comp is for compensation medical care only. You have given up the right to sue your employer for negligence. If you understand that going in, it won't be such a big shock towards the end of your case or whenever you find out.

Let's take our case scenario, and work through it. Spinal cord injury, temporary paralysis due to swelling of the spine, discharged from the hospital without a whole lot of information, and sent home without further instruction from worker's comp. Week number one rolls by, and we finally get notified (in writing) from the workers compensation insurance company that a case manager nurse will be coming to visit.

Warning, warning! Workers Compensation Case Manager Nurses

Case manager nurses aren't your friend, and they certainly shouldn't be visiting at your house. Set the visit up for a public venue. You do NOT have to accept a dictated visit by the workers compensation insurance company. Remember, the case manager nurses are employed or third-party contractors who are being paid to get you off the workers compensation rolls as quickly as possible. Often, they will testify against you when you go to settle by claiming what they saw at your house could have been the cause of your injury.

Warning, warning! Workers Compensation Adjusters

Maybe I'm painting a whole industry with a tar brush, but these people are not your friends either. In fact, they are planning on giving you as little care as possible and back to work as quickly as they can. Do not talk to them any more than you possibly can; give them as little information as possible; and be prepared for lashback if you get a lawyer. Joe's workers compensation adjuster called him the first day, while he was in the emergency, on very heavy medications, paralyzed, and started reading him the company handbook on workers comp. Joe was in no way or shape able to digest this information or make any sense of it. As a little payback after we got our lawyer, he required that all of Joe's prescription medication be approved by him - something our pharmacist never heard of before in his career. Later, our pharmicist told us he would be happy to testify in court about this nonsense.

Okay, who is your friend?

One of the first things you need to do is figure out what laws your state has in place governing workers comp. Most states will have a workers compensation commission that oversees the rules and regs, companies and claims, claimants and settlements. Each state is structured somewhat differently. Here in South Carolina, we have a workers comp ombudsman who is a wonderful lady appointed to help the injured find out what their rights are, and help them understand the process. Above all else, find out what your rights are if you are severely injured.

Jury's Still Out - Workers Compensation Lawyers

As our case is in progress at this point, I'll refrain from too many comments on workers comp lawyers. We've all seen the ads on tv for a lawyer who will represent you if you are hurt and make sure your bills are paid. Well, point in fact, medical bills, and some portion of your weekly compensation. What the lawyer is good for is getting workers compensation off their ass and pointed in the right direction. IF there is a possibility of third-party suit, trust me, they'll sniff it out asap, and get busy finding out who else they can get $$$ from. By the end of our first visit with our lawyer, she had him in with the best pain management doctor in town, through our case manager nurse.

On the downside, workers compensation lawyers take a chunk out of your settlement. In SC, by law, it's 1/3 of your settlement. Gulp. That's a HUGE amount of money no matter what your settlement size is. You will sign a contract with the lawyer for their services, so don't think about trying to get around their system.

All right, this is a very small portion of what you need to know about workers compensation and how it works. Trust me, there is a lot more. Tons more. But take these away:

  1. As soon as possible, contact your state's worker compensation commission so you know your rights, what is owed to you under state law, and how the system works.
  2. Do not be bullied by the workers compensation insurance company or your employer.
  3. Do not meet with the workers compensation case manager nurse on your property if at all possible.

Look for more tomorrow on compensation.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Change Happens

Today marks the change in presidential administration. Over the weekend, we had a change in administration at the house. Sookie has become Alpha. She claimed the dog bed beside my side of the bed. That had been Sunny's place, and then Gus claimed it after Sunny passed. Now Sookie has it - the ratty beat-up bed, but the one closest to Mom.

Jack, the Jack Russell, is the oldest dog in the house at 6 years old, but Sookie, the only female (and the biggest) now has pack leader status. Elrod made the mistake of growling at Sookie as she walked past him while he was eating. She had him down and pinned in less than three seconds. She held him there, and then calmly let him go. Poor Elrod.

Except she doesn't have rank over the cat. The cat calmly walked into the bedroom last night as we were getting everything sorted out, walked into the middle of the alpha dog bed, laid down and gave Sookie "The Look." Sookie (already very well cat-trained) got nervous and walked over to the other side of the room and laid in her old bed.

Rudy the cat is having issues. I am not sure what is causing the issues, but he is having issues. Perhaps since Gus was his whipping dog, Rudy is now bereft of his punching bag. Perhaps Rudy who goes outside with my dogs and comes back in just like the dogs, thinks he IS the alpha dog. He is beating up on all the dogs, bit me this morning, and is having way too much fun with his catnip mouse.

Rudy is my second cat. I've never asked for a cat, they've always adopted me. My first cat Callie, was my barn cat, who decided she needed to move indoors. Rudy was already resident at the farm, and starving to death when we moved there. We feed him, brought him one night when it got cold, and he stayed ever since. He got a bladder infection last March that cost us $400 to fix, so he is now forever known as the $400 cat.

"Don't stay out in the dark" we yell at Rudy - "You cost us $400 - way too expensive for a fox to eat!" I've heard Joe tell Rudy quite rudely that his $400 ass was not allowed on the kitchen counters. I'm sure that has something to do with his cat pyschology - knowing that he "cost" more than the other house animals.

I don't know a helluva lot about cats. They aren't dogs (pack animals) and they aren't horses (prey animals). Their little brains work in very weird ways. They get happy and they bite you. Totally don't get that. They are self-centered, and self-sufficient and very often, self-absorbed. What I think makes the cat happy and what does, normally are very different things. I can assert myself as uber-alpha dog whenever I have to, but try to do that with a cat. They'll just run around and pee on your favorite furniture.

I am not quite sure what to do with Rudy's issues. Wait and let him work them out? Take the catnip mouse away? Take him to AKC obedience school? I'll ask some cat people for advice. I'd like to get them fixed so Sookie can be the true alpha dog.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Post-Gus, Day 2

Well, it's the day after saying good-bye to Gus. I don't want to be melancholy, but I am. I don't want to look in the refrigerator and burst into tears, but I am. My heart still pounds painfully every so often - I think with remembered dread still causing a spike in my heart rate.

I threw his medicines away this morning, the stop-the-nose-bleed drops, and the pain pills. The pain pills made me wheeze and gasp, trying to not to sob. What really got me were the treats under the sink I bought him for Christmas, still there and unfinished.

The house this morning was quiet - so much so it was eerie. I didn't realize what a loud dog our blind sheepie was. There wasn't any of the extra bustle that had filled my mornings. Getting Gus up and down the hallway, following him around outside in the pre-dawn dark, getting him in the house, and his gentle huffs and sighs. Gus panted, probably because he wore a wool coat, albeit fashionably short in warmer weather, but still warm. And he thunked into things, which sometimes made the whole house rattle.

The muppets seem to be feeling the change. For the first time ever, they came back to the house on their own this morning with no extra prompting (read yelling, calling, or chasing down.) Sookie especially knows her big brother is missing. She was upset yesterday when she saw his body in the garage, and this morning she seemed mopey. Elrod was upset because his people were upset. The cat who was outside during the day's events, came in last night, and searched the entire house sniffing and looking. The Jack Russell, in typical terrier fashion, is acting like nothing is wrong, except not having enough food in his bowl.

I realized sometime last night that I could have a coffee table again. After 9 years of no coffee table, I am kind of used to the anti-extra furniture trend. I can't imagine having a coffee table. Really, can't. In my head, it makes the room smaller, and a lot more lonelier. Maybe in a few months I'll think about a coffee table, but I can't yet. Besides the muppets need their wrestling space.

I know that all the extra care and tending I put into Gus I can now point and do something else with, but I am not sure what. I would happily keep giving all that I was giving to have a healthy Gus back and in my arms. But the point is, I can't. I am coming to realize that what I was telling myself to make myself go through with our decision to euthanize Gus was really, really true. He wasn't coming back, he was dying in pain. The die were cast, his race was run, and it was time to let him go. His spirit - the spark that made Gus - had already left and was only held by the merest tether of a beating heart.

We thankfully have a busy weekend in front of us. Tomorrow we go see the Lippizan stallions in performance, Sunday we may go upstate to have dinner with Joe's family; and hopefully Monday, my parents will be here, trying to flee any more bad winter weather. I really need my mother's hug right now. I am buoyed by the news that my brother and sister-in-law are getting two foster puppies tonight! What a great adventure they have in front of them! I am almost jealous. We can plan our first weekend get-away now; it's almost been a year since we've gone anywhere.

But in between all that, I'll be missing and thinking and trying to smile about my big sheepie, Gus.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Eulogy for a Dog

In memory of Gus "Bus" Iden July, 1998 - January, 2009

We had a hard to decision to make yesterday, or for me. it was the day before. Gus, our beautiful white-headed Old English Sheepdog, had been diagnosed with nasal cancer during the summer around July. It had started with a some hellacious nose bleeds and horrific snoring and escalated into total blockage of the sinuses. It culminated last weekend with the cancer
errupting into his eye socket causing him pain and distress. Within two weeks our once 93 pound dog droppped almost 20 pounds - the cancer was eating him from the inside out. It became apparent to me that we had come to a fatal decision point - either now or in a few horrible pain-filled days.

Gus had fought cancer valiantly for 7 months. Canine nasal cancer doesn't have a cure, it doesn't even have a good way to fight it. The surgery is horrible, the radiation afterwards even worse. My vet said that he wouldn't even put a young two year old dog through the ordeal. Instead we chose to give Gus the best life he could have for the remainder of his time. Over the last week, Gus turned into a zombie dog, who could barely put one foot in front of the other and who had stopped eating. If you knew Gus, you knew that was a very bad thing.

I agonized with the decision by myself until last night when I told Joe. He agreed that it was the right and best thing to do, and this morning we called the vet. Beth came to our house and help put our sheepie into a gentle rest. He was so close to going you couldn't tell when he slipped from our world over the rainbow bridge. We held him up to the end loving him as best we could.

There are tons of other blogs about losing a loved one, and lessons in life, and the pain of making the euthanasia decision. This blog is about me trying to heal some of the holes in my heart today.

Gus was a very good dog. Not great, mind you, but a very good dog. You see, like most dogs, Gus gave us all pointers in unconditional love, respect, friendship, and how to love whatever food is in front of you. But unlike most dogs, Gus had a few more lessons for me to learn and keep.

Most of you wouldn't know that when I brought Gus home, he had one beautiful brown eye and one blue eye. About 2 months after I adopted Gus from the Old English Sheepdog Rescue in North Carolina, he went to totally blind. Both of his retinas tore and detached, leaving an otherwise healthy and young 2 year old dog in the dark. Adding insult to injury, he grew
cataracts over both retinas, leaving boths eyes a milky blue. I always blamed his blindness on the rough start he got in life - left in a dog pen in the hot sun in Charlotte, North Carolina for the first full year of his life. The fur on his back was still brown from being sun-burnt when I brought him home.

But Gus and I both adapted to his changed world. I got rid of the coffee table, and he began to put his full trust into me.

We learned how to communicate. "Slow" meant "hey stupid, there is a tree (or house or car or horse trailer) right in front of you!" "Other way, Gus!" meant to execute an incredible tight turn in the other direction because impact was emminent. "Step, step" meant that the altitude was about to change one way or the other.

We still had accidents along the way. A quick-footed pony gave him a concussion and 10 staples in the head. I kept a bag of frozen peas handy to keep on his noggin after "Slow" and "other way" didn't work. But Gus, for the most part, worked it out. He had his Sunny, and then his Sookie to help him when Mom wasn't there.

Gus - your zest for life and love will never be forgotten. No matter you were blind, you wanted to play like the rest of the dogs. You barked and chased, and wished you could get that damn Jack Russell just once. You never let a garbage can lid stand in the way of getting what you wanted, by God, if the garbage smelled good there was something in it for you! Peanut butter kongs were a requirement, not a nice-to-have. And despite your people's best intentions, if there was some place you wanted to go, you were going regardless of how many bushes, holes, fence posts or donkeys were in your way.

And love. Gus always trusted that there would be someone around to love him. Someone he could feel and who would hold him. And if you were too busy to touch him, then he would touch you. Mostly by shoving his head through your legs, and squirming until he got his whole body between your legs. The looks of surprise on all the new people Gus met when he first did that too them! When the big, shaggy head would poke itself right out above your knees. Everyone would laugh and then get the message Gus was trying to tell them - love me. Easy enough to do for a dog so full of love himself.

And who among us who knew Gus doesn't have Gus claw scars on their ribs or their knee from Gus reminding us that he was present at the dinner table?

Gus had a love of well-endowed women too. If there was a large chested chick in the crowd, Gus would find her. And within the first hour have his head between her boobs. I used to warn any endowed women meeting Gus that he would be all over them, but I decided to keep it our secret. Every dog needs one or two. Secrets that is.

I said to Mom this morning, that even in times of immeasurable sorrow, you must remember to count the joys. Gus was a joy, a clown, a train wreck, and my giant living teddy bear. My heart is breaking with missing him. I know my love for him will always be there, and a piece of his heart will stay with me until the end of my days.

Now Gus is over the rainbow bridge. By now he has found Sunny and they are having a joyful reunion. And best yet, his eyes can now see what he hasn't been able to for 9 years.

Gus, our big goof-ball, rest in peace. We love you now and always.