Friday, February 20, 2009

Lab School

Very short post here because we're starting on a Battlestar Galactica DVD watching spree. But I have to make this announcement!

Our 3rd grader's application to the Lab School for Creative Learning was accepted! I got a call yesterday, and Wandering Mom and I took a tour of the school today, and were most impressed. We decided on the spot to enroll him for next year!

The Lab School is an experiential learning school, which means essentially "learning by doing". The school's teaching philosophies are very much aligned with Polaris Expeditionary Learning School, which the teen daughter attends. We are VERY excited!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Picture this if you will.....

Mom sitting in the living room, back to the dining room, with her feet up for a few minutes after a long hard day in Community Health Care. The 17 yr old girl is helping her 7 year old brother on his homework. Suddenly she exclaims "No! This is so confusing, I can't even understand this problem!"

Yes, this is the same eloquent, well spoken teenager a few blog posts ago! It is moments of laughing hearts that makes being a parent such a wonderful journey.

So, can we talk health care? Our health care system is a disaster. I know that is not a surprise to most of you out there. The view from all sides of this (including from up in the tree) are equally devastating.

I am a health care consumer. I have a chronic illness, complicated by many factors. I have chosen a provider who uses integrative medicine to treat my illness and keep my quality of life relatively acceptable. Because my insurance considers this provider to be out of network, I pay more out of pocket. This is in addition to a multitude of tests, specialist consultations, an average of a surgery or other hospitalization each year, and prescriptions.

I would like to pursue alternative treatments for my illness, such as massage and acupuncture. If I do pursue alternatives, however, my insurance will only pay a small portion if any of that cost if any. Yet my insurance will happily pay for a prescription instead, that will mask my symptoms but not correct any of the underlying problems. In fact, they will only make me pay up to a specific amount each year, then they pay the rest. So it is to my benefit to be more and more reliant upon a pill to fix me.

Yet I am the lucky one in the whole picture. I saw a patient in my clinic today with the same health problem. She is unable to work due to her condition (partially because of inadequate care?) so she has to access the community health care center. She does have health care, but it is with a provider who is so hard pressed to even begin to meet the overwhelming need that she squeezes more patients into a day than my primary provider does. (This is partially due to the lower reimbursement rate by Medicaid and Medicare, and the need to increase quota in order to stay afloat as a clinic.) In fact the need is so great that on top of the higher number of appointment slots she has created, she double books over half of those appointments to accommodate the awful flu sweeping the community, the children who must be hospitalized, and the very ill.

As frustrated as I get with my reality as a health care consumer, I am even more devastated to watch daily the disastrous system that has evolved in an attempt to meet the needs of a huge segment of our population. This segment is growing bigger daily, due to the state of the economy, and more and more families loosing insurance. So to meet the increasing need, the community health care system is being spread thinner, thinner and thinner. Our culture, our country, our political leaders, have fed into a system of insurance companies, copays and deductibles, and it has lost sight of the purpose. The need is the help people restore or maintain health, to have a good quality of life, to be able to contribute and be functioning parts of society. Yet that need is met by the few, by the desperate, by the "system".

I am quite tired tonight, after a day in the trenches. I know my thoughts are not quite coherent, and I may edit this later, but I see the need daily. I see the crisis before us, I experience the frustration of not being able to fix the problem. I feel inadequate every single day. I can't possibly get every patient back to see the Dr while also doing vaccines, returning 30 calls, finding 20 charts, calling the hospital 3 times, drawing blood 12 times, and trying to find a specialist to see 4 of our high risk patients. Really, if each Dr in my clinic sees 32 patients in a day (which is the approximate goal established in order to make the clinic viable) then we can't do it. We can't do it with the resources we have, the manpower we have, the facility and the energy. it is draining, exhausting and discouraging. I want to be part of a system that really meets needs, that provides what our people need.

The system needs fixed............


Hello, I'm InternetWalker. I'm one of the laboring teenagers of the family (pretends to glare at mother and father). You're lucky I love you guys. lol

I read the posts Friendly Neighborhood Pirate and Wondering Mom wrote and I thought I'd add the view from my little perch in the tree.

We're not completely wacky, hippie like you might or might not have discovered. We feel we're more doing our little part to help out our world and support being local. You know how you want to make that yummy wrap in the middle of summer or a salad? Then you look in your fridge and you don't have any greens? Well, last summer, after, of course, the back straining work of making it, I was able to enjoy our garden by going out with a strainer tucked under one arm and an anxious stomach. It's nice being able to just walk outside and grab a few handfuls of leafy greens, a bell pepper, and maybe one of those tomatos that are dripping from their vines and pulling out the support that we put up and reinforced. Then to go inside, rinse, chop a little, and have a nice salad ready without having to walk more than 10 yards from your house. If only I could make Dorthy Lynch.

Anyway, we're not totally crunchy, but we're not technology oriented also. Yes, I love to go on those social networks on line, but, to keep me from spending all the time on the computer, I have a certain amount of hours to spend on the computer. It's nice in a way. No internet drama, and outside is pretty nice as long as it's not freezing cool (but, shhhh, don't tell my parents that). We're just the right balance I think. But if we did laundry by hand during the summer, or something like that, it'd probably help out alot more.

Okay well, I'll let you go, if you haven't already died of boredom. I'll blab at you some more later.

Loves to all of you.
Chuu (kiss)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Baby steps

A little while ago I was trying to pull myself out of Facebook's event horizon when a friend IM'd me. She said she had just checked out the View (I had shamelessly posted the link to this blog on my Facebook.) She also said that she and her hubby had been talking about making some of the "better decisions" like we've mention on the View, but that it seems so overwhelming.

Tell me about it! There are days when I think about how far we have to go that I get overwhelmed! In reality we've just gotten started on our journey of sustainability. We're like the proud parents toting around photos of our baby saying, "Oh look! Here's one from last Saturday when Junior didn't cry for a whole HOUR! Isn't that the cutest thing?" (Hint: If you don't see the connection, I had a blog post a few days ago, so proud of myself for spending MOST of a Saturday not using fossil fuels.) We must be pretty annoying to the people who are there in Sustainabilityland.

I know some folks who are there. You know, the ones who live completely off the grid, raise goats for cheese and maybe meat, heating their Earth ship homes with geothermal energy and drinking water from a hand-pumped well. You guys are awesome! But we aren't there yet. Maybe never quite will be.

But we're making some baby steps. And anyone can do what we've done. It's not really that much. The key is to start thinking about the choices we make. Not just about maybe buying a hybrid car; question whether you really need a new car at all. Or a second car. Or a first car. Question everything. Do you really need a microwave? My mother has lived for years without one; she recently broke down and got one just to heat up her hand-made rice bags. Her husband didn't even realize it was in the house for a couple of months.

If everyone in this country started thinking, just thinking, about the impact their choices made, that would be a huge step. Now imagine if we all took one simple step to reduce that impact, by, say, bringing reusable bags to the grocery stores instead of taking throwaway plastic ones home. That would be a hugely positive impact! And that's just one little thing we can all do.

My friend, by the way, told me that she's already shopping just the outer edges of the grocery store and avoiding anything processed, reducing the meat they eat (even toying with going Vegan), and that she bought a bunch of veggies from the farmer's market over the summer and froze them. They live in a condo but are going to try container gardening.

I gotta tell ya, that's an amazing start! Sure, you can look at all the things that you could be doing and get overwhelmed, but try looking at the things you are doing... and be impressed! If I were to go back five years and see where I am now, I wouldn't believe it nor see the path to getting here. Sometimes it's one foot in front of the other.... baby steps.

Today's tip: Start reading the labels on everything you buy at the grocery store. If you can't pronounce some of the ingredients, look up the unidentifiable ingredients online. Question whether you want to put such unidentifiable things into your body. Now take a look at the organic equivalent of the item you were about to buy. Ask yourself: Now why would they need to add all that other stuff to the non-organic version? If you're feeling ambitious, do a taste test!


So I was just on Facebook IM'ing with a friend and...

Hold on here! Wait! Did you say IM? Facebook? Doesn't that involve a computer and, like, technology? Shouldn't you be in the tree, picking berries and contemplating the stars?

Okay, I understand the confusion. First of all, berries don't grow on trees, they grow on bushes. Second, I may have neglected to mention that I work with computer technology for a living. So naturally, I tend to use it at home as well. I'm actually typing this on a laptop (running linux, by the way) in bed. How decadent!

Sometimes it seems difficult to reconcile the high technology livelihood I've had with the sustainable lifestyle I want to attain. But to me, life isn't about absolutes; there are compromises to make in our lives. I couldn't share these thoughts with you now if I rejected technology; but if I embraced technology exclusively I would never smell the roses (or the lilacs, which I actually prefer.) Besides, I don't think that technology is completely unsustainable. Plus, there are plenty of ways to make technology more sustainable -- more on that later!

A year or two ago, I'd much rather have gotten my hands dirty with thermal paste and computer case dust than with garden soil. There are some days where I still prefer the metal and plastic; it's part of how I'm wired. But to achieve a balance, I also need to get soil under my fingernails and turn the compost every now and then. These evenings, I'm much more likely to be found in the kitchen than on the computer. That's attributed to a lot of things, but partly because I sensed there was something missing in my life: balance. I work with computers all day and don't want to do the same thing at home, most of the time. That's normal for one of my profession and age. It's also practicality: The family needs to eat, and making dinner a quality experience rather than a half-hearted microwaved effort seems a good use of my time.

And washing dishes can be, believe it or not, quite soothing after a long day. Just don't tell my wife. If she knew I enjoyed it...!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Things to do Saturday, revised

I am sad to report that in fact, it did snow. But Dan is a bicycle trooper and still biked to the coffee shop. He is becoming more and more hardcore with his bike! :)

My agenda: Coax the kids remaining in the house (all of them) to do chores. We believe strongly that all members of the family have to pitch in and help. This is made especially important because I have this super fun chronic illness that at times makes me unable to do as much as I would like. Cheap child and teenage labor is the answer!

The most significant item to tackle today: Hamsters. We have the honor to "hamstersit" for at least this month while part of the extended family works to put their house on the market. I thought that was an interesting request, because I would not be turned off by a house with hamsters in it. But the real problem is that these hamsters are insanely wild with their bedding! At this moment they have kicked 1/3 of the total bedding contained in their cage onto the table the cage is on. From there it has piled up at the base of the table, and been tracked all over the family room by kids, cats and husbands. (surely I had no part in this!)

Thankfully, I have two teens in the house to whom I could delegate this clean up to!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Things to do this Saturday

1. Ride bike to Old Town, have coffee with friends at the Bean Cycle.
2. Visit the Community Market (aka farmer's market) at the Opera Galleria in Old Town (10am-3pm, if I recall correctly). 
3. Finish planning garden with wifey. Nearly time to start seedlings!
4. Figure out chicken coop plans with wifey. Start scrounging for building materials at ReSource    and Eco-Thrift.
5. Figure out last minute Valentine's gift for wifey. (Nah, just kidding, got that figured out. Not posting it here, though, she might read it!)
6. Cook dinner at home with wifey. 

(Lacking in my day? Automobiles, Wal-Mart, fast food, corporate coffee, non-fair trade goods and plastic. And with luck, also lacking snow.)

Thursday, February 5, 2009

First post!

This is always the hardest post, the first. So here's a very brief introduction:

Hi, we're the View From the Tree family. Each family member sits on their own limb of the tree and thus brings their own perspective to our shared views. You'll hear from all of us in due time.

We started this blog because we're enthusiastic about sharing our thoughts and experiences with others. It's our fond hope that other like-minded folks will climb up in the tree and sit with us for a while to share their views (or take a peek at ours). 

So what are our views? Stick around and you'll get 'em. But in a nutshell, we're a rooted collection of individuals with evolving worldviews, focused for the time being on sustainable living, community consciousness, spiritual consciousness and other neat stuff. We live in a small city / large town that is right at the base of the Rocky Mountains and #2 rank of Money magazine's Best Places to Live. We're invested in our community's schools, health care, food growers, food distributors, alternative energy endeavors, public transit, and politics that affect individuals. We love small coffee shops, wine, small furry mammals, spontaneous laughter, zombie movies, growing our own food, bikes, board games, the Internet, and the feel of the sun in our faces, and believe that none of those things are mutually exclusive.

And we're really darn funny.