Genes Load the Gun

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I think it's interesting the kind of discussion that can come about in regards to global health. Not just when we talk about what's happening in the United States, but including the entire global community and their stance on an individual's health. Last night I went to a Duke sponsored discussion on global health that included two of the leading names in the field - Dr. Victor Dzau and Dr. Paul Farmer. Have President Brodhead sitting between them and leading the interview/discussion? Now that's not a bad way to spend a Wednesday night.

I can't claim to understand everything, or to even know enough about the sides of the issue to have an opinion of my own. But I do appreciate my chance to hear those in the know illuminate some of the problems. Global health is being tackled so differently everywhere that to hear someone like Paul Farmer, who has worked in Haiti, Africa, and so many more places to try and make a difference in the lives of the poor, is a special opportunity.

I can't seem to think of a way to sum up what I learned or heard at this talk, more an example of my own failure to communicate the issue accurately, but here are a few quotes that I typed into my phone while trying to keep the discussion clear in my mind:

1) "Genes load the gun but environment pulls the trigger" - President Brodhead on public health, congenital disease, and societal influences
2) "The issue of global health is health everywhere. And health everywhere is a lot of issues simultaneously." - President Brodhead, summary point
3) "What is important to do and how do we use the resources we have to do it?" President Brodhead's opinion of Duke's view of its own purpose, but also Dr. Farmer's choice on how small enterprises make big and lasting changes

I think the biggest idea that I took from this discussion was the idea of global health not being something 'outside of the US', not 'International Health'. The poor and distraught in the US need help just as badly as those in other countries, and it seems to me the issue will never come to a satisfactory ending without all of us working together to tackle it everywhere.


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I think family is probably the easiest and hardest word in the English language - in any language really, but I can only speak from my own perspective.

My mother died on October 9, 2009. Died. Born January 14, 1954 she lived a life of extreme hardship towards the latter half of her life. She was born in Maine, grew up in the New York-Brooklyn area and in her late 20's met my father. She eventually decided to leave college, the proceeded to have my sister, than me. When I was 2 years old she and my father decided that it would be better to move down to NC where his family was from - here's where it gets wonky. My mother moves down and my father says he's gonna come down later, but guess who never quite makes it? Unsurprisingly to some I never lived in the same house with my father again and saw him only about 3 times that I remember, all of those happening before I was 10.

While in NC my mother found out she was pregnant with my brother but had the unfortunate luck to be diagnosed with gestational onset diabetes. And wait for it people - this is where it get's better. After gaining wait from the diabetes, over the next few years the bad diagnoses just keep coming - severe osteoarthritis of the spine, heart failure, kidney problems, cataracts - every single one of them my mother had to deal with, while trying to raise three children on welfare and disability in a world that doesn't really welcome people who need that kind of help.

Imagine, living the first half of your life happy and healthy with direction and purpose and be condemned to spend the last part of it sick, ashamed, and alone. Because my mother was extremely alone - some of it due to her own wishes, because she was ashamed to be seen as she was in the end, and some of it due to the people and family who knew her before who never seemed to make an effort or care about her well being enough to be there in person. And later when we moved out of the house of my youth (and SO AGAINST MY WISHES) she gave in to my sisters demands and moved in with her, she got to go face to face with the ugliness of the human spirit.

As my siblings got older - they got uglier. Uglier in spirit I mean. Talking down to my mother and telling her what a burden she was, all of it designed to somehow try and make themselves feel better at the expense of her mental and emotional health. But what was even worse for me during this whole situation was the my mother would not let me help her. She wouldn't move in with me, she wouldn't move out to her own place. I understand that she was depressed but it was incredibly hurtful and frustrating to be put in the place of wanting to be my mother's protector or at least helper, and be denied.

In the end my sister was telling her that my mother had ruined her life and was a burden to her and that she HAD to leave. Even though our mother had been her best friend for the entirety of her life up until now, even though she made my mother move in with her with threats of never speaking to her again - all of it didn't matter. She was a burden now. A burden because my sister's new 'friends' were telling her that this was how other people lived their lives, how grown people lived their lives.

So in the end my mother died. In the hospital after being sedated and never waking up again. I can only take heart in the fact that my last words to her were how I loved her and how those hospital people better start treating her right or heads were gonna roll. But on my train ride down to NC on the 9th, it didn't make much of a difference. And when I got there I did not hug or touch either of my siblings, and even though that seems odd in abstract, in reality there was no other way for that reunion to go. Fights are always either happening or imminent with them and I'm gonna work to not have that negativity in my life.

That properly wasn't a proper eulogy to my mother. But before I can even start trying to craft one that brings to life what she meant to me, I had to be able to say what was stuck in my heart. And saying it does make it slightly better but I'm still not going to be happy any time soon and my life does suck. I loved my mother. She was one of the strongest and most resilient women I've ever known and I say thanks every day that she taught me to be a woman that would never give up and never accept less than the best.

Elissa Beth Wooster
~January 14, 1954 - October 9, 2009~
Loving Mother

Music Box

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I'm sitting with my mother's music box.
It's not big, barely fitting in the palm of my hand,
but I'm sitting with my mother's music box.

It plays the song her father sang to her and
I remember buying it for her, knowing-
that she would cry when she heard it.

And now I cry when I hear it.
Winding it up and listening to it play,
hiccuping as I hiccup.

The Ballad of Jon and Kate

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I don't understand why people are confused or surprised about the lower ratings 'Jon & Kate Plus Eight' is getting. Let's be real people, there are two main reasons (even if people don't want to admit them):

1) Struggling, happy people are entertaining while struggling, unhappy people are not.

2) No one wants to watch the systematic destruction of these kids' childhood.

To go back to #1, let's take a look at TLC's track record - 'Little People, Big World', 'The Little Couple', '18 and Counting', etc. All of these shows star people and families that are experiencing the world under extraordinary circumstances with a significant amount of aplomb and grace. What makes the families entertaining is their determination to live a 'normal' life no matter how much the world might be working against them - aka - struggling, but happy. What has happened to 'Jon& Kate Plus Eight' is that instead of watching a family stick together against the odds, we have the tangible representation of a big American fear - dissolution of a once loving marriage. This isn't about happy, struggling people any more; instead its focus is on how these two people have moved so apart from each other that separation is necessary, and the children who are stuck in the middle. Thus on to point #2 - the children.

Yes, in the beginning, the show was cute. I was a fan and I loved watching all of these little individual personalities take shape and grow in a loving, if a little large, family. It was my look into a functioning family unit- at least for a while. But as the kids got older and they became more and more aware of the cameras and how their lives were being filmed I began to wonder: who was benefiting from this show? Weren't these children just going to grow up with the mistaken impression that they had to act a certain way and be a certain way to maintain the constant attention? As some articles have claimed, instead of just being child actors, the Gosselin children had their entire lives as a kind of sitcom, broadcasted into millions of homes across America. It's not something they get to turn off and go home to a family to escape - their family is their job. Even if they don't know it yet.

And know, with Jon and Kate falling apart it's even sadder. These children don't deserve to have their parent's divorce blasted across America - their pain is really and probably magnified enough by the lives they've lived already. NO ONE WANTS TO WATCH THIS. Or at least, very few people want to watch - there are always going to be the voyeurs who want to see the end of what was a happy beginning. But either way, TLC should take the low ratings as a clear message - America doesn't think this is funny anymore. What was once a harmless look into an incredible family is now an intrusion into their very private grief - exacerbated by Jon and Kate's inability to stop talking to the media.

So yeah - 'Jon & Kate' isn't what it once was. For very clear and unsurprising reasons. At least, unsurprising and clear for those who are willing to admit the truth - it's time for TLC to stop filming and let this family settle into whatever 'life' they have left.

I hate ComCast

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and I want to punch them in their unfortunately proverbial nuts.

#1 Customer Service Satisfaction my ass.

Sorry - I know it's random, but it had to be said. 50min conversations over my lunch hour for almost a week straight are completely unnecessary and result in great unhappiness on all sides - because unfortunately, at this point, even innocent employees are feeling my wrath.