Saturday, April 24, 2010

Quote of the Day:

Men go abroad to wonder at the heights of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motions of the stars, and they pass by themselves without wondering. ~St. Augustine

This quote was found on a someone's blog and was accompanied by a great photo. Check it out.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Update: Greene vs. Sonoma County

Many thanks to those of you who have posted a comments or emailed me about the Greene vs. Sonoma County case. It's nice to make a connection with people who read my blog and I always appreciate when people take the time to send me links to things that they think I might find interesting.

If you are curious about the Clay Greene or the case Greene vs. Sonoma County, I'll attach some of the links that people have sent me. I'm a fan of digging deep, learning all the facts I can about a situation, and making thoughtful informed opinions. I hope you do the same, too.

Lawsuit claims county separates gay couple

Lawyer says concerns about domestic violence prompted separation of gay partners

Copy of the complaint filed in Greene vs. Sonoma County

Facebook group Justice for Clay Greene and Harold of Sonoma County CA

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Greene vs. Sonoma County

In this past Friday's edition of the news roundup I wrote about the memorandum that President Obama signed directing the Department of Health and Human Services to make rules that make "clear that designated visitors, including individuals designated by legally valid advance directives (such has durable powers of attorney and health care proxies) should enjoy visitation privileges that are no more restrictive than those that immediate family members enjoy. You should also provide that participating hospitals may not deny visitation privileges on the basis of race, color national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability."

A great deal of press associated with this memorandum related to a legal case brought by Janice Langbehn, who, along with her children, were denied access to her dying partner while she was in a Florida hospital. Today I've been reading a lot about Green vs. Sonoma County (see here or here for two interesting commentaries). Here is a brief description borrowed from the NCLR website:

Clay and his partner of 20 years, Harold, lived in California. Clay and Harold made diligent efforts to protect their legal rights, and had their legal paperwork in place—wills, powers of attorney, and medical directives, all naming each other. Harold was 88 years old and in frail medical condition, but still living at home with Clay, 77, who was in good health. 
One evening, Harold fell down the front steps of their home and was taken to the hospital. Based on their medical directives alone, Clay should have been consulted in Harold’s care from the first moment. Tragically, county and health care workers instead refused to allow Clay to see Harold in the hospital. The county then ultimately went one step further by isolating the couple from each other, placing the men in separate nursing homes. 
Ignoring Clay’s significant role in Harold’s life, the county continued to treat Harold like he had no family and went to court seeking the power to make financial decisions on his behalf. Outrageously, the county represented to the judge that Clay was merely Harold’s “roommate.” The court denied their efforts, but did grant the county limited access to one of Harold’s bank accounts to pay for his care. 
What happened next is even more chilling: without authority, without determining the value of Clay and Harold’s possessions accumulated over the course of their 20 years together or making any effort to determine which items belonged to whom, the county took everything Harold and Clay owned and auctioned off all of their belongings. Adding further insult to grave injury, the county removed Clay from his home and confined him to a nursing home against his will. The county workers then terminated Clay and Harold's lease and surrendered the home they had shared for many years to the landlord. 
Three months after he was hospitalized, Harold died in the nursing home. Because of the county’s actions, Clay missed the final months he should have had with his partner of 20 years. Compounding this tragedy, Clay has literally nothing left of the home he had shared with Harold or the life he was living up until the day that Harold fell, because he has been unable to recover any of his property. The only memento Clay has is a photo album that Harold painstakingly put together for Clay during the last three months of his life. 
With the help of a dedicated and persistent court-appointed attorney, Anne Dennis of Santa Rosa, Clay was finally released from the nursing home. Ms. Dennis, along with Stephen O'Neill and Margaret Flynn of Tarkington, O'Neill, Barrack & Chong, now represent Clay in a lawsuit against the county, the auction company, and the nursing home, with technical assistance from NCLR. A trial date has been set for July 16, 2010 in the Superior Court for the County of Sonoma.
It's difficult for me to string together words to describe what I feel when reading about this. This isn't because a lack of words--or anger--but because there isn't much more in my mind beyond the horror of bearing wittiness to such unrelenting cruelty.

As I have been learning in my recent explorations into the nature of cruelty and how it has become woven nearly invisibly into the tapestry of our human experience, I think about the person and their experience. I'm thinking a lot this afternoon about Clay and how many people showed great cruelty by not thinking of his experience. I wonder what the voters of California were thinking when they voted for California Proposition 8? Where they thinking about people like Clay and Harold? Probably not as our modern public discourse has moved away from considering individual experiences and moved toward easily digestible slogans. I wonder what staff at the nursing homes, the hospitals,  or decision makers at the county level were thinking of? Where they thinking of the very real humans who were experiencing great pain and cruelty? Again, I'm guessing not.

I hope those of you who read about his story don't make that same mistake. I hope you think of the person's experience first. Always think of the person first. It can guide us toward a place of compassion and slowly help us each dismantle the cruelty we ignore or don't notice on a daily basis.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Friday News Roundup: Saturday Edition

I'm still having trouble getting back into my routine after my NYC trip with my niece. Here is a bleated-yet-interesting melange of what has been on my mind.

Obama: Hospitals Must Grant Same-Sex Visitations

Apparently the irreverent psychologist has been living under a rock. I hadn't heard about the Florida case in which Janice Langbehn, along with her children, were denied access to Lisa Pond in a hospital. About ready to depart from Miami on a family cruise, Pond suddenly collapsed. Langbehn and their three children were denied access to Pond at Jackson Memorial Hospital. Despite having durable health care power of attorney, "the hospital refused to accept information from Langbehn regarding Pond's medical history. The hospital also informed her that she was in an antigay city and state and that she could expect to receive no information or acknowledgment as family. A doctor finally spoke with Langbehn, telling her that there was no chance of recovery Despite the doctor's acknowledgment that no medical reason existed to prevent visitation, neither Langbehn nor her children were allowed to see Pond until nearly eight hours after their arrival. Soon after Pond's death, Langbehn attempted to obtain her death certificate in order to get life insurance and Social Security benefits for her children. She was denied both by the state of Florida and the Dade County Medical Examiner. (for more information about the legal case Langbehn was involved in, click here). 

This past Thursday President Obama issued a memorandum directing the Department of Health and Human Services to make rules that make "clear that designated visitors, including individuals designated by legally valid advance directives (such as durable powers of attorney and health care proxies) should enjoy visitation privileges that are no more restrictive than those that immediate family members enjoy. You should also provide that participating hospitals may not deny visitation privileges on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability."  The memorandum applies to every hospital that receives Medicare or Medicaid funding which is virtually every hospital in the country. 

Sadly, some have spoken against this memorandum. Ignoring that having appropriate legal documents Langbehn and her children were denied access in a Florida hospital the following was said by J.P. Duffy, vice president for communications at the Family Research Council, says the president is pandering to a radical special interest group: 
There are many other ways to deal with this issue, whether through a health care proxy or power of attorney, though private contractual arrangements. We have no problem with those situations, but the fact here is that this is undermining the definition of marriage.
I'm finding myself uncharacteristically speechless.  Shame on Jackson Memorial Hospital and the doctors on staff who were so negligent as to not collect health information on a patient. Shame on the hospital and staff to demonstrate such a lack of compassion to deny a patient contact with their loved ones in their last hours of life. Shame on the voters of Dade County and Florida for supporting laws that violate any sense of human dignity and compassion. Finally, and most importantly, shame on the Family Research Council for their continued propagation of hate.

The case of Langbehn and her partner bring into focus the very human face of the tragedy that some face in their last hours of life--or in difficult moments--in the hospital. If only we all could find ways to demonstrate the caring compassion that President Obama did in his memorandum.

Texas City Revives Paddling as it Takes a Swat at Misbehavior

Thirty U.S. states have banned the use of corporal punishment. The federal government has outlawed corporal punishment in it's prison system. Corporal punishment in schools has been outlawed in Canada, Kenya, Japan, South Africa, New Zealand, and nearly all of Europe except the Czech Republic and France.

This is just crazy. I've already blogged about whether parents should spank their kids. I feel the same way about corporal punishment in schools. There is just no reason to ever hit another human being. Ever. Never. Corporal punishment is not an enduring or effective method of shaping behavior or teaching children.

Veggie Burgers Contain Neurotoxin

Oh great, just when I was feeling healthy noshing on my veggie burger I find out that many of the soy products I consume contain hexane, a neurotoxin. This one is worth the read: a few simple choices in the grocery store can protect you from this particular problem. Rachel Carson's silent spring seems to be growing closer.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Need a Break? 15 Minute Mindfulness Walk

The sun was out this morning and rather than run the errands that I've been meaning to run, I did something far more enjoyable: take Maggie for a walk. If you haven't noticed spring has arrived and everything is blooming. It makes for a great mindfulness walk.

Overwhelmed? Get up from your desk and go for a walk. Set an alarm for 15 minutes and focus your attention on counting how many different kinds of flowers you see in bloom. You could also just count the number of flowers you see (though I'd suggest a smaller amount of time, like 60 seconds). If a stray thought comes into your mind, just let it pass by and focus on counting flowers.

In 15 minutes I counted 23. Maggie got in on the action and tried to eat a particular variety of daffodil that I counted. I needed to interrupt my mindfulness practice to retrieve it from her mouth.

Here are four different kinds of flowers that I found. What did you find?

Monday, April 5, 2010


The irreverent psychologist is taking a temporary respite from blogging. A guest has come visiting in New England and all of my free time is being spent out exploring the world from the viewpoint of a teenager. Check back next week and I'll be back to regular blogging.

In the meantime, be good to yourselves and see what you might discover about your environment if you look at things from a different viewpoint.