Sunday, January 27, 2013

Cottage Obituary

Our cottage is gone. Well, it is still there, but it has a new owner. We have the memories. He has the future.

My parents bought the little A-frame in the woods on the Lake Michigan shore at Washington Island in the early 1970s. They loved it. They helped us to love it. My brothers and I and our children crossed the Death’s Door passage and entered a different world every summer. Our children grew up and brought their children. My parents died and we continued to spend time there after we inherited it. It has been part of us for about forty years.

My father added a living room to face the Lake Michigan shore, plus a deck.  Some years later my mother added a second bedroom on one side. We still had to close the cottage every fall, and drain the water system and turn off the power. It was not built for winters. Our little home in the woods rested during the winters until we came in spring and turned on the water and power. And everyone came back to stay for weekends or weeks. It was wonderful.

It’s not that we did a lot. It isn’t Wisconsin Dells. My brothers, their wives and children found things to do, as did Rick and I and our children. We had fish boils. We ate junk food at the Albatross. When we weren’t swimming in the lake at our property, we were swimming at the Sand Dunes Park and School House Beach. In later years, as the lake receded, weeds and other vegetation grew along the shore and became smelly from decay, but our weeds didn’t smell. Our immediate family didn’t fish in the island waters, but others did. At least once every summer we took the ferry to Rock Island where we walked on the trails and swam in the lake with its big waves . Back at the cottage, Rick cut up downed trees, and we had plenty of firewood for the little cottage fireplace and the one on the beach. The kids had woods adventures. We spotted and exclaimed about the deer and other animals that called the island home. I exhibited my paintings at the Art and Nature Center.  After Sarah grew up, she participated annually in the Washington Island Music Festival. In recent years I attended the Island Forum, sponsored by the Wisconsin Council of Churches. These activities will continue. We will be back on the island and stay where we can find space.

Finally, we sold our little island home. Brother David, sister-in-law Marcy, and nephew Eric and I went back last week for a winter trip on the ice breaking ferry. We spent a day working with no heat, no water and no electricity. Our little cottage wasn’t built for winter use. It was very cold. We were working during daylight hours.  No, we didn’t sleep there; we stayed at a little hotel. We enjoyed the camaraderie that went with the end of an era.

That day on the island we threw out four pickup truckloads of possessions we no longer needed. The island dump has long been called the Island Exchange. Maybe someone else will use the items that didn’t go into the crusher, such as the world’s oldest microwave oven, or used up chairs that can only be called grade B quality. Most of the furniture is still there for the new owner, who is willing to have it. We donated bags of books and games to the island library. The next day we returned to the cottage to load our vehicles with items we wanted to save for ourselves.

We said goodbye to years of enjoyment, gave the keys to Butch, our realtor, and went back to our other lives.

Friday, January 11, 2013

You Can't Afford to Get Sick -- Book Review

“I believe strongly and passionately that every American has a right to good health care that is effective, accessible, and affordable, that serves you from infancy through old age, that allows you to go to practitioners and facilities of your choosing, and that offers a broad range of therapeutic options. Your health-care system should also help you stay in optimum health, not just take care of you when you are sick or injured.”—(Andrew Weil, You Can’t Afford to Get Sick, p. 4).

That says it all. Dr. Andrew Weil, one of our best known physicians, takes on the American medical system in You Can’t Afford to Get Sick: Your Guide to Optimum Health and Health Care, a book published in 2012, as an updated re-issue of Why Our Health Matters: a Vision of Medicine That Can Transform Our Future, a 2009 publication. The book is readable and persuasive.

Weil points out that at one time American medicine was the best in the world but it isn’t any more. He tells what is wrong with it and what to do to make it good again. Remember, this man is a doctor who has been there. His specialty is integrative medicine, a field that he heads at the University of Arizona.

The book is organized in three parts: Where We Are, Where We Need to Be, and How to Get There. He discusses the dysfunctions of the American medical system and puts blame on medicine delivered via the profit motive, especially the pharmaceutical industry and insurance companies. As a physician, Weil says he has heard many misdiagnosis and mistreatment disaster stories from patients, colleagues and others. He suggests that the system be repaired like this: “Our long-term goal must be to shift our health-care efforts from disease intervention to health promotion and disease prevention….the time has come for a new paradigm of preventive medicine and a society-wide effort to educate our citizens about health and self care” (p. 9).  His two main objectives are: “(1) Change the focus of health care in this country from disease management to prevention and health promotion. (2) Minimize interventional medicine’s dependence on expensive technology” (p. 10).

That is what Weil’s book is about. He goes into how to prevent disease and promote health, which he says will greatly improve medical services delivery, prolong lives and save millions of dollars. In the last chapter of the book, which is not in the 2009 book, he offers “a Two-Week Plan for Taking Greater Responsibility for Your Health and Well-Being” (p.224). He calls the 2010 Affordable Care Act (known as Obamacare) a step in the right direction that does not go far enough. He lists good features including providing insurance coverage to more Americans, and denial of fewer preexisting conditions, but is distressed that the new law does not reduce the high cost of medical care. He offers a path for American people to use the available services selectively and wisely.

This is good reading for those of us who are distressed about the dysfunctions of current medical services delivery and hope for improvement.