Archive for work-life

Goodbye to a legendary blogger

Feminist Melissa McEwan’s blog Shakesville [originally called “Shakespeare’s Sister”] has been around for almost as long as this site, though she has always been much more prolific. Her blog also created its own intelligent, progressive community of readers and commenters. I’m sad McEwan has called it quits.

After nearly 15 years, exactly one-third of my life, I am moving on from Shakesville. …

I love this community. I love writing for you. I love the research and the silly photoshops and crafting nerdy political jokes. I love talking about our individual lived experiences and learning from you. I love helping people find and access resources, or figure out a tough problem, in private communications. I love seeing pictures of your faces, your kids, your pets. I love making you laugh, and I love how often you make me laugh.

I don’t love the nature of the content about which I’ve been writing, especially these last couple of years. But even that would be tolerable, if it weren’t for everything else that I am obliged to navigate as part of being a fat feminist woman writing in public. I don’t need to recount it. You’ve seen enough to know that it is a steep cost, and it turns out that even I have limits. I have reached them.

The truth is that I reached them a long time ago, and I stayed far longer than I should have, and now I’m paying the price with both my psychological and physical health.

So I’m going to go take care of myself. I don’t know what’s next after that. I’m frankly pretty scared, because I’ve been doing this for a long time and it’s a huge part of who I am. It is very difficult to let go.

Godspeed, Melissa. And thank you for your work.

h/t Clarissa

New Chalk

KPU_Homepage

I begin my sixteenth year at Kwantlen Polytechnic University today. This summer I’m teaching a couple sections of Advanced Professional Communications and one of Technical Report Writing. These are healthy, hearty classes! I am looking forward to meeting my new students. This gig has been such a blessing.

[Addendum – this came in from my university’s administration a couple hours ago: “Surrey RCMP have alerted us to an unsubstantiated threat against KPU, specific to today.  The threat is not specific to any one campus.  Therefore, out of an abundance of caution and with the highest regard for the safety and security of our students and employees, KPU is evacuating all buildings immediately and closing all five of its campuses for the remainder of the day.  All classes at all campuses are cancelled for rest of the day and our buildings will remain closed while security reviews the situation.” No update on this yet.]

What was I looking at instead?

bas-relief

I have walked down Granville Street in Vancouver a couple thousand times since I moved here in 1996, but I never noticed the above bas-relief until last week. It is in between Robson and Smythe, on the west side of the street.

Guiding the sick through the system …

kv

My friend Karen Vogel just published a piece called “The Accidental Advocate.” It starts:

Like many patient advocates, personal experience transformed me into a new career. I was prepared and motivated. I had a professional network and confidence that I was smart enough to figure it out as I went along. What I didn’t include in my business plan was ironic shock.

One of my champions was my neighbor Laura, who lived next to me for 20 years. For a while she listened to me whining about my work in health insurance management, my aging parents, the screwed up healthcare system . . . and challenged me to stop complaining and take action. And so I did. The main impetus was my mother’s death. It forced me to become a long distance caregiver for my father, which turned out to be a wonderful adventure for both of us. I quit my soul-sucking corporate job, went back to school and retrained. I started my own company 3 years ago and worried about finding clients. “No problem,” said Laura, “my aunt Jane is sick and needs someone to figure out her insurance.” Client #1.

Four months into my new occupation, on a Friday evening in April 2016, I got a call that Laura was in an emergency room. She had been struggling with memory issues and a coworker dragged her to the hospital under protest. I rushed over yelling “I’m an advocate! Let me document everything!”

Laura had glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) Grade 4, the worst kind of brain cancer, usually terminal within 18 months. On Sunday morning a surgical team was in place to make sure she got a lemon-sized mass removed from her head. Laura became client #7. …

Read the entire thing.

Here is an interview Karen did last year with Vice News on HBO.

“patient advocate”

karen

On my way out the door after my first appointment with my new doctor up in Vancouver – this would be in 1996 – a clerk at the front desk noticed that I seemed puzzled. “Mr. Basil, in Canada, doctors offices don’t have cashiers.” I heaved a brief sob, I was so relieved and surprised. 

When I lived in the United States, my insurance was sporadic and when I had it often shitty. That fact touched every one of my days with real and awful anxiety.

Vice.com says my dear friend Karen Vogel is at the vanguard of a new profession in the United States – the “patient advocate”:

Karen Vogel, an insurance and administrative advocate, spent 29 years working in the insurance industry and became frustrated at the missed opportunities to really make a difference in patients’ lives.

“It was hard to come to terms with what was I doing and was I creating any good in the world, and who was I really serving?” Vogel told VICE News. “Because our healthcare system is so fragmented it’s so broken and there are so many opportunities to get into it to make it work for people. And I just wasn’t satisfied with the path that I was on.”

Over the past two and a half years of working as a patient advocate, Vogel has helped her 45 clients wade into the specifics of the insurance claim and reimbursement process.

About a quarter of what she finds are simple errors; the rest of her work is advocating on behalf of patients for out-of-network coverage or special considerations. Her biggest save was $109,000 by appealing out of state care to count toward in-state benefits.

I am very proud of my friend, who’s on the side of the angels.

“Individuals” – a critique

An ongoing one from our friend Clarissa.

More on Solidarity

From the wonderfully amazing Clarissa:

Look at the teacher strike in West Virginia. Isn’t it a wonderful, inspiring thing? The teachers refused to be further mistreated and abused. They organized, stuck together, and achieved a victory.

If you have ever done any organizing, you know that it’s not about making a logical argument, showing the numbers, and proving points. What’s a lot more important are human relationships, emotions, trust, feeling comfortable with people in your unit.

It’s a lot harder to organize in an environment of mistrust, suspicion, and mutual dislike between workers. Any collective action requires an enormous amount of trust between participants because getting atomized, alienated consumers to do any collective action at all is ridiculously hard.

The vision of self as an island that is better off outside of any collective process is formed slowly and by means we don’t even notice. Those people who tell me, “I don’t need a union. I can negotiate on my own behalf” or “and how do I know you won’t tell the dean what we’ve been talking about here?” are guided towards this vision of self and others. There’s a million strategies to make workers fear and avoid each other.

All of these microaggressions seminars, ethics trainings, gender parity tutorials – their whole point is to make workers detest each other. We tell ourselves they have no effect on us but that’s delusional and well in line with thinking that an exceptional individual can bootstrap themselves out of ideological and intellectual processes that everybody is subject to.

It does have an effect. All of these exhortations to suspect and fear our fellow worker have an effect. Nobody is an exceptional cookie that can rise above this. This is poisoning the workplace for all of us. This is what we need to resist.

Unless we have a clear vision of all the anti-labor strategies employed against us, we won’t win.