Monday, June 27, 2005

The Cape, Emerald Isle & Virtual Gateway

It’s been a couple weeks since I went to Cape Cod for the day but it was certainly a memorable one. The sky was cerulean blue, the wind just enough to keep the heat of the sun seemingly at bay and the water as cold as ice. People were on the beach at Chatham, there was a windsurfer doing tricks along the coast and a couple people were fishing. But nobody was in the water. Too cold. Earlier in the Spring I asked a couple co-workers if they (or anyone they knew) ever went into the ocean and they just looked at me.

My friend and I took a friend of hers, a 96 year old woman who was is as spry and alert as either of us, to the Cape so she could attend her great-grandson’s high school graduation. We dropped her off and headed on our way to Chatham to poke around in the trendy shops, have an ice cream sundae that couldn’t be beat and wander out to the beach, initially with the intention of going swimming. We at least had our bathing suits with us but we never went in the water. But, boy, it sure did look inviting. When I went to visit my daughter, Beth, and her daughter, my granddaughter Jasmine, not only did I visit the beach but I went in for a long time and body surfed. Of course, when the ocean water is 76 degrees, it’s not hard to take. But, I digress.

I think Cape Cod is a place that everyone should get to at least once in their lives. I was first there in 1980 for a week. I always wanted to return and, even if for only a day, I’m glad I did. Believe me, I’m looking forward to going again, even if the ocean water’s too cold to get in. It makes you turn blue and causes your teeth to chatter just to look at it.

We also went to the town of Orleans and visited a couple shops that were really cool. One was a bookstore that had lots of esoteric books and also had a second hand bookstore in the basement. An hour went by very quickly in there. Next door to the bookstore was a shop that sold goods from Bali. Some of their stuff was definitely for the tourists but other of it was, well, very interesting. I need to go back to see it again before I can describe the goods for sale. If you’ve ever been to Bali, which I haven’t, you’d probably recognize some of the things for sale.

Over Father’s Day weekend I flew down to Emerald Isle, NC to visit Beth and Jasmine. I was able to catch a plane out of Providence, RI that Thursday so I had a long weekend with them. Nevertheless, the time went by too quickly. Beth and Jasmine live in a house that, from their front porch (excuse me, their deck) you can see the ocean – right over the top of the sand dune. However, the sun doesn’t rise over the water.

What initially threw me off was that the whole island – Emerald Isle is an island, runs east to west and faces south. If you look at a map you see that as you go below Cape Hatteras, where the land juts out into the Atlantic, the land mass curves in and under as you go south along the coast. It then starts running basically north and south as you get closer to the North Carolina/South Carolina border. Where Beth and Jasmine live the island faces south so when you’re standing at the oceans’ edge (or on her deck) you’re facing south. The sun rose to the left of where I was facing. Once I got that figured out, since all my life whenever I was at the ocean the sun always rose right behind the waves, I was able to stand facing the ocean and not wonder how come the sun was not coming up in front of me.

Jasmine, at four and a half, is a water bunny. She dove into the oncoming waves, allowed herself to float in with them and loved getting knocked around by them. We chased each other through the surf and splashed and splashed each other. On one of the days we got a kite and Jasmine learned how to fly it in about 5 minutes. Not only is she extremely bright, but she’s also incredibly athletic. She’s a surfer girl in the making. Beth told me that Jasmine has a boogy board but it was at Stevie’s so I didn’t get to see her use it.

There were a couple highlights while I was there. One was while we were standing at the end of the fishing pier, which juts out into the emerald colored ocean about 1/8 mile. Beth and I were leaning over the rail talking to each other and watching people fish. All of a sudden a school of about 100 stingrays appeared right below us. Incredible. If I ever figure out (Andrea – hint, hint) how to upload pictures onto this blog site I will put the photo on. Truly amazing.

Another highlight was having home done steamed crabs and shrimp, fresh corn on the cob and a beer (or two) one night for supper. The crabs and shrimp were locally grown, as was the corn. It was an excellent supper, one that couldn’t be beat.

Unfortunately, the weekend was over too quickly, just as was the ferry ride over to Bear Island. It’s kind of ironic that we’re on an island at the edge of the ocean taking a boat ride over to another island that’s even out more in the ocean. Bear Island is a North Carolina state park and so it’s being very well preserved. Then again, if a hurricane comes, the whole place, Beth’s island included, could very well end up under water.

We talked about that and Beth has the evacuation route down. She’s a very resourceful person and has always had a level head about her in an emergency so I feel confident that she’ll exercise good judgment and, if and when times get tough, she’ll get the hell out of there, quickly.

Before I go on I want to congratulate Andrea for getting the executive director’s job at MCIL. I won’t say that she’s taken over for me but I will say that she’s the right person for the job and will lead the organization forward. Now, if the board of directors will just get out of the way and let her work….

Also, to Annette and Lori, yes, you’re right. But, Lori, only one.

Work is starting to jell for me. I’ve become the Virtual Gateway man for the state. Virtual Gateway is the state’s one stop shop arrangement here in Mass. Providers will be able to submit one common application on behalf of their consumers for a wide variety of services – Medical Assistance (which up here is called MassHealth), food stamps, WIC, WHN, and the disability cluster of services (mental health, voc. rehab., blind, deaf, seniors, mental retardation, and some others). My job is to train the state agencies on how to download and process the submitted electronic applications and also to train the providers on how to electronically submit an application for services. At this point I’ve coordinated 45 training sessions that will occur this July, which is in a little more than a week. There are 4 of us doing the training but I’m the coordinator for the whole project. I will be doing 14 training sessions in a little over two weeks, all across the state. Then, starting in August, I begin to chip away at the 200 + providers in the state. It should keep me busy for a while. Believe it or not, I’m looking forward to it. I like the idea of traveling all over the state and training provider agencies on how to apply for services for their consumers.

I expect to meet a lot of people, go to places I’d never otherwise get to, and teach something that will be of benefit, especially to and for the folks who need help the most. The Virtual Gateway is designed to streamline the application process. And, even though it’s really only an electronic referral source, the onus is on the state agencies to contact the consumer and make arrangements for the consumer to come in and actually apply for services. This arrangement is infinitely better than giving the consumer an address and phone number and wishing them good luck.

Under this latter arrangement, which is the way it is in most states around the country, the consumer goes to each agency, one at a time, and sits for hours waiting to apply for services, finally meet with an intake worker and find that they’d forgotten a piece of information, trudge back home to return the next day and sit for more hours. Then, to repeat that process with each agency for which they are applying for services.

I have said this before but Massachusetts is one progressive state. I like working and living here.

Dixie’s doing better, at the moment. This past Sunday I took her to a benefit dog wash and had her bathed. One group of volunteers hosed her down; then she went to another group that scrubbed her up and then she went off to a third group that rinsed her off. The fourth group toweled her dry. To top it all off, she ended up with a Reiki session. After she was dry later on in the day I gave her a haircut. The girl got the royal treatment that day.

If there’s any downside to being up here it’s that I got a sinus infection that’s slowed me down. Fortunately, I was able to get some medicine that’s helping me. I’ve had this infection before that causes me to have my sinuses block my ability to have sufficient oxygen go thru me. I feel very tired and just want to sleep. This past Friday I was out in Palmer, which is way out in western Mass. and I almost fell asleep several times at the wheel driving home. When I did get to my place I laid down and slept for an hour. I knew I was sick because the night before I’d gone to bed at 9:30 p.m., feeling almost exhausted. Now, at least, I’m on the road to recovery.

On a more positive note, my other daughter, Kayte, has become a tattooist. And is she good! Her art talent is being put to good use. If you want to see some examples of her work, get onto the website where she works – If you or someone you know wants a tattoo, Kayte is the one to go to.

Well, I’ve ended up with a potpourri of things that I’ve written about. That’s what I get for not being disciplined to write regularly. For example, I could have written a whole essay just on my visit with Beth and Jasmine. But, that’s the way it is.

If it just wasn’t so darn hot up here. I moved 400 miles north to escape Baltimore’s heat and humidity and it just followed me up here. I can’t wait for the temperature to break and cool off. How many showers can one take in a day? I also rue not having a washer and dryer. There’s one in my building but it takes 6 quarters for the washer and for the dryer, and I’m so damn cheap- but, clean clothes, a clean body and a (well almost) clean mind are a necessity. One thing about warm weather though, no, never mind, mixed company reads this.

Please stay tuned. There is much more on the way.