Friday, September 18, 2009

My Health Care Pitch

So it's been broiling for a long time and I've not jumped into the melee. I dislike conflict and I dislike spouting facts that fail to portray the people and their stories behind statistics. So, here I am with this huge desire to express my opinion and since this is my blog, I'm jumping in.

I haven't heard the President say anything about health care that he didn't say during his campaign. A majority of Americans voted for him, I am guessing based on what he said during the campaign. And since that included universal health care for all Americans, I am left to surmise that the majority of Americans are in favor of universal health care.

I favor a public option for a couple of reasons, one of them being that I and my husband can be counted among the 30 to 46 million Americans who were without health care at some point during the year. Another reason I favor a public option is because, while my income has dropped my health insurance premiums are now double what they were a year ago. This is not because I now have better coverage; to the contrary, I have less coverage than before. I need something to give in the way of the cost of premiums. Believe that my spending patterns are greatly impacted by my dwindling amount of expendable income.

Never mind how it limits my company's ability to hire new employees or start new initiatives. Never mind that I have to work 9-5 mostly because we need health insurance so my entrepreneur husband is to continue his practice. Never mind that he and millions of small business owners like him will not be able offer health insurance to staff they might hire. I wonder what innovations America loses out on as great ideas are snuffed out by business plans that indicate the company could never survive if the business owner needs health insurance.

What I do not understand is this notion that we have choice in our current health care system. When I worked for the Federal government, I admit, I had choices. There were literally dozens of plans at varying costs and levels of coverage, one could truly choose a plan that seemed tailored to their particular medical needs. And it was dirt cheap because there was such a huge pool of people being insured, the risk to the insurance companies was spread out, allowing them to offer great coverage at truly remarkable prices and still profit.

I have never been offered real choices by any other employer. At best, I've been offered two plans from the same insurance company, usually a PPO and a high deductible plan. So my only realistic choices are to accept one of the two plans my employer can afford to offer. I don't choose the insurer - I accept the insurer my employer offers. I choose a doctor from a list the insurance company gives me. If my doctor isn't on their list, I have to determine whether I can afford to pay out of network copays, and when I cannot, I change doctors. My doctor prescribes the medications my insurance company has on their formulary. She sends me to the hospital or specialist my insurance company has designated. This is not real choice; choice in health care for average Americans is an illusion.

Having worked for some form of government all of my working life, I take issue with the notion that government can't do anything well. I've worked diligently as a public servant to be a good steward of the taxpayers' money. I've provided data that led to the cutting of contracts that weren't meeting their obligations. I've assisted contractors in improving their performance and ensured they billed and were paid only for work they actually did. I've bought my own pens and post it notes and calendars so there would be more money for programs and less admin costs and many of my dedicated coworkers did the same.

I know the private sector hasn't shown sterling performance and could list examples from Chrystler in 1980 all the up to Lehman Brothers in recent months. Private corporations fail and fail often. It just takes longer to uncover the failures buried under creative book keeping.

But a public option isn't about government taking over health care; it's about giving choices for those with no other options. It's time.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Reiki at Work

On Sunday, we cleaned out our bird bath and the dogs' pool. I was watering some plants and turned to see a sparrow sort of crumpled up in my bird bath. I went over and was surprised to see he was soaking wet from head to tail but still alive. I'm not sure what happened that led to his condition in my bird bath but he was clearly in trouble.

I used a small flower pot to scoop him out of the bird bath and got him into a dish towel. At no point did he struggle to get away. I don't think he was capable of struggle. I held him for a few minutes, unsure what to do. He seemed to be in a deep sleep, unbothered by my holding him.

Photo by Eric Hosking/Britannica Encyclopedia Online

Then it occurred to me to do Reiki on him.

When I finished the Reiki, I placed him in the towel in my recycle bin on my front porch. I thought that all I could really do for him at that point was protect him from the feral cats on our street and let him die in peace. Imagine my surprise when I saw him walking around on my porch a couple hours later! I kept an eye on him until he felt well enough to fly away about 30 minutes after that.

This little sparrow is my inspiration to get my second degree.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Ah, the Tea Party

I'm all for public protest. I think there should be more of it. This is America, after all! People have the right to express their opinions. How else can the people send their message to the government in a mostly non election year?

I have questions about the tea party people, though. I wonder who they are. I wonder where they grew up, who their parents are, what their parents do/did for a living, where did they go to school, did they go to college, what did they earn degrees in, what was their first job?

I wonder if any of them grew up in foster care, wards of the state. I wonder if any of them suffer from schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. I wonder if their elderly parents receive Medicaid. Did they get Pell grants, if they attended college? Did either of their parents ever lose their jobs or have to file for bankruptcy or have their homes foreclosed on?

I ask because I have this idea in my head about who these people are. I wonder how far off my idea of them is.

In high school, I joined the speech and debate team, not truly understanding what all that would entail. One year, we went to a regional competition. I needed clothing for this, I needed money for my share of the hotel room, and I needed money for food while we were away.

Thanks to my granny's Sears charge card, I got the suit I needed. My drama coach pulled money from some fund the school had to pay for the rest of my expenses. Away I went to the big city!

At the hotel, I was preparing a bath. One of my roommates mockingly (to my memory) suggested that my mother should have warned me not to bathe in a hotel, but to shower instead. I asked her what made her think my mom had ever stayed in a hotel to know to tell me that. She thought everyone took vacations and stayed in hotels. I explained that there were times we didn't know where our next meal would come from; we didn't think much about taking vacations. Vacations were for wealthy people. So were dental appointments and doctor's visits.

My parents were and still are very hard working people. Neither graduated from high school (though my mother earned her GED in her early 40's). But the reality is that I grew up rather poor. I avoided pregnancy and jail and made it out of that. By the grace of God and some ill informed yet lucky choices...and some tax dollars.

I think the tea party people would say my parents had no business having children, especially since they couldn't afford them. I think that's a fair statement. But once they did, I'm glad there were programs like Head Start, Food Stamps, the county Health Department, public schools, and buses. I'm glad there was a slush fund at my public school that could be used to pay my expenses to a regional competition and open the door to a whole new world for kids like me. I'm thankful there are Pell grants and subsidized student loans when I got out of the U.S. Army after four years and went to college. I'm thankful the Veteran's Administration is around and gave me a job for eight years, six of which I spent in evening classes. I'm grateful for the county Job and Family Services department that employed me for eight years, allowing me to give back some of the kindness, encouragement, and hope I have received along the way.

Without the interventions I benefited from throughout my early life, I'd probably be just another poor person in Eastern Kentucky. I may have had little to offer society as a whole. I might have turned to a life of crime and ended up costing tax payers plenty for absolutely no return. Or abused my poorly planned for children or been plagued with some expensive illness.

Instead, I've more than paid back what I received. I've contributed to moving countless families to self sufficiency. I've advocated for the disabled and the severely mentally ill. I've been a steward of the tax payer's dollars. I've been instrumental in saving the government money through my abilities to gather, analyze, and report on how funds have been spent and making recommendations on where the funds might be saved or better spent.

My ideas about who the tea party people are do not include people like me. They include people with very different realities, very different families, and very different knowledge about what people can do with a little encouragement and assistance. I'd have rather grown up as I did than to be able to ignore these kinds of realities.

The tea party people might think they would be okay with letting the poor starve or let the uninsured die, let banks and car companies fail. But there are high costs associated with those decisions. Higher crime, entire industries (social services, colleges, and countless others) shut out. Pure capitalism is intriguing in theory. But there are so many things that people need and want to have an acceptable quality of life that just aren't profitable.

I'd like to see some demographic information about the tea party people. I'd like to hear their ideas on how to improve our current situation. I'm hoping I'm missing some important element about who these people are and that they really have thought about things like what should happen to people like me.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Twitter and Business

It seems to me that everybody's a social media expert these days. It's weird. There are millions of people living their lives without "new media". I go to meetings with highly educated professionals who are clueless about blogging, Facebook, and most of all, Twitter. I'm disturbed by all of the articles written to help businesses learn how to use social media for advertising, recruiting, and customer service because I think they miss the point.

Here's the way I view Twitter. It's a relationship and community building tool. If you own a business and you want to use a tool like Twitter to help you grow your business, hire a person to Twitter for your company. Make it that person's job to cultivate relationships with people who are potential customers. Tell that person that they are NOT in sales; they are in the relationship building business. THEN, Twitter might become a successful way for you to grow your business. This is because, when I need a plumber, I'll remember the person I've joked around with, the person who sent out a link to a really interesting article on water conservation. I'll remember that I KNOW a plumber and that's when using Twitter will pay off. Twitter is like word of mouth advertising - you can't pay for it, you can't truly monitor it, and it may be months before the customer shows up at your door.

Both my husband and I use Twitter. I use it primarily for the social aspects of it. I find out what's happening around town, I go to TweetUps and other events arranged using Twitter. Hubby shares bits of advice, positive vibes, and all around good will. I don't know if it has grown his business or not but people know who he is and that he is a therapist. I do know that we've eaten at restaurants because we saw a tweet about them - whether they were advertising a great special of the day or someone we follow recommended them.

That's Twitter's power for boosting business. You can't simply show up, send a tweet, and watch the money flow into your bank account. I know there are lots of ebooks and seminars out there that want you to believe differently but I think they are wrong.

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Stimulus Package and Me

Thanks to the stimulus package, there is room in the budget to extend my contract and give me more work hours! With the extra money, I should be able to afford subsidized COBRA payments! I cannot tell you what a relief this is to me. So, it's not a full time job yet but it will keep me from filing for unemployment benefits for some time. It will also allow me to provide my family with health insurance. The stimulus was supposed to create jobs and I think this counts as one.

In the meantime, I am still offering web presence development to small businesses. I'm also venturing in another direction. I've decided that I am, by my very nature, a life coach. I recently took a Strengths Finder assessment and it confirmed what people who know me already know. My strengths are:

Adaptibility - I'm a here and now, go with the flow person
Relator - I'm genuine and authentic, friends value my advice
Connectedness - I believe there is an inherent, invisible unity among us
Developer - I get satisfaction from the growth of others
Maximizer - I focus on strengths and manage around weaknesses

Add a degree in Social Work, a minor in Sociology, a career dedicated to helping others, and I think you end up with a Life Coach. To prepare for working with clients, I've purchased professional liability insurance and I am studying a variety of coaching techniques. I'm learning that coaching and social work have a lot of common themes; both focus largely on what is possible.

I am also developing my own ideas on coaching. A theme that keeps coming up for me in my studies is that, so often people make decisions based on doing what is "smart". As some of my friends and family have heard me say from time to time, "Doing what is smart isn't always the right thing for you".

I've not lost my mind and started thinking I can immediately support myself working as a life coach. I'll continue to search out reasonable opportunities for a full time job. I know building a client list takes time. After all, I've spent the last year helping Dennis launch his practice.

I also know that I cannot wait for a good time to get this started. There are some things you do because you want to, not because the timing is perfect (like buying a house or having a baby). If I wait for the "right" time, it might never come.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

From Sept 2003 - The Bat Blog!

This incident still makes me laugh!


It was Friday night. Johnny Cash died and Dennis and I were looking forward to heading out to a downtown club where various bands would be doing a tribute to the Man in Black.

Because we are getting old, preparation for going out on a Friday night after 9pm includes taking a nap. I took a short nap, as Maggie, the Hound from the Pound, feels that I, like she, napped all day and now it's time to PLAY! I was a little irritable but I decided to go ahead and take my bath. I was almost finished with the jungle that was the hair growth on my right leg when I heard an odd sound from upstairs.

The sound was loud, a bit high pitched and followed by the sounds of many footfalls, like maybe a 190 pound man was running for his life. This alarmed me enough to put the machete down, grab my towel and go see what the matter might be.

"Honey? Everything okay up there?"

Dennis replied, "There's a...*shriek*...a bird...*pant gasp*...flying around up...oh Jesus! *stomp stomp stomp stomp stomp*!!!"

I took a couple steps back, away from the stairs, eyes turned upward. "Are you sure it's a bird?" I asked. I must admit, somewhere in my mind, I seriously considered just closing my door and letting him work it out on his own. "Turn off your ceiling fans so it doesn't get hit, okay?"

"I think it's...ohfuck...a bird..."

".........How big is it?"

"Fucken big enough!" This last followed by the sounds of more running.

"Do you want me to come up?" I asked. After all, he's my soulmate and stuff and I should not close my door and pretend he's not fighting for his life and home up there, right?

But, instead of answering, he came down the stairs, ever looking over his shoulder as if the killer avian might just follow him down. His face was red from all the running and somewhere along the line, he'd skinned his knee. He was sweaty and breathing really hard.

Huddled at the bottom of the stairs, we surmised how it might have gotten in. We discussed whether it was really a bird. We wondered if maybe Grace (his clawless cat) would catch it and what sort of mess that might make.

Once, I had a bird in my apartment. My sister and I were able to throw a sheet over it, catch it, and take it back outside without harming a feather. Having shared this story with Dennis, we went back upstairs together.

I was standing by the hallway closet near the stairs as Dennis went room to room to find this mystery dive bombing bird. Grace huddled near my feet and I assumed she was there because she was pretty freaked out. Dennis is not one to run around the house shrieking and waving his arms like a maniac on fire. Grace must have been traumatized having been a witness to her Master's sudden change of personality.

"I can't find it," he told me. This did not bring me any comfort as I would rather having it flying about and KNOW where it is than to think it gone only to find it unexpectedly while I'm peeing or something equally vulnerable. Then he asked the question that would forever change our lives and mar us for eternity.

"Where's Grace?"

"She's right here in the closet...."


Gracie has it! In the closet!! And I am as far from that friggin closet as I can get in record time. I think I took one large leap and I was 10 feet away. I was all about getting the hell away from the killer avian.

The first wave of the willies pass over me and I have a momentary return to sanity. This moment was all I needed to think to get the flashlight. I return to the closet with said flashlight to find Dennis seriously contemplating moving stuff out of the closet and removing the bird with a towel, a broom, and a dustpan.

Grace seems utterly disgusted with our interference with her little science project and slinks off to the dining room. I shine the flashlight to the lump in the back corner. The second wave of the willies pass over me and I turned to Dennis to say, "that is not a bird. THAT - is a bat!".

We wig out for a few moments, eyes never leaving the lump in the closet that is now Enemy Number One. It does not move. It does not twitch, nor does it bleed or make a sound. Maybe it's dead, we both think. That would make things a little easier, now wouldn't it?

He takes this moment to explain these strange turn of events. He was in the dining room, reading his email when he noticed Grace circling the room with a fast clip. He thought maybe a moth or something had gotten in. Then he felt the flutter of wings near his face, hence the first shriek of "OHJESUS" *stomp stomp stomp stomp stomp* I'd heard while clearing the jungle from my leg.

Dennis starts moving things out of the closet. I hold the flashlight on the bat and it still has not stirred. The closet is deep and it has shelving and no door. Dennis kneels down and tosses a towel toward the unmoving lump. He misses by several inches but still the bat does not move. Time for the broom and dustpan. Except when he touches the broom to it, we hear a clicky hissy sound and I scream and he yells, "OHSHIT!".

He stops with the broom thing and we laugh because we believe not only do we have a bat in the closet, we also have a clicky hissy bug.

Back to the bat with the broom. But this time it DOES move and guess what??? That clicky hissy sound?? That's not some bug in the closet; it's coming from one very alive bat! I scream and he screams and we scurry on hands and knees away from the closet.

We are SO brave.

The bat comes OUT of the closet and starts flying all over. We are ducking and running and screaming like school girls at the sight of a snake, falling over each other in our need to be NOT where the bat is. The bat flies into the living room and we close the two doors that will isolate him to that room. Skulking and scurrying, we open the windows and the screens. Our hope is he'd rather be out than in. We come downstairs and try not to think about the bat.

We fail miserably and trudge reluctantly back up the stairs. The bat is now clinging to the mini blind, his wings spread out and Dennis says something about "big rat with wings" for the hundredth time. "Rats are much bigger than this bat," I keep reminding him.

The bat is SO close to the open window, so close to it's freedom and the end of it's reign of terror against our household. I talk Dennis into using a box to cover the bat. Then, we can just slide the box down to the open window and out it'll go! Right?

The bat disliked the box so much, rather than fly into it, it crawled OUT of it as I was moving it downward. Again with the screaming and shrieking and running in all directions as the bat takes flight again. By now, Dennis has apologized to me for being so afraid almost as many times as he's referred to the bat as a "big rat with wings".

Again the bat lights and this time it's in the bedroom. The new plan is to get it on another flat surface and throw a sheet over it. I hold the sheet in front of me like some protective shield as Dennis pokes at the bat with a broom. It flies and Dennis runs, all skinned knees and elbows past me into the bathroom. The bat lands on the floor, menacingly spreading out it's wings to look as big and scary as it can for a creature weighing less than a pack of cigarettes.

I'm ready with the sheet, not having moved since the blur that is Dennis went rushing past me. I am about to launch the sheet over the bat when Dennis decides to pull me into the safety of the bathroom with him. I believe he thought I was paralyzed with fear. I screamed and the bat AGAIN took flight, this time right at us into the bathroom. I think it was getting sick of the screaming and running. I dove onto the bed, Dennis ran the other way into the hall. The bat dove around my head and I was laughing/crying/screaming and I ripped out of the bedroom and took cover in the bathtub. I sat there for a very long time, laughing hysterically.

By this time, Dennis and I were just exhausted. It was too late to go out now as we'd both need to shower again and the bat was holding Dennis' clothes hostage in his bedroom. We closed off the bedroom and headed downstairs to my apartment. The windows and screens in his room were open. The lights were all off. The cat couldn't get in, neither to eat the bat nor to jump out the windows.

We slept in my apartment. The next morning, a thorough yet guarded search of the upstairs bedroom revealed no bat. Victory was ours!

Friday, December 5, 2008


Okay, I'm a little stressed about this unemployed business. I am taking the suggestions of one really smart lady I am so lucky to know and I'm rearranging my resume. This is not as easy as one might think - since I am looking for a different kind of job than I've had, I need to concentrate on my skills and my measurable outcomes. I've got 90 tabs of resume examples and what I really need is to go to the boxes still in my car and dig out some of my evaluations. I can't remember what the fuck I have accomplished. And I have a rule about not remembering things I can look up somewhere; I just remember where to look things up. Saves space in my limited capacity brain.

So, I thought I'd blog as a diversion. But then I couldn't really think of anything interesting to blog about. So then I went to look up my old blog on Xanga (because someone on Twitter asked if anyone was blogging in 2002 and I thought maybe I was but I wasn't - until 2003). So then I thought that maybe I'd pull some of my better, more interesting blogs from Xanga and repost them here as "blasts from the past". It was at that point that I wrote out the above introduction and decided to tell you all about my thought process and what brought me to this point.

I was going to share with you one of the most hilarious events of my life but as you can see, the introduction and the entire sharing of the thought process have pretty much made for a blog post all their own. So I will do the blasts from the past later, sometime. Probably before I ever finish the "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly" series. Sorry about that. I can't be disciplined in ALL areas of my life! I've allowed blogging and housekeeping to be my "discipline free" zones, apparently.