On Kaiser, Revisionally

I wrote a post about being frustrated with Kaiser Permanente a few years ago, when we’d first switched over from UnitedHealthcare. I would like to take most of it back.

Before I launch into my apology and glowing reviews, I must say that I still think that whomever handled my initial intake via the telephone really colored my perceptions of the organization as a whole…and I would hope that everyone (including myself) can use that as a reminder that a first impression goes a long way. Being sour or rude or brusque can really taint a relationship or an interaction in a very negative way. I make sure that I go the extra mile to be upbeat and positive (especially with my clients) at all times, because I want to engender goodwill and happiness in them and create a good relationship.

Anyway….

I have been with Kaiser now for several years. We switched over while I was still covered under my mom’s insurance (seriously, thanks Obama!), and when I finally aged out but wasn’t able to obtain health coverage through my job (because I didn’t have one at the time), I went to the magical (not really) marketplace and got myself some continuing Kaiser coverage.

Even though I could technically get health insurance through work, it’d be through UnitedHealthcare and they are horrible about covering Adderall, which is something I need. Also, my Obamacare Kaiser plan is an amazingly extensive plan, for which I was paying $250 a month, but after my tax credit, I now only pay $184 — no deductible, no co-pays, very minimal additional cost, AND my Adderall is only $20 a month. (With my employer’s health coverage — which is laughable, at best — I’d be paying $160 a month and still having to pay $30 or more co-pays, deductibles, and god knows how much for my drugs which used to be over $100 per month.)

Anyway, Kaiser.

I picked my primary care provider’s name off of a random list. I lucked out. He’s amazing. He’s realistic, smart, funny, and totally cool. He’s a realist when it comes to the practice of medicine, he’s not pro-unnecessary testing, he’s all about information and acceptance, and I’ve found him to be very personable, even though I’ve only seen him a few times in my life. (We have to correspond regularly as part of the state-mandated control on regulated medication, so we do get to catch up pretty often.)

One of the last times I saw him, I had pneumonia. He told me I sounded like a 65-year old smoker and looked like hell (both true statements), and then diagnosed me with pneumonia and told me that he wasn’t going to do an x-ray because it was a waste of time and if the antibiotics didn’t cure me, we’d have a serious problem and definitely need more than an x-ray. I laughed, mostly because he’s got a great delivery, but also because I appreciate the elimination of the annoying process and wasteful procedures.

I’ve found him to be supportive, honest, and progressive. Progressive may be the wrong word, but I value a doctor who communicates and who is professional while remaining human (there’s no arrogance or grandiosity there, and I respect that). I appreciate his candor and his humor…that goes a long way in the practice of medicine. He also wears socks with his sandals, which endears him to me because he’s totally a super hippie nerd who once told me that he gets paid whether I come into his office or not, so if I’d like, I can just email him. So happy with that setup.

Yesterday, I went and switched out my IUD. (Haha, that makes it sound like a piece of cake…trust me, no cake was involved.) The nurse practitioner that I saw was fabulous. She was professional as well, but had the same human component that I seek – she was funny and laughed at my stupid, nervous jokes. She communicated to me exactly what she was doing and how she was doing it, and asked me several times how I was doing and attempted to mitigate the pain for me as much as she possibly could. She was genuinely excited when we started talking about IUDs as a magical, immensely viable method of birth control, and I was so happy to see her passion for her work.

As she left, I remarked that the experience had been as wonderful as it possibly could have been, and I genuinely meant that.

Side note — boyfriend deserves a million gold stars and boyfriend points because when I told him I was going, he immediately offered to come with me, saying that he wanted to be there to support me. 

I melted when he said that. I am beyond impressed. I can’t believe I found a human being who’s that kind, and I am grateful for that every single day.

Apparently, one of the nurses told him that they don’t see many men there to support women when they’re dealing with this, and she told him what a great guy he was and then said, “We ALL appreciate you.” (Awww…that was so sweet of her, and again, there’s a certain genuine quality to the interaction that I find so affirming.)

In short, I’m so happy with Kaiser and I would love to keep them as my health care provider for a long time to come. The internet interface is fabulous – I frequently re-order my prescriptions online, and then pick them up at the pharmacy closest to my house; I can email my doctor or whomever whenever; and I can pay my premiums and other assorted bills with a few random clicks and allowance of pop-ups. It’s so convenient. I’ve also found that Kaiser really does do a lot when it comes to preventative health care, and even though they’re a huge company, I feel as though I’m valued — which for me, is the ultimate feeling no matter the situation. I understand that I’m one fifteen-minute time slot – a tiny cog in a huge multi-wheel systems – and I appreciate that I never feel shuffled around or set aside or ignored.

The initial transition may have been annoying and bothersome, but now that I’m into it, I really appreciate and value the care that I get. I regularly recommend my particular plan because the value is so great. It’s not only cost effective, my coverage is extensive and fantastic. I would happily recommend Kaiser to anyone who’s looking or who needs/wants the level of care that we’ve been told is impossible to receive. The disillusionment with the system isn’t present here, and I’m a completely satisfied customer.

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On Looking Forward, Hesitantly

Time is elusive, something you long for more of, but something you can never quite grab onto, or even really control.  The future seems endless, like today will somehow stretch on forever and next week will never come. Before you know it, all of those tomorrows are yesterdays, and all the things you swore you’d do are yet left undone.

I mowed the front lawn the other day, something that remains an overwhelming task for me. What may be drudgery for some fills the core of my bones with a ringing sense of accomplishment, of certainty, of satisfaction. I even did the strange little hilly part that leads to our neighbor’s driveway. (He’s new – I don’t think he knows it’s his job yet. I guess I could leave it untended and let him figure it out, but I’m concerned that he might not due to the scraggly overgrowth that tends to be comprise my lawn at any given point in time.)

I tackled a few other household chores, but I still have a long list of things that must be handled, dealt with, checked off. They’re not showstoppers, but I will feel more settled once I’ve said good riddance to the mental checklist. (I do know that there is no real end to the lists. I know that as soon as one thing passes out of the conscious concern, another will pop up to take its place.)

I’ve been working, still. Trading one sixty hour week for another. I imagined I would have time to seek the calm I’ve been craving, but alas, that was not to be the case. All I can see is today, this week, the schedules dictated by the Sunday release of the Dairy Queen schedule, all plans left in flux until the message arrives bearing a picture of the week’s schedule. It’s an interesting way to view the world. Months, seemingly endless, are suddenly broken down into seven-day segments, both more manageable and repetitive, unchangingly inflexible without meaning to be.

I’ve been spending time with an old boyfriend, the ever-present romantic antagonist of my mid-twenties. We’ve fallen back into our routine. There are errands (my favorite!), dinners (his attempts to woo me with his culinary prowess delight me), and the quiet hours, where he’s decided that I must learn how to play video games.

After days of wondering why he’d try to teach me – a task far more daunting than he had anticipated – I have finally realized that he’d like to get to the point where we can play together as teammates. I find the notion oddly romantic. And you should know by now how much I hate to lose, therefore this challenge is one I’m not taking lightly.

Seriously though, video games terrify me. I’ve never been one to play them (we weren’t allowed to have them in our house until we were nearly teenagers, and by then my attention drifted elsewhere). I’ve no knowledge of the mastery of strategy, but far more difficult than that is finding my damn character on the screen. And so my character dies. Repeatedly. “I didn’t even see where I was!” I exclaim, before surrendering to laughter at how pathetic I must look. The boys can’t believe it.

Even worse than the finding my character is moving the screen so I can see where my character is in relation to the battles. I’ve been instructed to work on smooth movement instead of just tapping the arrow keys sadly. I’ve been sent home with a tiny Game Boy for homework.

He’s a patient teacher, mostly. I think he’s excited that I’m showing interest in joining him, rather than just watching him play. I think I’m too stubborn to back down. I am determined, but amazed at how difficult this is.

***

By the way, today is Miracle Treat Day at Dairy Queen. $1.50 of your Blizzard purchase goes to the Children’s Miracle Network that supports children’s hospitals across the country. Your donation goes directly to the children’s hospital closest to you. It’s a gloomy day in Denver, so I hope that doesn’t hurt our sales. (I’ll be at my location from 4 until close, so come say hi if you’re craving a Blizzard.)

Yesterday, my first customer asked me if I was full-time or part-time. I gave him a brief overview of my current situation, full-time ice cream queen, part-time legal software marketer, and he was supportive, appreciative, and fantastic. He told me that my cheerfulness was exactly what he’d needed.

But of course, bright things can only linger for so long in this world. A bit later, a man came in and told us that the reason that we work at Dairy Queen is because we voted for Obama. Offended (as I usually am by people who assume I’m unintelligent), I continued the conversation very stiffly and politely. He told me that I had no knowledge of how government works (to which I bit my tongue in order to stem the tide rising inside me), and then proceeded to patronize me. At one point, he told Evan that Dairy Queen is a good job, because he “has a woman” — me — and that my desire to have a career is what’s killing our future as a Christian nation. (Ah, yes. To which I responded that the reason I long for a career is because I fear that the alternative is relegation to domestic tasks for which I am clearly unsuited.)

He concluded with a thought about how the end of marriage and religion were going to be the downfall of our nation. Finally, I’d had enough. I countered, “What I think you’re neglecting, sir, is this question: is it possible to be a good, moral person without religion?” I gave him a brief overview of my belief that it is not religion that drives people to be good, and that community will continue to exist by nature of the human species rather than by the driving force of religion alone. Therefore, I concluded, religion and the end of marriage are not what will doom our society, but rather, our lack of cooperation. He didn’t have a response. I didn’t imagine that he would. He left us a tip and thanked us before he left.

Never a dull moment, I assure you.

On Hate, Sadly but Love, Optimistically (Legitimately)

no8, marriage equality, gay rights, human rights, love,

A glimpse of the “Mermaid’s Tears” nails to start your day. But more importantly, let’s chat about the gays. (I’ve scribbled a symbol for marriage equality across my ring finger.)

Emily came over for our girls night last night – since GIRLS is over, we ended up making mac and cheese and then funfetti cupcakes. Delicious. We had to chase the cat-beast because he got out and hid under the stairs. (Scary. I don’t want him to escape because if he does, he might get eaten by a wild animal. And my heart…..oh my heart would break into thousands of pieces. I’d be inconsolable.)

We were talking about friendship. We’ve been friends since high school – she was afraid of me until we went on the forensic science trip to Ireland/London, where we absolutely bonded.

We were talking about unconditional love and acceptance – the kind that goes with friendship. We talked about how valuable it is to have a strong support system, the kind where you can be your true self, the kind where you can share your fears and your heartbreaks and your successes.

Why the long lead-in? (What? You don’t care about my cat or what I ate for dinner last night?!)

For me, knowing that the Supreme Court is hearing arguments in Hollingsworth v Perry
– 
the gay marriage debate has reached the Supreme Court! – is such progress, such a monumental advancement, such a terrifying time. This ruling, although it most likely won’t be handed down for some time, is such an important map of the future of our country and the future of civil rights as we know them.

What does this have to do with friendship, with solidarity?

As it turns out, I sometimes worry that I don’t have a diverse enough friend group. And by that, I mean that I sometimes worry that I need more straight friends. (Kidding, mostly. Mike and I were talking about our friend groups after the adoption panel a few weeks ago – he’s got a very racially diverse friend group and I’ve got a diverse friend group that includes a wide range of people in all professions, age groups, walks of life, and sexual orientations.)

One thing that I’m grateful for is that I exist in such a welcoming, open space. My friends are people who love and respect and genuinely welcome diversity. I often find myself the lone straight girl in a group, and instead of allowing that to remove me from it, I embrace it. Honestly, I don’t even notice it anymore. The people I hang out with are my friends first, gays and straights and whatever else second….a far second.

Marriage is something that I want some day. It’s something that I want for myself and for each of my friends (each of them who wants to be married, of course). My hope, a hope that springs from a place of love, from a place of peace, and from a place of community, is to someday attend the weddings of the people who I care the most about; it is to know that should something happen, both partners have the full protections that legal marriage can offer them; it is to know that love has overcome hate and that we have known the peace that can come after hard work and struggle to promote change.

I hope that future generations understand the full weight of this upcoming decision and that they understand the amount of work that so many people have put in to make this a national discussion. I also hope they sit back and shake their heads with disgust as they think about the people who tried so hard to prevent this. I hope that my children think that gay marriage is common sense; that being gay is natural; that it’s okay to be who you are. I hope they don’t have to fear for their lives or defend themselves against attacks based on who they are, what they look like, who they love.

Because at the end of the day, it comes down to love and community. There’s nothing I want more than a community based on love and support, the kind that comes from strong friendships and shared goals.

It’s love. It’s more than religion or politics. It’s love. Love is the stuff that makes the world go ’round. Love is the life force that drives us, that moves us, that picks us up and leaves us breathless. What kind of monster would you have to be to deny love? (As soon as I typed that, I started thinking of certain kinds of weird love that we should deny. But my point stands: between consenting adults, love – the kind of love that makes them want to commit to each other in the eyes of the law – is a beautiful, natural thing that should be revered, celebrated, shouted out, and respected.)

 

Edit: [Typing with long, reptile claw nails is ridiculously difficult. I’ve been making serious errors everywhere. If you were to somehow calculate correct usage of the English language and keep a chart of it, you’d see a sudden drop-off in exactness, or even near-ness. I feel like I’m just banging on the keyboard and hoping that words come out. Ugh. First world problems, I know. But seriously. Try it some time. Example – last night, I tried to unwrap a fresh cupcake. Could I do it? No. Weak. It was the ultimate in shame.]

On Entitlements, Defensively

I’m annoyed (oh man, what’s new?).

One of my absolute favorite teachers from high school posted a Facebook status about hearing he could quit his job teaching because he could get government handouts that total more than he makes per year. Cue the slew of comments from people advocating for people who work and decrying the lazy poor. And for people only deserving to earn money for the work that they do, and comments suggesting that people are lazy, and we live in a sick country dependent on handouts.

This is untrue. How do I know this? It’s no secret that I work my ass off. But there was a time when I made significantly less than I do now. And during that time, there was a lot of panic. Sometimes, I’d stare at my bank account and wonder how I was going to make that last me the entire month, with rent, bills, insurance, and gas and food. It goes fast.

So out of curiosity, I checked out government assistance. (Food stamps, bitch.) And guess what? I made too much to qualify for ANY of the assistance programs. (Not just food stamps, bitch.)

I started babysitting. And then I started freelancing. And then I started working at Dairy Queen. And I also got a raise or three at work.

I’m frustrated by the ideas tossed around – many of them lack any sort of basis in fact. Granted, there are a multitude of programs that fall under the umbrella of government assistance. Stafford loans, unemployment, Medicare/Medicaid, etc. And yes, there are people who are ridiculously dependent on the government without the expectation that they should have to work for it. But there are also people who need the help that they get.

I’m frustrated that the dialogue here is so critical. I’m frustrated that instead of focusing on the cause of the poverty and need in our nation, we have created a system that doesn’t allow for equal opportunity, that has magnified the cyclical situation of the working poor, that divides our nation into socio-economic groups, and so on. We’re reaping the “benefits” of an economic clusterfuck that we’ve been complicit in creating.

I harp on this all the time, but it’s because I really do see it as a barrier to progress: our societal devaluation of various types of labor has created the situation we’re in and it’s simply not sustainable. Gone are the days when someone could begin a career and work up through the ranks of a company. They may not have been wealthy, but the idea of a pension and a comfortable retirement was possible. The dream of owning a home and putting food on the table was a reality.

Now, we are forced into a hyper-competitive (and unrealistic) model of unattainable career advancement. The white-collar workforce has become an oppressively elitist segment of society, neglecting to remind themselves that their luxury cars had to be built by a laborer – someone who possesses skills they themselves most likely don’t have.

Personally, I wasn’t cut out for manual labor (apparently a lack of muscles makes me unfit for jobs that require them). Or the daily grind of a statistician (lack of mathematical prowess and logical thinking disqualifies me). Instead, I work at a job that suits my own strengths. It’s high time that we reminded ourselves that any society needs variety – variety of skill sets and variety in life. But the fact that one person runs a company and another wires houses or fixes clogged toilets does not mean that any person is of any greater value than the next. (Trust me, no amount of luxury cars in a garage is going to fix your overflowing toilet. There’s no app for that.) (There probably is an app for that.)

The discussion now focuses on the stereotype that the poor are lazy, which is something I’d love to put to the test. Let’s take your $70k/year job and pay you $12/hour for it. Let’s say that what you do isn’t worth that much. Let’s see you have to deal with not only the aching muscles, but the condescending tone of customers that so much resemble you by day. (Yeah, I get this a lot at Dairy Queen – somehow, my uniform and position behind the counter make me open to belittling, yet when I pass these same people on the street dressed in my professional attire, they open doors for me and say hello. Curious, isn’t it?)  Let’s see how you cope. Let’s see how good you are at balancing your budget, at cutting coupons, at working 14 hour days to feed your family. After you’ve spent time being part of the working poor, I’d love to hear you talk about entitlements and handouts. (Better yet, I’d love it if you’d start your arguments with facts instead of conjecture.)

Oh, and while I’m the subject of entitlement, let’s tax the shit out of capital gains. Sorry. If my $14/hour job gets taxed at a certain rate and your millions in interest and dividends don’t count, I have every right to spit your own arguments back at you. Entitled? Yeah, I think I am. I’m entitled to same services you, services such as education, roads, and police. The services that my tax dollars pay for. The services that you expect but don’t want to pay for.

I’m not saying that our government or economy or society are in a good place. They’re not. They’re corrupt. They’re every bit as corrupt as the governments we criticize. But to attempt to deny people things that they are entitled to, especially if they work and work and still can’t make enough to make ends meet, is a travesty.

I urge you to reexamine the way the you treat other people. All people. Poor. White. Black. Rich. I urge you to think about the advantages that you had. My advantages? Education. I come from a family that put education first and foremost. And I was very lucky to have the help and assistance and support that I did. I want to use my gifts to give back to my community. I want to use my gifts to help empower all people – and to give them the gifts that I had, and ultimately, give everyone a chance to make the life they want.

I don’t support handouts to people who don’t deserve them, and I do think that often, the idea of handouts leads to a dependence on them and a perpetuation of a problem that couldn’t have been solved with assistance in the first place. But I think that everyone in our society deserves the chance to live a life that’s fruitful and happy. In order to create a sustainable future for all of our citizens, not just the rich white ones, we need to come together as a people and do some serious reevaluation of our principles. Perhaps some moral compass re-calibration is necessary, too.

Just a thought.

On Voting, Enthusiastically

Four years ago, I was in Chicago when then-Senator Barack Obama was elected as the 44th President of the United States of America. I cried tears of joy then, and I will most likely cry tonight (whether or not the tears will be tears of joy remains to be seen).

Social media is abuzz with messages, but mostly, I’m seeing status updates urging people to vote. I love this. I’m 24, smack dab in the middle of the demographic that people worry won’t vote. Honestly, I don’t understand. I was thrilled to register to vote, and even  more thrilled to vote. I’m still thrilled. I got chills today just thinking about how wonderful it was to cast my ballot last week.

I encourage everyone to do the same. Get chills. Go vote. Be an active part of something that’s bigger than you are. Only then are you entitled to complain about the government for the next four years.

On the Road Trip to Albuquerque, Excitedly

We set off to spend a weekend geeking out over “Breaking Bad” in Albuquerque, the trip we’d planned on our first date. This was officially our tenth date, but it was so much more than that. It’s been so much more than that.

If you’ve never seen it, “Breaking Bad” is a show on AMC about a high school chemistry teacher who starts cooking meth because he’s been diagnosed with cancer and he wants to provide for his family. It’s an incredibly well-done show. It really asks a lot of “what if” questions that you’d never think to ask yourself and brings morality into focus. It’s well-written and it pulls at my heart in ways I never thought television could. (But then again, I cry at Google commercials, so it’s a given that I’m going to cry at this.)

I-25 to Albuquerque

I was so excited to spend a weekend away. I’ve been under a lot of stress lately, with work and the impending home purchase, so the promise of a relaxing weekend (three whole days off!) was almost more than I could bear. Matt and I have been communicating constantly since we met, but our dates are relegated to the weekends due to our jobs and the distance between us, so the thought of spending 72 hours with him was both thrilling and nerve-wracking.

We stayed at the Hotel Parq Central in Albuquerque (great AAA rate!). It was lovely – the hotel used to be a hospital, but was redone a few years ago. It’s clean, bright, and gorgeous. The hot tub is open 24 hours a day! We made sure to get as much hot tub time as possible in. The first night, they had a party at the rooftop bar, which got to be annoying. The guy working the front desk said that one guest had called to complain, saying that he would come down in his underwear and start yelling. That thought made me laugh.  Our room was a corner room in a separate building, so we had tons of windows and a huge bathroom.

But seriously, who throws a Halloween party on November 2nd? Albuquerque does. Apparently, they don’t let go of Halloween there – we were at a diner on Saturday and the waitress asked us if we had enjoyed Halloween. Very strange.

Saturday morning, we started our adventure. Matt was adorable and made us the sweetest map ever – he pinned all of the filming locations that we wanted to visit (I found the locations on a blog and sent him the link) and then added pictures and the physical addresses of each.

The first stop was the Crossroads Motel, which actually wasn’t on our map. We happened to drive by it on our first night in Albuquerque. (Oh, there was also an incident in which we attempted to get slices of pizza and were treated horribly by the manager after waiting more than 20 minutes only to be asked “Are you waiting for something?” by the girl who took our order. When we finally got a refund, the man snapped “I’m not refunding the Dr. Pepper!” Jeez, dude, chill. I didn’t ask for that. At that point, I just wanted like $5 in cash and I wanted to bail.)

We were standing in the parking lot of the motel when a man approached us, opened his wallet, and said, “DEA, what are you doing here?” Of course, he wasn’t from the DEA, but he was at the motel with his wife doing the same thing we were doing – taking pictures of filming locations. They were from Albuquerque, so we traded maps and chatted for a few minutes before moving on to the next stop: Jesse and Jane’s apartments.

One of the main characters is named Jesse Pinkman. He’s a small-time meth cook before he joins Walter White (the chemistry teacher) and their business expands. I love him, and one of my favorite story lines of the show is his star-crossed love affair with a recovering addict named Jane. They live side-by-side in a duplex, they fall in love, then (spoiler alert) she dies. It’s sad. But it’s beautiful. They are adorable together.

I knew that this was going to be my favorite spot, and it absolutely was. This was the site where I felt the most connected, not necessarily to the show, but to all of the emotions that I felt while watching it and all of the emotions that I felt while standing there with Matt. (We have some adorable couple pictures all over this property that you’ll see once they’re edited and ready for viewing.)

Jesse Pinkman's apartment, Breaking Bad, Jane Margolis,

(Jesse ends a lot of his sentences in the word “bitch.” It’s his way of emphasizing something. When I originally posted these, I posted them with the caption, “Jesse Pinkman’s apartment, bitch!” just because it felt like the right thing to do.)

Jesse Pinkman, apartment, Breaking Bad, Jane Margolis,

When we got to Walter’s house, we walked around the block, holding hands and chatting. (The curbs are seriously high in that neighborhood. I would destroy Simon. I’m very glad I don’t live there – I was driving Matt’s car, and when I parked, I purposefully parked about a foot off the curb so I wouldn’t take any chances of hitting the curb with his car!)

It was surreal.

There’s a scene in the show where the teacher, Walt, gets angry and throws a pizza on his roof, so apparently at one point, the family who lives in the house had to put out a sign that said “Please don’t throw pizzas on our roof.” Imagine going outside every day and having to get pizzas off your roof. I bet they clog the gutters and get annoying pretty quickly. (Still not the worst thing that could happen to your house after it’s been used as a filming location, though.)

Walter White's house, Breaking Bad, meth, Albuquerque

This is us posing in front of Walter’s house, but you can’t tell.

Hank and Marie (the chemistry teacher’s DEA agent brother-in-law and his wife) live in this insanely gorgeous neighborhood. Better than their house was the park nearby – we got out and hiked around and I got to climb on some rocks!

We also got to go to the Chicken Man’s restaurant! (In the show, there’s a super awesome meth dealer named Gus who owns a chain of chicken restaurants, so I call him the Chicken Man. In real life, the chicken restaurant is a real restaurant. We went and I got a soda.) It was amazing. We also went to the Octopus car wash – I’ll post pictures as soon as I get them from Matt.

Leaving was such sweet sorrow. We woke up, fully intending to go take more pictures near this gorgeous wooded area we’d seen the day before, but ran out of time and instead headed to Santa Fe. We had lunch there, walked around the Cathedral, stopped at Trader Joe’s (wine! chocolate covered cherries! chocolate covered pretzels! tea! pumpkin yogurt!) then headed back to Denver so that I could be home at a reasonable hour to be ready for work today.

On the whole, I would not return to Albuquerque willingly, unless you promised me that we could stop at Olo Yogurt Bar – where I had red velvet frozen yogurt topped with strawberries, mangoes, kiwi, gummy bears, and chocolate sprinkles. The city itself is stuck in the past – they have Furr’s cafes and lots of old neon. We didn’t really see much revitalization, but the neighborhoods that we found ourselves in were absolutely lovely. So perhaps there’s still a bunch of Albuquerque that we’re missing.

The hotel was amazing. The continental breakfast was Matt’s least favorite part, but I found it to be par for the course (they had me at Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Earl Grey tea). The shampoo was his favorite part. My favorite part? Hot tub. Sheets. Quarantine signs when you wanted privacy (a nod to the hotel’s beginnings as a hospital). We laughed when they talked about the “nurse’s quarters” because the building had a smokestack next to it…obviously not nurse’s quarters.

It was the best tenth date ever.

Denver, Albuquerque, I-25

 

I’ll post more pictures soon!

And note to everyone: VOTE! Tomorrow is election day and if you want the right to bitch for the next four years, you absolutely must vote tomorrow so you can at least say you did your part.

obama 2012, i voted, sticker, colorado,

I, of course, voted for Obama last week. Here’s hoping I won’t have to spend the next four years bitching. (According to Nate Silver’s newest forecast, I should breathe easy because it looks like Obama’s going to take the election easily. You can find Nate Silver and his election forecast on the Five Thirty Eight blog at http://www.nytimes.com.)

Nate Silver election forecast

But seriously – I care more about you voting than who you vote for. (I mean, that’s totally a lie, but I will find it even harder to respect you if you don’t vote than if you voted for someone I think you should in no way logically support.)

On Fall, College, and Debates, Randomly

I’m totally embracing fall today. I’m wearing my lumberjack plaid shirt (which got complimented at the grocery store by two really burly-looking dudes, so that made me feel pretty badass), I drank a pumpkin spice latte (work perks), and I’m relishing the leaves that are suddenly everywhere (Colorado got really windy last night, so now there are leaves on lawns, leaves in the streets, leaves on the sidewalks, and so on). I even changed my Gmail theme so that the background is a wonderful vision of red, yellow, and green leaves.

Yay, fall! It’s still sunny and bright, so I’m not even thinking about the ice scraping hell that is yet to come. Right now, I love the weather. I love the leaves. I am craving a pumpkin carving session. I want to make spiced cider and wear striped socks.  It’s still warm, so I’m still looking forward to wearing my coat – although somehow between last week and now, I’ve managed to mislay my brand new black pea coat. Hrm…..looks like the hunt is on.

Where does one leave a pea coat? It’s not in my car (although my gray one is, along with the black one that I am dissatisfied with. I keep it in there to wear when I go to bars so in case someone steals it, they’re actually doing me a favor instead of ruining my evening). It might be in my house (this is a constant problem since 80% of my clothing is black – I can never find anything when I need it). It might be at my mom’s house. It is. It’s hanging in her kitchen closet because I didn’t get it after dinner last week. Boom! Thank you, logic and desperate recollection.

***

I fall asleep while watching tv on my computer, usually. It’s my way to calm down after the day, but also my way to keep abreast of current pop culture stuff. I usually choose The Daily Show or The Colbert Report because they’re 21 minutes (ish), they’re light-hearted, and I don’t have to follow anything other than the sound of their voices as I drift off. Also, Carlos seems to enjoy them, too. He curls up with me and lays his head so he can see the screen. I have no idea if he’s watching or if he’s just comfortable that way, but I won’t complain.

But the other night, I chose one of the new episodes of Modern Family. I’ve written about the show before, mostly because if it’s a good episode, I will have cried at least once by the end. (Not cried like melted down and sobbed, but teared up and/or felt at least one tear drip down my cheek.) The show is silly, but I do think that they have some really poignant moments. And that’s what I’m all about – the humor blended with the absolute certainty of reality of life.

So….the oldest daughter is going to college. The move-in process was really not one of the show’s finer moments, but the scene where the parents have gone really got to me. The daughter is shown wandering around the cafeteria, alone, as the parents drive home. She calls her parents later, when she’s back in her room. And the parents are holding back tears and so is the daughter. Of course, my heart just cracked and spilled over and tears ran down my face – enough to annoy the cat.

I’ve written about my college drop off a hundred times. It was horrible. My uncle and cousin were kind enough to accompany my mom and brother to Chicago. We got my stuff moved in. And the first night, they were still in the city. Over breakfast before they left – at a place that did not have sides of fruit available for purchase – I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed.

I’ll repeat, just for emphasis, it was horrible. I’m not even embarrassed. My uncle does a really funny impression of me begging, “I’ll go to DU, I swear! Take me with you!” (Funny now, not so funny then.) And then I cried for the next three days. The first night, my roommate came back into our room and declared – oddly gleefully – that there was a bulimic on our floor because she’d heard some girl throwing up. (That girl was me. Not a bulimic. It was tear-induced vomiting.) After those first few days, I was more or less fine and proceeded to fall in love with Chicago. But watching the tv parents drive away in their van, and the girl alone in her room brought it all back, just for a minute. That’s how you make good television.

I also laughed out loud at the gay/lesbian Venn diagrams they made with their arms. I laughed hard enough to annoy the cat, who apparently doesn’t find gay/lesbian human Venn diagrams amusing at all.

Last night, I fell asleep while watching Breaking Bad. Then the boy/man/romantic interest – ugh, we’ll just call him by his actual name because I am sick of writing “he” – Then Matt called, and my sleeping self told him that it was very windy and then went back to sleep. (Sleep Katie is very productive – she answers the phone, she responds to emails and texts, and she talks. Last week it was about towels and cat food – obviously very pertinent and totally normal things.)

***

The debate last night. I don’t care what side you support, or who you think won, but I’ve been very much enjoying all of the internet uproar about the whole thing.

Like this, which made me laugh out loud:

Binders full of women My roommate got pregnant our freshman year of college, and now has an adorable five-year old daughter. She’s single, a teacher, a mother, and a beautiful human being. She was indignant about Romney’s answer to the AK-47 question (as was I), and rightly so. It reminded me of my junior year of high school when our Morality teacher told us that single parent households were against God’s plan…I told him that I was being raised in a single parent household (at that point, I was living with just my mom, and it was by choice). His response? “Would you want your kids raised that way?” Personally, I think I turned out just fine. And I don’t own any weapons, assault or otherwise.

Also, the best facebook status of the night, posted by one of my brother’s friends: “Apparently, guns don’t kill people, single parents do.”

On the Supreme Court and Socialism, Quite Happily

I heard the news about the Supreme Court’s ruling on health care in the car on the way to work this morning. I am thrilled. We are one step closer to joining the ranks of the countries that have affordable health care. Now, if only we could get rid of that pesky “for profit” part…

The cries of socialism are ringing, though. On my way into my office building, a co-worker told me that one of the guys who eats breakfast was ranting about how we’re turning into a nation of socialists.

Hardly.

But it got me thinking about people, specifically. Our democratic model is supposed to allow for involvement by all citizens. Of course, the better educated and motivated the citizens are, the better the democracy, which in theory will work in the best interests of its people.

There was a man standing on the corner on my way to work. He caught my eye because his Hawaiian shirt did not match his checkered shorts. He was holding a sign that said, “Honest work for honest pay.” It also listed his phone number.

There’s another man, wearing some sort of identification badge (as a way to legitimize his request) who stands on the corner where I turn onto the main thoroughfare as I leave work. He’s there every day, even in the hot sun, and his sign says that he’s an Army veteran and a father of four, willing to work.

When I was a child, the signs read, “Anything helps,” or “I’m not going to lie, I need a beer,” and while I don’t mean to make light of the homeless epidemic that has been a problem for longer than I’ve been alive, which is entirely related to our own lack of mental health care -particularly for our veterans – and other necessary services, I find the fact that the signs’ messages have changed to be an indicator of a far deeper problem.

Who are we as a society to put profit before people? Have we forgotten about the “general welfare“?

When a baby is born, it is a helpless individual in need of constant attention. While most of these babies grow up to be adults, the paths that they take (both willfully and unwillingly) are greatly divergent from their shared beginnings as infants in need of clean diapers, a warm bed, and food.

Somewhere along the way, some of these people seem to have forgotten that our fragile existence is dependent upon reliance on others. Reliance on others sounds like hippie nonsense, but it’s not. Every individual possesses unique strengths that serve as an asset to the communities in which they live. A community that is able to utilize these assets in the best manner possible has far greater strength and is a far more vibrant place to be.

People are quick to make assumptions when they see someone standing on a street corner holding a sign that begs for work. I urge you to imagine how you would come to that decision. It’s not a dignified action, the begging, and people know that. They have weighed their options and come up with nothing, and so, standing on the corner with a sign is their last attempt.

Say what you will about people who receive assistance from the government (and in doing so, I urge you to consider the bailouts of banks and large corporations as something similar, just for perspective), but at the core of everything lies the concept of humanity. If we desire to create a society driven by the pursuit of sustainability and progress, we must remember that each and every citizen matters, regardless of their ability to accumulate wealth or their social standing.

In our rush to actualize the American dream, we started valuing white collar jobs, and in doing so, began to devalue labor. Human labor is a necessary force for sustained growth and the success of a nation. People want to work. They want to feel as though their work matters.

Business can be successful when people matter, but the desire to drive the profit margin ever higher must cease. I work for a company that proves that human is more important than anything else. We have been providing software for decades (longer than I’ve been alive), and have maintained and grown the business without sacrificing the integrity of the people who work here. My boss always says, “We are not what we do,” and he lives by that. He once had to get up in the middle of a very important demonstration of our product to go attend to his family, and he did so without hesitation. I respect that.We work together, as a community. We share ideas, inspirations, and celebrate the good news. We are a support network during times of grief and sadness. This is a unique kind of company, and I’m glad I work here.

I’m arguing for or against socialism, but I’m arguing that as a country, we’ve begun to neglect of the most important facets of our society: our people.

The United States is no longer the greatest nation in the world. What we lack in education, human services (including health care), and global respect, we make up for in incarceration rates, defense spending, and bravado. In order to keep ourselves relevant on the world stage, we must learn to compromise between the corporation and the individual. We are a government “by the people, for the people,” and it’s time that we started remembering that.

 

On Cute Stuff Because It’s Friday

The bosses are both back today, which means that everything that’s been going crazy this week is even crazier now as we settle down, recap, and regroup for next week.

Whew.

But in the meantime, I saw this article and thought of my mom, who’s a special education teacher. She works with deaf kids (who should consider themselves lucky because they can’t hear her scary “teacher voice”), and she’s pretty awesome at sign language.

Wait, she’s probably mastered “teacher voice” in ASL, too.

(She denies that she has a teacher voice. It’s just like the sock fight that we’ve been having for about 23 years. We’re never going to see eye to eye on either of them. Just so we’re clear, I’m not the one stealing socks. I don’t wear socks. Notice that Mike is usually pretty silent during these debates…)

Click here for the link to the story. It’s adorable. A kid signs “I’m proud of you” at Obama and he signs back “Thank you.” Awwww, our President is awesome!

[side note: when I sent mom the links to the “Dirty Sign Language” videos on YouTube, she was not nearly as amused as I was.] [P.S. to the side note: Grandma, don’t click on that link. Thanks.]

On Obama’s Awesomeness for Today

Yay! I love this:

Victory! Obama Stands Up to Bishops and Protects Birth Control Coverage

January 20, 2012 by  · Leave a Comment

Great news! Despite months of fierce lobbying by the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Obama administration announced today that it would not exempt Catholic hospitals from the Affordable Care Act requirement for insurance plans to cover employees’ birth control. The news, which comes on the first day of Trust Women Week, is a welcome victory for feminists.
Back in November, feminists were concerned that President Obama might cave in to the Bishops’ pressure to exempt religious institutions. If the Bishops had their way, it would have meant that organizations that aren’t actual churches–such as colleges, universities and hospitals–would get out of covering birth control in insurance plans for their students and employees, despite an HHS ruling last August that birth control constitutes preventive care and should be covered with no copay. Feminists–including Feminist Majority President (and Ms. publisher) Eleanor Smeal–have loudly urged the administration not to let Catholic Bishops deny no-cost birth control coverage to millions. Here is Smeal’s response to today’s announcement:
At last—concern for women’s health trumps pressure from the Catholic Bishops. Millions of women who may have been denied access to birth control with no co-pays or deductibles will now have full access. I am especially pleased that college students at religiously affiliated institutions will now have coverage for birth control without co-pays or deductibles under their school health plans beginning in August 2012.
Birth control is the number one prescription drug for women ages 18 to 44 years. Right now, the average woman has to pay $50 per month for 30 years for birth control. No wonder many low-income women have had to forgo regular use of birth control and half of US pregnancies are unplanned. This decision will help millions of women and their families.
Some religious institutions will be given a one-year extension–from August 2012 to August 2013–to implement the no-fee coverage. Here are the details of the ruling:
  • Insurance plans that already cover birth control, including those of religious institutions, must do so with no co-pays or deductibles starting August 2012
  • All student insurance plans at religiously affiliated universities must cover contraception with no co-pays or deductibles beginning August 2012
  • Non-profit religious institutions that do not currently cover contraception have until August 2013 to do so with no co-pays or deductibles
  • Only women who work directly for a house of worship, such as for a church, synagogue, or mosque itself, are exempted from this required coverage
Photo of President Obama from Flickr user lednichenkoolga under Creative Commons 2.0