Health insurance and miracles

Today was one of those days when I realize that growing up poor also means growing up in a different world than the people I know now. Growing up poor means not knowing how insurance works. And today, I was shocked when a doctor’s visit and medicine were reasonably priced for no apparent reason other than a magical new card meaning something somewhere to someone.

Recently there’s been a barrage of bad days at work. So today, was naturally the day my body gave up. I woke up with inflamed gooey eyes and a sore throat. I’m falling apart. Period cramps, cuts on my feet, and a headache, it all piled on me this morning.

The sniffles with the stress and “boom,” go visit a doctor because that’s what you get to do when you have a job that allows for sick days and health insurance.

Actually, that’s nice. It’s a shiny bright spot in an otherwise gloomy day.

Then I think about it and I get pissed off. The conjunctivitis is a severe allergic reaction, but I never had health insurance growing up. One kid got sick and all the kids got the same prescription—there’s one doctor in three towns. And you hope to god he keeps up on medicine and takes care of his patients. Maybe he was a good doctor. I don’t know. I only remember going to the doctor once in my childhood, and then I didn’t make it to the doctor. The physician’s assistant saw me since the doctor was in a different town that day. (And yes, my brother who had the same cold took the same prescription as me.)

I feel lucky I have a stable job with a steady paycheck that allows me to pay my bills (the whole mountain of them) and health insurance, and sick days, because I haven’t had it. However a part of me resents it.

Why do I get that? Why doesn’t everyone? What have I done that makes me special enough to get help paying for medicine? Shouldn’t every job allow for paid sick days? Shouldn’t everyone be able to visit a doctor and afford the visit?

It’s such a relief to be in a position where I don’t have to worry about whether or not I can actually afford to go to the doctor when I need to go to the doctor. And yet that same privilege vexes me.

It’s exactly that actually—that American society thinks of health as a privilege, not a right.

Somehow I have to be “good” enough to have a good job that allows me time off to be sick. And, I’m left to wonder how I was lucky enough to land a job that will let me text in late to take a day off because I woke up feeling icky. I didn’t do anything special, and I wasn’t born as anyone special.

I realize the Affordable Healthcare Act is on it’s way to helping everyone get basic healthcare. But I’m starting to think that’s not enough. And we’re still debating this country’s deplorably low minimum wage. It’s not a debate. Minimum wage is far too low. No one who works a full-time job in this country should be living in poverty, yet millions are.

The realization that just one year ago a day like today would have derailed my budget, set me back a month, and most likely added to my debt, pisses me off. There has to be a better way. I don’t have to deal with that now because I’m one of the lucky ones with those “good jobs” that are in such short supply. So now I can think about how much the system punishes the poor for being poor while I drink coffee and shop for a house.

As an addendum, I have a great job–I love it. I’m usually pretty excited to see what new challenges await me at the office. Today was an illustration of problems within a larger system, not at work.

Second addendum, no photos today as conjunctivitis is disgusting and there’s not really anything else visual to go along with this rant. Sorry. Maybe you’ll get a coffee photo next time. 

A long hiatus and then this

At the end of June, something delightful happened.

I got a job! A grown-up, adult job with health insurance and regular pay. One of those kind of jobs. It’s been a nice change. An office outside of my house, talking to people, making new friends and learning new things.

Heck, I like it so much I’m surprised I didn’t break the news via FB earlier. But no, it’s special blog only type stuff like this that makes this place extra nice for the big news.

So the new job is at a local professional theatre. I work in development (raising money) and communication (selling tickets). It’s all kinds of fun reading plays, hanging out with actors and learning the world of non-profits. Every day is different. I work with a small team of wonderful people that make even the worst days in the office a ball.

I love my job.

And it’s so nice to love what I do that sometimes I forget to leave any free time for this blog and other hobbies I once had.

I haven’t read any books in too long; and I finally broke down and started baking at 6 a.m. just so I could make something new. Between the dog walks, the boyfriend and the job, there isn’t a lot of time for other stuff. Now that I’ve had a month to get into the groove a bit though,  I’m hopeful I’ll have a minute more of time for this online stuff. ‘Cause I lurves it and some of the coolest people I know are most accessible online. So I gots to stay.

P.S. This post should have originally published in August 2013. However due to “technical difficulties” (sometimes called laziness) it has not been published until now. 

Wow. Umm…wow.

Michael Hastings died in a car accident Tuesday morning.

I don’t expect most of you to know who he was. He was a journalist. Most of his work was in Rolling Stone and on Buzzfeed. I never knew him at all. But I loved reading his stuff. He was one of the good ones. You could tell in the words, between the sentences, he was the kind of journalist all the reporters should want to be.

A hard ass and an ass kicker.

He probably had more enemies than friends.

It should be noted that the Los Angeles coroner has not identified the body.

This sucks. I’m going to keep his Reddit AMA in mind today.

Okay, here’s my advice to you (and young journalists in general):

1.) You basically have to be willing to devote your life to journalism if you want to break in. Treat it like it’s medical school or law school.

2.) When interviewing for a job, tell the editor how you love to report. How your passion is gathering information. Do not mention how you want to be a writer, use the word “prose,” or that deep down you have a sinking suspicion you are the next Norman Mailer.

3.) Be prepared to do a lot of things for free. This sucks, and it’s unfair, and it gives rich kids an edge. But it’s also the reality.

4.) When writing for a mass audience, put a fact in every sentence.

5.)Also, keep the stories simple and to the point, at least at first.

6.) You should have a blog and be following journalists you like on Twitter.

7.) If there’s a publication you want to work for or write for, cold call the editors and/or email them. This can work.

8) By the second sentence of a pitch, the entirety of the story should be explained. (In other words, if you can’t come up with a rough headline for your story idea, it’s going to be a challenge to get it published.)

9) Mainly you really have to love writing and reporting. Like it’s more important to you than anything else in your life–family, friends, social life, whatever.

10) Learn to embrace rejection as part of the gig. Keep writing/pitching/reading.

Personally I can only hope to be the kind of journalist Hastings was, I am too much of a people pleaser and way too comfortable with authority. But people like him prove journalism matters. He will be missed.

All the right ways

I hate myself for wishing for change, or at least, I regret it…a little.

There it is.

It comes like night. I could see the dusky light, I could feel it coming, the wind a little cooler as we waited, breath held, for that change.

It’s here now, an emotional shift brought on my physical pains. Nothing will be the same. Growing comes with changing, but does it have to hurt?

I’d like an easy challenge next, please. Maybe one with a definitive set of instructions, a map and a guide. Just one of those things would be awfully nice. I no longer know which way to go. The life map lines drifted into “there be monsters” territory ages ago. I need a new one.

The compass stopped working long ago; sometimes I forget it exists. In the rare moments I remember the magnetic direction, it pricks my heart. It hurts.

I hurt, too.

Perhaps I can find another.

I can’t look to the stars anymore: blotted out by city lights, smeared across the sky, coated in the gray skies of pollution. They might still be there. My memory can’t be just a myth, can it? I need to get out of this place.

I need the map, the compass, the skies, all of it–the toolkit to bring me back to life.

I’m drifting along in this raft, and sometimes you drift with me. But still I feel lonely. Alone.

I can’t swim yet. I keep trying. You’re pulling me along. Not always as patient as either of us might wish. I pant and writhe in the water. I’m scared of drowning. I concentrate so hard on staying alive I forget to move forward. Fear pushes into my mind slowly at first like a black dawn then it takes over rushing into every part of my functionality filling me with blackness. I stop thinking; I’m reacting, trying to keep my head up.

If I can just breathe, this will soon be over.

You watch me struggle again and again. I can see the love turning into loathing. It must be hard to see someone work so hard at failure. Eventually you will turn away from me. It’s a pattern. You won’t be the first person to give up on me and probably not the last.

The last will be me when I’ve had enough, when I’m ready to go. Maybe by then, I’ll know how to swim. I’ll be brave enough to go on without the tools I’m waiting for. Maybe by then, I’ll build them myself.

At least, I have a pen. Now where the fuck is that paper?

I’m going to take a nap now

I posted earlier today that I regret nothing about my decision to stay up all night reading “Gone Girl.” It felt decadent sipping sangria and hanging onto every word Gillian Flynn wrote in the sadistic, suspenseful, painful novel.

The story is fucking mind blowing. Just like everyone says.

And I loved it. I am also exhausted to the point where thinking hurts, my eyes burn and a puppy might just die.

Seriously, it’s the best book I’ve read in what feels like forever. It was thrilling to stay up all night sucked into a fictional world like I haven’t since Harry Potter. Glorious. Nice. Nostalgic.

And terrifying.

I’m still stressed from Game of Thrones and now this? How do I know I’m not an Amy? Or a Nick? Can’t we all be? Just a little bit sometimes? Man, the lies, the manipulation, the deceit the insistence that it is all just a game even at the cost of life.

Blood chilling to think about and fascinating. Thankfully I’m a sound sleeper rarely troubled by dreams.

Why you should get a puppy

Remember when I told Robb he shouldn’t get a puppy?

Please stop taking my photo, and let me sleep.

Please stop taking my photo, and let me sleep.

Well I did promise on Facebook and in the comments to talk about the pros of puppy-hood, and then I sat down to write it and it was hard. I have disdain for expressions of affection.

It hasn’t always been that way, but lately I don’t like, “honey,” “sweetie” or “babe.” There’s just no way to say them and not somehow come across as patronizing and condescending as though the person I am talking to, however dear to my heart they might be, is a small child.

So yes, I don’t usually use terms of endearment. Hell, I struggle to express positive emotions. I’m comfortable with anger, fear, regret, annoyances and negativity. But throw me some happiness; and fuck all if I know what to do except smile stupidly.

However I am endeavoring to change this with the cutest puppy in the universe with a face that just says, “baby talk is appreciated.” So after much struggles to get in touch with loving emotions, I bring you reasons to own a puppy. (Or other cute cuddly critter of your choice.)

He likes to lay on legs and feet when he's extra tired.

He likes to lay on legs and feet when he’s extra tired.

1. The snuggles

When Zed is not around, he has a replacement. The puppy!

Truthfully even when Zed is around Archer gets loved on an awful lot. He is great at cuddling and loves to nap with me. The best feeling in the world is watching TV with a dog curled up on my feet. So comfy, so cute!

There’s something super sweet about knowing every time I come home a little fur ball is excited to see me. (Even if it does mean he pees everywhere.) It’s nice to have something to take care of, to throw all my nurturing, mothering instincts on to all the time. And he can’t complain! I mean he probably thinks he’s freakin’ go it made what with the regular food, walks, play dates, snuggles and snacks, but as the giver it’s pretty satisfying to watch a little thing grow up.

Even if it is just a dog. Conveniently I am way more comfortable with rolling with the punches when small children are around now. As an exercise in patience, raising a puppy has done more to calm me down than any other life activity.

Although I still struggle with calm, patience and routine, the pup is a good reminder of why it’s nice.

How can you resist this face?

How can you resist this face?

2. The people 

I don’t know what exactly it is about a dog that makes people better. (Or makes me like people more.) On our walks, Archer is the harbinger of conversations.

“Oh, look at that puppy!”

“Can I take a picture?”

“What kind of dog is she?” (They always think the boy is a girl. It’s white fur, peeps, not genitalia.)

Strangers are pretty comfortable with trying to pet him, even though his default is to hide behind me. At the dog park, waiting for a light to change, hustling him to finish his business, it really doesn’t’ matter where my dog is or what he is doing, people want to talk to him.

But dogs can’t talk, so they are stuck talking to me.

And dare I say, it’s…nice. I’ve met many more of my neighbors since I’ve started dragging Archer around. I’ve met a lot more dogs too. For the most part, it’s a positive experience, the chats bring a little moment of human connection. While I’m slightly embarrassed by Archer’s shyness, I’m thankful for the opportunity to just talk to other people. For the most part, they’re pretty nice guys and gals with their own dog stories to share.

When you put the phone down, can we run?!

When you put the phone down, can we run?!

3. The activity

I am not by nature a particularly healthy person. I’ve been blessed with skinny genes and high metabolism. Occasionally I do yoga, Pilates or go for a run, but none of it is regular activity. Even now I’m doing my best to devour a pound of pretzels as I type this.

However a dog that must be walked means a human must walk, too. I do my damned best to make sure we don’t do much more physical activity than the minimum required, but just being outside more often is invigorating. I love the discovery of the neighborhood and the city our wanderings have taken us too. Without a pup, I wouldn’t know how close I live to Memory Grove, City Creek Canyon or the Children’s Museum.

(I also wouldn’t have a chance to keep tabs on the neighborhood real estate which is a slightly different obsession.)

I totally get why dogs are an outdoor persons’ thing now. And I think my 40-pound pooch was a nice compromise for my inner couch potato who needs an ass kicking out-of-doors every once in a while. And maybe someday, he’ll be well enough trained we can even try some off leash adventures.

Scratch! Go? Scratch! Go?!

Scratch! Go? Scratch! Go?!

4. The structure

There is something nicely reassuring about knowing each day the dog will wake up with the dawn and need to wee, walk and eat all before the sun is fully over the Wasatch Mountains.

It’s not as though I can’t live with routine, but the dog has forced me to figure out a schedule. It keeps him happier (and asleep at night) and keeps me more productive. Although I can’t control a lot of aspects of my day to day, like when sources can interview, just having a bookend to each day is really nice. Our morning routine and bedtime routine are pretty set by now. I honestly think the morning and evening walks make it easier for me to take care of myself.

Maybe that’s silly or immature or whatever, but I’ve always struggled to stick to a schedule on my own, with a dog around it’s easier for me to heft the responsibility of regularity.

As I said the cost of loving Archer and living with him is extremely high and sometimes much more difficult than I anticipated, but I’m not ready to trade him in. I love my monster.

I mean look at those goddamned ears! And that face! It’s like a bat, cat, doggie baby that just needs to be squeed over!

You are totally missing the people watching!

You are totally missing the people watching!

Isn’t that just the crux of human-ness though, “Fuck all logic, it feels nice to have this thing to take care of, so I will.” Well played evolution, well played.

Why you shouldn’t get a puppy

My new baby boy from New Mexico. An adorable red heeler/lab mix.

“Aw, he is so cute! He can’t possibly grow up!” I stupidly thought.

My friend, Robb has a bit of a pet obsession.

He doesn’t own a pet. His complex doesn’t allow for any. But he and his girlfriend are cuddly, snuggley animal starved. He really, really wants a pet. He posts lots of cute pictures of fluff. He has even mentioned he may need an intervention.

As much as a I love the cuteness of puppies and kittens he posts on his dash, I can think of a million reasons why no one should get a pet. Robb, here’s your intervention. It’s also called reality.

If you don't see dollar signs when you look at this photo, you don't own a dog.

If you don’t see dollar signs when you look at this photo, you don’t own a dog.

1. Monetary Cost

Owning and caring for any pet is going to cost a bit of money. Obviously a goldfish is cheaper than a puppy. But I own a puppy so I’m just going to break down the cost of Archer in my life.

Food: $30 a week (Admittedly I could buy something cheaper, but I spoil the hell out of the monster.)

Treats: $15 a week (Right now this includes special treats for training as well as chew toys which he goes through at an alarming rate.)

Adoption: $250 (Yes, that was the cost to bring him home. It did include his vaccinations, neuter and microchip as well.)

Training: $80 (For one six-week course. I’m paying $100 for another eight-week course at the end of the month.)

Dog stuff: $100 (This includes two beds, toothbrush, toothpaste, hair brush, a few toys and leashes. I’ve only included the cost of one of his three crates since I was given two for free. The final crate runs about $120.)

Rent: $100 deposit, plus $25 a month (My lease mandated a pet rent as do most apartment/condo/houses. My rate is quite low for the area although many places are pet friendly.)

Additional costs: I haven’t included the cost of the clothes, shoes and furniture that has been ruined by excrement, biting, clawing or other puppy behaviors.

Total Cost Over Four Months: $950

When I think about how much money I’ve spent in the past four months on this pile of shedding white fur, I get a little misty eyed for the alcohol, movie tickets and restaurant meals I may have bought. Hell, I probably could have a plane ticket at the going rate of owning one puppy.

Admittedly cost of ownership will go down as he graduates from training and he stops outgrowing everything. But still so. much. money.

"You will never leave me and not feel guilty."

“You will never leave me and not feel guilty.”

2. Time

Personally I wanted a dog for companionship and to force me to create more structure in my day. (The bane of self-employment.) No alarm clock will ever drag me out of bed faster than a puppy’s bark at 6 a.m.

However I never considered the cost in time each day it takes to care for a dog. Admittedly Archer’s breed mix is much more active than many others out there. Nonetheless, each morning we spend 30 minutes to an hour eating, walking and training. In the middle of the day, I take him for another shorter walk of about 15 minutes. If he is still excitable, I will ask the neighbor dog to play for 30 minutes or so, or I will play with him until he mellows out enough I can get back to work. Then again in the evening, he needs to be fed, walked and trained. Typically this takes an hour to an hour and a half as this is the most active part of his day and ensures a slightly later wake up call.

Total Daily Time: 3 hours

That’s about three hours of my day given over to puppy care. Maybe it doesn’t sound like a lot, but it sure feels like a lot when I’m planning interviews, social events and dates. A number of my social activities have become dog social activities so I can pair dog care with human interaction time. I don’t mind the change as it’s healthier for me to, but it’s been a huge adjustment. Dog park friends at 8 a.m. is a little different from drinks at the bar at 8 p.m., y’all.

3. Training

A puppy must be trained. Archer has gone from adorable sleepy pile of fur to energetic, lively pup who must chew everything. As cute as he is, working out his energy is a daily chore. I have spent money on training lessons which I desperately needed. The lessons take about an hour a week, plus the hour or so drive time to get there. I spend time each day practicing commands with him. However any dog/human interaction often necessitates further training.

For example when a niece or nephew visits, Archer has to be reminded constantly that children are not puppies. They can’t and won’t play with him like dogs.  Any time I’m cooking, cleaning or eating, Archer has to be continually reminded not to jump on counters, legs or steal whatever is in my hands. He is slowly learning to wait patiently for his turn. But it’s a hard-fought and ongoing battle.

Anyone with a dog will tell you consistency and boundaries are key to a well-trained dog. I struggle with consistency all the time. There are moments, like when I’m watching “Game of Thrones,” I don’t want to play with the puppy or discipline him for getting into the bathroom trash for the millionth time. But I have to or he will continue to get into the trash. It’s an ongoing war.

Total Daily Training: There are not enough hours in a day to quantify this.

Of course, I work at home. My puppy and I spend far more time together than I do with any human. If I had a job outside of my house, I would most likely enroll him in doggie day care which costs about $200 a month in SLC. The other option is to keep him at home. For Archer this means he would spend roughly 16 hours a day in his crate, since non-crated alone time results in destroyed furniture and decor.

Speaking of destroyed things, let’s take a moment to remember a white rug, black couch and clean floors. Archer has poohed, peed and vomited on nearly everything I own. Sometimes it will clean out, but not always. He has peed in stranger’s houses, family members homes and even in training class. He is definitely an excited pee-er. I have also become obsessed with excrement as will any dog owner. Here’s the thing, a puppy can’t talk. So about the only way to check his health is to look at his doo-doo, observe his behavior and give him a good once over during brushings. The pooh is disgusting. I have to clean it up, so I will notice when something is amiss. Trust me when you’re in the middle of the conversation about Fido’s shit and the rug fibers you discovered as another dog owner relates finding jewelry in a pile of pooh, you will wonder where you went so, so wrong in life.

You got a puppy.

Before anyone adopts a puppy, think long and hard about the costs of ownership. It’s a huge cost. As my brother in-law says, “It’s as close to having a kid as you can get.”

Truthfully there are several times where I have thought about returning Archer. I love him, but the cost of loving him is incredibly high. My life before him was much simpler. However my commitment to the rescue, him and myself, keep me in it despite the hard times.

Despite the negatives there are positive times, like how he loves to curl up on my feet and sleep. Right now, those quiet, peaceful moments are more meaningful than ever before. The first time he “stayed” when I told him to for more than about three seconds, I was so excited he thought he won a marathon. Compliments from strangers on how well he “heels” for a puppy are the highlight of walks. We’ve come a long way, me and the puppy. I wouldn’t trade him, but damn if I could go back to February, I’m not so sure I would adopt him.

Shh…don’t tell him. 

Archer has no interest in anything I have to say when birds are present.

Archer has no interest in anything I have to say when birds are present.