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. 

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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.

Final Destination: Boring

“Thanks for being boring with me,” I said. Zed and I were snuggled on the couch, watching “Bob’s Burgers” as Archer stretched and curled next to me in sleep.

It was about 9 o’clock on a Friday night. We are officially one of the most boring couples you will ever read about.

That’s just where I am now, I suppose. Staying in, watching TV, playing with a puppy and talking to about three people outside of my family. It’s a little embarrassing to admit that I love going to bed by 11 regardless of the day of the week now. It makes me wonder if I’m throwing away the last half of my 20s by putting myself on a relatively nine to fiver schedule.

It’s boring.

And it’s nice. Structure was one of the reasons I’ve been thinking about dog ownership, a way to force myself to stick to a slightly healthier lifestyle because it’s good for me and necessary for the pup. Having a little thing around that needs food, water and walks preferably at the same time each day has forced me to be on a schedule. It’s been just a week of early nights and mornings, and I love it. It disgusts me to admit it, but I feel better. I get more done. My writing productivity is much higher than it was before Archer came home.

The day-to-day seems far less exciting when I know exactly what’s going to happen when, but I’ve learned there’s a kind of solace in that surety.

No more last-minute drinks, no more last-minute trips to wherever, no more interviews on the fly and no more unexpected adventures.

Or at least less of them.

And for now that’s okay, I’m a little excited to be a little bit boring, to write, cook at home, watch TV and fall asleep at the same time everyday.

Not that every moment is the exact same as the day before, but it’s nice knowing that the moments won’t vary so much. The chaos is temporarily, at least, calmed. Maybe in six months or so I’ll be ready for another big adventure, but for now I’m super excited that it’s almost nap time for the pup and snack time for me.

I quit!

I believe the last time I posted in this space, I mentioned how I was very excited for a not yet named job. Well it turned out I got that job. It was presented as a very exciting opportunity to potentially make a big difference and create change at a local company.

I was thrilled.

It sounded exactly like the kind of professional first step I needed to get a corporate career going. Sure, the pay was a little low, but over time with growth, change and proving myself I was confident I would make more money.

Then I started to get to work. The first day I felt hesitation.

The corporate environment was not welcoming. I had some idea of what I was getting into, and I’m no stranger to hostile spaces. So I went about my business as politely and professionally as possible choosing to “kill them with kindness” with Phil Dunphy-like results. I even baked cookies! (Admittedly that may have been over doing it a bit.)

Over the following weeks the constant barrage of personal attacks, passive-aggressive behavior and lack of support started to wear me down. Actually it did more than that it sent me into a depression. I’ve spent the past several weeks essentially going into work doing my best not to be noticed by anyone and trying hard not to say or do anything that will upset someone. That has also proved impossible.

My other life activities like hanging out with friends, writing and baking have all but ceased. I only see my boyfriend at bed time. I only see my friends at Sunday coffee. I’ve been to the doctor for illnesses that surely would not have taken me down so hard if I were in a better mental state.

Then in a strange moment of clarity between the black out and the coming to, it hit me. I’m unhappy, and this isn’t the life I want.

So when I went to work the next day, I quit.

Maybe I’m not cut out for the corporate world. Maybe I’m just not a good fit at this company, certainly my personal morals and the company culture have clashed several times each day.

While I’m relieved to finally put the final sentence on this brief chapter (paragraph?), it does make me anxious about the future.

I’m starting to feel too old for entry-level. I’m unable to get a job that pays more than waiting tables regardless of the level of education and skill required. And honestly, for the lack of responsibility and flexible hours restaurant work is a little more my steady-income thing.

I’ve thought long and hard about quitting. What it means to me, what it means about the way I think of myself as “go-getter, a get things done girl, an ass-kicker” maybe I’m not really those things. Or I was, and now I’m not. I’ve thought about what it means for my personal and professional relationships. I’ve thought about the ways to spin this experience as a “positive” to future employers and even myself. I’ve thought about my work and what I’ve done here.

I’ve concluded that the best thing for me is to go. I’m giving up. I’m done. I’m out the door. And while the pressure feels lighter, the money is much tighter.

I’ve been broke before, and I’m going to be broke again. I’m terrified of what this new chapter will mean. I’m getting tired of these changes, it’s starting to feel like a never-ending cycle of failure. Sure, I learn things about myself with each of these terrible jobs, but it would be nice for something to stick.

I know I want to write, I want to work with people who are nice, helpful and friendly. I want to work in an environment where it’s okay to have a puppy and cake in the same room. I want to be surrounded by creative, intelligent people who are proud of their work. I want an employer who believes happy employees are the best employees and actually pays a fair wage. But even that feels like I’m dreaming too big now.

I’ll do something next. (There isn’t enough TV to fill up all the free time I’m going to have here in a minute.) I just don’t know yet what it is.

Lost my voice

Something strange is going on with my voice.

Or my brain, I’m not sure which.

It all started in Busan–I was out with Hostel and a nice couple from the UK. At one point, Hostel and I decided it would be hilarious to imitate their accents. (Only David’s British, one. I have no idea what he was saying when he went Scottish.) And it was amusing for a solid three hours.

But now I can’t stop.

Every time I talk to someone I automatically start imitating their accent–Korean, Australian, Canadian, American, British–I can’t stop.

I hear a different voice and my brain registers that as MY voice, somehow that is the sound I should be making when I speak. I don’t do other accents particularly well, either so most often my voice comes out in a slurred mash-up of mangled English no one is likely to understand.

It doesn’t help that other people, mostly waygookins, are starting to notice. Something is seriously wrong with the way I’m talking.

I feel like Ariel did when she lost her voice, it’s just when my voice comes out it doesn’t sound like my voice at all. Is this normal? Is this a side effect of culture shock? Where did my voice go? I miss my Utahccent.

It’s really fucking annoying listening to yourself talk and hearing someone else’s accent, especially for 7 hours a day.

I’m hoping a nice long Skype chat with my sister, my twin of sight and sound, will fix this. I just want to sound like myself again. ‘Cause right now I sound like this guy’s sister after she drank a few too many vodka jello shots.

(Anyone else think he should thank Seth McFarlane for about a quarter of those voices?)

Cookies in Korea

And the wonder of imported goods costing so much less when they come from Europe. Now I have a new taste for crappy cookies from Italy.

I’m sure these cookies I love to munch on between classes are giving me cavities and thick thighs, but I don’t care. They are light and flaky. Plus some of them have a delicious cream filling–vanilla, lemon and chocolate. Oh, how I love their dessert-y goodness.

As for their Korean counterparts, I just can’t quite figure out them out. They’re sweet and crispy, but missing something…I think it’s the butter. The richness of the cookies is low. And the chocolate, oh the chocolate, it’s always chalky and low quality on the sweet treats. I can’t wait for the day Korea has a food revolution and someone starts making high-quality chocolate.

Until then, it’s me and my Vicenzi.