Affordable Care Act: Good For Women and Kids

Gianna at the Park

In researching more affordable health insurance options yesterday morning, I learned that we’ve been being screwed by our insurance company.

On one hand, we’re to blame for not bothering to look into better options sooner, but basically it comes down to this: the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, forces insurance companies to pay for well checks for women and kids from age 0-21.

Of course there are a few loopholes, like in our case. If your policy started before the law took effect in March 2010, you are “grandfathered” in. We didn’t change our plan once we had Gianna, especially since after her birth our deductible was met through the end of 2011.

If your plan is old, the insurance company doesn’t have to pay for “well checks.” If you don’t have kids or aren’t a woman, you may not know how damn expensive that stuff is. Gianna’s first round of shots and one office visit cost $700. That’s right. $700 for maybe half an hour and a few shots.

I’m not talking about whether or not you think it’s fair that the law works this way. But I do want people to realize that their well checks are covered by their insurance.

So hey, educate yourselves and don’t trust your insurance agent to let you know that your old plan sucks and you’re not taking advantage of a better plan.

Comfort: The Biggest Killer of Productivity

Rodin's Thinker

Being comfortable is the biggest killer of productivity.

When you have something to prove, or are hungry to better yourself, you work for it. You bust your ass. Once you attain a certain level of success, whether it’s in your job, your housing situation, your car, your weight, fitness level, whatever, it becomes a lot harder to keep your eye on the prize. Your goals change. It’s easier to coast a bit and just do enough to maintain your  comfort level. Maybe you slip (which I’ve done with my fitness and weight in particular), maybe you don’t. But it’s sure as hell a lot harder to remember to work for what you want once you sort of reach your goals.

This applies to my writing, fitness, weight, work, just about everything. I’ve recently had good reason to look at where I’m at and realize that I have been coasting for a long time. I haven’t been writing enough, for one thing. But I’m back in the swing of things now and am making progress on pretty much all fronts.

What about you? Do you need a wake-up call? Get out there and do something to better your life.

P.S. I got off my ass and did 1.5 miles on the treadmill this afternoon. It’s not much, but it’s a start.

Re-reading The Hobbit

Gianna's Lord of the Rings Poster

I just finished re-reading the Hobbit.

It’s been quite a while since I’ve read it, but it still holds a lot of magic for me. When I was really little, my mom used to sit me down with fairy tales and myths, and when I was about 4 or 5, we read the Hobbit together. I continued to read stories filled with magic and fairies and elves . . . and still do today, obviously. I doubt I would have become so enthralled with the fantastic if my mom hadn’t instilled a love of wonder and mystery in me from an early age.

Of course since I have Gianna, I think about stuff like this nowadays. She’ll probably be a fan of fantasy to some extent, but who knows? She’ll certainly grow up being surrounded by it. I mean, she was both a princess and Ary Stark at MisCon 26 and at 19 months old has already attended a couple science fiction conventions. She doesn’t really have a chance, I guess.

Fantasy will probably be her sports team.

So a few days ago, I got out my Nook, and downloaded the Lord of the Rings trilogy in one volume. I haven’t read the Lord of the Rings since the movies came out. It’s been a while. Unlike many people who have good memories, which I usually do, I tend to forget a lot of parts of stories that I read.

In terms of rereading, this is excellent. The HOBBIT was sort of fresh read for me, even though I generally knew what would happen. In terms of discussing the Hobbit with friends, it’s not so good, but I don’t care about that.

I didn’t intend to reread the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy but I guess I sort of am. I’m surprised about a few things that I’ve encountered so far and I think it’s because of seeing the movies enough times without having to reread the original story. The first thing that jumps out at me is that from the time Bilbo vanishes on Frodo’s 33rd birthday, 17 years pass before Gandalf returns.

That’s a long damn time!

I also forgot all about the Sackville-Bagginses and Frodo getting his affairs in order as “Master of Bag End” after Bilbo’s vanishing. And they spend a lot more time escaping the Shire than I ever remembered.

In the movies, it’s easy to get caught up in Elijah Wood’s youthful Frodo with his big blue eyes and desperate expressions. The novel Frodo doesn’t seem like that to me (although I loved the movie Frodo).  And in my reread, I can’t help but see Sam Gamgee as Sean Astin, but that’s fine because I really thought he did a great job as Sam Gamgee.

Anyway, so far I’m enjoying my reread of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and I’m definitely looking forward to seeing the Hobbit, even though when I see some of the dwarves in the movie, they don’t remind me of Fili and Kili and Bombur and Bofur.

Huh. Maybe in another 10 years I’ll reread the Hobbitt and Thorin is going to look, to my mind’s eye, just like the actor in the movies.

Gianna’s First Parade

Gianna Watching the Parade with Grandma

Yesterday we went to Gianna’s first parade, the University of Montana’s Homecoming Parade.

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I’m not at all a football fan, nor am I a fan of annoying sports-crowds. But I agreed with Melissa and my mom that Gianna would like going to a parade, so we took her. For the occasion, I dressed her in her princess dress from MisCon and her Christmas hat from last year. It still barely fits.

She was scared of the first marching band (it was noisy), but she quickly got used to what was happening and had fun.

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First, Be Happy.

Many people want to force you to be who they want you to be. They want you to agree with their politics, their religion, their life choices, whatever.

Don’t worry about that stuff.

First, be happy.

Before you worry about what other people think, look out for yourself. Look out for your own happiness.

Then consider your family and friends. I’m not saying you should do reckless things just to be happy. I’m not advocating hedonism. I’m saying that you shouldn’t let other people’s desires make you unhappy by trying to project their desires onto you.

You should pursue happiness without hurting other people. Take a stand against people who want you to conform to their standards or beliefs.

Be yourself!

Seize the Day!

Gianna Posing Outside

Having a kid constantly reminds you that time is slipping away. Nothing stays the same. You don’t, your family doesn’t, your friends don’t, your pets don’t. The world doesn’t.

Seize the moment and enjoy where you’re at, who you’re with.

Right now, Gianna is changing every day. She’s talking quite a bit, and I find myself being a little sad to see it (simultaneously, I’m happy, of course). But it’s easy to get a little melancholy about seeing her lose cute behavior and become more like the rest of us. She just started saying an emphatic, “Uh huh!” instead of just nodding or making this weird, cute little “yes” sound that she’s been making for a long time. It’s imposible to describe adequately, but it’s sort of a nasal click that she vocalizes. I’ve never heard anyone else make a sound like this–it’s just hers.

Or it was.

It’s gone now in favor of regular language.

So seize the day. Enjoy what you have while you have it.

The Great Divide: Smugness, Stupidity, and Villains.

The Great Divide

This is for all the arrogant, self-righteous Americans among us.

Stop being smug, get down off your high horses, and think about improving the world. People who disagree with you are not fascist followers of Adolf Hitler (if they’re conservatives) or socialist Josef Stalin (if they’re liberals). Disagreeing with you doesn’t make someone evil, or stupid, or un-American. Stop clamping your hands over your ears and ignoring people who don’t agree with everything you stand for. I’m talking to everyone here–right wing whackos, left wing loonies, and the idiots in the middle.

We all have enemies out there, maybe politically, maybe religiously, whatever. But not every atheist, Christian, Muslim, liberal, or conservative is an evil bastard, whether we’d like to pretend they were or not. Some people are bad. Some ARE anti-American. But it’s not because they’re pro-life or pro-choice or worship God 5 times/day (or never) or go to mass or whatever.

I’m a critical, judgemental person. I love to argue, and I love to debate. Like most people, I know I’m right and you idiots are wrong. But over time, as I’ve been exposed to more people with different viewpoints, I’ve learned to be more open to other people’s ideas. Even I’m tired of being part of widening the Great Divide between the right and the left.

I’m tired of being part of the problem.

As the election draws near, we’re becoming even nastier. The Opposition has morphed into the Dark Lord Sauron. They’re even more un-American, evil, and stupid than before. They don’t understand us, they hate us, they want to destroy our way of life, enslave our children, and make us just like them. Of course we’re smug, self-righteous, paragons of society, and since we’re always right, we clamp our hands over our ears and ignore everything they say (while screaming in their faces).

Actually, we would scream in their faces, except for the fact that most of us don’t usually spend much time with the Enemy. We do see them on Facebook, though, so we attack the hell out of them, troll them, smear them, call them stupid, etc.

After all, they want to destroy America.

So stop being so smug. Stop calling anyone who disagrees with you “stupid.” Your opponents aren’t all nasty villains bent on ruining your country.

Talk to people who don’t agree with you. Be objective. Stop widening the Great Divide. Have discussions. Figure out why other people think differently than you. Let’s figure out how the hell to improve the world instead of just tearing it down.

Above all, stop being smug.

*End of Rant*

Instead of Fighting Against Gay Marriage, Go Do Something Useful.

Rodin's Thinker

Last night, I saw an argument against gay marriage that was predicated upon the idea that marriage is inherently a religious thing.

I despise the idea that just because the Founding Fathers, Jesus, Little Bo Peep, or Saint So-And-So used to do something a certain way or for a certain reason, then we should just keep doing it the same way now.

Times change, people. We learn as time goes on (I hope). Slavery went away. Black people became people. Gay marriage is inevitable.

The only argument against it in the United States in 2012 comes from right wing Christians. In saying that, I’m not being biased against them. I’m merely stating a fact. The movement to marginalize gays comes from them–they’re trying to defend the “sanctity” of marriage only because they’re afraid of gays. They have an agenda, and it doesn’t include letting gays get married.
Most reasonable people I know, including my extremist Christian friends, think it’s fair for gay people to get married. They don’t support gayness, they think it’s a sin, etc, but they agree that gay people should have rights. If they didn’t we probably wouldn’t be friends. Why? Because I’m biased against stupid assholes who think they should tell everyone else how to live.
Anyone who desperately wants to deny gay rights should do some serious self-examination and try to figure out what’s wrong with them. Instead of wasting time trying to deprive other people of stuff, they should go do something useful/create something new/brighten someone’s day.
That’s it for now.

Find Your Passion. Work Hard. Be Relentless.

Gianna in the Bowling Alley

Find something you’re passionate about, work hard, and pursue it relentlessly.

Today, my little sister graduates from nursing school. The wide world sits at her feet, ready to be worked on, fixed up, and helped.

It took her a few years to figure out what she wanted to do with her life, but once she did, she set her mind to it. She’s worked hard,

Me, Ashley and Gianna at the Polson Airport in 2011
Me, Ashley and Gianna at the Polson Airport in 2011

mastering everything necessary to not only learn the basics of nursing, but to excel. She got all As and 4 Bs, and her classmates voted her the “most likely to be a leader.” She’s persistent, fearless, smart, takes charge when necessary, etc. When something needs to get done, she does it. She is young enough that her memory is still excellent, and she seems to remember just about everything she has learned about how the human body works (she’s now my “go-to-guy” when it comes to health issues). She has attracted the attention of her professors and bosses, and has been commended for doing so well.

My hat is off to you, Ashley Barba.

Keep pursuing your passions and you will do well throughout the rest of your life.

And you, readers? The same thing goes for you.  Figure out what you’re passionate about and pursue it. Don’t just sort of half-assed think about it or talk about it. DO IT. Be relentless in pursuit of what you love.

If everyone found their passion and pursued it relentlessly, the world would be a hell of a better place.

So follow my sister’s lead, get out there, and do what you love. Work hard. Don’t take no for an answer.

To Rant or Not to Rant: That is the Question

Camperdowny Elm

I am pretty damn opinionated.

This is well-established among people who know me, and probably among those of you who only know me from reading this blog. I

Guy With Sword Statue
I always feel like a have a sword ready to unsheathe on people. I try to control myself, especially on the blog. Sometimes I fail.

tend to dislike bullshit language that sugarcoats unpleasant things. I like to look at things in black and white, although I recognize that there are shades of grey out there. I make generalizations pretty often, and I really like to rant (which is an indulgence I am trying to control, both in person and online).

It would be so damn easy to turn this into a rant blog as opposed to a motivational little spot, but that’s not what I want to do. I don’t think that’s productive, and I don’t think it helps people, which is really what I want to do. I want to do my best to empower other people to feel better about themselves, to create things, to make themselves the best they can be.

I’m saying this today since I often talk about things that get people fired up, and I’m pretty sure I hurt some feelings now and then, whether I’m talking about politics, religion, or being fat. Even though I may discuss some things without much regard to other people’s feelings, it’s not my intention to hurt anyone.

I love to discuss our differences, which is something I didn’t really engage in until the last few years. And really, since I started this blog, I’ve become a lot more open to other viewpoints.