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3.29.2013

GOOD RIDDANCE



It's Good Friday today in the Christian calendar.  I thought about the term "good" that is associated with a day that represents the death of Jesus on the cross.  What is good about that?  Is death normally "good", or pleasant or even desired?

My mind went to another phrase that we insert the word good into that doesn't entirely fit our typical definition of "good" - good riddanceIt's an idiom (a non predictable from the typical word definition it's comprised of creating a peculiar phrase) meaning,  I'm happy someone or something is gone.  I get that phrase.  There are somethings and people that when the circumstance or person is gone, it is good!  Sometimes VERY GOOD!!!!!!!

That takes us back to Good Friday. 

The good part of Good Friday is literally in the same vein as the phrase good riddance.  Jesus' death in and of itself was not good.  Not pleasant in the least.  Personally I cannot think of too many ways that would be as horrific as having spikes pounded through your wrists and ankles, being suspended from a large wooden cross to die from a form of suffocation associated with the pain and position your body was being in held in. 

The good part of it came because of His willingness to die - to actually go through the physical excruciating process of dying - to get to the other side of death.  It was on that side of death that Jesus said good riddance to the power of sin and death to keep us in bondage, send us to hell and separate us from God because of our humanity. 

That horrific death made something go away - forever.  No longer do I have to live unsuccessfully to meet a set of rules that, in my humanity, I can never meet.  Law and rules cannot not make us good enough because we can never ever get them right all the time.  We fail miserably because we are human.  Having to and fear is not the best motivator for real change in our lives. 


Good riddance to the bondage of sin and our limitations to not get it right all the time.  Hello to grace for our humanity and a visual of how much God truly loves us and longs to have a relationship in life with us.

It really was a Good Friday.

3.27.2013

EXPERIENCING ZENishness


We all have a zen place, a zen thing.  That thing that connects us to the secret language inside ourselves.  Our reaction to that thing causes us to feel an ahhhhh - to be refreshed, recharged.  We are in our element on many levels when we are there.
 
For some it's best found when sitting as a spectator on their couch or in a stadium being a sport-aholic. That's your sweet spot.  For others it is sitting in a deer stand in 30 degree weather being totally quiet experiencing nature in its habitat.  Some love the frenetic energy of a big city - it brings them to life. There are those that love to feel the dirt between their fingers by gardening and get lost in that place. Still others find their best place through music.

My zen place is outdoors in the sun.  The sun literally brings me to life, calms my center and makes me feel more like myself than anything else.  According to my husband, he watches me come alive in the sun.  My daughter's favorite heart pleasure is a rainy or foggy day.  That is completely foreign to me.  I feel weighed down by fog, boxed in and a bit cagey from rain.  Rain and fog are to her like the sun is to me.

When my daughter Hannah got married in August of 2009 the ceremony was in a beautiful little outdoor Japanese garden.  August in Indiana is typically dry and hot.  I don't know about the hot, but outdoor weddings are probably a bit better for the attendees if rain stays away.  The day began with some clouds and sun with a distinctive bent toward clouds.  I fretted as the procession started up the garden path that the ominous darkening sky would let loose rain before the vows were exchanged.

Just as the short ceremony finished sprinkles began.  Hannah seemed unconcerned.  I was, on the other hand, very concerned - it was starting to rain at an outdoor wedding and reception!  I didn't feel centered or necessarily calm over it. 

We changed venues to my middle sister's backyard for the big white tented reception.  The sky darkened even more and the wind picked up.  By the time the cake was cut there was torrential rain blowing sideways from the west.  Everything got wet; the food table, the dance floor and PEOPLE! 

My heart sank.  To me it was a soggy, windy, gray mess.  To Hannah's description of that day later, it was her favorite weather - a rainy day.  She got to experience her zen weather on one of the most special days of her life. 

Eddie Rabbitt coined his zen place descriptively in the words to "I Love A Rainy Night".....

Well I love a rainy night
I love a rainy night
I love to hear the thunder
Watch the lightning
When it lights up the sky
You know it makes me feel good

Well I love a rainy night
It's such a beautiful sight
I love to feel the rain
On my face
To taste the rain on my lips
In the moonlight shadow

CHORUS:
Showers washed
All my cares away
I'd wake up to a sunny day
'Cause I love a rainy night
Yes I love a rainy night
Well I love a rainy night
I love a rainy night

He got it right.  After we get to experience that thing, that place, that condition that fits perfectly into our soul it restores us, washes us anew. 

BTW - Eddie Rabbitt's music is not anywhere near my zen place:)

3.26.2013

STOP WHINING!


Whining and fussing don't sit well with me.  I have some tolerance and understanding of it with very small children.  Some is the narrative parameters of it though.  Obviously whining and fussing is a human reaction to things we don't like, don't want to do, feel overly inconvenienced over, don't get our way over, find too difficult, etc...

I was too tough a parent when my daughter was young.  Like most parents, if I could have a do over I would lighten up a bit over some things.  Hannah would tell you she feared me and was intimidated by me sometimes growing up.  That literally causes me to laugh as I just don't see myself as intimidating, but I have had a few people tell me that as well.  My inward view is out of focus evidently.  She would also tell you that I have shed some of that intensity with age.  Possibly by the time I'm 90 I might be about normal in that area!

Hannah did not whine and fuss much past 2 years old.  She was a colicky baby, allergic to milk, troubled with strep and ear infections for the first few couple years of life so I understood a bit of the whining and fussing of a child who just didn't feel swell all the time.  I though did not tolerate whining over not liking something, not wanting to do something, not listening.

I am a bit of a health nut.  It started long before disease hit my body.  When raising Hannah I wanted her to eat things that were healthy.  I wanted to create in her a love of healthy foods that would take her into her adult world. 

Sitting at the table in her booster seat at 3 years old I placed 2 smaller trees of steamed broccoli in front of her.  It was part of the meal that particular day. She claims she can remember this event.  I think she only remembers it because I have told her the story time and time again.  She did not want to eat that broccoli, declaring with passion that she didn't like it.  I didn't care.  I mean that just like it sounds when you read it.  I did not care that she "thought" she didn't like it, she was going to eat it.  The rule was that you had to have two regular sized bites of things you declared you didn't like.  Period.  No getting around it.  End of story.  You could sit there until the cows came home, but two bites had to be eaten.


Hannah began to cry over having to eat two bites of broccoli.  It was a whiny, hoping to wear me down and let the rule slide kind of whine and cry.  She was too young and inexperienced to win against a pro like me or know fully that I would not be dissuaded.  She found that out clearly as she got a bit older though.  Clearly she soon learned my response for her coming back to me again and again hoping for a different answer to her request was, "Hannah, have I ever, with your asking and re-asking, changed my mind and said yes?" 

Crying and eating are a deadly combination.  Her whining had now escalated to tears and snuffles and gulps of air as she frantically attempted to halt the broccoli consumption.  I calmly told her no matter the crying she still had to have two full bites.  She painfully and dramatically, with sobs, put one bite of broccoli in her mouth and attempted to chew.  The crying shovels had set in. Between the dislike of what was in her mouth, along with a defiance of having to go against her own will, she began to gag herself. 

Now a normal mom, and no doubt a smart one, might have called it quits there. I did not.

It was two bites.  Not the end of the world.  She was grand standing like any kid would.  "Hannah," I said, "You can throw that up or gag on it but you will still have to eat it."  I had a moment of weakness inside my head, would I really make her eat a piece of broccoli she had gagged back up?  YES!  I had to.  I wanted her to eat good things.  At three years old your strong will surfaces over just about everything legitimate along with everything not.

She continued to cry but her crying shovels started to abate.  She knew I meant business - that I would make her eat two bites irregardless of the crying and gagging.  I started to win the battle of the wills but wondered if she would forever forth see broccoli has a negative food.  I don't really know why that day she was whiny and fussy about two bites of broccoli.  There lies some great measure of irrationalism in any three year old, along with a few adults I know.

I though cannot stand whining in adults.  All of us have things in our lives that are yucky (the broccolis of life).  Some of those things are inconveniences causing us to have to slow down temporarily, wait on something or someone longer than we want, take a back seat to our immediate needs for the betterment of someone else.  We get minor illnesses, get in fender benders with our cars, need a new roof at an unplanned time.  Stop whining and just eat the two bites
and move on I say!!

Hannah likes broccoli now.  Broccoli salad, steamed broccoli, broccoli soup, chicken divan with rice and broccoli.  I'd like to think that my tough parenting scared her to a love of it.

3.25.2013

FAR FROM AN ARYAN RACE


Sitting at terminal gate 3 in the Phoenix Gateway Airport at 5:00 a.m. I realized that not only are people interesting, but they even more interesting at 5:00 a.m. 

We were waiting to board our return flight back to the Great Lakes region of the Midwest from a short 3 day jaunt to Arizona.  It was a short trip because it was a small airline which flew out of smaller airports with direct flights usually only two days a week.  In our region this airline flew on Thursdays and Sundays.  That time frame didn't leave a traveler much choice except for cheaper airfares and more convenient closer to home airports.  

As I glanced around while drinking a really bad cup of regular unflavored coffee (flavored brewed coffee is unheard of in the southwest - cowboys just can't tolerate it I guess!), I noted that most of the people sitting in those very dirty blue upholstered chairs were waiting to board the same plane I was.  They were probably returning back to Grand Rapids, Michigan or within a several hour drive back to their homes.  There was a look this group seemed to have.  It whispered, spoke, even shouted WE ARE MIDWESTERNERS.  

Try as I might, I just couldn't put my finger on it exactly.  What was it that seemed to connect this group of people together aesthetically?  Was it facial features, hairstyles (or the need for one!), the lack of clothing style, the mismatched behind the times sort of way they carried themselves, a dread of living in a gray and harsher climate demeanor and aura that followed them like a rain cloud over an outdoor wedding?  What was it?  If there was a human sorting system, like for organizing toys, this group waiting at terminal gate 3 would all be in a bin for tinker toys.  We were very similar in some undefined way.

I more than giggled inside as I did this them versus me thing.  They looked a certain way that tied them to this particular people group, the toy bin of Midwesterners.  I too was one.  No matter what skewed view I had of myself from looking at me from the inside out, I no doubt must have had a similar connective look.  I sighed inside.  These somewhat folksy, mismatched, unstylish band of fliers were my geographic people group.  If I thought too highly of myself, it at that very moment melted away as I realized I belonged to the Adams Family!

What made us look like this?  More than that though, what caused such distinctive looks and feels of people from different parts of the country.  I wasn't prissy, sophisticated, overly highly educated, from old money, trendy, overly liberal or overly conservative. I too probably could easily be pegged from a certain and easily identifiable part of the country whether I liked it or not.

I was trying to gather all my belongings while emerging from airport security.  With droves of others, I was putting my shoes and belt back on - dressing publicly in front of strangers while re-securing my carry-on things from the gray bin that had rolled out of the security shoot.  Beside me was a very classy, no doubt very wealthy attractive woman in her late seventies.  We both lamented at the disruption that flying caused nowadays.  We chit-chatted about her being from Nebraska and flying back and forth between their place in Phoenix and their home in Nebraska several times during the winter months.  She was charismatic, smart, well dressed and beautiful. Instantly I sized her up based on her looks.  I categorized her.  As my husband came over to me she grabbed me and said, "She is gorgeous!"

I was thinking of her comment as I sat in terminal gate 3 with others waiting to board that plane back to Grand Rapids, MI.  In an instant I had sized her up based on her looks.  I made assumptions and categorized her accordingly.  I too had done the same thing to this group of not snappy dressing or appearing Midwesterners.  We had a look. Genetics and environment had definitely collided. Like it or not, I was one of them despite what that beautiful charismatic older woman had declared to me:)   Pretty sure I was that the look of us Midwesterners was far from the look of an Aryan race!

3.20.2013

I AM A SMART IDIOT

 
...Give me a smart idiot over a stupid genius any day.
Samuel Goldwyn

I move fast.  I get impatient.  I like the question that I have asked to be answered - that one only not every other one I didn't ask.  I am usually far ahead in the engineering process in my head.  I don't need every last detail of instructions to independently move ahead or complete things.  I get highly frustrated with people who do.

Obviously all people were created unequally.  Though we have some sameness in us, some universalness about our humanity - quite a bit of commonality at times.  Much of the time it is blaringly clear that though we all have human DNA, some of us abide on another intellectual planet. 


I have always found it fascinating there are those that absorb information and knowledge like a sponge.  They read, they study, they research but instinctively it just comes to them fairly effortlessly.  They have high knowledge IQs.  Interestingly enough though, there is another group of people who have intuitive, deductive and common sense intelligence. 

The problems lies in the fact that though our intellectual knowledge base can be increased, intellectual intelligence is just the way some are geared.  It is the way their brains work. Intuitive/deductive/common sense intelligence really can't be taught through book learning necessarily.  Life experience can increase it some.  But it too is what it is - given us or not given us to great degrees.

My dilemma comes to the surface when I, a highly intuitive/deductive/common sense person, have to try to explain something very elementary and simple to a high IQer.  Most intellectual brilliance is so stacked that it leaves them with no comprehension of simple.  Period. 

Case in point.  After explaining a very simple process to a very high IQer today I was met with a blank stare.  I started over again, this time simplifying what I was saying even more. That was my mistake.  It is the simple that they cannot comprehend, that bogs them down.  Amazingly enough it goes completely over their heads:)  Four times I explained the concept.  Four times they commented back making the simple very convoluted and complex.

Fortunately this person and I have a great relationship.  He knows his high IQ has left no room for common sense or comprehension of everyday simple systems and processes.  I wanted though to beat the hell out of him for wasting my time over something so simple.  Then I caught myself.  I wondered if he at times felt that way with me.  Maybe his high intellectual IQ made him frustrated that I couldn't follow his knowledge at times.  But who cares because his high IQ wasn't going to move knowledge to action, I was!!

I thought about it further.  If I have great banks of intellectual knowledge but don't have what it takes to use it to its max because I lack deductive/common sense, what good is it! 

I decided I much prefer residing on my planet.

3.14.2013

CANDY BAR CONFESSIONS


I laugh alot.  Probably at times at things that I shouldn't.  Possibly I should be more serious but honestly find that even the seriousest of things have an ironic/humorous/light hearted thread in them - a piece I think divinely ordained to help us not be swallowed up by it.  I find life so much more enjoyable when brushed with humor and a touch of irreverence.  It's like putting double the amount of chocolate chips in the cookie recipe!  Since that is my windshield, I not only enjoy showing people what I see, but deeply love others who have found that view as well.

My middle sister was a serious kid.  She was very opposite of me in just about all areas.  She fretted and worried - I did not.  She was beautiful and had breasts - I had neither beauty or boobs.  She was refined and feminine - I was askew and a bit of a tomboy.  She had a date every weekend in high school - I did not.  She excelled in school and wanted a perfect GPA by studying constantly - I was content to get what I got without effort, A's and B's were fine with me.  She knew what she wanted to be when she grew up from a young age - I am 46 and still trying to figure that out.  She was regularly noticed if we walked down the street together (still is) - I was virtually invisible.  She was a compliant child with our parents - I was not.   She loved reading and indoor quiet activities - I spent every waking hour outside exploring and perfecting my peeing behind the barn form.  She planned, was neat and very organized - I was a wing-it-fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kinda person.  She was more serious - I was giggly and irreverent.  She was more conservative - I was more of a free spirit.

I love my sister (actually have two and love them both!).  If you have a sister you know exactly what I mean.  There are things you don't even have to say to your sister(s) because they know you from the inside out.  That is freeing, comforting and magically hard to define and nail down.  They bring a dimension to my life that without their presence would be silent, barren and would create an unscalable crater that I would struggle to get across.  Part of who they are is part of who I am.

As my middle sister has gotten older she has shed much of her worried ways, retained her regal beauty, lightened up on having to have everything in order or be perfect, adopted some of my irreverent (and occasional swearing) ways, and now laughs readily and easily.  She laughs at all things I say and makes me laugh by her honest and blunt approach to aging, dieting and exercising.

Last night I texted her after I got home from work.  After catching up on upcoming events in both our lives, covering what to get our niece for an upcoming baby shower, she said this...."I just ate a zero bar before supper.  I'm confessing :("   I couldn't stop laughing.  Sometimes you gotta eat the bad stuff over the good stuff.  If you wait till after dinner you might be too full for dessert! I responded, "If you would have cut it up in pieces and stuck toothpicks in the bites it could have qualified as an appetizer."

Laughter and validation are a great combo.

P.S.  If you have never had a Zero bar you need to try one!  You would want to eat it BEFORE supper too:)

3.13.2013

SHE WEEPS

This is a re-post from 12/09/2010.....SHE WEEPS
TO LORRAINE, MY BEAUTIFUL PRISM HEARTED FRIEND:)
 
Grief is powerful. It is so totally encompassing that it forces out everything except itself and takes control of all that is in us. It comes suddenly - unexpected - without much warning. It stays like an unwelcome house guest leaving only when it has thoroughly washed itself through us. 

Sometimes grief is like the tide, coming in so deep and so far that we feel its weight and wonder if it will relent before our soul is drowned from its inconsolable pain. Other times, grief is like the wind, constantly and poignantly making us minute by minute aware of its presence - showing us the loss again and again. 

I was talking to my sister tonight about something in my life that has been tormenting my spirit causing me to not be able to stop sobbing. How tired I was, I told her, of it taking me again and again. She listened to my words and even as I shared them I broke down in sobs on the phone. With gentleness of spirit she said, "Nancy, that is grief you are experiencing. You cannot will yourself to not feel it, to not let it take you to a place you don't want to go. You have to let it have its way, its time. You cannot tell yourself if I do this or that it will abate. Your loss is inconceivably great and so is your grief great in volume to match it. There is no timetable for grief either, just be in it for as long as you need to be." 

I wanted it to leave as I am exhausted from its presence. I wanted it to relent or rest or release me from its grip. What I really wanted was my loss back.

3.12.2013

NOT ALWAYS PACKAGED NEATLY


 
Stuff doesn't always fit nicely and neatly in a box.  Tape is required from time to time. Sometimes our suitcases are bit too crammed packed and we need to sit on them to get them closed.  Things hang out.  Life is convoluted, unkempt and a bit askew from time to time. 

That was bouncing about in my head as I pounded out my four mile run this morning.  I thought about a brief conversational interchange I had with a friend from the past that I haven't talk to in years and years.  As we caught up on each other's lives, he said something I loved.  It was such a true and transparent admission, one I could totally connect to... "My life has been an adventure....and not always pretty for sure."

I wondered if he and I were the exception or if most people could relate to that statement.  There is quite an equation and amalgamation that makes up each of our lives.  The cocktail of background, choices, destiny, design, and reaction create an adventure for all of us.  He is right, and I had experienced the same thing - the not always pretty part.

There are thematic inspiring quotes out there like, life is what you make it.  I would agree it is much of the time.  But sometimes it gets away from us.  Sometimes as we are figuring our place out or just enjoying the quiet waters for a season life gets rough, tough and sometimes just not so pretty.  It doesn't always fit neatly in a box does it.

From time to time it's too easy to view others from outside their window.  We see their lives from the outside and theirs can appear, compared to ours, tranquil and easy, blessed and abundant.  I don't think that's always the case.  It's similiar to a handful of couples I have met in life who declare, we never fight or disagree.  That's great but not really probably 100% true.  All humans have blips in their relationships from time to time.  Really that's just not a real statement of accuracy at all.  And neither is thinking other people have charmed lives.

The authenticism that old friend spoke to me was oh so refreshing.  I think that's where God wants us all to be - fully aware of our humanness and ready to show our real colors.  Being authentic and real is God's love language.  He reprimanded the Pharisees on "superior and pious perfect fakey living" but said David, someone whose life was not always "pretty", was a man after God's own heart.

Seeking God in our human flesh sometimes intersects with not pretty.  My daughter recently read the book, The Shack, one of my favorite books that I had read multiple times. She commented on how much she loved the word pictures in it.  The author addresses the theme of "life not being pretty sometimes" as the overriding portrait in the book.  That ugliness collides with God's grace and love.  There is a great mental and spiritual picture painted in the book showing our hearts as God really sees them - a beautiful garden with weeds and a bit overgrown.  He tends to it - creating something pretty from the unpretty.

I cannot keep up appearances for appearances sake alone.  That is bondage to me.  My life is what it has been - a living and moving picture of failure, pain, joy, sorrow, redemption and grace.  I think yours might be too. 

Sometimes our stuff doesn't fit neatly in a box.  It doesn't have to.  If we were perfectly wrapped and taped up nicely, if nothing ever hung out of our suitcase how would others know we were real and approachable.  Our humanness doesn't repel God, He created it and knows it.  He actually created us a bit messy and askew so that we might need someone beyond ourselves.

3.11.2013

DID THEY REALLY GIVE OUT A BLUE RIBBON FOR THAT?


My family still ridicules me relentlessly about getting a blue ribbon and honorable mention at the Indiana State Fair for my 4-H entry in the category of gift wrapping.  I hear stuff like, did you get the corners nice and crisp, did you put the tape on evenly and at regular intervals, did you have plans to be a holiday gift wrapper at the mall when you grew up, blah, blah, blah... Even though my 4-H years were some 30+ years ago, I still get ritualistically blasted for being in "gift wrapping".  I laugh right along with them because it is ridiculously funny. Who in their right mind picks "gift wrapping" as a project.  Who does that?

We were forced to be in 4-H in my house growing up.  Our parents required us to take sewing, foods, and one other project. I did not want to go to 4-H club meetings or sing the
4-H theme song, "...over hill over dale we will climb the 4-H trail..."  What did that mean exactly? Quite confident I was that Casey Kasem would never play that song on the top 40 countdown.  

I did not want to sew anything. To begin with, I hated that my mom made most of my clothes.  Hate would be a mild word for what I felt about home-made clothes.  With that in mind, why in the hell would I want to sew.  I spent more time ripping my stitches out and swearing in my head (couldn't say those words out loud as I would have been in BIG, BIG trouble) than I actually did garnering a lasting sewing skill that I would utilize in my adult world.

Actually I didn't mind taking foods as one of my 4-H projects.  I loved cooking, though I did struggle with having to follow a recipe to the T. My love of cooking was more about creating than following a recipe.  In my adult world I don't follow recipes much.  They are liberal guidelines but not necessarily an exact blueprint I feel need to be followed precisely, or even at all most of the time.  When asked what I put in something, I can tell you the items but rarely the quantities. It's a look and feel process. 

With my two requirements of foods and sewing out of the way, I was now free to pick another project to participate in.  I didn't want another project!  They all seemed stupid to me.  Bug collecting - NOPE!  My oldest sister did a 10 year 4-H tour in entomology.  I hated butterfly nets, killing jars and finding them in the freezer waiting to be pinned to a board.  I did not want to do photography or anything that involved me having to produce a poster board wrapped in plastic.  Drawing was not my thing - stick people were a stretch for me.  Knitting was out definitely.  My grandma tried to teach me but my knitting never went any further than one big long single stitch of yarn unconnected to any other rows.  I could make a great plumb line, but never a blanket!

I settled on gift wrapping.  How hard could it be.... some paper, an idea, tape, curly ribbon, maybe a well placed and home-made ribbon and wa-lah, a project was completed.  I was all about completing them not because I had a huge sense of completing what I started, but because if I completed it I could be done with it.  I just wanted to choke down the broccoli as fast as I could and get it over with:)

It was with that level of effort I approached my blue ribbon honorable mention State Fair gift wrapping project.  I decided to make a package that looked like a roll of life savers.  I used a large oatmeal container as the box - the perfect life savor roll shape.  From there I took white butcher paper and created a replica of a life savor wrapper - coloring all the lines the correct color and drawing on the appropriate TM emblem.  I created some sort of high bedangled ribbon-esque thing to adorn it with.  The trick was to hide all the tape pieces and to create the ends to look like the end of a life savers roll.  Believe me, the category of people in "gift wrapping" was relatively small which allowed my really below par project to skyrocket to blue ribbon level.  I really was just the better of the bads.  Winning isn't really a great win if you only are beating crap.

Did I learn anything from those years of 4-H gift wrapping?  Yes, that the invention of the gift bag made life so much easier.

3.08.2013

THE FAT CATS GET FATTER


I like the ring, the connotation that the word ire brings with it.  It's a shorter and more intense version of the phrase "getting riled up".  When I use the word ire I picture myself in a pub with a flash of white hot anger rising to the surface to become outward.  It's going to move someone or something with great intensity.  Ire is more than just angry.  It's combined with action displayed in an outward and visible way.

To be honest, I've never been in a bar fight.  Doubt I ever will, unless it's to intervene on behalf of someone innocent.  I have though, been extremely indignant about something over the past couple of years. My indignance has risen to epic proportions with random rants spewing out of me from time.  My ire is up over HEALTH CARE and MEDICAL INSURANCE costs!

This will probably not ring clear to some who read this.  Especially those who do not regularly utilize medical insurance (don't have chronic health issues, etc.- hooray for you, really!) or who have been on Medicare or Medicaid for longer than 10 years (when the decline and sky rocketing costs of private insurance began to change dramatically).  The rest of us have had the privilege of seeing the health care and medical insurance cruise liners change radically over the past dozen years or so.

I have type 1 insulin dependant diabetes (usually called juvenile diabetes because typically that's when it comes on - as a child) that I contracted 14 years ago.  I was 32 years old at the time.  Suffice to say it is the result of a virus probably contracted after 3 surgeries and pancreatitis.  It killed my pancreas' ability to produce any insulin.  Those circumstances for the past 14 years have made me privy to major and ongoing health care costs.  With a few other auto-immune things mixed in the bag too, I've seen my share of doctors, had far too many tests run, been in the hospital way too much, and have seen the likes of Mayo and Cleveland Clinic. 

To say that the world of medicine and insurance is familiar to me is like saying a major league baseball pitcher knows the feel of a baseball.   I am thankful that 9-10 shots of various things keep me amongst the living.  Without those drugs I would not live past the span of probably a week.  My gratefulness though does not mean that I am ok with the skyrocketing and marauding cost of drugs and health costs. 

When I contracted diabetes 14 years ago my health insurance deductible was $500 a year for a married couple with one child.  After the $500 deductible was met, the 80%/20% coverage began - they covered 80% and I paid the remaining 20% until an out of pocket for the insured (me) was reached at $5,000.  Prescription drug coverage was part of that as well.  I paid a very small portion of the contracted-with-insurance drug costs.  Those costs as well went toward my deductible and out of pocket max.  Fourteen years ago I did not max out my out-of-pocket amount of $5,000 because care and medicine was covered easily.  Costs were a fraction of what they are today.

Over the course of 14 years I have seen a radical decline in what is covered by insurance companies, a rise in both the cost of care for the same condition and same medicine, and a gradual yearly increase in deductibles and out-of-pocket max amounts.  It went from a $500 deductible in 1999 to $1000 for a family deductible a handful of years later.  It then jumped to family deductibles of $1500, then a few years later individual deductibles of $1500 each or $4500 for a family. This year (2013) many deductibles stand at $6000+ a year.  Drug coverage has decreased as well along with the insurance payment percentage covered by your insurance carrier for any medical test or charge incurred.

For the past 7-8 years my out of pocket expenses have exceeded $8,000.  Every year.  Year after year.  That is on top of the dollar amount costs of my health care insurance premiums withheld from my income through work.

Like many people across the U.S., the fall of 2012 brought upcoming changes in employer sponsored health care plans for 2013.  We lost our prescription drug benefit in 2013, which meant the separate $200 drug deductible and then $40 per prescription charge was eliminated.  Instead our employee share for coverage rose to $192 per pay period (every 2 weeks-an increase of $230 a month) and the deductible increased from $4500 to $6,000 with a continuation of the 80%/20% coverage until the out of pocket max of $10,000 is met.

My case in point - real life...

2012 drug coverage amounts (prescription deductible of $200 then pays at rate below)
  • 3 types of injection prescriptions monthly at $40/each = $120.00
  • thyroid medication=$  25.00
  • test strips=$25.00
  • nexium (for husband)=$40
                                                      2012 out of pocket drug costs a month  $210.00

2013 drug coverage amounts (no prescription drug deductible or co-pay)
  • 1 of the above 3 types of injections monthly=$1400.00
  • 2 of the above 3 types of injections monthly @ $170.00 each=$240.00
  • thyroid medication=$26.00
  • text strips=$55.00
  • nexium (for husband)=$200
                                                         2013 out of pocket drug costs a month $1,921.00

I'll do the math for you...

From 2012 to 2013 we have seen an out of pocket increase of cost to us of nearly $7,200.00.  Work that into your budget - it's like having another house payment!!  To say I am outraged is an understatement.  I'm not alone though. 

Standing in the pharmacy just a week ago trying to ascertain how to get the cost of my medications down, I lamented to the pharmacy tech.  She told me that lost drug coverage has affected a great many in 2013.  So much so that many people (me included) began to stockpile refills on their prescriptions towards the end of 2012 to help cushion the costs they would bear in 2013. 

My out-of-pocket increase of $7200.00 is bankrolling someone else's ginormous salary or making up the loss that health care thinks they lose on medicare/medicaid reimbursement.  I'm tired and angry that I am paying for everyone!  You don't need a $1.5 million dollar salary Mr. Hospital CEO at my expense.  And, I don't need to pay for your insurance because you are too lazy to work and continue to live off government assistance programs.  I go to work and pay my bills and shouldn't have to pay yours too or bankroll your third BMW.

What if I had way less means than I do (I already have less than I did!!!)?  How would someone earning $40,000 manage with those kinds of costs?

My ire is up and isn't going down.  Something needs an overhaul, and I need a trip to Canada (and not to fish either!).

3.07.2013

The WOTM - Step Three of Recovery


I have a couple of friends who are former Mennonites.  They were raised that way, but have left the Mennonite Church for other meadows.  Though they left that denomination, the Way of the Mennonite can still be found in them. They both have tremendous humor and perspective which allows them to poke fun at their backgrounds a bit. Hopefully you read my own poking fun at myself in the post entitled, "2.5 Steps Up"

This though really isn't about a certain denomination, but about sorting through why we think the way we do, do the things we do and whether or not those things are healthy. Unfortunately because we are human and touch religion as humans we already, just by our mere handling of it, bring some of our own humanness into denominations, into religion in general.  I don't think any subject is off-limits.  I truly believe that humor goes a long way when dealing with sensitive subjects.  It helps us to properly see the holes and eventually, the right perspective that needs to be gained.  Don't take yourself too seriously!

We are individually a collection of what we have experienced and were exposed to growing up.  So, by no fault of their own, in part of their DNA is the Mennonite ways. Like most things in life, part of it is good, but part of it is a bit of bondage.  How to take the good stuff and make it better, but be rid of the Way Of The Mennonite that seeks to create rules, bondage and expectations that are neither healthy or correct.  For all of us that is a quest of a lifetime.

I tease my friends relentlessly about the supposed "Mennonite Recovery Program" (that is a term I created as a euphemism to letting go of anything that seeks to keep us in bondage) that they are in.  I have yet to see this program in print other than what I have jotted down on the table paper in the restaurant we meet at every week for breakfast.  I do have another two-part series on this subject though - enough to draft a small pamphlet for use in support groups:)

To mimic a bit of Jeff Foxworthy's You-Might-Be-A-Redneck.... You might be a Mennonite if your grandfather had sex with sheep and was called up front of the church to be disciplined.  You also might be a Mennonite if noodles and mashed potatoes are a food pyramid category alongside All Things Carbohydrate-ish. You might be a Mennonite if you know the meaning of fair trade, can quilt, and own at least one doilie that you display on an end table somewhere in your house. You most definitely might be a Mennonite if you own the game "Dutch Blitz".

My friend has the biggest heart you'd ever find, but she cannot and will not say no to anyone.  In fact I once witnessed her inviting a truck driver, who stopped in the office because he could not legally drive one more block without a fine, to have a root beer.  She had him come to the conference room in the back office, take his shoes off, watch some TV and take a nap while he waited.  He had merely asked if he could use an outlet for a bit to charge his cell phone while he waited in his semi for a relief driver. 

She cannot and will not say no to social situations that she has no desire to attend, to people she does not want to spend an evening over dinner with, shop with or attend Elvis impersonation acts with.  She can think bold stand up for yourself thoughts, but would never ever say them out loud. 

At dinner recently she whipped out two small spiral bound tablets, as I put it, her CIA detective tablets, from her purse to look for some written piece of information that was vital to the conversation.  I became enthralled with what she had written in these tablets.  Firstly, they were filled willy-nilly with information about everything and nothing in no particular order. There were web URL addresses, random people's names, quotes from a sermon, notes from a self-defense class, the score to her IQ test, an old grocery list, and a small drawing resembling a woodland creature. 

My eyes fell to the page with subway sandwiches and toppings written on it.  I asked her, "Why do you have sandwich choices and toppings written in this tablet."  Hers was a classic Mennonite pleaser response, "Well, I ordered sandwiches a few times for these people and I thought if I ever need to do it again for them I will know what they like and have it written here in the tablet."  I smiled and asked her, "Well, I notice there are no names by the sandwiches.  Do you have the people's choices memorized?  And better yet, do you remember who these people were that you once ordered subway sandwiches for?"  She began to roar in laughter realizing her "pleasing" others was a little out there as she really didn't remember who she had ordered the sandwiches for nor exactly why she was unable to tear it out of the tablet. 

I tell her all the time that to get through Step Three of the Mennonite Recovery Program she has to stop pleasing everyone to the detriment of herself.  Boundaries are good.  Helping others and paying it forward is noble.  Going to dinner with someone you don't want to maintain a friendship with is well, bondage.  And that will never ever get you to Step Four in the Mennonite Recovery Program - BEHAVIOR BASED AFFIRMATION:) 

(coming soon to a blog post - The Road To Mennonite Recovery - freeing yourself from a life of carbs)

3.06.2013

AHHHHHH


Today I thought about those little sighs of satisfaction that we experience from time to time.  Like for instance, after the first bite of a dish of Kilwin's ice cream there is a bit of um yeah that inevitably rolls off my tongue. I rarely eat ice cream (lactose intolerant), so a bite or two is about it for me.  I savor it.  My satisfaction and delight of its goodness comes out. 

Right now we are keeping my daughter and son-in-law's papillon named Fenley while they are in Africa.  Weighing in at about 10 pounds or so, he is just the size to hold.  And evidently they held him A LOT (I think the culprit more accurately would be that my daughter, Hannah, held him a lot).  He seems to need a great deal of attention, particularly of the touching and holding kind.  When you pick him up to hold him close he actually makes little gruntie piggy noises.  The kind of noises that say "Oh uh-huh, yay I am being held and it makes me feel soooo good!  Attention, hooray!"  He grunts in delight and pleasure like a pig after it has filled its belly.

I do the same thing after I get done with projects that are visually changed with some work.  I must admit that after painting a room or taking down a wall inside the house by myself I survey my work.  Standing back to admire what my hand just completed I feel a deep sense of satisfaction. 

Babies do the same thing while breastfeeding.  It's a sort of gulping milk-induced happy tummy aura that takes place.  Look at the face of an infant immediately post breast feeding and you'll see evidence of a virtual "milk high".  Complete and utter (pun here!) satisfaction!

The glass of Silver Oak Cabernet from The Boathouse in Sutton's Bay, Michigan gave me that sense of satisfaction - the kind you want to repeat again and again and again.  You can have cheap wine till the cows come home, it doesn't leave you with palate satisfaction.  There is a bit of truth to the adage, "You get what you pay for."  That $110 bottle of wine was the smoothest Cabernet I've ever had.  No other since has been that good.

Every year when I get my files cleaned out and the taxes filed, I feel a deep river of satisfaction of completion.  There's a sense that have I accomplished something and am ready to face the financial year ahead with clean and empty files once again.  My ducks are all in a row and I can rest easy.  That is a great feeling of satisfaction!  Procrastination never brings that feeling.

When I single handedly replaced all the inner workings to my 1950's toilet and replaced nearly all the over head lights in my house all by myself, I felt significant satisfaction.  I also felt blessed that I had not electrocuted myself and that the toilet did NOT leak after getting all the parts and pieces back together. I still feel that same sense of accomplishment every time I sit on the toilet and flush or turn a light off and on.

Believe it or not I get a smidgen of that deep satisfaction every time I have a cold glass of water drank from a real glass (water is best very cold, no ice, served in a glass made of glass - so is a coke).  Water is my drink of choice which probably stems from my growing up on a farm.  We pretty much only drank water.  I'm not sure how such a simple without a taste sort of beverage can bring me such satisfaction.  My husband giggles every time I say, "I love water.  It tastes so good!"

3.05.2013

RE-FINDING MY HAPPY PLACE


Why is it we always want what we don't have, can't lose what we don't want, and never seem to get to what we want fast enough?  Even if totally unanswerable, they are three totally true trains of thought.  And, we all think  and feel them from time to time.

I don't know what birds think.  I wish I did though.  They seem to be present living types of creatures.  Quite often I sit on my sofa in the winter and see cardinals roosting in my barren crab apple tree.  To my eyes, and ears, they appear unaware - unscathed by the conditions around them.  Never do they seem to fall prey to those three trains of thought I mentioned at the start of the blog post.  In all kinds of weather they come to the tree.  Some days, if I were a bird, I would hide from the gray, the rain, the snow, the wind, the heat. 

Do those bird long, like I do, for things that they don't have?  Do they get tired of what they don't like not leaving?  Do they watch the clock for the future to bring what they know will come but isn't yet?

I'm not really bent to park my bus on those first three statements perpetually.  I do though have regular visitation rights.  This winter I have unfortunately and systematically cycled through them like water through a coffee maker, like a daily pinch of guppy food in a fish bowl, and as regularly as Tuesday is trash day in my neighborhood.  It's been a bit of a hamster wheel winter, which has just fueled my already blatant disdain and quite decidedly strong aversion to all things winter in the Midwest.  Sun calms my impatience that is genetically in me. 

Some days I have looked for happy, but didn't find him.  Some days the gray on the outside was actually lighter than the gray that seemed to hang inside of me.  Some days, much like when I rode the school, I began to think that winter and what I wanted to change would never come.  And when I wanted it to leave, it just didn't.  Patience is not one of my strong suites.  Just ask anyone who knows me.

Happy isn't a result of a circumstance.  Happy is a place I create.  Laughter isn't the result of a reaction to funny or lighthearted things.  Laughter is what makes things lighter.  Contentment isn't the final destination of all my dreams in place or even the completion of things I don't like.  Contentment is a frame of mind brushed with deliberateness for the moment of time I am in.  It is finding the prism in the water from the sprinkler heads.  It is seeing a four leaf clover right where I am standing.  It is viewing the past in the rear view mirror and the future wide open in front of me. 

Then I let myself off the hook just a bit.  I was missing my daughter and son-in-law who have been in Africa for the past two months.  I was adjusting to having their dog on a daily basis.  I was battling a thyroid that took yet another dump.  I was facing the uncertainty and struggle of vocation mixed in at somewhat hyper levels.  I was looking at some big life changes coming down the pike.  And, it was cold and gray and there was snow.

Seasons start and eventually fade into the next one. I knew that even if I couldn't feel it fully right now.  I did eventually stop riding the school bus by about age 15.  Things do change...but it seems never as fast as I want when I don't want what I currently have.  There isn't such a thing as the grass is greener on the other side.  Over there is just new uncharted problems.  And me watching the pot for the first signs of it boiling only makes me just a little bit loony.  A timer works better.  It's a form of distraction!

3.04.2013

THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS OF LENT


It's the Lenten season.  What does that mean exactly?  Is that found specifically in the Bible? 

Definitively Lent is the 40 day period leading up to Easter (not counting Sundays).  Why 40 days?  40 days is probably just a long distance cousin to the 40 days of prayer and fasting that Jesus endured when tempted in the desert.  40 seems to be a magical God number used a great deal in the Bible.  We could possibly say that it appears to be one of God's favorite numbers. 

Most of the practices and methods of Lent are just that, practices and methods tooled by man.  They have morphed and evolved into what we know today.  Though not in the Bible specifically, Lent's design and purpose is to focus our hearts, minds and bodies on salvation that God offers to us and gave us through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus - EASTER!

Lent is a special time of prayer, penance, sacrifice and good works in preparation of the celebration of Easter.  It is a time of reflection, a change in habits, a giving of a sacrifice to God, a conscious turning to pointedly think about God and pray more deliberately.  In some regard it is like a 40 day sabbatical from the normal and self-centered ways and culture we live in.  It is meant to foster, through a dedicated thought process and lifestyle changes, a significant resurgence to the prominence of God in our lives. 

Most people, even if they don't associate with organized religion or possibly even a relationship to Christ, use Lent as a time to "give up" something in an effort to show God or sometimes self, that we can sacrifice for someone greater than ourselves - that our lives are more than just lived for self.  That "something" that is given up for 40 days (Ash Wednesday through Easter morning) is very personal and something that is going to cost you something - a constant showing of willpower or denial.

Some people give up soda, chocolate, dairy, meat (though during Lent meat is not eaten on Fridays typically), TV, cellphones, etc...  Others choose not to give up something but rather to give more to something that honors God like praying more or giving time weekly to those in need.  Still others incorporate a regular time of fasting during the 40 days of Lent .  Whether it's one meal a day or a day a week without food, the practice of fasting is one way we show God our focus is on Him. 

To be totally honest, God loves you just as much whether you give up something for Lent, give more to something during Lent or remain in the same pattern of life you were in before Lent started.  The point isn't to win more of God's favor - for Him to give us extra credit points because of our sacrifice.  We can never out give God's giving of His only son. 

The point of Lent isn't about us changing God's view of us by "cleaning up, giving up, or giving away more good things to others".  The point of Lent is take our eyes off ourselves and onto God.  It's about recognizing God's place in our lives.  It's about refocusing our left of the middle line way of living the other 325 days of the year to the person who created the world, gives us life and gave us His son, Jesus. 

If we give up anything, it should mostly just be ourselves to God.  That's really what God wants anyway - our whole hearts not just 40 days of non-caffeinated chocolate free living.