Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Glass is Always Full*



A follow-up to all this health insurance rigmarole:  I discovered Friday that because my employer has been deducting my health insurance premiums through their plan, they deduct them pre-tax. So terminating this overpriced coverage bumped me into a higher tax bracket, which means I have been fighting to get insurance through the marketplace for three months only to find that now that I have done so, it actually puts me in a worse financial position. My take-home pay is higher, but once I pay for my health insurance premiums post-tax, I will actually have less money than had I just left the whole thing alone.

[insert sad trombone music: *womp-womp-WOMP*]

I went home from work Friday night completely defeated. A little angry, but mostly just beaten down, because there is pretty much no hope of me getting a raise at work, since I work at a cash-strapped social services non-profit. Many of the staff here are working multiple jobs to pay their bills. I don’t know anyone who is getting their family’s insurance through the company because it is so cost-prohibitive, and the salary increases we occasionally get do not keep pace with the cost of living.

It is a frustrating position to be in when you believe in the mission of an organization but realize you can’t afford to work there.

So the writing is on the wall. I need to move on. But the 800-dollar question is, to where?

Oh, and by the way, California is running out of water. So there’s also that then. 

But then the world also made this:

Source: attackofthecute.com. Naturally.

So something is going right out there. Right? You think?

* Technically, the glass is not half-empty or half-full. It is always full – half with water, half with air. Didn’t I blow your mind this time? Didn’t I?

Monday, March 23, 2015

This is Not Pinterest

Found--where else?--Pinterest. Originally posted here.
Whenever I sit down to write after a blog absence, I want to be writing about something positive. But today, I am writing because I am really at the end of my rope. I realized that if I wait until something fantastic is happening, I might never get on here. And I realized that the blogs that I read, I generally read because they are helpful, and provide insight, or at least make me laugh. But I also realized that a lot of what we see online makes it appear that everyone’s lives are happy, shiny things and that’s obviously because that’s what people choose to show us—the Pinterest, ApartmentTherapy, Design*Sponge moments where everything is beautiful.

My life is not shiny and happy right now. And I’m not going to act like it is.

I don’t want to get into all the details, naturally, but we currently have no health insurance because I can no longer afford the health insurance my employer offers. I have been struggling for HOURS on the phone and sending documentation to Covered California to get “affordable” health insurance – since December. Yesterday I called Blue Shield to pay my premium for April and for the second time in as many months discovered that they have no record of my application and haven’t received any of the updated information I’ve been sending to Covered California.  

I have been trying to sort this out over the past few months, throughout flu season. Every time one of my kids sneezes I look at her with dread. What if, like last year, Viva got pneumonia? Or something worse? What if one of us develops something serious that needs serious medical care? Last year we dealt with cancer in my family and I thanked God every day for decent insurance. I pray that we stay healthy and that I can sort this insurance fiasco out in the next two weeks. If we don’t have insurance by April 1, I think we are pretty much screwed out of insurance until November. Completely bananas that I have a job—I work full-time—but we are so out here on the edge. I feel angry and somewhat ashamed and then angry again, because it’s not like I haven’t been jumping through every damn hoop they put in front of me.

There’s more to say – health insurance is only one of several issues that are eroding my stomach lining right now – but I will totally fall down the rabbit hole if I get started, and then where will we be?

At any rate:  I feel like we have been going through an extended rough patch which has now lasted years and so I am not posting pretty light-filled things. I am just hanging on, and I know I am not the only one out there.

 
Written:  March 19, 2015. Posted:  March 23, 2015. Updated Info:  coming soon (one hopes with a bit more zing).

Friday, December 12, 2014

No one can stop you but you


https://creativeconstruction.files.wordpress.com/2014/12/writing.jpg
As found here
Pressure has stepped up at work, blah blah blah. More hectic than before, blah blah blah.

In the meantime, my children are suddenly both giants (Viva wears a size 9.5 women's shoe, Lord help us) and I don't know how that happened. I am trying to keep up with everything they're up to, in between making dinner and doing laundry. Sweet Dub is working nights right now on two different freelance gigs. Evenings are exhausting, just so much to do. I love my kids and realize how quickly the time is passing so I am trying my damnedest to be present -- to hear about their days, to know who is friends with who, check on the homework, know what field trips and food drives and music recitals are coming up, harass them into the shower after dinner, harass them out of the shower when bedtime is already past, open their bedroom door and shush them well after lights out. Let's not even get into the Sunday night hair marathon. My kids have so much hair. It needs conditioning and detangling and braiding or twisting up. It is not a low-maintenance blessing.

Well, and so, writing, you know? Not so much.

Right before Sweet Dub got the second night gig, he and I had come up with a new concept for a joint website to launch in the new year. We have not had time to work on it. I am hoping -- no, I mean to say I am PLANNING. INTENDING. to carve out time during the week between Christmas and New Year's to get it together. It must be done, else the time will keep unraveling away and we will be in the same spot. 

Time to get it done! 

PetsLady's Pick: Cute Animal of the Day  ... from PetsLady.com ... The FUN site for Animal Lovers
Image found (where else?) on Pinterest.






Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Whoops! Er, and hello.

Oh, hey, it's that time of year. That time when some people are writing a novel all month, and some people are blogging all month - like, every day, they blog. 

Clearly, I am not one of those people. I completely forgot about it, and then I was catching up on my blog reading as one does, and one of the bloggers I follow mentioned that NaBloPoMo thing and I had that "smack in the head V-8" moment. Oops.

In other news...

Hello! I have not fallen off the face of the earth. I have just been consumed by work and family, to the exclusion of all else. Work is currently such a huge energy suck that until recently I would just come home and collapse, occasionally making something halfway edible for the kids to eat if Sweet Dub had to work in the evenings. But then the Halloween/birthday rush began.

I nearly always end up making at least part of the Halloween costumes for my kids. This is because (a) I think many store-bought Halloween costumes cost more than they are worth and (b) I really do enjoy trying to find the perfect element to make the costumes work and staying up late and putting them together. I also enjoy planning the birthday parties. It was just a very intense time the past couple of weeks because Halloween parties and birthday parties converged. Ceeya's birthday is Oct. 22 and she turned SIX:


and her birthday weekend plans included not only her birthday party but a Halloween dance at the middle school for Viva, as well as a birthday party for one of Ceeya's new classmates the day after her own party.

We rolled straight from that weekend into spirit week at one school, Halloween carnival at the other, culminating in trick or treating on Friday night with old friends. Rolling straight from that into joint birthday celebrations for Ceeya and my stepdad this past weekend with my family in Ventura County.

Man, I am tired. Just a few weeks to Thanksgiving, my friends!

Not to mention there is some kind of political process happening, er, today. I am thankful for absentee ballots. Not to mention being thankful that I can vote, period.

Sure would be good to get some sleep though. I'll add that to my to do list.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Training Your Brain



Can we talk about Common Core for a minute? You know, the new standards being rolled out in public schools across the United States? The theory behind them is that they are supposed to help kids develop critical thinking and real-world problem-solving skills.

When I first started reading about Common Core, I thought, “Well, how could that be a bad thing?” and a little later on, “What are people so up in arms about?” and “What is the big deal with Common Core?”

Oh, my friends, now I know.

A quick detour:  my oldest child, Viva, has always been a good student. Her favorite subject is math. She was fortunate to have a 3rd grade teacher who was nuts about math and imparted that enthusiasm to her class. In the 4th grade, Viva was graced with another great teacher – a former engineer – who nurtured that enthusiasm and then “looped” with the class, teaching them 5th grade the following year. He developed units on entrepreneurship and running a business, and created a mock medical school program. He selected Viva as one of a group of students to troubleshoot computer issues for her classmates on their iPads. He got her excited about Science Camp! All of these experiences pretty much solidified Viva’s desire to study engineering and/or computer coding when she attends college in the Great Someday.

Until this week, when she brought home a math test with a score of 83. Now, 83/100 is not a bad score. But it is not the type of grade she usually brings home, and she was upset. And when I began reviewing the test, I started to understand why. In Common Core, when you solve a math problem, you don’t just write down the answer and move on. You write down the answer and you have to explain how you got there. And if you don’t explain it exactly as the teacher wants you to, you don’t get full credit for the right answer. So if a question is worth four points, and you get the problem right but don’t explain it “correctly,” you lose a point. On nearly every question, instead of getting a 4/4, Viva was getting 3’s.

For one question, the teacher took issue with Viva writing that an explanation about the “larger” number as opposed to the “greater” number. Seriously. She took off a point for that. Sweet Dub and I reviewed the entire test with her and came to the following conclusion: you basically just have to learn the game. It sucks, because they are now changing the rules midstream, but it’s a game. And that sucks, because what it bolls down to is, you have to now figure out what the teacher wants to hear. Which isn’t critical thinking at all.

Last night, we were reviewing her math homework, and Viva was now getting stuck. Intimidated by this new challenge. She told me that she was certain now that she was going to get it wrong, no matter what she did.

I won’t lie. My first reaction, because I am from Boston and we are all filled with rage, was to be pissed. I know that middle school is when girls slide away from math. They start to think of it as a “boys” subject. And even when they have a natural talent for it, they stop excelling at it. This is why we have so few women in math and science fields. But then I stopped myself. Because I realize it is something new, and it is hard, and when I asked Viva to explain her rationale for one problem, she did. And she was right, at least from my perspective.

And I think this is good for her. She’s lucky that so far math has come easy to her, but research shows that when you realize that you can build up your abilities through effort you actually learn more.

Today, I read an article which reinforced this for me. It’s called “The Learning Myth:  Why I’llNever Tell My Son He’s Smart.” I particularly liked this:


Recently, I put into practice research I had been reading about for the past few years: I decided to praise my son not when he succeeded at things he was already good at, but when he persevered with things that he found difficult. I stressed to him that by struggling, your brain grows.


Here’s to growth, and to helping all of us persevere.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

All In



So life has sped up, as it often does once the summer break from school ends and the new school year begins. Our day-to-day life is more hectic, and we all seem to feel a bit frazzled and disconnected. Added to that, here in greater Los Angeles we are experiencing a heat wave, so our apartment radiates with the heat of one thousand suns.

Last night when I came home, Ceeya was wandering about in nothing but her underpants and Sweet Dub was lolling about in an armchair with an ice pack on his head. (We don't have air conditioning.)

"Everybody get themselves together," I said. "We are out of here in five minutes!"

And we went and picked up sandwiches and trekked out to the beach for a picnic dinner on the sand. The surf was really high, waves were crashing fantastically against the shore, the kids leaped about shrieking and laughing, and Sweet Dub and I sat on the blanket and breathed in the air and leaned into each other in quiet (and cool!) contentment. We watched the sunset. We watched our babies:



And then today I read this, and I loved it. It just reinforced how such simple things are so important and can help keep it all in perspective.
  
Because at some point in life the going in gets harder and so now, while you can, go in the water. …Go in before the going in feels impossible.

And this is a perfect reminder for me right now.