At first, I thought it would be easy to poke fun at Bobby Jindal. He started out with his “Oh yeah? Well I have a cool minority story, too” introduction, and moved quickly into an uber-folksy scold of the Democrats for their stimulus package. He may have been trying to update the standard Republican image of the condescending old, white man lecturing about the evils of government intervention (except in the bedroom), but he came out looking like an Indian Barney Fife struggling to get his gun out its holster.
I half expected him to flash that goofy grin and say “Silly Democrats, tax cuts are for the rich!”
But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it was not Bobby Jindal, or his odd delivery that was the problem. It was the message he delivered.
Maybe he deserves credit for being brave enough to come out after President “Yes we can!” and be Governor, “No we shouldn’t.” Unfortunately, that and his refusal to expand unemployment eligibility had effect of making him and most other Republicans appear tone deaf to the plight of the existing or soon-to-be unemployed. People are scared, terrified, dammit, and you have the nerve to come out and say that they shouldn’t be helped.
What’s amazed me in recent months is that nearly all the post-election chatter about why the Republicans lost has resulted in the conclusion “We weren’t conservative enough.”
Ok, never mind that scary Sarah Palin was, and continues to be, as conservative as it gets, and that voters in large numbers rejected her message of meanness. Insisting that you lost because you weren’t the polar opposite of the guy a majority of the country voted for is just deliberately obtuse.
Republicans are scolding themselves for abandoning their principles, but if we examine the “principled” response to the current situation, it’s easy to see why this isn’t working for them.
6% unemployment, and climbing? Tax cuts for the rich will jump start the economy.
Millions of uninsured? You and your doctor should make decisions about healthcare. If you can’t afford it, there’s your decision.
Fraudulent, abusive, and just plain unsound practices in the financial sector? Regulation? We don’t need no stinkin’ regulation!
Millions of single parent households living in poverty? Stop gay marriage!
See what I mean? Tone deaf. Obtuse.
The problem is that Republicans are so busy lecturing the country on what they should be angry about that they are not listening to what Americans really are angry about.
Note to Republicans: we tried it your way. That’s how we got into this mess. In the words of the strange, but currently popular saying: EPIC FAIL.
And cracking open your roll of tokens to deliver the same tired old message isn’t going to make it better.
In my twenties, I had a publishing career. I look back on it fondly although at the time I was nearly constantly frustrated, thinking I would never get ahead and I would never make enough money. Like, ever. I worked for a few different companies, some you will have heard of, others not. People outside the industry thought it was glamorous, people inside the industry would roll their eyes. I would move to a new company whenever I hit a dead end, and by the end of the 90s I got out of the industry altogether because the technology side of my interests had taken over.
The last company I worked for was the place I stayed the longest. It was a small company with a distinct culture, a lot of pressure, and a lot of drama. There were wine and cheese parties every Friday, and so much work, you'd frequently see wine glasses on people's desks Monday morning, indicating that they had gone back to work on a Friday evening, after the social hour. There were a lot of characters. There was laughing, there was apparently a lot of crying - "Don't worry," a senior female exec told me in the ladies room " S____ (one of the VPs) makes all the women cry if they are here long enough. You have just been initiated."
I learned a lot from that job, both about business, and about the rest of the country. My first travels around the country were for trade shows in places like Mobile, AL, Louisville, KY, and Denver, CO. My company threw lavish parties for both authors and clients; always in some unique and interesting venue. We ate well. I learned quickly to attach myself to one of the VPs at the major shows and inevitably I would be part of a large group going to a fabulous restaurant in the area, sharing expensive bottles of wine and not worrying about the prices on the menu, listening to stories of the early days when they didn't have it so good.
Up until that point, I'd been an incredibly picky eater. My co-workers would goad me into trying new things until it became a challenge I set for myself: at least one new food on every trip. There were the escargots in Ft. Lauderdale, the alligator fritters in Alabama, the ostrich in Denver, Barbeque in Texas, different kinds of fish all over the South, something with a mole sauce somewhere else.
That was before smoking bans, when it wasn't uncommon for restaurants to print and give away matchbooks. I had a whole collection, but they were taking up space and I eventually started using them to light candles. Some of the restaurants are no longer in business. When I returned to Denver last year, I tried to find the modern Italian restaurant I'd been to 10 years earlier (fancy, very flat matches with the tiniest of tips, good food, too), but to no avail. A post from Sarah got me researching a place I had loved in Kentucky, and I was thrilled to find it still there. Of course, between the kids and the money involved, I'm not sure I'll ever eat like that again.
The company had a winning formula of sorts. It involved producing high quality materials and treating your authors and customers well, among other things. But I learned enough about business to see that they also had a parent company breathing down their necks;ready to pounce the first time that formula did not produce the stunning sales numbers we achieved year after year. I left about six months before that happened. The staff was pretty much decimated after a year and a half.
I do miss those days, though I was very young, and not very happy while I was going through them (a bit like high school, really). I've been out of touch with most of my co-workers from those days, but with the advent of Facebook, and Linked In, I have been thinking about many of them a lot lately. This is especially true of my immediate boss, who was an awesome go-getter, and still very funny. The last time I saw her she was 8 months pregnant with her first child. That was quite a while ago.
Publishing houses didn't have instructional designers back then, and they don't have a ton of them now. In the years that I was home with the boys, ID became a more valued profession. An ID job at a publishing firm came across my screen recently. I thought about it for a millisecond. I'm pretty happy where I am.
And I don't think anything could match those years.
I hate telemarketers. Who doesn't? Well, I suspect it's a bit like waitressesing in that if you've ever done it, you are careful to treat others with a certain amount of respect.
Me? I had an inside sales job for 6 months that involved cold calling libraries. It was business to business, I wasn't calling people at dinner time, or during Obama's inauguaral speech(!), or at 8 AM on a Saturday morning. Still, when I left that job for a host of reasons, all of them bad, I had a phobia of the phone that I never really got over. To me the phone is the communication tool of last resort.
I have caller ID, so I don't generally answer if the phone number is not identified. My neighbor's cell phone comes up as PRIVATE. A few telemarketers do use that, and I think that may have been what happened to allow Bank of America to get me on the phone.
They were selling a credit reporting service that sent you a report every month (every month?). They would sent us a "free report" this month, but if we didn't want the service, we would have to remember to call and cancel or pay the $12.99 monthly fee for the service. Of course they are counting on me to forget to cancel the service for at least a month and thereby get money out of me for something I didn't want in the first place. I told them this and said I wasn't interested.
She wouldn't take no for an answer. After an exchange that seemed interminable, she gave me a toll free number in case I was ever interested in the service and bumped me up to her supervisor. Uhm, why?
When the supervisor came on the line he thanked me for subscribing to the service... and I lost it.
"I SAID NO!!! How many different times, how many different ways, how many different people, do I have to say no to?" I was trying to be polite but you people are as slimey as they come. Don't you dare send me anything and don't call here again."
And as he calmly went through assuring me how much I would love the service, I hung up.
It's quiet here. For the first time in six years I am waking up to an empty house. Yesterday Piper took the boys up to NH to go tubing. They will be back later this afternoon.
I can move slowly. I can pay attention to the things that need picking up, the laundry that needs to be transferred to the dryer, and I can take my time in the shower.
Not even the dog is here, but I open the back door anyway and look out. I feel the crisp air on my face. The sun is bright, if not quite warm. I will not go out for the walk that I planned because it is later than I expected and I do need to start work. Maybe after lunch.
I saw a coyote loping through the back yard yesterday. Today, there is only the pair of cardinals that have been with us all winter, and a few other birds I can't name. I wonder how Tigger is doing with his bird watching project for school. His grandfather has both seed and suet feeders hung before the bank of windows that look out onto the woods. They have many more birds than we ever get. I hope Tigger hasn't forgotten to count.
At seven, I did not know what a black-capped chickadee was.
It's only February, but it feels like Spring is in the air. Even if it is supposed to snow tomorrow. Bah! I've seen, in the sunny places in town, little green things poking up from the ground. It will be here before we know it.
If I didn't have work to do, I'd empty the big cupboard and wash down all the shelves. I'm getting that Spring cleaning bug. Because it's quiet, and I can straighten one part of the house without a mess being made in another.
Maybe we should do something like this again - for April vacation.
This weekend in an effort to further the storeroom-to-office conversion, I finally went through the last of my Martha Stewart Magazines, ripped out the recipes, and recycled the rest.
Now, in order to understand what a big deal this is, you should know that I subscribed to and saved every issue of Martha Stewart Living magazine for nearly 10 years. My copies went from the mid-nineties to somewhere around 2004 when I realized that Piper was reading them more than I was. We stopped the subscription somewhere around the time that Martha accepted her jail sentence rather than continue fighting the celebrity show trial that was the charges pressed against her. I felt guilty about it because I've always admired her from a business standpoint, and her legal troubles were not the reason I was cancelling the subscription. In fact, I thought she was being made a spectacle of when there were so many oh, let's call them "Bush Campaign Contributors" that deserved the same or greater scrutiny. I thought she had guts to do the time and I understand that she not only used it as a writing sabbatical of sorts, but that she made life better for the women around her as well.
OK, back to the point of this post.
I saved Living issues the way some people collect National Geographics. Instead of shelves or piles of signature yellow spines, mine were all white with season-appropriate font colors. It took me six months to go through all the copies; it was somewhat disturbing and a bit like recognizing that you'll never realize a dream.
When I first started reading Living, in the early 90s, my adult life was just beginning, and so it was still in the realm of possibility that the life I would build might resemble what I saw in the pages of the magazine. Now I know how staged most of those photos were, I the house I lived in growing up, and the furniture I lived with were the subject of more than a few articles in magazines about my mother's collection. But knowing how those illusions were built didn't stop me from wanting them to be real.
What I wanted, that I saw in those pages, was not domesticity and craftiness, exhibited in the early pages of each issue; but the images of good food, good friends, and effortless entertaining, that usually filled the latter half of the magazine. I knew I was domestically inept, and while I took on a few of Martha's projects, they were those of the five-step rather than the twenty-step variety. And the collecting section - well clearly I was good at that. But what escaped me was the calm retreat in which to either relax, or entertain guests or both. **
Now I never had that even before we had children, but with two boys, the house is full of, not just my clutter - stacks of books, notebooks, and clothes, but all manner of legos, train tracks, school papers, and cars. And as I wander around fruitlessly trying to keep up with the mess, it is the broken toys that upset me the most. Last year, Pumpkin had an obsession with smashing things, mostly matchbox cars. This year, he doesn't do anything like that, but I still find broken pieces of things all around. I know they are boys, but it just seems so strange that they don't value what they have. I just can't remember being like that with my things. And I do have way too many things.
We've never gotten around to getting permission from the town to put in a shed ($350 for just the application), so our yard in the winter looks a bit more like Sanford and Son than English garden. Now that the snow is melted but everything is still dead looking, the detritus of our life seems too exposed. We don't have trash pickup in our town, so getting rid of the broken and rusted wheelbarrow would mean getting into the back of the newish car to haul it to the dump. I've been avoiding this because of the dirt involved, but it must be done. Perhaps I can find a tarp or something to protect the car with. That's not the only thing that needs to go, but it is the most obvious.
This is all part of the effort I'm undertaking this year to
eliminate distractions throw shit out. You would have thought we would have taken care of most of it in the construction project and the related move out of and back into the house. We threw out a lot before the house was partially demolished, but there's so much more to go. I swear it breeds.
*With apologies to William Carlos Williams. BTW, a bit of personal trivia; the poet's son, William E. Williams, was my pediatrician in NJ. My mother believes that he saved my life. Another one of my childhood doctors was the grandson of the stained glass artist John La Farge.
** Damn. One of Martha's guest on her President's Day show was Bill Clinton. Can you just imagine? Who do you think would be more intimidated?
Well, this is the first time I have ever, ever, been tagged with a meme (thank you CD, it's nice to know someone on the internet loves me), and it was on Facebook not in the Blogosphere. Posting it here might be akin to cheating, but tough. I wrote it, I might as well use it.
1. I’m a storyteller. Everything in life is fodder for a story.
2. I’m an inveterate people-watcher. See above.
3. There are few things in life I enjoy more than talking with friends late into the night.
4. In my next life I’ll be a morning person. I’m sure it’s a lot easier that way.
5. I’m a tea drinker. Coffee to me is dessert. It must have a lot of milk and sugar and preferably chocolate.
6. I think I had my first sip of (black) coffee at age 6. It was so bitter I never tried coffee again until I was in my 30s. I remember when I was a freshman in college that my classmates seemed too young to be drinking coffee.
7. One night, around my 18th birthday, I found myself up on a rooftop under the CITGO sign in Boston. It was a Mary Tyler Moore hat-tossing moment. I felt I’d arrived.
8. I’m old enough to remember Mary Tyler Moore.
9. 20 years later I had that same feeling running around Paris for the first time.
10. One of my few regrets in life is never having done that semester abroad. I’m grateful for the travel experiences I have had since.
11. I believe that travel changes you.
12. I realized how strong I really am on that first trip to Russia. It was a revelation.
13. Watching my kids figure out new things is like magic to me. It may be the best part of motherhood.
14. What I want for my kids is the opportunity to exercise their talents, the courage to make and learn from mistakes, and the desire to be good men like their father and grandfathers.
15. I don’t talk much about it, but my husband and his family are about the best thing that’s ever happened to me.
Ahem, moving on….
16. I’m a political junkie. NO Kidding!
17. If I had it to do over again, I would have majored in journalism and poli-sci. However, given the state of the news business these days, it’s just as well I didn’t.
18. I’d like to go back to school…again.
19. My next job will not involve quite so much time sitting at a desk.
20. I find encounters with wildlife about as close as I’m going to get to a Divine message of any kind.
21. When we came upon a lynx in Alaska and one of the guides told us he’d never seen one in the 13 years he’d been coming to Alaska, it was pretty special.
22. And yet, I’m a city girl at heart.
23. I would still like to teach some day.
24. And write more.
25. This brings me back to storytelling – I think everyone’s got a story worth telling. What’s yours?
I don't typically remember my dreams most of the time. This morning I woke up with a tension headache which I've had on and off for most of the day and which I am convinced is related to the dream I had.
I either broke in or wandered in to a complete stranger's house in a neighborhood I was unfamiliar with. I was a caught by the rather extended family who lived there (really, there were so many people I didn't know that they were either having a party or had a multigenerational living arrangment). Somehow I was able to say my mea culpas to the attending throng and escape. Once I got out to the street, I discovered that my car had either been stolen, or had been towed. In other words, I wasn't going to get away with what I had just done without explaining what I was doing there to my own family.
Oddly, the car I was missing was not the one I currently drive, but either the white Subaru I was driving last year, or the white Dodge Shadow that was my first car nearly 20 years ago. Hard to tell.
Then I woke up. With a headache.
And because I don't typically remember my dreams, but I remember this one, the thought of it and what it might mean have been bugging me all day.
That's probably also why I can't get rid of this headache.
Is that an aria or a siren?
I live in a town where people sing opera on the streets, and other people call the police on them. Still other people write to the local paper to complain about the people calling the police and at least one person (me) has now blogged about people writing to complain about people who call the police on opera singers.
Demented and sad, but social.
So I've been doing this Facebook thing for 3 or 4 weeks. It was fine when it was just my high school friends who knew me at my weirdest and we communicated in utter silliness, but now I have relatives and current friends friending me on Facebook, and I feel like I have to watch what I say, which is no fun at all. Of course, I'm on there using my real name, so it's not like I'm going to get carried away, but still, it feels awkward.
I'm also trying to decide if there's anything to be gained professionally on Facebook and other social networking sites. For instance, there are a couple of Instructional Design groups but it looks like none of them have been active in over a year. I think if I had a buiness to promote it might be useful. I get updates about two of my favorite shows and one invite from a local activist group I joined, but I feel like I'm missing the point of this whole experience. What am I not getting?
One other thing - I have generally stayed out of the whole anti-Facebook debate about forbidding breastfeeding photos. At the time it erupted, I was not on Facebook and my children were adopted so breastfeeding was never an issue. It's hard for me to relate the to the need to post such a thing, but I never understood the need to remove them either.
But then there are articles like this that give you pause. 90,000 is an astounding number! And those are just the convicted ones using their real names or other identifying information. If I wasn't already extremely careful about what I post online, I sure would be after that.
Banking on Spring
There's a fairly new bank building on my way home that has one of those marquis displays. Usually those types of things display the time and the date. Not this one. This one is used for advertising and sometimes to indulge the humor of the bank manager. Sometimes when I go home it is promoting some kind of interest rate; sometimes it reads GO PATS!! One night it simply said "Outstanding" with no other explanation. Last Thursday, the marquis displayed something that truly warmed my heart. On that night it read:
PITCHERS AND CATCHERS REPORT IN 14 DAYS!!!!
Dear Parent or Guardian of (Pumpkin):
Magellan Behavioral Health has been authorized by Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey to administer its Managed Mental Health Program. As such we are responsible for reviewing mental health and/or substance abuse treatment to ensure that it is medically necessary and appropriate for payment purposes.
We recently conducted a review for 12 hours of CPT# 96118, Psychological Testing for the above named member.
Based on the information reviewed, Magellan Behavioral Health is unable to authorize 12 hours of Psychological Testing, (96118) due to the following reasons: A request for 12 hours of testing was reviewed. Twelve (!2) hours of testing was not able to be approved since it appears the purpose of the testing is for the assessment of intellectual, academic, scholastic, and learning issues, and as such is excluded under the plan.
In all situations, the provider must use his or her professional judgement to provide care believed to be in the best interest of the member. Final decisions regarding claim payments are based on eligibility, benefits, and coverage at the time services were rendered.
If you disagree with the determination....
Dear Magellan Behavioral Health:
I read with disgust your cold, impersonal, form letter stating that you would not cover psychological testing for my son, and can't help but point out that this is the first time I or any member of my family has sought mental health services and the first time in 20 years any member of my family has been deemed ineligible for coverage under Blue Cross Blue Shield. Coincidence? I think not.
I take particular issue with your use of the term "medically necessary" and wonder what, in the mental health field, qualifies as medically necessary. Must the patient be a danger to himself or others? Can we do nothing that might qualify as a preventative measure?
Let me assure you that, if this were not a necessity, I would not be pursuing it. I am not one of those moms chasing a diagnosis so I can get my son some extra time on a test. Despite what you might think, very few of us are like that. It took a long time for me to admit that doing this testing was a necessity and you are treating me like some frivolous worry wart.
As a result, it's going to cost me close to $2000 to have this testing done. And you won't even cover a fraction of it. That's shameful. I do wonder how much BCBS is paying you to deny benefits to mental health patients. And I wonder how you sleep at night.
To add insult to injury, you have this form letter printed on lovely cream stationery bearing the tagline "Getting Better All the Time." Is that supposed to apply to your would be patients or your bottom line?
There is one consolation, though. I have seen more than a few flashes of brilliance in my son, and I will spend the rest of my life trying to nuture them, secure in the knowledge that when he grows up, he will not be stuck in a crappy paper-pushing job, denying benefits in poorly written letters such as yours.