Sunday, August 23, 2009

Hear My Story: Why I Need Health Care Reform

My friends over at MOMocrats have launched a series called, "Hear My Story" in an attempt to help get the stories of people who are struggling under the current health care system out in the open so others can see the importance and need for health care reform. This is my story.

I've had Kaiser for almost as long as I can remember. Except for the chunks of time when my dad was out of work or working under the table, we always had it. As an adult every job I ever worked here in the Bay Area offered Kaiser as an option and I always took it. My husband has been an independent contractor for close to 9 years now, so my insurance was always the only choice. Both my kids were born in Kaiser hospitals and have been seeing the same pediatrician since the day they were born.

After my daughter was born I made the decision to open up a daycare out of my home and work for myself. This would enable to be home with my kids instead of sending them back to daycare. The price of Cobra was OBSCENE so we made the decision to get our own private plan through Kaiser. This would be cheaper than cobra and cheaper then most of the other plans we had the chance to get.

In the years since making that choice our monthly premium has continued to go up and we eventually had to switch to a deductable plan. This means that until we reach $1,500 individually or $5,400 as a family we have to pay full price for everything. Office visits, tests, prescriptions. On top of paying $524 a month.

I went from paying $10 for birth control to almost $60. Last year my son got sick with a bronchial infection. We were prescribed an inhaler and antibiotics. The price? $300. Now my husband and I are both self-employed. We live week-to-week and just barley make it. When that sudden $300 bill popped up (not counting the $75 it cost for the office visit) in the middle of the rent week, we couldn't pay it. Though that didn't matter to the pharmacy, because they can’t bill you there. So if we couldn't come up with the cash on the spot, we weren't going to get the prescription.

I begged, though tears, for the pharmacist to bill me, but the system flat wouldn't let her. She called my pediatrician and then sent me back down the hall to her office. I dragged my sick son back through the doctor's office and explained the situation to the pediatrician. She rewrote the prescription for a different kind of inhaler and a lesser dose and was able to bring the bill down to $150. We still had to borrow against rent, but it wasn't as big of a chunk as the $300.

That's just one incident. We have a stack of bills for office visits that we can't pay and are always a month behind paying our premium.

Our last year taxes show we make more than what Medicare will allow, even though as of next week I am no longer doing daycare. Not that we'd really want to switch, we love Kaiser. We just can't afford it.

The kicker is that in San Francisco they have a city wide Health Plan. Thanks to Mayor Gavin Newsom, Kaiser is part of that plan. And we would qualify. If we were to live just 40 short minutes away, our Kaiser would be free.

They have options under their plan. They have choices and they are a better community because of it. We, as a nation, need options. We need affordable ones. I need to be able to deal with my children when they get sick without having to worry about how I'm going to pay for the antibiotics or even just an office visit. I need help.

I had private insurance paid for by an employer for years. Then one day I didn't. I chose to start my own business. I chose to work at home so I could be with my kids. Why should I be penalized for those choices by not having an affordable option for health care?

Raise my taxes to pay for it I don’t care. It will still be cheaper than what I have to pay every month or each time someone in my family gets sick.

Do you have a story to tell? Visit MOMcrats and tell YOUR story.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Top 10 Songs to Send Your Child off to School By

This weekend we went out and completed all our school shopping, I can't believe my little man is going to be in the 1st grade. Where does the time go? Well it got me thinking about how I'm just as emotional facing 1st grade as I was facing Kindergarten. So as a tribute to my own son AND daughter who starts Pre-K this year as well, I am posting this piece I wrote last year at this time. For all of you moms out there who are watching there child move from one stage of life into another...

Top 10 Songs to Send Your Child off to School By

I have recently found myself facing one of the biggest milestones a parent can reach while raising children, my young son will be entering Kindergarten. As any of you who have been through this, or will soon be facing it know, it is something that fills you with a myriad of emotions.

On one hand, I find myself brimming with excitement. PTA meetings, school plays, homework, watching my son grow from a boy into a young man. What’s not to look forward to? Other times I look at him, and all I see is that sweet blue-eyed boy that we brought home from the hospital five short years ago. How can I send my baby out into the world? Will one of those little girls running around be the first to break his heart? Will he stand up to his first bully, or have his spirit broke by him? Will he enjoy school, or will he rebel against it?

It’s so difficult to not know these answers, but know that I have to let him go anyway. There are parents out there reading this who are feeling this too. Maybe its not Kindergarten, maybe you’re sending yours off to college, or for some of you, you’re baby is getting married. Whichever one you’re facing, it’s still the same.

It just like when they were toddlers learning to walk. You wanted them to walk, but you feared for them, because you knew that they were going to have to fall before they could walk. As with any other big moment in life, I have a running soundtrack playing in my head right now. These are the songs that I hear playing in my head as I fill my son’s first backpack with school supplies. As I fill out his emergency cards, and shop for his new shoes. As I watch him begin his life.

So for every parent whose little one is starting Kindergarten, college, or simply starting their own life, here is a list of tunes to sneak onto their Ipod before they go.

1. Everything But The Girl-Apron Strings

Being a mom, the term “Apron String:” has a number of meanings, but the strings that are sung about in this EBTG tune are the ones that every mom wishes they could forever keep their baby safely wrapped in for the rest of their lives.

2. Kate Bush-This Woman’s Work

When its time for your child to begin making journeys on their own, without you, it leaves you plagued with fear. Have you done a good job? Have you given them all the tools they need to be strong and to succeed? Those are some of the questions that flood my mind when I hear this Kate Bush classic.

3. Cyndi Lauper-Time After Time

OK, so maybe this is slightly on the melodramatic side, but it truly captures the essence of what every parent desperately hopes for when letting go of their little one. That wherever your child goes they know that we will always be there. That when they need us to go slow, we will always fall behind, when they are lost we will always be there to help them find their way, and when they fall we will always catch them. Time after time after time.

(Honorable mention goes to True Colors)

4. Rod Stewart- Forever Young

One of the classic songs about what a parent feels for a child. So much so, that I’ve heard this song played at weddings, funerals, graduation parties, and baby showers. Its universal message of parental love comes through no matter what path of life you are on. I even used this song in a video I made for my parents 25thwedding anniversary. Now, as I look at my son who is so quickly turning from a boy to a young man, all I see is that young baby we brought home from the hospital about to go to school.

5. Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young- Teach Your Children

This tune is pretty much a given. I, like most parents I’m sure, hope that all of my crazy insecurities and quirks haven’t damaged my son too much. And I know in the years to follow he will have so much more to teach us than we could ever begin to teach him.

6. The Cast of Rent-Seasons of Love

It’s so surreal to look back on the years spent watching your child grow. This song always makes me flash on the idea of how many diapers have I changed? How many tears have I wiped away, scraped knees have I kissed? How many tickle fits, time outs, bowels of Mac & Cheese, swings, campfires, nightmares, sing alongs, legos, stories have I read, and kisses goodnight have there been? I couldn’t begin to count, but I could tell you that there have been miles and miles of love, and so many more miles to cover.

7. Kenny Loggins-Return to House at Pooh Corner

I was already past my due date with my son when I became obsessed with hearing this song. I hadn’t heard it in ages and with my son soon to be making his debut, I couldn’t get this song out of my head. So I dragged my very pregnant self to Target and bought Kenny Loggins greatest hits CD and sat in the parking lot and listened to it. I went home and sat in the nursery, decked out in all Winnie The Pooh d├ęcor, and listened to it again. Now as I listen to it almost six years later, with that same little guy about to embark on his own adventures, I’m still as excited as I was the day he was born.


8. Cat Stevens –Wild World

When most people hear this tune they automatically think “break up” song, but when I heard it on the radio recently, it kind of struck me how it’s about all the scary things that are out there. Bullies, mean teachers, broken hearts, friends who turn out to not be friends; all the things that a parent can’t ever protect a child from. It truly is a wild world out there.


9. Beautiful Boy- John Lennon

Though I feel so much that my son is growing up, this song makes me realize the reality is, he’s still my boy. And we do have such a long way to go. And each day life with him gets better and better, and I can’t wait to what the next part of his life will bring.

10. Three Little Birds-Bob Marley

If there was one message I could forever embed into my child’s mind to take with him everywhere he goes for the rest of his life, it would be this. Everything little thing is going to be all right.

For everybody who is entering into a new phase of parenthood, whether it is becoming a parent, sending a child off to Kindergarten or college, or sending them into marriage, I wish you the best, and if music captures you like it does me, listen to these with a hanky nearby.

Friday, August 7, 2009

My Life According to John Hughes

As I sit writing this I am listening to one of my all time favorite songs, Pretty In Pink by the Psychedelic Furs. A song that still stirs up so many melancholy feelings and memories that I can’t listen to it without a small lump rising from the depths of my gut all the way to my throat.

It took so many years for me to really be comfortable in my own skin. I was one of those kids that was teased mercilessly when I was young. I was the last one of the girls in the junior high locker room to wear a bra or shave my legs. My hair was a dirty reddish blond and I had freckles. I loved books and music. I wrote letters to Senators. I wrote short stories about time traveling kids and mysterious caves. In the third grade. Yes, I was born a geek.

When I was first introduced to the cliques and groups of the school years, I wanted to be cool. I wanted to hang out with the cool girls and be cool. But I wasn’t cool. At 31, I can look back and say that with much pride. I was not cool then, and I never would be. I’m ok with that now. But I wrestled with it then.

The L.A. Gears, the Aqua Net, and the Calvin Klein jeans, they weren’t me. They never would be. I would always be Levis and converse. Always be braids & ponytails. And I would always be uncool.

When I was in the 8th grade I realized that. And instead of fighting the part of me that was chronically uncool I gave in to it. I died my hair black. Traded in the L.A. Gear for converse and ripped Levis. I sat in my room blasting Psychedelic Furs, The Smiths, and Concrete Blonde.

Basically, I would never be Breakfast Club Molly Ringwald. I would always be Pretty in Pink Molly Ringwald.

Most of you reading this will get exactly what I mean by that.

Yesterday famed director and writer
John Hughes passed away at the young age of 59. He was my hero.

There are a million reasons why John Hughes impacted so many of people in my generation and beyond. And as I sit here to write a tribute to this amazing man, I realize that it would take a year to do so. But I’ll try anyway.

I always responded, even at a young age, to amazing storytelling. And above anything else in my whole life there is nothing I ever wanted to do more than that. Whether it be telling a story through words, music, or film.

John Hughes did, using all three mediums. He was able to bring to life characters that, all these years later, I still hold so very close to my heart. He was able to use music to help breathe life into a scene and make you truly feel in the depths of your soul what the character was feeling and going through.

He was able to make you laugh with every fiber of your being.

The man could tell a story. And he did tell stories. A million of them. He told my story. And that’s what was so personally inspiring to me.

I mentioned earlier about forever being uncool. A huge part of the reason why I was ever able to find some comfort in my uncool skin was the characters John Hughes brought to life, who were also uncool.

Keith in Some Kind of Wonderful was a favorite character that I related too. Never was there a better example of a teenager being cool with being uncool. At least in the end he was.

Even some of the later movies that dealt more with adulthood. She’s Having a Baby (another favorite, this amazingly autobiographical movie was based on Hughes’s life before becoming a famed screenwriter and director). Still gets me. More now then when I was a kid, obviously. I know what it is to be working a dead end 9 to 5 job, knowing that it’s not me. Knowing that I was meant to do more. Just not sure how to get it.

Basically I loved John Hughes because he touched me. He told stories that touched many people and made them feel better about who they were. He made a million teenagers feel comfortable in their own skin.

Well, at least he did for me.

For as long as I’ve been able to put pen to paper and create words, I’ve been a writer.

A few years ago I began getting paid to write. My first paying job was helping create content for a website that was in Beta and needed users to fill it up before it went public. The content? Memories related to music. My own personal memories and the songs that they related to.

I was getting paid to be John Hughes.

In the time I was writing those short stories, I did a lot of soul searching. I came to terms with a lot of things and I realized just how much I loved my life. The good the bad, and the ugly. And there has been a lot of all three over the years. And I attribute much of my surviving it all to the stories of John Hughes. His love of music and his way with words will always be a huge part of me.

The characters he brought to life will always be as dear to me as the real friends I shared my teen years with.

John Hughes may be gone but his legacy will live forever. In the heart of every poor teen who refuses to be defined by their social status. By every jock that knows that he is not better than everyone else. For every prom queen with a soul. For every geek who wears the title proudly. For every man who never quite grows up and for every family living and loving their life in the suburb’s of America.

Will I ever make a living as a writer? I hope so. Somehow, someway. Will I always write? Yes. Because, John Hughes showed me that when your life is full of colorful and amazing people and stories, it’s truly a crime to keep them to yourself.

I’ve always hated labels. I feel like I spent half of my childhood trying to find a label that fit and the other half trying to rip off any label anyone dared to put on me. And that’s the moral of almost every John Hughes movie. We can’t control, how other people see us, but we can control how we see ourselves when we look in the mirror.

In the immortal words of John Hughes (as said by Anthony Michael Hall),

"Dear Mr. Vernon: We accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong. But, we think you're crazy to make us write an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us, as you want to see us: in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But, what we found out is that each one of us is: a brain . . .
And an athlete . . .
And a basket case . . .
A princess . . .
And a criminal.
Does that answer your question?
Sincerely yours,
The Breakfast Club.”