There were fireworks on the bay that night. Christian contemplated the surreal evening as he watched the glittery embers drift and fizzle toward the ghostly city outlined on the horizon. He was so blindsided by everything that was happening that he was having trouble sorting through it. He couldn’t figure out if he was overwhelmed with extreme happiness or if he was gasping for air in the middle of a train wreck. Continue reading

A Human Challenge

Today I am following yesterday’s prompt from The Daily Post, which challenges us to write on anything we want for exactly 10 minutes:

I’ve held a conviction lately that we, as humans, aren’t supportive enough of each other. This sounds very broad, yes, but within it I’d like to create a challenge. I challenge you to donate 10% of your income to helping other people.

This seems quite simple and maybe even redundant to. Biblically, tithing is supposed to be 10% of your income donated to the church. Regardless of your religion, I challenge you (yes, you!) to set aside that 10% and figure out a way you can bless someone with it. How different would our lives look if we simply did this to help out our fellow humans?

Recently we got a bill from my husbands life insurance company. It was for a few hundred dollars, just to maintain our insurance in the case of his accidental death. This is the incident that really got me thinking. I could throw away that few hundred dollars to a huge insurance corporation with the hopes that I might get to see some of it in the case of my husband’s untimely death. And God forbid anything happen to me, because then we’re screwed. Or I can take that cash and donate it to some of my friends. I know that many of them are hurting for various reasons. One is going through treatment for Lyme disease. One just lost her husband. One is trying to save for an adoption. What would it mean if we, as humans, supported each other instead of insurance companies? Medical bills for untimely illnesses aren’t covered by any insurance companies, so anyone that is sick is guaranteed to have mounting expenses that they are probably having trouble paying for.

So, I challenge you this: Invest in each other. Bless people financially where they are hurting. There isn’t always a whole lot we can do to physically help each other, but sometimes money can take so much weight off of someones shoulders. Invest in each other, and have faith that if catastrophe ever found you, those people would rally around YOU and support you, too. I guarantee that the people in your life care more about you than any insurance company. Pour your heart into them and have faith that what goes around, comes around.

**GoFundMe.com and YouCaring.com are great crowd sourcing sites where many people with expenses that they can’t afford are investing their hope in fellow humans. Check them out if you like this idea and want to find people who need help!

Rant of the Day

I had to take my child to the Dr. today. She had an earache that wasn’t going away with warm drops of tea tree and coconut oil. Yes, I use these hippy medicines as my first line of defense, mainly because of what I am about to tell you. Are you ready to be floored, people? Get this – I had to pay $90.48 for them to tell me that my daughter had swimmers ear and for a prescription of antibiotic ear drops. The real clencher? We already pay somewhere in the ballpark of $14,000 per year in health insurance to make sure our perfectly healthy, relatively young family of four has health coverage.

If this was a one time thing, I wouldn’t even care that much. I would pay the money and wash my hands of it. But guess what? Back in July my other daughter had a sore throat. It wasn’t going away, and when I peaked back at her tonsils with a flashlight after a few days I could see the white spots. Damn. No hippy medicine for this, I was going to have to take her in. Check out this bill:

american insurance bill Kaiser Foundation

American insurance bill – Kaiser Foundation

At the time, we paid our $50 copay. Thank God she didn’t even have strep throat, so we didn’t have to front the money for the antibiotics. I thought we were all done with everything, but a month later we got the above bill. Turns out a NON-URGENT, same day office visit is $346.00. Phew – glad we only have to pay $75 of that out of pocket. Also note that it was ANOTHER $62 for them to “directly observe” her tonsils at the office visit, of which we only had to pay $15. Oh, and that last part? It was $44 for them to swab and culture her to make sure she really didn’t have strep. We paid $11, but they charged our insurance company (which, essentially, is themselves – the Kaiser Foundation) that other $33. To culture bacteria in a petri dish. Seriously, people. Our total out of pocket expenses for our daughter that day were $151. FOR THEM TO TELL US SHE DIDN’T HAVE STREP THROAT.

So, back to my poor Estelle’s ear infection. I expect we will get another bill for the rest of the costs in the next month. I’m 34 years old, and my kids are 9 and 10. My husband has been a public school teacher for the last 9 years (another rant, another day) and I can honestly say that this is the first year that I’ve felt raped by our healthcare system. I’ve known its been bad for a long time. Working in the public sector has not paid well by any means, but at least it’s always given us healthcare. Over the years, my mind has been blown by the percent increase in cost every year when open enrollment comes up. The district always has paid $1,000 every month for us toward health coverage. Nine years ago this gave us really good insurance, actually. Slowly, though, we’ve had to opt for less and less health coverage because as the cost of premiums increased, his salary did not. The school district covered the same amount, and this last year we had to pay an extra $200 or so on top of that thousand just to give us the bottom rung that they offer.

This is the first year that I’ve been afraid to take my kids to the doctor. I do everything I can to wait it out, to make sure they REALLY have to go before I take them in. I get ill thinking about how much I’m going to have to pay, and I pray that nobody gets really sick. We are considered middle class America, and I am worried about what this means. It should be a right of everyone here to not fear taking your children to the doctor. I don’t know a good solution, but I know something needs to change. I paid for our prescription yesterday and when I walked outside with my daughter I cried. I feel so dirty. But hey, it’s good to know that the VP of Architecture at Kaiser Permanente gets paid 200k per year. Because that, folks, is an extremely important job. (See more salaries at http://www.glassdoor.com)

Annie

She didn’t let go.

She didn’t want to look at him because she was afraid of what she might see. She was afraid of what he might see. Annie had been rattled all afternoon, no matter how hard she tried to pull it together. It was better for her not to look, but she knew didn’t want to let go of those fingers. They felt like a lifeline, although she had never thought of herself as someone who needed to be saved. It was so strange. Her entire life had been an exercise of self-sufficiency and she never felt like she was even close to coming apart until now. Continue reading

The Evening at Large

Start here to start at the beginning…

Christian

The paddle board session was epic. They wrapped it up around sunset and then walked to a nearby Thai place. Neither of them had ever eaten Thai food, but somehow it fit into Annie’s idea of a fancy dinner spot. They pretended like they knew what they were ordering, and when the food came they laughed at it. It was a good thing they were both the adventurous type. The eclectic dishes were surprisingly delicious, and as they ate Christian talked Annie out of going dancing. “We’re all sandy and sticky,” he lamented, “anyone who tries to dance with us will be scared away by the smell! Besides, the deal was I would dance with you if you surfed with me, which you somehow dodged.” Continue reading

The Red Pen of Death

Ha! I love this challenge on Killing your Darlings  so much! It’s just so difficult, though, isn’t it? I will for sure be doing this, but not until I get to the END the first time around! I tend to want to edit things to death without moving forward. Also, this short post by The Story Medic is really insightful and reminds you of important guidelines to keep front and center. So, any good insights or words of advice? Anyone want to trade? You kill mine and I’ll kill yours…

The Bay

Start HERE to find the beginning of the rabbit hole…

They ended up paddle boarding on Mission Bay. The guy at the rental shop talked them out of renting surfboards when he realized they didn’t know what they were doing. Apparently there was a hurricane off the coast of Baja, and that made for some pretty big waves in San Diego. The bay was sheltered enough that the surf couldn’t really come through, and he promised them that paddle boarding would be a fun alternative. Christian was a little disappointed, but Annie secretly felt relieved (though she’d never admit it.)

Figuring out how to balance on the lofty foam boards wasn’t as difficult as one might imagine, and soon they were paddling with determination across the glassy surface. With no destination in mind, they wove in and out of buoys, racing along until Annie thought her arms might fall off.  “Christian, hold up!” she hollered, slowly lowering herself to straddle the hefty board. Continue reading

Annie

Her errands took a significant chunk of the day, and she finally was able to make it over to Christian’s house in the early afternoon. She heard muffled yelling as she approached the door and realized it was Christian reprimanding one of his brothers. Just as she pivoted her heel to leave (she’d come back, she just wanted to buy him some more time,) the door flew open and his brother Jon stormed past her. Jon was 13 and was quickly turning from a quiet kid into a troubled teenager. Annie had only known him for a really short time, but she could see the anger and confusion that bubbled just under the still cherub-cheeked surface. She was sure Christian saw it, too, and her heart caught in her throat when she thought of how difficult these upcoming years were going to be for him. Continue reading

Christian

Christian woke up in a bad mood. He wouldn’t admit to anyone that Annie’s imminent departure affected him in any way, but he knew he was moping. It was just that life here was hard. And redundant. He knew that it was important for him to set a solid example and that his mom deserved a break after working so hard for them. He knew that he couldn’t just spread his wings and fly away like she could; there was too much here holding him back. It wasn’t quite jealousy – no, he didn’t think he would leave if he could. He was lucky to have his family here. It was hard, but he had grown up with a lot of love and support and it was in his nature to want to step up and provide for his family here. He liked San Diego okay. The weather was always good, the beach was an amazing asset and TJ was close enough that he could regularly visit his dad and eat decent tacos. He wouldn’t admit it out loud, but he was moping because she was leaving. He had grown accustomed to thinking there was only room in his heart, his head and his life for his immediate family, but over the course of the last two weeks she had slowly started to prove him wrong. He’d lived his day-to-day fine for the past eighteen years without her, but he’d only just started to feel alive. Continue reading

Annie

Start here to read from the beginning…

She woke up the next morning with a hangover. Annie had never been drunk before. In fact, Annie had never really done anything that could amount to any kind of trouble. She had seen the unfortunate long-term effects that came with an affinity for alcohol in her grandmother. Hard drugs weren’t something anyone in her family did, exactly, but crack was something that was sold now and again when they were really hard up for money. The crack heads that came around during those times were very nice, but crazy enough that Annie was sure her auntie’s timing of these sales correlated to everyone being home from school on purpose.

But, man, that hangover was worth it! Thus far in life Annie had kept her head down and her grades up. She picked up extra shifts whenever she could, not because she wanted more money but because she didn’t know what else to do with herself. She’d been singularly focused on this almost tangible, sparkling orb of freedom shining brightly just out of reach, waiting for her to grab it with both arms and hang on if only she could make it over the hill that was high school. Now it was finally here, and she was ready to spread her wings!

She’d had so much fun with Christian. If last night was any indication of what she’d been missing, she was glad she hadn’t been distracted with boys and other questionable substances thus far.  The rest of her life had arrived. It was finally time to make a break for it, and then decide what, exactly, to do with it.

  Continue reading