coming out of my shell

coming out of my shell

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Mad as Hell

I hate to admit it. I really do. But maybe a confession is in order. Although I most definitely voted for Barak Obama twice in the past 8 years, I am ashamed to admit the first time I voted for him I did not like him. Why?

I have been a feminist since the late 1960's and I have been waiting patiently for a smart and politically savvy woman to have a clear shot at becoming president. I was pumped up and flying high when Hillary Clinton stepped forward to run. She was my senator when I lived in NY State; in my book she was a fabulous senator. I knew she was the one. "We" finally had a chance. I was angry when this bright young man stepped in. I knew he was smart, I knew he was principled, I knew we were going to be in good hands with him in charge. I was psyched and heartened to know we were finally going to have a president who was also a person of color. I loved the youthful and progressive energy that surrounded his campaign. But I was still seething with anger because MY candidate didn't win. As if it as all about ME. Sheesh, sometimes I just can't stand myself. 

I was so freakin' angry that I actually refused to watch his speeches for YEARS. Yep, I'm a big baby. I couldn't even say his name with out spitting the words out, kind of like Jerry Seinfeld's reaction to Newman. My husband, a stalwart Obama supporter from the get-go, wondered if I had lost my mind. It took me 3 years to warm up to him. Obama, that is. Well, maybe my husband, too. Three wasted years of stubborn anger and miserable bitterness. Three years when Barak Obama had already hit the ground running and was working hard to pull us out of a recession he did not cause.

Now, I see him as a great president. Not only do I like him, I admire him. Okay, I kinda love him. I have to admit that, perhaps... he was the right person at that point in time to become president. In fact, I wish I could vote for him again, because I would.

I am not proud of my emotional reaction to the 2008 presidential race. That is exactly what it was, by the way, an emotional reaction.  I AM proud that I did and still care strongly about feminism as an issue. The thing is, one can't just care about only one or two issues. Then we stagnate, which only diminishes our cause and makes the world smaller and meaner. We have to see the bigger picture. 

I  hope you all watched President Obama speak last night at the DNC. It was one of the most powerful speeches I have ever seen.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

The more things change

Politics stink! Each side would have us believe the world will end if their candidate doesn't win. I understand dehumanizing one's opponent is part of the game. And don't misunderstand me, I feel quite strongly about my own preference for the next president. And okay, make me say it: I don't like her opponent. However, I dislike the "fear and loathing" that politics invoke even more. I have had all I can take. From here on in, I refuse to hate. Can you stand it?

I am amazed when people believe the most outrageous lies that each side spreads about the other. So few of us want to listen to the facts. It is wrong, there is no justification for it. It would be a better world if we all made our political decisions based on our heads (intellect) instead of our hearts (belief system). I'm going to start with me.

I think back to the first presidential campaign I can remember. It was when John F. Kennedy was running against Richard Nixon in 1960. I suppose it is imprinted on my mind because JFK was Catholic and I was a Catholic school girl in 1960. We were all so proud that a Catholic was running for president, which was unheard of at the time. It was a different world and there was still deep distrust for Catholics left over from the freakin' Middle Ages! I am NOT kidding. Hate runs long and deep.

I was Roman Catholic because that was how my mother was raised. Her form of Catholicism was very European. Her grandparents immigrated to the U.S.A. from France and Germany between 1850 - 1860. They settled in a large German Catholic community near Chicago.

My father's people were as Protestant as Protestant can be. His ancestors arrived in the Colonies between 1625 and 1714 from England, Germany, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, and France. My paternal grandparents were raised Southern Baptist in Kentucky and Tennessee. When they moved up North in the 1920's, they joined a Pentecostal Protestant church.

FYI, I am proud of both sides of my family and their historically different but equally profound cultural traditions. Each family had an original immigrant to America at some point in time. I try to never forget that. It was interesting growing up in a complex and diverse family.

My paternal grandfather distrusted Catholics. It was hard for him when his son converted to Catholicism to marry my mother in the 1940's. My paternal grandparents were Democrats until JFK got the Democratic nomination for president in 1960.  Then they became conservative Republicans because my grandfather refused to vote for a Catholic. I guess the idea that a Catholic would run for president made them feel like the world was changing too much. They probably felt threatened, left out. They were used to having leaders who were just like them. They thought if a Catholic became president then he would start persecuting Protestants and the Pope would become the de facto president. It sounds so silly and hard to imagine now, but that was what many people actually "believed" back then.

I was 9 years old. I was trying to understand religion, politics, and family dynamics even though my heart was aching. I was confused and a little frightened to see the people I loved at odds with each other. Luckily, both my mother and my paternal grandmother went out of their way to remain friends. They did their best to reassure us children that no matter who became president, or what church we went to, we would still be a family. It was a great example of how to respect someone you don't necessarily agree with. 

My paternal grandmother was a different age, religion, and political persuasion than me. She was also a huge influence on my life. There was not much we agreed on as I grew older and the 1960's Culture Wars ensued. However, I knew she loved me and I knew there was no ideology or barrier to that love. I also knew not to discuss religion or politics with her. 

Grandma goofing around with two of her granddaughters in 1962

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Time for Medicare

Holy Shit! Both T and I will turn 65 soon and we must sign up for Medicare.  Are you one of those people who always thought you paid into Medicare with every paycheck so that health care would be free when you got old?  Wrong.

We retired at 62 with The University’s fabulous health insurance plan. We were lucky to have that policy. We paid a reasonable monthly premium and, if we got sick, we could go to the doctor without breaking the bank. In addition to the reasonable premiums, there was a low co-pay and no deductible.

We’ll be kicked off the fabulous plan when we turn 65. The University requires Medicare-eligible retirees to switch to their less desirable 80/20 Insurance for Retirees as a secondary policy to cover what Medicare doesn't.


What is Medicare?

a.     Part A is “free” in that we spent our entire working lives paying into this fund. However, it is pretty much only for hospital bills.

b.     Part B is for routine medical services (e.g., doctor bills). You have to pay for Part B, so it is optional; however, you’d have to be wealthy, foolish, or poor enough to qualify for Medicaid not to buy into this program. After paying out of pocket for the annual deductible ($166), Part B pays 80% of covered costs.

For most oldsters the Part B premium is $104/month. Since we both turn 65 and sign up for Medicare in the fateful year of 2016 (when there was no Social Security increase) we are instead stuck paying $125/month (each). Don’t ask me to explain why. I don’t understand and I don’t really want to think about it overmuch. I have anger management issues. It is better for everyone if I think of it as simple bad luck.

c.      Part C is an optional “Advantage” program you can pay a private insurer for if you choose.  It then replaces Medicare Parts A and B (and sometimes D) and becomes kind of a super HMO, with similar restrictions on doctor choice. We are not HMO fans so we will not be opting for this.

d.     Part D is the government’s prescription drug program. You can choose to pay monthly for this if you want a prescription drug plan, which is not covered in Parts A or B. In addition to monthly payments, there are co-pays. Luckily, we will not need Part D because The University 80/20 Insurance Plan for Retirees has a decent prescription drug coverage. 


Like I said above, our current fabulous University health insurance terminates when we turn 65.  Boo freakin’ hoo!  The University’s 80/20 Insurance for Retirees” will become our secondary health insurance. It requires a slightly lower monthly premium payment than the fabulous policy, but requires a yearly deductible before it will start paying 80% of the 20% Medicare does not pay. Yes, this is confusing, its not just you.

First there is the 80/20 primary Medicare Part B coverage (after their deductible is met), then 80/20 secondary supplemental coverage (after that deductible is met). I don’t know about you, but thinking in terms of repeating percentages  gives me a headache.

Here is the bottom line: When we 1. sign up for Medicare Parts A and B, and 2. switch to The University's 80/20 Insurance for Retirees we will pay $4,044/year more for health care for the two of us than we used to pay for the fabulous plan. And this does not include co-pays.  Ouch!

I wake up in the middle of the night trying to wrap my mind around this. However, I know it could be worse - we could be a struggling young family with obscenely high monthly health insurance premiums! I feel for them.

We are some of the lucky ones.  We knew this was coming and we will figure it out. We roll with the punches pretty well. We will just have to spend less on other things...

I understand why medical insurance becomes more expensive as one gets older, but I am not sure why it becomes more complicated. I had more brain cells to figure these things out when I was younger.

A brain cell image from the internet! Isn't she gorgeous?
medicalpicturesinfo.com430 × 323

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Counting Calories, again

In October 2014, I wrote a post called Counting Calories. If you click on the link and read this older post you will get a pretty good idea how brilliantly effective counting calories is for weight loss, healthy eating, and promoting exercise.

Unfortunately, I am a bit obsessive when I go on a diet. I am a competitive soul, and even when I am only competing against my chubby little (5' 2") self, I fight to win. Everyday I was out on that bike trail burning up calories one by one. If T didn't want to go for a ride, I went by myself.

I was losing weight like gangbusters for awhile until I hurt my foot. How did I hurt my foot? One day it rained and rained and rained. It became apparent that I was not going to be able to go for a bike ride. I was horrified, because if you read my older post you will understand that exercise buys you more calories each day. The more you exercise the more you can EAT, and by all that is holy I wanted to eat. So, instead of riding my bike that day, I cranked up the CD player and danced like a fool for at least 20 minutes.

I forgot I am aging and I forgot I was dancing on a tile floor. My dance frenzy resulted in a small foot injury.  Actually, let's not talk about that foot injury any more. Suffice it to say that I stopped exercising for a couple of months while my foot healed. And in my despair I also stopped counting calories. Of course, over time I gained all the weight back. 

Earlier this week, like Jennifer Anniston, I became fed up with everyone thinking I was pregnant.  Naw, just kidding - nobody thinks I'm pregnant...

Now I am on day 4 of a regimen of calorie counting. The difference is that I have not been exercising. I will start exercising, maybe next week. I cannot handle getting serious about exercising right now. My counting calorie self is still too delicate, too unstable. One thing at a time, please. For now, I am just trying to acclimate to a world where I live within my caloric means and pay attention to what I put in my body for fuel.

I am trying very hard to think about freestone peaches instead of salted caramel gelato.
Back on that righteous path

Friday, July 8, 2016

Summer in the City

It is really hot outside. 

The Lovin' Spoonful, Summer in the City, 1966

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Photos from Orlando, 4 July 2016

I went with my daughter to Orlando the other day. We saw the makeshift mementos left after a memorial honoring the people who died in the Pulse Nightclub shooting.   

I was deeply moved by the love and the loss. I was painfully aware of the mementos left behind. They were especially meaningful because many were left by the grieving families and friends of the fallen.

I was struck by all the American flags and patriotic messages at the memorial site. I have not seen that many flags in one place since I was a kid watching a 4th of July parade in the 1950's. I'm not gonna lie, all those flags surprised me.

Most Pulse victims were either immigrants or the children/grandchildren of immigrants. Like most of our ancestors they came here because they wanted to be "free;" they actively chose to become Americans. And apparently, even after great tragedy, the families would still rather be in this large, violent, imperfect country than in their heritage countries.

The pride in Orlando is for being LGBT, Hispanic, a person of color. But it is also about remaining strong in the face of adversity, about refusing to be diminished or dehumanized by hatred, about being free to live one's life without fear or shame. It is still and always about freedom, isn't it? It is still a worthy cause to want freedom to be who you are as long as you don't hurt anyone else.

I understand how political disappointments can sour one's patriotism. Hey, I'm still mad Eugene McCarthy didn't get the Democratic nomination in 1968, and George McGovern in 1972. I can't understand why the NRA fights the ridiculously minimal form of gun control Obama is pushing. I wonder at the support Trump gets whenever he says something that lowers our moral standards. These are just some of the things that have driven me to despair about being an American. But you know, despair is a loser's game. 

Because there is also
still, and always, the "Good Fight" we hear so much about. It has everything to do with  "freedom and justice for all." I have been cynical. I took my eyes off the prize.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Buddy the Cat

My shingles are almost gone.  However, when it rains it pours.

Buddy, our cat, died the other day. Although he had been really, really ill for a few days and was staying at the vet’s to be rehydrated and treated, it was still unexpected. Death always is for me. It catches me off guard every damn time and never fails to piss me off.

He was his sweet old self one night, begging for treats, waiting for us to get in bed, hissing and growling if T dared to put his arm outside the covers, etc. The next morning he was seriously ill, lying under our bed with the look of death about him. Even with our vet’s best efforts, he never rebounded. Based on his symptoms, it could have been any number of causes.

The night after he died I had a dream about change. First I dreamed I saw his dead body. Then suddenly Buddy the Cat was alive again and with my Mom, his original owner. We took him in 2008 when she went into assisted living where they did not allow pets. I remember we had to pull him out from under her bed and he clawed T’s arm open. Buddy was always a bit anxious and neurotic, as I am. We shared the same mother.

Then, in my dream of change, I was suddenly in my old workplace. There was no one there I knew. All had changed. All was different. I was alone and it was disconcerting. And like dreams always are, I remembered that dreams are about the dreamer. This was a message to me from my self. I had to think about it hard.

Change has always been a trigger for me. Even if I try to ignore my fear of change, my discomfort with loss, they are always there. They do not go away from refusing to feel. I know, I've tried.

Unresolved emotional themes have a life of their own. They come back to haunt us, to try and get our attention in the form of nameless anxiety, depression, and also in archetypal dream figures.

It is
odd, this particular fear, since change is the stuff of life. Do we all ultimately fight the same fight? Is it the nature of being human to fear change?  Do I have to become a "*&!@#" zen master to achieve some peace of mind? 'Cause I don't think I have the stamina for it and I certainly do not have the attention span. 

Our lost boy, Buddy the Cat, on our deck in NYS overlooking one of our equally lost perennial beds