Monday, June 27, 2011

Meanwhile, Back On The Tundra...

I was extraordinarily proud of my home state on Friday when the New York legislature passed the same sex marriage bill. If two people want to be legally bound to each other they should have the right to do so. Period. End of discussion.

At the same time, I am deeply embarrassed by the state where I live. We have managed to spawn two presidential candidates, neither of whom actually live in the real world. 

Republicans subscribing to the myth that as governor, Tim Pawlenty didn’t raise taxes in this state are living in fairytale land. Let’s be real honest here; under his administration, property taxes rose by $2.5 billion, effectively dumping that burden onto the shoulders of Minnesota residential property owners. He "borrowed" over a billion from the tobacco settlement earmarked for health, "borrowed" another $1.4 billion from K-12 education funding. And he "borrowed" $400 million from the Healthcare Access Fund for low-income families. In other words, he effectively crippled the state's economy, and now he wants to bring that same slipshod slight-of-hand misdirection of the truth to the federal government.

Busy Timmy isn’t doing all that well in the straw polls, and his shot at being chief executive of anything other than fantasy land seems to be slipping into the mire of his own duplicity. America, listen up: you need to be thankful for this.

Would that Minnesota could stop there. But nooooo. We have Michele Bachmann with her Tea Party moronics and rising poll numbers.

She has benefited from farm subsidies she rails against, declaring she has never benefited from her farm, yet her financial disclosure statements tell a different story. Her husband's business has benefited from stimulus funding, but she says that doesn't count because, "That’s mental health training money that went to employees."

Remember, this is the same woman who also said,

We need to simply tell people the facts, like Glenn Beck, with that chalkboard, that man can explain anything. I think if we give Glenn Beck the numbers, he can solve this.

And she was a vocal participant in the attempt to defund AmeriCorps…that left wing socialist institution of which her own son was a member. After all, they take this radical pledge when they join:

I will get things done for America - to make our people   safer, smarter, and healthier.
I will bring Americans together to strengthen our communities.
Faced with apathy, I will take action.
Faced with conflict, I will seek common ground.
Faced with adversity, I will persevere.
I will carry this commitment with me this year and beyond.
I am an AmeriCorps member, and I will get things done.

This is where my brains hit the wall.

Since when is service to your country a bad thing? Can she really truly be this incredibly stupid? How does she manage to say this stuff with a straight face? Well, actually, she can and does.

Seems Madame Bachmann believes that AmeriCorps will result in "re-education camps for young people, where young people have to go and get trained in a philosophy that the government puts forward and then they have to go to work in some of these politically correct forums." 

Say what?   Uh, isn’t that also exactly what happens when you join one of Armed Forces?

So I'll say exactly what I'm thinking:  

Michele Bachmann is unpatriotic
Never mind that she thinks global warming is a hoax or that oil companies should get tax breaks. She lacks any understanding of what this country needs to succeed and has a misguided grasp of the Constitution of the United States.

Meanwhile, on a brighter note, I would like to report that the former CEO of Dairy Queen, a fellow name Chuck Mooty, was looking for a new challenge, something that would be of good use to country and people, and will be closing later this week on the purchase of the Faribault Woolen Mills with a plan to start up the looms by August. He is bringing manufacturing back to a town that needs it. He is doing this because he sees this as part of the solution. I don't know much about him, but anyone who returns manufacturing in a small town has got be encouraged.

The Wifely Person Tip o'the Week
Wanna do something nice for America?
Manufacture something here.

Monday, June 20, 2011

It's Not Really About Me Either

A couple of weeks ago, I submitted a comment to the New York Times website about David Brooks’ May 30th column, IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU.  Well, the comment was selected as a highlight. As the result of having THE WIFELY PERSON SPEAKS signature, the blog suddenly had a spike in traffic, and I got a whole lotta emails from both sides of the fence, including a very interesting one from the editor of Minnesota Public Radio’s commentary webpage.

Seems they like me enough over at MPR to invite me to become a contributor. I was stunned. I actually didn’t know what to say. Me? Speechless? Well, folks, it does, on rare occasions, happen. I called the number in the email and had a lovely conversation with the editor. He asked that for my first piece, I expand the Brooks comment.  Sure, I told him, not a problem!

I spent the rest of the afternoon basking in that glory until the junior son came by to fix the tractor (see Gas Lines and Gas Bags.) I showed him the email from MPR. Without missing a beat or saying a word, he forwarded it to his wife and his brother with the comment, “Mom's going to spout her crazy on the radio!”

Oh, that’s right! Wound me to the core. The happiness balloon quickly deflated. Here I thought his dad and I had inculcated him enough to appreciate our brand of crazy. Apparently not.

Well, last Tuesday, MPR published my first commentary. I was tickled to see my picture up on the website. And no sooner was the virtual ink dry than the first scathing rebuttal appeared. Oh, this fellow did not like me at all. He even besmirched my sobriquet saying,

One thing is certain, we aren’t going to get solutions from a conservative dinosaur who still defines herself via her husband (the Wifely Person? Seriously?)"

Bah humbug!  Does this man have no sense of humor? Dinosaur yes, but a conservative?????  I am totally insulted! Good gravy! Everyone knows I’m a raving liberal with decidedly socialist proclivities! 

Others quickly rushed to my defense. I was amazed; people out there took my side while I got to sit back and watch.  Of course, not everyone agreed with me, but I didn't care.  I had stimulated debate and isn't the the true function of a commentary page? I was in heaven! 

Turns out this is one of the unexpected joys of being out in the blogosphere: people get to rail at me and I get to enjoy it! I had no idea how much fun I was going to have with this thing. But I’ll tell you something…the real fun is in the feedback. The comments, complaints, criticisms…it doesn’t matter what it is; I’m becoming a response-junkie.

If there is a flip side... and gee, isn't there always?... it’s the difficulty in deciding what to write and when to write it. There are, unbelievably, some opinions I’d rather keep to myself and do. Sometimes it’s a bit of a balancing act, but hey! if it was easy, everyone would do this.

And so, as I stroll off into this self-referential sunset, here’s the link to MPR: To An Older Worker.... and no, that’s not the title I gave it.  Do leave a comment, email  a complaint, or just send me a raspberry….but feel free to feed my junkie monkey!

The Wifely Person's Tip O'the Week
If you ever find you've lost your voice, find someone to make you laugh. 
Your voice will come back.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Pining For The Fjords

I had all sorts of things to write about this week, but nothing I wrote could get my mind off the topic I’m about to tackle. Yes, it has a bit of a self-indulgent aspect, but there’s a life lesson in here worth exploring, if only for a moment or two. On Tuesday last, June 7th, we marked the second anniversary of Steve’s passing according to the standard calendar. [For those who understand the secret handshake, his yahrzeit begins this Friday at sundown.]

By the time he was really sick, Steve had already left his job and we had to COBRA his health insurance. I had been in contact with Aetna, and paid exactly what they told me to pay, sent in all the paperwork, and was told all was covered. A month into the Cobra, it was clear Aetna agents had no idea what they were doing. Cashed cheque or not, they were telling the oncologists we had no insurance…which was completely wrong since Steve also was on my insurance and Aetna knew that. There were lots of calls back and forth until Aetna finally saw the error of their clerical ways and said they would get everything fixed. 

Then they told me I would have to hospitalize Steve because they didn’t think home hospice was “adequate.” Excuse me???? Steve was livid and announced, “I am not going to a hospital.”  I agreed. Steve stayed home where he belonged and we contracted for hospice through my insurance. We told Aetna in writing that we would end the COBRA on May 31st.

Steve died on the 7th of June, 2009. On the 8th, I was standing in Hodroff’s funeral home selecting his casket (religious box: you get A or B... with a star of David or without… he got the star) when  Tamika from Aetna called. I told her my husband had passed away. That didn't stop her. She was calling to tell me it was too complicated to fix the insurance problem, so they were going to cover Steve for July instead of May.


I asked her to repeat what she’d said, and she did indeed say that even though he was dead, they would extended his insurance “for free.”  I couldn’t help myself; I shouted at her. “WHAT PART OF DEAD AREN’T YOU GETTING??????” 

Does a certain Dead Parrot sketch come to mind? It should. It was like standing in the middle of the sketch only it was my husband not pining for the fjords.

I spent the next six months battling Aetna. I was pretty sure I was out of the fjords and into Dante’s 8th circle of Hell, the one reserved for those who intentionally perpetrate fraud.

Then, Saint Tina of Health Advocates arrived on her white e-horse and said, “No problem; let me take care of it.” She did. For the next eighteen months.

On Wednesday June 8th, 2011, I received word from Allina's billing office that the last Aetna screw-up was handled, and the balance on the account was $00.00.

Two years and one day after Steve slipped away, I was able to close the white book for the last time.  

I underestimated the profound sense of relief. The Nightmare-Part Deux is finally over. No giant bill for a zillion dollars is going to fall out of the sky to crush me.

How the hell did this take two years to resolve? It wasn’t that complicated. It was straight forward, no hospitalization, and nothing weird.  But TWO years for relatively simple tests and procedures?

This isn’t about the hospital or the doctors. This is about insurance companies…or in this case, just one company. Their obfuscation and dissemination of misinformation was the rule, not the exception. When was the last time someone went through monumental illness and didn’t come out hating the insurance industry?

If Congress wants to fix what’s wrong, go after the health insurance companies and the so called “health care” providers who prey on the sick and profit from the misery of others. Get hospitals back to being not-for-profit and concerned only with the dignity of the patient and the outcome of the illness.

Stop making disease a profit churning industry. We deserve better than that.

Wifely Person’s Tip o’the Week
courtesy of Jan Leichter
Are the baby bunnies eating your petunias?
Put a cut up jalapeño pepper in a big jar of water and let sit a couple of days. 
Transfer some to a spray-bottle then spray away!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Of Gas Lines and Gas Bags

Lots going on this week. Lots to write about…or not....yet.

There was trouble in Tractorland last week.  I happened to notice a corner that I missed mowing and thought I'd jump on the tractor to handle it in short order. Well, it didn’t quite work out that way. The tractor stalled at the bottom on the driveway and no amount coaxing could get the engine to catch. I had to push that sucker up the driveway by myself…which is not to say I was alone. There I was, in a dress no less, shoulder to the bright yellow seat…in front of an audience of kids, dog walkers, and assorted joggers, a few of whom had the unmitigated gall to wave at me! Not a single gawker offered to help. Let’s just say this is yet one more layer of Minnesota Nice I just don’t get. Literally. Like I said ALL…BY…MY…SELF. And let me tell you, Spartacus was annoyed.

Being a holiday weekend and all, I thought I’d dig out the manual to see if I could fix this on my own. I did all the routine checks; I even took apart and cleaned the air filter, but no dice. After carefully following directions for advanced trouble-shooting, I decided it was a fuel line issue.  I called the junior son to request a consult.

He moseyed on over Tuesday evening after work, and, in exchange for mom-food, set to work on the tractor. Well, something was blocking the fuel line, just like last year. So he called me into the garage to show me what to do should this happen again. I learned how to remove the clamp, put a paper towel over the tube so I’m not tasting gas, and then firmly blow until I hear bubbles in the gas tank. So it looks like I have a new skill: blowing fuel line.

Hey! This is a useful thing, so keep yer minds outta the gutter!

And while we're on the topic of land maintenance, as a Minnesota homesteader who pays a not so insignificant amount in property tax, I am compelled to report on our own little political maelstrom here in the Land of 10,000 Obstructionists. Seems our Democratic-Farmer-Labor governor, the son of a wealthy yet socially responsible family, is at loggerheads with our Independent-Republican legislature. Just like Washington, we are facing our own government shut down.

The State Senate is Republican by a margin of .8031%. That’s less than one percent of all counted votes. The State House is Republican by a margin of 1.9557%. That’s just a hair under 2% of all counted votes. ( Raw data from the MN Secretary of State)

This is not some kind of sweeping mandate. This is the luck of the draw.  I suspect if I ran the US Congress numbers it would be just as slim a margin in both houses.

So, here’s the deal Minnesota Legislators: how about remembering the rest of us in your districts? Democrat and Republican alike, none of you represents just your party constituency. By accepting your seat in the legislature you have sworn to serve ALL the people of your district, not just a select few with deep wallets. Your responsibility is to the citizens of this state, not your party chairman.

Four Horsemen of the Obstructionists
It’s time to get off your collective high horses and start working out a deal that is fair and equitable to all Minnesotans regardless of their socioeconomic status. Remember, each job you cut is a reduction in tax collections. Like most Minnesotans, I don’t give a hoot which one of you comes up with working plan, but I can tell you this much, it’s going to have to be a compromise that isn’t going to send your poorest citizens deeper into the poorhouse, imperil education, or leave your most vulnerable citizens to die.

The idea is to keep the money coming in so the state can function. We all should be paying our fair share of taxes; together we will share the burden, and we all will certainly share the pain. But come on, fellas; stop the playground politics and get on with the real business of running this state.  

The Wifely Person's Tip o' the Week
Whether you're running the tractor or running the state, 
always check to make sure you're tending to your property in a conscientious manner.