Who Are You?

I’m a writer. There I said it. And the world is still turning. My knees may be shaking, I may have a lump in my throat, but at least I set out to do what I intended. And that was to identify myself as a writer.

For years when people have asked me “What do you do?” I’ve had various answers. Depending on when the question was asked, I was a student, a waitress, a receptionist, a camera operator at a tv station, a technical writer, a web developer, a massage therapist, and of course a mom. But the one answer that was always lingering in the background for so many years has been the most elusive one to come out of my mouth and that is a writer. Yes, I know I mentioned being a technical writer in my list of titles, and I was for a short time. But writing manuals about how to use tax software, well that’s not what I aspired to write, and that actually turned into my becoming a web developer after just a couple of months. So I wouldn’t have necessarily called myself a writer then.

There was one time I was flying somewhere by myself and my seatmate struck up a conversation. Of course one of the standard questions after are you going to xyz destination for business or pleasure, is, what do you do?  I actually said then I was a writer. His response was what have you written? Suddenly I was tongue tied. I had been writing this blog for a while, and some years ago wrote for my high school paper. Do letters to the editor count, I thought. Once I was finally able to corral my thoughts I feebly answered “I write a blog and am working on a novel, but nothing’s been published yet.” The conversation turned to other topics after that, and the butterflies that were trying to escape my stomach finally subsided too.  But ever since then, this one random encounter with a stranger, will come back to mind at the strangest of times.

Most recently was this morning, in the shower. Some of my best ideas come to me during that time. Probably because I’m not distracted by anything else, no one is wanting my attention, the sound of the water pretty much drowns out anything else going on around me. It gives me a chance to think, to let my mind wander, for ideas to germinate, or grocery lists to be formed. This morning however, I had an entire dialogue with myself about who I am and what I want to be when I grow up. (Okay, those of you that know me personally know I’m approaching my 50th birthday, and no I haven’t yet grown up:-) I doubt I ever will.) But what I took away from this conversation with myself is that if I don’t believe myself when I say I’m a writer, who else will? I’ve been writing a book for going on 4 years now I think. It’s finally getting close to having the first full draft done. It’s well over 100,000 words now, at last count I think it was about 275 pages if it were published in paperback format. Of course there is a lot of editing that will need to happen before it’s even remotely ready to be read by the general population too.

But there it is. I’m putting this out in the universe, declaring and believing in myself, that I am indeed, a writer. And to that college professor all those years ago who told me I couldn’t and shouldn’t write, well yeah. You can use your imagination for what I’m saying to her now. Along with my inner critic, they are both relegated to somewhere else, not in my universe.

Now back to work.

Peace

peace 2015

My wish for you and the world, is Peace.

When I was a kid we would attend the Christmas eve service at our Episcopal church. One of the traditions during the service was the passing of peace from one person to another. It was always a festive and rather loud time during the otherwise traditional service. You would greet one another with a hug or a handshake and tell the person “I give you peace”. As a kid it didn’t mean much to me, other than a chance to get up, move around, and see friends. But as an adult now I realize how important the message of peace really is.

So my wish for you today and for the year to come is the greeting and sharing of peace. Pass it on to your family, friends, co-workers, the cashier at the grocery store, the stranger you encounter on the street.  Let’s spread peace and love worldwide.

The Melting Pot

No, not the restaurant, although that’s pretty tasty, especially the dark chocolate fondue for dessert. No, this title refers to our country, the United States of America. These days it seems it’s more the divided states of America, but that’s for another post.

Our country is made up of immigrants. Whether they arrived here as recently as yesterday or as long ago as the Mayflower, any way you look at it, there is an immigrant somewhere in our family history. For me, the most recent was my grandparents and my mother, along with her siblings, in 1958. So technically that makes me first generation “American-born” in my family lineage. Of course my daughter is adopted from China, so technically she would be considered an immigrant as well. See where I’m going with this. This country is a beautiful mix of all sorts of people – Native American (the only ones who can claim to have always been here), European, Middle Eastern, Indian, Asian, Russian, Pacific Islanders, I could go on but you are intelligent, I think you get the idea. So what gives anyone the right to claim that their race, their identity, or who they identify with is the absolute right one and all others are wrong.  Just because someone’s skin is a different color than yours doesn’t mean they are inferior or anything less than you.

This also applies to religion. We supposedly have the freedom of religion, in fact the first amendment clearly states “…Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” It goes on to prohibit impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances. So again, who is to tell me that their religion is the absolute right and all others are wrong. Just because you disagree with something or someone does not make them wrong. You are allowed to believe what you want, you are allowed to share that message, you can even disagree with me here. But please, be respectful. That’s really what it all boils down to. Respect one another, respect that we all come from different backgrounds, respect that we all have different views and beliefs that shape us. Let’s embrace each other as human beings who are sharing this planet, and try to live in peace and harmony, especially now, and for the future generations to come.

Something Doesn’t Add Up

Correct me if I’m wrong, but something about this scenario doesn’t make sense.

For a family of 3 we pay $806 a month for medical and pediatric dental insurance. We pay this because we own our own company and only having 2 employees does not qualify us for a “business” health insurance plan, therefore we have the individual (family) health insurance plan. This also does not include adult dental insurance because by law only pediatric dental insurance is mandated. So our premiums amount to $9,672 a year out of our own pocket. We have a deductible of $6,350 per person. That adds up to $19,050 a year. That is the out of pocket money we have to spend for anything other than an office visit or wellness visit. And of course for those we still have our $20 to $50 copay depending on the doctor. But for the sake of this argument I’m only basing this on the premium and deductible amounts. So the total for the year between premiums and the maximum deductible is $28,722.

Now generally we try to avoid going to the doctor as much as possible. All three of us are in good health, with a few minor issues that have been creeping up due to the aging process. There are no major conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, terminal illness, you get the idea.

This year has presented us with a few health issues that have been diagnosed and advised by the doctor to be taken care of. The total cost for one procedure was $3,188.78. Another procedure was $575.87. This all went towards the deductible for one family member. So now out of pocket we have paid $3,764.65, the insurance company has paid $0. So in keeping with the math, we have paid out of our own pocket $13,436.65 so far for the year. (This is our yearly premiums plus out of pocket expenses). Again, the insurance company still has paid $0. Yes, it’s less than the $28,722 if all three of us had met our deductibles and paid the premiums for the entire year. But even if we did that, the insurance company still would have paid $0 and I’m still out $28,722.

My question is this – why then must I have health insurance that isn’t paying for anything? I get absolutely no benefit from the insurance company. If I don’t have insurance I get fined by the federal government. If I didn’t have insurance this year I could have saved $9,672. This could have gone into an interest bearing account for say my child’s college education, or an emergency fund if something catastrophic should have happened. I could have also used that money to pay for the expenses that we did have and still have some left over. I get that there are those who didn’t have insurance, who needed insurance, who can now get supposedly affordable insurance. I also get that it’s possible tomorrow, next week, or next year one of us could be diagnosed with some awful, terrible disease. It’s also possible that I’ll live to be 100 and be perfectly healthy that entire time too. What I don’t get is why is this being forced on me, making me pay for something that is not benefiting me in any way, and based on the letter I just received getting more expensive next year? I just don’t understand.

VidCon 2015

vidcon-logoSo I’m just back from VidCon 2015 in Anaheim California. For those who don’t know, VidCon is a convention of YouTube creators, producers, industry types, and fans. Lots of fans. Mostly girls from what I can tell, between the ages of 12 and 24. These days it’s hard to tell the age of some of them based on clothes, makeup, height, and just the general way they carry themselves.

While I wasn’t actually attending the convention, there wasn’t a need for me to spend money on a ticket, I was at the Hilton hotel and convention center where everything is taking place. It gave me the opportunity for a bird’s eye view (being on the 11th floor we got to see a private YouTube party Thursday night – more on that in a bit), as well as a street level view in the lobby, the restaurant, the gym and the pool.

Here are just a few random observations.

  • Girls travel in packs. I guess they always have. I know I did at that age. And they are always on the look out for whoever their favorite creator, just in case they can get that selfie they are always chasing. It got to the point that the hotel had to set up security checkpoints in order to verify that you were actually a guest and had reason to be going up to the rooms. Some of these packs were downright rude, in one case immediately closing the door and not letting people on the elevator who had already been waiting a while. I know because I was one of the people who had been waiting.
  • You never know who you will randomly meet. One morning I shared the elevator with Drew Scott of HGTV’s Property Brothers. Personally I had no idea who he was at first. It wasn’t until someone else in the elevator asked why he wasn’t wearing a “yellow badge” (for the featured creators) and he said he was just here as a producer, not an actual creator. Super nice guy, polite and no ego on display during the ride or on the walk down the hall, since we were staying on the same floor.
  • Even if you’re not attending the convention, there is still a lot of walking involved. We didn’t rent a car, there wasn’t a need to, but place we’ve wanted to go for dinners have been at least 1/2 a mile to a mile away, so we would walk. Downtown Disney, which is a public area (no ticket required) is also a must stop and see place while we’re here, so we’ve walked there at least 3 times. And while the teenager is at the convention, I’m occupying my time at the gym and in/around the pool, so add that extra exercise in and let’s just say, my muscles are feeling it.
  • It was nice to see on the agenda panels discussing issues that are relevant to the audience that is attending. There was a mental health panel addressing anxiety, depression, cutting and other current issues teens and young adults are facing. There was a LGBTQ panel and then meet up as well. There was no tolerance for bullies (one attendee/creator was kicked out of both the convention and the hotel). As a parent it made me feel a little better about letting my 15 year old explore and do her own thing without me having to hang around all the time.
  • All in all things seem to operate much more smoothly this year. The only hiccup was on Wednesday evening. The e-mail attendees received said registration would be open until 8 pm. The website also had this listed as the time for registration. The sign outside the convention center where they were supposed to go to register had 6:00 pm printed as the closing time. This led to some confusion when the girls got there at 7:00 pm they found out that it was already closed. Because of this it took away some of their time from the following morning. With an event this large I know there are bound to be mistakes, but when it comes to registration and associated signage/messaging this should have been caught beforehand.
  • Thursday night there was a private party for what appeared to be the featured creators, industry types, and invited guests. This was what we were guessing since we we’re actually watching from the 11th floor and the party was on the 5th floor lanai area. The teenager actually spotted quite a number of creators that she follows, so you would randomly watch them throughout the crowd to see who else she could spot at the party. It was something like a real life “Where’s Waldo?” or in this case “Where’s Phil?” game. It turns out we must not have been the only ones doing this because suddenly party goers started shining their phones lights up at the rooms and waving hi. Of course we got in on that fun, waving back and using our flashlight apps to signal as well. Neither one of us has any idea who most of the people were that interacted with us, but it was a fun memory made during the conference.
  • You pretty much are running on adrenaline the entire time you are there. As an attendee you are rushing around, trying to get to signings, panels, events, and meet-ups. Food, who has time to eat? As a parent, you are on a heightened level, because you will get the “OMG I just met fill in favorite YouTuber’s name here!!” text accompanied by a picture of said event or the “I’m staying out later. Is that okay?” text, or the sobbing, hysterical, breakdown phone call because they have finally reached the limit of over stimulation and absolute exhaustion. (Thankfully we didn’t have that happen this year, but it has happened). You’re getting up early to try and get breakfast, then up late because all the events of the day must be rehashed and replayed over and over and over.

All in all, a great time was had by all. The teenager had a blast meeting her favorite creators, giving them her personalized artwork, I was able to get in some good, quality time with her too, and had a chance to relax poolside and enjoy the southern California sunshine. Now to rest up, because I know we’ll be doing this all again next year.

Not A Resolution

weight-scale2For the past 3 1/2 years I’ve been working out with a trainer (and some on my own). It’s been hard work, but the results have definitely been worth it. When I first started I was coming in at around 186 pounds. At 6 feet tall (or 5 foot 12 inches as a friend used to say) I was able to carry the weight without most people noticing too much. But I noticed and it bothered me. I didn’t like the size clothes I was wearing, having a hard enough time finding things to fit right because of my height, my weight didn’t help either.

Working with a trainer has probably been one of the best things I could have done. It helps to hold me accountable, not only getting to the gym, but also because he checks in with me to see what I’m eating, if I’m doing workouts on my own, and making modifications based on how my body is responding and if there are injuries to be considered. And even after working with him for as long as I have, the workouts are never boring, never the same.

Over the past year I have also been using a program to track the cardio portion of my workouts. These are primarily my warm ups before sessions with the trainer and a couple of hours on my own during the rest of the week. What surprised me was the totals that I reviewed when I looked at my “lifetime” achievements. Since I started tracking last January I have worked out for 246 days (out of 356, give or take a day), I have completed 117 hours and 55 minutes, for a distance of 1,322.81 miles and a calorie burn of 59,266.

I have also made dietary changes, because exercise alone is not going to give me the results if I’m still consuming too much or the wrong things. Don’t get me wrong, I still have sweets on occasion, and bread (my biggest weakness) and other foods that most diets would tell you are “forbidden”. But they are in moderation along with adding a lot more of the healthy things I should be eating. And the results of all this, I have lost and kept off 25 pounds, I have gone from sizes 12/14 to sizes 6/8, I sleep better, I’m more flexible now than I’ve been in years past, and just the other day I was actually able to run sprints and not experience pain or ill effects (something doctors told me I shouldn’t do because of my knee issues). I don’t say this to brag, I just share it as an example of what can happen when you make a change and stick to it.

I’ve also learned something else important in all this. You have to find what works for you. All these crash diets, plans, and workouts that are out there are only as good as you make them. If you aren’t going to enjoy what you are doing, if you think it’s a drag or a chore, you won’t get the results you want. And until you are ready to fully commit to the change, it’s just another resolution you make at the beginning of the year that will be forgotten in just a few short months (or weeks).

And now I’m off to the gym, because now when I don’t go, I miss it.