Thursday, November 13, 2014

I Was So Naive! When Did It All Change?

When I was 12 I was very naive. I remember thinking that it was so sad that my dad rarely saw his sisters and brothers. It was different than my mom who stayed in close contact with her brothers. She was the baby girl after all. But, I always believed that no matter what we would always exchange gifts at Christmas, that we would always break bread together. That we would always be there, right there. I remember saying, I could lose a man, but I would never lose my sisters. I even said to my ex once, "Don't ever mess with my sisters, I will choose them over you!" So naive! I remember wonderful Thanksgivings and Christmas's surrounded by family. Aunt Donna, Uncle Gene, Scott and Diane, they were a part of it all. Then it happened. People began to get to that point where there would be kids going off to college, people getting married and the large family that silenced out loneliness and separation began to dwindle. We began to see people less and less. Only 7 years later would render us motherless as Mom died too soon. Soon it was just Maureen, Michael (who had headed off to college) Me, Rick and little Miss. The others headed out for greener pasture. I remember feeling that it would be okay, I could talk with all of them as needed by phone. My weekly, sometimes daily phone calls to my sisters would keep the emptiness, confusion and feeling of orphan-like confusion at bay. I would always have them. They would always be my first friends. My brothers who are 2 years younger and 2 years older would be my protectors, my shelter from the storm. I remember feeling dread when my sister announced that they were moving to Arizona. The farthest corner of the South West to be exact. "Don't worry we will be home at least once a year." I remember thinking, "no, you won't your family will want to experience other places. Kankakee will be the last place you visit. That is the way it all happens. I know, 2 way street. So it is that time and tide has come and gone. I am blessed I still have my sisters and my brothers, there are no weekly calls, the sometime daily call. There are not visits on Saturday morning with a cup of coffee and ramblings of the week before. There are minimal exchanges by way of a fabricated social network created for people who do not have brothers and sisters and large families that gather and talk on the phone weekly and sometimes daily. Where did it all go? In the end I had and I am blessed. I stil have, I can still claim it as mine. The aforementioned rambling came as a result of thinking about National Adoption Month. Sometimes we all feel like a motherless child. Some will always feel it, others just in those moments of orphan-like confusion, like now.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Beware: Anthem Dental and The Healthcare Exchange

After a day of intense frustration, I found myself sending the following letter to all my representatives, as well as Anthem Dental, entitled "healthcare snafu":


Dear fellow representatives (US Senator Joe Donnelly, US Senator Dan Coats, US Representative Peter Visclosky, Indiana State Senator Karen Tallian, Indiana State Representative Scott Pelath),

This year, as my COBRA insurance was ending on July 31, I obtained medical and dental insurance through the healthcare exchange, to begin August 1. The medical coverage is through PHPNI (Physicians Health Plan Northern Indiana), and the dental through Anthem Blue Cross. I selected these plans for both cost reasons, and because their own website documentation listed my existing providers as being "in network".

In August, I learned from my dentist that the Anthem insurance was not fully accepted, contrary to Anthem's website information.

I called Anthem to cancel my insurance so that I could sign up with another dental insurer and thus not have to switch providers.

Anthem directed my call to the healthcare exchange. There, one Veronica first told me that she couldn't cancel just the dental; she would have to cancel the medical portion as well. Furthermore, should I cancel my medical coverage, I would not be eligible to enroll in another medical plan until November, effective January 1, 2015. That was a completely untenable proposition, because I was due for my yearly physical and prescriptions for necessary medications.

After I complained that "there must be a way", Veronica finally said, "Oh, I see how to do it now!", and she did something on her end, and told me that she had accomplished what I desired: she had canceled my dental insurance plan, but not the medical. Fine. Thanking her, I waited about a week (because she said the cancellation would take 2-3 business days to complete), and obtained new dental insurance with Humana so that I could see my dentist, because I was due for a cleaning and checkup scheduled six months earlier.

That appointment went well.

Fast forward to September 8. That morning - the day of my yearly medical exam - I received a "late notice" from Anthem, saying I was late with my payment. This, despite having been told by Veronica (of the healthcare exchange) that my Anthem policy was canceled.

I called Anthem, and they said my policy was *not* canceled. I called the healthcare exchange, where I was told in no uncertain terms that they cannot cancel just the dental, that I would have to cancel both (this is the day of my yearly checkup and prescription renewals, mind you!) and wait until January 1, 2015 to have coverage again! Furthermore, they said that Veronica "made a mistake" but that "there was nothing they could do about it".

Well, guess what that means to me, who has been unemployed since July of 2013? It means that I'm now stuck with two dental plans. I can't cancel Anthem plan, because Anthem says they can't cancel it because it was obtained through the healthcare exchange, and the healthcare exchange can't cancel it without canceling my medical insurance with it, thereby jeopardizing my health and well-being due to the timing of my yearly exams and prescription refill cycle. And I can't cancel the Humana plan, because I just saw the dentist, I don't want to wind up paying in full for that visit, and furthermore I paid a non-refundable $35 signup fee with Humana, which I would have to pay again in January should I cancel them and signup with them again in November.

So - again, I'm unemployed! - I'm going to have to dish out $120 to Anthem for the remainder of the year for ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. I can't tell you how disturbed and disgusted I am by this. I'm stuck paying due to the extortion also known as "going to collections and having my credit rating affected negatively", and apparently NOBODY CAN DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT. Anthem responds to my online requests with idiotic customer service replies that ignore the meat of my requests (e.g. I ask for them to cancel my policy, they reply with some polite mumbo jumbo about what phone number to call for customer service). The healthcare exchange people are similarly useless, repeating back the same verbiage about what they can and can't do, none of which solves this ridiculous situation that I'm in through no fault of my own (although I'm sure all these organizations have lawyers that will be able to find some sliver of "terms and agreements" text that "prove" otherwise).

Tell me. Is it reasonable that medical and dental insurance have be canceled *together*? Is it reasonable that Anthem bears no responsibility for their website information stating that my dental provider was in their network, when the dental provider itself insists otherwise?

Where is the sensible America I once knew? The ridiculous costs of the healthcare system, the mazes of "where is such and such an insurance plan good?", and the fact that someone who just wants the kind of health and dental care they used to have BEFORE A LARGE COMPANY (IBM) DECIDED TO USE WALL STREET EARNINGS PER SHARE TARGETS AS AN EXCUSE TO PRACTICE THINLY VEILED AGE DISCRIMINATION (WHICH OF COURSE THEIR LAWYERS KNOW HOW TO DEFEND AGAINST) can get themselves into a situation where they're UTTERLY STUCK with TWO dental insurance plans, with no way out except to either cancel their medical insurance and remain uninsured for several months, or pay dearly to just ride it out in order to avoid collection agency harassment and a tanking credit rating. I'm just sick over this.

I would appreciate it if you could do something about this that leads to my not having to suffer the cost and indignity of $120 out of pocket for NOTHING. Greedy Anthem and the apparently powerless healthcare exchange remain willfully deaf on this matter.


Regards,


[snipped contact information]

Friday, August 8, 2014

What a Difference a "Day"-sy Makes. Step Up and Shine!


Last evening, (August 7, 2014) Steve Champagne and I  had the opportunity to experience first hand what a few women, when they network together can do. We have had the privilege at ArtSees Productions, to feature Step Up, on our radio show. We were also guests at last night's Shine & Dine event held at the Bridgeport Art's Center, Skyline Loft.

Through the preliminary exploration into the Step Up, I was able to glean a pretty good understanding of what it was about, why professional women networking on behalf of under-resourced girls was needed, and how it works. But, last night I witnessed first hand what this program is doing for the 250 girls found at four neighborhood schools.

Upon arrival at the Bridgeport Art's Center, we were greeted with a sea of finely dressed women and young ladies all adorned with an orange daisy, which represents the organizations logo. We were also greeted by young women wearing the official SUWN t-shirt. All greeters were gracious and exuded an air of gratitude that we were there. As well as a belief in the program. We were delivered to the "Skyline Loft"  by way of a chic "service elevator" and it was there that I met Miss "Daisy" a beautiful young woman who immediately responded to my presence. I graciously asked her where the ladies room was and not only did she show me, she escorted me there. We had a nice little walk ahead of us, so I was able to explain to her why I was there and what I do as a profession. I shared with her that I am a radio show host, blogger, writer with ArtSees Productions.  She was interested and then I shared my  other profession, education. It was then that she became intrigued with my role as a high school educator. She was an interested listener, gracious, poised, and very engaging and filled with questions.

As I exited from the ladies room, there was Daisy, waiting for me. I was glad to see her as I wanted to talk with this beautiful flower ( perfectly named for the evening and as a representative of the endeavor) a little more. I was deeply touched that she waited and that she wanted to walk me back to my companion. All the way we talked and shared our passion for education.

It was in that moment that I was reminded of how valuable we are to one another. Daisy made me feel comfortable in unfamiliar surroundings and I sense that our commonality availed a sense of well-being for her too. I felt valued as a woman, and important as a professional educator. Our conversation ended with a shaking of hands and a "pleasure to meet you" farewell. But, what I walked away with was an assurance that this program works. I spent the rest of the evening witnessing the collaboration, passion, camaraderie and friendships that have emerged by way of Step Up. In addition to the aforementioned, I realized how important it is to lead, guide and impress upon each other how valuable we are to the bigger picture.

Thank you Daisy, you "stepped up" and you Shined!

Friday, July 25, 2014

On Being a MeMe (Grandmother)

This is why grandchildren are so special;" it takes all the most beautiful moments of parenting all the most precious attributes of our children and bundles them up into a new generation. Grand parenting is our opportunity to look back on those precious moments that we rushed past as we were so busy being new parents." mlaluna (2014)
Last night as I watched my precious granddaughter dancing it was like being a young mother again, only this time I just got to watch in a very different way as an observer. I was the celebrity chosen to watch a performance of a lifetime. More precious than the dance that my granddaughter insist that she would do while I was singing, was the planning. There I was, hand in hand with my Bella. She had something so special to talk to me about. So special that we had to escape downstairs away from prying eyes and ears numerous times. So special that she had to choreograph/produce how it would all play out. Listening to her little mind, (not little at all, genius mind) discuss all the aspects of how it would play out. She asked if I had any ballet songs I could sing as she had the perfect dance for that. She asked if I do any hip-hop. She insisted that we announce that she had a special dance planned for the guests at her Great-Aunt Missy's benefit.

Imagine this little peanut coming up with her check list to ensure that all of the food was being prepared correctly.

Equally  beautiful was to be able to experience the 2 grandmothers holding hands with their only granddaughter and dancing. All 3 of us dancing while BeBe was singing a Beatles' cover. That image of what it is to be a woman will be forever etched on her heart and on our's.

Sharing in the dance of life...

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Online Professional Portfolios;Guess what HR, Highly Qualified people use them!

After much discussion, frustration as well as pulling out our hair, Steve and I have decided to just laugh at the joke that HR has become in the 21st century. I remember in 1998 whilst taking a technology integration course that I would have to ultimately create an online portfolio in order to obtain a job. It was identified as the wave of the future! 

Yeah, so? So, both Steve and I have put to good use our technology integration and created online portfolios. Guess what? We are still required to do the mundane task of applying on line over and over again, to become one of the thousands who are incapable of creating online portfolios, leaving us at the bottom of the abyss of online application processes. In other words at the bottom of said, application stack! It is beyond tiring, it is absurd! What ever happened to the other suggested requirement in my days of schooling which was not that long ago? Whatever happened to creativity and open-mindedness of HR? "Mary, you must always create fine linen papered resumes that will be sent off to the hiring bodies as that is the way to get hired." That has become a major untruth. I find it hard to believe that true transformational leaders want cookie cutter applicants! That they want people who only spew out words that a computer program wishes to see. That is not trans-formative or creative!

Today if you send your resume on fine linen paper you are asked to go to the website fill out the spyder crawling, code word watching application systems that only serve one purpose...to discriminate to the point of major labor violations! This is truth. The only one's making any headway off of the new, 21st century application processes is the creator of said application processes! If you want to hire high quality applicants do what we do when looking for high quality job opportunities, search on the web. Chances are high quality organizations can find many highly qualified people with their appropriate online portfolios available for hiring. Go ahead give it a try, you'd be surprised.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Taking It In Stride, Too Young, Too Soon

One of the realities of being me is that I grew up under the shadow of cancer. My mother's mother died of uterine cancer when she was only 16, my mother died of ovarian cancer when my baby sister was only 16. My father's sisters, his mother, my mother all died too young, too soon, painfully and yes, from cancer.

I remember signing on with the American Cancer Society door to door drives when I was barely old enough to leave my yard. I recall collecting dimes, dollars, whatever my kind neighbors would give. I recall putting it in an envelope and sending it on its way. I had no idea what that money was used for, or even where it really went. I just knew it might be the thing that would keep my mom and dad from crying. I recall laying next to my grandmother as her health was failing. I was six.

I have grown up in fear. I became as some would say, mildly paranoid. The idea of leaving my children behind without me was more than I could bare. I could not accept the idea that my children would feel the pain I felt when I buried my mother, too young, too soon. My doctor realized my fear. He sat me down when I was about 28 and said, Mary, worrying about developing cancer, will not keep it from happening. But, we can be proactive and if we come to that bridge we will cross it. I listened and I became as proactive as I could be. Now this is not to say that those I love in my lifetime didn't care, or were not proactive. I just means that being as aware of the genetic connection as possible is wise. It is like having a high occurrence of diabetes or heart disease.

I became involved a few years back with the American Cancer Society, this time as a grown woman.My partner Steve and I held a "Making Strides" awareness raiser. A concert where many of my friends came together and we celebrated life with music. We wrote a song titled, "Strides." I wrote for all women and those who love them. Little did I know that within just a couple years I would discover that a cousin was a breast cancer survivor, our first born niece would be a sarcoma survivor and that two of my sisters would be diagnosed with cancer. Too young, too soon.

Here are videos that capture the song and the speech I made for a "Making Strides" kick-off event. The "Strides" video is reflecting my sister Marissa. Please read the article that was so generously written by The Kankakee Daily Journal.

Please consider helping me help my sister. http://youcaring.com/TeamRissa