Thursday, April 18, 2013

Think Different! College isn't just for the younger generation!

Ahh...approaching midlife there's the pressures to keep up with career, family, friends, volunteer work, hobbies, life responsibilities and...homework?

Yep you heard it right. Homework.

A friend had told me awhile back that Justine Bateman had gone back to college last year. She's a freshman and she's...47. Now to me that's not a big deal, but to my friend's son (he's 20), it was like "ewww". Apparently "women her age" have no business in the classroom.

Now that's just ridiculous. 

Justine has just as much right to be in that classroom as anyone else. She has something to offer and it should be respected. I commend her for going back to school and adding it into her already very full life. There's ALWAYS room for more learning! I got in touch with her and shared my sentiment. She acknowledges the hard work of women like her on her Smarty-Pants Women blog. A shout-out and dedication to those of us who are kicking college ass at a non-traditional age!

I found that when I returned to college eight years ago as a Poli-Sci turned History major, I was more organized, focused and studious than when I was 21. I know how to apply what I'm learning and I am far more able to think critically than at any other point in my life. My research papers are, not good...they're great. I mean really great. Though I work full-time, write and have other major responsibilities, I have been able to excel in my studies. My overall GPA is above 3.6 and my major GPA hovers somewhere near 3.8 and there's a reason for that: I've worked my ass off for it!  I'm so serious about my performance in class that I had to be talked off a ledge (not really but you know what I mean) last semester when I earned a "C" grade in my Mass Comm Law class. Mass Comm Law was a pure first amendment course that was the most fun, most interesting course I've ever taken (and I've taken excellent courses!) with one of the funniest, most intelligent, most engaging and knowledgeable professors ever. The grade was based on four paper, no homework, just four exams.

The C grade I earned in that course was first C I've ever earned. My grades tend to be B and higher, mostly A. My best pal Jenn, who is working on her PhD, reminded me that if you do the best you can, your very best, and you put everything into it, and you walk away with serious knowledge, a wonderful experience and a  C, you will live. Life will go on.

And it did.

The experience of that course and the immense knowledge I gained, will always be with me right here (points to head) and no one can ever take it from me.

At 43, I'm the oldest in most of my classes but I found that the professors like that. They know they don't have to worry about whether or not I'll take the class seriously. If I'm there at my age...with a full-time job and other activities/responsibilities, they know I'm all in. They take my questions seriously and they like when I speak up in class discussions. I know that my professors value my contributions. I'm not saying they don't value those of the younger students, but I'm saying that given my background as a forty-something female, military veteran, working full-time, writing, etc., they know that I'm not just talking out of my ass. They know I've worked hard to get where I am and they respect that.

It makes me feel good.

Today's young college-age generation has its share of ambitious, smart, and well-adjusted young people, but as it was when I was their age, they have a lot to learn. It's part of life and every individual who lives long enough to get from twenty to forty-something goes through it. Going from naive and immature to worldly and experienced is a rite-of-passage and really it never ends. As we move from forty-something through middle-age and beyond, it's the same thing. The older we get, the more experiences we have, the more of "life" we endure, the smarter we get. At least we're supposed to.

So to Justine, my cousin Debbie, and all the other older "sistahs" out there who are "doing it for themselves" and getting that college education at 40, 50, and beyond I say...

Rock on girls! 

What a great inspiration and example we are to the younger generation of women!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

What's really wrong with the health care system? Part Two: The one-day $19,000 bill.

Recently I wrote about my mom's $14,000 stay in the hospital. In that piece titled What's really wrong with the health care system? Part One: The one-day $14,000 bill., I told you that mom was taken to the emergency room because she was having problems breathing. She was in the ER until the evening when she was finally placed in a room. The next morning, a doctor discharged her but she was still very sick and her sister refused to take her home, insisting there was still something wrong with her. The nurses wanted to help but were prohibited because she'd been discharged. She was told by one of them that if she went back downstairs and entered through the ER again, they could readmit and get her back in a room and treat her again.

So...that's what they did.

Mom went through the ER again, they triaged and I'm guessing did another battery of unnecessary tests and according to the statement, they gave her medications too. My aunt was with her all day and then I arrived at the hospital around 9 p.m.  Around 11 p.m. she finally received Dilaudid which helped with the severe body pains. She also ate something...jello...for the first time since the previous day.

The Blue Cross/Blue Shield statement you see below shows the charges and what was approved by Medicare, which is essentially the whole thing.  Mind you, like the first statement, this is JUST the emergency room charges. 

Another day in the ER and a $19,000 tab. Would someone care to explain this to me? I can't wait to see the statement for her stay in the hospital after she was admitted the second time.

If you think this is the end of it, it's not, not by a long shot. This is a serious problem in our health care system and it's time we get some answers.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Forever Young: Episode #3 "Food Fight"

What happens when you throw five people under thirty in a house with five people over seventy?

Attitude and lots of it.

This show is full of laughter and...tears. Let me tell you, if a reality show can bring me to tears, it's a winner in my book because it means I've learned something.

This week the juniors and seniors were tested on their business savvy. They were divided into two teams. Team 1 which I affectionately refer to as Team Taco consisted of Shirley, Angelina, Mike, Eugene, and Sam while Arthur, Andree, Emileen, Lou, and Christian made up Team 2 also known as Team Hot Dog.

Which team can create a strategy that will earn them the most money? And in the end, can they do it without killing each other?

Under the watchful eye of a professional chef, the teams were assigned to their own food trucks and given two hours to come up with a plan to sell their product during the lunch rush. They got busy organizing the ingredients and materials, setting prices and implementing advertising strategies. Immediately they got busy organizing their respective game plans.

When all was said and done, Shirley hit the streets dressed as a rather brightly decorated taco while Christian paraded around as a hot dog. Frankly, given their outgoing, no-holds-barred personalities, I can't think of two more appropriate individuals to be dressed as fast food and running around the streets of L.A.

Shirley and Christian "ham" it up!

Remember, both groups went into this experiment with preconceived notions so it should come as no surprise that one of the first things the seniors said on-site was that the juniors had no idea what they were doing because they never worked a day in their life.

I wonder if the juniors got sick of hearing that. I know when I was their age, I did.

From the outset, Team Taco appeared to be kicking ass. Everyone on the team was participating in the effort and things were flowing smoothly. However, with the great advertising by the Taco-donned Shirley, things suddenly changed. Angelina, who, despite all her hard work, was bustling throughout the tiny kitchen burning the meat and getting behind in the orders. Suddenly a lot of people were waiting outside the truck and not getting any tacos. Then it's announced to the crowd they would be eating tacos on hamburger buns.

What? I suppose necessity is the mother of invention.

Meanwhile, there's Mike, who is also shirtless showing off an amazing set of arms and he's got himself a megaphone and went to town. 

Angelina, Sam, Mike, & Shirley getting the job done!
Mike's idea of marketing is shouting all kinds of rude and obnoxious things about hot dogs, hoping to steer the traffic to the taco truck.  Well this pisses off Arthur, who thinks Mike is attempting to win the competition by taking cheap shots. However, there's a remedy for that.

Enter Andree....and her breasts. You gotta love Andree and her willingness to sacrifice one for the team. Under the watchful eye and encouragement of Lou, she tucks the hem of her shirt into her bra and begins using sex appeal to take business away from Team Taco. One thing is for sure...some things haven't changed since Lou was in his twenties....and that's "sex sells".

Andree runs out in the middle of the plaza and yells,

"Come get your hot dogs!"

At that moment, all eyes were on her. I was laughing my ass off when Mike turned around and saw her...and all that skin...and his jaw dropped.

"We're screwed!" He said.

Yep Mike, I'd agree. 

Meanwhile, supplies were low, time was running out and both teams were desperate.  When the lunch rush was over, the chef instructed them to count their earnings. The results?

Team Hot Dog: $200.
Team Taco: $366.

Team Taco wins!

But wait...something's fishy...

At $1 per taco that would've meant 366 customers. Recalling the small crowd, Arthur and company concur there's no way there were that many people out there. When the group returned home, Arthur demanded a recount. That's where find how the inexperience in running a business kinda sucks. Apparently Sam, who counted the earnings for Team Taco, didn't realize you don't count the bank. Sorry, Sam. That's right, both teams started out with a bank of $250. Lou, the accounting guru, placed Team Hot Dog's bank underneath the register before opening for business, whereas Team Taco did not. This means that in reality Team Taco earned only $116 while Team hot dog cleared $200.

Team Hot Dog wins!

It's all in good fun and a lot was learned from the experience. All were reminded that strategy, salesmanship and hard work makes a winning combination. The seniors and juniors both had something to bring to the table here. The seniors have years of experience and the juniors have new ideas.


Sometime later, Mike was seated at the dining room table with Arthur and Shirley. He decided to share something about himself with them. He battled cancer when he was seventeen years old. Both Arthur and Shirley were stunned as Mike opened a photo album and showed them pics of himself on the day of his first chemo appointment. He was young and full of life, as was so evidently displayed in the smile on his face in the photographs. Mike, ever the athlete, was in no way ready to give up on life and give in to his cancer. He fought with everything he had and talked fondly about how his friends and family helped him through it. Then he stunned Arthur even more when he told him that Arthur reminded him of his grandfather, who was his role model. Mike went on to tell Arthur and Shirley that he just wants to live his life the best he can. You go Mike!

Mike has a zest for life and much of that comes from having gone through such a traumatic ordeal at a young age. At seventeen, he should have been looking forward to graduating high school and preparing for the rest of his life, not going to doctor's appointments and enduring brutal chemotherapy. He has amazing strength and the more I get to know him, the more I like him. His story and the bonding moment he shared with Arthur, where he told him he loved him touched my heart deeply. 


 Later, the group sat around the fire and at that point it was evident the juniors and seniors seemed much more comfortable around one another. Lou opened a box left for them containing $5,000 in cash. Their mission was to decide, as a group, which individual should receive that money. Given the camaraderie they've built so far, it should have been easy yet it wasn't.

Eugene, who grew up very poor, said he could use the money.

Sam thought they should donate the money, insisting there are a lot of people out there who need it more than they do.

Shirley, who at 83 is a widow three times over, stated none of her husbands left her anything when they and she's had to work her whole life with no one to take care of her in old age.

Someone made mention of Angelina's college debt.

Mike, talked of his family, and how they owed a lot of debt because of the medical treatment he'd received for his cancer.  He wanted to give that money to his mom to thank her for all she's done for him. Though Mike wanted the money for his mom, he realized that sometimes there are others out there who may need it more and he puts his own needs aside when he said determinedly, "I came here without it, I can do without it. I want Angelina to have it."

Let the tears commence. Bravo Mikey, Bravo!

Arthur then chimed in that he wants it to go to Mike as well. He says, "I deeply respect and love you."

More tears commencing. Guys what are you doing to me?

The juniors were very vocal about how the seniors don't need the money as much as the juniors. Emileen understood the juniors feelings about needing it more than the seniors but she insisted that it's more difficult for the seniors because there's no one take care of them. In the end, she voted for Shirley.

Lou remarked that the kids would survive, that while they struggle now, eventually they would be okay. He really wanted Shirley to have it but in the end, he made the decision that it should go to Mike. There were hugs, tears, and then Shirley, who has become very fond of Mike tells him that he's like a grandson to her.  Mike and Arthur embrace.

I still haven't stopped crying at this point! I am so proud of these people!

It was touching, emotional, and heartwarming though I didn't like the last segment of the episode. It was a very awkward situation and I feared that the bond that was being forged would be put in jeopardy with the choice they had to make. It's a hard thing for a proud person to come out and say they need something, especially when that person grew up believing they had to work for everything and that nothing would ever come easy.  I was sure it wasn't easy for Eugene and Shirley to say they could use that money. I don't fault them for it, I mean in this day and age, rarely do we get anything just handed to us. These seniors grew up in an era where it was prevalent that if you wanted something you worked for it. Who of us hasn't faced the dilemma of taking something for ourselves, something that we need, versus giving it to someone else who might need it more?

As the debate ensued, I asked myself what would my grandmother May have done in this situation. Grams is 95 years old and if you sat her in that room, with those individuals, in that situation, she most certainly would not have made a case for why she needed the money. Even if she did need it, she would have advocated it be given to the most worthy young person in that room. My grandmother's attitude to her family is that she had her chance in life to do all the things she wanted to do and now it's our turn. Grams isn't concerned for herself, she's concerned for us. She says that's the way it's supposed to be. I suppose you get to a point in life where, you don't give up, but you realize what you want and need isn't as significant as it once're content with the littlest of things. I imagine that the seniors in this group have those very same thoughts too.

In the end, when the cash was given to Mike, when the juniors and seniors hugged, I breathed a great sigh of relief that there were no hard feelings.There shouldn't be either. Voting for yourself is not selfish, it's self-preservation. It was obvious the decision of who should get that money was difficult and that the members of the group discussed it rationally, thought about it carefully and then came to a decision is a great feat in my book. Much progress is being made here.

There's so much to be learned from this episode. These young people, who are dismissed all too often because of their youth, have each endured their own share of experiences and hardships in life that have made them who they are and it's wonderful that the seniors are coming to recognize that and respect them for it. Sometimes we all forget we were young and inexperienced at life. Listen, the only way you can get old is to be young first. We've all been immature, inexperienced, naive, and made stupid mistakes. It's just part of the experience of getting older. I think all too often we forget that as we age.

When they came together in the very beginning, both the seniors and juniors were like "oh hell no!" immediately forming opinions and judgments about one another. Slowly but surely though, the preconceived notions and prejudices are being pushed aside. Attitudes are changing and hearts and minds are opening. They are giving to one another, considering one another's feelings and attempting to understand what it is like to be in each other's shoes.

If only that were done more often, what a wonderful world it would be.

Next week: Episode #4: Date night. The group tries internet dating.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

What's really wrong with the health care system? Part One: The one-day $14,000 bill.

The Affordable Health Care Act requiring mandatory insurance coverage, coverage of preexisting conditions, and a whole host of other things is fine and dandy but it does nothing to fix the problem you see here.

Mom was taken to the Emergency room on the morning of March 2, 2013 because she was having severe breathing problems. She has no known ailments that would cause this. She was in a room in the ER most of the day, that night she was placed in a room. The next morning, an ER doc discharged her but she was still very sick. Her entire body hurt, her head was killing her, her blood pressure was sky high, and she clearly not well. My aunt demanded she be treated but the kindly nurses said because she'd been discharged, there was nothing that could be done. They did suggest mom go back down to the ER and go through triage and get readmitted all over again, which she did. Took her nine hours to get readmitted and back into another room. Three days later she was discharged with high blood pressure and told she had a lung infection, but nobody could ever be exactly sure of that. We still have no idea what was wrong with her.

Anyway, the Blue Cross/Blue Shield statement above for $14,312.25 is for...basically...a 24-hour hospital stay. Medicare paid all but $101.00 of this bill.  Can you imagine what the bill for the additional three-day stay will look like?

Now you ask yourself, what in hell is wrong with this picture? Is it no wonder Medicare is going broke? Is it no wonder so many families across this country go bankrupt because of medical bills?

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

When we lived in simpler times...

...or maybe not-so-simpler times. 

It just depends on your point of view. 

Every generation has its share of good and simpler times, when things just weren't as tough as they are in the present. Usually it's one's childhood that brings back these memories...when we were carefree and happy and completely without the responsibilities faced by our parents. 

Sometimes the world gets crazy, I am reminded that there is hope...  

When I find myself in times of trouble
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom
Let it be

And in my hour of darkness
She is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom
Let it be

Let it be, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom
Let it be

And when the broken-hearted people
Living in the world agree
There will be an answer
Let it be

For though they may be parted
There is still a chance that they will see
There will be an answer
Let it be

Let it be, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Yeah, there will be an answer
Let it be

Let it be, let it be

Let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom
Let it be

Let it be, let it be
Let it be, yeah, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom
Let it be

And when the night is cloudy
There is still a light that shines on me
Shine until tomorrow
Let it be

I wake up to the sound of music
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom
Let it be-e

Yeah, let it be, let it be
Let it be, yeah, let it be
Oh, there will be an answer
Let it be-e

Let it be, let it be
Let it be, yeah, let it be
Oh, there will be an answer
Let it be

Let it be, let it be
A-let it be, yeah, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom
Let it be 

The Beatles

Friday, April 05, 2013

How not to sell a product...

The other day mom called a well-known company that sells medical alert systems. She wanted to inquire about obtaining one for my grandmother, who lives next door to her. After the customer service rep gave her the information, this happened:

Mom: "Well, I'd like to think about it."

"What's there to think about? THIS IS YOUR MOTHER!"

Mom: "Uhh, excuse me but if I wanted a guilt trip, I'd get it from my mother!" Then she hung up the phone.

A short time later, mom talked to her sister, who gave her information she had obtained from a competitor. Mom called the company and spoke to the man in customer service my aunt had talked to earlier. He was polite and knowledgeable, discussed the product and service in detail with mom, and answered her many questions. Afterwards mom felt confident enough with the information that she decided to purchase it from that company. NO GUILT TRIP REQUIRED!

And here ends the lesson on how to sell...or better yet, how not to sell a product.