Monday, September 30, 2013

In this government shutdown showdown, we're just pawns in the political game.

What we have right now is a few asshats in Congress holding this country hostage by using the Affordable Care Act aka Obamacare as a bargaining chip when it isn't even tired directly to this government funding. The Affordable Care Act is not affected because key parts of it rely on mandatory funding that is not tied to a shutdown. (Not to mention the law itself can only be repealed by legislation!)

And as Sarah Kliff of the Washington Post explains:

"That includes the new online marketplaces, known as exchanges, where uninsured people will be able to shop for coverage. The Medicaid expansion is funded with mandatory funding, as are the billions in federal tax credits to help with purchasing coverage."

"This largely has to do with how the big pieces of Obamacare are funded. The law uses mandatory funds for its really big programs. That includes the new online marketplaces, known as exchanges, where uninsured people will be able to shop for coverage. The Medicaid expansion is funded with mandatory funding, as are the billions in federal tax credits to help with purchasing coverage.

"Those mandatory funds were appropriated in the Affordable Care Act and, without repealing Obamacare, legislators cannot touch them. Even in the face of a government shutdown, this is the spending that sticks around."

So really, what we have here is political grandstanding by a few guys who want to run for the Presidency in 2016. It's time to put their political ambitions aside and get their collective heads out of their asses and do their jobs. If they don't, then on November 8, 2016, we'll do ours.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Enhancing our lives through the people we meet.

I was sitting in the local automotive shop the other day and as I waited for my car, I took notice of my surroundings, which included the only other person sitting near me, who was engaged some serious reading. He looked to be in his sixties, tall and tanned, with medium length gray hair covered by biker-style bandanna with an American flag design. He wore shorts and a tee shirt, earrings, a few colored bracelets and and a silver necklace with a skull on it, and he had a few tattoos.

I was bored to pieces watching the Chicago White Sox game on WGN and welcomed the change of pace when the stranger turned to me with a friendly smile and asked about my car. And that's how I started talking to a guy I would later find was named Barry, a die-hard Conservative in his sixties, who is of Italian descent, served in Vietnam, has a wife nine years younger who loves muscle cars, owns a house on a nearby island, and once drove a truck for the M&M/Mars company.

I sat there talking to him about all kinds of things from the interesting to the mundane, all the while mindful that at any moment, the mechanic would step into the room and tell one of us our car was ready, which would be followed by that awkward parting that comes when two complete strangers who have been conversing like old friends for hours, are suddenly reminded they really are complete strangers. Fortunately, we had a good thirty minutes of conversation before that happened.

We talked politics, education, social justice, the Civil War, and classic cars. I'll admit I was fascinated by the many directions our conversations had taken.  I was hit with an "it's a small world" moment when we were discussing heritage, I mentioned that my mother is from Brooklyn and my father from Kennesaw, Georgia. That's when he told me he knew Kennesaw very well, which surprised me, because even though it's no longer a just a small town outside Atlanta, I still don't meet many people who know anything about it other than the fact it passed a law years back requiring all citizens to carry firearms! Of course he knew quite a bit about the town, including its heritage, the Kennesaw Civil War Museum, the old Big Shanty Museum and Kennesaw's own legend "Wildman" Dent Myers. (You can look that last one up on your own!) 

After the manager let him know his car was ready, we talked for a few minutes more and then he put out his hand to shake and I reciprocated the gesture. We exchanged the usual "it was nice meeting you" and then that's when we learned each other's names for the first time. I told Barry that maybe we'd run in to one another again in the future. He said that would be nice.

Though we didn't have the opportunity to talk for very long, I felt like it was a very worthwhile experience. In fact, after he left the shop, I jotted down my thoughts our discussion. I think the main reason I did this is because I was still in awe that he struck up a conversation with me. In this day and age, so many people are hesitant to just say hello to a stranger and chat them up a bit. It's really too bad because there's so much to be learned from meeting new people!

My motto is "everybody has a story" and it's a fact that no two stories are the same so every time I talk to someone new, it's a fascinating experience for me. I'm very fortunate to know a lot of people, from many walks of life, from all over the US and the world. I have learned a great deal from them and hopefully they have from me too.  Meeting people, talking to them, and sharing experiences enhances our lives, it makes us richer and more fulfilled.

So the next time you find yourself sitting in public, checking your email, facebook and twitter, make the decision to put the phone down and try engaging the stranger next to you in conversation. You just never know what you might learn and how it might add to the quality of your life!

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Small steps can be mighty empowering...

Society can be painfully cruel, especially to women. There's this image we've been subjected to all our lives, an image of how we're supposed to look and how we're supposed to act. The media puts such a hype on this especially in the world of entertainment. They focus so much on female celebrities...what they eat, how they dress, and how they live their lives, in an attempt to make us believe that's what we should be doing too. The pressure is overwhelming. When will it end?

It doesn't end and we have to be strong enough to fight it. Fortunately I've been inspired by women who have fought this pressure by deciding to do things their own way.  Instead of letting others dictate how they should live life, they decided how and when they would do it...on their own terms. They don't care what anyone thinks of them. They're happy and healthy both physically and mentally because of it. I'm thrilled to have been inspired by these women. Their strength has become mine and I am empowered.

Taking charge of your life might be about getting a better job or finishing your education. It might be about wanting to lose weight or changing your personal style to better suit the real you. It might be about becoming a more outgoing person or being less afraid of change and more embracing of it. Whatever it is you want to change, that change has to start somewhere. You have to take that step and once you do, you will never be the same. The first step may seem as if it is a small step but really it could be the largest, most significant step you will ever take in your life.