Halloween Terrors…I Mean Terriers

Believe it or not, October has snuck away and today is Halloween. (I’m still trying to figure out where August went, but I guess that’s kind of water under the bridge at this point).

There have been lots of Halloween-themed shows on, and they are wide ranging – from Food Network-style competition shows with candy, cake and pumpkin carving to traditional Halloween favorites like “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.” That’s my personal favorite, to such an extent that I own it on DVD and will be watching it tonight after the trick-or-treaters (hopefully) take all this candy off my hands.

The funny thing about Halloween in our household is the dog’s reaction. As you probably know, if you follow the blog, my house is run by a pair of West Highland White Terriers (Westies as they are commonly known). They rule the roost but are beneficent rulers and at least let us sit on the furniture, provided we are willing to let them sit in our laps. Intelligent creatures, these Westies, they even watch TV, if by “watching,” you mean waiting for an animal to appear and then charging at the TV barking furiously.

The other morning I was sitting with my tea flipping through channels when I came across this adorable PBS kids show called “Peg + Cat.” This is not something you’d expect a 40-something to be watching, but it’s charming and the music was good. (And let’s face it, I’m not that bright before I’ve had my caffeine). ┬áDuring the show, Peg and Cat are getting ready to celebrate Halloween so of course there are costumes. This is when I learned that not only are Westies smart enough to know a cat when they see it on TV, they also know a cartoon cat, even when it’s dressed as a fire hydrant. Much barking ensued and eventually was put down by the evil menace of the water bottle.

Here’s the video in case you need a sample:

Peg + Cat

Tonight will be interesting. Last year we had over 100 trick or treaters and eventually ran out of candy. (That would be good; no one around here needs to eat the 5 pounds of chocolate we bought at Costco). I’ll make soup, as I have done every year since my kids were toddlers. And after the neighborhood is quiet and the kids have gone home to gorge on candy, I’ll sit down to watch my old friend Charlie Brown while Linus sits in the pumpkin patch waiting for the arrival of the Great Pumpkin.

Here’s to wishing you a happy Halloween. I hope you find your great pumpkin too.


P.S. Tomorrow is the first day of November. It’s All Saints’ Day for those of you who celebrate. It’s also the start of 30 Days of Thanks, which we celebrate here on the blog. It will be more of a challenge for me this year because it’s been a tough year but I’m going to try to do it – and write a post about gratitude every day. If you’re a blogger, please feel free to join me. If you’re not, feel free to play along on Facebook or the other social media outlet of your choice.


Why I Support the Affordable Care Act

I don’t usually get political on the blog, but today the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare) is all over the news. The new healthcare insurance exchanges are going live in states across the nation, and at the same time, the Republican party has shut down our government over it.

This post isn’t going to be a statement of facts about why the Affordable Care Act is a good thing. You can read that elsewhere. I have a personal story to tell, one I don’t share all that often, about growing up in America as a member of the uninsured working-class poor. I’m pretty successful today, thanks in large part to contributions from America in the form of free public education and subsidized student loans. I feel like I have a responsibility to tell my tale.

My sister and I were children of a single mom. To understand our situation, you have to ignore the stereotype you have in your head of a welfare family, because in fact my mom always worked. That was actually part of the problem. If you’re on welfare, you qualify for Medicaid, which provides both medical and dental benefits. If you’re working in a low-wage job (as were most employed women in the 70’s), you don’t. My mom was a journalist and still didn’t make enough to afford insurance, and the small businesses where she worked, mostly locally owned newspapers with staffs of 4-5 people, couldn’t afford to provide it either.

So, we went without. Usually that was okay but sometimes it was terrible. I remember times when we had to choose between taking my sister to the hospital for appendicitis and having money for groceries. I remember a doctor telling us we couldn’t have any more care until we paid a bill that was probably more than my mother made in a month. I remember struggling through pneumonia trying to kick it on my own because we couldn’t go to the doctor.

Ironic, then, isn’t it, that I eventually ended up working in the insurance industry. I’ve watched the way we sell health insurance to the private market and always thought it was crazy. If your employer doesn’t provide it, you are pretty much out of luck unless you are very wealthy.

So why do I support the Affordable Care Act? For starters, because I’ve actually read the law. The Entire Thing. Yes, like all bills passed by our lovely Congress, it’s got some fat in it, and even I was surprised when the individual mandate was held to be constitutional. From the insurance company perspective, the individual mandate is really important, because without it, the numbers simply don’t work once you remove the pre-existing condition clauses. (And let’s face it, they were one of the worst parts of the insurance market previously. You could get sick, lose your job, and suddenly be without health insurance at a time when you needed it most).

As a parent of young adults, the ACA gives me the ability to keep my kids on my insurance until they’re 26 rather than sending them out into a broken open market where individual coverage costs thousands of dollars a month and there is essentially no competition.

As a small business owner, I can use the SHOP marketplace to offer real coverage to my employees at a cost I can afford.

Preventative care like mammograms, flu shots, and other things that improve health outcomes and save lots of cost are now fully covered.

These are the things that benefit me the most – mostly tweaks to the existing marketplace that don’t cost any tax dollars. There are lots of other things in this bill that will help others.

Is it perfect? Of course not. No law ever is, especially when it comes from something as complicated and political as our Congress. But is it worth saving? I think yes, and frankly I’m saddened by the current tactics that would harm business and our economy by shutting the government down just to get political leverage.