Workin’ so hard like a soldier, can’t afford a single defeat …

It’s hard not to see Big Pharma in this country as one massive, ugly joke.

When I last changed jobs, I was paying $25 a month for my husband’s most important prescription.  It didn’t come in a generic because Uncle Sugar decided to reward the pharma company with 3 more years of brand-name sales.  When it finally did become generic, I was still responsible for paying almost $400 a month under my new job’s coverage.  I was almost literally buying it by the pill – well, actually, by the week – because I couldn’t afford the lump sum amount.

Finally, I found a legit discount card online that brought the price down.  The catch was, since I had already put my insurance on file at the pharmacy we’d gone to forever, they wouldn’t apply the discount card instead.  So I wound up going to the “unnamed major national warehouse chain” the discount card suggested (read: “C****o” 🙂 You fill in the blanks.)

For a while, I spent about $100 a month – close to the previous weekly amount I’d paid at our pharmacy with insurance coverage.  After a few months, they got a new supplier and I was paying more like $70 a month.  Yet another new supplier, and for about five months, it’s been slightly less than $40 a month.  By the way – if I was still paying through insurance not much had changed.  I can’t imagine what people do who are stuck paying straight cash.  I saw one place sell a month’s worth for about $2,500.

I’m in a new situation now, and on January 1, I’ll find out if I can afford it on my insurance or if that “warehouse” and I will stay good friends.

Why am I bringing this up?  Because I have to wait until January 1 on my new job to get coverage, I’m paying cash prices, and once again, it’s nuts.  I have three other prescriptions my husband needs.  Two of them were at our local Wal-Mart pharmacy and even on a cash basis, we’re paying less than $10 for both.

The other prescription is at that “other” pharmacy.  I called to refill it last night.  After telling me I could pick it up in an hour, she asked if I wanted to know what it cost.  Under insurance, I’d been paying about $1.25.  I figured, well, it could be $10 now, so I said yes.  Cost: over $30.  After I recovered from fainting, I asked what it would cost to get two days’ worth, figuring I could transfer it to the warehouse or to Wal-Mart.  Cost for two days’ medicine: $11.99.  I told the lady at the pharmacy to forget it.

A quick drive across the street to the Evil Empire (well, I know some people see it this way) and a nice lady at the drop-off window took my husband’s information and told me to come back in a half-hour.

When I returned, the prescription was ready.  Cost: (drumroll please) $5.33.

I know a lot of people don’t like Wal-Mart and there are probably some good reasons for that.  But for those of us who aren’t paid members of the Rockefeller family (let alone a Gates, Jobs or Zuckerberg), the ability to get things we can’t do without is priceless.  Until you’re in a “have to do what I have to do” situation, you cannot possibly understand.  If you actually have money left from your last check after the next payday, I’m guessing this is not part of your worldview either.

For me, I’m just glad my husband has his medicine.

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And What Color is the Sky on YOUR Planet?

The BBC published a story today — http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-18585020 — about the resurgence of the Baby Box in Europe (and apparently in some places in Canada).

If you’re not familiar with the concept, this is the rebirth of a practice that existed in late medieval Europe. Baby boxes are warm, safe places at a hospital or other location where a parent can anonymously leave their child in safety. They also have the right, should it be necessary, to return if they change their mind (or their circumstances).

I don’t think this is a bad thing at all.  So many times we are horrified by a news story of a new mother leaving her child in a garbage bin because she can’t deal with a birth. Often it’s a teenager who is afraid of parental anger or who doesn’t have any idea of how to be a parent. Quite often the child dies of exposure.  Occasionally they’re rescued. In the meantime the mother has become a criminal and in the end, several lives may be ruined.  So the baby box is a valid idea, in my opinion.

Unfortunately, the people who live in those ivory towers of academia and such places don’t agree.  Kevin Browne of Nottingham University in the UK (http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/iwho/people/kevin.browne) has it that baby boxes violate women’s rights.  Apparently, Dr. Browne is gifted with telepathy or some other special ability which provides him with near-omniscience.  Despite the fact that the whole process is anonymous, he knows that usually it’s not the mother who leaves her child, but a manipulative spouse or pimp. (those men!)

Apparently, the infant’s right to grow up and have rights of his/her own is of no importance.  The University paper quotes a United Nations dictum that says a child being abandoned has its rights violated.  How about getting a new family and parents who love it? Do they not have that right either?

I’m sick beyond words of out of touch academics who are so fixated on liberal causes and ideas that they have no ability to see the individual for the masses. And I’m tired of seeing children’s rights abnegated by other people’s self-interest – before birth or after.

S is for Silver (in my hair!)

I had a “Oh my goodness I’m really getting OLD!” moment last weekend.  We were walking into a store and the wind hit me from the side.  Half my hair blew over for the fun of it and I noticed my reflection in the window.  White hair. And a lot of silver.

I’d been lax about coloring my hair lately, thinking I had the courage to just let it go grey.  Um, no.  The next day (you’re supposed to wait a day after washing your hair before you color, apparently) I grabbed the box of Revlon Colorsilk Strawberry Blonde (I really have to lift the color if I don’t want it to be dark, which doesn’t flatter me) and set to work.

Despite pretreating with hydrogen peroxide, I still have some stubborn recidivist greys that refuse to change. Still, most of it is ok and it’s better than it was.

I guess that means I’m back to denial? 🙂

R is for being in a Rush

“Each thing I do, I rush through so I can do something else. In such a way do the days pass—a blend of stock car racing and the never ending building of a gothic cathedral. Through the windows of my speeding car I see all that I love falling away: books unread, jokes untold, landscapes unvisited…”

Stephen Dobyns, “Pursuit”

I thought of this poem today when I was in traffic and someone zoomed around me, only to get caught behind the car that had been in front of me. I’ve always thought that poem was sad and a little scary — and perfectly descriptive of the 21st Century in the Western world.

Where are we all going in such a hurry?  Everything’s fast, or promised to be fast or intended to be, from our food to the roads to the self-improvement promised by website after website and advertisement after advertisement.

“How to Feng Shui your Home for Quick Results”

“Lose 20 lbs in 30 days without exercise”

“How to read 300% faster in 20 minutes”

Whatever happened to savoring things, to taking your time and enjoying food, a book, a leisurely drive in the country on Sunday after church? I would give so much to have a lazy summer afternoon where I could lay in a hammock and not do ANYTHING. No internet, no cell phone, no radio or Nook or whatever. The art of taking it show and doing the kind of productive ‘nothing’ that clears your mind and heart of stress seems to be gone forever, at least from the world I lived in.

What did you do the last time you didn’t do anything? When you put aside the rush and hurry of modern life and just let go?

Try a little “k”indness…

I am often dismayed at the anger and self-interest which seem to guide a majority of the people I encounter.  Whether it’s the person who deliberately speeds up to block me from changing lanes to the people who seem incapable of rational and courteous interaction on the Internet, simple kindness seems to be in short supply these days.

Some of it appears to stem from entitlement — the “I’m the most important person here and you WILL pay attention to me” attitude.  Some of it comes out of the absolute disregard for the feelings and worth of the people around you (I guess it could be said that that’s a natural part of entitlement, too).  I realize politics brings out the worst in people these days,  but I’ve made comments on political posts or stories that should have prompted debate — angry debate, maybe — but instead provoked ad hominum insults about me.  Not the candidate or topic.  Me as the commenter.

I’d love to tell you I’m perfect, but I know better (and you do, too) 🙂  Still, I’m thankful that the Lord has made enough of an inroads to my heart that I am at least able to restrain the impulse to unkindness on those occasions it arises.

The one thing that’s happened to me fairly recently was an incident where a prescription for one of my husband’s medications was messed up. It was probably the most important of those he takes and I was frazzled to begin with.  Still, with the help of the Lord, I kept my cool and waited patiently until the situation was resolved.  During my wait, I saw customers come to the pharmacy and yell, snap, argue and otherwise display their anger, when all that was called for was an attempt at courteous conversation which would have gotten their individual situations handled just as well. When they called me back to the counter to pick up the meds and pay, the pharmacist thanked me for being patient.

At work, we have a time during the weekly departmental meeting when we each have an opportunity to publicly acknowledge a co-worker who went above and beyond.  After one session of this where few of the items was truly “above and beyond”, one of our managers said that while he appreciated all we did, he wasn’t going to thank people who were just doing what they were paid to do.  I thought of that when the pharmacist thanked me. That was nice of her, but I remember  a time when it was the norm, not the exception.  It’s pretty sad when common decency is rare enough to be thanked.

I thought perhaps you’d enjoy this song by Glen Campbell on this very subject!

This land is MY land…

This took me long enough, but it was important to me that I say what I need to say well and accurately. I know I’m going to offend people, but I hope I do it through honest and well-expressed opinion and not because I screwed up.

A week or so ago, one of my Facebook friends posted a photograph of a patch stating the wearer’s opinion of needing to press “1” to hear English on a phone call.  This attitude has bothered me for some time (I intend to share my reasons below) and I so stated in a comment.  (Although, should the FB Friend who posted the photo happen to read this, I want to say that picking on the guy because you don’t think his coat is leather is likewise kinda douchey – JMHO).

Anyway, another friend took issue with my opinion.  I posted a half-thought out response and realized I needed to say more about what I felt and believed than FB would allow me to post (and than most people would read). Hence this post.

I know a lot of people are upset that we accommodate non-english speakers as much as we do.  I want to meet and counter the most common objections I hear.  This is especially sensitive to me because my being a Habs fan and loving the French-Canadian culture in Quebec has meant that I’ve had a front-row seat to a similar debate (with different roots) that has also caused me pain.  Anyway, here’s what I have to say:

  1. Why Should We Help Out Illegals?  This bothers me because it makes a blanket assumption that everyone who is assisted with phone systems that include other languages, or posters, or other informational tools, is an illegal alien.  I think that unfortunate perception arises from the current debates about immigration and is further bolstered by the fact that it is often Spanish that is the second language.  A wider exposure to phone systems, etc. in other parts of the country shows that other languages are just as common where those people groups have substantive communities.  During the time I was an employment verifier, I heard Russian when I called New York City, Chinese in San Francisco and Japanese in Los Angeles.  The use of and need for these systems isn’t limited to illegal immigrants, not by a long shot.  There are students and other academics, legal immigrants and even tourists who need this help.
  2. So Why Don’t They Learn English?  American English is frequently listed among the most difficult languages to learn for a non-Engliish speaker.  Let’s show some examples of why: the dipthong “ough” can be pronounced six different ways (Wikipedia has a decent article on this – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ough_%28orthography%29). American English has words derived from every language spoken by the immigrants who came to this country as well as (generally corrupted) Native American words. Our language breaks its own rules — so you have “four” of something, but “forty” of others. When you talk about food animals, the ones on the hoof are named (mostly) by their Anglo-Saxon antecedents, but once you cook them, you (often) use the French terms. It’s often confusing even if you’ve spoken it your whole life.  So even if someone is learning English and isn’t completely fluent, if they’re dealing with a matter of importance, they’re going to feel more comfortable being sure they understand the questions they’re asked or the answers they’re given if they get them in their mother tongue.Or to put it another way… Anyone who knows me, RL or online, knows that I’m trying to learn French as it’s spoken in Quebec. (All my Quebecois friends are free to laugh at this point. :)) I’ve definitely learned a lot, and I have a decent comfort level when I read and write French.  But if I had to make an emergency phone call and get help, I’d want to talk to someone in English, at least right now, so I’d know I was understood and could get what I needed.  Which brings me to my third point…
  3. Is your desire to be English-only worth another person’s life?  To continue with my point above, let’s take our putative non-English speaking person. They’ve got a need for assistance. So they call 911, and there’s no alternate language assistance available. So there’s a delay because the operator/dispatcher doesn’t understand the person’s language and the person can’t say what they need to in English.  Maybe it’s a medical emergency and the person in question sustains a permanent injury or even dies.  Or it’s a police emergency and the person gets injured or killed.  It used to happen, farfetched as it may seem to you. These new systems give people an equal access to the help they need.

I wonder, sometimes, what the ultimate motivation behind the objections to having other languages available is. I mean, just saying “this isn’t how it used to be” isn’t much of an argument.  I was born in 1961 and things have changed so radically in my lifetime that it’s almost another planet. As much as I miss a lot of the things I grew up with, living in the past isn’t profitable. There are battles worth fighting (I miss civility and manners, myself) but resenting people for not speaking English isn’t one of them, IMHO.

Or is it that you really believe English is the only language anyone should be allowed to speak? I’m adopted.  Three-fourths of my ancestry is English-speaking (English, Welsh, Scots, Irish — and don’t get mad at me, my Welsh/Scots/Irish friends; I know about both varieties of Gaelic and Welsh, but my ancestors already spoke English by the time they got here). The rest is Germanic.  My adopted dad’s family belonged to the German-American Club in Akron and spoke German (they also taught their kids and grandkids German). Pride of nationality and culture isn’t something invented by Latinos.  Chances are good that your grandparents or great-grandparents kept some of their language alive, too, if they were non-English speakers.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”  Offering people an option that lets them get the help they need in a language they understand doesn’t have to take anything from you. America is supposed to be about bringing different people together, though I’ve always kind of thought the melting pot image was wrong.  We’re more like a stew in this country, bringing together lots of different ingredients and arriving at a unique flavor that’s a combination of all of them. Those of us who are here and speak English, can we make sure our ingredient isn’t contempt or hatred for those who don’t?

Make me just wanna holler…

One of my most cherished childhood memories involves Christmas Eve.  When I was young (less than 10 years old), our church, Zion Lutheran Church in downtown Akron, Ohio, had a Christmas Eve pageant on Christmas Eve night.  Afterwards, my mom and dad would walk my sister and I down the hill (you’d have to be from Akron to know what  I mean — it was some hill!) and we’d walk along South Main Street and look at the animated windows that Polsky’s and O’Neil’s had up.  Then we’d walk back up to the church parking lot and go home.

What is mostly attached to that memories, besides remembering my parents, is how peaceful that night was.  There was very little traffic, I can’t ever remember feeling unsafe, and there was an almost unworldly calm that I associate with Christmas to this day.

Yesterday is what is known in retail parlance as “Black Friday”. It kicks off the “selling” season that has NOTHING to do with Christmas, and it was anything but peaceful.  Here in Northeast Ohio, in a relatively prosperous community called Strongsville, there was a virtual riot at a Victoria’s Secret.  Listen to the video below, filmed just before the store happened and the “riot” occurred.

In California, a woman pepper-sprayed the other shoppers in her vicinity so she could have the advantage.

I despair, sometimes, because many people who call themselves Christians aren’t and damage Jesus’ name. This “holiday” and all that it has become goes one step further in making a mockery of my faith. The magi didn’t claw their way through a mall to bring Jesus gold, frankincense and myrrh to honor him.

And the real reason for remembering Jesus’ birth is about his ultimate gift to us — he died on the cross, suffered rejection from His Father, so we could have eternal life. Not so we could mangle each other for a gift that will likely be returned or broken or be ultimately meaningless.

This is not my Christmas, not any more. I have decided I don’t need a special day for remembering Jesus. Yes, I will probably participate in a few things —  do the “secret Santa” thing at work, for example — but Christmas isn’t just one day. Not for me.

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year” Ebenezer Scrooge