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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Trippin' on Tryptophan

Don't blame the turkey for your sleepy haze this Thanksgiving. Tryptophan does its job best on an empty tummy. So, unless you're indulging on birdie alone, blame your lack of self control for your bleak state of unconsciousness. Don't fret. There's always a little black Friday madness to light those extra calories on fire. You can do it! I know you can! And I? Well I will be locked away in my house thinking about you and being very, VERY thankful for my solitude. What are you thankful for this year? I'm thankful for (not by order of importance):

1. Thank-you cards. Not for everything, but for major life events. Thank-you cards should be sent for baby showers, weddings, graduation gifts, etc., etc. These little notes, while usually ending up in the next week's recyclables, show testament to a person's character. They demonstrate gratefulness and appreciation. Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you. A little thanks goes a long way.

2. Red wine. Now please, somebody, pour me a glass of Zin. Thank you!

3. Sarcasm. There isn't enough of it in this world. Wit does the body good (might also explain why I don't have a lot of friends).

4. My family. Obviously. If you're not thankful for the people you live with, there is something wrong with you...or them. I'm thankful for my extended family too.

5.  My job. No, it's not my dream job. It's not what I want to be doing for eternity, but it pays the bills and keeps my family fed. For that, I am thankful.

6. My legs. Some people don't have theirs and I like mine.

7. Chocolate chips. The bittersweet kind. Milk chocolate sucks. We eat chocolate chips every night. Mmmmmmmm. Melted with Annie's chocolate bunny cookies to dip in them. There is a God.

8. Coffee. It's not even the caffeine part I need. I'm okay with decaf. too. It's just that it's part of my morning ritual. My coffee must be naked. My coffee must be scalding. My coffee must accompany me on my drive to work. If not, then I am bitchy. My apologies for anyone who has experienced this. Thank-you for your tolerance.

9. Text messaging. Conversations this way can be ended quickly. Let me tell you how ideal this is for someone who doesn't like people.

10. Money. Not to spend. Just to save. And we don't have a ton of it, so every little bit I am thankful for.

11. Dopplers. They let you know that life is there even when it can't be felt or seen. 160 beats per minute of thankful.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving. Be thankful this day and every day. Don't eat too much. Don't spend too much. And, for goodness sake, remember your damn thank-yous.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Open Season

Tis the season for year-end reviews, 401K election, and benefit open enrollment. Tis the season that I begin praying that everything health insurance figures itself out so that I don't have to deal with it. Lord knows, if we make the wrong health insurance election, we'll be paying for it, literally, all year. Tis the freaking season.

The pessimist you hear in the paragraph above is one created out of fear and misunderstanding. We shall not let this pessimist overshadow the overwhelming gratefulness it also feels. Yes, both Sara and I, the pessimist, work for companies that extend domestic partner benefits. Thank you, fellow employers, for entering the 21st century. Your efforts to contribute to our equality are appreciated.

So this year Sara and I had the choice of three plans. That's right. Three. All medical. There were two different high deductible plans, one through my work and one through hers, and a co-pay plan through hers. The goal for 2012 was to move the health insurance coverage to my work so Sara could work part-time instead of full. She deserves it. She's pregnant and putting in 80-100 hour weeks between work and school. A step back to focus on finishing school strong and delivering a healthy baby is long overdue.

Our biggest considerations for the 2012 insurance year are my pregnant wife and the baby we are expecting in May. The pregnancy crosses over the years 2011 and 2012. From a health insurance perspective, this means we get poked in the pooper with two deductibles. One for 2011. One for 2012. It also means I didn't take out enough medical flex spending for 2011 which I learned this week doesn't matter anyway. You see, Sara carries our health insurance making her ineligible for my flex spending. Duh and son of a bitch. Really, really poor planning on our part.

All woes aside, the obvious solution was to go with the plan that had the lowest per person/per family deductible. Easy enough. It was a five minute conversation. The plan would cost a bit more per month, but it would also cover way more than the high deductible plans we had as an alternative and that we were currently on. The plan we elected, a co-pay plan, was offered only through Sara's employer. Hold the phone. WHAT?! How would that work? She's going to be working part-time. Aww man! We are going to get boinked with a $2,500 deductible plan. F-U-dge! That's supposed to be adoption money. What am I supposed to say? Sorry kid, couldn't afford to claim ya. Wait. We can flex the deductible. That might work. Who's taking out the flex spending this year? Me? Ahhhhh-POP! Woman down! Woman down! You got me health insurance. Nice. Clean. Shot.

Huh? What did you say, honey? I couldn't hear you over my silent temper tantrum. You get benefits as a part-time employee? Really?! And they only cost a teensy-weensy bit more. Sign us up! Ah. I could just kiss you. Still gotta add a bit more to the savings though. Sara gently reminds me that we are saving. We're always saving. This is really her polite way of telling me to shut-up. But I don't. I continue.

Sara, it's kind of like what your dad says about cars and homes. You know that if it has a VIN or an address it's going to cost money. I think kids have to be added to that list. If they have your DNA, and in some cases even if they don't, they will cost money. The best things in life aren't free. I just want to make sure we are financially secure. This whole health insurance thing threw me a curve ball.

At this point I am getting shut-up eyes. Okay. Got it. We have insurance. We have have jobs. We have a roof over our heads. We're good. Shutting up now.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

White Picket Fence

When I was a small, I dreamt big. I wanted to be a veterinarian. Every animal that crossed my path, I wanted to care for. I was utterly consumed with them. With two dogs and some fish, I suppose I still am. Then I grew up a little bit. I wasn't opposed to veterinary school, but I thought archeology and paleontology would better suit my fancy. Who wouldn't want to dig around in some dusty desert far away with other weirdoes equally as obsessed with bones and dinosaurs and all things past? Picture it. Just me and my family and our little satchel of hand picks and whisk brooms burying ourselves in this enormous time capsule we call the earth. Heaven.

Later yet, I wanted to be an artist. I knew that becoming an earth digger was far fetched, so I considered art. I was great at art. Haven't tested my skills recently, but I could do a thing or two with a brush and some water colors. I thought maybe I could incorporate a bit of writing in-between my painting, but someone shouted, "starving artist!" Not awesome. So, art it wasn't and my writing has since become a hobby.

Low and behold I did not attend college. I moved out of my parent's home as soon as I could and, given that move, could not afford college. I had to work. I held a job at the drugstore I worked at throughout my high school career, but I soon learned my paychecks from them were't going to cut it. The fun (not), monotonous task of job hunting began. I found a job at a local insurance agency. I was proud. I was a real adult now. Playing in the big leagues. Leaping feet first into Corporate America. Becoming a productive member of society. Blah.

Making a whopping nine bucks an hour, I earned my insurance license and put it to use. My job was to service existing customers. I answered questions they had on their policies, took applications for auto and home coverage, and took premium payments. I also cold-called. I was a sales driver. I was a phone nazi. People hated me. I hated me. I needed a change.

So what did I do? I applied at another insurance company. You bet. Couldn't leave it behind I guess. At this new, much better company where the grass was lush and vibrant green, I worked as a customer service representative. I spent my days plugging away on a computer and servicing customers with this or that. I was satisfied. I wouldn't say I was living the dream. That would be a stretch, but I was content. I was able to do my work and leave it right where it belonged. At work. Plus I got the bonus of working for a company that appreciated me. The pay was better. They offered an atmosphere conducive to growth and development. They had the best interest of their employees in mind. Sure, the ladies had to wear pantyhose, but outside of that, it was wonderful.

Of course, like most Corporate Americans, I wanted to to spread my wings. Since I was in a company that would allow me to do so, I thought sales and marketing perhaps. A move like that might give me an opportunity to use my writing. I could be creative. I applied for a position as a sales assistant figuring it would get my foot in the door. And I was in. The job was different and I liked it well enough. There was reporting and phone work. There was the occasional trip across the country to assist at trade shows. There was networking. There wasn't any writing and there wasn't any creative, but I was certain that piece would come in time. I couldn't expect it all right away, right? I was, after all, an uneducated sales assistant.

I've been swimming in my sea of beige for a few years now. I've been going to college and have moved up a notch. I say a notch because my current position entails a plethora of sales calls to our customers to introduce them to new products. I don't yet consider that a leap. In many ways I feel like the phone nazi I was about nine years ago. I hold out hope because I know it's a job I can do and do well and because I am told the position will evolve. There will be relationship building opportunities and networking and creative opportunities and yada yada yada. I suppose I can wait for that. I will. I will put on my business attire complete with high heels, apologize to my bunions, and wait.

It's funny, isn't it, how our dreams as children warp into the realities of adulthood. Most of us do what it takes to get by, putting forth our best effort to support our families or pay for the roof over our heads or buy the things we want or all of the above. Some of us get lucky with careers that have snuggled in bed with our dreams. Someday that will be me. I will be sitting back, sipping hot, naked-black coffee while the words pour out of my head and through my finger tips. I will have time to break out a canvas and paint my children as they frolic through life. Ahhh, yes. My dream world gone career. That would be my white picket fence.