A Mad Woman Rants

My health insurance company, Aetna, sent me a letter on Thursday. It was polite, up until the point where they raised our monthly premium 25%. On the same day, Aetna announced a 16% jump in their second-quarter earnings.

I have been an Aetna customer for years. They took good care of us. But we officially cannot afford them anymore. My husband is a self-employed carpenter. I am a self-employed writer. That means we don’t have any companies helping to pay our premiums. (The policies offered by SCBWI and the Author’s Guild do not extend to where I live. Think long and hard about this, friends, before leaving your day job to become an author.)

With the rate hike, we are looking at paying $18,000 next year just in premiums – for two people. (We do not have any dental or vision coverage, but we do have a decent prescription plan.) We cannot afford to basically spend an entire salary on health insurance.

Now don’t go feeling sorry for me. We will find other coverage. BH spent half of yesterday working the phones and we have a couple of different options. The next insurance company that we go to will be expensive, but not out-of-reach. The other option is that one of us could get a job that offers benefits. If any local colleges want to hire me to teach, I’d do it for a minimal salary as long as I could have benefits. Regardless, we will find a way to make this work.

But you know what really makes me mad? Makes me want to scream and hurl spears? Makes me want to chain myself to the Washington Monument or wear a sandwich board that says SHAME while walking back and forth in front of the homes of health insurance execs like UnitedHealth Group CEO William McGuire, who made $125 million in 2005?

Too many people don’t have the choices I have. In my country, which I dearly love, having a job with benefits can mean the difference between life or death. About 18,000 people died last year because they didn’t have insurance. Fifty-four million people were uninsured at one point or another in 2006. Fifty-four million – this is an obscenity.

Our local newspaper is always announcing a spaghetti dinner or a pancake breakfast or a bake sale to raise money for someone’s surgery or chemotherapy. This is an abomination.

I am not the only person who has snapped about this. In a recent poll, health care was the second-most important issue that voters wanted to hear presidential candidates discuss, behind only the Iraq War. I don’t want them to talk about it. I want them to be leaders and make a change for the good.

If you are lucky enough to be covered and to have premiums that you can afford (this could change tomorrow), I ask you to do me a favor. Spend a little time figuring out what it would cost you if your employer dropped your coverage. After you pick yourself up off the floor, please write a letter to your congressional representatives and demand that they quit sucking up to the health insurance lobby.

I’m really tired of letting the bad guys win.

One of the best days

Sorry for being so absent, but I am trying to finish a bunch of stuff. Details later.

In the meantime, here is one of my most favorite pieces of writing. Give yourself a treat and read it out loud today. Slowly.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

More details here.

“Chickenbutt!!!!!!!” she screamed

Chickenbutt is my new all-purpose curse word. I stole it from an NPR piece I heard in which it was the “clean” curse that a truly foul-mouthed elderly great aunt used when in the presence of delicate ears. So when I say “chickenbutt,” please substitue the ugliest, nastiest curse you know so you can get the full effect of my pain, horror, and rage.

Chickenbutt, I say. Chickening, chicked-up, mother of all chickens, chickenbutt. ARGH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

::beats self on head with hammer::

Why such profanity on a gorgeous summer afternoon?

Because I lost four days of work today. Because even though I have the best computer in the world (PowerBook G4), I am an idiot and I run Microsoft (insert devil horns here) Word for Mac on it. Don’t ask me why. Just accept that I am an idiot.

You don’t want the details. They include things like a poorly designed Autorecovery system (I HATE YOU, MICROSOFT. I HATE YOU WITH THE FURY OF SHARYN NOVEMBER!), too many hours at the computer, too much coffee, blood all over the keyboard, and a lot of tears. And yes, I back up my files. In fact, I backed up on June 7th.

Seven days ago. Take away three days of not-writing because of the conference, and you are left with 4 days of words lost in the ether. Roughly 20 pages of new material, and MUCH moving around of previous stuff. Because this is the final draft, and this is the last part of the final draft, and I needed to tighten and polish. Four chickenbutting days of work.

(Don’t worry, I made up the part about the blood. Most of it, anyway.)

Those of you who having really been watching this blog closely will remember that this is exactly what chickenbutting happened in February 2006 during the last revision of TWISTED.

Actually, that is the only reason I didn’t perform a swandive from the roof into the driveway. Because what I wrote after I lost 8 hours of TWISTED (it was the most critical scene, of course, the one where he is alone in his dad’s bedroom and he almost…. you know, the scene that almost sent me back into therapy) was some of the pages that I am most satisfied with in the whole book.

So I am trying really hard to convince myself that this is going to be OK. Really.

I’ll be back when I finish fixing this disaster. Until then, BH is keeping the tea kettle bubbling and locking away all the sharp objects.


My heroes: Rutger’s Women’s Basketball team

I am so angry I hardly know where to start. Don Imus’ racist, pig-headed, degrading, insulting comments about the players of the Rutger’s Women’s Basketball Team make me sick. Physically sick, close to vomiting.

I would love to see him fired, but I don’t think that is going to happen. That is a shame.

I need to vent: America is a racist country. I love this place – I am incredibly proud to be an American and I embrace my country, my flag, and our history, warts and all, because despite everything, I think this is the most amazing country in the history of the world. But we are stupid when it comes to racism.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

I think a lot of this has to do with the fact that we do not understand, nor do we properly study, the history of slavery in America. Why not? Because if we did, it would make white people feel bad. The truth of the matter is that this country was built on the backs and in the blood of millions of enslaved people. (Read Complicity; How The North Promoted, Prolonged, and Profited from Slavery.) And that is an uncomfortable truth to ponder.

We need to learn about slavery to understand how we got here. We need to admit that many people are ignorant of cultures other than their own. We all need to talk to each other, and offer respect instead of assumptions. And speaking as a white woman to all my friends and readers out there who are white: we have to stop allowing comments like Imus’ to pass without loud and immediate outrage and consequence.

What about free speech? you ask. Isn’t the man allowed to say what he feels?

Yes, that is another beauty of America – freedom of speech and thought. He can say whatever he wants. So can I. And I can choose to boycott his radio station and his television station and all of the sponsors of his show, and I will. I will also find it hard to vote or support any politician who goes on Imus show after this, unless and until the man shows real growth and change.

And don’t even think about getting in my face and saying that the language Imus used is acceptable because it can be found in the lyrics of black hip-hop singers. Since when have we used the language and attitudes and behavior that is found and praised in popular music as our benchmark for what is acceptable? There is a vigorous debate in the African-American community about hip-hop lyrics and how language can/should be used. (You might also want to read The N Word: Who Can Say It, Who Shouldn’t and Why by Jabari Asim.) I don’t see a place for my voice in that discussion. But I can sure as hell call out a white guy on the carpet for bringing down my country and harming a group of talented young women.

::pauses for breath::

Maybe, just maybe, we can turn his ugly language and attitudes into a teachable moment. If this happens, it will be because Coach C. Vivian Stringer is an amazing American woman, and her team is a class act. The team held a press conference today to respond to Imus’ hateful comments. (Learn more about the individual players from Sports Illustrated.)
Coach Stringer could write volumes about rising above pain and oppression.

Remember that phrase “sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me”? That’s a lie. Words hurt. Words hurt deeply.