What Do You Do For A Living?, Or, A Psychological Thriller in Four Minutes

I’ve worked for The Salvation Army for over five years now. I recently asked our marketing department to print me new business cards…for the 5th time. This is not because I drop my business cards like leaflets from an airplane, but because I recently got a new title. I’m officially the “Theater Manager” at The Kroc Center. How that all happened is for a different blog post though.

What I want to talk about today is a terrible, frightening, invert-cold-sweat-inspiring question that I get asked a lot:

“What do you do for a living?”

I can already hear you saying, “Can’t you just say ‘I’m the Theater Manager at The Kroc Center’? you cold-sweaty fool?” Yes. Yes I can say that. But that’s not good enough for you people. You all want to know what that means. What kinds of things do you do for a living? Walk us through your routine. Tell us about your schedule of activities. Ok, no. No one really asks me that. It is sort of hard though to explain what all I do with my time at work.

So I’ll show you.

One of my favorite things to do at work is to make videos. I am responsible for producing all the video content for the Coeur d’Alene Kroc Center. I’ve had that responsibility since around the end of 2010. I inherited that role from the amazingly talented Jordan Halland. He left us to be famous and I had to figure out this video stuff by myself. I’m still learning, but it’s really fun and I enjoy doing it very much.

You can check out The Kroc Center’s youtube channel here to see some of my work. I do a lot of development stuff and life change/testimonial-type stuff. One of my favorite projects though comes every summer at Film Camp. We host a junior high film production camp for a couple of weeks every summer. I work with acclaimed actress Jillian Kramer and we teach kids to script, storyboard, act, film, edit, composite, score…basically to make a short film. It’s so much fun and one of the only times every year I get to create something dramatic in nature.

This year however, Jillian’s connections with The Arts & Humanities Council in McCall, Idaho led us to teach a similar camp in that fine city. We finished that project last week. The film we made, called X, can be found here.

We have one more camp to teach at The Kroc at the end of July. I’m excited to see what the kids come up with.

 

Advertisements
What Do You Do For A Living?, Or, A Psychological Thriller in Four Minutes

Shopping At Target, Or, Super-Human Style Sense

I sometimes shop at Target. Sometimes at Target I shop for clothes.  The upside to this possible course of events is that I purchase relatively cheap, relatively good looking clothes for myself.  The downside to this arrangement is that I semi frequently run into people who happen to be wearing the same clothes that I am, because everyone shops at Target. That’s awkward.

In order to avoid this awkward turn of events, I have taken to developing a strategy for shopping for clothes at target. I only purchase from the clearance section. This strategy presents two advantages. Firstly, it ensures that I spend as little money as possible shopping for clothes at Target. Secondly, it diminishes the possibility of the awkwardness.  The way I see it, if there are 10 red plaid shirts marked down from $29.99 to $6.88 on clearance, no one bought them.  I can deduce from this that either A) they are so hideously unfashionable that even the people of North Idaho won’t be seen in them, on B) they are so awesomely ahead of their time that the people of North Idaho can’t comprehend their fashion-forwardness.  I tend to lean toward scenario B and assume that these value priced items are the work of fashion prognosticators that can see into the future of what New York and Paris will only begin to realize in the 2015 season.  In this scenario these super-human fashionistas have forsaken the riches of this would and have dedicated their lives and abilities to bettering humankind through design….for Target.  Obviously I am going to trust their sartorial prowess and purchase these clearance items and show the world how trendy I am.  Obviously.

Anyway, that’s how I buy clothes at Target.

Shopping At Target, Or, Super-Human Style Sense

My Healthcare Journey Part Four, Or, Welcome To Idaho, How May I Help You?

In our last episode, I ended up finding out that the ones and zeros at healthcare.gov are both absolute in their dictates and shrouded in mystery.  Like a modern day Wizard of Oz for healthcare, not even their humble servants in the marketplace call center have ever seen them or know how to contact them.  ACA the wise and powerful hands down verdicts of eligibility with absolute sovereignty.  Due to this reality, I was advised to call my congressman. So I did.

I contacted both representative Raul Labrador and Senator Mike Crapo. Thankfully, I got responses from the representatives of both offices.  They were lovely ladies that were more than happy to help.  If we are keeping score, Labrador was about a week faster in his office’s response than Crapo, but they both get A’s for effort there.  About a week after contacting them, I got an email from Lisa at representative Labrador’s office indicating that she spoke with the Department of Health and Human Services (people! actual people!) and they said I needed to bypass the healthcare.gov website and apply for medicaid for my children directly through Idaho Health and Welfare.  Thanks representative democracy!

So I sat right down and filled out an application from Idaho Health and Welfare for medicaid for my kids.  Medicaid eligibility requirements really surprised me.  A family of 4 can make up to $3631.00 a month and still qualify for medicaid for children up to age 19.  Craziness.  The application was an interactive PDF.  Most of the questions were the same as the federal website, so I had had plenty of practice.  I filled it out, provided appropriate income verification form copies and mailed it off.  That was on the 8th of January.

On the 16th of January I got a letter in the mail stating that my application for Medicaid is denied. Here’s why:

Charis Eleanor Adams elected to decline their Medicaid eligibility.

Nora Jane Nicole Adams elected to decline their Medicaid eligibility.

Those crazy kids! Somehow my seven year old and 15 month old contacted the State of Idaho behind my back and told them they didn’t want Medicaid coverage! Part of me is proud of their American self-reliance.  They don’t need government support! They are patriots! Libertarians! Free citizens of the greatest nation on earth! They don’t need the nanny state running their lives!  I didn’t know I had imparted so much political theory to my children through my parenting, but apparently I’ve got a couple of Tea Partiers in my house.

Or maybe not.  I called Idaho Health and Welfare on the 17th and the lady I talked to laughed when she looked at my file.  She said that it looks like they made a mistake and that someone with more cred than her would call me back within 2 business days.

 

Image by Wikipedia.
My Healthcare Journey Part Four, Or, Welcome To Idaho, How May I Help You?

Makeup Culture, Or, How To Effectively Market Using Frightening Words

My wife wears makeup.  Not always. Not a lot. She looks nice.  This post really has nothing to do with that, but I thought I’d just throw it out there.

My wife gets the Ulta ad magazine in the mail.  Today I decided to read it.  It’s amazing.

First of all, do you have skin concerns? Of course you do! Read on to find out the horrific ways that a combination of modern chemistry and ancient soil/minerals/plants/bugs/etc will solve them.

The crazy thing about the Ulta magazine, or perhaps just the makeup industry (my experience here is limited), is that it effortlessly rocks back and forth between extremely sterile medical sounding products and vials full of something-the-neighborhood-witch-doctor-whipped-up.  For instance, there’s Stila.  Stila is a line of products, some of which are called “Glowing Reviews,” “Coming Clean,” and “Undercover.”  These products are made with

Alpine Rose Stem Cell Technology, Hyaluronic Acid and Vitamins A, C & E.

Stem cells from alpine roses? I didn’t know that was a thing.  And what’s the “technology” part about? Is that just the procurement of alpine rose stem cells, or is there more to it than that? I looked up Hyaluronic Acid on Wikipedia.  It seems pretty legit. It’s used in all manner of medical and cosmetic products for its skin firming benefits.  It’s also used in the “equine industry.” I found this nugget:

Note that, according to Canadian regulation, hyaluronan in HY-50 preparation should not be administered to animals to be slaughtered for horse meat. In Europe, however, the same preparation is not considered to have any such effect, and edibility of the horse meat is not affected.

Europeans eat horses? How did I not know this?  Also, Canadians, did you decide the skin on your horse meat was too firm and needed regulation? Is that actually what happened?

Sometimes the doctor talk and voodoo speak are mixed almost poetically, such as in Glow by Dr. Brandt – Ruby Crystal Retinol Hydracrème.  I think I’ve seen how that’s made.  There is a giant Nazi base under a volcano somewhere where the retinol gets infused with the light of a ruby laser…or something.  Anyway,

The synergistic ingredients of time-release retinol and micronized ruby crystals come together to resurface & instantly illuminate skin.

Does that mean your skin will glow?  Will it glow red?  How long will that last?  The best part is the bottle contains 0.5 oz.  I guess you only want to glow on special occasions.

Bliss makes a whole line of “Fat Girl” products.  Wow.  How’s that working for you?  Fat Girl Sixpack is a

tummy-toning gel with 6 active ingredients and ab-activating applicator.

This is not a weight or fat loss product.

What are the 6 active ingredients? Are they activated by your abs or do they activate your abs, and if so, what does that mean?  If it’s not supposed to be a weight loss product, what does it do, and why is it for Fat Girls?  Again, how did the guy in your marketing department that came up with that not immediately get fired?

My favorite part about most all of these products is the fine print.  Normally on products the fine print is something that the manufacturer has to put out there, but they don’t want you to really focus on.  I have a jar of peanuts in my cupboard that has “Peanuts” and “Made with Sea Salt” in large letters and “Enlarged To Show Detail” in small letters.  The peanuts aren’t really giant mutant peanuts, and the manufacturer is afraid you will sue them if they don’t explain that to you, but doesn’t want to draw a lot of attention to that.  I get it.

With the makeup thing though, the fine print is almost always what the product actually does.  There is a company called Philosophy.  They have 3 products they are selling on one particular page of this magazine.  They are “Miracle Worker,” “Hope In A Jar,” and “Time In A Bottle.”  This is the large print on the bottle/jar.  Below that are phrases like these:

your eyes are the windows to your soul not your age.

to witness a miracle is to know yourself. vital, brilliant, heavenly in body and spirit.

where there is hope there can be faith. where there is faith miracles can occur.

time can be on your side. when you focus on what really matters, time becomes your lifelong friend.

Then at the bottom, in the fine print, is a description of what you are actually buying.

Miraculous anti-aging retinoid eye repair

Miraculous anti-aging moisturizer

Original formula moisturizer for all skin types

Most of them contain the French version of those phrases in italics as well, because you know, French people are beautiful.

So I guess the thing is, ladies, what you really want to know that you have access to is “hope in a jar.”  Whether or not that is moisturizer or serum, miraculous or age-defying, hydratant anti-âge or formule originale pour tous types de peaux, doesn’t really matter much.

I’m sure I’ll never really understand this.  I guess I’m ok with that.  However, one last observation.  There are several “Acne Starter Kits” in this magazine.  Is that really the best way to market that?  Surely they aren’t for people that want to start acne, right?  It’s for getting rid of acne isn’t it?  Isn’t there a thesaurus full of words that could be used to sell this product better that “Acne Starter Kit?”  Does it come with a petri dish?

Makeup Culture, Or, How To Effectively Market Using Frightening Words

My Healthcare Journey Part Three, Or, Soothe Me With Smalltalk

In part two of my fanciful adventure through the A-for-caring-F-for execution Healthcare Marketplace website, I had appealed the silicon-based quality-of-life-determiner’s decision to deny my 7 year old daughter health insurance.  I did this through the certified mail.  Because of this, I knew that my appeal had been received on December 18th.  So I waited.  I waited until after Christmas in fact.  On December 26th I called the Health Insurance Marketplace one more time to see about checking in on this appeal process.  I spoke with a lovely lady who wanted to rehash my entire history with the ACA so that she could better solve my problem.  She put me on hold for awhile and came back with the news that there was no way to check on my appeal and it might take up to 90 days.  This was concerning because my daughter’s healthcare is due to end in 5 days.  When I asked her what I should do, she told me that she would like to help me reapply for coverage over the phone.  She was hopeful that the electronic guardians of affordable healthcare would rule in my favor this time.  The process took an hour.  During that time I learned that she was married with children, had friends in the town that I live in, and had a son who always wants to travel to Athol and go to Silverwood.  I also learned that she is unable to put her husband on her work insurance policy because it is too expensive.  There is nothing wrong with that exactly, I just find it ironic.

After my hour of pleasant conversation interspersed with social security numbers, birthdates and annual salaries,  the HTML lords of health handed down a new PDF ruling.  My wife is eligible for healthcare on the marketplace, my 1 year old is eligible for CHIP again, and my 7 year old is eligible for nothing.  The process has failed me once again.  My friendly marketplace representative quipped, “Well at least we tried, right?!” Indeed.

So, what’s next? A letter to my congressman, Raul Labrador, and my senator, Mike Crapo.  Let’s see if this representative democracy thing works.

My Healthcare Journey Part Three, Or, Soothe Me With Smalltalk

My Healthcare Journey Part Two, or, You're Right, That Doesn't Seem Fair!

Last time we got together, I had just been told for the second time by our automated health-conscious overlords that my 7 year old is not eligible for health insurance.  I was slightly disturbed by this, as was my 7 year old.  (I really need to stop talking about these things with my wife when she is within earshot.)

So, it’s December 6th at this point, and I gave the Health Insurance Marketplace a call.  Before I relaunch into my tirade of continual disappointment with this system, I have to say, every single person I talked to at the Health Insurance Marketplace has been lovely.  I have also been in contact with representatives of The Internal Revenue Service this fall (that’s a different blog post) and they could definitely take a few pointers from the Health Insurance Marketplace call center staff.  Everyone I have talked to there has been kind, empathetic and engaging.  In fact, only occasionally did I get a hint of the fact that they all get yelled at constantly and hate their jobs.

At first I spoke with a young man (I assume) with a nice thick southern accent.  I told him my problem and read him the Eligibility letter that I had received informing me that my 7 year old daughter was not eligible for health insurance while the rest of my small family was.  He asked if he could put me on hold while he looked into that.  I said yes.  He came back on the line a few minutes later having pulled up my file.  He then read me the Eligibility letter that I had already read to him.  I have to admit I enjoyed it more with the accent.  He then exclaimed, “That doesn’t seem fair at all!”  It was at this point that he ran out of helpful ideas.  I asked him why the robo-insurance system might have made that determination.  He did not know.  I asked to talk to his supervisor.  He assured me that his supervisor would not know either.  I insisted.  He obliged me with a slight downturn in his mood.  I can only assume that a customer asking to be transferred to a supervisor reflects poorly on his performance record.  If you’re reading this Health Insurance Marketplace Call Center frontline southern kid, I’m sorry.

I was transferred to his supervisor.  If I had to guess, I would say mid-twenties, young father, maybe a California vibe. (Actually, he told me the young father part)  He was very nice.  He too reread my Eligibility notice back to me.  I reminded him that I was actually the first person to read that notice, hence my call.  He also remarked that this set of circumstances was “unfair” and “weird.”  He had a solution though!  He was going to reapply for me over the phone.  I thought, hey, maybe that’s a great idea. Maybe.

We were about 15% of the way through the application when I realized that he was just filling in the fields on the website that I had already filled in.  At this point my hopes fell slightly, but I thought “at least we can rule out operator error on my part.”  So we did it.

“Is your wife a woman?”

“Yes”

“Does your 7 year old have a job?”

“No.”

I almost threw him when he asked the question about anyone in the household needing assistance dressing themselves, going to the bathroom or eating.  I told him that my 1 year old was still working through some of those things, but he decided that my situation probably didn’t apply to the question the way our cybernetic medical benefactors intended.

We finally finished the application and he remarked “40 minutes for a family of four is a really good time!”  I sincerely hope he will get recognized for that achievement.  And then….drum roll please

I’m eligible for insurance on the marketplace, my wife is eligible for insurance on the marketplace, my 1 year old is still eligible for medicaid and my 7 year old is NOT ELIGIBLE FOR ANYTHING!

My friendly application record breaking Health Insurance Marketplace supervisor said, “huh.”  Then he said, “I’m really sorry man.  I’ve never seen anything like that.”

I asked him what I should do now.  He said I should appeal the decision.  He said there was a form and I could download it and mail it in to the Department of Health and Human Services (what exactly does “Human Services” encompass anyway?)  So I did that.  I mailed it certified mail.

Tune in to part 3 of my tale to hear what happened next…

My Healthcare Journey Part Two, or, You're Right, That Doesn't Seem Fair!

My Healthcare Journey Part One, or, Our System Is Down Right Now

In this series of posts it’s my intention to detail my journey through the Affordable Care Act. While I am fairly Libertarian in my political views I’m not in principle against the idea of the ACA, however my experience with the healthcare.gov website has been incredibly frustrating.

My tale begins back in October when the website first came online.  I enrolled in order to look into insurance options for my family.  I am covered very well by my employer but to add the family to my plan would be unaffordable.  They currently have an individual plan.  It took several attempts to create a login at healthcare.gov, but I finally succeeded.  After creating my login however, it was 2 weeks before the system would let me create an application for health insurance.  At first I just got blank pages.  These were followed by error messages with the “error id” listed as “unknown error.”   Finally though, I got an application submitted for my family.

Good news, my wife and both my kids are eligible to purchase insurance on the marketplace!  Great! Where do we sign up?

This question was answered by over a month straight of “Select a health plan for: null” messages.  I chatted and called the Marketplace call center several times and was always told that there are bugs in the system and to try back at a time that was less busy.  Finally I spoke to a call center employee who thought I might just want to delete my application and try again.  So I did that.

I then proceeded to reapply for coverage for my family.  I told the system all the important things it needed to know for the second time.  I told it that my wife was a woman. I told it that my 7 year old hasn’t been employed in the past six months. I told it that my 1 year old doesn’t have any alimony to report on her taxes.  All the important stuff.  My application went through, but this time, something was different.  While my wife was still eligible for insurance through the marketplace, my 1 year old was eligible for Idaho CHIP (Children Health Insurance Plan) and my 7 year old was not eligible for any coverage whatsoever.  The friendly government-issued pdf document said, and I quote:

Based on your application, you don’t qualify to purchase health coverage through the Marketplace. In addition, you don’t qualify for a tax credit, cost-sharing reductions, Medicaid, or Idaho CHIP.You still might be able to get health care at a lower cost. The health care law has expanded funding to community health centers, which provide primary care for millions of Americans. These centers provide services on a sliding scale based on your income. Learn more about getting care at a community health center on HealthCare.gov.

Sorry small child, you don’t qualify for mandatory insurance that we will fine you for not having.  Good news though, if you can find a “community health center” they might cut you a deal, as long as your income is low enough.

At this point, I knew something must be wrong. So, I deleted that application and started over.  I had the same family for this application, same wife (still a woman), same children, but the soothing blue and green prompts asked me slightly different questions this time. (Does my 1 year old need help paying off the last six  Huh.  That application was successfully submitted and my wife is still eligible for health care.  My 1 year old is now eligible for Medicaid, not CHIP and my 7 year old is still ineligible for anything.

Stay tuned for the next installment in this series where I call the Health Insurance Marketplace and hilarity ensues…

My Healthcare Journey Part One, or, Our System Is Down Right Now