Tuesday, July 17, 2012

To Go To College or Not To Go To College

When you were in high school, did you feel like you had options when you graduated?  I didn't.  I was expected to go to college.  That's just what everyone did after high school.  If you didn't, you were a failure.
Nobody explained to me at any point, as a teenager, how expensive it is to go to college. No one explained to me that "Financial Aid" really meant LOANS that will take the rest of my life to pay off!
I was at most a mediocre high school student.  I'm shocked that I graduated.  I passed most of my classes in high school, but that's about it.  I got A's in all of my music classes and drama classes, and that's probably what kept me afloat as a student.  It's probably the only reason I stayed in school, to participate in those activities. 
Even though there are hundreds upon hundreds of colleges, I only applied to one.  My drama teacher had graduated from Indiana State University.  He had taken his students there every year for their Theater and Drama Day.  That was my exposure to the school.  As soon as I found out that they had a music degree, I knew that's where I was going.  No one encouraged me to check anything else out.  Luckily, I got into the school and into the music department.  Maybe they took everyone with a pulse at that time.  All I knew I wanted to do was sing!
After my first two years of college, I realized how much debt I was getting into, but as a Dialysis patient on the transplant waiting list, I had to keep going to school.  That way, I could stay on my mom's insurance.  By the time I was in my third year of college, I figured out, I have a passion for doing hair.  I could have gone to a two year or less trade school and been licensed to do hair!
With all of my health issues, and again, the fact that I'm a mediocre student at best, it took me six and a half years to finish my course work.  With my internship, that turned it into seven years.  I got loans every single year to survive.
Right now, my college loan debt is around $48,000.  That does not include the credit cards that I charged my college books and groceries to. I am slowly working to pay off all of that debt.  In 2004, my father's reaction to my debt was, "Declare Bankruptcy!  It's the only way you are going to survive!" Well, I didn't do that.  I'm slowly working my way out of debt.  It's going to take some time, but it's happening.  
I almost feel duped as a teenager, being told, the only way to make it in life is to go to college! No one once ever said to me, "Hey, did you know there are trade schools with two year degrees?" or "Maybe you shouldn't get yourself in that much debt.  College is really expensive!"    
Would I have listened to any of these comments at the time?
These days, are teenagers told how much it costs to go to college?  Is "Financial Aid" really explained to them in a manor that says, this is more debt?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Disney World, the trip worth taking!

In the Fall, Ian and I took a trip to Disney World.  It was amazing!  So amazing, I keep asking him when we're going back!  We spent eight nights and nine days in the Disney World Resort, and every moment was awesome!
One of my favorite things about Disney World were the Extra Magic Hours!  If you stay on Disney property, they have the parks open for extra hours for the guests.  During these Extra Magic Hours, you get to ride all of the main attractions without all of the extra people that are there during the day.  This is so much fun!  Ian and I figured this out by accident.  I mean, we were told what they were, but just ended up being in the right park the second night we were there!  We were in Hollywood Studios eating dinner at the Sci-Fi Diner, and when we were done, the park was still open!  I got to ride my favorite ride, Star Tours, 8 or 9 times in a row that night!  That was awesome!  I recommend, anyone that's going, take advantage of the Extra Magic Hours!
Cinderella's Castle Decorated for Christmas

When you go to Disney, I totally recommend getting the dining plan!  We actually got a code for a free dining plan when we went.  The dining plan we used had one quick service meal, one table service meal, and one snack a day per person. We maybe spent $150 total on food!  Almost every meal was amazing!  One of my personal favorite meals was eating at the Coral Reef restaurant in Epcot.  The Coral Reef has a gigantic tank full of sea life you can watch while eating sea food!  I know, it sounds all wrong!  But it was so beautiful!  An awesome sea turtle sat next to us and slept for our entire meal!  We also experienced the Aloha Show, the Sci-Fi Drive In Diner, and the Liberty Tree Inn.  All we had to pay for were the tips.  I had a friend that went with her family a couple weeks ago.  Her family paid for the dining plan, and she said, they saved over $500.  Trust me, you will never go hungry with the dining plan.  Dessert comes with every meal!

 Liberty Tree Inn Dessert

My favorite experience from the entire trip was the "Festival of the Lion King." This show lasted about a half hour.  It's located in the Animal Kingdom.  People line up for it at least a half hour ahead of start time.  There are puppets and people dressed as the animals.  It's an interactive experience from beginning to end.  The characters talk to the audience and make them part of the show!  They have the audience make the sounds of Wart Hogs, Elephants, Giraffes, and Lions. Then, they tell the story of the "Lion King" through a musical review.  I cried both times we saw it! 

 Festival of the Lion King Flying Monkeys

Going to Disney is definitely the trip worth taking.  We plan on going again soon!  I would recommending going at least once B.C. (Before Children).  We got to enjoy so many things on our own time.  The Happiest Place on Earth is worth every penny we spent! 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

My Health Care Story

In the light of the news of Obamacare, or the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act, I thought I would share with my readers my health care and insurance, or lack there of, story.  There are so many awesome things coming out of this new Health Care Act!  I know it will take a few years for them to go into action, but they are happening!
It all started when I was eleven. Both of my parents had lost their jobs, and in turn, our family lost our health insurance.  I had severe ear infections.  One night, I was crying because my ear hurt so bad, and my parents didn't know what to do.  They gave me some acetaminophen to try to make some of the pain go away.  In the morning, they got me an appointment with a Community Healthcare Clinic.  They took me in and got antibiotics for the ear infection.  They told my parents that, if I was going to start going there, they would need to do a full physical.  So, my parents had one done.  It was because of The Community Health Clinic, we found out I had ureter reflux.  The nurse practitioner that worked there was very vigilant on figuring out why I had a kidney infection.  She sent me in for a Voiding Cystourethrogram.  This test is pretty invasive, but it had to be done. I've had numerous done from 11-14 years old. (Hi, yes, we want you to pee on the table here, in front of us!) I've had more than I can count!
After that, I had to have a Ureter Reimplantation surgery.  I was eleven.  My parents had not found jobs with insurance yet, and I had to have a major surgery! (It was major then.  Now, it's basically out patient surgery!)  The clinic insisted I go ahead and see a specialist and get this done.  So, my parents took me to the specialist, scheduled a date, and I had the surgery.  The cost at the point was $10,000-$15,000!  My parents did not have that money! I remember them going in and talking to the hospital social worker about it.  In one of these meetings, I remember the social worker handing them a piece of paper stating, the cost had been taken care of!  How it happened, I don't know.  A person or organization could have done this, or the hospital knew they were never going to see a penny, due to my parents situation, and wrote it off.
Within a short amount of time after that, it was suggested that my parents sign me up for an insurance called, "The Crippled Children's Fund."  I got approved, and all of my health care was moved to Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis.  The insurance also soon changed the name to "Children with Special Health Care Needs."  (I just looked it up, and this program still exists!)
By the time I was 13 years old, the doctor at Riley had found out that the reimplantation surgery had not worked.  He scheduled another surgery to do the Ureter Reimplantation again.  This time, my surgery was covered by the Children with Special Health Care Needs insurance.
After that surgery, my kidneys kept deteriorating. I stayed on that insurance until I was 19 years old. At 19, I started dialysis. When I started dialysis, I was placed on Renal Medicaid and Medicare.  A social worker came in to talk to us.  She basically said, you have to get a real job with insurance.  You're not going to get one with a music performance degree! Around the same time, my mother got a job at Meijer at 65 years old to get herself and me insurance.  I was going to college, and she did not want me to quit.  
I got my call for my kidney in November of 1999.  I was 21 years old.  I was trying not to flunk out of college while being sick and on dialysis.  A new social worker came in.  I was and IU Medical Center, the adult hospital. She was a lot more brash with me.  She was one of the first social workers to ever make me cry.
Transplant Medicare only lasts three years.  Transplant Medicaid, the insurance that pays for the $5,000 a month in transplant anti-rejection meds, the state can take away from you whenever they feel like you are capable of working.  It doesn't matter if you're going to school and trying to get a degree.  You're capable. I was told, to quit school and get a job! I didn't want to quit school!  My IU Med social worker, the one that made me cry, she told me to get a job at Walmart. So, I did.  She said, Walmart gives insurance!  I never received insurance through Walmart.  In fact, the people that were trying to be full time were getting screwed out of their insurance.
This is how it works:  Walmart would schedule the employee four 36-40 hours for two weeks, and then, bring them down to 20-30 hours, which is not full time, for two weeks.  Thus, negating the employees eligibility for insurance.
Finally, we figured out that Medicare would pay for more of a percentage of my medicine than we had previously thought.  My mother was getting my meds from a pharmacy in Lafayette.  The man that owned the pharmacy was also a transplant recipient.  He never made my mom pay for the left over cost of the medicine.  How she worked that out, I may never know! Then, my time on Renal Medicare ran out, and I was without insurance.  I still had to get blood work done.  I still had to get my anti-rejection meds. 
I went back and talked to my social worker.  She encouraged me to put the thousands of dollars of meds on my credit cards, until, she finally got me on a program with the pharmaceutical companies to provide me with my prescriptions at a discounted cost.  I still had to go in for the blood work and labs, or the transplant doctors would not keep prescribing my meds.  This became very expensive, and not paid for after a while.
I was on the pharmaceutical  program for my medicines until I finished my internship, and I got hired at my job.  The first day I was not an intern, my boss signed me up for insurance IMMEDIATELY.  He did this with no questions asked, which is a miracle.  Luckily, I've been insured for the entire time I've worked for my company.  Another good thing is, the medicines I am on are now available in generic.  That's lowered the price considerably.
My big worry is about the future.  What if I try to get on my husband's insurance, and they say no all based on my preexisting conditions?  What if I have a child and quit my job to be a stay at home mom?  I have to be insured!  There's no way I can afford Health Care without insurance!  I'm still in debt from the first time around without it.  
Oh, and remember how I said that some of my labs didn't get paid for?  Well, I started getting calls from a collection agency out of the blue a few years ago.  The woman assigned to my case started harassing me on a daily basis at work!  I told her I didn't have the money yet.  I was willing to make payments, but I didn't have payment in full.  Basically, she told me, I should have died instead of getting health care!  I had no right to health care if I couldn't afford it! 
Health insurance is not a privilege!  It's a civil right!  Not everyone thinks like I do.  They also probably haven't had to live without health insurance during a time of illness.
For you that are out there saying, "Why don't you just get a job?!"  You are probably the same conservative people that are saying, "You should be a stay at home mom!"  Unless my boyfriend gets a ginormous raise in the next year or two, I'll probably be a working mom, just so I can have insurance.
These are my experiences in dealing with Health Insurance.  

Monday, July 2, 2012

Living My Life Style

There has been a lot of buzz lately in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints or LDS world about gay Mormons.   A couple weeks ago at the Salt Lake City Gay Pride Parade, around three hundred Mormons marched in support of the gay community.  Since then, there have been more Mormons that have been marching in the Pride Parades across the nation.  I've been reading some stories and experiences that some of these people had.  From what I have read, the experience was amazing.  I was really sad that I had to work the day of Indy Pride and couldn't get down town for the parade or any of the festivities.  During the week, I did attend the Pride of Indy Concert Band and Jazz Band's concert.  Those musicians work really hard to create a great musical experience for the community to listen to!  I saw so many friends there at that concert.
I was there with my boyfriend.  Now, Ian goes along with a lot of the ideas and experiences that I have chosen without complaining.  I've been very open about my opinions on individuals being gay, lesbian, and transgendered from the beginning of our relationship.  My closest friend when Ian started dating was a gay man. I've had many Gay Boy Friends or Gay Best Friends, however you want to look at that, in my life time. My Gay Boyfriends, as my mom may call them, have treated me with more respect and loved me more than some of the guys that I've dated!

From a very young age, there were LBGT people every where! I just didn't realize it. So, where does this put me?  Let me start from the very beginning.
There was one out person in my high school, that I knew of.  She was very brave.  They even did an article about her in the local news paper.  Back then, I didn't think much of it.  I didn't even read the article about her.  At times, I wonder where she is now.  Then, there was one very effeminate guy out that was a couple years younger than me.  I think that's when "being gay" started to register with me.  Just a little though.
Then, I decided I was going to go to study music in college.  I went to college knowing what being gay meant, but not knowing what it would mean in my life.

In music school, I was surrounded by gay men.  Not all of the men in music and theater are gay, but a good portion of them are.  Soon, I would gain some of my best friends from these men. The gay men in my life have treated me way better than most of the LDS straight men I was expected to date.  I could go out with my Gay Boy Friends and know, they don't expect anything physical out of me.  I was on a date with an LDS guy, and it was the end of the date.  I was like, Thanks, have a nice night.  Then, he invited himself into my apartment!  We sat down on the couch, and he said, "Do you know what NICMO is?"  (Yes, he seriously asked this!!!)  I said, "Umm, no."  I played dumb.  He informed me, "A NICMO is a Non Committal Make Out Session."  With in two minutes of that conversation, I said, "I'm turning into a pumpkin, and you need to leave!"  (I was definitely too nice!)  Those were a lot of the experiences I had with LDS men, whom I was expected to marry!

In college, one of my best roommates, whom is gay, always called me the Golden Gaydar! In fact, we always joked that for Halloween, we should go as Rainbow Boy and the Golden Gaydar!  He was gay, yet he always told me, he had no clue, unless he was standing in the middle of a gay bar, if someone is gay or not.
When I was in college, I moved in with two gay men.  My sister in law asked my mom, "How could you let her do that!"  My mom answered, "They're not going to do anything to her. They're gay!"  I always thought that was funny.  

Are you a gay Mormon?
My Golden Gaydar can get me in trouble!  I've met many gay LDS.  Most of them would never admit that, but I just know.  My first trip the the Young Single Adults branch in Indianapolis, I met a guy that, the second he opened his mouth, I knew he is gay.  Now, he's married to a woman.  That is his personal choice. 

I dated an LDS guy.  We had gone on three or four dates, and he never once tried to hold my hand or kiss me.  On our first date, we went on a day trip.  Elton John came on the radio, and he exclaimed, "I used to LOVE Elton John, until I found out, he's a FLAMING HOMO!"  Well, this didn't sit well with me at the time, but it was our first date, so, I just kept to myself.  Later, when we had been dating for about a month, we had gone on a trip with a group of Young Single Adults or YSA's.  He saw a gay couple, and immediately started making fun of them.  He kept saying to another male YSA, "Hey, Bubba over there wants you!  He thinks you're hot!"  This really upset me, but I didn't say anything again, because we were in front of the other YSA's, and I was watching the situation from afar.
The final straw was, he decided we were going on a date to see the movie "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry."  I was preparing myself for a totally offensive movie.  In the middle, it actually turns into a movie about having more gay rights.  In my opinion, it wasn't really worth paying to see, but that's another story!  On the way home, I confronted this guy.  Why was he so homophobic?  I basically told him, I couldn't date a guy that was, and either he needed to stop, or we weren't going to date any more.  That's when he stated, "I feel like a woman trapped inside a man's body."  This shocked me for about two seconds.  Then, all the sudden, I realized why he was so homophobic!  He was trying to prove he didn't have his own issues with his sexuality by projecting how "Manly" he was in his homophobia!
We stopped dating soon after.  Then, he got worse.  He could sing and play piano.  When he was asked to play piano at a church function, he would say no.  Then, he would basically tell me, that's a woman's job, without so many words.  So he didn't want to be perceived as doing a "Woman's Job!"  Then, I was told by the accompanist at the time, that he would criticize her playing after Sacrament!  He could sing, but when I asked him to participate in choral activities, he would need his ego stroked before hand.  (I don't stroke egos anymore, because of him!) (And that sounds completely wrong!)  He wouldn't just participate in musical activities.  By the time all of this happened, I was over him and his attitude.  

A lot of Christians and LDS decide to live in what are called mixed orientation marriages.  A mixed orientation marriage is when one spouse is straight and the other is gay, bi, or transgender.  There have been a lot of blogs about this lately.  Some of them very positive and some of them, very sad.  For the ones that are sad, why would someone choose to live their life in this way?  Just because you don't think God will understand?  I believe he will.  I don't judge people based on there sexual orientation. Sexual orientation is not a choice.  You can't just choose to not be gay anymore, or to not have same sex attraction anymore.
To those of you that think that sexual attraction is a choice, you are wrong.  I remember having a conversation with one of my best gay friends in college.  He said, "I knew at three."  THREE?!  He told me, "When all of the other little boys were playing on the playground, I wasn't like them. I didn't want to play the way they did.  I didn't know I was gay, but I knew I was different."
A lot of the gay men I have talked "just knew" at a very young age.   I had a conversation with one friend, and he said, "I would never wish this on anyone!  Why would I 'choose' to be gay?"  This man had a loving family that supported him and best friends that loved him also.  He was also having a very hard life, even with all of the love and support he had.

The LDS church's stance on gay rights is one of the reasons I stayed inactive from the LDS church for so long in college.  I attended one Sunday in Terre Haute when I was in college.  That Sunday, the Relief Society lesson was on, having freedom to vote in anyway you choose.  I felt so lied to.  I never went back to that building.  
At the time, I had read a bunch of articles on how the church was supporting California Law makers that were for Proposition 8.  
I had heard and read people's histories on being gay church members. A lot of them ended up committing suicide because they couldn't take the guilt they were feeling any more.  One very public on at the time was about a man who shot himself on a Stake Center's front steps in California.  Why would anyone want to impose such guilt and hatred on a person, so much, that they would not want to be alive anymore?      
Can't we all just love each other?  A family is a unit of people that love each other.  I don't think it matters if there's two moms, two dads, or a mom and a dad.  I know that God loves all of his sons and daughters, whether or not they are gay, straight, bi, or transgendered.  It's time for me to stand up.  It's time for me to say, I'm for Marriage Equality!