Monday, July 30, 2012

Whose responsibility is it to pay our exorbitant medical bills?

I don't know enough about the Affordable Care Act to swear by it. I'm not sure if it is without a doubt the best possible plan that anyone could have come up with. I'm sure there are lots of flaws (although they weren't put there purposely by President Obama). Despite its imperfections, though, I believe that it's better than nothing. We had to do something. From my own personal experience, the health insurance world is a nightmare to navigate. I have had multiple bills in the hundreds of dollars that weren't covered for some obscure reason, or because my employer didn't offer health insurance and therefore I was paying out of pocket. And my bills were just for routine medical or dental checkups. I have been very fortunate not to have any debilitating illnesses or major accidents. If I had, I know that I would be in enormous debt right now, either to credit card companies or to my family. Neither of which is a desirable option.

But it's accounts like this one that really get me upset about the health care system. In this moving article, a college professor ends up tens of thousands of dollars in debt because her partner comes down with advanced-stage Lyme disease. Her health insurance hasn't kicked in yet, so they have to pay out of pocket for several weeks, and no one is able to diagnose her properly. The partner is in extreme pain and misery, and all she can do is watch helplessly. Eventually, thousands of dollars later, they get an accurate diagnosis, and it turns out to be a diagnosis that isn't covered by health insurance! They end up having to start a website to plead for help from their friends and family. Fortunately, they raise a lot of money, and are able to pay their bills.

But it's just ridiculous that people need to go to such lengths as designing a website to beg for help to pay simple medical bills. Imagine if they had been a family with less know-how, who didn't have such a network of support that helped them navigate web design and mounting bills. Imagine being an English language learner, who is trying to understand stacks of paperwork that involve "deductibles," "claims," and other confusing requirements. Imagine being a single mother who can't pay her child's medical bills because her employer either can't or won't insure her. There are endless scenarios where people's lives are ruined, temporarily or permanently, because of our unsupportive, confusing health care system.

While I don't think the Affordable Health Care Act is perfect, I do think it's a good start. We had to start somewhere, so stories like this don't go on. As this article said, "It is not our community's responsibility to pay our exorbitant medical bills, to prevent our lives from being annihilated by the cost of illness. It is our government's responsibility."

Image source: NYTimes

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Inspiration for the weekend

Why food waste matters, and how to prevent it in your kitchen.

Zucchini fritters recipe. Add some feta and they're so delicious!

Apparently, other countries are catching up to the U.S. when it comes to obesity and sedentary lifestyles. This tool call "Where are you on the global fat scale?" compares your BMI to people across the world. Pretty interesting.

It's finally tomato season! Here's a summer side salad recipe that I found in a random cookbook I was looking through at the store:
  • 1 cups fresh pineapple chunks
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 T red wine vinegar
  • 2 T fresh mint, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup scallions, finely chopped
  • 1 t salt (or more if desired)
  • pinch black pepper
Stir and enjoy! 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Recipe of the week: Lemon Grain Salad with Asparagus, Almonds & Goat Cheese

So there is a slight theme to all of my meals lately. Take one type of grain, add multiple types of vegetables, olive oil, lemon juice, and cheese. Stir, and enjoy. I just don't feel like cooking complicated meals when it's been this hot. So here is another good one I found while browsing recipes in one of those stands at the co-op near my house. While the asparagus is out of season now, you could replace it with something else (sauteed zucchini maybe?).

Lemon Grain Salad with Asparagus, Almonds & Goat Cheese
  • 16 oz. grain (the original recipe called for farro, but I didn't know what farro was, so I used pearl couscous - you could also use orzo or another small pasta or grain)
  • 1 lb asparagus, ends snapped off and sliced into 2 in. pieces
  • 1/4 c olive oil
  • 1 cup almonds, sliced and toasted
  • 4 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
  • 2 lemons, juiced and zested (aka grated)
  • 1 T neutral oil (like grapeseed, walnut, or Canola)
  • salt and pepper to taste
Cook the grain according to directions. Drain well, place in a large bowl, and set aside.

In a large pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the asparagus in a single layer, and cook until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Drain and add to the bowl of grains.

Add the almonds, goat cheese, and lemon zest to the grain and asparagus. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice with the rest of the olive oil and the neutral oil. Add salt and pepper to taste (I was generous with them both). Pour over the grain salad and toss.

Recipe adapted from The Kitchn

Friday, July 13, 2012

Inspiration for the weekend

Here are some things I came across this week that stuck with me...

How to simplify your life a bit.

More and more farms are being built on rooftops.

Reuse Tuesdays: Ideas for projects from recycle materials.

The meal I make basically once a week.

Why knowing the names of plants is less important than making time to play in the forest...

Reading helps us grow.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Why killing time isn't a sin

The author of Zen Habits, one of the blogs I read about simple living, has a pretty awesome policy that anyone can share or reprint his blog entries if they so choose. He calls it an "uncopyrighted" policy. So when I saw his post this morning about killing time, I decided to repost it since it really resonated with me. I realized that I am definitely the type of person that views killing time as a bad thing. I'm always thinking about how I can be more productive. If I'm watching a movie, I'll try to answer emails at the same time. If I'm in the car, I'll try to listen to podcasts so I can learn more. If I have an unexpected day off work, I think about all the things I can complete that day. Those tendencies aren't necessarily bad, but they can border on unhealthy when I realize that I can't relax when I have down time. Thus, as part of my quest to live a healthier life, I'm going to think more about making time to just relax. It's one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself.

Why Killing Time Isn't a Sin

Post written by Leo Babauta.
I recently read a travel tip from someone who reminds himself that “killing time is a sin”, and so makes the most use of every bit of downtime, even on an airplane: “read a good book, learn a new language with Rosetta Stone, write to my friends around the world who haven’t heard from me in too long”.
I have no objections to reading books, learning languages, or writing to friends. It’s the idea that downtime must be put to efficient use that I disagree with. While I used to agree with it completely, these days I take a completely different approach.
Life is for living, not productivity.

Make the Most of Every Minute

There is a tendency among productive people to try to make the best use of every single minute, from the minute they awake. I know because not too long ago I was one of these folks.
Got time on the train or plane? If you’re not doing work, maybe you can be enriching yourself by learning something.
Got time before a meeting starts? Organize your to-do list, send off some emails, write some notes on a project you’re working on.
Driving? Why not make some phone calls or tell Siri to add a bunch of stuff to your calendar? Why not listen to a self-help audiobook?
Watching TV with the family? You can also be answering emails, doing situps, stretching.
Having lunch with a friend? Maybe you can talk business to make it a productive meeting.
This is the mindset that we’re supposed to have. Every minute counts, because time’s a-wasting. The clock is ticking. The sands of the hourglass are spilling.
I used to feel this way, but now I see things a bit differently.

Is This What Life Is To Be?

It might seem smart and productive to not let a single minute go to waste (they’re precious, after all), but let’s take a step back to look at the big picture.
Is this what our lives are to be? A non-stop stream of productive tasks? A life-long work day? A computer program optimized for productivity and efficiency? A cog in a machine?
What about joy? What about the sensory pleasure of lying in the grass with the sun shining on our closed eyes? What about the beauty of a nap while on the train? How about reading a novel for the sheer exhilaration of it, not to better yourself? What about spending time with someone for the love of being with someone, of making a genuine human connection that is unencumbered by productive purpose, unburdened by goals.
What about freedom? Freedom from being tied to a job, from having to improve yourself every single minute, from the dreariness of neverending work?

An Alternative

Killing time isn’t a sin — it’s a misnomer. We’ve framed the question entirely wrong. It’s not a matter of “killing” time, but of enjoying it.
If we ask ourselves instead, “How can I best enjoy this moment?”, then the entire proposition is reframed.
Now we might spend this moment working if that work brings us joy. But we might also spend it relaxing, doing nothing, feeling the breeze on the nape of our neck, losing ourselves in conversation with a cherished friend, snuggling under the covers with a lover.
This is life. A life of joy, of wonderfulness.
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