Sunday, November 29, 2009

Joyeux Noel!

My 2009 Christmas card...for paperless greetings.

Feel free to share with your friends and family.

Happy Holidays,

Elizabeth Collins

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Take One For the Team

I am a big believer in taking one for the team.

We all have teams.

There are teams of people who agree with us politically, teams of people who graduated in the same class, teams of vegetarians. Whatever.

If something happens that you aren't quite sure you're okay with--no matter what it is, from needing to eat a Crab Rangoon (which you find unhealthful because it is fried and fatty) so as not to be rude to your mother-in-law, or voting for a bill or a candidate you are not 100% in line with, but to vote against it would mean that the "bad side" wins-- YOU DO IT ANYWAY so as not to be a Ruiner of the Moment. 

In other words: you take one for the team.

With everyone seemingly out to protect their own interests, I think it is more important than ever to protect common, wider, goals.  After all, we're always taught, "It's not all about you,"--aren't we? 

It's not about you most of the time. It's about humanity, or at least a whole bunch more people than you.

So, whether the goal is to get your academic department more respect in your school, or if it is to pass a national healthcare reform bill that could save people money and save people's lives, then YOU DO IT, no matter if there are a few niggling details that don't sit perfectly well with you.

Think what could be lost if you stand in the way of progress--even if "progress" just means the flow of polite conversation at an awkward holiday dinner table.

Don't be an obstructionist. Don't tolerate obstructionism in others.  (I am speaking specifically to you, the three Democrats Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named, but who have been threatening not to vote for healthcare reform in the Senate...why, I have no idea.)

People don't really remember how positive change got underway, but they certainly remember who was being a pill about it, who kept throwing grenades into the middle of what otherwise might have been productive discussions.

So, as Thanksgiving approaches (my least favorite holiday, for reasons I won't get into, but suffice it to say that I am generally thankful, so that's not it), I will remember to grin and bear it. 

I will smile and pour wine and cook for hours upon hours, even though people will decimate my dinner table in approximately 20 minutes.

I will take one for the team.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

If You're Not Outraged, You're Not Paying Attention...and other pithy quotes that could change the world

Many people have seen a particular bumper sticker which reads, "If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention."

Remember? You were on the highway, behind a rattly Subaru emblazoned with college stickers, "Buy Organic!" admonitions and maybe a black Lab (sporting an elaborate macrame collar) panting out the window.

Then again, clearly, many people haven't seen this sticker--or, if they did, they weren't paying attention.

Perhaps they don't really watch or read or think about the news.

I am outraged more and more lately. I truly wish I weren't.

I'd like to get back to oblivious-ness. I would like to think about literature more. I'd like to have more quiet time to write fiction. I need to get some books out. I need to focus on me.

But the world is begging for change. Good change. I don't know if I'm one to bring the change, but all I can do is try.

I feel like the kid who threw back the starfish that washed up on the beach--the one who said to the man who told him he couldn't possibly rescue all the washed-up starfish, "Well, at least I can save that one."

It's disheartening, though, to want to talk about the issues and the problems and to encounter faces stony with denial or disbelief.

How can the world change for the better if people don't even want to hear about the fact that it needs changing?

Will it be too late when other people finally start to listen?

I am thinking in bumper stickers now, in pithy forwarded e-mails.

Is this a bad sign? Or are bumper stickers or forwarded e-mails the things that other people are finally--when they're ready to notice--going to see and consider?

Are these little messages the things that could finally change America?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

My Health Insurance Just Went Up $200. Dare to Argue with Me That We Don't Need a Public Option?

Every year, like most people, I get a little raise. This is nice. This is happy-making.

And every year, after a month or two to enjoy that extra bit o'money, my health insurance premiums go up, and my paycheck reverses direction.

It's depressing, but I'm used to it.

Today, I picked up my much-needed paycheck, however, and found that I now earn $200 less than I did last month because both my medical and dental insurance costs went up.

No little increase in costs this time. Try a huge leap in costs. One so big that despite all the raises, I now earn the same as I did three years ago.

I was despondent after staring at all the little numbers on the lower left-hand side of my check. Two hundred fewer dollars a month. What am I going to do?

At first I was shocked, then I was sad, and now I am filled with self-pity, which is irritating (I can't stand it in other people, but sometimes all you can do is wallow in it).

I don't understand why this is happening to me, why I have to struggle with seemingly less money (or the same money) every year. I work SO HARD. Honestly. I try to be the very best teacher I can be. I am actually very talented, kind, assiduous, devoted.

Our American meritocracy seems like a sick joke right now (pun fully intended). If there's anyone who has merit, I know that it's me, and yet...what good has it done me?

Maybe it's my own fault for choosing a lower-paying, if honorable, career. Maybe I was just born at the wrong time in history. Maybe nothing my generation experiences will ever be easy.

Health insurance premiums, among other issues--especially the rising costs of literally everything--could render us helpless and utterly insecure, financially. I know I will hardly be able to save for retirement, and God knows there won't be pensions for any of us to depend on.

Maybe none of my generation's kids will even be able to attend college, because seriously, how are we ever going to afford those tuition bills? Or. more realistically, how will our kids ever be able to repay them?

Economic horror faces us right now, so scary that I don't even want to think about it. Yet, there is one thing I know that can be done to make it better: we can try to stem the ever-rising costs of health insurance by reforming the healthcare system now.

Adding a public option will force private insurers to lower their rates to stay competitive. Getting the uninsured able to afford some coverage will lower medical costs for all of us. (Maybe then hospitals will stop charging $300 per tablet of Tylenol, just to make up for the fact that some people have no insurance!)

I hope that people who were on the fence about healthcare reform will now start to see how important it is. Even if you personally don't want or need it, there are many Americans who do. And reform is something we need to have in order to ease the financial pinch on younger workers.

So, please--even if you don't see the need for change in your own healthcare, please don't stand in the way of positive national change. I know that we each do the best we can, but I have trouble seeing how yelling, scowling, and finger-pointing (and just generally acting like viragos at town hall meetings) is the best we can do. This type of behavior also makes foreigners laugh at us...

Please think of the future generations. Think of people who don't have health insurance--through simple bad luck, lack of money, no fault of their own. Our profit-driven system is broken and it's failing us, bankrupting us. If we don't reform our fractured, cruel system, more people will suffer and die--probably penniless. How can that be good for America?

Also consider this: how can something that is really for the public benefit--health insurance--be privately run and profit-driven? It can't. The private system only works by denying care and constantly raising premiums. Insurers aren't in the business of selling us health care because they want to help us live longer; they want to help themselves make money. Remember that.

Healthcare should be about protecting health--not corporate coffers or CEO bonuses. And healthcare should be something we each have, a benefit not tied to a job that could be downsized at any moment. You don't own your healthcare the way things are now--but if we pass reforms, you certainly could!

Finally, keep in mind that most people see that healthcare needs changing, but even if you don't want to change YOUR health insurance, some people genuinely need lower-priced, budget-friendly and more secure options that will help them afford their lives and protect their families. Press for change to help the people who need it.

And if you have Medicare and like it, why not let other people have the same privilege as you currently enjoy? No one wants to take away your precious Medicare (well, some people do, and ironically, those are the people who oppose the public option! Did you know that? I am thinking of you, Mr. Boehner).

So, please, call your Congress person; urge him or her to vote for health care reform so that the people who need it will get some relief.

Until that happens, I need to find another way to make up for the newly-lost $200. I don't know how I'm going to do it. Still, I will cheer on the champions who are trying to save us...and hope that the opponents to healthcare reform will finally see the light.