Here's a problem...

UPMC and Highmark are engaged in a turf war. I just saw a commercial on tv by UPMC claiming that they have some kind of plan and Highmark is the one holding things up.

UPMC has slowly branded themselves onto doctors, hospitals and other facilities throughout our region. While I typically receive good care when I visit these facilities, I am often shocked at the price that is billed to my insurance company. Can anyone tell me if it is typical to charge $200 for a lead test for a toddler?

The question I want to ask is why Jeffrey Romoff, CEO of UPMC, is making 4 million dollars a year and Ken Melani, CEO of Highmark, 3.6 million a year, and shouldn't we perhaps be talking about that.

And even though I am somebody who has a good job with good benefits, I stand with the movement who are camped out in freezing cold cities all over our country right now, asking that we all take a moment to question what we have been told, to assess the quality of our lives, and to make sure that we hold government and corporations (and those masquerading as non-profits) accountable for their actions. Listen to this explanation that uses candy corn to explain why it's not about hating rich people at all.


Yup, pretty much the best ever...

I played a game called "Nada" today. Sarah and I stole away for grown-up conversation and beer this week, and it was so crowded we ended up sharing a table with two strangers. Young. Hip - you know the type...they bike around town and know about things like Zombie Opera. One of them identified himself as a game designer, which I think both of us immediately understood as "video game designer", but it turns out he meant all kinds of games. Card games. Live action. Etc. He told me about this game although he was rather incomplete with his directions, so my sixth period class worked out a more formal set of rules.

Anyway, while we were talking, they asked what life with kids is like.


Awesome. Fun in the formerly mundane. Exhausting. Smile-inducing.

Halloween is no exception. Laurel is incredibly excited about costumes, trick or treating, pumpkins and skeletons. We created an outrageously fun snake costume for her, which she proudly wore to daycare. And if that doesn't make you smile, there is something wrong with you.


"Hello, pumpkins, hello!"

Laurel has taken to emphasizing all particularly awesome observations with the phrase "oh. my. gawd."

As in, "Oh my gawd, big cows eating the grass!"

"Oh my gawd. Pumpkins!"

I missed out on the pumpkin patch visit yesterday, because I'm still sick. Mark took Laurel and they met his parents, his sister and Baby Alexis. The weather was chilly but clear, and when Laurel burst through the front door and excitedly told me about everything they saw and did, I knew it was one of the best outings of the season.


We are in this together....

Do you know if you are part of the 99%? Polls show that lots of middle class people think they are doing better than they are…40% of Americans think they are in the top 1%. In reality, you would need a salary of $750,000 to be in that group. Follow this link to see how your income ranks.

I’m planning a personal finance unit for my ninth graders, so that they can get a clear picture of why a $12.00/hour job or even a $20.00/hour job may sound great now, but doesn’t go too far when it comes to paying for regular daily expenses, plus health care and saving for retirement. But we’ll also be talking about the pros and cons of taking out student loans for education, and what you can expect to happen to your wages over the long term, and what you can expect from your expenses. We’ll talk about what happens when you bump up through the tax brackets on your way to middle class success, and why sometimes you end up in situations where you work more and earn more, but you pay more taxes, have more expenses and end up wondering where that American dream is that you were chasing.

We’ll talk about how $20.00/hour is a great wage, and maybe you even have health insurance on top of that, but if your deductible is high and your kid gets leukemia and you max out your coverage, you better have an alternate plan. For a lot of people, that means spaghetti dinner fundraisers and begging for change from strangers via a container next to the register at the 7-11.

Older people are fond of recalling tough times and telling you how they always struggled and times were tough. This may be true for them, but to engage in a debate about national policy, one must have a clear picture of what is happening on a larger scale. I like this video because it rather quickly explains some of the talking points that we hear repeated in the media. Pay close attention to point number 5. Is that why you and I aren’t standing together?

This movement means a lot of things, but it’s not really about restoring fairness. Life is not fair, and we can’t make it that way. I don’t support Occupy Wall Street because I want things to be fair.

This is why trying to isolate economic inequality to problems with the tax code is a big mistake.

As a teacher, this movement matters to me, because a kid who doesn’t have stability in his home, who moves a lot, has a parent working 2 or 3 low-paying jobs, poor access to healthy foods, or healthcare, is a kid that is very difficult to educate.
And he’ll be sitting right next to your kid in school. Even in the nice, suburban, graffiti-free schools.

The difficult to educate kid will take a lot of my time. Your kid will get less. I’m sorry. I wish it weren’t that way. When this happens on a large scale, I’m pretty sure it has a strong impact on dumbing down the whole lot of us. Except of course, the super-rich, who have their own schools, their own gated communities, their own doctors, their own airports. And their own politicians.

Before you dismiss the Occupy Wall Street protests, consider how you actually fit into the big picture.



We went to the Occupy Pittsburgh march this morning. It was a blustery day for democracy. While Phat Mandee sang jazz, reports ran around Freedom Square, trying to pinpoint the goals of the movement. People smiled before they answered...there isn't one goal. There isn't one experience.

That's kind of the point.

My favorite sign of the day read, "There is enough for everyone."

And that kind of sums up my views.

When I stand up in front of my students and talk numbers with them (I am a math teacher, after all)...I feel like a fraud. Study hard, go to college, and you'll do well. That's a flat out lie these days. These charts make me feel not all that optimistic about the future for my high school students or my daughter. Unemployment is at its highest level since the Great Depression. CEO compensation is at an all-time high. There are people making 80 million dollars a year. I'm not against you having a good life or making some money, but seriously, what do you even do with that much money?

So yeah, I think the super-rich could be a little less greedy, and maybe stop taking so many bonuses, and pass that along to their workers in the form of fair wages that keep pace with inflation. I have a decent job as a public school teacher, but I essentially, make less money every year, because of the piddly raise. Or no raise, as is the case this year, since we are working without a contract. That would not take government regulation, that would just take corporations conducting themselves with a little more compassion.

But income disparity is not the only problem. People around me struggle with unemployment and underemployment, unexpected medical bills that push them over the edge into credit card debt, and threat of foreclosure on their homes. Not seeking necessary medical treatment, because they have no health insurance (you know who you are...go to the doctor!).

We're all ok, because I come from the kind of people who are ok no matter what. We share with each other and look out for each other during times of crisis. But if this is the American dream, I say we need a new dream.

This is what democracy looks like. Citizens standing up and saying, whoa there. Corporations, listen up. Politicians, listen up. We are telling you this is not ok. Change things so that everyone has enough. Don't make us come down there.


this is what democracy looks like...

In case you haven't heard, there is a movement....
Published with Blogger-droid v1.6.8



...in our house this morning.

Laurel wakes up and says "I like laughing, Daddy. I like laughing, Mommy."

And then we all have a good laugh. Life is very, very good when you wake up and those are the first words you hear.

All the neighbors know Laurel because we often walk her to and from daycare. There's something kind of Sesame Street about it, because we pass a mechanic and a barber and a crossing guard. Everyone smiles and waves and greets her by name. John and Maggie, who run the market know that she has really wanted a pumpkin ever since they put the rack of them up a couple of weeks ago. We stopped today and bought a little one.

It was pouring down rain today, so hard even the kids at the cross country meet in the park were huddled under the pavilion. Laurel and I wore our raincoats and got soaking wet and very muddy. Laurel showed me where the mushroom used to be but isn't anymore, and then looked around for new ones. We got a drink out of the brand new water fountain. We noticed that the black-eyed Susans are finally finished blooming.

I had a rough week, trying to recover from a crazy-bad sinus and ear infection. But taking an hour to walk a mile home from daycare under brilliant orange leaves in the pouring rain is a better cure for what ails me than any of the pills or shots my doctors gave me. Probably the laughing helps, too.



Laurel will be two in one month exactly. I think we're going to have a birthday party. You aren't supposed to make too big of a deal about toddler's birthdays, but Laurel likes a crowd, so you are all invited. Details to follow.

Favorite Laurelisms of the week include:

"Miss you sooo much, Mommy."
"Thanks coming over, Yia-Yia"
"Teacher Lisa put the leash on" (Explanation: Laurel currently has to wear a leash at daycare, because she refuses to hold the little rope thing the rest of the kids do while they walk to the playground.)
"Put it down right there" (Meaning, put Alexis down, I want to be the baby now)

She just received her copy of Baby Bug magazine that my Great Aunt Jan sends her. I really can't say enough good things about this magazine. It's on special thick paper, so it's hard to rip. The stories are well illustrated. (And you never know what that crazy Kim and Carrots are going to do next! Will they visit a farm? Have a picnic? Take a bath? Haha!) Seriously, though, Laurel loves this magazine enough to want to read it over and over again, and I love reading enough to be really excited that they make a high quality magazine for toddlers.