Friday, October 30, 2009

A truly growing family!

Just wanted to provide those who pay attention with a quick update....we welcomed another family member overnight on Tuesday, as our daughter delivered a handsome baby boy! Mother and son are doing very well and were already home as of yesterday afternoon.

That, coupled with our now-two-week-and-one-day-old granddaughter, has made these last two weeks very special and VERY memorable! Gram heads out for field support in our daughter's locale and I'll follow about a week later (couldn't get out of a mandatory work meeting). Planning to continue spoiling all of them ABSOLUTELY ROTTEN!

Twizzlers and Mountain Dew can't be far behind..........just kidding. But I love what I've heard from other dedicated grandparents...the best part is giving the kids anything they want, then handing them back over to the actual parents. Very liberating, I think. We're already well into "spoil" mode with our granddaughter, who is so excited to see my wife (and eventually me) that she's been using a paper chain to mark how many days she'll have to wait!

Have yourself a safe and happy Halloween. I'm already in costume, as I'm dressed like a middle-aged guy. Pretty easy costume to put together, too.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Smitty's bargain barn--now open!

In my adult years I've been fortunate to have some pretty good success with garage sales. I'm not a buyer; I'm a seller, and not a bad one, either! I'm so good, in fact, that a pal of mine always refers to my sales as "Smitty's Bargain Barn."

My wife has always marveled at how well we usually do with these sales, wherein one gathers up unused or unnecessary items, making them available for sale. We've had probably a half dozen over the years, and exception we sell most everything that we intend to sell. The trick we've found is to determine what you're willing to get rid of, attempt to sell it, then take what's left to a charitable organization (like Goodwill, the Salvation Army or the like). That way, once you've made the conscious determination to part with an item, it goes away, so you're more ready to sell!

Here's a great example: last time out, I went though our books and DVDs, culling those titles that either didn't interest us anymore or that we simply didn't like (and that happens, believe me). Put those out for the sale, despite my wife's comment that no one was going to buy them, and wound up selling them all. Certainly, we didn't get top dollar for them, but they went away, and I had enough cash in the exchange to buy lunch.

And the funniest thing is that you cannot tell who's going to buy what. When I prepped for my last sale, I had accumulated a number of the giveaway bobblehead dolls from my beloved Cincinnati Reds. They're cheaply made, rarely look anything like the actual player, and take up space and are hard to clean around. So out they went. Can you believe that I sold them all to a seventy-something granny, buying them in hopes of surprising a grandson?

I like it when flea marketers come to call. Once I sold a twenty-year-old ladder, spattered with paint and rusting at the hinges, when a flea market dealer came and literally cleaned me out the first hour I was open. It was a throw-in, but I got ten extra bucks I didn't expect.

The garage sale concept can be extended to Craigslist. I know, one must be careful using that venue for buying and selling, but as long as you deal only in merchandise and accept cash only, all should be well. So far I've used Craigslist to sell old exercise equipment, an old cellphone (yes, it's possible), and most notably my old pipe collection. Since I hadn't used it since suffering a heart attack in 1993, and since doctors are never going to say that smoking in any form is harmless, it was time. And I had three different collectors vying for the opportunity to buy my collection.

Right now I'm in the midst of selling a couple more items on Craigslist. It astounds me that people are apparently shopping regularly and actively on that site, as I had an inquiry about an electronics item within an hour of posting it. At 9:00 this morning!


Friday, October 16, 2009

Gram and Poppy ride again

Our second grandchild arrived yesterday afternoon via Caesarean section. The little doll's gorgeous. She's also enormous, clocking in at ten pounds, one ounce, and the baby girl next crib down in the nursery weighed in at a slightly less impressive nine pounds, fifteen ounces. No boys born yesterday that I saw....they would probably have been afraid of these new, capable women.

But she's absolutely precious. I had the opportunity to hold her earlier today, and, just as with our first granddaugther, the feeling is indescribable. As a card-carrying stepfather I didn't have that opportunity with my kids, but you had better believe I don't miss an opportunity with my grandchildren.

I'm "Poppy," by the way, and my wife has the nom de grandparent of "Gram." She wasn't going anywhere near any name that involved the word "grand," so that's what our daughter came up with when she had her first a bit more than four years ago.

And I love the sound of our granddaughter addressing me as "Poppy." Except with her it's almost always said this way:

"Um, Poppy, _____?"

Well, you'd have to hear it to get it, but I just love it when I hear it.

I'd post a picture here, but since we're doing that "names have been changed to protect the innocent" thing, I'd better not. Suffice it to say that she looks nothing like me, thank God, but is already showing a strong resemblance to a nice combination of both of her parents' physical traits.

And we're expecting a baby boy via our daughter's Denver-based clan in about three weeks!

In short, it's a great time to be Gram and Poppy!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

It pays (someone) to be healthy!

My wife and I both work in jobs that are in or related to the healthcare industry. As such, we're a a little better-informed than the average Joe but not experts by any means.

For several years she's carried our medical benefits, largely because we agreed that the carrier whose coverage is offered by her employer is better than mine, or at least it was eight years ago. So we've continued with her coverage for that long, and for the most part, it's been fine. We pay only modest co-payments for office visits and prescriptions, but as with so many of us, the co-payments have increased somewhat in the past couple or three years. We also formerly paid very little in the way of "out-of-pocket" expenses, and were never in a position to have to pay any percentage a hospital stay. And we've been lucky enough to only need a couple of ER visits for a kidney stone for me (what you've heard is true, the worst pain I have ever experienced), so the hospital stay aspect of this has been irrelevant for us.

I mention all of this because the plan that her employer now provides has a mix of HMO-style coverage (co-pays for MD office visits and prescriptions) and the dreaded deductible and maximum out-of-pocket mix that causes us to dip into our own funds more frequently than before. The obvious reason for this is so that my wife's employer can offer "coverage" at rates comparable to the previous year. And the employee's option is to accept is and pay his/her share of the premium, or decline it and go without. Not much of a choice, I'd say.

We're experiencing some of this as my wife and I have both found it necessary to have some diagnostic testing. Nothing serious, mind you, but the kind of thing where the doctors are either trying to confirm a problem or rule out a problem.

Well, I just got today's mail and received an explanation of benefits from our insurer. Looks like we'll have to go "out-of-pocket" a little more to pay for some testing that already took place, and I'm having some tests later this week. Gee, I can hardly wait to see what that costs, as I would be absolutely shocked if it's determined that we don't have a substantial portion of that to pay, too.

I keep telling myself to remember that there are others who don't have ANY insurance or ANY means of paying for their treatment.....so they don't have it. Small comfort, but until something changes and health insurance is more inclusive and more competitively priced, this is how it's going to be.


Saturday, October 3, 2009

Say "cheese," or not.....

Sorry, but I couldn't help the pun with this entry's title....

I don't like cheese. Never have, never will. With the notable exception of pizza (which I believe is an exception because of the way it's packaged, cheese + tomato sauce + toppings + crust), I detest cheese in all forms. So you can imagine that in some cases it's a little challenging to eat out, when restaurateurs are geared to offer so many dishes, particularly sandwiches, that are loaded with cheese.

Recently my wife and I visited a national sandwich chain and I ordered two sandwiches, one for each of us, and asked that they both be prepared without cheese. There was something of a mixup at the counter and the sandwich maker handed responsibility off to the cashier, who verified that we didn't want cheese.....and added it anyway. I still don't know what she was thinking, but after discovering this and removing the offensive material from my sandwich (thank God it was a cold sandwich), I enjoyed it anyway.

This led to a strange dream in which I ordered sandwiches for my wife and me from a national chain known for their roast beef. Now, remember that this chain has a few sandwiches with cheese, but not all, and those that do come cheese-equipped are named accordingly. So, in my dream, imagine my unhappiness to arrive home with my food only to find that these sandwiches had cheese added and melted onto them! My dream continued with me storming back to the store with the food, making a scene, threats of the police being called, etc.

Thankfully it was only a dream, and I've not had occasion to visit there since awakening.

Well, enough of that.....on to other things.

I must say I was amused that some conservative pundits felt the need to pile onto President Obama and squarely blame him for the International Olympic Committee's selection of Rio de Janeiro, not the Obama hometown of Chicago, as the host city for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. These folks are blaming him for everything but the weather, and I don't think anyone can accuse him of not working, not trying, or not caring. But my opinion doesn't matter as much as those with the bully pulpit of a daily radio or television broadcast.

As the President character states in the movie "The American President," "These are serious times and they require serious people." Hmm....who should we say is serious here, and who's just throwing rocks?

I also read something a couple days ago that reminded me of a loss our literary culture suffered just in the last couple of years. Kurt Vonnegut left us in April 2007 and while he hadn't written a really meaningful work in a long time, I still miss him. To be sure, there are other writers I like and respect (more on them below) but Vonnegut was always my favorite. And so few of my friends and family "got" him, so it was a little like being part of a club when I'd find someone who did "get" his work.

I don't read as much as I used to, despite incessant business travel, as I've found it easier and lighter in weight to carry a small video/audio player than two books for every trip. But when I do read I have what I would consider to be eclectic tastes. For instance, I raced through the latest work by Dan Brown on a recent trip, and simply could not put that book down. That's my favorite form of reading--the "I can't stop" scenario. I also have read virtually every word that historian David McCullough has written, and still like John Grisham's lawyer novels very much (and read those at the same breakneck pace as Dan Brown's).

My other favorite writer is a business writer and observer, Tom Peters, who's currently hard at work on a new book due out during the winter. Something to look forward to!

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