Archive for the ‘culture’ Category

Choices

I forget who said it but I read a quote the other day that it is easy for those of us with choices to judge those of us who don’t have them.

I’m reflecting on this a little today just because I am glad for a few choices I  have. I can drive my children to and from school. My oldest would otherwise have to take the bus to middle school. I’m afraid of the bus. Bad things happen on buses nowadays. I can choose to go to work during the day or continue to stay home and still have food on the table. I can post an update to Facebook, Twitter or a blog.

I prayed this morning for the moms who do not have choices, regardless of what we think. They have to go to a job and support their family. They cannot volunteer in their children’s school. They cannot choose their child’s school or educational process. They cannot follow through on homework especially if the power was just turned off. They may not be able to put that food on the table for everyone in the home. They must leave their babies in the care of people they may or may not trust and risk showing up in a sad news story that we all watch and scream “what was that mother thinking!”

If you are aware of someone who is choice-challenged, would you pray for an option to offer them? Would you resist thinking “what were they thinking?” or “Well, if they would only ____ then they could ____.”

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Boiling Mad

Watched Food Inc. again. I get angrier and angrier every time. You want a real healthcare bill? Rebuild, not change, rebuild the food system in this country = fewer sick, fewer obese, fewer diabetic, fewer medicaid claims, fewer employee absences, lower employer costs, businesses can afford to expand and employ, fewer food industry subsidies–use the $$ to assist individuals and small business with legal fees when sued by Monsanto(how much freaking money do they need?) — criminals receive a free attorney, why not Joe Farmer? No more competing with other countries’ crop prices so Mexico can farm again without U.S. companies advertising in their papers to bring illegal workers to slaughterhouses reducing immigration issues. I could go on. And it’s all McDonald’s fault. (if you’ve seen “Food Inc” you’ll understand)

I’m changing my mind on many things. Sue the hell out of fast food. Not because parents don’t have responsibility but because we have been groomed for 60 years to think its cheaper to eat crap. It worked for tobacco. We all have a personal responsibility for certain. It’d just be much easier if I didn’t have to battle corporate america’s foot on my neck every time I go through a check out line.

An uneducated look at reform

Insurance Reform–what I think should be covered:

Massage: reduces stress & inflammation, promotes healthy immune system and mental health

Benefit to Insurance companies: reduce doctor visits for simple colds and musculoskeletal issues, mental health providers, prescriptions and OTC medications

Economic benefit: creating more jobs as people needed to provide and teach the art

Manicures and Pedicures: reduces stress, promotes higher self image, creates community among consumers and providers

Insurance benefit: reduction in mental health and rheumatology visits

Economic benefit: creating more jobs for providers and instructors

Smoking cessation clinics or supplies: too many  benefits to mention

Insurance benefit: reduce cancer related costs–tests, treatments, surgery, long-term care

Economic benefit: more $$ in consumer’s hands to spend on durable goods or food (however, the government would lose a TON of $$ in taxes and tobacco growers would therefore not receive government subsidies–have to develop new industry or uses for  tobacco.)

Tax credit for one-time donation of unused medical benefits: I have maternity benefits and well baby care on my insurance. I am not planning any more pregnancies. Can I donate my benefit to an uninsured mom-to-be? Of course I run the risk of being uninsured myself should there be a surprise down the road. Willing to take the risk?

Tax Reform: Reduce your tax burden by quitting smoking and drinking alcohol. In Illinois, combining Federal and State excise taxes, one can expect to pay 50% of the price of a pack of cigarettes to taxes. Source and also here.  Taxes on alcohol a little less sensational (14% on beer, over 16% on alcohol purch in a Chicago club)but you get the idea. And that’s just in Illinois. Then there’s gas. I can’t even figure that out. I may even be calculating the others incorrectly thus the source material. So smoking, drinking and driving will kill ya’ in more ways then one. Plus it’ll make you broke. Interestingly enough though, if you pay all these taxes to the government and run out of money, you can apply to the government for financial aid and they will give you money to spend on more taxes. Kuh-razy.

VA Reform: Combat veterans should receive $1,000,000 tax-free and clear after their service and free healthcare from any provider for life.

Economic Stimulus Reform: Stop giving stimulus money to corporations. Give the money to consumers to pay off their mortgages–or to the mortgage lenders in the name of the borrowers–which will then shore up the lenders and create more income for durable goods–new appliance purchases or home improvement purchases, vacations, education, entertainment which creates demand and jobs in these industries.

Stepping Up

I have never sensed a spirit of fear, confusion, and despair in the community more than I have in these last few weeks. I am surrounded by horrible things happening to fabulous people. It would seem there are few if any places to turn. We have GOT to make it a priority to ramp up our commitments to each other and to listening for God’s voice. The systems we think should be in place or stable just aren’t. No amount of anger or whining will help our neighbors fill their frig or gas tank or soul when there is no income and abundant worry. Followers of Christ, lead the way in compassion, hope, and charity.

Oh So Taxing

Went to a tax service and got our taxes filed today. I used to do them myself but when we had to deal with a rental property and subsequent sale of death rental property, I knew I couldn’t hang with the big tax dogs. This year we didn’t have as many forms to deal with but there’s just no way my brain can configure it all anymore so it is worth the fee. Especially since our refunds have doubled since I stopped doing them myself. No, really. I’ve tried tax software before but discovered that sometimes you need to know the questions to ask to bring up the right forms or deductions/credits. I didn’t know those. We will be getting a refund this year as we usually do, though smaller since we took the money upfront in the paychecks. Here are some things that our tax service clued us in on that we had not been paying attention to:

Medical miles-keep track of how many miles you drive each year to medical appointments
Charity miles-keep track of how many miles you drive each year to volunteer
Go to the Salvation Army and Goodwill websites to download valuation guides on donated items. You’d be surprised how much your garbage bags and boxes of clothing and household items are worth. And I just used the low end of the scale.
Public school registration fees

We also discovered tax credits we had no idea we qualified for. There are certainly many more things that apply to individual situations and (disclaimer alert) you would need to consult with your own tax preparer to see what is available to you. Oh, my favorite part included with our fee, is that we have the full assistance of the service should there be any issues with the IRS. WORTH IT.

I hadn’t meant for this to be a soapbox on using a tax prep service. I was just relieved we were able to get a refund even though I thought I’d made some mistakes throughout the year. I couldn’t have done it on my own. If you’re freaking out about filing your return, I kid you not, talk to an accountant or service and let them help. Sometimes peace of mind is half the battle.

Restoring Dignity and Affirming Beauty-Help Portrait

Thanks to Carlos for this heads up on Help Portrait. Please check out the video for a very cool way to give someone back their dignity and show a little love.  I so wish I had the ability to participate but since I don’t, I’m calling on my friends who can, to step out and use their love for and talent in photography in a new way. For more details on how you can get involved, go to Help-Portrait.com

The Government Can

Enjoy.