Tuesday, January 4, 2011

New Year's Resolutions

I haven't blogged for a very long time - I could make up an excuse like I have been really busy, but that would be less than truthful. The truth is, I am just lazy and I haven't had anything blogworthy to write about. But since the new year is upon us, I thought I would share with the world what my new year's resolutions are - or at least some of them.

1. I will try to blog more. Occasionally, I will get an email from a friend that asks why I haven't blogged in a long time. Well, to that friend, this resolution is for you.

2. I am going to use the dishwasher less. Sounds weird, I know. I want to do this for a few reasons: First, obviously to be earth-conscious and to preserve water. My Dad will be so proud. Second, I enjoy hand-washing dishes. My father-in-law will be beaming. And finally, it gives my children an opportunity to help out. Dishes were an everyday chore when I was growing up. There are few things that I know how to do very well and washing dishes is one of them. I think my wife is grateful.

3. I want to eat healthier. For the most part, I don't do too bad in this category. I have been re-inspired however by watching home movies of me about 10 years ago. I was a blimp. Literally. I looked like I should have been floating over a college bowl game. In recent years, I have dropped some weight and am at a comfortable place. However, if I continue to eat ice cream late at night like last night, I am afraid I will not be in such a good place.

4. I want to be less critical of other people. Again, watching home movies the other day, I was so annoyed with myself at how many times I corrected others or asked somebody to move out of the way, or told somebody to do something. I was nagging, and it was so unbelievably annoying. I really don't want to be like that.

5. I want to worry less about money. My wife will tell you that I absolutely am the worst in the world when it comes to worrying about money, and I probably am. One solution is to make gobs and gobs of money and then I wouldn't have to worry. Barring that, I want to be comfortable with the fact that we live comfortably and can pay all of our bills. This one will be tough for me but I am going to work on it.

6. I want to do my Church calling better. I try really hard to do the best I can at this - but, I feel like I always come up a little short of where I should be. In any case, I am going to make a bigger effort this year to be better at my calling.

7. Finally, I want to be more kind. Those of you that know me are saying, "More kind? Is that even possible? You are already so kind." Seriously, I want to be nicer. To my wife. To my kids. To my extended family. I want it to be said of me that I am a nice guy. I am not sure that is currently the case. So, my motto for 2011 will be: Be Kind.

These most certainly are not earth-shattering resolutions - and they certainly are not the only ones that I am making - just the only ones that I felt were bloggable. If you are my friend, please help me keep my resolutions. Please call me on the things that I should be doing that I am not. Happy 2011 to all of you.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Healthcare is Broken

Someone needs to call 911 because our healthcare system is definitely in a state of emergency. Although I feel I am somewhat intelligent and I know that healthcare costs have been rising for the last several years, it's not until it has directly affected my family that I have found out just how truly screwed up our healthcare system is. And a quick memo to all of you who think that Obamacare is the answer: it most certainly is not. It is the anti-answer. And yes, I made that word up.

This is a long story that I will try to make short by using bullet points as the highlights:

- Kate is now 10 months old and has had her left eardrum burst three times and her right eardrum burst twice. Needless to say, she has some ear problems and thinks that the cold pink stuff is a yummy snack to accompany all meals. She has had at least eight ear infections that we know of.

- Kate was seen by an otolaryngologist (I did not make that one up) and we were advised to have tubes put in her ears.

- Because of the rising costs of my previous healthcare policy, I have an individual policy through Blue Cross with a high deductible, not astronomical, but not $250. Before taking Kate to the ENT, we hadn't touched that deductible.

- We scheduled the relatively minor procedure for Kate with the doctor and were told we would be going to Phoenix Children's Hospital. It took them a little over a month to fit us in.

- Two days before the procedure, I was called by the pre-registration experts at PCH and told that I would have to PRE-PAY for the procedure because we hadn't met the deductible. Grand total $1,973. Ten minute procedure - two grand. Two days before the procedure. I wouldn't have been all that bothered by this except for what I learned next:

- Uninsured patients have a cash payment option for the EXACT SAME PROCEDURE - $1,020. Upon learning this, I said, "I'll take that option". I was informed it was unavailable for me because I am insured. Let me repeat, I was unable to have the cheaper cash payment option BECAUSE I HAVE INSURANCE. They are required by contract to bill my insurance company. I was floored. I thought it must have been a mistake.

- Anyone who knows me knows that if I think I am right, you are just not going to win an argument with me. I simply will not let it happen. I will talk to whoever it takes, whether it be insurance company management (his name was Vincent), or PCH Registration management (a tool named Linda) the surgical scheduler (Amanda) or the Financial Management Director at PCH (Irma) until I get the right answer.

- For three days, I could not get anybody to give me the answer to this question: "How is it rational that I pay double the cost that an UNINSURED patient pays FOR THE EXACT SAME PROCEDURE????" I must have asked that question 500 times. The answer I got most frequently was: "I don't have a good answer for that. It's just our policy."

- Kate had the procedure, she is a completely different baby now that she can actually hear and Michelle and I are very grateful parents. PCH was an unbelievable facility and the nurses and staff could not have been nicer or more professional.

The point is, I finally did win my argument. Irma, the aforementioned financial director at PCH who was the only professional who I felt was on my side, agreed to bill my insurance and then adjust the amount down to the cash payment option of $1,020. However, I have spent the better part of four days on the phone arguing, name-calling, fighting, complaining and pleading with complete strangers who seem to have more control over my daughter's healthcare than I do. It was the single most frustrating experience that I can remember.

Healthcare is broken. It was broken before Obama took office and it is still broken after Obamacare, probably even more so.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Good Samaritan

There is nothing worse than losing stuff that's important and hard to replace, like your wallet. I lost my wallet at a Diamondbacks game a few years ago - I prefer to say it was stolen just to make myself feel less irresponsible, but that's probably not the case. It was an awful experience, new credit cards, new driver's license, insurance cards, temple recommend and most importantly, my various collections of frequent dining cards. You would think that I would be worried about losing my cash, but I don't ever have any, so it's never a problem.

With that in mind, fast forward two years to yesterday afternoon. I had just finished my Monday afternoon ritual of working out at the gym and getting the kids out of the childcare while Michelle teaches her Monday night muscle and bootcamp classes. I was carrying Kate and holding the keys to the car, my wallet and an empty bottle that Kate had just finished and trying to make sure that my other three kids didn't get hit by a car in the parking lot. Needless to say, my hands were full.

We got to the car and I unlocked the door using the actual key and not a remote because I didn't have one, and I put the bottle and my wallet and the keys on top of the car so I could strap Kate into her carseat. For a split second, I remember thinking to myself, "don't leave that bottle on top of the car, Michelle would be so mad at you." Really? Anyway, because it was 150 degrees inside the car, it took a little longer than normal to get Kate strapped in. I grabbed the bottle, smiling to myself thinking, "You are such a good husband and what a wonderful memory you have", and I got in the car and drove home.

We had been home for about 20 minutes when there was a knock on our front door. I opened the door to find a man who I had never seen before but who I won't soon forget. He didn't say much except that he found my wallet in the middle of the street and found my address from my driver's license. He also said that he didn't know how many credit cards I had but that he hoped he had found them all. Apparently, he spent some time in the street searching for my cards and putting them all back in my wallet before bringing it to my doorstep. Most surprisingly, all $68 that were in my wallet before I left it on the roof of my car were still in my wallet.

He didn't leave his name, he wouldn't let me give him any money (believe me, I tried) and he was very quiet and unassuming. All he said as he left was, "I have lost a wallet before, and I would have loved if someone would have brought it back to me with everything still in it." I wish I knew his name and address so I could do something for him.

In a world that is becoming more and more depressing as the days go by and where there is a severe shortage of good, honest people, it was refreshing to be reminded that there are still some good people out there. Of all the people that could have driven by after my wallet fell off my car, I certainly am grateful that it was that particular man who decided to be a good samaritan. I hope somebody does something real nice for him today.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Things I Love and Hate about Facebook

Let's face it - Facebook (FB) is sweeping the world. I actually joined FB almost two years ago at the urging of some of the youth in our Ward. At the time, I didn't understand what the point was and definitely didn't foresee the unbelievable exploding growth. I spent and still spend very little time on the site. Unfortunately, I do get FB alerts on my cell phone and I end up spending more time than I would like on FB. There are things that I really love about it, and there are things that I absolutely can't stand about it. I am sure you will be able to identify with some of my comments.

"Friends" - I love that I am able to connect with old friends through FB. I have connected with old high school friends, old work buddies, college friends, old missionary companions, long lost family and friends from far far away in Uruguay where I served my mission. (As I write this post, I just got friended by an old work colleague that I couldn't stand) I would guess that 95% of the people that I have connected with on FB are people that I otherwise never would have found. I currently have 271 friends on FB - an unusually small total for somebody who has been on FB for as long as I have. For example, a 15 year-old actual friend of mine has over 1,100 friends to date.

The part about FB that I hate is that I think it gives people a false sense of their own popularity. Although, generally I feel I am a pretty likeable guy, I don't think for a second that all 271 of my "friends" are really my friends. I always hear people talking about how many friends they have on FB, "I just hit 400 friends . . . I just hit my first 500 friends . . . I have 1,000 friends!!!" Blah, blah, blah . . . Like it is some type of status symbol - as if the more friends on FB you have, the more important you are. I used to accept anybody and everybody as a friend on FB; I don't anymore - in fact, I just ignored the invite from the annoying work colleague. So, word to the wise, if part of your self-worth is determined by how many friends on FB you have, you are an FB loser and need to reevaluate your life.

THE WALL - I like that you can write on your wall for all the world to see and tell your "friends" about important things that are going on in your life. For example, my 15-year old friend with 1,100 "friends" used his wall last week to tell his "friends" about an exciting contest that he had won and a competition that he was in that was very important to him and his family. I must admit, I followed his wall through that exciting event just to check in and see how he did and it was a quick, easy way to find out how he had done. This is a Wall-worthy post.

However, for the most part, I hate the Wall. I don't understand why people feel the need to tell the entire world about every detail of their day. "I had wheat toast for breakfast, it was yumms . . . I worked out this morning and I loved it!!! . . . I had a dentist's appointment this afternoon and it was no fun . . . I hate my kids right now and I am ready to go to bed!" These are all actual posts from my "friends". First, where do these people find the time to get on the computer or cell phone and post these things? 'Oh, my toast was really yummy, I better dial up the cell and tell all of my "friends"'. And second, why do these people feel like these events are Wall-worthy? Maybe it's just me, but if I have one Wall-worthy event per month, I feel like I am doing pretty good. Bottom line, if you are posting to your Wall on a daily basis, you might be an FB loser.

Another thing I love is the part on FB that allows you to comment on absolutely anything. "What a cute picture that is of your daughter . . . I am sorry you had a bad day at the dentist . . . Have you gained a few pounds?" These are comments that I have made or have thought about making on FB in the last couple of weeks. This is a worthy FB activity.

The part about commenting that I hate is that it usually brings out the worst in me. I am a slightly sarcastic guy. And by slightly, I mean slightly more than annoying. When I read something that I find stupid, offensive or just plain dumb, it is almost impossible for me not to make a comment. When I see a funny picture, I have to comment. When I feel that someone is sharing too much, I occasionally have to comment and let them know that they need to think before they post. So, if you can't control your commenting, especially when you have nothing nice to say, you most likely are an FB loser. (Guilty as charged)

Finally, I love that I can "communicate" with anyone of my 271 "friends" in the blink of an eye. I don't have to wait for them to answer their cell phone or return a letter in the mail. I can just shoot off a quick note and tell them what I need to tell them. This is a fabulous time-saver.

This instant form of communication is also what I hate most about Facebook . . . and texting and tweeting and all other forms of instant communication. With all the texting and emailing and tweeting that is going on, our young people are not learning how to actually talk to one another. I remember when I was growing up, I used to get in trouble at night for talking on the phone with friends for too long - an activity that doesn't even exist anymore. Kids text or tweet or FB each other. No actual speaking is involved. I used to call the youth from our Ward on their cell phones to ask them a question and they wouldn't answer . . . but they would text me back immediately, a practice that infuriated me. I once watched an entire conversation between two young women in our ward who were sitting right next to each other - and neither of them ever uttered a word. They texted their whole conversation. This is unbelievable to me.

What will these kids do when they grow up and they have to give a talk in Church? Last time I checked, you can't tweet your Church talks. What will they do when they have to give an oral presentation in an English class? You can't text an oral presentation. What will happen when they have a job interview with an actual human being and they can't answer "IDK, OMG, LOL!!" And finally, when they actually go on a date with another living, breathing human, how will they be able to have a thoughtful, intelligent conversation if they have never actually had one before - with their mouths and their voiceboxes.

In summary, Facebook is a very fun and useful internet tool. However, if you check how many "friends" you have on a daily basis and are concerned that your number isn't growing fast enough, you are probably a loser. If you "friend" total strangers just to get your number higher, you are definitely a loser. If you post your daily schedule to your Wall every single day, you might be a loser. If you post something to your Wall that only your husband or wife should know, you are definitely a loser and might need Facebook therapy. And finally and most importantly, if you spend more than 10 minutes (20 minutes if you are under the age of 21) on FB daily, you are just plain wasting time. Wise up.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Lessons Learned from Being Alone

During the summer when it is scorching hot here in the AZ Desert, our family enjoys trips to the mountains, namely Pinetop and the Hazar Cabin. We enjoy this ritual several times a year, but mostly during the Summer to escape the heat and remember why it is that we choose to live in Arizona. I play golf with family, we go on long walks (and sometimes, nature walks) in the pines and we enjoy cooking and eating and spending time with family. One week annually, Michelle and the kids stay in Pinetop for a week instead of the traditional weekend that we normally stay. I stay home and try to work. For the last two years, I have secretly looked forward to these "mini-stay-cations" at home by myself. This year, I spent almost 4 days at home by myself and I learned 3 very valuable lessons. (By the way, I have inserted several of my favorite pictures of the family from the last couple of weeks - they really have nothing to do with what I learned and are in no particular order.) The first lesson that I learned is that it is better to have a dirty home than an empty one. I am kind of a stickler about keeping our home clean - I wouldn't say that I am a neat freak, but I do like order in my home. I have written about this before. I am kind of strict about kids picking up after themselves and all in all, keeping an orderly home. Michelle humors me and puts up with me and does her very best in keeping our home as orderly as possible while trying to wrestle 4 active kids and keep up with her busy schedule. When I have a free moment, I generally am cleaning something up, doing some laundry, cleaning the dishes (if there are any, which usually there aren't) or doing something to make our home more orderly. This week, alone in my home, I went to town on cleaning. I hand-cleaned all of our tile floors with Mr. Clean Magic Erasers, which is hard work, about 4 hours total, because that is the only thing that gets them clean enough for my taste. I cleaned out the fridge, washed all the dishes, did all the laundry, cleaned all the windows, dusted, vacuumed more than once and de-haired the couches where Carmen sleeps. At the end of the day, the house was immaculate. There was nothing out of order, it smelled good and looked fantastic. However, it was empty. There was no one to dirty it up, no one to leave their toys out to be tripped over, no one to leave dishes out to be cleaned, no one to leave fingerprints on windows and mirrors and no one to create any dirty laundry. It was very sad - I came to the reality that I can have the cleanest, most orderly home in the world, but if it's empty, it's just not worth it. The second lesson I learned is that when I turn the TV off and it is quiet, that is when Heavenly Father speaks to me and answers my prayers. This is a lesson that I have learned before and have taught in Church lessons and on my mission. There is big difference between intuitively knowing this fact and putting it into practice in my life. It's hard to turn off the TV when I am all alone and do the things that I know I should do like read spiritual things, pray and listen for answers. Wednesday night of this week, after doing visits with the Bishopric to members of our ward and then playing basketball with my friends at Church for two hours, I was at home alone in a very very clean house, desperately searching for entertainment. I have a difficult time winding down after playing basketball late at night and so I generally look for something to entertain me on television or play a video game. I couldn't find anything remotely interesting to watch and I didn't feel like playing a game. Luckily, I had brought my laptop home from work that day and was prompted to watch a few General Conference talks. After watching these Conference talks (one was Elder Holland and the other was Elder Bednar), I turned off the computer and just laid in bed and was relaxing (it was 1AM). Although I was lonely and missed my family, I received comfort from Heavenly Father who assured me that my family was OK and they would be protected. I also received comfort and assurance about other concerns that I have been praying about for weeks. I relearned that the Spirit speaks softly and that if I am not actively listening for answers, I will most likely miss them.Finally, I relearned that the family, namely a father and a mother and children, is the divine unit of the Gospel. I have been taught this truth and have taught this truth to others ever since I was a little kid. A husband and a wife, working together as one to raise righteous children in the Gospel is the way that it's supposed to be. Michelle is the most wonderful wife and the kindest mother to our children that I could have ever hoped for. However, towards the end of last week, when she had been husbandless for over 3 days, she called me on the phone and was struggling with the kids and not having me there. (I know, go figure) I mentioned to her that she had help because her mother was there and Tyler and Julia are always very helpful. I realized as I spoke to her, and it hit me again like a ton of bricks, that even though she had help from her Mom with the kids, it's just not the same as having your husband there. There is something that is divinely correct about a man and a woman who love each other and love their children and who spend every waking moment trying to make a happy life for themselves and their children. There is something about a husband and a wife working together in love that is different from any daycare or school facility or any other kind of substitute for the family. I am grateful for this time that I had alone and for the lessons that I relearned. And, I am extremely grateful that my family is home where they should be. (By the way, notice how unhappy my family looks as they are away from me - truly sad)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Nancy Pelosi - Oh My Word

I dislike Nancy Pelosi. I find it hard to believe that anybody really likes her at all. However, tonight, I watched this video clip, and if nothing else, this woman knows how to make me laugh.

Does anybody else find this video absolutely hysterical? Thank you, Ms. Speaker of the House. Thank you very much.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Illegal Immigration, AZ, and the LDS Church

There was an article in the paper today about how the new immigration law in Arizona is hurting the LDS Church and our image. The man who sponsored the bill is an LDS state senator and critics of the bill are pointing at the Church as being racist and even some Church members would like the Church to "put a stop to him". I have stayed silent on this issue for too long - it's time that I weigh in. If I offend anyone, so be it.

There is a quote in the article from a man who was investigating the Church but stopped when he heard that the Senator that sponsored it was LDS - saying that he couldn't expose his children to a religion who has members that hate other people because they are different. This is absolutely laughable - 70% of Arizonans support this bill. Not 70% of Mormons - 70% of ALL Arizonans, including I am sure many Hispanics, Catholics, Jews, Atheists, Protestants, Laker fans, etc. You get my drift. To single out the LDS Church is narrow-minded and stupid.

I was in a Church leadership meeting a few weeks ago and this topic came up and it was made very clearly known that the Church will not take a stance on this bill because it is a political issue. Some have asked why they took a stance on the same-sex marriage bill from 2008 - marriage between a man and a woman is fundamental to our faith and is a moral issue, not a political issue.

My personal feelings on illegal immigration are this: I love the Church and I know that it is true and teaches the only true way to be happy in this life and in the eternities to come. That doesn't mean that I have to like every member of the Church - there are some LDS people that I can't stand (i.e. Harry Reid). Not every member of the Church is perfect - some are just not good people, some cheat on and beat their wives, some abuse their children, some speed too much in their cars and text while they are driving, some steal and yes, some LDS members are illegal immigrants. I find it unbelievable that we are so concerned with hurting the feelings of ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS. Inherent in the term illegal immigration is the fact that the immigrant is breaking the law - hence the word ILLEGAL.

I have a few friends that are illegal immigrants - I know them from where I served my mission. They came here in search of a better life, they came legally but when their visas expired, they just never left. They have lived here illegally for several years. They are LDS and they are wonderful people. Although I love them and I understand why they came and empathize with them, I believe that we need to be obedient to the laws of the land. And those that are here illegally are breaking the laws of the land. People can sugarcoat it as much as they want and say that they are contributing to the society and that they are great people, but when push comes to shove, they are breaking the law. They can villify those that enforce the law and call them racist and unfair, but the bottom line is, they are breaking the law.

I find it unbelievable that the entire country is so up in arms about this bill, I really do. Last time I checked, the federal law requires deportation of those that are here illegally. This bill just allows us to enforce federal law. And also the last time I checked, 60% of Americans support this bill. Why are people making such a big deal about this? It is stupid, it is political correctness gone crazy and I for one am sick of it. It is a call to action to the federal government to do their job and secure the borders of our country. And anybody that wants to villify the LDS Church or its members because an LDS man sponsored the bill, in my opinion, is ignorant. It could just as easily have been a Catholic, Jew or Atheist - it is supported by the vast majority of Arizonans.

Read the article on azcentral.com at http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/news/articles/2010/05/18/20100518arizona-immigration-law-mormon-church.html and let me know if you agree with me.