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Why the Government’s Health Program (PCIP) is Running Out of Money

An article in today’s LifeHealthPro prompted my blog post today.  It’s about the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP) that was established by the Affordable Care Act to guarantee health insurance for the unfortunate individuals who had health conditions so serious insurers wouldn’t write insurance on them.

Well, folks, the federally-run PCIP is running out of money to pay for the claims of all the sick people who purchased coverage through the plan.  Why is that? you may wonder.  Well, the government paid more in claims that it expected to pay.  Here’s my question:  Why did the government think insurance companies didn’t want to write coverage for those people?  And here’s my answer:  Because people with health issues have more claims than people without health issues do.

I’m not saying unhealthy people shouldn’t be able to have coverage.  However, since the very nature of insurance–and state insurance regulations–REQUIRES premiums to be adequate enough to pull in enough funds to pay claims, there’s only one things premiums can do when the costs of claims rise.  Yep, you guessed it.  So when the PCIP provided “affordable” insurance, it wasn’t charging enough premiums to pay the claims.  Which is really BAD news for the folks enrolled in the plan.  Which those of us who understand the nature of insurance expected to happen.  [P.S.   The PCIP stopped accepting new enrollees some time ago because the government saw the handwriting on the wall.]

I’m a nonsmoker in my late 50s who has no health issues:  my blood pressure is 120/80, my cholesterol is below 200, and I don’t take regular medication.  I don’t have diabetes or any other condition.  And I pay, personally, out of my own pocket (because I’m self-employed), $563 a month for health insurance.  I understand precisely what consumers are faced with concerning the costs of healthcare.

I’m also one of the few people who has a copy of the text of the Affordable Care Act on her computer, and who has read a good portion of that text.  (I admit it:  I haven’t read the whole thing.)  There are all kinds of provisions most consumers don’t know about.  And I’ll bet a lot of politicians don’t know about them, either.

If you’re interested in reading a brief, consumer-friendly timeline of what will be happening under the Affordable Care Act, you can visit Healtcare.gov at What’s Changing and When. Although many people know more about the Affordable Care Act than I do, I’ve  researched it extensively, written a couple of insurance courses on it, and presented a number of webinars on the topic.  I welcome your questions.

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It’s Us … It’s Not the Guns

It isn’t guns that kill people; it’s the people who wield guns who kill.

A gun sitting on a table, on your front lawn, or in the back seat of my car is never going to cause a single injury.  Yes, firearms are made by humans–as are smog, poisonous chemicals, and acid rain.  Why aren’t we trying to ban smog, poisonous chemicals, and acid rain?  Unlike those man-made substances, guns have no inherent ability to cause injury or death. It’s only when guns interact with humans that fatal outcomes occur.

Cars and trucks sitting in driveways and parking lots don’t cause deaths either.  But when people get behind the wheel, cars and trucks can become killers.  If people get behind the wheel and drive while impaired (in a variety of ways), their potential for causing fatalities increases exponentially.

The same can be said when people with impairments own and use guns.  Some people are impaired by anger, or sadness, or mental illness.  Others are impaired by bad judgment or momentary insanity.  In insurance language, a human was the proximate cause of the event in Connecticut.  Human impairment was the first event in an unbroken chain of events that led to the tragic deaths.

Our society must find the proximate causes of problems before prevent them. We must identify people who are likely to use guns for inappropriate purposes and prevent them from owning, or having access to, guns.  We must not turn away when we see an impaired individual owns, possesses, or has access to a gun–regardless of the type of impairment or the reason for it.  Far too often, every one of us chooses to look the other way rather than make an “issue” of something we know in our heart is wrong or may lead to injury. We must dig beneath the surface until we reach the root, and then rip it out from where it’s buried.

Blaming guns for the heartbreaking deaths of shooting victims is understandable … but its a form of denial. It reminds me of something I heard recently about rape:  Why do we teach people about  how to avoid being raped instead of teaching them how NOT to rape?

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What the Average American DOESN’T Know about the Affordable Care Act – Part II

Continuing from the blog post on Monday, here are few of the major provisions of the PPACA that will go into effect beginning in January 2014.

Most Americans will be required to be covered by health insurance or pay a penalty.  This is what is referred to as the individual mandate.   The following Americans will NOT be subject to a penalty if they aren’t covered by health insurance:

  • Members of a religion opposed to acceptance of health care benefits
  • Undocumented immigrants
  • Individuals serving time in jail
  • Members of an Indian tribe
  • Individuals with household income that doesn’t require the filing of a tax return
  • Individuals who must pay more than 8% of their income for health insurance—after application of any employer contributions and tax credits

A few facts about penalties:

  • They aren’t imposed until an individual has been uninsured for 90 days
  • Penalties are charged per person, with a family maximum, OR as a percentage of family income—whichever is more
  • Penalties, per person, per adult (children’s penalties are one-half the adult penalty) will be:  In 2014:  $95; in 2015:  $325; in 2016:  $695; and after 2016:  adjusted by annual cost of living increases
  • Penalties as a percentage of family income:  In 2014:  1%; in 2015:  2%; and in 2016:  2.5%

The following eligibility and rating restrictions will apply:

  • Coverage cannot be denied or non-renewed because of health status
  • Pre-existing conditions can’t be excluded
  • Premium rates may only be based on:  age, state of residence, individual or family enrollment, and tobacco use
  • Coverage cannot be cancelled or denied because of the enrollee’s participation in clinical trials for cancer or other life-threatening conditions

I’ll continue with more scintillating info on Friday!  So, what do you think so far?  Did you know these facts?  How do you feel about them?  How do you think they’ll affect you and your family?

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What You Probably Don’t Know About the Affordable Care Act – Part I

During the past couple of years, I’ve written numerous insurance texts that are either devoted entirely to the Affordable Care Act or that contain chapters about it.  Formally known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, the media refers to this recent federal legislation as Obamacare.

I won’t bore you with details about provisions you already know, like the individual mandate and employer requirements going into effect on January 1, 2014.  I will provide you with lesser-known details that will either affect you directly or affect someone you know.  This first blog post discusses some changes that will go into effect in 2013.

(By the way, I have the text of the PPACA on my computer in PDF format; although I haven’t read all 974 pages of it, I have read significant portions of it and have conducted extensive research about it.)

As a warm-up, here are some of the provisions of the PPACA that have already been put into place:

  • Dependent coverage for adult children must now be provided on their parents’ health policies until age 26 (subject to requirements for being a “dependent”)
  • Certain types of preventive care is no longer subject to deductibles and copayments, such as mammograms and colonoscopies
  • Lifetime benefits have been eliminated
  • Annual benefits limits have been restricted
  • Pre-existing conditions limits may not be imposed upon children under age 19

Beginning in 2013, tax-deductibility of medical expenses will change.  At present, taxpayers are permitted to itemize and deduct medical expenses if those expenses exceed 7.5% of the taxpayer’s adjusted gross income.  This means if you earn $50,000 per year, you may itemize and deduct your medical expenses that exceed $3,750.  In 2013, the threshold increases to 10%.  So, if you earn $50,000 in 2013, you may only itemize and deduct your medical expenses that exceed $5,000.

If a person has a flexible spending account, the maximum contribution will be $2,500 beginning in 2013.  Up until that time, there has been no limit to contributions to this tax-advantaged plan that allows employees to designate a portion of their annual earnings to pay for qualified medical expenses.  (These funds are not taxed if used for qualified medical expenses.)

Also beginning in 2013, the Medicare tax rate for individuals who earn more than $200,000 per year will increase.  The same holds true for married taxpayers filing jointly if their combined wages are in excess of $250,000.  The increased tax rate applies to wages in excess of the thresholds.  These same individuals will also pay a higher Medicare tax rate on their investment income.

So, did you know these facts?  What are your thoughts?

Link to the text of the PPACA

Link to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation site about the PPACA

Link to the U.S. Department of HHS about the PPACA

LifeHealthPro’s list of articles about the PPACA

Link to Healthcare Reform Article by the New York Times

 

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Life’s Rule Book

Life’s Rule Book by Linda McHenry

Rule #1 – No lying.  Not to yourself or from anyone else.  P.S.  Silence equals lying by omission.

Rule #2 – Never try to change someone else—it’s disrespectful to both of you.  People are entitled to their own opinions, beliefs, and Rule Books.  Accept this fact, work out a compromise, or move on.  P.S.  Manipulation and bullying = lying.

Rule #3 – Listen to, and heed, your instincts.  Always.  You know how to shut down your mind and heart and listen to God.  He speaks through your instincts.  Listen to Him (or Her).

Rule #4 – Being open to people and experiences doesn’t mean you have to choose them.  Ultimately, people are responsible for themselves and their choices.  If you follow Rule #3, you’ll make your choices for the right reasons.

Rule #5 – You are not a fixer.  Just because you can fix things doesn’t mean you have to fix them.  P.S.  There is no rule that says you even have to try to fix something.

Rule #6 – Today’s feelings won’t necessarily be tomorrow’s feelings.  Forever is an illusion … its path can always be changed.  Live for today.  Embrace today’s feelings for what they are instead of trying to mold them into what you want them to become.  P.S.  This rule applies to other people’s feelings, too.

Rule #7 – The most important human emotions are caring, kindness, and compassion.  True love is a combination of these three.  A person who doesn’t care, isn’t kind, or lacks compassion doesn’t truly love … nor is that person able to love truly.

Rule #8 – A sense of humor is required.  If you don’t have one, get one.  Fact:  Laughing always feels better than crying feels.  It makes your face look better, too.

Rule #9 – Faith is required.  The only people who experience true happiness and love are those with faith in their Gods and in themselves.

Rule #10 – Trust is required.  You must give the gift of your trust, knowing it will sometimes be spurned or mistreated.  Trust is a demonstration of your faith and the knowledge that life is more enjoyable when shared with others.  If you misplace your trust, it doesn’t mean you failed, you’re flawed, or that life sucks.  No one knows what it means. There is no reason … other than “because.”  How do you deal with that?  See Rules #1 through #9.

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This is What Happens When You Don’t Have Car Insurance

I worked in the insurance business for over 30 years and, during that time, heard some really wild stuff.  This week’s story takes the cake.

My son-in-law was sitting on the couch in his living room yesterday morning at 7 a.m. when he heard squealing tires and felt the earth shake in unison with a loud bang.  A few minutes later he took the photo that appears at the top of this blog post.

Yep.  That’s his truck snuggled up next to my daughter’s car.  Both were towed away to the salvage yard today.  Total losses.  Both of them.

Their house is the second one in on their very short street.  Seems a young woman turned the corner (with no brakes, mind you), snagged the tow hitch on the truck, dragged the truck into the car, and then dragged them both into the cement retaining wall surrounding the kids’ driveway.  She claims to have passed out.  Funny how a comatose person can back up her car and drive to the end of the street before her car gives out on her…

Funnier still how the insurance I.D. card she gave the police officer at the scene isn’t valid. Wonder if that has anything to do with her leaving the scene–which, technically, she didn’t do because in that state, if you’re still around when the cops come, and you give them your info, you didn’t leave the scene.  Or if it has anything to do with the “rare blood disorder” she has that caused her to pass out in the first place.

So, because this woman doesn’t have insurance, my kids missed two days of work, have no cars, need to buy two replacement vehicles, and need to rent a car until they can buy two new ones.  Oh, and did I mention they can’t go on vacation next week because … THEY HAVE TO BUY TWO CARS?

All I can say is I’m really proud of my kids for being smart enough to take care of themselves by purchasing their own insurance and for buying adequate enough protection.  It’s a shame that so may other people simply don’t care about the consequences of their actions and how their irresponsibility can hurt other people.

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Reasons to Love April

Although I’m sure plenty of girls and women named April are lovable, I’m not referring to them.  I refer to the month of April.

April’s my favorite month of the year for a number of reasons:  pink and red tulips, blossoming trees, baby bunnies, warm sunshine…  Oh, and my birthday.  Yes, I like having birthdays.  As my dad says, it beats the alternative…

Seriously, I do a lot reflection this time of year.  I don’t know if it’s because of all the birthing that goes on, literally and figuratively, or the new beginnings I’m forced to make … and that I choose to make.  Maybe it’s because I’m so happy during this month, or because I’m open to the wonderful experiences spring has in store for me.  In any event, I always seem to stumble across life-altering events and circumstances during these 30 days.

I learned that a boy I had a serious crush on in middle school grew up to be a convicted felon/sex offender.  No, I haven’t heard anything about him since I was 15 years old–which is a time span of 40 years–until now, that is.  Still, his situation got me thinking.  And asking myself questions like:  When he was 12, did he exhibit signs that he’d grow up to molest young boys?  Was he already on that path at age 13 … or did an awful, significant experience direct him that way?  How does his mother feel, knowing he’s done these awful things … and that his face is plastered on the Internet via Mugshots.com?  And finally, angry thoughts that won’t serve anyone by being published here.

Then, there was the little medical “issue” I experienced on Easter Sunday that forced me to step back from my life and re-evaluate.  There’s nothing like spending 26 hours in the hospital, with people who are are really, truly suffering from illness, to convince you that you don’t ever want to be sick.  Or in the hospital.  Ever!

And finally, there’s love.  The unconditional love of my furry, adopted offspring, who always make me smile–and who always give just as much as they take.  Unlike some people I know…  Due to changes in my life during the past year, I’ve learned some significant lessons in the L department.  Letting go of people you wish would love you is hard.  But hanging onto to those who really do love you is amazing:  their strength soothes hurts and they re-teach you that genuine love, the two-way kind, really does exist.

This April, I’ve decided to focus my energy on people (and critters and pastimes) that make me happy, make me feel valued, and who practice reciprocity.  I guess I do spring resolutions instead of New Year’s resolutions.

P.S.  If you want to know some other famous people with birthdays in April, here goes:

  • Eddie Murphy and Alec Baldwin
  • Maya Angelou and Queen Elizabeth
  • Scott Turow, Tom Clancy, and Beverly Cleary
  •  Matt Medeiros and Joe Azzopardi
  • Kia, the Siberian Husky we had when my kids were little (that’s him on the right)

P.S.S.  My mother snipped a poem out of an edition of Reader’s Digest a long time ago.  I can’t remember all of it, but it began “Linda swings in the April elm.”  It ends with, “Linda keeps her eyes on heaven, after all she’s only seven.”  I’m suer it wasn’t about me, but it should have been!

What are YOUR thoughts about the month of April?

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Shameless Promotion

If you live in southern New England and want a beautiful lawn, contact New England Green Lawn Care, Inc.

No, it’s not my business.  Yes, it’s my son’s business … or, more accurately, the business he and his partner own. 

Who, you might ask, is my son?  Michael Murphy.  Who, you might also ask, is his partner?  Michael King.  Yes, it gets confusing when someone calls and asks to speak to Mike.  But people are calling–which is the most important thing, right?

Want to learn more about them and what they do?  Visit their website at http://NEGreenLawns.com.

Thanks!

 

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What’s Your Birth Order?

I’m preparing to begin writing the first book in a series that revolves around a family:  two parents and four children.  I’ve researched birth order in the past and agreed a great deal with the opinions of Dr. Kevin Leman, who wrote The Birth Order Book: Why You Are the Way You Are.  I’m using the information gleaned from his book, and other sources, as I create my characters and–more importantly–their motivations.

Although I’m a firstborn, I admire the traits of the middleborn the most but get along better with lastborns.  Why do you think that is? 

Well, according to Dr. Leman (who’s a psychologist) people get along best with others who are opposites–personality-wise.  He claims  the majority of married couples he’s counseled during the past 30 years have been firstborns, onlies, or a combination of the two.  (I surely fit that demographic!)

Anyway, here are a few of the things Dr. Leman has to say, followed by brief descriptions of traits that are universally accepted to belong to certain birth orders (by people who agree with the concept, of course!).

  • In a family, each child is most directly affected by the next oldest child.
  • Each child typically behaves opposite the next oldest child. However, if he believes he can compete successfully with the next oldest child (and “overthrow” that child), role reversal takes place.
  • All children want attention from their parents and begin seeking it in infancy; if they don’t get it, they seek either power or revenge–in that order.

Firstborn traits:  Goal-oriented, seek control and approval; aggressive; type-A personality; responsible; conservative; organized; serious; self-sacrificing; puts self and others under stress and pressure; perfectionist

Middleborn traits:  Peacemaker; easy-going; peer-oriented rather than family-oriented; excellent people skills; adaptable; agreeable; may feel overlooked, unheard, ignored; compromising; loyal to friends; secretive; risk-taker; may be cynical or suspicious

Lastborn traits:  Creative; charming; manipulative; identifies with underdog; can be too dependent upon others; risk-taker; spoiled; lazy; temperamental; clown or comedian; entertainer; fun-loving; affectionate; reads people well

Only child traits:  (Very similar to firstborn):  Struggles with parental expectations; perfectionist; doesn’t handle criticism well; critical of self and others; confident; doesn’t relate well to peers when a child; self-motivated; fearful and/or cautions; self-centered

So, what say you?

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Karma … and Perspective

Do you believe in Fate?  Or What goes around comes around?  Or any of the other phrases and cliches that address the vagaries in life?

I surely do.  I recently spent twelve tortuous days that were an illustration by God:  somewhere, sometime, I did a very bad something.  And He remembered.

On the other hand, if I look that those days from a different perspective:  the fact that they weren’t worse–and didn’t involve a couple of circumstances that surely should have happened–given Mother Nature and the law of averages–I was clearly rewarded for being a saint.

I started out believing Karma had it in for me … and ended being grateful for my wonderful good luck.  As the famous Donald McHenry is quoted in Taking the Mystery Out of Business:  9 Fundamentals for Professional Success:

“Why is it that successful people seem to have a lot of good luck?  Successful people make their own luck by putting themselves in so many good situations good luck seems to follow them.  Ergo: the harder you work, the luckier you are.”

These days, I work real hard at maintaining a positive attitude.  And I’m lucky–it’s working for me.

How’s Karma treating you lately?

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My 4th (and probably final) Wagon Train

Have you ever driven cross-country?  Neither have I.  But I have driven 75% of the way across the country … four times!

In October 2003, I moved to Montana where I lived until last February, and it’s a 2,700-mile drive from Attleboro to Evaro, the tiny town 20 miles north of Missoula where I settled in the mountains on 10 acres of forested land.  (I was born in New York City and moved to Massachusetts when I was 11 years old; I’ve lived most of my life in Massachusetts.)

Yes, the picture appearing at the top of this post is what I saw when I stood on the front porch of my Montana house and looked north.  It’s pretty much what I saw when I looked south, east, and west as well–although only between the months of November and April!  A few of my favorite Montana pics, taken by yours truly, pepper this post.

When you head west by car, you can literally feel things calm down:  the frenetic pace of motorists disappears, speech patterns slow, and people become more warm and open.  The landscape, as you’d imagine, changes too.  The rolling hills of New England and Pennsylvania turn flat as you drive between endless cornfields, silver silos, and big, red barns.  Fog embraces you when you skirt Lake Michigan, obscuring the skyline of Chicago, and the wind nearly blows you off the arrow-straight highway as you make your way across the badlands of South Dakota.

When you head east on the way back, the scenery is even more beautiful.  There’s nothing quite like looking down as you drive through  a mountain pass over the Continental Divide at an elevation of 6,300 feet.  The stark beauty of the Crow Indian Reservation reminds you about the history of the wild west and prepares you to drive through the towns of Sundance and Buffalo in Wyoming and Spearfish and Deadwood in South Dakota.

In addition to the awe-inspiring views, the variety of wildlife takes your breath away:  the enormous bald eagle standing right beside the highway, trying to figure a way to chase off the three turkey vultures munching on a carcass.  White-tail deer, mule deer, elks, antelope, coyotes, hawks, marmots, muskrats, raccoons–you name it, we saw it.

I didn’t take any pictures as I completed this fourth, and probably final, trip between Attleboro and Evaro.  I want to remember all the joy I experienced in Montana–not the sadness of leaving it.  They say people are the same everywhere but I don’t believe it.  The people in Montana were the warmest, most welcoming people I ever met.  (Click here for my magazine article, I’m Home, which was published in Three Rivers Lifestyle magazine in 2006.)

My family, however, is here in Masschusetts and they hold a bigger piece of my heart than Montana does.  Which is as it should be.  My family taught me about love, and about following my heart wherever it leads me.  I’m a richer, happier person for having lived in Montana and experienced the last best place.  I’m richer still as I surround myself with my father, siblings, children, and grandchildren.

Home isn’t a place.  It’s a safe haven wrapped in the arms of people who love you.

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Why won’t that song get out of my head?

We’ve all experienced the tune that plays over and over in our minds like it’s related to the Energizer Bunny.  Lately, however, the never-ending-tunes have been paying me a visit several times a day.  Every day.  And yes, it’s tunes–as in plural.  About half a dozen songs simply can’t get enough of my attention.

Yes, I’m more of an auditory communicator and learner than a visual or kinesthetic one.  Yes, I can play musical instruments.  And yes, I listen to music often–but not all the time.

What do you think it means?  Is my unconscious trying to tell me something?  Should I sift through the musical messages to find fodder for the new mystery novel I’m writing?  Am I too dense to realize I have ESP and someone’s speaking to me?  Am I going nuts?

Do you know what prompts your never-ending-tune?  What do you do about it?

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What self-publishing is … and is not

A lot of unpublished folks seem to think self-publishing is the way to go these days.  Unfortunately, the two people I spoke with during the past few days didn’t really understand what self-publishing is.

So, in an effort to educate those without any publishing experience, here’s a brief outline of some facts I think you should know when considering to self-publish.  Of course, this is only my personal opinion so I’m counting on the rest of you–published and self-published alike–to chime in here to assist the uneducated.

Traditional publishing:  The writer sells his or her work to a publisher, who pays the author for the rights to publish it.  The publisher pays the costs associated with transforming the writer’s manuscript into a book–whether it’s a hardcover, paperback, or ebook.  This includes editing, printing, some publicity, etc.  The author doesn’t pay the publisher anything.  Depending upon whether the publisher is a large conglomerate  or a small press, the writer will either receive an advance and royalties in exchange for the rights to publish the book or will simply receive royalties. 

Self-publishing:  The writer controls all aspects of the publication of the work–and pays all the costs associated with publication.  This includes editing, printing, and publicity.  The self-published author may pay a publisher to handle publication (sometimes called a vanity, or subsidy, publisher) or can handle everything himself or herself.

All the details about book publication are negotiated and spelled out in a contract when a writer contracts with any type of publisher.

The popularity of print on demand services (the publisher prints books as they’re ordered rather than printing a large quantity at one time, before most orders are received) has given many people the impression that writers published by small, independent presses are self-published.  Not true.  A self-published writer may certainly get his or her books to market via print on demand services, but so can an independent press or a traditional publisher.

With the proliferation of small, independent presses, it’s a lot easier for writers to get published these days.  The publication of ebooks is also helping writers get published more easily.

I provided a couple of links for you to check out if you’d like a little more detail.  What does anyone else have to add?

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Using Two Monitors

If you’re a writer–or anyone who sits in front of a computer all day–you might want to consider using dual monitors.  I pooh-poohed the idea before I tried it, too.  But I wouldn’t work any other way now.

With the wide screen monitors in the photo shown above (which sit on the desk in my office), I can have 4 documents or screens open at the same time.  This eliminates the need for much of the paper on my desk, including the easel that took up a lot of space in the area I preferred to use for writing notes.  Of course, if you’re not blind as a bat like I am, you might be able to move the easel more than arm’s distance away!

I find the dual monitors especially helpful when I’m conducting online research or when I’m writing and have to copy information or need to refer to details.  The larger the monitor, the large the font size I can use, which really saves on eye strain.  Hint:  my super-smart, computer geek son-in-law informed me you can reduce eye strain by making sure the room in which you sit when working at the computer is neither too bright nor too dark.  I always thought bright light was best but he says it isn’t–and he’s right!  I also found that if the light in the room is indirect (not overhead and not within my field of vision when looking straight ahead) I don’t suffer as much eye strain.

I purchased my second monitor (the one on the right side of the photo) for $99.  Brendon (the genius son-in-law) referred me to an online site where I purchased the video card for my computer.  For under $200 and one beer (that was Brendon’s fee), my monitor was installed and operational in about 15 minutes.  Of course, that was after I ordered the video card online and waited for it to be delivered!

Seriously, you should consider the dual monitors.  Anyone else out there use them?  Care to share your thoughts?

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Apostrophe Abuse: A Lesson

I’m seeing a lot of apostrophe abuse lately.  Everywhere.  I can’t pick up any reading material, or look online, without seeing people misusing apostrophes:  In the newspaper, in advertisements, on Facebook and Linked In, and on slates hanging outside front doors, for Pete’s sake!

Here’s the free lesson.  Apostrophes are used for the following major purposes:  (1) To indicate one or more letters have been omitted, as in a contraction: don’t (the “o” is missing); and (2) To indicate possession, as in Linda’s rant about apostrophes.

There are other reasons to use apostrophes, but they are all related to the preceding.  So, how do I see apostrophes being misused? Let me count the ways:

I heard that song in the 1970’s. What’s the omitted letter? Where is the possession? It should be the 1970s.

The slate outside your front door says The Faulkner’s. If you want the sign to indicate that the house belongs to the Faulkners (i.e., possession), I guess it’s okay. But if you want the sign to indicate two or more people named Faulkner live in the house, the slate should say The Faulkners – as in the plural of a singular Faulkner.  (Each of us is exceptionally singular, by the way.)

Merry Christmas from the Smith’s:  Bert, Bertha, Bertie, and Bertina.  NO APOSTROPHE!  The Smiths is the plural of a singular Smith. 4 Smiths = plural; 1 Smith = singular. The Christmas message isn’t about possession.

Now that you get the idea, please report apostrophe abuse by commenting here.  Maybe we can eradicate the damned nuisances.

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Censorship and SOPA

I’ve never liked the idea that anyone, especially a government, can tell people what to say.  As a writer, the prospect terrifies me.

Personally, I don’t care for pornography.  But you know what?  No one has ever forced me to watch it.  In fact, I’ve never accidentally “stumbled” upon it, either–unless you count one or two pop-ups on my computer.  And once I had the proper Internet security in place, that stopped!

If you don’t like the idea of censorship, here are a few links I checked out while I researched this SOPA thing.  Hope they help!

Feel free to comment and provide us with additional links and perspectives.

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And the winner is…

Maureen Roy!

I bribed my friends, fans, and business associates to visit my new website with the promise of entering them in a drawing for a free book if they’d comment in response to my January 4th blog post.  Well, it worked.  I got lots of visits to the website, many comments on the blog, and even more personal emails.

If you left your website along with your comment, I’ll be cross-promoting and marketing you on Twitter and/or Facebook as a thank you for your support.

And, if you didn’t leave your website with a previous comment, doing so in the future will net the same results.

Thanks for all your kind comments and good wishes.

Happy, healthy, prosperous 2012!

 

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How YOU Can Benefit from my New Website Launch

2012 is going to be a terrific year … I can just tell!

It’s going to be terrific for one of you readers, too.  Because I’m so excited about the new website, everyone who enters a comment after this blog post will be entered into a drawing to win one of my two books (winner’s choice).  If we can get enough comments going, I’m sure I can be persuaded to offer more than one free book.  How many comments do you think I should collect in order to offer a 2nd free book?  Should I offer one free book for every 20 comments?

You may comment about anything you wish but remarks about how wonderful I am, and how wonderful the new website is, will be especially appreciated.  Many thanks to Matt, Jeff, Jonathan, Derek and the entire team at Slocum Design Studio for their creativity and efforts on my behalf.  What a great WordPress team!

P.S.  All kidding aside, I truly do welcome all your comments. 

P.P.S.  All three of my websites now feed into this one site:  my fiction site, my non-fiction site, and the Faulkner Education Services site.

P.P.P.S.  HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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Attainable New Year’s Resolutions

We all know about New Year’s resolutions … about how we always make them and never seem to accomplish them.

Well, I’ve managed to accomplish my last two New Year’s resolutions.  Of course, they were rather vague and not very specific.  For that reason, however, they allowed some flexibility and managed to be not only reasonable but also attainable.

For many years, I actually quit making New Year’s resolutions because I always failed to lose weight or acquire large sums of money.  Our of sheer desperation one year, I decided I really needed to take care of myself … instead of everyone else: family, clients, even strangers in line at the grocery store who had far fewer items to check out and were really in a hurry.

Why do so many of us actually believe other people are busier than we are,  live more stressful lives, and face more challenges?  Well, I got over that.  We all have 24 hours in our days.  Most of us have parents, siblings, children, co-workers, bosses, employees, friends, neighbors, strangers, etc. who bring joy to our lives and/or manage to seriously mess with them.

Two years ago, my New Year’s resolution was to take better care of myself–as in, every single day I thought of something I could do to take care of myself.  I accomplished that goal by putting a sticky note on the bathroom mirror (Take care of yourself today!).  I accomplished a lot more thinking about taking care of myself than actually doing it, but the point is I truly thought about my own well-being each and every day.  And managed to take better care of myself in 2010 than in previous years.

I began 2011 with the goal:  Be Selfish.  This was the result of 2010’s goal being too vague.  Being selfish is a lot more specific.  Or so I thought.  About a month into the year, I realized selfish was too harsh a word.  (Of course, I should have looked it up in the dictionary before making my resolution.)  According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, selfish means “concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself : seeking or concentrating on one’s own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others.”  Since I’m a writer, I decided to take poetic license with the definition and, for my purposes, simply eliminated the “without regard for others.”  It worked for me and I did a terrific job.  Resolution accomplished.

So, there I was on December 31, 2011, and I still hadn’t come up with a New Year’s resolution.  I admit it’s tough coming up with one that beats those of the last previous years.  And, being the over-achiever I am, I really do prefer to keep beating past records.  Instead, I decided to pitch my competitiveness (even with myself) and go a little deeper with my goal of taking care of myself.

So, here’s my New Year’s resolution for 2012:  Do something for myself each and every day that improves my personal well-being.

Yes, it’s posted where I can read it every day–although not on my bathroom mirror.  And I’m more than happy to share it with you.  Feel free to take it for yourself.

If you have one, what’s YOUR New Year’s resolution?  How did you arrive at it.  If you don’t have one, why not?

Regardless, here’s wishing you good health, weight loss (if you want it), large sums of money (if you get them and don’t want them, feel free to donate to the Linda Fund), and much happiness in 2012.

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Dreams

When we’re little, most of us want to grow up to be someone wonderful and/or famous: a brain surgeon, an astronaut, a professional athlete, an Oscar-winning movie star, a chart-topping singer, a bestselling author … and the list goes on.

Somewhere along the line, however, most of us begin to believe our dreams are not only far-fetched but unattainable. According to Webster, a dream is a ”strongly desired goal or purpose.” But our parents, or brothers and sisters, or teachers, or friends tell us we’re nuts to think we’ll ever hit number one on the country charts … or the New York Times bestseller list. They lay out the odds, in explicit detail, against us becoming the first-string quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys or the starting pitcher for the Boston Red Sox.

We buy into all the ”good advice” about how we’re being unrealistic and immature and selfish when we plan to skip college to join a rock ‘n’ roll band or submit our applications to NASA.

My job here today is to tell you that all that “good advice” is bullshit. And those people don’t know what they’re talking about.

How do I know? Because I began living my dream on 11/11/11–which would have been my mother’s 78th birthday if she were still alive. Which is ironic, since she was one of the biggest supporters of my dream … while also being one of those people who nagged me to put my dream on hold while I attended to the responsibilities of living in the “real world.”

I always wanted to be a published writer. As in: a writer who supports herself with her writing. Yes, part of that dream was being a bestselling author of fiction–which hasn’t happened yet. But I am supporting myself with my writing. Exclusively.

Am I doing it exactly as I’d dreamed? No. Am I doing it as quickly as I’d dreamed. Hell, no. But am I doing it? Yes. Imagine how quickly I could have done it if I hadn’t allowed myself to believe all the garbage…

Then again, maybe this is exactly the way it was supposed to be. Maybe the lessons I learned along the way– and the patience I acquired and the flexibility and adaptability that are so much a part of my professional repertoire–were an essential part of the journey.

Here’s the lesson: don’t give up on your dreams. Even if you have to put them on hold while you live your life in the “real world,” take them out and examine them on a regular basis. Do what you have to do to fulfill those dreams. BELIEVE IN YOURSELF. Because if you do, your dreams will come true.