Does anybody read these?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


As I have been mentioning lately, I have been giving thought to reinvigorating my blog. I've debated a new layout (nothing's struck my fancy yet). I've thought about coming up with a theme. I'm trying to figure out ways to attract new readers without having to blog about Justin Bieber and Lindsay Lohan. You know, the things writers think about when they start writing to entertain their audience rather than just using their blog for therapy, which is pretty much what mine has always been.

So maybe that's my theme: I write so I don't go nuts.

One of the things I'd planned to do was participate in National Blog Posting Month. The gist of NaBloPoMo, as it's called by all the people in the know, is that you pledge to write something everyday for one month. This helps you become more disciplined with your writing (although I would argue that I am disciplined in writing at work, but at home my blog is like the shoeless children of the cobbler or the mechanic's car that's up on blocks). But they give you a daily prompt if you get stuck, and it fosters the whole "If you build it, they (readers) will come" theory. So, we'll see if I get any more readers.

Every month, NaBloPoMo has a theme. The theme for December is "Zeitgest." Now, I speak zero German, so I wasn't really clear on what they were looking for here. The description on the Web site said: "You have 31 days to capture the mood of your culture and your life as they exist right now. Use words, photos, music...?"

This should be interesting. 31 days to capture my spirit, attitude or general outlook of a specific period in time...

At least it's the holidays. I am seeing a lot of posts on our wacky, quirky family traditions. Bear with me for the next 31 days. Maybe we'll both learn something.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving is tomorrow. I just wanted to take a few minutes to say some thanks just in case I don't get to tomorrow when I am up to my elbows in pies.

First of all, I know it sounds silly, but I want to thank anyone who is reading this. Your support of my craft means a lot to me, and I promise that there will be lots of exciting things happening here in the next few months. Just be patient.

This year has been a wild year, but I am so thankful for all of my family and friends. I am especially thankful for my adorable nephew Juanito and my new family, the Stanfords. If nothing else, they give me an excuse to head down to Florida and soak up the sun. But truly and honestly, I am very fortunate to have a good relationship with all of my siblings and their families. It is something I do not take for granted, even though I am so far away.

I am thankful for my home, even though sometimes I worry that it's a big expensive money pit. I really do love it, especially now that I am getting settled in.

I am thankful for my job, which gives me an opportunity to use all of the skills I gained in my five years at Ohio University.

On a lighter note...speaking of Ohio University, I am glad that Bobcat football is fun to watch this year, and they are doing so well that it is on TV once in a while. Maybe I'll even head to Detroit if that's the bowl game they get this year?

Life is good. I am blessed. I hope you all are too.

Have a safe and happy holiday. If nothing else, I will see you Wednesday for the beginning of National Blog Posting Month. I have to catch up on some besos with my nephew before then.

Back up and running

I got my computer back today. And it is pretty fast. I am super excited about it.

I am mostly excited because this means that I am going to try to manage to participate in National Blog Posting Month for December. We'll see how it goes, but I really want to get back in the habit of blogging and get my words out to a bigger audience.

I am leaving Saturday to go visit my family in Ohio. That will be nice.

I made a cake for my office Thanksgiving tomorrow. It tastes delicious, but it doesn't look nearly as pretty as I'd hoped. Well, hopefully people will enjoy it.

There isn't much exciting going on right now. Sometimes boring is good. Things are still stressing me out, but it's not worth mentioning right now.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Soul mates?

I just read a very interesting article about soul mates.

I do believe in soul mates. I believe that my best friend, Michael, and I are soul mates, even though we aren't a couple and won't live happily ever after. We finish each other's sentences, we know when the other is hurting; he just happens to prefer to date men. If he didn't, we probably would have ended up together and been quite happy. As it is, we are still wonderful friends and he's still trying to convince me that I want to come live in Hotlanta. Now that my family is leaving Miami, it will move up one space on the list, but I don't think I'd be looking for me in the 404 area code anytime soon.

So, there are different kinds of soul mates. There's the best friend kind, which I definitely have. And then there's the happily-ever-after kind, which I somedays wonder if I've given up on.

In fact, with the exception of Michael, I have not ever believed, not even for a minute, that I had found my soul mate. Even when a relationship was significant, I have never thought "This person is my soul mate." It's not that I don't believe in soul mates or that I haven't connected with anyone, I just haven't ever felt like anyone I've dated was sent to me by God to live happily ever after. And, that's what I think a soul mate is.

I used to have a friend and every single guy she dated was her "soul mate." She'd get so worked up over them, plan out her entire life, thank the heavens, and then she'd find out the guy was already married, screwing around on her or just not that into her. Then she'd be devastated because she had lost The One and go into a period of intense mourning until some other guy batted his baby blues at her. Then, it would start all over again.

Having gone through a pretty rough patch when a pretty serious relationship broke up last year, I can't imagine doing that with every single guy I dated. Dang, I already can't afford my therapy bills.

Do I believe God has a plan for each and every one of us? Yes.

Do I believe that he already knows whether or not we are going to have a lifemate and, if so, who that person is? Yes.

Do I believe that is one person? Yep.

Do I believe that we can miss that person and end up miserable for our entire life? Nope.

You see, God won't send that one person He's picked for you until you are both ready. So, if you meet a guy with baggage who's not ready, chances are pretty good he's not your soul mate. If you meet someone and you're not ready, chances are he's not your soul mate. Now, that doesn't mean you might not get involved with someone else only to have your chosen one return to your life later when you're both ready. God knows exactly when all this is going to happen. And, if I've learned nothing else in 35 years, it's that it's just best to let God call the shots and trust in His plan. It's not always easy, but it is always worth it.

So, yes, it's devastating when you are with someone and it doesn't work out. But you can't worry that it will never happen again for you or that you let The One slip out of your hands. I know it's easier said than done.

In the Meantime (which is the title of an amazing book on this very same subject), being single isn't all that bad. Having a lot of meaningful relationships with friends and family is a very good thing. Going on dates with guys who probably aren't The One can be fun, as long as you keep your heart open and don't get too caught up on what will or won't be. I keep busy. I work, I have a book club, I hang out with my friends. I'm not sitting around pining for some mythical man of my dreams. I also don't proclaim every man I meet in line at the grocery store The One so that I don't have to worry about missing out or being alone. I'm just working on being the best me I can be.

If someone else is supposed to be part of that, I'll know when the time comes. I do find that it generally happens when you least expect it.

And, if I end up by myself, I won't get bummed out. After all, my soul mate could end up living down the hall from me at the nursing home when I'm 90. You never know. But by working on yourself, you clear out all of the spiritual, emotional and mental clutter that is keeping your soul mate from finding you... because if you're not ready, he's not going to show up.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Quick one

I am travelling for work today, so not much time to blog. Of course, I am validating my decision to post right now with the fact that I am going to spend my lunch time in a car with my coworkers and there is NO WAY we will be back by 5. And, I just realized that Bill Maher is not on again until January. That's the real reason for TGIF.

But, it'll all be OK.

I wanted to tell you about a couple of things and then send you on your merry way until Monday. Since my laptop is still in Chattanooga (I am trying not to panic at how long it has been there. I'm sure it's fixable. If not, let's hope Santa Claus brings me a new one.), there won't be any blogging until next week. And since I'll be in a three-day flurry of activity to wrap up before I'm off for a week... Well, you shouldn't sit by the computer with a cup of coffee and wait on me.

While you're looking for something else to entertain you, I recommend you go see the movie "Burlesque." I went to the sneak preview last night, and it was fantastic. As one of the other moviegoers said before the film, "I hope it's more Chicago and less Showgirls."

And it was. It was glorious. Think Coyote Ugly meets Moulin Rouge. Only good. Really good. Cher is great as always, and Christina Aguilera was surprisingly good. I really loved this movie.

So, go see that. You won't regret it.

The new Harry Potter movie? I also saw that before everyone else (and for free!) and it's great too. Pretty dark and a little scary, but so is the last book. I don't normally like the movies, even though I adore the books. I loved this movie. It still glazes over parts of the book that I thought were important, but it's hard to shove a whole (or even half of one) book into a two-hour film.

Lastly, some more housekeeping items. I am up to 25 followers on Twitter. I am trying to learn how all that works, but I do not -- not on Twitter, Facebook or with this blog -- have any desire to tailor my message in a way that will get me more fans. I tell you what I have to say, and if that doesn't have any keywords, then I guess I don't light up Google or trend on Twitter or make it to the top of the Facebook news feed. Would I like to make money with my Internet content? Some days I would. But I am not going to create a message specifically to create money. That's not how real writers work. Or at least they shouldn't.

Anyhow, my whole point was: Friend me on FB if you haven't. Follow me on Twitter. Tell your friends. I am going to give a prize to my 50th follower, so maybe that will be you. My e-mail address, so you can find me on FB is richardslj AT gmail. I think you can use that to find me on Twitter too. As soon as my computer gets back, I'll have links to both of those places here. It's part of the blog makeover project on my to-do list.

Speaking of that project, I'll be refreshing my links. If you have a blog that you'd like me to link to or follow, drop me a line. I'll be glad to add you.

You guys have a good weekend, and play nice while I'm gone, umkay?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Go here.

Just a quick one because I really am working (I can hear you snickering; stop it!). I have found the most amazing Web site and I want you all to go there.

The Spinsterlicious Life

I hope that people who are happily married can relate to it, but I'm not sure. As you all know, I had a long overdue therapy session this week, and I told my therapist that I don't hate being single. I like to travel. I like sleeping in the middle of the bed. I like not having someone telling me how to spend my money (well, other than my mortgage lender lol).

Sure I'd like to have someone to curl up with me and watch TV. However, I wouldn't be devastated when he headed home at the end of the evening.

So, I think I've finally realized I'm spinsterlicious. And I'm OK with that.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Another "Commie" rant

OK, you've been warned. And I'm not really a Communist. I love Jesus. Now, if you're interested in Commie rants, feel free to keep reading. If not, there's a little red box with an X in the corner...

I got yelled at when I went to the doctor today.

Not because my blood pressure was high, I forgot to take my medicine or because I was fatter than the last visit, although all those things are probably true. But, lucky for me, the doctor I went to see was my therapist.

I haven’t been there in months. Because my co-pay is $50, and that’s a lot of money. But when you’re having panic attacks and anxiety, you just finally have to say “I’m not healthy and I need to go to the doctor.”

So I don’t eat this week. At least I won’t shoot myself. It’s a trade off.

But joking aside, I really didn’t go because I couldn’t afford to go. Yes, I have two jobs, one with really great health insurance, and I still couldn’t afford to go to the doctor. Because mental health co-pays are ridiculous, if your insurance covers mental health at all. And, that’s with “great” insurance.

Anyhow, I was telling my doctor about the new political group I am in, and we started talking about issues and we ended up on health care reform. I’m sure it had something to do with me telling her that I stopped coming to see her because I couldn’t afford my co-pays, but it morphed into a whole discussion on the state of our country’s health care system and why something has to be done about it.

Our conversation really blew a lot of popular arguments out of the water. First of all, here is a doctor telling me she wishes we had a single-payer system. Yep, that’s right. You see, right now for-profit insurance companies, mostly HMOs, pretty much set the rates for physicians. Dr. Joan told me that in the 1970s she worked part time and actually received more money per hour from the insurance companies than she does now. So, here she is, at a time when she should be retiring, and she’s working more than ever just to make ends meet. Do you think that the CEO of the insurance company makes less today than he did in 1978? Because I don’t think he does.

For-profit healthcare is bad. And people don’t realize how bad it is because they don’t actually pay for it themselves or they are relatively healthy.

If you’re a nerd like me, you might pour over your explanation of benefits when you get it from your insurance each month. You might see that a prescription that gets billed to your insurance for $12 at Target gets billed for $35 at Walgreen’s (true story). And you might see the little dance that your health care providers do with your insurance company.

You see, this is what the dance looks like. You go to the doctor. Your doctor bills the insurance company $150. The insurance company tells the doctor the visit only really cost $50, $20 of which you have already paid. Now, does it cost $150 for the doctor to look in your ears and write a prescription? No, but the insurance company is pretty much only going to give her about a third of what she bills for, so she better not ask for less or she’ll screw herself.

But it gets better with the insurance company paying $2,400 on a $10,000 hospital visit. (Once again, true story.) Because not only are insurance companies (who are more accountants and less doctors) dicking doctors over on what they’ll pay for services, but they’re also raping you and your employer on the insurance premiums.

I’m lucky. My work pays 90 percent of my premiums and I pay 10. That’s really good, because my insurance premium is over $600/month. So, let’s do the math. My office visits are $60, $20 of which I pay. When I fell and got hurt, they paid $2,400. All my medicines are generics because they stopped paying for my name-brand stuff, so I pay for that. The insurance company is still making an assload of money off me. And they’re making an assload of money of you too.

Yet, when money was tight, I couldn’t afford to go to the doctor. So, that argument about not wanting America to have rationed care? Well, we already do. And imagine if I were one of the 50 million people in our country who don’t have insurance. Oh, and by the way, guess who pays for their care? Did you guess everyone who has insurance? Because we do. The hospital has to recoup their costs somewhere, and that somewhere is the people who pay.

There’s also the argument about waiting for care. We do that here too. If you don’t believe me, let me send you a picture of my hole in my mouth where my tooth used to be. I’m out of dental insurance until January. Speaking of waiting for care, some of my long-time readers might remember when I was unemployed and uninsured and working my ass off to find a job with benefits because I was having health problems. No one should have to do that, because it’s scary. No one should die because they got laid off from their job.

Or what about substandard care? You think we don’t get that when some bean counter at our insurance company decides that we’ll be just fine on prescription X instead of prescription Y because X is cheaper? And, exactly what kind of care you think the uninsured are getting? Because I’m guessing they’re not going to top surgeons at Vanderbilt.

So, we have rationed care. We have substandard care. We wait for care. And we do all of this with insurance. Insurance, I might mention, that is raping us and our employers on a monthly basis.

How is this better? Really? I wish that one person could honestly explain how it is better. I suspect to some it’s better because poor people who don’t work don’t “drain” the system. But they do. And with this economy, any of us could be next. And I don’t know about all of you, but I’m not really healthy enough to shop around for new insurance.

We need health care reform. And, by reform I mean, “We need to tell health insurance companies to go fuck themselves and make health care nonprofit.” We are the only country with for-profit healthcare. We also pay more for healthcare than any other civilized nation. We really should be getting more for our money, but CEOs need to fly private jets and live in mansions. While I wait next year to get a plastic tooth for half-price.

(P.S. I just saw a tweet saying that insurance companies spent more than $88 million dollars in campaign donations to fight health care reform. So, seriously, who do you think the problem is here. Obama? Really?)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Times, they are a changin'

First of all, I realized this morning that I have been at this blogging thing for more than five years. In honor of that, I wanted to thank those of you who have managed to stick with me that long. I appreciate it in more ways than you realize.

I also wanted to let you know, to quote one of my all-time favorite songs: Baby, you ain't seen nothin' yet.

There are lots of changes coming here. Nothing that will affect the content of this blog, unless it improves it. Mostly, I am just embarking on a few projects to focus on my writing outside of reporting on the new therapy room at the local nursing home. Don't get me wrong, the work I do is rewarding and I love to have a full-time job working in media, but there are so many other things that I want to work on.

This blog will pretty much remain the same. It is going to get a facelift, but the content will be similar. However, there will be more of it, because I am signing on to the next National Blog Posting Month. That means that in December, I will be pledging to post every single day. I'm also going to try to follow more blogs, and I hope to get more followers here. Feel free to recommend your favorite blogs in the comments, and feel free to recommend me to your friends.

While I don't anticipate too much cooking in December (It is Christmas in Toyland, after all), I am going to work on photography and improving the cooking blog. That will probably be in 2011, but keep checking in on the blog anyhow. I think I am going to stuff some squash this Saturday.

The music blog hasn't ever been what I wanted from it, and I need to figure out if I scrap it or reinvigorate it. I'll have that figured out before I go see Garth Brooks in December, I'm sure.

There is a new blog coming up, and I think it has the potential to be huge if I can get the word out. I guess that will be the grand experiment in social media. Stay tuned for details.

Speaking of social media, I have joined The Twitter. I know, I know. I didn't want to do it, but professionally, it makes sense. If you're on there, feel free to follow me @richardslj. It'll be the same wit you've come to appreciate -- only in 140 characters or less.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Calvin ball

Remember the comic strip "Calvin and Hobbs"? If you do, you probably remember that Calvin was notorious for changing the rules of the game to his advantage. Calvin ball, if you will.

There is a little Calvin ball going on in my workplace. Say a little player that we all make it out unscathed. Our new boss arrives next Monday, if we can all hang on that long.

Personally, I am trying to figure out how someone gets out of having what is supposed to be a celebratory lunch with some for whom she has lost all respect. Needless to say, I deleted the save the date for his retirement party.

The only good thing is that I sent my laptop to be fixed, and when it is, I am making changes in blog land.

But no Calvin ball, I promise.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Election recap

I have been meaning to share my thoughts on the election since Wednesday morning. Here they are, all wrapped up with a tidy little bow.

1. I am not sure what (or if) Americans were thinking.

2. I am sad my former boss, Ted Strickland, lost. That was not Ohio's best move.

3. I am not completely desolate like I was when this happened in 1994. Why? Because this wasn't as bad. I know you think I'm nuts, but it was less seats and it will be OK in the long run.

But mostly, this race reminded me of when people have a friend -- in this case, that friend is Barack Obama -- and the friend pisses you off. So to get back at them you do all this stuff to get back at them, but ultimately all it does is ends up screwing you in the long run?

This was America's way of saying, "I'm so pissed at you now Barack, that I am just going to eat these Twinkies until I can't fit in my pants."

Or, "I don't care that I have been waiting to see 'Due Date' for months or that Robert Downey Jr is my favorite actor, there is no way I am meeting you at that movie, Barack. I am not ever going to that theater again, just in case you're there and I might run into you."

Let me know how that works for you, America. I'll be sitting over here in my fat pants eating my Hillary Clinton Cookies.

A matter of housekeeping...

So, this shit has hit the fan among bloggers and real, live journalists (of which I am both) about a bit of a plagiarism scandal.

Haven't heard about it yet? Check out this. And this. And this one, too. And come back when you're finished, OK?

Welcome back. Now on to my story.

What all of these articles reminded me of is two fold. 1) There are lot of stupid douchebags in the world, and 2) Apparently it would not hurt to remind people that I am a writer, and stealing my shit is not cool.

One time at work someone stole my shit. Yep, some lady took an article out of our e-newsletter, copied and pasted it and sent it out to all of her business associates. Some of those business associates were also our business associates, and it did not end well. As a result of that, we had to put a disclaimer at the bottom our e-newsletter. It was written by an attorney, but basically it says. We don't write this stuff so you can steal it.

But all this reminded me of that time I got plagiarized and how we had to get that disclaimer. And then I thought about this blog, and thought that perhaps it was time to issue a disclaimer here.

I am a writer, and even though I let all of you read this for free (not like you'd pay for it), the way writers make money is when someone pays for their work. I don't write anything here expecting to make money, nor do I make any money off of my blog; but, my point is: you'd better not make any money off of my blog either.

Let's say I do write something here that is worth sharing or repeating (stop laughing at me). Feel free to link to me and feel free to quote me. But don't feel free to post it on your blog without telling people it came from me.

To put it in layman's terms: don't steal my shit. Don't pretend you wrote something that I wrote. I know computers allow people to copy and paste, but that doesn't it make it right. If you want to copy and paste, at least include a link so someone can come here if they like it and want to see what else I've written. (Let me know if you are going to link to me, because that'd be kind of cool.)

And, if you make money off of my words, giving me credit might not be good enough. When in doubt, just ask. I'm a pretty reasonable person and I know that it doesn't matter if you're a writer if no one reads your stuff. My words and writings are not public domain. It's like what grandma said about that first boyfriend: no one buys the cow when they get the milk for free.

As always, 99.9 percent of the world's problems could be alleviated if people played nice and used a little common courtesy. That's how we roll in these parts.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010


After I pissed off crazy Republican lady last week (and, yes, I know not all Republicans are crazy), I said I wasn't going to talk about politics anymore because it just pisses everyone off, including me.

But, really, what I need to talk about isn't political. At least it shouldn't be. In my mind, it's a text-book case of "What would Jesus do?"

We, as a nation, just need to figure out how to do it. And, I don't see how that's going to happen because each side thinks the other is wrong and one side hates the other like poison and won't compromise.

I don't think helping others should have "sides."

In the Bible, Jesus says, "For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me."

The righteous will answer him and say, "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?"

And the king will say to them in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.' (Matthew 25: 35-41)

Jesus doesn't say: Give to those who work; give to those who have health insurance; give to those who are Republican or Democrat. He says "Whatever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me."

It is our moral obligation to help the poor. It is our moral obligation to ensure that those who are sick get affordable and adequate medical care. It is our moral obligation to give as much as we can to help those who cannot help themselves. It is our moral obligation to speak up against injustice.

Which, is why I am writing this today. It isn't about being Republican or Democrat. It's not about where you worship on Sunday morning. And, say what you want about our works not getting us to Heaven, but then I will remind you that Jesus said: Whatever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me.

All of these Christians who want the Ten Commandments in the school seem to be losing sight of the two greatest commandments of the Lord. One, Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind; and two, Love your neighbor as yourself.

I don't think if you're griping about paying more taxes so your neighbor with cancer can have health insurance that you're really following the Lord's commandments. Maybe the reason these folks fight so hard to get the Ten Commandments in schools is because they need to see them in order to do them.

But, that's not my place. We're not to judge others. They will have their day the same as I. But we all need to do our best job as Christians. Some of these people want the United States to be a "Christian nation," but they obviously don't know what that would mean.

Let me tell you a little story that illustrates my point.

Today, I went grocery shopping on my lunch break. I bought a dozen eggs, some brown sugar, 2 tubs of yogurt and three Lean Cuisines. And, yes, the content of my cart will matter in a minute.

As I was leaving the store, I see a man in a wheelchair leaning his head into a car in one of the two left-turn lanes. I get into the other lane, because I need to get back to work. Yes, probably not WWJD, but I had no cash, so I couldn't help this man anyhow.

As the light turns green, the man begins to roll out in front of my car, and I have to slam on my brakes to keep from hitting him. He was obviously homeless, and I am guessing the fact that he had one leg probably limited his ability to find steady work even when the economy was booming. So, I stop and wait for him, and the light changes while I do.

I am sitting for the red light, and I hear a tapping on my window. I just shrug my shoulders because I have no cash, but the tapping persists. So, I roll down my window.

"I'm really hungry, ma'am. Did you buy anything at Kroger that you could share with me?"

I looked in my bags, even though I already knew the answer. "I'm so sorry," I replied.

He moved on to the next car. The light changed, and I drove off.

In the few-mile drive back to my office I began to cry. I weeped for this man who had entered my life for only a brief minute. I weeped for our country and the state of affairs that would reduce a disabled man to begging for food in a busy intersection. And, I weeped for our Lord, who must be heartbroken that we can't do better for our people.

Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me.

I don't have the answers. I wish I did. All I know is that we have to create a social system that works to protect and aid the least of our brothers. No human being should be put in that situation that man was put into.

I wish we could pick and choose. I wish I could tell the government that instead of funding unjust wars and state-sponsored murders that I would like to put my taxes toward housing subsidies, food banks and other social welfare program.

But mostly I wish that every Christian would listen to their hearts and the Lord and demand that we help the least of our brothers. And frankly, until they do, they should stop demanding that we have a "Christian nation," because there is nothing Christian about how this country treats its people.