Living in Pennsylvania, a drunk history of sorts

Pennsylvania means Penn’s woods. I don’t remember much else from school, but, gosh darnit, I remember that. I’m sure other states have some interesting name etymologies, but I don’t really know.

Pennsylvania is really PA. We don’t call it Pennsylvania. We will travel and people will ask us where we’re from and we will say PA and get lots of confused looks. I’ve asked around and apparently no other state does this.

And I can’t say the city I’m from, because that would answer the question of where I’m from just as easily, but my accent comes out and I don’t want to say that I’m from Scran’n. It’s more effort to pronounce Scranton than it is to say “I’m from PA.” “…” “Pennsylvania.”

The closest we get to saying Pennsylvania is when talking about PennDOT. I’m proud of PennDOT. It’s pronounceable, unlike NJDOT.

And we talk about PennDOT a lot, because we don’t have roads, we have potholes surrounded by asphalt. I’ve heard we have more roads compared to land area than most states. That’s a lot of pot holes.

Also our local PennDOT spokesman is named James May, so I can pretend he is the James May, and not just a James May.

You know that Penn’s Woods thing I mentioned a few paragraphs ago? It’s not messing around, we have a lot of trees. It’s pretty cool.

We can’t buy alcohol for home consumption easily. Standalone liquor stores are state run and only a few are open on Sundays, and most of the beer stores sell beer in large cases which doesn’t work for someone who doesn’t drink often. The easiest way to get 6 packs is from restaurants.

Usually pizza restaurants.

Did I mention the pizza? It’s what we do here, nestled among the trees.

We also have many bars. I guess it’s irrelevant how one gets beer for home use when there are bars everywhere.

But I’m antisocial, so I have to brave the stores to get alcohol. The most recent trick is that grocery stores have started adding cafe areas which is technically a separate restaurant so you can buy beer there. They put up pylons to separate the cafe (beer) from the groceries. Wegmans is great because they have an actual cafe with good food, but I think some stores just have beer cafes.

I’m sure there’s a lot more I can say about Pennsylvania, but I didn’t really set out to write a comprehensive list. I just had some wine (that I bought from the state-run liquor store and chose because it had ravens on the label) and it was more interesting to type words on the computer than it was to watch the news. I did watch the news for a minute, apparently someone handed Donald Trump a piece of paper saying he should talk about Joe Paterno (Oh, maybe I should have talked about Penn State, the only other time we say part of our state name out loud) and Ted Cruz and his father are both here (Oh no, I need to leave now).

Oh, I was just reminded by a commercial. We can’t drive here. But everyone from neighboring states drives worse. New Yorkers live in the wrong lane. And New Jerseyans (really?) like to exit from the farthest away lane. And they like to talk about how poorly we drive. I like to pretend we’re all just siblings who’ve had to share a room for too long and 2 lanes are just not enough for all of us.

I…think that’s about all I have to say right now. I like it here. Usually. Kinda. Trees are cool.

A brief history of my health insurance, or, lots of ranting on this Tuesday afternoon

I had no health insurance for quite some time. Probably from 22 until 26 or so? I was too old for my parents’ plan and I didn’t have a job. And then I had a bunch of part-time/contract jobs which didn’t have insurance.

Then I got a job and it had health insurance! That lasted from about 2009 to 2012. Then the business closed, and the company that bought us out offered COBRA, even though legally they didn’t have to. That was nice, except I was paying around $350 a month for health insurance and I was (just barely) self-employed. I grew my business while building up a lot of credit card debt. I tried to apply for an individual plan during this time, but apparently having (very rare) migraines meant I had a pre-existing condition and they wouldn’t cover me. I still can’t understand why I couldn’t get coverage for everything except the migraines, the medicine is expensive but still would have been cheaper to pay for that out-of-pocket and have a cheaper than $350/month plan.

Then the Affordable Care Act came along and I got health insurance at a much nicer rate of $205/month. Then another year later the rates went up to $218/month. My business is now a bit bigger and I can afford this somewhat, but between this and the enormous credit card bills every month I can’t really afford anything else, like eating or rent (luckily I have help with that so I’m not cold or hungry, but it’s pretty miserable).

2016 plans come out and my health insurance company has merged with another, and the rates for my mediocre plan are going up to $278/month. I decide to try applying for Medicaid now that my state has expanded coverage. The paperwork is horrid. The online site doesn’t work. I give up, several times, only to remember I can’t afford to give up.

I find out that I can use the online site only in IE. Ok, fine. I apply. They say I need to send in my tax returns, but I can upload them online. No, I can’t, the plugin doesn’t work. I mail them from the post office to my local county assistance office. The two buildings are literally next door to each other.

Two weeks later I get a letter saying I can’t get Medicaid if I don’t send in these forms. I did send them in, two weeks ago. They only have all my personal information including social security number on them, no big deal that they’re just lost somewhere. Great.

After lots of arguing I find that I can upload the forms online only in Firefox. Ok, done.

Two days later I get a letter saying I’m approved (I guess making only $4,000 a year is great for Medicaid approval times.) I can go to a website and enroll in a health plan. It works in all browsers, I do a happy dance.

Oh, “your plan won’t start until January 15th,” because they lost my paperwork and everything was set back 2 weeks. This means I need to renew a standard full price plan just for those 2 weeks of coverage.

Meanwhile, in full-price insurance land, Blue Cross, which as you’ll remember had merged and was now offering different plans, sent me a letter saying that they couldn’t auto-renew me and I would need to sign up for a new plan on Great, I can’t afford $278 even for a month so I wanted a cheaper plan anyway. I sign up for a barebones $205 plan with the intent of canceling it by February once Medicaid kicks in.

The next day I get a bill from Blue Cross for $278 saying they auto-enrolled me in the original plan after all. “Pay us now.”

Knowing I just signed up for a different plan I assume I will get an updated bill for $205.

A week later I get a letter in the mail saying that my application has been canceled due to nonpayment. Still wondering if I should care or just plan to not have health insurance for 2 weeks. Or maybe they’ll send me a new bill after all. And either way I still have state help so if I rack up huge medical bills in those 15 days I’ll be ok, but I like to cover my bases, you know?

Meanwhile, back to free health insurance land, since receiving the initial notice I have received a piece of mail from a different local/state agency every single damn day telling me something that I don’t really care about. I have an access card, and a community health care card, and maybe someday I’ll receive an actual health care plan card. I’m expected to carry all of these with me at all times. I guess since all my credit cards are maxed out I have the room in my wallet. I also received several informational pamphlets, and a form saying I should be receiving a health care plan from my employer, and can’t I use that one instead? Self-employment, what?

I really just want this to be done. I want to have a bit of time when I don’t have to ask for help paying my bills so maybe I can work on the rest of my life. I want some energy to work on my business so I can maybe start making a decent income. I’m really so frustrated that it’s 2015 and this is a problem I need to deal with, healthy people are better for society but it’s so hard to manage that in this country.

Well that was cathartic. Now back to waiting.

100 words – Almond Milk and Empty Bank Accounts

One of my favorite activities used to be midday target shopping trips, and this week the stars aligned and I was able to do just this. Even better, colleges have started classes so there was only about half the back-to-school shopping population that there had been recently.

It didn’t take long to remember why I don’t do Target trips anymore though; shopping just isn’t fun with an empty bank account.

However I did get to hear a girl tell her mother how offended she was when someone offered her almond milk. “Almond milk?! Ew!” That made the trip worth it.

Finally Friday

I’ve decided to stop the daily 100 word posts and instead use them occasionally as I think of a topic. I’m not really sure what the endgame was of the 100 word posts so this works out anyway.

I started writing them as a way to write consistently, but when I didn’t have something to write I found myself just adding words to meet this arbitrary criteria. I’d rather practice writing well sometimes than writing gibberish daily.

This week has also been a bit ridiculous which didn’t help with the daily writing. The weekend was full of car repairs, ending with me borrowing my parents’ 18 year old Mazda since my car is really broken now, so I didn’t have much downtime on my days off. Then there were pretty bad cases of insomnia Sunday and Monday nights, and a car alarm at 6:45am on Wednesday so sleep was lacking for the first half of the week. Despite this I got a bunch of work done including what may be a record number of custom orders and I bought some new equipment for my business (as discussed a few posts ago).

I also survived yet another dentist appointment. I never really had a problem with the dentist since switching to my current one who is actually both nice and competent, but I fear my wisdom teeth removal messed me up subconsciously so I’m once again afraid of dental visits for no good reason. Luckily there were no problems so maybe I can start getting over it again?

This morning I finished up one website order and did a custom order of 15 drawstring backpacks and then…nothing. I think I needed that.

100 words day 23 – Words inspired by some YouTube videos I just watched.

I ran out of things to write about two weeks ago and I can only talk about my boring days so much. So let’s talk about that YouTube video I just saw that did nothing to help with my constant feeling of hopelessness. Actually I feel so hopeless that I don’t care enough to write about how hopeless I feel.

I need a haircut. But I’m too lazy to find the pictures of the haircut I liked, so who knows when that will happen.

I spent my evening putting together online jigsaw puzzles of bird pictures. How exciting is that?

100 words day 22 – I almost forgot to write again

This weekend was hectic, what with the breaking cars and all. I thought today would be better, I had a routine going, Monday orders are great now!

But…I had 2 large custom orders, and most of my customers wanted decals in a color that I had to make from scratch. Really? What was it about this weekend that made people want to buy rubber duck decals in any color other than yellow. Rubber ducks are yellow, why do you need to change it up?

It’s bedtime now, I hope tomorrow has some downtime so I can clean up after today.

100 words day 21 – I’m now an expert in removing wheels from my car. And putting them back on. And taking them off.

Friday, my car drove fine, more or less.

Saturday, my father and I tried to fix a suspension problem.

Saturday evening, my car drove fine, just with a nasty noise.

Sunday, we watched many youtube videos, fixed the noise and fixed the suspension on our second attempt.

It’s Sunday evening now and my car isn’t driveable. Apparently the caliper needs to go on correctly, and you need to not strip the threads, and it’s not safe to drive with a caliper that isn’t bolted on.

Did I mention yet that there are 3 other wheels that still need suspension fixes?

100 words day 20 – The guy who sold pixels for $1 was ahead of his time

I’ve calculated that I need something like $30,000. I don’t need it right away, that would be crazy, but eventually.

My rational plan is to grow my business and try something like selling x number of extra decals per week, and the money from those extra orders is just for savings.

But wouldn’t it be so much more fun to set up an indiegogo page and ask for $1 in exchange for a personalized funny cat video? Can I make 30,000 funny cat videos for $1 each? Or find an equally ridiculous and novel skill that would translate into entertainment?

100 words day 19c – How to waste a weekend

I pretend that my weekends are going to be so amazing. I’ll clean and exercise and work on hobbies that I didn’t have time for during the work week!

But in reality I barely work during the week, and then my weekends often turn into drawn-out mope-fests.

This weekend I should really fix my car. I’m excited for the new parts and it will be so nice to not have warning lights on the dash all the time. Yet my imaginary weekend is so fun and relaxing that I can’t muster up any desire to do something real and necessary.

100 words day 19b – Adventures in Lego

Thursday proved that it only takes 1 day to kill a habit, as I had yet again forgotten about posting until I was already in bed.

Anyway, Lego. Yesterday I was presented with boxes and boxes of Lego bricks without instructions. It’s an exaggeration to say I was paralyzed by choice, but I was definitely intimidated. I ended up building a castle surrounding a beach with sunbathing Mixels and sharks and scuba divers. And Spider-Man riding a dragon. It was surprisingly freeing to put pieces together and let the scene build itself. Like making up stories based on abstract clouds.