Wednesday, July 31, 2019

5 ~ Fox in the Trees

     The Wise Web Woman at The Other Side of Sixty has been hosting Words on Wednesday for the month of July 2019. This rotating party of words was started by Delores a long time ago. Computer issues led her to bow out for a while. The party was too much fun to let go, and now Words for Wednesday is provided by a number of people and has become a movable feast.
     Essentially the aim is to encourage us to write. Each week we are given a choice of prompts: which can be words, phrases, music or an image. What we do with those prompts is up to us: a short story, prose, a song, a poem, what have you. We can use some or all of the prompts.

1 ~ Completely Opposite but Exactly the Same
2 ~ Blazing
3 ~ Kendall
4 ~ Two Birds

     Blaze's ingenious idea involved purchasing vacant and abandoned shopping centers that were a blight on communities and repurposing them in a way that made them living centers for the homeless, especially those that spent time living in the subway during the winter months.  The large anchor chain store (most often grocery stores) would be transformed into two levels of one-room "studio" apartments, each with a small shower stall bathroom and kitchenette.  What had previously been a refrigerated section in the rear of the store would become a common laundry facility for the residents.

     The smaller stores that had formed the shopping center would become a variety of different business, health, and educational offices designed to train the residents in an employable skill so that they could reenter society.  Residents would receive health care (physical and mental) to ensure that they would be in better health, and without question, assist in helping them maintain sobriety if necessary.  

     Once trained, residents would be employed at one of the businesses that made up the center in order to get actual work experience that could then be put on a resume or used for reference.  They would be given money management classes and savings accounts at a small bank branch that would make up one of the smaller stores.  Residents would also be trained in how to use a computer and provided with library cards to access public use terminals to assist in educational assignments.

     Residents (in a step up from sleeping on a bench) would be given one-year rent-free apartments as long as they were making efforts and progress towards becoming self-sufficient, fully functional, contributing members of society.  At the end of the year, they could remain at the facility, however, would be responsible for paying rent and "utility payments" for up to another two years.  These funds would be set aside in an investment account in the resident's name.  

     At the end of the two years, these funds would be used to assist in purchasing a home through Habitat for Humanity, which they would also be required to help build, and establishing new utility services for the person.  They could also be used to purchase a used vehicle to assist them in getting to and from work.  Residents would be helped to find work outside of the center, and since many of the homeless are disabled and/or veterans, many employers were willing to hire them for the tax breaks they would receive or the Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action Plan points they would receive.
     By making the centers non-profit and designed to assist the communities in revitalizing neighborhoods and helping people get back on their feet, the foundation would be able to utilize tax breaks in purchasing the properties.  They would also be able to apply for and receive federal and state grants for education, health care, and employment opportunities for the residents.

     Residents of the centers would be given a voice in their communities and encouraged to vote, and contribute to public meetings that had an impact on how future centers were created, organized, and run.  Their experiences, both in and out of the centers, would be crucial in making sure that the foundation met the needs of all involved.

     Blaze knew that the first center purchased would need to be the model for all others, and it was from his experience of living on the streets that made him certain this was something every large city would benefit from.  He wondered how different his life might have been if he'd had access to such a facility when he was 15 and sleeping in the fishmongers' dumpsters to hide him from some of the homeless he'd met on the streets.

     Homeless shelters that just provided a cot and a meal did nothing to help educate him on how to be self-sufficient.  If anything, they taught him how to be comfortable sleeping in everything he owned, how to be satisfied with just one small meal a day, and how to fight for his life when attacked in the dark.  

     Runaway teens, such as he had been, would not only have a safe environment to live, but they would be given simple life skills that he hadn't learned until he met Kendall.  Things like opening a bank account, writing a check, establishing utilities in his name, filling out a job application or writing a resume.  They would be taught how to cook simple meals for themselves, do laundry, and the chore Blaze still hated the most ... how to fold a fitted sheet.

     Kendall had sat quietly while Blaze presented his idea to him, occasionally nodding his head in agreement, or shaking his head in sad disbelief at some of the things Blaze had endured on the streets.  He had been blown away by Blaze's conviction and enthusiasm for the concept of being able to help other homeless teens.

     "You can't even conceive how many young girls I met who had left an abusive situation at home only to be pulled in by a pimp promising protection who just got them hooked on a needle and turned them out for tricks.  Girls who believed that was all they would ever be worth because of what had happened to them at home, and then brainwashed by the pimps to believe they still deserved to be treated that way.

     "Or the vets who couldn't cope with their PTSD and thought it would be easier to just disappear on the streets rather than put their families through their nightmares.  Only to find out that life on the streets only made the PTSD worse because they were now constantly living in fear of getting busted, or trying to find a meal.  I mean, it was just a new demon on their back that was joining forces with the other demons to make them even more paranoid.  I met some who were so out of touch with reality that they thought they were still in Iraq."

     Kendall stood and watched the sun come up over the horizon.  The two men had been talking all night, yet neither of them seemed exhausted.  In fact, Kendall had never felt more alive and with a purpose than he did at this moment.  What Blaze had proposed was not just brilliant, but something that made him feel like their meeting all those years ago was more than just a coincidence.  It was fate.  He couldn't wait for the opportunity to share the idea with his father.

     "Pretty stupid idea, huh?"

     "What?  No!  Not at all!  In fact, I think it is incredible.  Monday morning I want us to sit down in my office with one of my assistants and start getting it all in writing and doing all the research on what it would entail to make it happen.  I don't want my father to find any loophole or glitch that will keep it from coming to fruition."


    "Dead seriously.  We've got a lot of work to do.  The board meets again in three weeks, and I want to have a flawless proposal to present to them at that meeting."  Kendall grinned at Blaze, and the two men laughed again.

     Sitting back in the trees in the shadows, the fox nodded and turned to go back to his den and family.

     He didn't see the man standing behind a tree a few yards away, silently watching Kendall and Blaze.

Friday, July 26, 2019

4 ~ Two Birds

The WiseWebWoman is hosting Words on Wednesday for the month of July 2019.  This rotating party of words was started by Delores a long time ago. Computer issues led her to bow out for a while. The party was too much fun to let go, and now Words for Wednesday is provided by a number of people and has become a movable feast.
Essentially the aim is to encourage us to write. Each week we are given a choice of prompts: which can be words, phrases, music or an image. What we do with those prompts is up to us: a short story, prose, a song, a poem, what have you. We can use some or all of the prompts.

1 ~ Completely Opposite but Exactly the Same
2 ~ Blazing
3 ~ Kendall

     Kendall had finished at the last resort boarding school his father had sent him.  To his father's surprise, he had then gone on to pursue a Master's degree in Business Administration at Harvard.   What his father didn't know was that Kendall had more interest in delegating work than actually doing it, and he knew an MBA degree would give him the knowledge to be able to do that.

     He met Blaze in the mountains two years after he graduated from Harvard, and almost five years before he would assume control of his father's billion-dollar company.  In that time, the two young men became inseparable friends.

     Kendall asked his father if he could purchase the house on the lake where he had met Blaze, and it became the first real home that Blaze had ever lived in.  During the week, Kendall worked for his father, learning every aspect of the business.  He spent weekends, holidays, and one month each season at the lake. 

     For his part, Blaze kept the woodpiles stocked, and freezers full of fresh fish, venison, and fowl.  During the week, he worked part-time at a small lakeside bait, tackle, and grocery store, helping locals and tourists.  It was the first time he'd ever held a job for more than a few months, and the first time someone ever trusted him with money.  After two years, he started working full-time at the store, and when the owner decided it was time to retire and do a little fishing of his own, Blaze bought it.

     Blaze taught Kendall what it meant to struggle on the streets, how to fight for what you want, and how to survive anything that life, or man, would throw at him.  His hunger and pain took Kendall to places he'd never experienced, and through his eyes, he learned how to have compassion and empathy for those who had nothing.

     Over late-night games of Scrabble, Kendall shared his knowledge with Blaze.  Music, art, history, culture.  His words took Blaze to places he'd never even heard of, and through his eyes, he saw the world as a limitless place to explore instead of as a cold, heartless city on a sphere floating in nothingness.

     One winter night as the two sat by a warm fire pit, they'd been surprised to see a red fox sitting on the opposite side of the fire warming himself in the glow.

     "You know what I don't miss when I'm up here, Blaze?"
     "No, what?"
     "Traffic lights, and all the crazy, insane drivers on the highways.  The noise of gunfire, sirens, screams, and just all the chaos of the city.  It's so quiet up here, you can hear the snow falling."
     Blaze nodded in agreement, "So what's going on with the company?  Anything new on announcing your arrival in the President's office?"
     Laughing, Kendall shook his head.  "No.  Father still wants me to be able to lasso the moon with a new idea on where I can take the company after he steps down.  Until I can present him with something that knocks him off his feet, I think he's planning on holding that office until they find him mummified at his desk with his phone to his ear."
     "Hmmm, I wonder...."
     "Wonder what?"
     "Is he expecting you to come up with a new gadget that will power your car out of dandelions or is he looking for something that will kill two birds with one stone?"
     "What do you have in mind?"
     "Remember earlier this year when you said your father was complaining about having to pay so much in taxes?  What if you came up with an idea for a non-profit foundation that he could use to offset some of the taxes he paid?  And in the process, it created jobs and homes to help get people off the street?"
     "I'm intrigued.  How'd you like a job on my board one day?"

      The two men laughed and the fox turned his head to look at them quizzically, causing both of them to roar with laughter as the fox shook its head and disappeared into the darkness.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

3 ~ Kendall

The WiseWebWoman is hosting Words on Wednesday for the month of July 2019. (altho my contributions often come much later in the week!)
The rotating party of words was started by Delores a long time ago. Computer issues led her to bow out for a while. The party was too much fun to let go, and now Words for Wednesday is provided by a number of people and has become a movable feast.
Essentially the aim is to encourage us to write. Each week we are given a choice of prompts: which can be words, phrases, music or an image. What we do with those prompts is up to us: a short story, prose, a song, a poem, what have you. We can use some or all of the prompts.

1 ~ Completely Opposite but Exactly the Same
2 ~ Blazing

     "I'm disappointed in you, Kendall.  That was the third boarding school you've been expelled from in less than two years.  What do you have to say for yourself?"
     "Father, I'm bored at school.  Why can't I just stay home with you and mother?"
     "Impossible.  You know your mother is busy with her charitable foundations, and I'm busy at the office.  Neither one of us has the time for you."
     "Gee, thanks."
     "Your sarcasm is noted, but doesn't help you at all.  You've given me no alternative but to send you to the last school that will accept someone with your attitude.  You can consider this the end of the highway for you, Kendall.  You either succeed at this school or you will be cut off completely."
     "And if I succeed?"
     "You will be given a car of your choosing and the funds and resources to live your life as you choose.  However, you will be expected to one day assume the responsibilities of managing my companies and your mother's foundations, so choose your life wisely."

     There was a brief knock at Kendall's bedroom door as it opened, and a tall redheaded woman in a neon green bikini that barely covered her stepped in.

     "Jimmy, honey, are you coming back downstairs?  We miss you and we're running out of champagne and caviar."

     Kendall's father turned without another word and walked out of the bedroom, closing the door firmly behind him.
     Blaze sat in the woods on the edge of town, watching a crow pick at a piece of yarn that glittered with silver and gold.  He was hungry and tired of living on the streets, but he refused to go back to either one of his parents and continue to be the pawn in their hatred of each other.
     He watched a spider crawl across the top of his boot, and taking his knife he flipped it off and into the dirt.  Reaching for a brown paper bag on the ground next to him, he took a swig of the beer he had convinced an old man to buy for him.  It was hot, and nasty tasting, but it dulled the ache in his stomach.
     It was still more than a year away from when their lives would collide in a way that would change both of them.  But already they were becoming men to be reckoned with. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

i won! i won!

[jumping up and down!]

I entered a fun little writing contest last week, and I won!
The objective was to write a short 200-word story about the picture below.
It was sponsored by a coffee company: The Write Coffee, that I had received a sample bag of in my latest Scribbler box.
Their coffee is soooooooo smooth!  OMG it was amazing!
When I got a newsletter about the contest to win a bag of their coffee, I was all in!
My entry is below, and here is a link to the blog it appears in:  [click here].
As a child, Samuel Langhorne Clemens often pondered the question of which came first, the chicken or the egg.  

It was a perplexing dilemma since fried chicken was one of his absolute favorite meals. He couldn’t imagine the early residents of Missouri having to wait for an egg to hatch and then become a full grown chicken before they could enjoy the delicious morsels of fried chicken.  Especially since his second favorite meal was his momma’s biscuits and sausage gravy served with eggs over easy, cheese grits, and fresh brewed Writer’s Block coffee.  

For that matter, he didn’t even know how any chickens survived to be full grown southeast of the Mississippi River.  But he was deeply grateful that there had been at least a few so that the world, and his momma, could discover the culinary delight known as fried chicken.  

While not widely known, especially in the literary world, it was Samuel who passed along his momma’s recipe to Margaret Ann Sanders during a chance meeting while on vacation with his family in Indiana.  She, in turn, passed it down to her oldest boy, Harland Sanders, who later moved to Kentucky and the rest, they say, is history. 

Thursday, July 11, 2019

2 ~ Blazing

1 ~ Completely Opposite but Exactly the Same

     Blaze wasn't his real name.

     His father, Edward Johnson, was a history professor, and his mother, Catherine, a chronic romantic.  They had met at a lecture and display of items recovered from the Titanic.  They married six months later on a replica of the Titanic's grand staircase and the entire wedding party wore gowns and tuxedos from the early 1900's.

     Within a year it became apparent that their marriage had hit an iceberg and was quickly sinking.  Hoping to save their marriage, Catherine stopped taking her birth control.  A year later, Edward John Smith Johnson was born.  Named after the captain of the Titanic, he was teased and bullied mercilessly when he reached middle school.

     One particularly painful day when he was being tormented by a much older boy at school, Edward skipped his lunch period to go to a corner station near the school.  Taking an empty soda can from the trash, he took the nozzle from each gas pump and squeezed the handle over the can, trying to get any residual gas left in the hose from when it was last used.

     Knowing that the older boys liked to hid out to smoke in a stairwell going down to an unused maintenance cellar, Edward planned on scaring them with a homemade bomb.  Tearing the collar of his t-shirt that one of the boys had already torn in a beating that morning, be stuffed it in the small opening on the soda can and lit it with a lighter he had found in the station's parking lot.  Opening the door to the stairwell, he heard the boys laughing as he tossed the can in and slammed the door shut.

     Edward had never done anything like that before, but he had seen something similar done on TV in the past.  As he hid around the corner of the maintenance building, waiting for the explosion, he heard the door slam open and the boys spilling to the ground coughing and laughing.

     [Boy 1] "What the blazes was that?"
     [Boy 2] "I don't know, man, some kind blazing Coke can.  It stunk like gasoline!"
     [Boy 3] "Are you sure that wasn't one of your farts man?  Good thing it wasn't glass or we'd have gone up in smoke.  Did your flip flop melt when you stomped it out?"
     A fourth boy came up the stairs with the can in his hands, laughing.

     [Boy 4] "Holy molotov!  That idiot just barely put in enough gas to light the t-shirt, and look at this!  His name is on the piece of t-shirt he used!"

     All of the boys were laughing now, too hard to hear the school's maintenance man come up behind them.

     "What in blue blazes is going on here?  Is that cigarette smoke I smell on you boys?  What's that you have in your hands?  Is that a molotov cocktail?  Give me that!  Get up to the principal's office right now, and don't even think about taking a detour to the parking lot.  I know who you hellions are!  I've seen you 'round here plenty."

     From that day forward, the boys started calling him Blaze, and as word of his failed bombing attempt spread around the rest of the students, the name stuck.   A bus driver had already reported seeing Edward get beat up by one of the boys that morning, and in spite of the four boys' protests, they were not only punished for the beating, and smoking on school grounds, but also for attempting to bomb the maintenance building.  The four of them were suspended for two weeks, and when they returned they were in detention for the remainder of the school year, a sentence to be served working with the maintenance man painting over graffiti on the school buildings.
     Kendall sat watching the professor write on the blackboard, barely able to keep his eyes open.  He hated school, especially boarding school.  But his father had dangled a carrot in the shape of a new sports car if he would just stay out of trouble long enough to finish his education at the last school that was willing to accept him.

     It wasn't his fault he got kicked out of all those other schools.  Kendall was so desperate for his father's attention that he purposely sought out troublemakers to befriend, hoping that rather than continuing to send him away to boarding schools, his father might actually let him go home to live with him.

     The last time he had gotten expelled, he'd been given a one-way bus ticket home and taxi fare.  When he had finally arrived, he'd been surprised to find that his house key didn't work.  Ringing the doorbell, he worried for a moment that his father wouldn't let him in.  When ten minutes passed with no answer, he rang the bell again and wondered if his father was even home or if he was out of the country.   Finally he heard movement inside and the door opened.  Standing in front of him was a young woman in a bikini, with a block of cheese and a bottle of wine in one hand.

     "Who are you?  Are you lost or something?"
     "Um, is my father here?"
     "Father?  Jimmy doesn't have any kids."

     Kendall's father came up behind the woman.

     "Hello, Kendall.  I've been expecting you.  Go up to your room.  We'll talk later.  Rachel, honey, go back out to the pool.  I'll be out there shortly."

Friday, July 5, 2019

completely opposite but exactly the same

     Blaze threw his cards down on the table and stood up.  He knew he'd bitten off more than he could chew when he called Kendall's bet, but his hand felt good.  He didn't count on Kendall holding a full house.  Blaze had been angry at Kendall calling him a diamond in the rough, knowing it was meant more like an insult than a compliment.

      Kendall Creek was a Harvard boy who grew up never wanting for anything.  Blaze had grown up on the streets, always hungry, never knowing where his next meal was going to come from.  He had struggled his whole life, while Kendall had grown up thinking that a struggle was deciding whether to take the Benz or the Jag to school and which Rolex went with the shoes he was wearing.

     When he was just two, his parents had divorced and Blaze had been shuttled back and forth between them as a weapon, never feeling welcome or wanted in either parent's home.  He would stay with one until the other parent triggered a fight over money, then a new custody battle would be fought in court.  Before he knew how to spell all the states in the country, he knew how to spell the airline he was flying on and how to tell what gate his next flight was departing from.  He had been moving from state to state as his parents searched out which state had the best child custody laws that would inflict the most damage to the other depending on which one had custody at the time.

    At 15, Blaze was almost a foot taller than his mom and tired of being a pawn in their hatred for each other.  Packing only what he felt was most essential to him in a backpack, he walked out of the house late one night after his mother and her latest boyfriend had fallen asleep and never looked back.  His father was expecting him to be on a plane the next day, and Blaze didn't really care anymore.  He was done playing games.

     Kendall had been two when his father caught his mother and one of the stable boys together in the paddock where he kept his five million dollar racehorse.  Their prenup left her with nothing more than the stable boy, while he got full custody of Kendall.   When Kendall was five, his father married again.  A year later they divorced after he found her canoodling with a gondolier on a bridge in Venice.

     Over the years, Kendall's father had married a half a dozen times, each marriage lasting less than two years.  He had had more than twice that number of girlfriends, and Kendall never bothered to keep up with their names.  He knew that none of them really mattered to his father.  There was only one thing in the world, or even universe for that matter, that his father cared about and it wasn't even Kendall.   Money was the only thing that his father cared about.  Getting full custody of Kendall wasn't about love, it was about not paying for child support.

     Now his father walked with a cane, slowly being crippled by his greed and selfishness, unwilling to see the unconditional love his son had for him.  He was a lonely, miserable man.

     Moss never grows on a rolling stone, and there would never be any moss on Blaze.  Even living on his own since he was 15, he never stayed long in one place.  That was until he met Kendall at least.  The two of them grew up exact opposites, yet still very much alike.  Wanting only for the love of a parent, feeling as if they were the only person in the universe who felt that way.

     Lilac Road ran on the east side of Big Watab Lake in St Joseph, Minnesota.  On it was a cabin that Kendall's father owned and had long forgotten about.  Blaze had stumbled upon it one fall while fishing at the lake and judging by the layers of old leaves piled up around the property that it hadn't had any activity in it for several years, he decided it would be a good place to spend the winter.

     Waking one morning to the smell of coffee, Blaze had been surprised when he opened his eyes to see a young man his age sitting on a chair near the bed watching him.

     "Espresso?"  Kendall leaned forward with a small child-sized cup in his hand, offering it to Blaze.

     "What?  Is this like a tea party or some crap?"

     "No, I was just offering you a cup of espresso.  It's coffee.  It will wake you up."

     "Seriously?  Man, I need more than just a little girl's teacup to wake up."  Blaze took the cup anyway and sipped on the still-hot coffee.  "Holy coffee beans!  What the heck is this?!?!"

     Grinning at him, Kendall replied, "Espresso.  I told you it would juice you up.  So what are you doing in my father's cabin?"

     "Are you going to call the cops?"

     "No, just answer the question."

     "I was fishing on the lake when a storm came up and I needed to find shelter.  This place looked like no one had been here for years, so I figured it would be okay to just hang out here for the winter."

     "Well, you didn't take into account the silent alarm you triggered when you jimmied the lock on the door.  My father sent me up here to check it out, figuring it was just a bear or something."

     "So he didn't really care if the bear ate you?"

     "You'd have to know my father, but no.  Sending me up here was less expensive than him having one of his security team come up."

     "Nice dad, man."

     "And your father is any better?"

     "I haven't seen or spoken to my dad in almost ten years.  I don't even know where he is, so yeah, I guess he cares as much about me as yours does you.  So what are you going to do?"


     "Me.  Being here.  The weather kinda sucks right now and finding another place to hang for the winter is gonna be a little tough.  If you let me stay here through the winter, I swear I'll be out of here as soon as the snow melts next year and you won't even know I was here."

     "My father is the kind that inventories every single fountain pen he owns, and all the ones that his employees own, so he'd probably know you were here when he comes up to inventory this place in the spring.  When you set off the alarm, you reminded him that this place was still one of his assets, and now he's thinking of selling it.  He'll even know exactly how many espresso beans I used to make this coffee."

     "Wow.  That's crazy in an anal kind of way, ya know?"

     "I know.  He won't miss me at all, but will have a fit over the beans."

     The two young men talked for several hours, buzzing on espresso and the opportunity of finding someone else who knew what it felt like to be unloved, unwanted, and alone.  Kendall walked him through the house, showing Blaze all the alarms, the hidden panels where there were emergency supplies, how to operate the heat and espresso machine.  They brought wood in for the fireplace and continued talking through the night.

     In the morning, Blaze asked him if he wanted to go fishing out on the lake and Kendall replied that he had never been fishing before.  Stunned, Blaze told him he would show him and asked if his dad had any boats or kayaks as well on the property.  Kendall showed him to the boathouse where there was not only a brand new fishing boat with a never used motor on it, but a canoe and two kayaks.

     "Holy cow, this boat is nice man!  And your dad has never come up here to run it?"

     "No.  I'm sure that he just had someone bring it up on a trailer and put it here.  There probably isn't  even any gas in it."

     "Gas and oil."


     "Motors like these you have to put oil in with the gas.  We better take the canoe.  You do know how to row, right city boy?"

     "As a matter of fact, I do.  I was on Harvard's rowing team"

     "Not quite the same thing, but you'll get the hang of it.  Here, help me pull it down."

     They fished for a few hours until they had both caught more than their legal limit for the day in trout, and were cold and tired.  Kendall couldn't remember the last time he'd had so much fun or talked so much to someone who could understand and relate to him.  As they were pulling in their lines for the last time before heading back, Kendall snagged his finger with one of the barbed hooks that they were using.  When he jerked it out, his finger began to bleed profusely.

     "Whoa, dude, we're going to have to clean that out with some peroxide when we get back.  You have no idea what kind of crap is in these lakes."

     "Crap. Like in fish crap?  Gross."

     Blazed laughed.  "Exactly!"

2 ~ Blazing
3 ~ Kendall
4 ~ Two Birds
5 ~ Fox in the Trees
6 ~ Peppermint
7 ~ An Unmasked Truth
8 ~ Defiance

9 ~ Tin Lizzie

Monday, July 1, 2019

disgraceful ...

Image Source:
straying off the story and into the slightly political arena for a moment ...

In April my husband had to wear a heart monitor for a week.  Today I got the bills.

First let me say how grateful we are to have the luxury of health insurance that many (too many) cannot afford in the US.  I know that from working on the initial kickoff of the Affordable Healthcare Act's Health Insurance Marketplace.

Single parents struggling to raise children while going to college AND working two part-time jobs that weren't required to provide insurance, didn't qualify for one of the health insurance plans because of their low income, nor were they eligible for Medicaid because of their state's restrictions.

Yet, in a neighboring state, single students, away at college with tuition paid for by their parents or scholarships, who were either working part-time or not at all, were qualified for Medicaid.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, extremely wealthy individuals, living on the dividends of their investments that they didn't have to (and actually couldn't) claim as income, furious that all they qualified for WAS Medicaid.

Recent immigrants, who were not naturalized citizens (with no intention of becoming ones) qualified for the best of the best insurance plans with 100% paid for by "tax credits" (more on that in a bit), who were in the process of inviting all of their extended family to come live with them in the US to take advantage of the health insurance benefits.

With the initial kick-off of "ObamaCare" coming under so much scrutiny at the start of it in 2013, there was an amazing amount of misinformation being published and broadcast that did more harm than good.  Those "free" tax credits that everyone thought was free money from the government wasn't free at all.  It wasn't even from the government.  It was a person's own anticipated tax refund that they getting in advance to discount the cost of the health insurance from the Marketplace.

But because many of those hired to take the phone calls from panicked (and angry) people trying to enroll before the deadline didn't understand how the program worked, or even how insurance worked, a lot of the misinformation was coming from the call center representatives who were supposed to explain it to the consumers.  People signed off on using all of their future tax refund without even realizing what they were giving up, or that there were other options ~ such as getting health insurance outside of the Marketplace.

When tax time rolled around at the beginning of 2014, imagine the shock and surprise when people who had been counting on their large refund checks to pay for home repairs, vacations, or other long planned for necessities ... only to find out that they were not getting anything back, and were actually going to have to owe even more.  That's what happened for a lot of people.

The thing that really boggled my mind about the bills that came today wasn't how much the health insurance company paid on our behalf, but how much the medical provider discounted the cost of their services (Mobile Telemetry; Heart Monitor & Report) based on what they negotiated with our insurance company.  Essentially they were saying that what they were charging us ($7,500!) was really only worth what the insurance company actually paid ($966.42)  plus our portion ($241.61).  So really just $1,208.03 ~ 16% of what they would charge someone with no insurance.

Someone without any health insurance would have been stuck with the full $7,500 bill, trying to figure out how to pay for it.   If they could just afford to pay $25 a month, it would take them 25 years to pay it off.  $50 a month?  Almost 13 years to pay off.  If they couldn't afford to make any payments, as many elderly, homeless, or underemployed are forced to choose, their credit is destroyed.  While medical bills may not be reflected on a credit report, when the medical provider writes them off as a bad debt and sells them to a collection agency, there is no such grace.

Or mercy.

I don't know what the political future will be like with the upcoming elections.  But what I do know is that there has to be some kind of regulation on the price of being healthy.  There has to be options for medical care that will not bankrupt lives.