The Affordable Care Act

Image result for 1990 buick regal silver coupeImagine that you have a car. Maybe this car: a 1990 Buick Regal.

It’s not the greatest on gas mileage, but it gets you where you need to go. To work. To the store. To the doctor. Out and about to where you need to go.

Now you don’t have any plans to just abandon it on the side of the road simply because it only gets 15 miles to the gallon . I mean, it still gets you where you need to go. Plus it makes absolutely no sense to just abandon it on the side of the road and wander along until you happen upon a new car.

That’s what the GOP is asking the American people to do. To leave the Affordable Care Act in a ditch on the side of the highway and continue on in hopes of finding an alternative.

The ACA isn’t perfect. No one is debating that. But it’s evened the playing field for millions of Americans who otherwise wouldn’t have access to healthcare, whether due to preexisting conditions, to employment status, or for any other reason. Someone with a family history of cancer or with high blood pressure isn’t barred from getting health insurance. And people who work for employers who don’t offer benefits (whether for full-time or part-time work) or who’re self-employed, they get access to healthcare.

That’s not all. ACA doesn’t allow insurance companies to put a cap on coverage, so they can’t drop someone who’s needed more than $200,000 worth of treatment for a spinal cord injury. It also forces insurance companies to charge men and women the same premium. All forms of birth control are covered. Preventative treatment–whether wellness exams or flu vaccines–are covered.

There’s one thing to consider above all: some people are alive today because of this law. They were able to afford lifesaving medication or treatment that they otherwise wouldn’t have gotten.

As I said, ACA isn’t perfect. It’s far more expensive than it should be. Plus health insurance companies can choose not to participate in health exchanges, meaning limited choices for people in certain states.

But I’d much rather be driving a 1990 Buick Regal that gets crap gas mileage than walk along the side of the highway and hope to find a nicer car along the way. I’d rather have health insurance that’s imperfect than to have only promises that the government will come up with a plan soon. Because soon isn’t now. And I–along with 20 million other Americans–need health insurance now.

On Season 4 of Sherlock

Warning: This post contains spoilers for season 4 of Sherlock.

This most recent season of Sherlock definitely had some good moments. Mainly when it came to character development. But when it came to story and re-imagining the original short stories, I felt like this season fell flat. Which was a disappointment after the impressive season 3 and the strong The Abominable Bride.

The Six Thatchers
I have mixed feelings about The Six Thatchers. It was a Mary-centered episode, which is always a good thing in my book because I love her character. Plus John and Sherlock’s character development (both with John cheating and Sherlock’s devotion to Mary) were fantastic.

However I had a hard time with how this episode linked to the original cannon. One of the hallmarks of Sherlock is that it re-imagines the original Holmes stories, and this episode was obviously referencing “The Six Napoleons.” But it felt more as a means to an end, as a plot device for Mary’s story. It was a letdown after how well the series did it before, like with The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Empty Hearse.

The Lying Detective
Without a doubt, The Lying Detective was my favorite episode of the season. It had massive stakes–Sherlock’s life was on the line–for John. Should he believe his best friend? Or should he walk away from the man he blamed for Mary’s death? Him imagining her still being there made things even more interesting.

The villain–Culverton Smith–also made the episode memorable. Even though I knew that he was the bad guy and knew that he was a serial killer, I still doubted Sherlock’s deductions. He was too charming. He had too many reasonable explanations. And that was amazing.

The Final Problem
There’s no other way to say it: The Final Problem was over the top. It felt like I was watching a PG-13 version of Saw with all the tasks that Eros forced the Holmes brothers and John to complete. Plus there was the whole “secret, evil sibling” angle that felt like it came from left field, especially Eros’s ability to seemingly hypnotize people.

The saving grace for this episode was the character development. Not so much forJohn apart from cementing that he’s actively trying to do the best that he can. But absolutely for Sherlock and Mycroft. They emerged on the other side as far more human than they’ve ever appeared in the series. I’ll never forget Mycroft burying his face in his hands and turning away when the prison governor was about to be killed. That was my favorite moment.

With how season 4 ended, it’s not absurd to think that this might be the end of Sherlock. I hope that it’s not. And that’s not just because I want to seem more re-imaginings of my favorite Holmes stories, but it’s because there are so many more layers to these characters that are just waiting to be exposed.

Image result for sherlock season 4

An Open Letter to the North Carolina GOP

Dear North Carolina GOP,

Class is gracefully bowing to the will of the people. It is keeping your chin held high when citizens express opinions that differ from yours or when election results are not in your favor. It’s a defining characteristic for any upstanding politician. Or any respectable human being.

I could go on and on about class in respect to House Bill 2, but I shouldn’t have to. Anyone with an iota of class understands that everyone deserves respect. It doesn’t matter what gender they identify as, who they love, or the color of their skin. Even if you disagree with their beliefs or how they live their lives, class is getting along and giving respect anyway. Class is also standing that they are as much your constituents as anyone else.

I am thoroughly disappointed with the lack of class shown by the North Carolina GOP over the past year. You passed HB2 in a hurried, dead of night session, and you later blamed Democrats when the legislature failed to repeal that law. Class would be admitting your stipulation that communities be able to indefinitely delay the passing of anti-discrimination laws.

Let me give you an example of what class looks like.

This past fall, a Republican campaign office was firebombed right here in North Carolina. Democrats and Republicans from around the country donated thousands of dollars to rebuild it. A great many of them probably disagreed with the views of your party, but they donated anyway. Because no one should feel targeted for their beliefs.

We may disagree. We may call each other out when we see things that aren’t right. But we still offer respect.

That is class.

I implore you–men, women, and those in-between–of the GOP to take a step back. Examine the mark you will leave on history and the people of North Carolina. It takes courage to admit that your actions will put you on the wrong side of history. And it takes class to act and change that.

 

I should not be allowed unsupervised at Lowes

So. I went to Lowes a few weeks ago. I came home with four cinder blocks, two halves of an 8-foot board, a bird-feeder hook, and bamboo.

The thing was that I didn’t plan on buying anything when I wandered into the store. In fact, heading to Lowes wasn’t even on my agenda for the day when I left the apartment. It was just supposed to be a quick trip out of my apartment for a new clock to replace the one that’d fallen off my wall.

Ever since I was bitten by the DIY-bug, there’s an outdoor shelf that I’ve wanted to build for a while. It’s an easy project. No tools needed, just a bit of paint. And my brain decided that today was the day for that project to get done. I have no idea why. I long ago gave up trying to figure out how my mind works.

So I bought all the supplies I needed for the shelf, a bird-feeder hook to hang my wind-chimes, and a stalk of bamboo. The shelf has been assembled, and the bamboo has found its new home. I’ve named her Sophia, by the way.

What’s the moral of this story? I should not be allowed into Lowes on my own when there are DIY projects dancing around in my head.

The finished project and my windchimes

The finished project and my windchimes

Goodbye 2016, and Hello 2017

Fun Fact: My parents used to tell my brother and I that the New Year started at 8PM on December 31st. It wasn’t until one of my friends pointed out that midnight was the magic hour when one year turned into the next that we convinced Mom and Dad to let us stay up.

I still stay awake until midnight, though the adult in me is often tempted to crawl under the covers before then. It was the same this time around: I fought keep my eyes open while watching the ball drop in Times Square.

There was ample time–of course–to reflect on 2016 and to look forward to 2017.

2016
It wasn’t a bad year on a personal level (which I feel a bit guilty about since it turned out to be a dumpster fire as a whole). I accomplished my biggest goal of the year: moving to Charlotte, North Carolina. I’ve wanted to move south ever since graduating college, so this was a major deal.

Then there was the Collaborative Writing Challenge. I wrote five chapters in total for The Map and Eslyd’s Awakening, and four of those chapters were chosen to go in the books. Plus I wrote a starter chapter for a CWC project that I decided I liked too much to submit and will be writing the novel this coming year.

And I downsized my Goodreads Reading Challenge from previous years (30 as opposed to 52), which turned out to be a good thing because I finished it with a couple days to spare.

2017
Instead of doing resolutions for 2017, I’m setting goals.They are primarily writing-related. I’ve already outlined what I want to get done this year, and it includes two novels, three short stories, finishing a novella, and revising said novella. It’s a lot. But I’m up for the challenge. I’d also like to get back to a regular schedule for blog posts.

I plan on tackling another Goodreads challenge, keeping up my tradition of visiting somewhere new, and putting myself in a position where I can buy a house in 2018.

What’re your plans for 2017?  I hope you had a Happy (and safe) New Year’s Celebration!

Image result for new years

What I’ve Been Reading… December 2016

I embarked on the Goodreads Challenge this year (like I have the past few years) and decided to read 30 books. I read 52 books the past couple years, but I knew that there’d be far too much happening–between moving and everything else–to realistically read a book a week. Thanks to cramming three books into my head the last week of December, I officially completed the challenge!

32370233The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
~Shahrzad must enchant Khalid–her husband and the Caliph of Khorasan–with stories night after night if she hopes to stay alive.
This book is one part “Beauty & the Beast” and one part “A Thousand and One Arabian Nights”. The characters–along with their different agendas–jumped off the page, making me want to pick up book 2.

28186322A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn
~Veronica Speedwell finds herself inexplicably bound to a boorish natural-historian named Stoker to solve a murder and the mystery of her past.
I’m a sucker for historical mysteries, especially if they’re set in Victorian England. This one also had a badass female lead and a compelling male sidekick.

23719489Arsenic in Assinippi by John F. Gallagher
~A non-fiction book about the trial of Jennie May Eaton for her husband’s murder.
Though obviously well-researched, this book was a bit dry for my tastes. But it was still a fantastic study of a high-profile trial that took place near my hometown in Massachusetts.

24885744Mockingbird by Chuck Wendig
~Miriam Black must track down a serial killer before he starts killing teen girls.
Miriam Black is one of my favorite anti-heroes, and the only anti-heroine that I can recall coming across. There’s such a frantic energy that follows her–and the story–throughout the 300 or so pages, making it easy enough to read in a day.

21848263The One You Want by Gena Showalter
~Kenna Starr wants nothing more than to overcome her reputation in her small town, but heartthrob Dane Michaelson’s arrival in town throws a wrench in her plans.
This had everything that I could ever want from a contemporary romance: a sweet heroine, a smoldering hero, and a sappy ending. It’s a novella (only 109-ish pages), so it’s a quick read.

 

 

It Was Never About Patriotism

Patriotism (n): love for or devotion to one’s country

~Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Questioning someone’s patriotism has long been a tried and true tactic for shutting down protest. Americans who questioned government surveillance after the attacks on September 11th were chastised for not being patriotic or supporting our fighting men and women overseas. Those who spoke out against Joseph McCarthy’s witch-hunt for Communists and communist-sympathizers found themselves black-listed in the 1950’s for being un-American.

The Republican establishment in Washington, D.C. has even recently used this patriotism tactic as a weapon against Hilary Clinton and her supporters in reference to the 2012 Benghazi attacks.

Patriotism is–according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary–love for or devotion to one’s country. There’s nothing in that definition that excludes someone who questions the government’s actions from being patriotic. They can love and be devoted to their country and also question the actions of its government.

I’d argue that those who question their government are actually the most patriotic. Because they’re the ones forcing our leaders to justify their actions and to call them out when their actions don’t align with the goals of the people. It’s plenty easy to go round and round defending one’s patriotism in light of questioning the government. But going round and round proving one’s patriotism takes time that a person won’t be spending questioning the government.

It’s a diversionary tactic. It distracts from the real issue–whatever that issue is–while the person justifies their patriotism. And that gives the accuser plenty of time to keep doing what they were doing before they were questioned.

It’s never really about patriotism.

Two very important pieces of news broke in early December: a secret CIA investigation revealed that Russia attempted to sway the presidential election in favor of Donald Trump and certain Republicans knew before Election Day. One Republican who knew, Mitch McConnell, purposefully withheld that information from the public. And interestingly enough, his wife has been appointed to a position in the presidential cabinet.

The Republican identity has long been associated with the American flag and the Pledge of Allegiance and soldiers. It’s all about patriotism and loving one’s country and the good ol’ boys. Republicans are often the ones accusing others of being un-patriotic.

For a group of people who routinely questions other people’s patriotism, it’s awfully telling that they’re okay with a foreign government interfering in our presidential election. How do I know that they’re okay with it? Because they didn’t shout it from the rooftops the moment they got the information. Because they kept that information close to their chests throughout the election and even after Election Day.

It was never about patriotism. It was about distracting everyone as the Republicans got exactly what they wanted, whether it was passing legislation or getting themselves into positions of power. They do not care about this country or about ensuring that the government serves the American people.

They’re in it for themselves. Period.

Christmas is….

Christmas is more than just December 25th.

Christmas is the unending songs about snow and Santa Claus on the radio. It’s the inflatable decorations, twinkling lights, and reindeer in front yards. It’s when Christmas cards are addressed and mailed. It’s letters addressed to the North Pole that are slipped into mailboxes.

There are the children screaming when they sit on Santa’s lap, and there are those who drag their parents across the mall to see Kris Kringle. There are glass ornaments and plastic ornaments and wood ornaments–some very old and other brand new–gingerly placed on branches. There are candy canes turned into reindeer with googly eyes and pipe cleaners.

Cookies are left out with a note and a class of milk. NORAD tracks a sleight with eight reindeer around the globe as young ears strain to hear hooves on the other side of the ceiling. And presents with crisp edges and those with wrinkled paper sit under Christmas trees, waiting to be unwrapped.

Christmas is family and friends and kindness. Sometimes it’s pain and heartache. But more often, Christmas is love. And it’s a kind of magic that comes but once a year.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy Holidays.

Gift Ideas for Writers

The holiday season is upon us. Christmas carols play on just about every radio station and buffet shoppers at stores in malls and shopping plazas. Lots of shoppers are missing out on the songs all together as they pop online for a bit of shopping there. Or all of it.

No matter where you shop, writers can be hard friends or family members to buy gifts for. So here are a few suggestions that might help find something for the writer in your life.

Gift Cards
I’m partial to Barnes & Noble and Books-a-Million, but any gift card will do. One to a coffee shop will get them a drink and an excuse to claim one of the tables for a couple hours. Or a gift card to an office supply store since printer ink can be pretty expensive. Even a gift card for archery lessons or a dance classes can help fuel their muse.

Signed Books
Thanks to the internet, it’s never been easier to find an autographed book. Small bookstores–like the Poisoned Pen and FoxTale Book–typically carry them after authors visit for signings and offer them for sale online. Barnes & Noble also carries autographed copies for Black Friday, and Target has begun carrying them intermittently. Some authors even offer signed copies on their websites.

Convention Admission
Writing is typically a solitary endeavor. But when conventions come to town, it’s a  networking opportunity for writers in their own backyard. Plus writers get the  opportunity to listen to experts on panels and ask questions of industry professionals.

Time to Write
Everybody needs more time. Writers are no different and struggle to carve even thirty minutes out of their schedule to sit at the keyboard and write. So cook dinner on Thursdays or take the dog out for his nightly walk or entertain the kids at an arcade on Saturday morning. Anything that takes an item off the writer’s to-do list and frees up time for writing.

What I’ve Been Reading Lately…

I’ve gotten into the habit of always keeping a book in my purse, which means I’m getting a whole lot more reading done. Before work. During lunch. Even for an hour before bedtime. Here’s what I’ve read over the past few weeks.

30269117Inferno by Dan Brown
~Robert Langdon wakes up in an Italian hospital with no memory and a military force chasing him for a secret only he can unravel.
Short chapters, multiple points of view, and the premise made for an entertaining read. However I was pretty disappointed with the ending. For a book with so much promise, it felt like a cop out.

 

6979934

The Man from Hell by Barrie Roberts
~Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson must untangle a web of lies and tragedy to catch Lord Blackwater’s murderer.
This felt like a classic Sherlock Holmes story, written in the same style as the canon. And as a history nerd, I was hooked on the chapters depicting life penal colony Australia.

 

27983358In Too Deep by Sherry D. Ficklin
~Farris is willing to write off a classmate’s death as suicide until she gets a cryptic note that begs her to find the killer.
This book was an impulse buy on my Nook, even though I wasn’t necessarily interested in continuing with the #Hacker series after reading the first book earlier this year. I’m glad that I did since this book became very, very hard to put down.

 

15396970Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen
~Ruby has only been able to rely on herself through most of her life, but can she change now that her sister and brother-in-law are giving her a future?
I love every Dessen book that I’ve ever picked up, and this book wasn’t any different. In addition to making characters deal with pretty big issues, Ruby’s journey was engaging from the first page.

 

10869746Rise of the Governor (The Walking Dead #1) by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga
~Brian Blake knows that his brother, Phillip, is the only reason he’s survived so far, but he soon sees how the zombie apocalypse is changing his brother.
The Governor is my favorite Walking Dead character, despite being off-his-freaking-rocker. I loved seeing into both Brian’s and Phillip’s psyches, and the ending was fantastic.