Dropped by the Helping Hand of Obamacare

Help! I’ve fallen through the cracks and I can’t get up!

Recently I decided I’d better sign up for Obamacare, so I telephoned my local application counselor for help. She suggested I make an appointment with her, but I had some questions first.

I started with, “Is the Website secure?”

I could hear some fancy dancing in the background. “Well, personally I’ve never had a problem.” She continued, “No Website is totally secure.”

True dat, I thought.

She added, “You can’t believe everything you hear in the media.”

True dat, too. So I continued.

“What about income requirements for a subsidy? My wife has Medicare, but I’m not yet old enough for Medicare so I’m the only one who needs health insurance. Right now I don’t have any health insurance at all.”

She said, “To qualify for a subsidy you must have an adjusted gross income above $15,210.”

I responded, “Our adjusted gross income was $4,856 last year. Does this mean I can’t get Obamacare?”

“No, you can still buy health insurance on the Marketplace. You just don’t qualify for a subsidy.”

I paused. “Without a subsidy, what will health insurance cost me per month?”

“Oh, $400-500.”

“You mean I  don’t qualify for any help?”

“Well,” she said, “You could have qualified for Medicaid, except the Montana legislature voted against an expansion of Medicaid last year. Unless they vote to expand Medicaid, I’m afraid nothing can be done.”

This brought up my last question: “I can’t afford $400-500 per month. Does this mean I’ll have to pay the fine?”

“Oh, no, sir; you won’t have to pay the fine. You’re eligible for a Hardship Exemption.”

I’m feeling a little dizzy. I think I’ll go the Emergency Room.

Numbed Down

Aaron Alexis of Texas was a whack job. That’s all I can conclude, although as of today law enforcement officials still have no inkling as to why Alexis sprayed bullets into a crowd of innocent people at the Washington Navy Yard in our nation’s capitol yesterday. Before police took him out, Alexis had killed 12 people and wounded three.

When I read the article yesterday in my local newspaper I thought, Yet another mass shooting. Ho-hum. But then I caught myself. Ho-hum? HO-HUM??? Where was my outrage? Where was my indignation? Where was my fury? Have I now heard of so many mass shootings that I have become heartless? Insensitive? Even numb?

And where was God? Could He not have prevented this? Could He not have prevented Newtown? And if He could have prevented these things, why didn’t He?

It’s these last four questions indie film maker Albert Salaz Jr. of Diego Productions considers in his latest film short Moretti, which competed last week at the Los Angeles International Short Film Festival. I was privileged to screen a prerelease version of Moretti just a few days ago.

Moretti is powerful. Moretti is thought-provoking. Moretti is outrageous. And if you’re sensitive to the F-bomb being dropped a couple of times, you’ll want to plug your ears when the bombs fall from the sky. But to me, the assault on my sensitivities was worth it. The trailer is available online (minus the F-bombs).

A fifth question occurred me as the full film concluded. If you decide to view the full version of Moretti when it’s pubically available, this question may also occur to you -

How far does the grace of God extend?

Americans Don’t Like to Think

Is my title true or false? Think about it!

And think about YOU, especially when it comes to films and/or reading (you DO read, don’t you? Not just on the Internet, but I mean really READ. As in BOOKS.).

Truth is, thinking is hard work and that’s why most of us would rather be entertained than think. Even it we’re readers, most of us would rather read pulp fiction than literature. And we’d rather (especially if we’re male) watch the car chase in the film The Shooter than unravel, for example, the complexities of films like The Kings Speech.

I think of myself as a thinker. Therefore I don’t want people to TELL me what to think; I want to THINK what I think! So I like films that make me think; that’s why I’m a big fan of independent films, or “indie” films as some call them. In consideration of all of the above, that’s why I loved the indie film I just screened called, Leave My Flowers Alone produced, written and directed by Albert Salaz Jr.

In just under 16 minutes, Leave My Flowers Alone interweaves multiple themes and delivers an ending with a punch: an ending that not only entertains, but leaves you thinking, “What if?”

If you’ve ever struggled to overcome things things in your past, this film is for you.

If you have secrets in your past and wonder whether or not to reveal them, this film is for you.

If you’re a man and get frustrated and take it personally when you can’t “fix” things (or people) this film is for you.

Check out the trailer. And let me know what you THINK!

Great RV Campsite in St. Regis, Montana

Considering a vacation in Montana this year? Looking for a good campsite for your motor home or camp trailer with tons of outdoor opportunities right out the door of your RV?

Your Montana RV Campsite is Waiting for You

We have a single RV site available. Full hookups including power, water, sewer and garbage service, private setting, 360 degree of the mountains, and the best rates in the area! We also offer discounts for weekly and long term camping.

We’re located just 33 miles east of the Montana-Idaho border just off Interstate 90, and three miles north of St. Regis. Free fishing, hiking, backpacking, and hunting information. Mineral County (where we’re privileged to live) is 86 percent publicly owned – virtually all National Forest or State lands. Essentially an outdoor person’s playground! Miles and miles of trails, Forest Service roads, and over 50 mountain lakes to explore. Come and experience the “Overlooked Montana” and get away from the crowds!

Just give us a phone call at 406.649.0649 for all the details. Hope to see ya in Montana!

P.S.: If you just need some free info about area outdoor opportunities, call us! We love to share about our corner of Big Sky Country.

 

Hundreds of Miles of Hiking Trials near St. Regis, Montana are Available to You

Small Town, Big Heart: Making it Happen for Others in Rural Montana

They come together from divergent backgrounds, life experiences, cultures, traditions and political persuasions and cooperate like a wedge of Canada geese flying in faultless formation. Their goal is to offer townsfolk and visitors three full days of wholesome entertainment and recreation as they organize the largest event of its kind in Montana. The St. Regis Flea Market, held every Memorial Day weekend since 1985 hosts hundreds of visitors and vendors in the 13 acre St. Regis Community Park. And the price of admission is just a smile.

Although Montana ranks among the top 10 states when it comes to volunteerism few towns can compare with St. Regis, a neighborly community of about 300 residents nestled in the mountains of Western Montana. Although St. Regis lies just off Interstate 90 at Exit 33, it is usually ignored by motorists hurrying toward tourist destinations. However, those who glide off the Interstate and invest a little time at the Visitor’s Center will find that this small community serves big slices of amusement and recreation.

Starting with the annual St. Patrick’s Day Potluck and Dance, the events continue with an Easter egg hunt, Fourth of July Parade followed by a carnival and community-wide fireworks display (locally known as “group insanity”), a free Thanksgiving Day Dinner, Christmas Bazaar and New Year’s Eve Party. The list goes on, but the largest event, and the function that funds all the others is the Flea Market.

Every year, over 150 vendors fill the park and offer an eclectic array of goods. Many of the vendors return year after year. Ron and Linda Kindred of Clinton, Montana who have returned for over seven years and offer leather goods and military surplus, explain why they keep coming back. Ron jokes, “It’s like a disease you can’t get rid of.” But Linda adds, “Actually, it’s kind of like a family reunion. We have vendor friends that we meet here from Spokane, Helena, and Billings.”

However, it is not just the vendors who are drawn back to the Flea Market every year. Shoppers return from all over the Northwest seeking something special. But the Flea Market offers more than potential treasure. The food cooked and served by the volunteers is hard to resist. And why bother? For those not watching their waistline, every morning starts with an all-you-can-eat breakfast featuring hot cakes, eggs, sausage and bacon, all for six dollars. Shoppers who recover from breakfast can return to the concession throughout the day for snacks, hamburgers and more.

Monies earned by the Flea Market furnished materials to construct the St. Regis Community Center and Visitor Center in 2001. The 5,500 square foot building was built mostly by volunteers. In addition to community events, the Community Center is available for such functions as weddings, birthday parties, and family reunions.

For the volunteers of St. Regis, organizing the year’s events amounts to many hours of work. Why do they do it? Perhaps it is a sense of gratitude that motivates them, perhaps it is an expression of appreciation for the privilege of living in the Last, Best Place. Perhaps it is just a reasonable response to all that Montana is, an overflow of the heart. For most volunteers, it simply distills to loving the community and giving back.

Although some feel that volunteer work is often thankless, Flea Market manager Anita Bailey disagrees. “I have never felt that my volunteer work is thankless. I have always felt appreciated. And I love meeting and working with people.”

Community Council President John Cheesman agrees and adds, “I like seeing people working together to accomplish goals. This is the real deal: coming together for the betterment of the community and providing quality events throughout the year.”

Ida Alexander, who has helped out for over 25 years likes the feeling of accomplishment. “It’s such a wonderful feeling when everything turns out.”

Many of the Community Council volunteers have found volunteerism so agreeable that they want extra helpings. For example, 10 year Community Council volunteer Glen Koepke also helps out with Community Center maintenance, is a liaison with the Forest Service, and was the catalyst for creation of the Loge Nature Trail adjacent to the community park.

Although anyone with a St. Regis address is a de facto member of the Community Council, volunteerism is not limited to council membership. During the January snowstorm this year, townsfolk wielding snow shovels, steering snow blowers and driving snowplows joined forces. There was more snow getting shoveled, blown, and plowed than was falling from the sky.

St. Regis is a small town with a big heart. As John Cheesman says, “Almost everyone is willing to help out if you just ask them.”

Be sure to view a few of the photos made at the 2011 Flea Market – Just click “Flea Market Gallery” and select any photo to start the slide  show.

The Bear Story

The following story was written by my friend, Craig Sheppard. It is a good story to share with children, but adults will enjoy it too.  

There was once a family of bears who lived in a cave high on the side of a mountain. There was a momma bear, a papa bear and a baby bear. The mama and papa bear had one rule they taught the baby bear. The rule was never cross the big creek outside the cave, for beyond the creek lay a deep, dark forest. They reminded baby bear of the rule often. But baby bear really wanted to cross the big creek.

One day baby bear couldn’t stand it any longer. He waited until momma bear and papa bear were very busy. Then he went outside and quickly crossed the creek!

At first, baby bear thought it was exciting to be on the other side of the creek. He ran along the bank, always staying within eye distance of the cave. Then he became bolder and followed a trail he found heading into the forest. Soon it became very dark all around him. When he saw it becoming darker he became frightened. He tried to follow the trail back to the creek, but somehow he’d lost the trail. It was getting late and he finally realized he was lost. This made him more frightened and he began to cry.

As he sat and wondered what to do, he heard a noise in the woods drawing near him. This frightened baby bear even more. He was about to run away from the noise, when suddenly a big moose broke through the trees. It was just the moose that had made all the noise. The moose saw the baby bear and greeted him.

“Hi baby bear, it is nice to meet you. But what are you doing in the deep, dark forest? I thought all the papa and momma bears taught their babies not to walk in the forest.”

Baby bear said, “I’m lost, big moose, and I’m very scared. Can you tell me how to get to the big creek?”

The moose recognized baby bear as belonging to the momma and papa bear that lived in the cave on the side of the mountain. The moose told baby bear to follow him.

After a little walking baby bear heard the creek and recognized where he was. They finally came out of the dark woods and crossed the creek to his cave. Mama and Papa were worried and jumped for joy because the moose brought baby bear home. They thanked the moose greatly, and baby bear gave the moose a big hug!

To us, the world is like the forest. When we are given boundaries like the creek, we have a natural desire to go where we should not go. When we do something we shouldn’t do it feels good at first. But then we often get lost – and frightened. The moose is like Jesus Christ. He knows where we are, and if we ask Him he’ll bring us to safely back to God.

Luke 15:11-24.

Sciatica to Spinal Fusion: My Journey

Sometimes the pain is so bad it feels like you’re being pulled apart. Narcotic pain-killers bring very little, if any, relief. Stretching exercises bring temporary relief, but then the pain returns like a bill you keep forgetting to pay – with interest added.

It’s called sciatica. Its cause varies, but it’s normally the result of pressure on the sciatic nerve by one or more bulging or compressed disks in the lower back. Sometimes bone spurs on the lower spine cause the problem.

The sciatic nerve controls the function of the hips and legs. Sciatica caused pain, tingling, or numbness in one or more hips and/or legs and feet. The pain can range from annoying to moderate to the worst pain you’ve ever had.

Sometimes the condition can be relieved by physical therapy or by injections of anti-inflammatory drugs in the lower back which can bring pain relief and allow the body time to heal. Sometimes the condition results in surgical spinal fusion of one or more vertebrae. In my case the later was required.

I’m writing not as a physician but as a sufferer of sciatica who is hoping to be of some help or comfort to other sufferers. If you require more precise information, talk to your doctor. In addition, there are some great resources on the Web. One in particular I found helpful is http://www.spine-health.com/video/sciatica-interactive-video.

The posts in the category “Sciatica” chronicle my journey from the first signs of sciatica to my spinal fusion surgery. To follow my journey, begin with the post titled, “September 13, 2010” (click on category “Sciatica”, scroll to bottom, and then click on the link “older entries” twice).

Should you wish to add comments, feel free to jump in at any point. I’m not a medical professional so I cannot help with diagnosis or treatment, but if you’re also a sciatica sufferer perhaps we can find mutual help, comfort, and encouragement as we interact.

June 3, 2011

I have very little sciatic nerve pain now, although I’m still taking special medication for that. I had a post-op appointment with my surgeon a few days ago. He informed that everything looks good. I asked if the residual sciatic nerve pain will eventually go away. He said that it should, but nerves heal very slowly so it could take several months.

Activity-wise, I have no restrictions. The surgeon told me to just let my body be my guide, and especially not push it. For example, I just walked ½ mile on my treadmill at 1.8 MPH and that was enough for now. Heavy lifting is out for now. But that’s OK; other than hiking and things of that nature I do most of my “work” in front of a computer screen.

May 20, 2011

Four weeks since surgery and I’m doing so much better. I don’t have to use a walker anymore, but I do use a pair of trekking poles if I’m walking around outside. I live in the country, and the ground is rather uneven. If I should fall I’d probably mess everything up, and I sure don’t want to go through this again. Ever!

I can stay up most of the day now, but I do get tired easily and have to lie down sometimes. The back pain from the surgery is pretty much under control, although I still have to use pain medication sometimes. The nerve pain is now gone about 75% of the time, and if it does hurt it’s just annoying rather than consuming. I can even roll over in bed by myself if I take it slow.

I can’t drive yet, but I’ve accompanied my wife to the grocery store and we’ve been able to get out and do a little visiting. We’re even going over to some friends for supper tomorrow evening.

It’s been a long, slow, painful recovery but I’m glad I did it. I’d do it again, too. The surgery has had other benefits as well. For example, my posture in much improved. I used to walk kind of stooped over due to back problems, but now I can walk, sit and stand straight up. I’ve even regained some of my former height. I’m only ¼” shorter than I was 40 years ago!

Reflections on writing, life, culture, faith, and leisure from Montana