Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Prince of Tides Lunch

I have a really sad story to share which is unusual for me since I like to keep things light and happy, but I feel the need to write about this so I'm going to do it here.

I was back in my home town over the Christmas holiday and had lunch with a friend from school who I haven't seen in 31 years. We weren't close friends and didn't hang out together after school, but we did have classes together off and on from 1st-12th grade. I was very shy and socially awkward in school (okay fine, I still am!) and Debi was very friendly and outgoing but she was always kind to me and I appreciated her very much for that.

We had a really nice lunch, gave each other a brief synopsis of the past 31 years, and reminisced about a time when our thighs were smaller. We both had the same homeroom teacher in first grade but when Debi asked who my homeroom teacher was in second grade I couldn't remember. This has always been an issue for me because I used to be able to list all of my homeroom teachers from 1st-12th grade except for my second grade teacher...never could remember who it was.

Debi informed me that I had Mrs. Beelzebub because she did too. Obviously her real name is not Mrs. Beelzebub but you will see that it's an appropriate pseudonym.

When Debi asked if I could remember any specific incidents from second grade I couldn't come up with any. I do remember an incident in first grade involving another student being injured but other than that I can't recall anything specific until maybe 6th grade. Debi has a memory from second grade that involves me but it's not a pleasant memory and she was reluctant to share it for fear it might upset me. I'm sure I have forgotten more than one unpleasant memory but I remember a lot of them too so I assured her it was fine.

Debi's first memory of me was when we were sitting in Mrs. B's class and I raised my hand to ask if I could go to the bathroom. In first grade we had a bathroom in our classroom that we could use as needed but in second grade we were given scheduled bathroom breaks. It was not time for the bathroom break so Mrs. B told me no. A few minutes later I raised my hand again and asked if I could go to the bathroom. Again, Mrs. B said no, I would have to wait until the bathroom break.

You can see where this is going, right? Mrs. B wasn't very bright and clearly had no idea how a child's body works.

Debi said the third time I raised my hand I was bouncing in my seat, I seriously had to pee. And for the third time Mrs. B told me no, I would have to hold it until the bathroom break. Obviously I peed my pants. It happens, right? When a kid tells you they need to go, they need to go!

Evidently Mrs. B somehow thought that peeing my pants was my fault and I should be punished for it. She made me go get a mop from the janitor then she made me clean up my own pee in front of the whole class while still wearing my wet pants. Debi asked Mrs. B if she could help me but she was denied, I had to do it by myself.

Debi said the whole incident seriously traumatized her and apparently every other kid in the class as well. She said everyone was so affected by Mrs. B's cruelty that no one ever made fun of me for it. That says a lot. Kids rarely pass up an opportunity to make fun of one of their own.

Absolutely horrifying, right?! The whole time Debi was telling me this I was thinking...oh my gosh that's horrible! I feel so bad for that little girl! Oh wait. It was me.

Nothing Debi said triggered any kind of memory for me, which is probably a good thing. And I know she's still wondering if she should have kept it to herself but I am SO glad that she didn't. It actually explained a lot, including why I never could remember my second grade teacher's name!

This happened around 1973-74 and things were a lot different then. Can you imagine that same incident happening today? That teacher would be facing criminal abuse charges if the parent didn't kill her first. I don't know what happened to Mrs. B but picturing her in this scenario brings me comfort:

Hortus deliciarum manuscript
After our lunch I texted my sister since she is the keeper of our memories. She had no memory of me peeing my pants but she remembers peeing her pants in first grade and having to wear someone else's clothes for the rest of the day. She said it's a miracle we weren't known as the Pisser Sisters. I nearly busted a gut. My sister is the funniest person I know.

I texted my mom and asked her if I peed my pants in second grade. I believed every word Debi said but was hoping to maybe get more information or another perspective. My mom's response was, "I think so. OMG I tried to forget."

Okay, so it pretty much traumatized everyone involved and clearly my mother is extremely proficient in teaching her children the art of the repressed memory!

I was always shy and quiet in school and Debi wondered if that incident had something to do with it. A second grader peeing her pants at school is bad enough but the way that teacher handled it is sure to leave permanent scars. I told Debi that I feel sure it did have an impact on my social development or lack thereof. But compared to what I experienced at home as a child it was really pretty minor. How sad is that?!

I experienced a lot of terrible things growing up but at the time I honestly didn't realize that they were not "normal". I thought every family was like mine so if you ask me if I had a good childhood I would say yes. I didn't understand how messed up it was until I was grown but I don't have any regrets or remorse about my family's dysfunction. We're all half-baked and that's okay. All those traumatic childhood events were necessary for me to be the person I am today. I am still shy and socially awkward but I'm perfectly comfortable in my own skin. The messed up person I am today is necessary for me to become the person I will be tomorrow.

Life is like puzzle where each piece is an event from our lives. It takes all of those pieces, good and bad, to complete the puzzle. That means that we sometimes have to pull our skeletons out of the closet to see where they fit in our puzzle.

So thank you, Debi, for taking that skeleton by the hand and gently guiding it out of the closet. I didn't even know it was there but I'm a big proponent of freeing all closet skeletons.

I don't know who said this but it has always been one of my favorite quotes:

I am a portrait of my past, a painter of my future. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Prem Ratan Dhan Payo aka Elvis Does Disney

I needed to get out of my own head for a little while this afternoon so I went to see Prem Ratan Dhan Payo. It's a 3 hour long Bollywood musical comedy subtitled in English. It was like the love child of a badly overacted Elvis movie and a live action version of a Disney cartoon. I wouldn't call it a good movie but I loved it.

The fairy tale story has been done half to death so it was predictable, the acting was bad, it didn't even attempt to be half way intelligent, there were a few witty moments but way more eye rolling ones, and I sat there for 3 hours with a goofy smile on my face.

The sets and costumes were spectacular and fit well with the ridiculous fairy tale plot. I was even tapping my toe to the badly lip synced song-and-dance scenes. If they had been subtitled I probably would have sung along...against my own will.

Apparently I live under a rock because I had never heard of Salman Khan but I read that he is something like the 7th highest paid actor in the world. I guess he's sort of a big deal, at least in India. I will admit that I can sort of understand that. He is rather pleasant to look at, has a nice smile, expressive eyes, and the dude is ripped. I mean RIPPED. He can't act, at all, but he really doesn't have to. I spent the first hour of the movie trying to reconcile him in my head because for some reason "hot Indian bodybuilder" seems like an oxymoron to me. Ya just don't see that very often. 

Why did I enjoy a movie that I'm so critical about? I have no idea. Maybe it was the unapologetically outdated happy fairy tale story. Or it might have been the Elvis-does-Disney song and dance numbers. It could have been the gorgeous colorful royal costumes or the over-the-top sets like the Place of Mirrors. Maybe it was the simplicity of entertainment for entertainment's sake: the good guy wins, he gets the girl, and everyone lives happily everafter.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Inspiration Conspiracy Continues!

On October 8, 2015 we had our second Inspiration Conspiracy video hop and it was another screaming success! When I left the first hop group (Genesis) to create the new group (Lazarus), the Genesis group decided to add another host channel to replace me. They very wisely chose Gina Ahrens to join Mike Deakin and PackerDi. The rest of the group stayed the same. Their results weren't as spectacular as the first hop but that was to be expected. Each channel still saw more growth in less time than ever before!

I decided to add an extra host to future groups so each time I move on to a new group they'll barely notice it. Heh. The graciously giving and infinitely inspiring Host Channels for the Lazarus group are Cat Hand, Patti Parrish, and Kelly Donovan.

These are the talented hopper channels we had the pleasure of hosting:

Audrea Gustafson  

Cindy Utter 

Since this was the Lazarus group's first time to hop together, they had the same kind of success that the Genesis group had on their first go round. Each of the channels in the Lazarus group started out with less than 800 subscribers. Within the first 48 hours of the hop, ALL of the hopper (not host) channels in the Lazarus group gained over 100 subscribers, two channels more than doubled in size and two channels got over 1000 views on their hop videos. Amazing!!!

If you missed the October hop you can watch it here: Inspiration Conspiracy Hop-Paper Bead Flowers

I've already created our third hop group, Inspiration Conspiracy-Trinity, and I am extremely excited to be hosting along with Leanne Lafleur, Rachel Doohen and Lindsay Weirich this time! Once again I can't reveal the names of our hoppers but I can tell you when you'll find out:

January 14, 2016
1:00 p.m. CST

At that time you can start the hop on my channel or any of the other host channels. You will be treated to a variety of art and craft process videos, each one no longer than 10 minutes so you can hop seamlessly in 1 viewing session. The hop is designed so that each viewer will see the hop videos in the same order no matter where they start. At the end of the hop rotation there will be a link that takes you to another hop group so you can watch all the videos in their rotation.

Since we've established that this hop format actually works, it is my desire to see it start duplicating itself. I have more to say about that, a LOT more, but it will have to wait.

I suppose I could leave you with a teaser. My idea is 1 part spider, 1 part Alcoholics Anonymous. and 2 parts starfish.

I know, I practically gave it away.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

The Inspiration Conspiracy

I'm obsessing over a new project. It's called The Inspiration Conspiracy and it's a mentoring program where larger, more established YouTube channels help smaller channels by increasing their exposure and providing support. This is only for those channels who produce creative content...mostly arts and crafts related.

Exactly how does this work? Well, I've only done it once but that one time was very successful so I'm now planning to do it again. And again, and again for as long as it continues to work!

It is basically just a video hop where you watch one video then click on a link that takes you to the next one and so on until you find yourself back where you started. I like working with about 13 channels, some are hop hosts and some are hop participants.

For our first hop I had the pleasure of working with PackerDi and Mike Deakin as my co-hosts. The hop participants were all YouTube channels with fewer than 1000 subscribers:

Creatively Amy-Amy Rhodes

Auntbecscreations-Becky McAuley

Hanny Tromp

Juna Biagioni

Linda Ann Smith

Mimi's Musings-Maryanne Mott

Pink at Heart-Rebekka Hay

Sheri Whitfield

Vicki Ross

Yva Lovee Arts

I hand picked them because I liked their art and felt they were serious about working to grow their channels. As luck would have it, I chose well...maybe a little too well.

My original plan was to assemble this group and do a hop. Then I planned to disband the group, assemble a new one and do a hop with the new group. That plan didn't really work out since the first group got along so well and enjoyed the experience so much that they refused to disband! No problem, I just shifted gears a little bit.

I decided to leave the first group in tact and create new groups for future hops. These are private Facebook groups that you can only join if invited. The reason for that isn't exclusivity since anyone who knows me knows that I have no tolerance for that kind of thing. The reason is because the size of the group is crucial to its success. Plus, the thing that everyone in the first hop liked best was the small group atmosphere so we're preserving that.

The first group is called Inspiration Conspiracy-Genesis because they were first. Get it? The new group I have just put together is called Inspiration Conspiracy-Lazarus because I decided that the project will live on. I'm hoping that this will eventually become a "thing" where more established arts and crafts channels will jump on board to help out the new channels. From my own experience it's a win-win for everyone including the entire creative community on YouTube.

Since our first hop is over, the Genesis group is free to do their own hops or collaborations as they see fit but they will also be participating in tandem with the Lazarus group. Each group will be doing separate hops but they will be released on the same day and time with links provided so that viewers can hop from hop to hop.

That makes perfect sense in my head but since we haven't actually tested this particular theory we'll just have to wait and see if all that hopping works!

When I created the Lazarus group I added a third co-host. This time I'm working with Kelly Donovan, Patti Parrish, and Cat Hand. We have 9 smaller channels participating, all with fewer than 1000 subscribers. I can't tell you who those channels are but I can tell you when you can find out:

October 8, 2015
1:00 p.m. CDT

At that time you can start the hop on my channel or any of the other host channels. You will be treated to a variety of art and craft videos, each one no longer than 10 minutes so you can hop seamlessly in 1 viewing session. The hop is designed so that each viewer will see the hop videos in the same order no matter where they start. At the end of the hop rotation there will be a link that takes you to the other group hop so you can see all the videos in that rotation.

The order of the videos is very specific and is the key to the success of the hop. Just how successful was it? I'll tell you. I compiled this data 48 hours after the Genesis hop was released:

Average number of subscribers gained in 48 hours for all channels, hoppers & hosts: 118 per channel

Average subscriber increase for channels who started with 100 or less: 108% increase

Average subscriber increase for channels who started with 100-200: 80% increase

Average subscriber increase for channels who started with 700-900: 19% increase

Average subscriber increase for the host channels: 1.8% increase

Average number of hop video views in 48 hours, hoppers only-no hosts: 788 views

Two hopper channels more than doubled in size.

One hopper channel gained over 200 subscribers in 48 hours.

One hopper video got over 1000 views in 48 hours.

Those are absolutely phenomenal results! I honestly didn't expect much for the host channels since our goal was to funnel our existing viewers to these smaller channels. I was extremely surprised to find that the hosts, myself included, had a significant increase in subscribers and views. Those of us who monetize our videos also saw a spike in our estimated earnings the day after the hop. I did not expect that either.

If you have an established YouTube channel (3000+ subscribers) and are interested in co-hosting a future Inspiration Conspiracy video hop, please contact me and let me know. As a hop host you will join a Facebook group with your co-hosts and hop participants. Participate in the group as time allows, the only requirement is that you check in at least once a week so we know you're still with us. You will make a process video no more than 10 minutes long and release it on the day of the hop. The rotation and all other little details will already be taken care of. Easy, right? I know...we should talk:

I'm a firm believer in The Golden Rule, Karma, what goes around comes around, etc. In the end, everybody wins. I know this for a fact because the more shout outs I do and the more time I spend helping smaller channels, the more my own channel grows. It's all about sharing the love!

Friday, August 21, 2015

How Not To Buy Insurance

You don't have to be elderly, uneducated or naive to get taken advantage of. It happened to me yesterday. Although I am not uneducated in general, I am uneducated when it comes to details about health insurance. Fortunately I was able to get educated before any serious damage was done but I am absolutely stunned at how easily I was duped. This is really long but I hope it's helpful for someone out there.

If you find yourself unexpectedly unemployed and needing to secure new health insurance within a matter of days, I have some tips to offer.

First and foremost, do NOT use this website for your search:

If you do, your phone will ring approximately every 5 minutes from sun up until sun down for at least 2 solid days. Every incoming call will display a different number so there is no effective way to block the calls. Don't do it. Trust me.

I didn't know that when I used this website yesterday to help with my health insurance search. It seemed harmless enough, the design was simple and pleasant. All I had to provide was my zip code, name, email address and phone number. Normally I never put my phone number in an inquiry form but I was certainly not opposed to receiving phone calls since we needed to get new insurance pronto.

I clicked on the button that said "Get Quote" and was immediately taken to another page where all kinds of different insurance policies were listed for comparison. I was staring glassy-eyed at all the options when I heard Jayson say those all too familiar words "let me let you talk to my wife". I was barely even aware his phone had rung.

I took the phone and the person on the other end said they were calling in response to the insurance inquiry I made online. I asked them if they were talking about the one I had just done literally 2 seconds ago...the one where the page still hadn't finished loading. They said yes. I said that's really freaky and borderline scary. They agreed.

I guess I should explain the reason I put Jayson's phone number on the form instead of mine. First of all, we have no land line, just cell phones and we like it that way. Second, I have no experience with shopping for insurance. We've always had it provided through Jayson's job where he is the insured and me & Taylor are the dependents. That is my mindset when it comes to insurance so not only did I put his phone number in the form but I put his name as well!

After a few preliminary questions I was transferred to Craig Schneider who introduced himself as a licensed agent with Health Benefits Center. I explained my situation and told him I wanted to see what my options were. The first thing he asked me is how much we're able to spend. The response on the tip of my tongue, the one I was barely able to bite back, was, "OMG Seriously??! Do you really think I'm stupid enough to tell a salesman how much I'm willing to spend?!"

Apparently I'm a lot stupider than that. Okay, maybe not stupid but most definitely uninformed. I told Crooked Craig that since we have no income we aren't able to spend anything at all but we still need insurance and I would like to know what's available. He explained that he has 16 different companies to choose from so he was confident we'd be able to find a good fit.

He began with a package that he said costs $332.83 per month. I don't know much about insurance and I know even less about Obamacare but I knew that sounded unreasonably low. However, I was willing to forgo some benefits in order to save money since that's something we're short on right now.

Crooked Craig started describing what sounded like the top of the line package. It was what he called a MultiPlan PPO with a huge network from which we could choose our doctors. We've always had a PPO so I liked the sound of that. When I mentioned the low price he explained that a MultiPlan is like a big group which helps to keep the costs down.

That sort of made sense to my unemployment traumatized brain so I let him continue.

He explained that it's through Companion Life which is well established and reputable. I've never heard of them but then I've never had to shop for health insurance so I have no idea what's out there. He also said our coverage is good nationwide, not just in Texas. That sounded great.

Then he said it includes dental and vision coverage, which sounded perfect but I began to expect the other shoe to drop at any moment.

He started rattling off all the benefits, copays, etc., which all sounded fantastic, but I had to cut him short since I really had only one major concern: prescription coverage.

Crooked Craig explained that it's a 3-tier system that will cover up to 80% of the cost of the prescriptions. He kept wandering off that topic and I had to bring him back a couple of times. I told him I was familiar with tiered plans and asked if there was a set copay amount for each tier. He said no, it's a percentage of the cost up to 80%. I wanted to ask if there was a different percentage for each tier but he kept wandering away from the topic and assured me that all the details would be forthcoming once we got signed up.

Again, I was about to let him know that I needed those details BEFORE we signed up but then he started telling me about the 30-day "free look" where we could take our time to read all the documentation and if we decide it's not going to work we will get a refund.

Getting a refund for something like that is generally a pain in the backside but we didn't have time to waste and overall it sounded too good to be true. So I told Craig that. I said, "It sounds too good to be true, what's the catch?"

He assured me there's no catch. He said one of the reasons they're able to keep costs so low is because it doesn't offer maternity coverage. I later found out that should have raised a big honkin' red flag but it didn't because I am uninformed when it comes to insurance and I pretty much ignored all the talk about Obamacare because we've always been insured through Jayson's job therefore it didn't apply us.

I know, I know. That was very foolish and I realize that now.

I told Crooked Craig I was ready to sign up and wanted more details on what it would cost. He said he would spell everything out but basically all it would take to get it started is the first month's premium plus the enrollment fee of $155 so the total would be $487.83.

Again, if I had a clue I would have known that there is never an enrollment fee when you apply for insurance but I didn't have a clue so I said okay. He did make sure to specifically ask me if any of us would be needing any kind of surgery within the next 12 months. He explained that there is a 12 month waiting period before we can receive full benefits on surgical procedures but that didn't include emergencies. If an appendix burst or one of us broke a leg, we would get our full benefits. I assured him we had no surgical needs that we were aware of. I reminded him that my one and only concern at this point was prescription coverage and he assure me I would be happy with it.

I completely failed to see anything wrong with what I was told, other than the fact that I was missing some detailed information. That didn't bother me too much since I knew I could cancel and get a refund if the details didn't please me.

I was transferred to Mario in the verification department of Health Benefits Center to complete my application. He said he was required by law to read several pages of "fine print" and to record the process. If I stopped him at any time to ask a question he would have to restart from the beginning and it would take at least 20 minutes to get through it all.

At that point I had been on the phone for over an hour already so I wasn't looking forward to another half hour of crap I wasn't even interested in hearing. Then Mario asked if I happen to be calling from a smart phone. I told him I was then he said we could save tons of time if he sent me a link to the documents and let me sign them electronically by phone.

I told him I'm a big fan of saving time so he sent me links to the documents and gave me very good instructions on how to sign by phone. He did warn me that there were a lot of pages and I would have to sign 8 or 9 times. I was good with that if it meant I got to avoid 20 minutes of listening to insignificant legalese.

I fully intended to browse though the documents because I never sign something that I haven't read and don't fully understand. That didn't really work. I was overwhelmed by the number of pages and the "fine print" is bad enough when it's full size but on a cell phone it's practically just squiggly lines. I gave up trying to read and just crossed my fingers that I wasn't signing something I would regret. Like an Amway membership.

At the end of it all Crooked Craig assured me I would be receiving email copies of everything as well has hard copies of all the detailed benefits. He said that he is my agent and he is available at any time if I have any questions whatsoever. He gave me his phone number and stressed that it was his direct line. It was an 800 number which is rarely a direct line so I asked him for his extension. He stumbled over it a little but did give me a 4-digit extension.

That whole process took over 2 exhausting hours so I relaxed while I looked over the documents that were emailed to me.

There was some confusing strangeness in the documents but really the only thing I was interested in was getting the details for the prescription coverage. I finally found the link, went to the website and began entering in each one of my prescriptions to see what my savings would be. The prescription that gives me the most trouble is the one I take for narcolepsy. Without insurance a one month supply would cost me around $600. It's like swallowing a $20 bill every day. I can get it cheaper at Walmart, it's only $594 there.

Right now I pay around $250 per month out of pocket but I was pretty sure the new insurance would be higher. I was correct. With my new insurance I would be paying $1106 per month for my prescriptions. Not ideal but still better than trying to pay for them without insurance right? That would cost me $1200 per month.

Clearly this wasn't going to work so I began to try to get in touch with Crooked Craig to cancel my policies. This proved difficult since the only options I was given when I called the 800 number were for customer service or for the operator. There was no way to enter his extension. I tried the operator, several times, and each time she connected me to his extension there was a weird artificial sounding busy signal.

I intended to try customer service but Jayson's phone was still ringing off the hook so he asked me to please answer some of the calls and make them go away. Since I decided that the policies I had just signed up for weren't going to work, we still needed insurance so I didn't mind talking to some people anyway.

I answered the next call and spoke with Sheridan from Fortegra. She was really nice and ended up being extremely helpful. I explained our situation to her then told her that I signed up for insurance that morning but found out I'm going to have to cancel it because the prescription coverage, the one thing I need most, is pretty much non-existent.

Sheridan groaned then asked, "Did you by chance sign up for a MultiPlan?"

I said, "Yes. Is that bad?"

She said, "It's not necessarily bad but it's not insurance."

Then she asked if we were asked to pay a huge enrollment fee. I told her I didn't really consider it to be huge but we were asked to pay $155. She said there is never an enrollment fee for insurance.

I did not realize this.

She then went on to explain that she talks to at least one person a day who has done exactly what I did but they usually don't realize it until they go to use their benefits and find out that they don't have any. She said it's nothing more than a discount program. She said it's really not bad to use for supplemental insurance with your major medical but if it's the only coverage we have we'll get penalized at tax time.


I told her I was shocked that I was so easily deceived. I consider myself a pretty savvy shopper and I'm not stupid so I never thought I would have been capable of falling for something like this. Sheridan said she doesn't know how these people sleep at night. She assured me that it happens daily and can happen to anyone since insurance is so confusing and most people aren't aware of the details they need to know.

She was surprised they actually sent me the documents they promised then advised me to read all that fine print. Somewhere in there it would clearly state that it is not insurance.

She was right.

I was stunned.

I told her I hadn't cancelled yet but intended to and she told me to make sure I demand a full refund or else I would report them to the Texas Department of Insurance and to the BBB. I told her I would say that then go ahead and report them anyway ;)

She did get us signed up for some actual insurance with United Health Care (the first company name I've recognized through this whole ordeal) which will work just fine. She specifically checked for how much coverage I would get on my narcolepsy medication and it was acceptable. Our premiums are about 3 times what Crooked Craig the Criminal quoted me but that's what I was expecting to pay in the beginning.

Once I got everything squared away with Sheridan I went back and started reading through Crooked Craig's documents and doing some Google investigating. Everything Sheridan told me was spot on and then some. I discovered, much to my surprise, that not only had I signed up for what I thought was major medical, dental and vision insurance, but apparently I also signed up for life insurance and an accidental death & dismemberment policy through something that looked a lot like Amway.

I knew it.

It took some digging but I was finally able to figure out what they did and the cost for it all. Crooked Craig told me I was getting medical INSURANCE along with dental and vision for $332.83 a month. Here's what I actually got:

Principle Advantage Limited Benefit Health Insurance from Companion Life Insurance Company for $181.43 per month.

Group Accident Insurance from Unites States Fire Insurance Company where Med-Sense Guaranteed Association is the policy holder and I am the certificate holder. I didn't understand what that meant but there was a glossary of terms in the paperwork. It said, "”Policyholder” means the entity shown as the Policyholder in the Schedule of Benefits." I am totally NOT making that up! Anyway, that costs $36.95 per month.

Med-Sense Guaranteed Freedom Spirit Plus Membership. Apparently I'm at the coveted Topaz Level. At first glance it looks like another insurance policy but it's actually a membership program where you can get discounted services on stuff like cell phones and car rentals and magazines and vitamins. The price for that membership that I didn't know about and don't want is $48.40 per month plus $16 per month for administration fees for a total of $64.45 per month.

Discount Medical Plan from Careington International Corporation but only the dental portion. There is a one-time enrollment fee of $30 then it's $50 per month.

That all adds up to $332.83 per month plus $155 in enrollment fees. From what I can tell I have something that calls itself health insurance from Companion Life Insurance company but is not health insurance because it clearly states that preexisting conditions are not covered for the first 30 days and hospitalization, surgery and anesthesia benefits resulting from a preexisting condition are not available for the first 12 months.

Then I have the coveted Topaz Level membership in the Med-Sense Guaranteed discount club Amway-thing. My membership includes a free $100K life insurance policy, eyecare discounts from Outlook Vision and prescription discounts from Agile Rx. For an additional charge I also have an AD&D policy from United States Fire Insurance Company. That's why Med-Sense shows to be the policy holder...they bought it from the insurance company and sort of subcontracted the benefits to me.

The AD&D policy is "signed" by Andres Canal, Agent #890000 in the state of TX. Insurance licenses are available to the public and easy to find so I did a quick search. Not surprisingly there is no agent #890000 in the state of Texas. However I did find this Texas agent:

Agent #1854877

The dental plan from Careington calls itself a discount plan and makes it clear in the fine print that it is not insurance. However it is also signed by our friend Andres Canal. The Florida license number on the document was false, of course, but I did find that his actual license number is W156369 and he's in Boca Raton, FL.

Pieces of the puzzle were starting to fall into place. I did a Google search for Health Benefits Center, where Crooked Craig said he was calling from, and found that it is located in Hollywood, FL but earlier this year they expanded their operation to Boca Raton. I learned that Steve Dorfman is the CEO and the BBB gives them an F rating.

I Googled the name of the company where all of my emails came from: Health Insurance Innovations. I found nothing interesting on the website other than the same vague insurance service offerings I've been seeing everywhere else but in their "about" section they do list their association with Med-Sense Guaranteed. A quick BBB search showed that the company has issues.

I Googled Steve Dorfman and discovered that he is also the CEO of a company called Simple Insurance Leads. More vagueness on the website but there is a BBB Accredited Business link on their website. I clicked it and it went nowhere. I searched for them on the BBB website and came up with nothing. Clearly the BBB isn't aware they have accredited this company.

From what I can tell this looks like a very large scam operation that uses licensed agents to deceive people and maybe even some legitimate insurance companies. Andres Canal has insurance licenses dating back to 2013 so I'm willing to bet that when he gets his license revoked they'll just replace him with someone else.

I called Health Benefits Center back to try to get in touch with Crooked Craig and was once again connected to a busy signal. I called back and chose the option for customer service and got a recording that gave me another phone number to call. I called that number and found myself speaking to someone at Health Insurance Innovations, where my policy emails originated.

I informed the representative that I wanted to cancel all of my policies that I just got the day before. She asked why I wanted to cancel and I told her because I was told they are insurance but they're not Obamacare compliant. She said the enrollment period doesn't start until November 1 so I can't buy Obamacare insurance right now. I told her I most certainly can buy it right now because my husband just lost his job. She stumbled over that then confirmed my cancellation and told me it could take 3-5 business days for my refund to appear in my bank account. I thanked her and hung up but couldn't understand why it would take several days for a deposit to show up when the withdrawal came out of my account the minute I gave Crooked Craig my account information.

Just to make sure all my bases were covered and I have a paper trail, I found the email address for cancelling policies and sent the following to Health Insurance Innovations:
Effective IMMEDIATELY, please cancel the following policies and any other associated policies that I am not aware of. I revoke my electronic signature and any use of it to authorize further payments will be considered fraud and prosecuted as such.

Principle Advantage Member ID xxx (this includes Dental and Vision)

Freedom Spirit Plus Member ID xxx

Accident Insurance Member ID xxx

I signed up for the Principle Advantage plan which was presented to me by Craig Schneider as a major medical health insurance policy for my family. I later discovered that it is not health insurance therefore my signature was obtained fraudulently so it is now considered null and void on that policy as well as any others that I wasn’t aware I was signing up for.

I expect a FULL and immediate refund of the charges totaling $487.83 that were deducted from my bank account August 20, 2015. If this FULL refund is not back in my bank account by Friday, August 21, 2015 at midnight CDT, I will proceed with my complaints to the Texas and Florida Departments of Insurance and to the Better Business Bureau against Health Insurance Innovations, Health Benefits Center, MultiPlan, Companion Life, Med Sense Guaranteed Association, and Craig Schneider. Just to be thorough I will also include Steve Dorfman as well as Simple Insurance Leads.

I will then use my social media reach to publicly reveal the details of how I was defrauded into signing up for a non-Obamacare compliant discount program because I was told by a company representative who claimed to be a licensed insurance agent that it was major medical health insurance for my family.

I would appreciate your immediate action in this matter.

Shannon Green
Today is Friday but it's not quite midnight so guess what? I lied. That's okay, I'll use my extra special Topaz Level Med-Sense Guaranteed Association Amwayesque membership to send them a discounted bouquet from 1-800-Flowers.

The good news is that I'm still medicated.

My husband lost his job yesterday which is pretty much a bummer. Yes, that is an extreme case of minimizing a major tragedy. Right now I am a little temporarily insane like that.

We went through this 2 years ago when he lost the job he'd had for over 17 years. That was our first experience with unemployment. It was frightening but fortunately he got a generous severance package so we didn't have to worry too much about how to survive until he found another job.

It took 3 months to find that replacement job and we thought it would be the one he retired with. We were wrong. He got terminated yesterday because "they decided to go a different direction with supply chain". That was their reason for termination...'we changed our minds'.  I think what happened is that he implemented an effective supply chain process, completely revamped the warehouses and put procedures in place to keep things running smoothly so they decided they were done with him. Of course it won't take any time at all for them to work themselves back into the mess they were in before he got there so good luck to 'em!

Since they didn't offer him any kind of severance package (jerks) we are scrambling for ways to make ends meet until the next replacement job can be secured. Hopefully it won't take as long as last time but you never know.

By the way, the first time he was laid off was August 15, 2013. The second lay off was August 20, 2015. We've decided that August has nothing of value to offer us so from now on we will not be doing August anymore. We're just going to skip it.  

The upside of all this is that since we've been there-done that I have more of a clue about what needs to be done. First thing...unemployment. I had it taken care of within 20 minutes of getting the news. The next thing I started tackling was health insurance. We were fortunate to have a very good major medical, dental and vision plan through his company but we'll lose that at the end of the month so I got busy trying to find a replacement.

The last layoff was shortly before Obamacare took effect and I have some preexisting conditions that pretty much rendered me uninsurable at that time so we had no choice but to use COBRA. Going without insurance and crossing our fingers wasn't an option because of my prescriptions. I take several each day and without insurance they would cost us well over $1,000 a month.

I had to mortgage a kidney to pay for COBRA last time but I can't do that this time because I'm pretty sure I need at least one kidney. We do have other options...let me weigh them here:

The good news is that I can't be turned down for my preexisting conditions this time.
The bad news is that the open enrollment doesn't start until November 1.
The good news is that since we've had a qualifying life experience we can apply anyway.
The bad news is that we don't qualify for subsidies.
The good news is that we should be able to access some retirement funds to cover the expense.
The bad news is that we will have to pay a penalty for early withdrawal.
The good news is that we can avoid some of the penalties if we reinvest a portion of it.
The bad news is that reinvesting a portion could delay our cash-in-hand by a couple of weeks.
The good news is that we still have my YouTube income.
The bad news is that it isn't enough to cover the rent that's due in 11 days.
The good news is that our property manager is awesome and said to just let her know if it will be late.
The bad news is that I might not know that it will be late until after it already is.
The good news is that I'm still medicated.
For now.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Dear Emoji Makers

Dear Emoji Makers,

Thank you for your fun little characters that we can use to express ourselves in our Facebook PMs when words fail us. I know that half my friends would have no idea how I was feeling without a couple of dancing minions to demonstrate.

I especially love it when I'm in a group PM with several other people and 2 of them start an emoji war. The notifications make my cell phone sound like someone just rolled triple 7s on a slot machine in my purse.

I check my phone, expecting to see thrilling conversations happening but instead it's a string of sweet little emoji interspersed with seizure-inducing animated GIFs. Oh the joy they bring.

In an effort to maximize that joy, I would like to offer one suggestion if I may. You see the problem is that your emoji are small and on mobile devices they are even smaller. This causes a slight problem for those of us with not quite so young eyeballs. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the emoji I just sent to a friend was not 2 hugging minions but 2 fighting minions. And the emoji I thought was just a happy hotdog was actually a flasher hotdog, holding his bun open to reveal 
I am aware that there are some options available. The smiley face emoji are usually easy to see but I don't like to use them because those are the ones that old people use. I am not old. I am just slightly visually impaired due to my advanced...maturity.

Therefore I would like to request that you make some emoji that are large enough for not old people like myself to see and use correctly. If it was just about the size of my mobile device's screen that would be great. It would certainly save me future embarrassment brought on by something called a HamCat.

I don't know if you are also the people responsible for the inflatable thumbs up on our mobile devices but just in case I will share my thoughts about that with you as well. First of all, I didn't even know the feature existed until a friend showed me and explained to me how it works. She told me to just touch it and hold until it starts growing then let go when it gets to the size I want. That's a concept I'm familiar with so I gave it a try. My friend warned that if I hold it for too long it will explode and go back to small. Again...familiar territory.
I touched the icon and watched it grow and grow, then just at that moment when it was almost where I wanted it the dang thing went small again. Story. Of. My. Life. It took several tries before I got the hang of it but finally discovered that mine prefers a light touch. Now I find it easy to apply just the right amount of pressure to get that little satisfying "pop" at the end.
The only problem is that now I can't stop touching it. I touch it four, maybe five times a day just to watch it grow. I'm even touching it in public. Now it's to the point where I don't even have to look at it, I know precisely the point at which it will "pop" just by the sound it makes.

Surely it's a harmless habit, right? Although...I am having trouble seeing all those little emoji and I seem to recall my mother saying something about going blind....

Sunday, July 12, 2015

My Favorite YouTube Comments

 These comments left on some of my YouTube videos are among my favorites. They're mostly negative, sometimes snarky, but always entertaining. Most of them were left on a video that has over 700,000 views despite everything these folks said I did wrong.

And before you complain that they're hard to read...I know, I know. I wasn't about to manually retype them so this is the best I could do. Just go ahead and leave me a comment complaining about it. I have lots of experience with that sort of thing!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Four on The Pelvic Floor

Sometimes I run across stuff on the internet that I just can't ignore. I know I should ignore it but I just don't have the strength.

Today I was browsing through the opportunities on a couple of the sponsorship websites I belong to. These sites match brands with influencers. In other words, they pimp out social media addicts such as myself. They're legit, I've actually done a couple of promotional videos through them but it's not my main focus so I don't do them often.

The offer that caught my eye today is from a company called Intimina. They are offering $100-$250 through Famebit for a YouTube review of their product. The product is called the Laselle Exercise Routine. It's not a craft product nor is it something that I think my viewers would be interested in so I won't be doing a video review.

However, I can certainly do a review here on my blog and I will even do it for free. You're welcome, Intimina.

--------------------too lazy to look for a cute separator----------------------

Does your pelvic floor have loose boards or creaky joists? Have I got a solution for you! Introducing the Laselle Exercise Routine by Intimina.
With the Laselle Routine, a 3 pack that gives you the full benefits of Laselle Exercisers in one simple package, you can take your pelvic floor training to new heights.

I didn't realize there was a chance that my pelvic floor training could reach a plateau. Who knew?!
Easy-to-use, discreet and completely body-safe, the Laselle Routine will help you to reach the peak of your intimate health. 
Nudge, nudge...wink, wink.

Are you still wondering just exactly what this is? Let me explain:

This complete workout set includes 3 exercisers of varying weights that can be used individually or combined to effectively build strength and tone. Worn internally, the spherical shaped weight provides a solid object to flex your muscles around and emits subtle vibrations during movement to confirm that it is correctly placed.

It's not what you're thinking. This is legitimate exercise equipment to help tone your floppy Kegels. The vibrations are subtle and necessary to confirm proper placement. If you're concerned that the vibration might be TOO subtle you could always just attach your exerciser to one of these:

That would leave no doubt as to your exerciser's placement. And you would likely finish your routine much quicker.


Are you wondering exactly how this works? I will tell you and then I will demonstrate for you.

Laselle™ Exercisers allow you to start with a weight that best suits your current level of strength and progress from there.
• Light Resistance (28g/1oz) is ideal for women who have a weaker pelvic floor or for beginners.
• Moderate Resistance (38g/1.3oz) is perfect for those experienced in weight-free exercising.

• Higher Resistance (48g/1.7oz) is best for women experienced in weighted exercising for the most advanced training.

Sounds reasonable. Let's give this a try. Here's me doing my first set with the Light Resistance Exercisers.

Here's me doing my second set with the Moderate Resistance Exercisers.

Here's me doing my third set with the Higher Resistance Exercisers.

Clearly I'm in better shape than I thought. Fortunately the Laselle Exercise Routine is fully customizable, even for those of us who clearly qualify for the Kegel Olympics.

 With this complete workout set you have the option to either use your exercisers individually or combined to effectively build pelvic floor strength and tone.

Here's me doing my first set with my exercisers linked together.

It took some trial and error but I was finally able to get some results after linking my exercisers together in a configuration that resembled a cluster of grapes.

Since my pelvic floor has never felt better, I want to help you get yours toned and creak-free too. I'm all about cheaper alternatives so here is my solution for a DIY Laselle Exercise Routine. My system is better because it has 4 different levels, not just 3. That gives you more options for a more complete pelvic floor workout. I call it Four on The Pelvic Floor. Here's what you get in the complete set:

For the Beginner. Don't forget to breathe.
Intermediate Level 1 includes a charging station for your not at all inappropriate subtle placement confirmation vibration.

Intermediate Level 2 can even be used outdoors. Who's gonna know, right?
This is for advanced exercisers only. Clearly this girl is an amateur.
Genius, right?! I know. After my routine I was able to unlink my exercisers then neatly weave each cord into an intricate Celtic knot before removing them. Thanks Intimina!