Being a Mom Makes You Tough // more thoughts on healthcare

I’m a klutz.  Certified, tried and true — I am reliably injuring myself in some emergency room-worthy way at least once a year.  Someday, if you should hear I have tragically died, be sure to get the story because it’s bound to be something dumb like me running into a doorway or something silly like that (of course, I hope that doesn’t happen, but let’s just say if it did, I wouldn’t be surprised).

So today, in an effort to take an epic photo of the baby in a pumpkin (thank you, Pinterest, for raising the standard so high that this was my #1 priority today), I sliced my left index finger nice and deep.  [sidenote: I’m currently marveling at my ability to type with 9 fingers… outstanding!]  I realized a few things over the past few hours that seem blog-worthy:

  1. Being a mom has made me way less of a wimp than I used to be.  Having been a life-long klutz, this is not the first time I’ve sliced my finger with a knife.  Every other time something like this has happened, I have been a hysterical mess.  The reality is, it’s usually not the pain that sends me into hysterics, it’s the shock of seeing my body opened up and bleeding.  When I was 19, I got stitches for a similar cut and cried for nearly a day over the ordeal.  This time, however, I haven’t shed a tear and handled it like a pro – a big step for me.  This calm rationale has swept over me telling me, “The body heals.  You’ve been through way worse than this and have come out just fine.  It looks bad now, but this is the worst it will be.”  I guess after healing from childbirth, a cut just seems like no big deal.  Cool.
  2. I probably need stitches, but I’m not getting them.  For me to go to the ER and get stitches will mean at minimum a couple hundred bucks, and that’s with our terrible private insurance.  So, I went to the CVS on the corner and bought some butterfly closures and first aid tape, cleaned the wound and closed it up.  I chose to avoid the hospital in order to save the money.  In this case, probably not a big deal – if the wound doesn’t start looking better in a couple of days, I’ll go to the doctor… but I think decisions like this are the motivation behind healthcare reform, but on a much bigger level.  When someone like me, who could probably find the money to pay the outrageous bill for a few stitches, chooses to avoid seeking medical care because of an exorbitant expense, this is the system failing.  Why should stitches cost hundreds of dollars to get?  Why should health care ever be cost-prohibitive?  Doesn’t that seem evil and wrong?  Shouldn’t we place such a high value on human life that health care is something we just get as citizens?  If a privatized system is resulting in people choosing less-than-adequate healthcare in order to avoid financial collapse, we have a big problem.  (For more of my thoughts on this, read my post about my friend Ron).

Anyway, I hope that when the baby wakes from her nap I can ultimately get that epic pumpkin photo, but for now I feel tough and a little bit angry.

EDIT: Totally not worth it, but the photo is hilarious.

hysterical, but not worth it.
hysterical, but not worth it.

How You Can Save the Arts in 30 Seconds

Photo by DAN GLEITER, The Patriot-News

Make a difference and help save government funding for the arts without spending any money OR taking more than 30 seconds:
CLICK HERE: Advocate for the Arts

The Problem:

(All Information from Americans for the Arts)

Today, the U.S House of Representatives Appropriations Interior Subcommittee passed its initial FY 2013 funding legislation and proposed a cut of $14 million to the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). This budget proposal is disappointing. The arts community recognizes the challenges our elected leaders face in prioritizing federal resources, but funding for the NEA has already been cut by more than $20 million over the past two years, and this additional reduction is counterintuitive to the national call to help grow jobs and fuel the country’s recovery. Americans for the Arts recently released the Arts and Economic Prosperity IV economic impact report, which provides overwhelming proof that the nonprofit arts industry generates $135.2 billion in economic activity every year and supports 4.13 million FTE jobs annually.

Why is the NEA important?

The NEA contributes to the development and economic growth of communities nationwide.

  • NEA grants to organizations and local arts agencies help them maximize their economic and social contributions to their communities.
  • The nonprofit arts industry generates $166.2 billion annually in economic activity, supports 5.7 million full-time equivalent jobs, and returns $12.6 billion to the federal government in income taxes. Measured against direct federal cultural spending of about $1.4 billion, that’s a return of nearly nine to one. (Figures from Americans for the Arts, Arts & Economic Prosperity III study).
  • Nationally, there are 686,076 businesses in the U.S. involved in the creation or distribution of the arts. These businesses employ 2.8 million people, representing 4.20 percent of all businesses and 2.04 percent of all employees, respectively. (Figures from Americans for the Arts, Creative Industries 2009)
  • The arts attract new tourism dollars. Sixty-five percent of U.S. travelers include cultural events on their trips, spending an average of $38.05 per event in addition to the cost of admission on event-related items such as meals, parking, and retail sales.
  • America’s arts and entertainment are leading exports, with estimates of more than $30 billion annually in overseas sales. Public spending on the arts helps position the United States to compete globally.
  • From the work of nonprofit arts agencies to the impact of cultural tourism, the creative sector is important to state economies all across the country. The creative industry in Arkansas, for example, employs nearly 27,000 individuals and generates $927 million in personal income for Arkansas citizens. Creative enterprises are the state’s third largest employer—after transport and logistics and perishable and processed foods. In North Carolina, the wages and income of workers employed by creative industries infused $3.9 billion into the state’s economy in 2006. And in Massachusetts, the 17.6 percent yearly growth of the cultural sector contributed $4.23 billion to the state’s economy (National Governors Association, Arts & the Economy, Using Arts and Culture to Stimulate State Economic Development, 2009).

The NEA supports lifelong learning in the arts, through grants, partnerships, research, and national initiatives.

  • Students with an education rich in the arts have better grade point averages in core academic subjects, score better on standardized tests, and have lower drop-out rates than students without arts education (Critical Evidence,, published by the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies in collaboration with the Arts Education Partnership).
  • NEA grants support a wide range of projects, including educational programs for adults, collaborations between state arts agencies and state education agencies, and K–12 partnerships between arts institutions and educators.
  • The NEA funds school-based and community-based grant programs that help children and youth acquire knowledge and understanding of and skills in the arts. Projects must provide participatory learning and engage students with skilled artists, teachers, and excellent art.

The NEA supports artistic excellence and improves access to the arts by granting funds to nonprofit arts organizations.

  • In FY 2008, the NEA awarded nearly $122 million of appropriated funds through more than 2,200 grants reaching all 435 congressional districts.
  • Forty percent of all NEA program funds—approximately $47.8 million in FY 2008—are re-granted on a formula basis through the state arts agencies, ensuring that federal funding has an even greater reach.
  • Through programs like Challenge America, the NEA supports artistic activities that reach underserved populations.
  • On average, each NEA grant leverages at least seven dollars from other state, local, and private sources, magnifying the impact of the federal investment.
  • With more funding, the NEA’s core programs could better bring the best in the arts to all Americans. Inadequate funding has caused a decrease in programs available to the public.

Taking the Wheel

My husband Mike and I are working on regaining control of our finances.

I am in graduate school.  After the first semester of studying voice pedagogy, we decided that I should seize the opportunity of being in school full-time and take on a second master’s degree in arts management.  So now, I am working on both degrees and will graduate next spring.

Being a graduate student is not financially lucrative.  Money has been tight the entire time we’ve been here, and while I’ve been incredibly lucky to have a full assistantship, living in Northern VA on one income with school expenses has not been easy.  That said, we haven’t always been completely responsible with our finances, either.  We like to travel, spend time with those we love, and seize opportunities, even if they’re not the best choices for our budget.

As I finish this second year of school with one year to go, we both feel burdened to take control of our finances: live within our means, pay off debt, put money away for the future.  [ENTER LIFESTYLE CHANGES HERE]

Today was spent reviewing our spending over the past few months and creating a budget that balanced within one income.  This was an emotional process for both of us, and we’re not balanced yet.  But, this initial step and recognizing areas where we’ve been lax in our spending (like, dining out) is the first step in becoming FINANCIALLY FREE.  And, as frustrating as it can be, it gets better from here.

{do tell!}

What has been the most effective strategy for taking control of your finances?  What have your struggles been?