Sunday, February 8, 2015

Who I Am

You know how, over the years, you get used to how your body works? You tolerate discomfort and incorporate it into your personal belief about who you are or how you function.

For instance, for at least 30 years I've known that when I do any kind of cardio I sweat. A lot. Like in the 80s, when I would attend a step aerobics class, I knew the instructor was always keeping an eye on me. My non-stop perspiration factory, which started as soon as warm-up got underway, made me look like a medical risk. And through time, all the activities I love - hiking, tennis even kayaking - would open the sweat faucets. When we lived in Hong Kong, I had to carry a washcloth with me to mop up, just walking around the city streets. I was embarrassed but heck, I learned to laugh about it. Sort of. I figured, that's just who I am.

And the heartburn. Every day I chewed multiple Tums years before newfangled drugs like Ranitidine was available. It seemed like almost any food would bring on the unpleasant burning and burping of acid indigestion. Nasty business, and it was a godsend when I learned I could take one ranitidine or famotidine each morning and have a day without gastrointestinal distress. So what? That's just who I am, and I had a solution.

keratosis pilarisThe worst, though, was the rash on the back of my upper arms. Unsightly at best, often itchy and sore, it's called keratosis pilaris and is subcutaneous, and years of attempting to treat it with creams or abrasive scrubs or both did nothing except cause more inflammation and occasionally bleeding. I went to dermatologists and on internet bulletin boards (yes, that long ago) looking for answers and bought expensive products that never worked. I once had a massage therapist ask me if it was contagious. Ew. Sometimes it would subside for a day or two, but it always returned, so I filed my nasty rash away as untreatable, because the dermatologist said it was, and that's just who I am.

Even though I'm fairly active (definitely not sedentary) I've gained enough weight to put me close to my red flag point, the that's how much I weighed when I was 9 months pregnant number!  I figured, heck, I'm 64, that's what happens when you're post-menopausal. Everything s...l...o...w...s down. That's just who I am.

But I have friends who aren't 25 or 30 pounds overweight, and who aren't training for marathons either. So I thought, maybe this isn't who I am, and decided to do something about it. My big move was to stop eating everything wheat. I honestly don't know why - it just seemed like an easy first step. You know, get rid of all those evil carbs like bread and pasta. No pizza (hardest of all!) or english muffins. No "healthy" turkey on whole wheat sandwiches. I didn't change anything else, except replacing wheat products with more fruit and vegetables.

This became an easy habit, because for some reason I no longer craved those wheat-y carbs. I didn't know it, but I had gotten off the wheat-driven glycemic roller coaster. (That's a whole 'nother post.) After about 3 weeks, here's what else I noticed:

  • Excessive perspiration? Gone. I play tennis 3 times a week, and would come home sopping wet. Not any more. I can go to a meeting or shopping after a couple of sets and not look like I just stepped out of the pool! I go to an amazing Black Mountain gym, Ascending Fitness, 3 or 4 times a week, and always needed a towel to mop my face, arms and hands throughout a workout. Now I often forget the towel because I don't need it. Sweaty lady? That's no longer who I am.
  • Heartburn? Gone. I haven't popped a ranitidine in 2 months (except for the day I really wanted a slice of pizza and within 10 minutes was feeling the painful effects.) Acid indigestion lady? That's no longer who I am.
  • Keratosis pilaris? Gone. My arms are smooth, itch- and pain-free and I know I can wear sleeveless tops this summer without cringing. Ugly upper-arm rash lady? That's no longer who I am.
  • Weight? Let's just say it drops off slowly and steadily. I've lost about 15 pounds since early December 1 and think I need some new clothes. Fat, post-menopausal lady? That's no longer who I am.
Every time I noticed a new positive effect (it didn't happen all at once), I'd Google it and soon I connected the dots. This link says it all.

I honestly believe I'm less moody and, well, this next part is very personal, but here we go. Before going wheat free I had unusual potty habits, that, like the other issues, I incorporated into my who I am profile. I'd either have to go to the bathroom 4+ times before leaving the house in the morning or be constipated to the point of being incapacitated. Two years ago, while visiting my mother for Christmas, we had to postpone opening presents because of this. I once had to cancel a tutoring appointment because I couldn't leave the bathroom. I'm happy to report that my morning routine has been predictable and uneventful for a couple of months.

So - what is it? Gluten intolerance? Or is it because commercial wheat bears no resemblance to the wheat we consumed 50 years ago? Is the culprit wheat treated with chemicals and hybridized to guarantee bountiful crops? I dunno. Maybe it's both.

All I know is that I'm wheat-free and that makes me happier and healthier.

It's who I am.









Thursday, June 21, 2012

Mountain Magic


When I was working, tethered to a desk, a PC and an employer, I often found myself staring at my monitor,  overcome with dizziness. Woozy. 


I had forgotten to breathe



Do you ever think about it? About inhaling and exhaling?


We're now about 2,500 feet above sea level. I wasn't sure how that would affect me aerobically, but I'll tell you that it's taken some time to be able to climb a hill and complete a cardio workout without being winded in a scary sort of way. I was surprised by how my body responded and considered it a personal failure (eek! aging!) when my heart pounded and I gasped for breath. (A little Google-y research confirmed that when you hit 2,500 feet, the atmospheric pressure decreases and there's only 74% as much oxygen available as at sea level.) Fortunately, I've adapted to the thinner air, and feeling pretty good about hiking and tennis.


On the other hand, I often (sometimes several times in a single day) have a surprise of a different sort. I'll be in my car, and turn a corner, or strolling around the lake, even parked in front of the supermarket and WHAMO! there are the mountains. They are truly breathtaking.  It may be early-ish in the morning and they're wrapped in gauzy mist, or late in the afternoon, grey-blue through distant rain. It doesn't matter because each time I unconsciously exhale and relax. And then I laugh and think, it happened again!


Bill and I call it mountain magic, a sense of well-being and harmony that tucks around us like a well-worn quilt. We thought it was just us, and made little jokes about it. "There must be something in the water", Bill would say. Or we're heading home, west on I-40 after a trip out of state, or at least out of western North Carolina, and at the first distant glimpse of the majestic steely-blue peaks one of us will say, "Ahhh, see? There are our mountains." It sounds corny but we both relax and breathe a little easier then.


We learned it isn't just us - people around here talk about it.  I was hitting tennis balls the other night at the middle school courts with a group of women and one of them looked up at the mountains and said, do you believe it? Every time I see them I think I'm the luckiest person in the world. I heard almost the same words from a woman who moved to Black Mountain from Michigan a couple of years ago. "These mountains get to me every time," she said. "Even the water tastes better. And people are nice, genuinely nice." I was chatting with a local medical practitioner last week, who has lived here for about 15 years and she acknowledged the magic too. She said she knows people who came here - were drawn here - to recover from the stress and strain of everyday life and sometimes more complicated problems. Some stayed to make a home here and others found the relief they sought and then moved on, better able to cope with whatever life had in store.

I pass through an amazing canopy of trees, a tunnel of green, on my way to the lake.  It's only a block or two long, but it's another world filled with birdsong and gentle breezes. It's cooler there and wildlife rustles in the underbrush. Everyday noises like lawnmowers and backfires seem muted.


Funny. I thought it was my own special place and then a neighbor mentioned it. He said he walks through that patch of cool, dark forest and feels oxygenated. Sometimes he does it when he thinks he needs it. I knew exactly what he meant. The air is clean and soothing - you breathe slower and calmer and your senses are heightened, taking in the shadows and filtered sunlight and wildlife sounds.

Life has thrown us some curve-balls in recent months but I haven't once forgotten to breathe since moving to the mountains. Instead I'm often conscious of taking in the sweet mountain air deeply and letting it go, along with the concerns of the moment.





Saturday, February 25, 2012

Paring Down

We're in a funny place, having moved our bodies, but not our possessions, from Tampa to Black Mountain. We have gone from a 3800 square foot house with plenty of storage space to an 1100 square foot townhouse. You can guess about the storage capacity. Our stuff will arrive in a couple of days.

Knowing that we would be in a much tinier home, at least for the next 12-16 months while our house is being built, forced us into several weeks of painful examination as we packed cartons. What stays and what goes? Why? If it doesn't stay, where does it go? We brought armloads of clothing to Good Will, gave away 2 sofas, 3 beds, an office hutch, 2 small file cabinets, a coffee table and some wall art. I found wonderful homes for a clarinet (Mr Holland's Opus Foundation) and a 25-year-old fur coat (The Humane Society's Coats for Cubs). We thought we were pretty ruthless, but as I contemplate our current surroundings, I know we're going to have round two of reducing our possessions after Allied dumps them on our doorstep next week.

We're camping out in the townhouse. Our bed is inflatable, the coffee table an overturned packing carton,
and seating is provided by collapsible camp chairs that shed black plastic bits, like flower petals on a runway.

In the kitchen we have 2 of everything: forks, knives, plates, coffee mugs, bowls. I'm cooking meals using a paring knife, a skillet, small saucepan, spatula and large plastic spoon. Available seasonings include salt and pepper.

Does it sound miserable?

Hell no!

During the stress and exhaustion of the past month, our normally healthy diet deteriorated into whatever was easy or craved, or both. Fast food, pizza, frozen meals and sandwiches fit the bill. I baked several loaves of bread and that was pure comfort food, slathered with butter or toasted and covered with almond butter and jam. We dined out a lot: wonderful good-bye events with friends as well as escapes from the towers of packing boxes that inexorably encroached on our living space like Xian warriors.

So I couldn't wait to get to a place where I could be thoughtful about food again, and relax into the rhythm of planning and cooking meals.

What do you cook with these?

Salads work pretty well, but they have to be composed, not tossed. Nothing to toss them in, unless you use the kitchen sink! We've had several salads, helped along by selections from the Ingle's salad bar.

Last night I made-up-as-I-went-along a delicious meal. Here's the menu:


  • Boneless pork chops smothered in apple, onion and bacon
  • Baked sweet potato 
  • Fresh steamed green beans
First I cooked 4 bacon strips. I removed them from the pan and added 1/2 sliced onion and 2 peeled, cored and chopped apples. Cooked them for a bit and removed from pan. Added salted/peppered pork chops and sauteed on both sides until almost done, then added the apple, onion and bacon bits and cooked til all warm and pork is done. I had to slice the pork chops before serving, because it needs to be fork-friendly when the plate's in your lap!

I also did a chicken/broccoli/mushroom stir fry with a flavorful Indian cooking sauce (Seeds Of Change Organic Jalfrezi Simmer Sauce) It was really good, and easy, but not as good as the pork chops.

This morning breakfast was grapefruit and a frittata (eggs, broccoli, onion, red pepper)



To be honest, I'm really enjoying living smaller, and dreading the arrival of stuff I now know we don't need.  An entire carton, for example of herbs and spices. Crazy!...we have nowhere to put them. A couple of dozen wine glasses. Several casserole dishes. More clothes to donate.

You won't hear me complain though, about sitting on a sofa or eating off a wooden table.  Nor will I scorn our real bed. (You should see us rolling off the inflated mattress to get out of bed. It's pretty damn funny.) It'll be nice to have a vacuum cleaner and the remote control for our Roku as well.

In the meantime, we're eating well and laughing a lot.





Saturday, January 14, 2012

Mom Jeans

The first time I heard the expression mom jeans it came from the lips of my lovely, ever chic daughter, Julie. She was determined to take me shopping for a pair of non-mom jeans, and I didn't have a clue what she was talking about.

Should there be doubt in anyone's mind, here's a graphic example:

No, not me, but it could be!
So I've tried to correct that faux pas, under Julie's gentle tutelage, and thought I was finally on the right side of the fashion police.

Nope

Real Simple, a wonderful magazine I often pick up in the grocery checkout line, proved how very wrong I was. Here's the thing: I'd like to live my life Really Simply (tagline: "LIFE MADE EASIER") but the January 2012 issue threw me for a loop.

The article in question is anti-aging style secrets. It lists 15 fashion no-no's that pile on the years. If there's one thing this 61-year-old woman doesn't need, it's self-sabotage on the aging front. Unfortunately, I fail on almost half of them. Follow me to the sorry but true confessions of a fashion failure.



What's aging you:  mom slacks

Well damn it, Julie, why didn't you just tell me when we were taking care of the mom jeans thing? Did you think I was just going to catch on?  Did you think it was too much for me to handle, all at once? According to Real Simple, "They're the office version of mom jeans, with a pleated front and a high waist."  Offhand, I'd say I have 7 pairs of these, mostly in black. Some are too short. I'm mortified.

What's aging you: underperforming undies

These include underpants with visible panty lines and a bra that is less than uplifting. This is going to get expensive, but I'm definitely not going to follow the parting line of advice from Charla Krupp, the author of How Not to Look Old: Fast and Effortless Ways to Look 10 Years Younger, 10 Pounds Lighter, 10 Times Better.  She recommends wearing "high waisted-bike shorts". She's kidding, right? Doesn't that sound kind of, well, sweaty? How does that high-waisted business work with jeans and dress pants that are now waisted somewhere south of the belly button?  And aren't they padded in the rear end? Dear-god-in-heaven, if there's one thing I don't need it's a bigger butt.

What does this remind me of?  Oh, that's right...a  GIRDLE!
What's aging you: playing it too safe

I always thought my style was classic, in an updated sort of way.  Then I read this "Tan pants, a cream shirt, brown shoes and you're out the door, right? Yawn."  That's my uniform! Apparently I'm "stuck in the fuddy-duddy zone." There weren't many good suggestions on how to correct this b-o-r-i-n-g look. Note to self: check in with Julie.

What's aging you: clinging to past trends

I didn't need to read any further to know that this described me to a T.  I have clothes that are 20 years old. Really. (I thought they were classics and they still look great. Well, to me they do)  The examples: "twin sets, nude stockings and mock turtlenecks".  Regarding the hose, the author suggests buying "opaque or textured tights or bare legs."  Here's what I hate: un-stockinged feet in my shoes, unless they're sandals.  Maybe I should get those footie things?

I don't think so
What's aging you: same bag, all the time

This was like a roundhouse kick to the gut:  "Schlepping a heavy black satchel, no matter what, even if it's the middle of July or you're at a fancy affair, says that you're set in your ways and unwilling to change with the times."  I have a wonderful, maybe 10-year-old, large black Coach tote that goes everywhere and does everything.

It looks something like this
You can cram all sorts of stuff in it: my Kindle, over-sized sunglasses case, gum, you name it. And did I mention it's a classic?

What's aging you: wide-leg cropped pants

The sad thing is, I know these are really unattractive, particularly given my, well, sturdy legs. But I thought maybe it was just the price you pay to be au courant.  Sigh.  The emperor really is naked: these pants are ugly, aging and out of style.  Fortunately, the Goodwill box is conveniently located near the grocery store.



And finally, the knockout punch:

What's aging you: workout clothes when you're not working out

Oh. My. God. The last vestige of comfort clothing has been torn off my back. Get this: "There's a time for fleece jackets, white cross-trainers, and oversize tees - and it's when you're on the treadmill or repainting the den, not when you're doing activities that don't make you break a sweat." Does it count that I live in Florida and break a sweat easily? No, I didn't think so. 

So how come Hilary Duff can get away with it? Oh, right.
This article came at a perfect time: I'm clearing out my closet as we prepare to move to North Carolina. Now I'll be able to fit everything into a small overnight bag. Unless there's a shopping trip in my future. 

Julie: Come home! I need you!


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Food, Glorious Food

I love all things food: planning, cooking, eating, discussing. Where does this come from? I know people who gag at the thought of eating anything green and would rather write punitive sentences on a blackboard with squeaky chalk (how dated is that?) than eat something new or unusual.

Parents have a lot to do with it.  When I was growing up mealtime often held surprises, especially on weekends when Mom and Dad would introduce a new or unusual recipe. There was something about a cold and rainy Sunday afternoon that would inspire Dad to buy a bag of clams, and whip up his specialty, Manhattan clam chowder. Then there was the first time they made Cuban black bean soup, replicating a meal they'd enjoyed on a trip to Puerto Rico. It was rich and hearty, garnished with chopped hard boiled egg and onion. A fresh lemon slice lay on the bottom of the bowl, a wonderful tart surprise that added zest and character to the soup when discovered. Oh, and the paella! We would make paella from scratch, a family affair because the chopping and dicing and sauteing was labor intensive. My parents weren't wealthy, so the saffron was a big deal and I have no idea how they came up with the chorizo.


Moules Frites at Leons de Bruxelles
And that's continued with my family. An appreciation for good food has been passed on to my kids who have always, even when young, appreciated flavor and texture. When they were 10 and 12 we went on a very special trip to France, celebrating my parents' 40th anniversary.  The only (and I mean only) place the children wanted to eat was at Leons de Bruxelles, a chain that serves buckets of mussels any way you like 'em, accompanied by a pile of crisp french fries (moules frites). It was almost frightening, how many mussels they could tuck away.

Now that we're on a fixed income, I've created a personal challenge. It goes something like this. First, there's a budget. According to the USDA, the October 2011 average moderate weekly cost to feed two people was $130.00. This is well above the thrifty level of $89 and comes to just under $20/day. My challenge is to match this amount. But there's more, which has to do with quality.  The meals have to be fresh, healthy and delicious, so most processed foods are excluded. I'm not a big fan of them anyway, but have been known to fall back on a jar of spaghetti sauce or a can of Progresso soup. And trust me, I'll never make my own tomato paste and think the convenience of store-bought chicken stock is a bargain.

Here are a few strategies:
  • Review supermarket flyers and shop the specials. This week Publix has fresh salmon on sale for $7.99/pound, which is a really good deal. We love salmon, so that's on the meal plan.
  • Get multiple meals out of one.  This is easier to do with a family of two, when that roast chicken easily turns into chicken salad or soup and marinara sauce can be doubled and frozen.
  • Plan ahead. Know what you're going to buy and how much it will cost.
  • Don't skimp on quality. If you need to buy saffron, go ahead and do it. Just know that another meal is going to compensate for the luxury.
  • Know what you're spending.  I'm setting aside $130 each week that is just for groceries. It isn't used for paper or cleaning products or anything else you might find in the supermarket.
  • I rarely shop with coupons, preferring to buy the almost always less expensive supermarket brand. I'll use coupons for products I regularly use, but that's about it. Shopping the specials and BOGOs are usually a better deal.
  • Breakfast and lunch is included in the budgeted amount, but I don't really plan them. I just know I need to have the goods on hand to throw them together. Dinner is really where my head is at.
Here's an example of a low-cost but delicious and healthy meal I made last night.  It was split pea soup, and the recipe was modified from one I found in The Eat-Clean Diet Cookbook by Tosca Reno. It's a great collection of recipes I just discovered a couple of months ago and is well illustrated. Here's the modified recipe:

Ingredients

  •  2 cups dried split peas
  • 12 cups water
  • 4 bay leaves
  • Sea salt
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, peeled/chopped
  • 4 ribs celery, trimmed/chopped
  • 3 large carrots, peeled/chopped
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 lb cubed cooked smoked ham steak
  • Lemon wedges
Instructions
  • Cover dried peas in large saucepan with 12 cups water. Add bay leaves and sea salt. Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes. Drain in a colander and set aside. 

Drained peas and bay leaves
  • Heat olive oil in a large heavy pot (dutch oven) over medium heat. Add onion, celery and carrots. Saute until onion is translucent.
  • Add chicken broth, 2 cups of water, peas, thyme and bring to a boil.
Bring to a boil
  • Add the ham, reduce heat and cover. Simmer for about 1 1/2 hours. Remove bay leaves
  • Remove about two cups of the soup and place in a blender. (try to avoid the ham chunks, but it's fine if a few end up in the blender) Blend until smooth and add back to the soup.
  • Serve in soup bowls. Squeeze fresh lemon juice on each bowl of soup. 
  • Serve with french bread or garlic toast.
Dinner is served!
This made at least 4 or five servings, so now you know what I'm having for lunch today!

Are you interested in joining me on this cost-controlled culinary journey? I'd love to hear how you manage your food budget - let me know.

Bon Appetit!



    Friday, December 9, 2011

    What's bugging you?

    Bill and I will celebrate 40 years of marriage in June. Imagine that!


    Together we've endured personal challenges and tragedies and celebrated successes. We survived the Raising of Teenagers, which coincided with the Uprooting of Family to Move Overseas. We've climbed great heights (literally) in the Grand Canyon, where I learned of Bill's fear of heights. We've navigated the Amazon Jungle and learned to ski at somewhat advanced ages.

    But the latest challenge blind-sided us.

    Living together 24-7 takes a certain skill set with which we were unequipped.

    Bill beat me to the "at home" punch, having retired a couple of years ago. He developed his own routine, which I kind of had an idea about, but wasn't sure. I knew it involved daily trips to one or more supermarkets, as he planned meals each day. I suspected he took a nap each afternoon (evidence: messed up pillows on bed) and didn't shower until right before I came home from work (evidence: wet hair).

    So I invaded his world, and needed to be careful about not screwing with his routine.

    However.

    Not surprisingly, I have opinions about certain things like household planning and personal hygiene. I think it's especially important to get up and get dressed, say before 9:00 am. I also think it's important to have a meal plan for the week and shop only once, thus saving on gas $$, not making last minute impulse purchases, and knowing what time and resources are needed for the evening meal. And I don't understand naps at all. I like to save it all up for night time.

    Here's what's happened. I've pretty much taken over the meal planning/cooking and I think he's OK with that. In fact, I think he's relieved. We still share some of it, but for the most part it's my gig. And I love to cook good food, and missed doing so when he was handling it, so this is working out well.

    I've found that sometimes the day does get away from me, and it's 2:00 or so before I get into the shower. How does this happen? I'm not sure, but I'm working on it, 'cause I feel like I'm falling down the slippery slope of slovenliness when it does. (I think those days may have something to do with this blog...)

    About naps? I gave up on that with Bill a long time ago. His metabolism is foreign to me. I could no more sleep in the afternoon (unless sick or depressed) than fly to the moon. But he loves his naps and they make him a happier person.

    But there's something else.

    For the past 40 years one or both of us have worked, so we shared maybe 14 hours a day, and around 8 of them were spent sleeping. The remaining 6 were easily consumed by the miscellany of daily life - child rearing, chores, creating and consuming meals. You know - the stuff lives are made of.

    And now we've discovered we have little irritating habits that annoy each other.
    Some background: It's important to understand that we (me especially) are masters at passive aggressiveness. I may have even perfected it into an art, so you might never know whether a slammed kitchen cabinet is unintended or a backdoor punctuation of my pissy mood. Sarcasm is my next best weapon, and has been used to great and hurtful effect. Bill, on the other hand, simply retreats into solitude when he's bothered by me or anything/one else. It takes real effort to get at the source of his malcontent. 

    This Thanksgiving when the kids were home, Julie was talking about how she has the same tendency. I'm sure she learned it from me. Anyway, she said she's been making a real effort to be open and honest about what's bothering her, and enjoys not being annoyed all the time. How novel! I liked the concept.

    So when I realized that Bill's habit of leaving used toothpicks around the house (I know: EW) made me want to scream, I tried the new approach. "You know, I hate picking up your toothpicks. Would you please throw them away?"  And guess what? He said "Sure - no problem."  Eureka! It works!

    By the way, these are awesome toothpicks*
    It not only works, it's contagious.  The other day I was cleaning out the refrigerator and pantry and had filled the trashcan to overflowing.  Bill walked in, saw it and said "Hmmm...you do that a lot and it really bugs me."



    And I thought - he's absolutely right. I know he'll empty the trash, so I just keep jamming stuff in there til the top won't shut.  No more.

    (Do you think he knows I do that dishwasher thing too?  That's when you open it to put in a dirty dish, realize everything is clean, and shut it quickly, leaving it for the next person to empty. I just wish there were a way to make that green light go on again. Is it just me?)

    Oops

    So what's this all about? We're learning to live with each other (with great thanks to Julie), something we haven't done full-time, in 40 years. Old dogs/new tricks: lots of fun!

    *Here's what's great about the toothpicks, aka Doctor's BrushPicks.  They have a tiny little brush on one end for whooshing between your teeth. It actually feels good! (Just don't leave them lying around)

    Wednesday, December 7, 2011

    Please explain why healthcare is linked to employment....

    Why should the level of my healthcare, and its cost to me, be employer-based?

    If I were a conspiracy theorist (some days I have that tendency) I could easily think that employer sponsored health insurance was a corporatist plan to keep employees tethered to jobs.  I might imagine that this linkage makes workers less mobile; less likely to move from job to job in search for the most rewarding position, the perfect fit for them.


    I might even think that support for this crazy theory is found in the widespread corporate opposition to single payer (read "portable") healthcare.  Taking it one baby step further, I could imagine that describing single payer healthcare as socialism, is a carefully crafted scare tactic designed to keep us exactly where we are.

    Stuck.

    If, on the other hand, I did some research, I'd find that while it's true that employer sponsored health insurance limits worker mobility, and forces many to stay in jobs they would otherwise drop like bad habits, this system started during World War II, to offset wage controls. Companies couldn't offer competitive wages, but they could provide healthcare benefits. This was hugely successful and the process was cemented in 1954 when the IRS decided that employer-paid health insurance premiums were tax exempt.

    Game. Set. Match.

    Another reason the very appealing conspiracy theory doesn't hold water is that corporations aren't especially thrilled with escalating insurance costs. They are either forced to cover the increases to compete in the recruitment marketplace or pass them along to employees, who take a dim view of pay cuts.

    In fact, there's a sad little chart on the first page of this report, produced by the Kaiser Family Foundation. It shows that between 2001 and 2011, health insurance premiums for the average family increased 113% from $7,061 to $15,073. Holy Moly!  Employers and employees have shared the increase, and neither are happy. At the same time, incomes have dropped significantly: Median family income in the US has decreased 7% since 2000, after adjusting for inflation.

    I challenge anyone to convince me that in the US, where we often outspend other industrialized nations in healthcare by 2:1  or more, with outcomes that are the same or worse, but seldom better, our employer-based healthcare system is worth salvaging. Apparently we spend about 18% of GDP on healthcare and no other country approaches that level of spending. I dug up some info from 2009, provided by PBS, when we were only spending 16% of  GDP on healthcare. The chart below lists countries in ascending order of World Health Rank (according to the World Health Organization):

    The US was 37th in World Health Rank, yet we spent well above the others. The only country that came close to our spending is Canada at 10.1 % GDP. (And you know how we feel about Canadian healthcare.) But hey, at least we're well ahead of Turkey!

    Our healthcare costs more than anywhere else, the quality is only slightly above average, we have millions of uninsured and underinsured in our country, neither employers nor insureds are happy with with the situation.

    So....who, in this whole mess of employer-linked healthcare insurance, benefits from the status quo?

    Oh.
    Right.