Sunday, December 29, 2013

Resolution Summary

Just looked back over my 2013 New Year's Resolutions:

1)  Eat better, exercise more. This is a perennial resolution, and I need to suss how to make it mean enough to actually do it.

I did not exercise more. I have been eating a lot better. I'll count this one as somewhat achieved.

2)  Find a dentist. For me and Beatrix. This is a silly phobia that needs to stop.

DONE! I love my new dentist (Dr. Amble, thanks Krista!), and in 2014 the ACA will even cover Beatrix's care!

3)  Gain professional certification by becoming QuickBooks Pro certified.

QuickBooks ProAdvisors actually talked me out of this by noting there was no Mac test. But I did get more proficient.

4)  Build a successful and thriving business with my husband; our new joint endeavor, Gladhill Rhone LLC, starts today!

Success! I am very proud of our first year, and looking forward to building on it.

5)  Work less and create more. This is a scary one, because we are really dependent on my income. But I am feeling pretty fried.

Kind of a fail. Better luck next year?

So kind of a mixed bag, all in all. You? What are you resolving for 2014?

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

My 15 Minutes

Our good friend Julio is a reporter, and yesterday we were exchanging a lot of discussion via Twitter about last-minute shopping. Which is how I found myself quoted in the following article:

He also posted an article looking for instant last-minute suggestions, and I pointed out he had not included memberships or philanthropy — so he added them:

Julio's pretty amazing. If you like his writing style, I would suggest you follow his blog, or read him in the Pioneer Press, or even buy his new book, The Mobile Writer (especially if you got an iPad or similar device for Christmas).

Monday, December 23, 2013


My brilliant husband, on kindness:

I especially like this:

And, here’s a little secret I’m going to tell you — kindness in the face of an adversary immediately gives you, the kind practitioner, the upper hand. It often throws those gripped by anger off balance. It often diffuses the tension. It puts one in a position of power to effect positive change. And, even if it fails to do any of those things, it garners the support of those viewing from the outside.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

People Making a Difference

It's been a weekend reminding me about the importance of making a difference.

Last night, we went to my friend Nicole's holiday party. Nicole has a very popular show on cable home channels ("Rehab Addict"), and an enviable track record of saving houses both here and in Detroit. But what I find really incredible about her — besides her unbelievable work ethic (seriously, she is going all the time) — is how authentic she is. Nicole believes completely in the work she does, and she follows those core values as a guidestar. She never does anything halfway, and she is always pushing those around her to do their best work as well. And she cares, passionately, about saving historic homes — and even more about the people who live in them and who work to restore them. Nicole makes me believe, just a little harder, every day.

Then tonight, we went to my friend Barry's housewarming party. Barry and his wife went through an open house in Dayton's Bluff just four weeks ago — and this week, they closed on the house. The house was part of the Fourth Street Preservation Project, an innovative program by the City of Saint Paul designed to intensely focus on preservation work in targeted pockets. Barry and his wife and daughters are the perfect people for a project like this, already attending community co-op meetings and inviting neighbors over and planning summer street festivals and adding vibrant life to a long-vacant home. As we left, they were saying they were looking at this home as a jumping-off place for a new level of change and involvement in their lives. It's pretty inspiring.

And I've been able to do a few intentional acts this weekend as well. I finally sat down and wrote a review of my friend Julio's book. I took Beatrix down to Jerabek's for breakfast, making good on my pledge to go there more often after they got a second chance and re-opened. I remembered to bring a food donation to our friend Chip and Amy's party, where they were collecting for a food shelf. These things felt great, and I need to remember to push myself in ways like that a little more.

But with friends like Nicole and Barry (and so many others, too many to list here) who create great change on a daily basis, I think I can be inspired to do that.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

MN Sure

Let me start by saying that, starting 1/1/14, we have what appears to be an excellent health care plan that gives us a lot more flexibility and better service than we have now, for at least $1,200 less annually, and with a 42% lower deductible. Between that and the covered services, as well as the lower co-pays for those services, The ACA has already been of enormous benefit to our family. And I believe people like us, two people building a small company and trying to give back to the community in every way they can while developing entrepreneurially, is the future of this country.

I will also say that this post is in no way a debate on the federal ACA site. I live in Minnesota, where our state government was wise enough to run its own exchange. I have not even looked at the federal site, because I have no reason to.

But Holy Hannah, the MNSure site is bad enough.

We first tried to get on the MNSure site in early November. We had spent about 6 hours total before today looking at plans and creating an account and such, all the while running into issues like the fact that the site is closed from 10pm to 6am daily, and on Sundays. Basically, even most small boutique stores have better hours, and I am not quite sure why the state is treating this like a bricks-and-mortar place that you walk into (albeit one without actual service staff).

But today, lo and behold, the site was actually open, so we decided to sit down and knock out the application. Which we did — eventually — having spent only 5 hours on it each and placed 3 calls to service plus an email. I'll point out here that we still don't actually know if we have a tax credit coming through. My assumption is that this gets hammered out more at tax time, I hope.

This SHOULD be pretty easy for people like us. I have a lot of human resources savvy. We have an independent broker, who could help us some of the way. We have good records. Patrick is a tech guy. But the whole thing was confounding. It kept on booting us out of the system, and we would have to go in and restart, again, and again, and again.

So, if you're still doing this this week, here are some tip tips to keep in mind:

1)  Do it ASAP. It takes a lot longer than you think. Also, don't forget that you have to CANCEL whatever insurance you have right now so that you are not double covered when your new coverage starts. In our case, we had to ensure the new coverage would start 1/1 and the old coverage was cancelled, because once the new plan year started we could not opt out.

2. This is the most important thing I will tell you. At each page, hit "Save and Exit" at the bottom. Even if you don't want to exit. Then re-enter and start again. Otherwise, it will not remember your data. And when it inevitably crashes, you will have to re-enter everything.

3.  If your income is variable, especially if you might make less than last year, (or if you have done something crazy like been self-employed last year and started a small 2-person LLC this year), estimate high to tie to your last years' taxes. Even though it asks you for what you are making this year. Otherwise, if you are not making as much money this year, you may not be eligible for the MNSure regular plans. The system may decide you make too little money, and that you should be on Minnesota Care and Medicaid instead. And then it tells you to sit tight while it mails you out the forms in a few weeks. And you will miss the 1/1 deadline, and then they will decide you are not eligible for MNCare/Medicaid anyway, and you will be uninsured.

4.  Once you submit first your application, and then your health care plan, you are tied to it. No changes. So, for instance, if you submit your application with this year's income and find out you really meant last year's income to get the plan you want (see #3 above), you have to call in and ask them to change the income, which they will try to get to in the next few weeks, and then reapply. You have to keep calling to check and see if they have done that, because they cannot notify you when they have. Meanwhile, your spouse may (read: "WILL") want to open their own account and try again, because now you are officially stuck in limbo.

5.  Each drop down box has a little blank line before the Yes or No. If you accidentally hit that blank line (which you can somehow choose), it can boot you out of the system.

6.  If you are booted out of the system, just keep on trying to go back like a dog trying to tear into a closed bag of food. Try different browsers. Shut down your computer and go back. Use a different machine. The errors are variable and erratic, and you will constantly run into 404 errors, be re-routed to the State of MN website ("oh look, there's Governor Dayton!"), and other exciting detours.

7.  None of the choices are as you expect. For instance, there's a part where you have to define your relationship to the dependent applicators. I could not say I was the "wife" of Patrick, but rather the "spouse," not the "mother" of Beatrix but rather the "parent."

8.  The system is full of redundancies. I had to enter my name, address, and other information I believe 4 separate times. Often, you have to enter the information using different formatting. If you use formatting different than what they want (ie 651-227-1839 instead of (651) 227-1839, it won't accept it and it can freeze you up.

9.  The plan support people are actually pretty helpful, if you can get to it. The tech support people have no clue, and know the system is effed up and that there's nothing to be done, and will literally tell you "I guess you're on your own."

10.  We did all this with the most basic plan possible. We did not specify doctors or clinics, we did not choose the HSA option, we didn't care about gym memberships or weight reduction, we did not elect adult dental. I am 1000% certain that adding any of these would have totally thrown this over the edge. And, as I said, we're still not sure what our tax credit will be.

Friday, December 13, 2013

My Husband is Famous!

For those who didn't know, he was featured in the Business section of the PiPress last weekend. Too bad they took the photos after we had taken down all our art because our ceilings are being redone.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Mom Shoes

Christmas — well, really, the whole Advent season — was enormous in my family as I grew up. From my earliest childhood I remember my grandmother creating beaded Christmas crafts (and who can forget the Three Wise Men with velvet cone bodies and featureless faces made of nylons over styrofoam balls?) There were huge family dinners, at my grandparents' and then at our house later on. We went to holiday shows. There were cookies and breads and lefse. There were gifts that satisfied your deepest longings and thanks for gifts you gave in kind.

My mother wasn't one to ever give you cash, or even its cousin, the gift card. She had an incredible ability to figure out what you needed to accomplish your goal, or what you were giving up or skimping on to achieve it, and then give that to you. When I redid the bathroom, she bought me a candelabra, so I could burn candles while in the bath. The year we decided to forego travel to deal with some other major expenses, she took us all to Florida. Even when she was too sick to shop, she sent out friends to buy things on the lists she put together for everyone.

That all changed on Christmas Day, 2006, when my mother died. In truth, since my mother was in the hospital for the previous two weeks, we basically skipped that Christmas. I remember thinking "Just please don't let her die on Christmas, whatever happens." When she did, the whole holiday had fundamentally changed.

The next Christmas, I was 7 months pregnant, and the next one, we had a 10-month-old baby who was already able to understand the joy of it, and as much as the holiday still left a deep, jagged hole in me, I had to acknowledge it had changed again.

Years later, I decided to do something for myself this Christmas. I had coveted these shoes for months, but they were ridiculously priced. I tried them on again and again, stalked them on the internet, pictured them with every outfit I owned. But every time I turned back.

As we passed Thanksgiving this year and entered the holiday season, I could feel the cold pain beginning again, at the same time that Beatrix began singing Christmas carols and opening her advent calendar.

So I decided to be my own mom. I went out and bought the shoes, and told myself they were from my mom. and when I wore them the first time tonight, to a holiday party and then to a concert, it made me it seem a little more like she was still here.

If you see me wearing these shoes (this holiday season or otherwise), you'll know I'm thinking of my mom. And re-building Christmas, bit by bit.

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Sonic Quilt That Is Eastern Europe

This weekend I am working with an incredible concert series, and I hope you can join us!

Friday evening’s concert program, "Muzika: Celebrating the Sounds of Eastern Europe" features award-winning vocalist Natalie Nowytski ( with friends, including Bulgarian gadulka player Nikolay Gueorguiev, women’s a capella group Mila Vocal Ensemble (, Balkan party band Orkestar Bez Ime (, and the folk supergroup Ukrainian Village Band (  At 7:00pm the artists will give a talk on what to listen for in Eastern European music to help those new to the music, followed by the concert itself at 7:30 pm.  

Tickets are $12 (with some discounts) and available at the door at Sundin Hall (Hamline University).

Saturday there's a FREE dance party.

Come join us for both! I'm excited for Beatrix to experience this great, Eastern European folk music and dance!