Wednesday, May 30, 2007


You know how it is. (Well, some of you do.) You skip a few days posting, then a few more, then--whoops!--it's been a couple of weeks, and what do you do then? It's been so long since you wrote anything on your blog, your (rapidly diminishing population of) readers will surely expect something extraordinary! Or at least cohesive. Only, you can't come up with anything, on account of whatever crazy life circumstances it was that led you to skip those first few days in the first place.

And so it is with me. The end of the school year is bearing down, I'm writing report cards and putting together summer reading lists, the laundry's piling up, the bills need paying. I've got job applications in the hopper, I'm checking Craigslist every day for apartments in Vancouver or Burnaby (Available August 1 or thereabouts, 3 bedrooms, or 2 and a den, cat-friendly, not too pricey, not in a high-rise building, and ideally right near the school we want the Mermaid Girl to go to...but really, we're not picky. Honest.). We have friends of friends who will rent our house starting in September. I've got a volunteer gig at the Vancovuer library for a week in July, we've got tickets to the Folk Festival up there, and MG, has those summer camps she's all jazzed about.

Amid all that swirl of activity, it's hard to isolate one bloggable, notable moment, though they abound as they do in everyone's life once you take the time to notice them. This is the time of year when our neighborhood comes alive; it's light out until eight or nine, there are people walking around. Our neighbors put in a barbecue pit and invited us over for marshmallows. We walked down to the Mexican place for dinner last night because it was too hot to cook, and MG ran into two friends from school. Last week I had a day off and chaperoned her choir on a field trip to sing for the old Norse at the old Norse home. And the other night, bringing up the laundry from the basement, I smelled the sea on the night air.

Times like that, I think: what are we doing? How can we leave this place??

But I gave notice today at the job where I've worked for almost nine years.

Here's one reason why:

A few months ago, we went to a local circus festival. Some of MG's circus school teachers were in it, and it was in the neighborhood, and it was a swell show. There were comedians, and acrobats, and a fancy trapeze act where young women wearing fairy wings swung from hoops practically right above our heads.

We like to go to these things particularly because MG is good at circus. She can climb a rope 20 feet up in the air, hoisting herself up. She spends her recess time practicing fancy flips on the bar. It's not that I really think she's necessarily going to do it for a living, but, you know, she might want to try it, at least for a while, one day. She likes to perform, and she might actually have the energy and perseverance and confidence to make something like that work. And if she did, we'd be so proud. Proud beyond proud. And happy, that she was doing something that truly made her happy.

So there we were, and I looked at all those performers, up on the hoops, swinging and swooping, momentarily--in the manner of proud and hopeful parents--seeing MG up there. And I thought: what happens if one falls? Do they have insurance?

My guess is, probably not. So, if one falls, they're in the hole for thousands upon thousands of dollars. Unless they're insured under a spouse who works for a big company. Otherwise, they're out of luck. Lots of performers are. You hear of big benefit concerts every once in a while, for a musician--even pretty famous ones--who had a major illness and just can't cover the bills.

I looked again at that circus happening all around us, and all of a sudden I thought: oh. We're having this great time, seeing this great performance. But these people who are performing for us are subsidizing it, with their very bodies, their futures.

Not that I felt personally guilty, or that I have the money to pay for health insurance for even one of them. Or that I feared for myself; I have a job, I have insurance. And the point isn't even exactly that I want MG to be able to be a circus performer when she grows up. Not to get too dramatic about it, just seemed wrong, all of a sudden. A wrong way to set up a culture, a system, a country.

And I just all of a sudden felt that we were all swinging from a very, very shaky hoop.


Blogger S. said...

Elswhere, I hope you keep blogging!

This post struck me so close to home. Everything about our current life is possible because A. has spousal insurance that covered me while I was pregnant and doing this crazy thing of starting a business, and our state has second-parent adoption so Z. can also be on the plan no matter what. And a good thing, too, because in her first week of life she ran up more medical bills than a year of A.'s salary.

We're lucky.

And luck shouldn't enter into it at all, not at all, when you're talking about who gets taken care of, and how well, when terrible things happen.

10:31 PM  
Blogger elswhere said...

s., that's it exactly. It's such a crazy thing to arrange one's life around. And yet most of us do, one way or another.

And I hope I keep blogging, too. I intend to keep on, however spottily. Thanks.

10:56 PM  
Blogger Phantom Scribbler said...

Such a gorgeous post, Elswhere! But these people who are performing for us are subsidizing it, with their very bodies, their futures. Exactly true, horrifying to contemplate, and gorgeously put.

(o) on giving notice!

5:59 AM  
Blogger Jessica said...

On a slightly less metaphorical level if Mermaid Girl wants to persue being a cirus girl there are certainly lots of oppertunities to do so in Canada, paticuarly the École nationale de cirque in Montreal.

11:52 AM  
Blogger elswhere said...

jessica--yes! In our dreamiest dreams we have dreamed about that. For now, there's a reputedly good circus school in Vancouver, not far from where we hope to live.

7:50 PM  
Blogger liz said...

Excellent post. I know many, many people who stay in jobs they hate for the insurance. Especially if it pays for therapy sessions that they wouldn't need if they didn't hate their jobs.

3:24 AM  
Blogger jo(e) said...

Great post.

I grew up in a family that did not have any sort of health insurance. I can remember feeling guilty if I got sick and my parents took me to the doctor's because I knew it was costing them a whole lot of money that they didn't have.

5:37 AM  
Blogger DaniGirl said...

Reading this post from Canada is a real eye-opener. I have been aware, of course, of the vast differences between our systems for some time - but your post puts it into a whole new light.

Best of luck in your move. In my humble opinion, it's the best country on earth and I hope you find it very welcoming!

7:46 AM  
Blogger mcewen said...

Newbie [from write and whine] It has taken us 'forever' to adjust to the way of life out here [still practicing] and I still feel that we're only one pay check away from disaster [which I suspect is the way that a lot of AMericans feel too]

8:31 AM  
Blogger S. said...

Hopping back on to add a prop to A.'s union--without A.'s union we'd have a whole lot shittier coverage.

The US system of employer-financed insurance is insane b/c it traps the employers b/t their employees and the insurance company. I'm writing as an employer here. I can't afford to pay my employees' insurance. It would literally drive me into bankruptcy.

The thing that makes me most hopeful (and that's not very) about things changing here is that some large employers are now starting to understand that it's in their interest to back reform.

12:32 PM  
Blogger elswhere said...

Yes, S., I have hopes that things will improve-- but I'm not holding my breath. If and when they do, I'll feel easier about moving back if we ever want to for other reasons.

deanigirl-- thanks for the welcome! As I wrote, I've got some mixed feelings. But basically I'm looking forward to the move.

mcewen-- a lot, lot, lot of Americans feel like that. Maybe it's something you get used to; I haven't, and I've lived here my whole life.

12:59 PM  
Blogger susan said...

You are so is such a messed up system that links insurance, jobs, and maritial status (or facsimile thereof). The metaphor here is stunning: midair, indeed.

6:17 AM  
Blogger witchtrivets said...

Great post. Since I moved to the Pacific Northwest I have been a little tiny bit bitter that you are now leaving for Canada. Oregon is so much better than North Carolina, but you are right -- even the bluest states in the US have a long way to go. And health care has a lot to do with it, but as you know that is just a symptom of a far larger problem.

It makes perfect sense why you want to leave. But still, it shows how much this country has failed that you must leave -- that this is the best option for you. And that makes me sad. Well, if mwt or I had Canadian citizenship, the decision would probably be made already. Not that we still don't mull it over on a monthly basis. And we certainly like Vancouver...

10:52 AM  

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