Stop what you are doing right now and ask yourself: Have I voted?
If not, make preparations to do so right now.
Really, I understand that tomorrow, not today, is The Big Day.
But, by then, this post would be a little too late, wouldn’t it?
Seriously, if you live in the U.S., and you don’t vote, I don’t want to hear a peep out of you about the status of our country from here on out. Got it?
We Know Who We Are
It was one thing, back in 2016, to emerge the morning after election day and think the whole thing must have been a really odd dream.
But, nope, there it was – a reality TV show was now the President of the United States. His only qualification was his lack of qualifications. Seriously. He campaigned on that platform – it isn’t like I am insulting the dude by making that remark. He was an outsider who was going to change everything.
So, here we are, two years later. We have no excuses now. The novelty has worn off. We know exactly what we got when we elected him into office. And that forces us to ask a fundamental question: who are we, as a nation?
Are we a country filled with xenophobic nationalists? Or are we a country filled with people who realize a grave error has been made, at the highest levels of our country?
Only we can decide that now. And tomorrow’s elections will serve either as the turning point where America changed their collective mind about the benefits of MAGA, or the day we confirmed to the world that, yup, we’re serious about this shit.
In my “conversations” about politics with friends and family, I have always said the same thing. I am not afraid of Donald Trump. I am, however, terrified of the 60+ million people who thought voting for him was a great idea.
The Wrong Road
I’ve made no secret that I think we have made a serious error with the Trump presidency. The changes he has made in two years will take untold amounts of effort on our part to undo. (Should we collectively choose to undo them, that is.)
So, please understand this: a”blue wave” tomorrow will not magically solve our issues as a country. So much upheaval has taken place, so many decisions made that can’t be unmade by a change in a legislative body or bodies. We can’t just wave our ballots in the air and undo the enacted policies and cultural changes of the last two years. So many things that we thought were safely behind us as a country turned out to only be waiting for a little fertilizer to spring back to life.
We will not be “overthrowing” the current political order by a repudiation of Trump’s America tomorrow at the polls. At best we will slow the bleeding. But, when you are gravely injured, you have to stop the bleeding first. Then you can worry about things like organ transplants and broken bones.
It may seem that we are only heading backward, trying to get back to a point before things changed. Please understand that this is not necessarily a bad thing. C.S. Lewis, who am I so fond of quoting, said it best:
“We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.”
Sign me up for “progressive.”
The Heart of a Nation
My brother and I are fond of asking one another the question: “What kind of a world are we leaving behind for Keith Richards to live in?”
The Immortal Rolling Stone aside, the question still pertains – what will our legacy be? Tomorrow’s election will be an excellent bellwether for our ongoing development as a nation.
Do we, as a country, believe that we have gone completely off the rails? Are we setting up, as many fear, the foundations for a nation built on xenophobia and religious intolerance?
Or, will the “other half” of the country speak and maintain their belief that only by rewarding the rich and powerful while punishing the poor and helpless can we “return to greatness?’
Either way, the worst thing you can do is to think your vote doesn’t matter. A few hundred people in Wisconsin and Michigan decided matters for us in 2016. This is no time to sit on the sidelines, no matter where your loyalties lie.
I woke up this morning rested and ready, on fire to get up and get to writing. Then, I made a mistake. I should have turned on the iPad and got to work. Instead, I opened up my banking software to make sure my monthly Social Security payment had posted overnight.
What I discovered was that, before my deposit cleared, a yearly fee I had forgotten about had posted: membership dues for the local gym we haven’t been attending (though that is another article in and of itself.) So, instead of starting the month with a fresh set of capital to work with, I was now already $70+ in the hole for the month, thanks to the aforementioned fees and that lovely, lovely overdraft penalty my bank charges.
And, just like that, my entire day was upended.
I Am Become Debt, The Destroyer Of Worlds
Seriously, is there anything in this world that creates as much internal stress as money, and money related problems?
And, the maddening thing is, we treat money like the digestive process: everyone requires it, but no one ever wants to talk about it, and you’d better be sure you wash your hands afterward.
Money issues are an epidemic in this country. Student debt is crippling households across the nation. Less than half of us have enough savings to survive a 3-month crisis. A person making minimum wage has to have multiple sources of income in order to survive.
And yet, how do we react to our financial woes? With embarrassment. We do our best to hide the problems from one another. There is a deeply ingrained shame response to admitting that things are tough for us, despite the fact that things are tough all over.
We are so embarrassed by our “illness” that we refuse to seek treatment for it. And if you think that is a flawed analogy, try having Epilepsy, or Depression, or any of the other “ugly” diseases out there. There are plenty of examples of folks that would rather just not admit to being sick, instead of seeking treatment.
Living In The Shadow Of The Golden Towers
We keep hearing in the news how fabulously the economy is doing, right? GNP is growing, unemployment is slow, things are supposedly beautiful in Trump’s America.
So, if that is the case, why do the great majority of us admit that financial concerns are our #1 worry and creator of stress?
Simple: we are living on a flawed bell curve. The top 1% of our country is outearning all the rest of us combined. And their economic status is making the rest of us look like we should be doing better than we are.
I am certainly not anti-capitalist in any way. But an economic system that continues to be slanted toward providing resources and advantages to those that require them least is troubling.
And Lor and I are among the lucky ones: those with a “safety net” of concerned family members who are willing to give us a hand if things go really pear-shaped. Thanks to our family, we will never be in the position where we have to worry about having nowhere to live if things get worse. Many of us living in the bottom 10% are not afforded that luxury. If things go seriously wrong, they get to sleep in their cars, or at the homeless shelter.
If there is room that night at the shelter, that is.
The Ragged Edge Of The American Dream
So, how many of us, do you think, are living in poverty: the bottom 10% of earners in this country, measured by yearly income?
It gets worse. If you are a minority, you are much more likely to be living in poverty. And heaven help you if you are a single mother: 50% (half!) of children living in a female-headed household are at or below the poverty line.
Those that are most damaged by poverty are also the most restricted by society in America.
Which is really unfair: being poor is a demanding, full-time, job.
I, for example, have to meticulously document every medical visit, every prescription filled, log every seizure. Why? Because, every three years or so, I have to re-prove to the Federal Government that there is still no cure for Epilepsy. If I don’t, my SSDI stops, and so do my ever-so-important Medicare benefits. You know, those benefits that keep me from having to spend thousands of dollars each month on medications, medical visits, and surgical procedures.
Living in the bottom 10% is no picnic. It is a daily grind of finding gig work, engaging lenders with predatory practices (I can literally SHOW you loan documents featuring a 75% APR), and deciding which bill gets paid and which gets put off for a month.
We are constantly treated like criminals, just for being poor. It is the same self-sustaining logic that states that minorities are more likely to commit crimes than whites. No one bothers to mention the fact that minorities are not afforded the same advantages as Caucasians, and therefore are more in need of resources from outside the traditional economic system.
The same is true for poor people. A typical middle-class family may scratch their heads at the poor benighted person at the bottom of the economic scale, risking their safety and their freedom while robbing a convenience store for a measly $50.
We don’t do things like take out stupid loans and rob corner stores because we are mentally deficient. We do it because that $50 is quite literally the difference between keeping our heads above water and drowning, Right this minute, I am faced with the question of how to make up a $70 hole in my budget. That hole isn’t coming out of the “leisure activity” section of my budget. It literally is a question of “which bill won’t I pay this month?”
The Shame Of Poverty
And, the thing is, there are going to be friends and family members of mine that are going to cringe to read this post.
I will hear things like “I had no idea…”, or “Why didn’t you ask for help?”
You didn’t know because, like 99% of poor people, I didn’t talk about it. And I didn’t ask for help because I am not stranded on the side of the road. I am poor. It doesn’t get better between this month and next.
Others have asked me why I am not “making a living” as a writer. Ha. Ha ha ha. The vast majority of those who are profiting from freelance writing realize less than $10,000 a year from their work. I am not among that group – since 2016 I am probably over $2,000 in the hole from supporting my writing habit. If not for my Patreon supporters and a thin stream of book sales, I would be forced to just stand in the corner and mumble to myself.
I have had close friends whisper their Horatio Alger dreams for me – why don’t I just get a job and start climbing the ladder, like everyone else? Many have gone so far as to suggest that I am actually lazy.
I am not lazy – I am frightened. Let me explain…
An Experiment in Number-Crunching
I “earn” $18,000 a year from Social Security. I’ve learned to build our life around a whopping $1,400 a month, with over half of that going to housing. But, let’s theorize that I somehow find an employer who is interested in an employee who has seizures, can’t verbally communicate very well, and has no short-term memory to boot.
Let’s also theorize that they are willing to pay me, say, $30,000/year for an entry-level position. Has to be entry-level, remember. I’ve been out of the workforce for nearly two decades at this point.
So, $30,000/year works out to $14.42 an hour. Every 80 hours, I will earn $1,153. Not bad! That’s nearly what I make in a month right now!
Oh, but wait…that’s before taxes. So, let’s reduce that about by 25% to reflect taxes, social security, and the like. OK, we’re now at $865 every two weeks. We’re down to $1,730 a month now. That’s only a little bit above what I bring home right now. Hmm.
Now, let’s not forget that I will no longer have Medicare, so I need to start paying for my own health care. So, there’s another (at least, some pay FAR more) $100 every month gone. $1,630.
Now, I am still sick – I didn’t miraculously get better. I am going to have to keep on paying for my cocktail of meds every month. I will no longer get any Federal assistance with my drugs, and instead, we’ll be paying a co-payment for my meds every month. Let’s say I have to only come up with 10% of my meds. My latest Medicare Prescription summary tells me that I would have been on the hook for $1,694 in meds last month. So, 10% of that is…$169. Every month. $1,630-169 = $1,461.
Congratulations – I’ve now arrived at what I am already making a month by staying a garden variety, disabled poor person.
Oh, but wait – if I go back into the workforce I am now on the hook for the student loans that are currently in deferment thanks to my broken brain. That payment would be…$215 a month. (A LOT lower than many student loan payments I know of.) I am now down to $1,246 a month.
Oh, and by the way…I did mention that I am still sick, right? To the tune of a yearly hospitalization for various maladies? Now, not only would me missing work for procedures and surgeries totally piss off my new boss, but it also would cost me money. LOTS of it. Looking over my latest statement from my most recent hospital visit, I would have been on the hook for….$43,000. I can’t even begin to guess what that would have cost under a traditional insurance plan.
As it is, I was forced to come up with a $350 co-payment. Hence the 75% APR loan I referred to earlier.
And welcome to why those of us who are poor, stay that way.
Poverty is one of the great ignored societal ills in our country today. I’ve actually been trying to work in Poverty Advocacy for a while now. It is hard going – people would rather talk about having STDs than talk about being poor. It remains a horrible, societal shame – one of the worst admissions you can make in our success-driven nation.
But our societal expectations are just flat out WRONG. If you take nothing else away from this post, please, just remember this: most of those in poverty around you are not there because they are lazy. They are not there because they are criminals, though many become criminals out of necessity. They are there because we keep them there.
If you are concerned (like I am), there are things you can do. Be sensitive to those who are worse off than you. Get plugged into organizations that work with the poor – whether your church, a food bank, a bookmobile, what have you. Vote intelligently – keep in mind that tax cuts for the top 1% are not going to do nearly as much for the welfare of this country as things like subsidized child care, student loan reform, and regulation of predatory lending practices.
And, lastly, do understand that this isn’t a plea for financial help on the part of my household. We’ve gotten through worse than this. More than any handout, the best thing you could do is to become sensitive to poverty – what it is and what it isn’t. The poor around you might not be standing on a street corner holding up a sign saying “Anything Helps.”
They might be standing right next to you, hiding in plain sight.
Welcome to November! Home of Fall weather hinting at a really cold upcoming winter, election season, and WAY too much leftover Halloween candy.
Oh, and a little something known as NaNoWriMo. You may have heard of it, if you are a writer. Maybe even if you are in close contact with a writer. (Quick! Wash your hands!)
The Unpronounceable Word
For the uninitiated, NaNoWriMo stands for “National Novel Writing Month.” The premise is this: to spend the entire month of November writing an entire 50,000 word novel in 30 days.
Most writers will tell you two things about this concept. First, 50k words is not a terribly big book. Second, spending the entire month doing nothing but writing 1,500+ words a day, every day, is not going to leave you a lot of slack for things like proof reading, editing, etc. In short, on November 30, your novel is going to be crap.
But that isn’t the point, really. The whole idea is to spend the month developing and exercising the discipline required to put 50,000 words, one after another, on paper. If you can go through that process (what we writers call word vomit), you can then expand, proof and edit at your leisure. The idea is to get the work out there in the universe in the first place.
Those of you that follow Misdirected are already aware that I had a nightmare of a time during my last attempt at participating in NaNoWriMo. Not only did I fail to produce one novel, but I actually failed to produce two, having switched boats midstream. (Note to other authors: don’t do this.) I worked so hard and failed so miserably that not only did I not have a finished work to show for it on November 30, but I actually crippled my creative process, resulting in a case of writer’s block that lasted well into 2018.
But, the concept behind NaNoWriMo still really appeals to me – the unrelenting discipline of creating something every single day. So, I’ve decided to put my own spin on the process.
Behold: NaBlogWriMo. National Blog Writing Month.
It may be that there is already a month dedicated specifically to blog writing and creation. Frankly, I don’t care. This is my attempt to play with the big kids in something that proved to be WAY above my weight class last year.
A Return To Our Roots
You may remember those bygone days when this blog, Misdirected, was a little less…focused. I talked about games, about writing, about epilepsy…pretty much whatever was on my mind on any given day.
And that was the thing…I put out content every single day, 5 days a week, for almost two years. It took the onset of bariatric surgery to narrow the focus of Misdirected, along with a resulting reduction in content. Misdirected became weekly, then monthly, then completely irregular. Now it has devolved to “whenever I feel like I have something to say pertaining to my narrow but focused audience.” Which, frankly, isn’t very often.
So, for my participation in the “writing in November” project, I am returning Misdirected to a daily feed for November 2018. Five days a week, throughout the month, our readers will be getting content.
The Chaotic Result
Now, the fact remains that I am not going to have 20+ days worth of bariatric/exercise/lifestyle advice to create blog posts around. So, for this month, Misdirected will be returning to its previous format, where I write about pretty much anything that captures my attention on any given day.
This will undoubtedly drive some of you crazy. I know several thousand of you subscribe specifically for bariatric lifestyle articles. To those of you that this applies to, let me apologize in advance, and warn you that you may want to only check in once a week or so during this month. That way, you can cherry pick those articles which seem like they might be relevant to you.
To everyone else, welcome back to the previous, schizophrenic Misdirected, where I released out to the world my thoughts on just about anything on any given day. I can already tell you that there are going to be posts about media, about politics, about writing, and more items that are not going to have much of anything to do with weight loss and maintenance. Which brings me to my last point…
Our Special Guests
During this month-long revision to Misdirected, I will also be bringing aboard a few guest bloggers. They are all writers whose work I admire, who I think have relevant and exciting things to say, and who I think will enhance your life just by sharing a blog post with you. I encourage you to go check out what they are doing outside of the confines of our little community.
At the end of it all, we won’t have produced a 50,000 word novel. But we will have achieved 20+ articles that I believe will be completely worth your while to spend a little time investigating.
Thanks for your continued support of Misdirected! I appreciate every ounce of help we get here, from our Patreon supporters, to our subscribers, to those who drop in with kind and encouraging words every week. I look forward to spending more time than usual with you all during the month of November, and hope that at the end of this experience we all come away with smiles on our faces.
Let’s draw back the curtain on trying to make a living as a blogger, shall we?
I mean, let’s face facts. The idea that people would actually pay to come to visit a blog is kind of ludicrous, right? There is just so much good, free content out there. Why would anyone actually spring for some money to read a particular blog?
But ads…that’s a whole different thing, right? People put up with ads all day long, in various formats. Billboards. TV and radio commercials. Heck, pop-up and click-bait ads on their favorite social media sites. They are just a fact of life. So, adding them to a blog…well, that isn’t too bad, right? And if a blogger gets just enough followers – maybe this can turn into something that allows them to do nothing but blog all the time!
The Grand (Failed) Experiment
So, once upon a time, I monetized my web page. I hoped to maybe pay some bills and keep the lights on. A secret part of me also hoped to provide a monetary motivation to keep providing content to the blog readers.
A few months back, I received my first disbursement check from Google AdSense. It worked! was my first thought. Here was $112 for writing blog posts. Hooray!
Then, this morning, I received an email from Google AdSense that made me re-evaluate the whole thing.
“Your revenue dropped by 16%.” was the lead on the email. Curious, I opened the email to check the numbers. Turns out I had 5,363 ads shown during last month. Over 5,000! Wow! And this led to a total revenue of…
Yup, no joke. 5,000 ads viewed by my readers turned into less than five dollars in revenue.
Now, AdSense doesn’t give me immediate access to that money. Of course not. Because that would be too easy. I might go buy a latte with it or something. Instead, AdSense makes me wait until I have over $100 in credit “banked” with them before they will release a disbursement.
So, doing a little back-of-the-envelope math, that means my next disbursement will come in…
So, yeah, in June of 2020, to celebrate my 50th birthday, I will have another $100 check from AdSense.
The Painful Crunch of Numbers
Intrigued, in the “can’t look away from a car accident” sense, I did a little more off the cuff math.
What would it take, I wondered, to come up with a meaningful amount of ad revenue? Obviously bringing in a full-time salary of 50 grand a year or so was astronomically improbable. But, what about, say, enough to get a $100 disbursement every month?
Let’s look at the numbers.
Between subscribers, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, Misdirected has roughly 30,000 followers. I still think this is an amazing number, and I love every single one of you and wish I could buy you all presents.
But, those 30K followers generated about 5,000 ad views last month. Which turned into (rounding up) about $5.00 in revenue. I am making roughly a tenth of a cent for each ad view.
So, if I want $100 in a month, I am going to need 20x more ad views. That is 100,000 ad views every month.
Let that number sink in a minute.
But the numbers get more impressive. In order to get 5,000 ad views, I have to have about 30,000 followers. So…to get 100,000 ad views, I am going to need…
Just for context, a Youtube channel with 600,000 followers is making BANK. Like, “doing stupid stunts involving setting cars on fire” kind of money.
Whereas a blogger using Google AdSense with 600,000 followers is apparently almost making enough to pay the light bill.
Frankly, I am not sure there are half a million people on the planet interested in bariatric surgery and epilepsy stories.
The Final Conclusion
Short version: Google Adsense sucks as a revenue stream.
And this is why sites like Patreon have to exist. Again, THANK YOU to my patrons. Without you, Misdirected would not have hosting, backups, name registration…it simply wouldn’t be viable. And now I understand why Patreon allows subscription rates as low as $1 a month. I could make the same amount from 100 Patreon supporters as I could from 600,000 followers being filtered through Google AdSense.
I’ve bought ad time from Google in the past. I guarantee you I did not get anywhere close to 5,000 views of my writing from spending $100.
Somebody somewhere is making bank off these ad rates.
Apparently, it just isn’t the creators of the content where the ads get embedded.
Considering Standing On a Corner With A “Will Blog For Food” Sign,
Another day, another contemplation of an upcoming surgery.
That’s the funny thing about our health, isn’t it? You think you’ve got a handle on it, at long last. After all, my weight is down at the lowest point in decades. I no longer require a CPAP or blood pressure medications. I’ve survived my most recent bout with kidney stones. (Though that is a story in and of itself that I might revisit here at some point.)
And then you drop into the dermatologist’s office and are informed that the mole you wanted to talk about removing is actually a tumor.
Yup. Cancer on the face. How about them apples?
Darkness At The Edge
It started off pretty innocuously – a discoloration on my right cheek, right below my eye. It had been there for years, just another spot on a body covered with them.
Then, two years ago, it started to grow. Eventually, it stood out far enough from my face that I started seeing it in my peripheral vision.
It’s a mole, I thought. No big deal.
Finally, Lor had waited long enough and told me to go get it checked. I misunderstood her concern and assumed (wrongly) that its appearance was kinda grossing her out. I made an appointment with my physician. She took one look at it and told me I needed to see a dermatologist. I grumbled at the delay, took the referral, and made an appointment.
And, once at the dermatologist’s office, the whole tenor of the conversation changed. They needed to take a biopsy. It would take about 2 weeks to get results. After my procedure I would have to come back in to get checked over head to toe.
I left the office in a daze. I remember leaving the parking lot and looking over at Lor, and saying “Wait…so I have cancer?”
The next day wasn’t a good one. I spent some time feeling sorry for myself. I spent a LOT of time staring in the mirror. My face may not be much, but it is the only one I have. And the idea that some surgeon was going to be working on it with a scalpel and an ice cream scoop filled me with fear. I’ve seen the anti-smoking ads featuring survivors of mouth cancer, with half their faces missing. Was I going to go through the rest of my life with a gigantic hole in my face? Covering up the offending wound with a black cloth like a smallpox victim in the 1600s?
As it turns out, probably not. The tumor itself is supposedly not a “bad” one, as tumors go. It is referred to as a Basal Cell Carcinoma. They tend to grow slowly and not spread to other parts of the body. The technique they will be using for my procedure (Mohs surgery) removes thin layers of skin at a time. Those layers are placed under a microscope to look for viable cancer cells. If more are found, they do it again. And again. And again. Until they find nothing but healthy skin tissue.
Of course, they are also looking for non-basal cells at the same time. If they find any cancer cells of the two more serious varieties (squamous or melanoma), then my course of treatment will not be done with the surgical procedure alone. So, you know, a little extra tension to add some spice to the whole process.
At the end of the procedure, they stitch me up, leaving a small linear scar on my cheek. Which, if you’ve met me, you know will probably not even be visible or remarkable given the current condition of my facial topography.
While speaking with the nurse in charge of pre-op in preparation for my procedure next week, she commented on how calmly I was taking the whole thing.
I joked that the tumor removal was just another item on my “bucket list” of surgeries I wanted to complete in my lifetime. We both laughed. It was a grand jest.
But, seriously now – something ELSE wrong with me? Requiring yet another surgical procedure? Its as if the gods of medical oddsmaking are very unhappy with my stated intention to make it to 50 years old and are just starting to make shit up to throw at me at this point.
On the one hand, basal cell carcinoma is not that bad, as cancers go.
On the other hand, how many times am I going to refer to my latest medical condition as “not as bad as it could be?” How many “not so bads” does it take to add up to one life-altering crisis?
Well, apparently at least one more than I have contracted so far.
So, between epilepsy, bariatric surgery, depression, and now cancer, I certainly have a surfeit of maladies to wrap my head around.
I keep asking Lor where I go to trade this body in for a new one. She keeps pointing out that the upgrade process would have to include my broken brain as well, which would just make me a different person anyway. True words, but not terribly encouraging.
So, instead of trading in, I am just going to have to do the best I can with the one I’ve got.
Here’s hoping that my next surgical procedure, my sixth in the last few years, goes as smoothly as the previous five.
We will keep everyone posted via FB and Twitter, as always. And then we will hope for a break between procedures. Is a year between surgeries really too much to hope for?