Healthy and Free


My son learns a lot, listening to our car radio.  You never know what question will arise amidst listening to a song, hearing a commercial, or catching up on the latest news.  On Thursday, my son, Max asked me to explain Obamacare to him.  I proceeded to explain the problem that socialized medicine was trying to fix.

Mom: Imagine you work at McDonalds.

Max: Yum!  I like their French fries.

Mom: You make $10 per hour for 8 hours each day.

Max: OK.  That’s … (thinking)… $80.

Mom:  Good.  But you don’t get all of that money.

Max: (aghast) But I earned $80!

Mom: Yes, but about half of that money goes to the government for taxes, like to pay for new roads and fire fighters and stuff.

Max: Oh yeah, right.

Mom: So after working for 8 hours you get to take home… about $40.  After a week, working five days, you have $200.  Then after a month, you have $800. 

Max: That’s a lot of money.

Mom: You use a bunch of that money to pay for a room to live in – let’s say $400 if you are sharing an apartment with a bunch of people.   And you might spend $200 on food that month.

Max: That’s a lot!

Mom: Max, we spend at least $100 each WEEK on food.

Max: Oh.

Mom: Then you have to pay for your car and your car insurance, and gas and stuff.  You don’t have much money for anything else.

Max: Oh.  I’d just use the bike that I got as a present, and ride that to work.  And I’d live in an old house somewhere, so it wouldn’t cost much.

Mom:  I like your idea.  It’s a good way to save money, if work isn’t too far away.  But what happens if you fall off of your bike and break your arm?

Max: Ouch.

Mom: You had to see three doctors when you broke your arm – do you remember?  There was the pediatrician, the x-ray technician, and then the orthopedist – the guy who put your cast on.  Those people might each cost $100.  That’s a lot of money. 

Max: That’s $300.

Mom:  I don’t think you’d have $300 after paying for rent, groceries, and everything else.

Max: Well, I’d ask them to help me for free.  I’d say, “Please, can you give me a cast for free?  If you don’t help me, I can’t work, and I won’t have any money.”

Mom:  Exactly.  People who are in these situations need some help, and the idea is to get some help from neighbors who have more money.

Now, I’m not endorsing a specific government program, but I, appreciated the opportunity to discuss the way the world works with my son.  He understands taxes, income, bank accounts, and the value of money.  I chuckle at the fact that he thinks $1 is a HUGE amount of money, just like I am sure I did, when I was a kid.  To me, $20 is still a pretty huge amount of money; I cannot count the number of times I have passed up buying something because it cost more than $19.99.

I was humbled by our little case study.  I haven’t done math for a lower income case since I WAS that lower income case, as a person putting myself through college and graduate school.  Back then, I managed a really cheap rent situation ($125 per month, if I remember correctly) and I rode my bike so much that I could no longer wear jeans (my quads were too big).  I worked as a waitress and a cook, so I  could manage a cheap meal or two each day by using my discount at the restaurant I worked at, and otherwise did well off of 25 cent day-old bread (there was a William’s Bakery in town), $3.99 pizzas (hoorah for Pizza Pipeline), and 99 cent burritos.  Eventually, a car made sense for me once more (towing my wagon to the Laundromat didn’t work well in the heavy Oregon rain), and with my grad school tuition paid by the school, although I made about $1000 per month, I wasn’t pawning off CDs and clothes just to make my rent, electricity, gas, phone, and water bills too often.

But in Silicon Valley, I honestly don’t know how a single minimum-wage worker could make it work.  There would be no extra money for visits to a café, computers or cell phones, movies, gyms, or any other of the things that prevail around here.

It makes me feel good that Stroller Hikes is free.  We’ve been successful at helping families get outside, active and exploring in their “backyards” for seven years.  No need to pay a fee to join a gym or play group.  The only financial commitment would be rolled into a car to get the family there, and sometimes parking fees.  Of course, you could take Max’s advice and bike everywhere.  Bikes enter parks for free.  Exercise, sunshine, and socialization has shown tremendous positive impact on health, so just hiking, biking, or strolling with your kids can keep your medical bills down, something important to consider as we approach flu season.

A couple weeks ago, Jessica Kazmucha hosted a Medicine Cabinet Make Over at Whole Foods in Cupertino, a fun class in which we discussed health needs met by expensive pharmaceuticals, and some alternate treatments using essential oils from plants.  Chloe, Kathy, Jessica, and I discussed the pros and cons of plant-based treatments.  One major pro was the sheer cost savings of these extracts, as well as peace of mind for the simplicity and purity of the treatments, devoid of dyes or other additives that prevail in the synthetic pharmaceutical world.  A lot of Stroller Hikers expressed interest in this class, but couldn’t make the evening time.  If you are interested and want to learn more, Jessica is hosting another free class, this time on October 12th in Campbell from 10:30 AM to 12:30 PM.  You’ll find it on the Stroller Hikes calendar (  To learn more or RSVP, please e-mail Jessica at

Stay healthy, friends!  And be mindful as we care for our families and each other, particularly as we near the holiday and flu season.

–  Debbie (founder and President), Max (7), Holly (3), and Andrew

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