Betsy Robinson, author of funny literary stories about flawed people, is a perpetual seeker of truth.

From books to music to theater and fine art, from online TV to DVDs, this blog takes a look at current culture through a spiritual perspective — with a touch of humor.

Materials under the "review" tag are a mix of free review copies (books, DVDs, etc.) in exchange for a review, to library copies, to materials and tickets I've paid for.

A Really Bad Hair Day (Feb. 13 blog)

The Art of Collapsing (Feb. 6 blog)

Life is only temporary says Evan Handler (Jan. 28 blog)

The New World of Finance (Jan. 28 blog)

All about growing up in a cult (April 16 blog)

Fierce Giving (Jan. 8 blog)











(Copyright © 2008-2014 Betsy Robinson. All rights reserved)

Notes from a Crusty Seeker

About My Left Breast

November 10, 2012

Tags: healing, Cost Cutting, compassionate wisdom, Unemployment

There are no accidents. I first met Pamela Wible, M.D., more than four years ago at a publicity conference. I was there as managing editor of a magazine and she was on a long line of people speed-pitching stories to the tick-tock of a stopwatch. The main things I remember were that we greeted each other like old friends, her face felt like full sun on a perfect summer’s day, and I begged the woman with the stopwatch to give her more time because I knew what I was hearing was important. I wanted to know more about how she’d started a compassionate, patient-centered medical practice in Eugene, Oregon, and how other doctors could do the same thing, and how patients could feel cared for at a fair price. Although I can't remember exactly what Pamela told me, I do remember being absolutely certain that she was a revolutionary and I wanted to support her revolution in any way I could.

Jump cut to the present. I am no longer employed. I work as a freelance book editor. I have lousy catastrophic insurance, and I have just completed an odyssey that began with a month-long nightmare at a radiology center that treated me like a member of a herd and, with no information or face-to-face contact or returned phone call from a doctor, tried to steer me down a chute where some person—I know not who—would stick a needle into my left breast for unexplained reasons. I've never been a herd person, so I refused, dug in my heels, and in my best former legal secretary voice, wrote a letter protesting, among other things, their refusal to send me my medical report . . . resulting in the instant return of my records right before Hurricane Sandy hit. (more…)

The Fog of the Phone War

August 6, 2012

Tags: fun, review, Cost Cutting

Lowest jerry-rigged phone/Internet/TV bundle ever:

Basic get-a-clear-picture TV..............................................$35.55/mo.

MagicJack DSL-line unlimited calling to
anywhere in the USA @ $20.00/yr....................................$ 1.66/mo.

Prepaid cell phone for emergencies @ $10/yr...................... $ .83/mo.

Basic Budget (for incoming calls only)
phone + Internet.............................................................$58.54/mo.

Total..............................................................................$96.58/mo.


* * *

“All associates are currently helping other customers. Please stay on the line and your call will be answered in the order it was received.”

Tick-tock, tick-tock, lost count of minutes waited.

“Hello, thank you for using Verizon. How can I help you?”

“Hi, I can hardly hear you. Could you possibly talk into your microphone?”

“Hello, thank you for using Verizon. How can I help you?” (more…)

The Sad, Sad Saga of an Insured Patient

July 27, 2012

Tags: healing, Cost Cutting

After years of paying insurance premiums for a high deductible ($2,000) plan that covered nothing but minimum preventive care appointments (meaning almost no lab tests) at a cost of around $500+ per month, I opted out of “Oxford’s good insurance” and bought a catastrophic plan from EmblemHealth that is available to self-employed people in New York City: $231 a month. And although I’m gambling that I will remain healthy and never have to shell out the $10,000 deductible, I figured Emblem is as good as my “good insurance” because it, too, pays for minimal preventive visits (even fewer lab tests).

Unfortunately, five months into my plan I did require a “sick visit.” It was May 3, 2012. There is a walk-in medical clinic nearby whose website says that a basic office visit is $150—even if you have no insurance. If you need X-rays or blood work or anything on top of just being seen by a doc, that will cost more, but unequivocally the basic charge is $150. Not only that, but they said they took insurance so at least my pay-out would go towards my $10,000 deductible. Yippee! (more…)

Meryl Streep, Toilet Paper, and the Merits of Pretending

May 23, 2010

Tags: compassionate wisdom, fun, review, Cost Cutting

Yesterday I bought 24 rolls of Marcal Small Steps® totally recycled toilet paper because it was on sale for $4.99 plus tax at Staples.com — with free shipping if you got it sent to a store where you’d pick it up.

I don’t know where I’m going to store 24 rolls of toilet paper, but Marcal is hard to find, I’ve been buying it since before recycling was popular, and I’m loyal to the brand. Plus which, it’s a whole lot better than the more popular recycled brands.

It really bugs me that Marcal had to change its name to Small Steps® and redesign its packaging and probably fire all its marketing people and hire new ones to try to compete with the eco-newcomers. It really bugs me that Small Steps® still isn’t carried in organic markets. It is unbelievably annoying that you can do something for 60 years and, when what you’re doing finally becomes popular, you’re still unpopular.

Which brings me to Meryl Streep. (more…)

Don't Close the New York Public Library!

May 11, 2010

Tags: compassionate wisdom, fun, healing, Unemployment, Cost Cutting

For a person who’s not really into acquiring things, I’m amazed at how much stuff I have: a whole wall of books, three file cabinets of manuscripts, and then there’s the music — the tapes and CDs, not to mention my collection of 33 1/3 records that take up two feet of floor in my bedroom and simply cannot be discarded.

I plan to weed. In my bedroom closet there’s a trunk full of I-don’t-know-what — oh no, it’s photo albums and decades of personal journals that I’ll never read or look at, but I cannot throw away.

One nice thing about being unemployed is that I no longer buy anything to add to the clutter. I mean that. Aside from food and rent and essential services, I don’t spend money. And I don’t feel the least deprived. Why? (more…)

Itty Bitty Matters

August 18, 2009

Tags: compassionate wisdom, healing, Cost Cutting, fun


There are three pertinent pieces of background to this story:
(1) I am allergic to tomato plants;

(2) It takes approximately 500 years for a plastic bag to decompose in a landfill;

(3) Anything that demonstrates a determination to stay alive is an object of my admiration.
(more…)

Socialized Medicine, Compassion, and Life — Oh No!

June 12, 2009

Tags: compassionate wisdom, healing, Cost Cutting, review

Last night I watched Sicko, Michael Moore’s documentary about our health-care system. A guy at the grassroots Health Care Organizing Kickoff meeting last weekend referenced it a few times, and since I missed it when it was in theaters, I got it at the New York Public Library. This required asking for it, receiving an email when it arrived at my local branch, strolling over, showing my library card, and walking out without paying any money. This is because the public library is a government-funded social program, allowing even unemployed people like me access to free information. It seems to work awfully well.

A block up from my library is my local fire department. They are a government-funded social program that seems to work awfully well.

Last weekend, a guy on my block had a very loud party late at night. I dialed 311 and a courteous government-paid employee took my noise complaint and dispatched a member of our socialized law enforcement department to quell the din. It worked awfully well.

I’d thought Sicko was going to be a diatribe about our lousy heath-care-if-you-can-afford-it system, and I was quite surprised to see that the majority of the film showed compassionate doctors and satisfied patients in France and the UK and Canada. When asked how much money care cost, they either laughed or looked befuddled and then responded, with polite horror, that they wouldn’t want to work or live in a system that allowed people to die if they couldn’t afford to pay.

Although it seems like yesterday, many years ago my beloved hometown switched from subway tokens to Metrocards. Lots of New Yorkers said that the change was too big; it wouldn’t work. We survived it quite well. (more…)

Rants & Raves: Staples, Oxford, Garnier Nutritioniste, Obama

June 4, 2009

Tags: Unemployment, fun, healing, Cost Cutting, review

I’m living on unemployment at the moment, so I’m consuming a lot less than I used to. And that means I think a whole lot about what I’m choosing to consume. Below, for my own gratitude and ventilation, are some Rants & Raves. Feel free to add your own in comments:

RAVE: Staples Stores
I got a whole ream of recycled paper today, free with the coupon I received for recyling ink cartridges. I was worried I’d only be able to buy more ink, but no — you can do the right thing and actually get something you need with the recycle benefit.
Not only that, I thought Staples only recycled ink cartridges and batteries. Did you know they also take electronics? I’ve got a busted computer adapter and cable that Hewlett-Packard was going to charge to me return for recycle. I can just drop it off at Staples. Not only that, but the Staples employees look you in the eye when they talk to you and treat you like a human being. (more…)

Church in a Greenhouse

March 8, 2009

Tags: Cost Cutting, Unemployment, healing


I eat a lot of lettuce. I just love the stuff. And even before the recession and getting laid off, I had a lust for homegrown salad. Since I live in an indoor jungle, it seems natural to extend it into my fifth-floor apartment window boxes, and to learn the art of lettuce growing from seeds, I recently joined my local community garden. An unexpected benefit was that the garden’s greenhouse is located behind the world famous Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine. The Cathedral is not only a breathtaking work of architecture, but it has a long history of supporting progressive causes and a mission to be “a house of prayer for all people and a unifying center of intellectual light and leadership.” Technically what’s happening in the greenhouse is not one of the Cathedral’s many service programs, but, for me, it has become church in a greenhouse — a weekly dose of horticultural therapy. (more…)

Why I Didn’t Write the Great American Novel Last Week

February 2, 2009

Tags: Unemployment, Cost Cutting, fun

I would have. Really. I have a great idea and I even started on it about a month ago after I got canned from my job. (Please don’t tell the Unemployment Office, because they might dock me for self-employment.) I wrote a few pages on the computer, but then the sound of the fan — that relentless mechanical shriek — made me stop. Then I wrote some pages longhand, but I ended up with so many cross-outs and arrows that I couldn’t read it.

Then there was the man in my bathroom. Just try doing your morning ablutions with a tile guy three inches away renovating the apartment on the other side of your wall. Bathroom rituals and writing go hand in hand, so no way could I write the great American novel last week. (more…)

The New World of Finance

January 28, 2009

Tags: Unemployment, Cost Cutting

“In consideration of your opening one or more accounts for me (‘we,’ ‘us’ and ‘our’ are each substituted for ‘I,’ ‘me’ and ‘my,’ respectively, in the case of multiple account holders, corporations, and other entities), and your agreeing to act as broker/dealer for me for the extension of credit and in the purchase of …”

“Do I really have to read all this?” I ask Jose R. Baez, the bright-eyed ex-Naval officer, present-day financial adviser who is doing the paperwork to shift my considerably diminished annuity from a fixed income account to something with a roll-up or roll-over or is it a let’s-roll-and-don’t-worry-about-nothing guarantee? (more…)

DIY Dentistry and Paper Conservation

January 13, 2009

Tags: Cost Cutting

I have always been fond of my teeth. I say this not with vanity but with gratitude to my maternal grandfather who, I was told, was responsible for them. I say this because according to two clowns called the GratiDudes, as well as many studies that I wrote about when I was employed for a magazine (which I will not mention because I’m feeling grumpy today about being laid off) (all right, it’s Spirituality & Health) — according to these sources, being grateful is the antidote for grumpiness, of which I’m feeling. Did I say that already? (more…)

magicJack and Happy-Go-Lucky

January 4, 2009

Tags: Cost Cutting, fun, review

“Do you have some kind of really cheap service where I can pay for incoming calls only?” I queried the friendly Verizon customer service woman after holding for a quarter of an hour. She seemed perplexed and said there was no such option, and had I not found my exorbitantly expensive unlimited plan, plus 3-way calling, unuseful? (All right, she didn’t phrase it exactly that way.)

Because I felt as if she was really interested, I explained that I’d been downsized out of a job being the hub of a virtual office, and I no longer required such services, plus which, I’d now purchased a magicJack at my local Radio Shack. (more…)

Selected Works

novel
Big Moose Prize-winning novel
a funny, sometimes sad, story of negotiating life without a clue

New on Kindle--a funny book for foodies who are committed to self-change through self-awareness
an epistolary memoir ... sort of
A funny and moving little book for anyone who's had a mother or struggled with being human.
anthology of stories and plays
includes Darleen Dances and stories below

play
1-act play

short story
the problem with worrying about the future

true story
Why I don't believe in death.

Editing Services

Quick Links