Flying Home From Louisiana

I am sitting on the plane flying home from New Orleans for the last time (for work), listening to Valse de Opelousas and reflecting on the past 11 months. I haven’t done as good of a job of chronicling my time in Louisiana as I should have, but I can simply say that it has been a fantastic experience.

For the past eleven months, I have been traveling to Louisiana weekly (with very few exceptions) to build the provider network for a new Medicaid health plan, Louisiana Healthcare Connections (LHC), a subsidiary of Centene Corporation. When I started, there were five of us in Baton Rouge developing strategy and starting to do outreach for contracting. Now, LHC has 140 employees and provides health insurance to ~168,000 individuals in Louisiana generating estimated annual revenue in the hundreds of millions of dollars. We were key players in essentially building a start-up into a major contributor to its Fortune 500 parent. I am very proud of the work we have done.

When I started this job eleven months ago, I essentially knew nothing about what I was to be doing. While I still have a lot to learn, I have helped train several people on contracting/network development and have been a point person for escalated issues. I appreciate all of the people who have taken time to train me, share with me, support me, and trust me. I am excited to keep growing in this position.

I have been to every corner of Louisiana and many places in between. I’ve seen some places that I would love to visit again – and some that I hope to never visit again. I’ve met some great people and have heard some very interesting stories. I’ve sampled local culture and cuisine. Louisiana is a great state with so much to offer, I highly recommend it to everyone. Just be sure to get off the beaten path and explore a little bit. You never know what you might find. That is certainly a lesson I am taking forward myself.

Importantly, I have worked with some amazing people and made some great new friends. These people really made my time in Louisiana enjoyable – and are making leaving Louisiana much harder than I had anticipated. I hope to visit soon.

I do not yet know what the next state is in which I will work. I should be finding out soon. Regardless of where it is, I am looking forward to applying the skills I have learned in a new market, continuing to learn and grow, and see what the future holds!

Update Upon Arrival in St. Louis:

I found out upon landing that I will be helping with our Missouri health plan, Home State Health Plan, for a few weeks. Likely working on provider data and accuracy/usability. After that I am on to the next plan. That is still up in the air.

In The Thicket

Yesterday I spent the day with my friend Justin and his girlfriend Amanda at Justin’s property out past Steeleville.  It is literally in the middle of nowhere.  And it’s awesome!  Last summer, I went out for the weekend.  This trip was just for the day, but we had a great time.

Our plan was to pick blackberries, ride ATVs, and shoot rifles.  We didn’t end up shooting, but we most certainly had fun.  Before we left, Justin’s dad told us that the forest ranger for the area said that they had found bear poop on their property – i.e. bears had moved in.  No one in Justin’s family had seen any bears, but we wanted to be prepared, especially since blackberries would be prime area for black bears. (We didn’t see any bears or traces of bears either.)

Getting out to their land takes you through part of the country that most people never see.  It is certainly an experience and I really do like it.  There are definitely parts of that culture though that I do not understand, other than perhaps doing things that are convenient (e.g. parking a car in the middle of a front yard of a house on main street, using a school that caught on fire as a junk yard).

We drove around on the ATVs, raced through some fields, and picked a ton of blackberries.  The grass was high and I definitely ate some grass seed :-).  We spent several hours out there picking blackberries, walking into blackberry thickets (really the only way to describe them), getting stuck by thorns, picking berries, and trying to avoid bugs and bees that were buzzing around.  We even got out a machete and hacked our way into different areas in the middle of the bushes to get more berries.

I had to wash my hands about 20 times to get the stains out.  Those berries sure are good.

Getting ready to head out for a day of ATV riding and blackberry picking.

More Discrimination Protection in Missouri State Goverment

The following is an article by Virginia Young from

JEFFERSON CITY — A group representing gays and lesbians is celebrating a declaration by Gov. Jay Nixon that says state government shouldn’t discriminate against its employees based on their sexual orientation.

Though the statement has no force of law, it establishes a clear policy for the executive branch and is a “major stepping stone to achieving a statewide” anti-discrimination law, said A.J. Bockelman, executive director of the gay rights group known as PROMO.

Nixon buried the nugget of news in an executive order he issued earlier this month at a convention of the NAACP.

State law already bars employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, ancestry, age, and disability. Nixon’s order added sexual orientation and veteran status to the list of protected categories for state workers.

The order called for the state to treat its employees equally in regard to hiring, recruiting, training, benefits, promotions, transfers, layoffs, demotions, terminations, rate of compensation, and recalls from layoffs.

Equal treatment also should apply in the way state services and facilities operate, the order says.

Scott Holste, a spokesman for Nixon, said the move “was not aimed at any particular group. It sends a message that Missouri will not discriminate in any of these categories.”

Nixon hasn’t always drawn praise from gays and lesbians. Some were irked in 2008 when, as Missouri’s attorney general, he urged delay of a California court ruling allowing same-sex marriages.

The Banner Ranch

Part of me would love to live in some rural area.  I find an appeal in the middle of nowhere lifestyle that I can’t really describe.  So many times I hear rural/country/”hick” lifestyles demeaned, but as I thought about it this weekend, I do not think I would know how to live in many different situations.

I spent a good part of the weekend at my friend’s ranch/land/farm in the middle of nowhere Missouri.  My friend Justin and his family have some land off of Indian Trail State Forest (there is basically no information on that place online).  There nearest town that we drove through on the way there was Cherryville, which from what we could tell as one main store and three churches.

A picture of the cabin at the Baner Ranch from an earlier high school trip.

Since I first joined Troop 310 in 1999, we would go out there and shoot guns, make fires, play poker, hang out, etc.  When we got older, they got ATVs and we would start riding those.  It got harder to get people together once we all went to college, but we have been back a few times.  It was great going back this weekend.  I really love that land and the openness and freedom it represents.

We watched an amazing heat lightning storm on Friday night from the back of a pickup (with a tractor tire in the bed haha), rode ATVs (on roads, on trails, and in the middle of the forest), shot guns (.22 rifle, .308 rifle, .50 blackpowder pistol – 1700s era), picked blackberries, saw the Banner’s new vineyard, and reminisced about old times.  We had a dutch oven roast and a dutch oven cobbler.  It’s been a while since I have been able to say that.

It was certainly strange though not having our whole old group there.  It was also weird to not to have any parents there.  When we used to go out there, we always had a parent come with us. for extra supervision with the guns and whatnot (we were younger) and so they could enjoy it as well.  Mr. Banner (Justin’s dad) would also help get stuff ready for us and help with clean up – even in later years.  This time though we had to take care of everything ourselves.  Apparently that’s what happens when you grow up.

I hope to go back out there soon.  Spending time with people I have been friends with since 5th grade has definitely been a highlight of this summer.  As we all go different places, I hope we can continue to come back together.

Life & Risk Taking / Quote #6

As I have been reminded recently, Graduation is quickly approaching (Literally, in two weeks from the typing of this post I will be at the Graduation ceremony!).  Next year will be quite different and as I have continuously reminding myself, that’s okay.

I am great at making decisions but a more indecisive when it comes to myself.  I do not always like to put myself out there, but have made a point of doing better at that.  With only two weeks left until life changes, I am trying to take advantage of each opportunity as it presents itself.  Sometimes though, the alternatives may not always be the ones I would like to choose between.  I just hope for the best.  I know that what is meant to happen is what will be.

I’m a big fan of Mark Twain.  I mean, the guy is extremely intelligent, writes great books, and is from Missouri!  I believe that this quote is appropriate for my current mood and in relation to recent occurences:

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
– Mark Twain

I’m only 22.  In 20 years, my life will be almost twice as long and I will be in a significantly different place.  As I have been asking myself and others lately, how many tomorrows will there be?  We need to take advantage of today.