Monday, April 30, 2012

RIP, sweet Rose

As I came into the building on Thursday, two men in dark suits were discussing how to get a guerney with a blue body bag up the steps. So I knew someone had died. It turned out to be Rose.

Rose turned 100 six weeks ago. She was tiny, with a German accent and rheumy eyes and white hair. I don't know how long she'd lived in the building, but it was many decades.

Once, several years ago, Rose was scheduled to go for an MRI. The alarm in the metal detector kept going off, and there was some confusion as to why. Hair pins? No. Pacemaker? No. Pin from a hip replacement? No. Finally the technician asked, "Do you have any metal anywhere in your body?"

Rose thought and thought, and finally her eyes lit up. "Ahhh! It's the bullet!" she said.

The bullet?

Yes, when she was a girl in Germany the Nazis shot her father in front of her, and a fragment of the bullet ended up in her head. And it was still there.

Rest in peace, Rose. May you truly, truly rest in peace.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Innocuous events

We had a glitch in our vaccination marathon on Thursday; we were scheduled for lab visits and what we really needed was to see the nurse. Now, needle-wielding ladies all look the same to me, and you'd think that someone capable of drawing blood could also manage to plunge in some DPT. But apparently not. Since the nurse wasn't slated to arrive for another half-hour, we retreated to the Staples across the street to kill time.

I am lousy at shopping as a form of entertainment. I've never liked being in stores (other than to buy books and food), and our budget scaleback has not improved my attitude any. But on Thursday I actually bought something. I bought monitor wipes. It was a heady experience.

Now, I know there must be some way to safely clean off computer screens without paying for it. But frankly I hadn't thought to google that until after I got home and marveled at the inanity of buying a consumer product that only exists to clean another consumer product. The guilt would eat at me relentlessly, except that now I can see my computer screen, and that makes me very happy.

*       *       *       *       *

Yesterday morning the kids' computer wouldn't turn on. The on-button winked teasingly, but went off again. It had teased like that a week ago, and I'd blown some dust out of the fan and gotten it to work again. So before I panicked about having to pay for a computer repair person, I tried blowing out dust again. Nothing doing. Feeling intrepid (or perhaps just cheap) I unplugged the machine, got a screwdriver, undid the side panels on the tower, and took a look inside. Eeeew. If I thought the computer screens were gross, they looked like a photo shoot compared to the dust-coated fans on this clunker.

I sent Little Guy for some cotton swabs and got out the vacuum. Then I tackled de-dusting the fans, with the care and patience of restoring the Mona Lisa. Mind you, I had no idea what I was doing, but I figured that as long as I didn't touch any components I'd probably be okay. And the layers of compacted dust were so dense I thought we were probably getting close to creating coal. Which would have been an interesting homeschooling project, but not on the computer.

An astonishing amount of dust later, I replaced the side panels and passed the GRE-equivalent of re-attaching the knot of wires and plugs. I turned the machine on. The light smiled steadily, instead of winking. And the computer doesn't even sound like a jalopy any more. Amazing.

*       *       *       *       *

The kids all had reactions to their vaccines. Dancer slept all afternoon on Thursday, achy enough to miss ballet. Snuggler awoke on Friday with a fever of 100.1. But Little Guy's reaction took place before his shot; let's just say he was unenthusiastic about the prospect of pain. He is of the opinion that being afraid of something is a valid reason for not-doing it. I am of the opinion that being afraid of something shouldn't prevent you from doing it, anyway.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Bits and pieces

We're off to the lab today, since when we switched pediatricians we discovered my kids were missing vaccinations. It's possible that the record-keeping just wasn't updated, but it's simpler to vaccinate than it is to take blood to get titers to see if they already had the shots and then go back if it turns out they didn't. I try to keep the poking-kids-with-sharp-objects activity to a minimum around here.

*      *       *      *      *

My youngest has been acting a lot like an annoying eight-year old boy lately. It's not going over well, especially with his next-older sister. Waiting for him to grow out of this stage isn't really an option; if he keeps it up, he may not live that long. Which is why I imposed a draconian consequence last night: since he wasn't behaving well at home, he had to accompany me to a community meeting.

Just who was punished by this is hard to tell. Especially since it turned out that for the first time in years there was another child at the meeting. The two kids trotted off down the hall and played happily for 90 minutes.

At least they weren't annoying.

*      *       *      *      *

I've gotta say, I don't buy into the "You're only as happy as your least-happy child" mentality. If I thought that way I'd be miserable all the time; with five kids someone's always unhappy. Besides, think how ludicrous it would sound to say, "I'm only as happy as my husband" or "I'm only as happy as my least-happy friends." Weird.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Huh. I didn't win the Pulitzer

As I dropped Little Guy off at someone's apartment on Sunday afternoon, a little girl passed in the hallway. The person I was chatting with introduced her by saying, "Her mom just won a Pulitzer Prize!" After I wondered (privately) about the weirdness of introducing someone solely in relation to her parent's accomplishments, I thought wistfully, I'm never going to win a Pulitzer Prize.

Then: Duh. I'm not a journalist or biographer or historian or novelist.

Now honestly, never in my life have I aspired to win anything, so this reaction took me by surprise. I mean, I even ghostwrite things -- I'm not a limelight junkie. I don't mind working in the wings, doing the stuff most people don't realize needs to be done. I genuinely don't care if my name's omitted from a program or if I don't get a shout-out at an event I've helped to organize. That's not because I'm shy or even particularly modest. It's because my need for accolades is extremely low. Or at least it is on days when my hormone levels are normal.

So as I walked home in the rain I pondered my reaction to this Pulitzer Prize thing. What was it that made me wistful? I poked and prodded at my brain and was clueless until I reached into my purse to see if I had cash to buy milk. And then I understood: winning a Pulitzer pretty much guarantees work. Unless your writing ability falls off a cliff, you can get published. It means less struggle.

Ahhh. Less struggle would be nice.

But I can live without winning the Pulitzer. A lot of people do.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Stimulating creativity

Snuggler's been asking to watch TED talks with me in the evenings. It's a nice cozy thing to do: sit on the sofa with my girl and learn new stuff. We've seen my favorite Brene Brown talk, a humorous piece on book-cover design, and a talk on creativity. We listened to Abigail Washburn sing hillbilly Chinese on the banjo and heard Itay Talgam discuss leadership styles of conductors. The other night I clicked on How Do We Heal Medicine? by Atul Gawande. Snuggler was skeptical of the title, but once it got going she was absorbed -- and impressed.

I love anything that makes my kids' brains -- and mine -- stretch in new ways. Because while it's fun to know factoids and useful to absorb information, it's the thinking part of learning that is exciting. I want to raise thinking kids. More than that, I want to raise a thinking me.

*       *        *        *

No matter what my primary interests may be, tangental and seemingly unrelated ideas are often surprisingly helpful thought-fodder. Last year when I read Gawande's book about checklists, it seemed to have a ton of implications for parenting. Reading up on how we make choices has affected my faith and everyday life.

Like everyone else, I trend in the direction of my tastes. I am oh-too-capable of living in a world of my preferences, of stuffing my brain with marginally interesting input. But filling my mental databases doesn't necessarily spur me on to anything new or take me anywhere different.

The times I grow are usually correlated to when I'm given a jolt from an unexpected direction. Which is why I've tried to develop the habit of reading books on topics I know nothing about, watching lectures by people I've never heard of, and occasionally even opening -- and reading and thinking about -- links supplied by my other-end-of-the-political-spectrum Facebook friends. 

*       *        *        *

One day I had to go down to the ballet studio, and while I was there I read Twyla Tharp's fabulous book, The Creative Habit. A couple of moms wandered over -- one is a pediatrician, the other a professor -- and asked about it. I raved about what good ideas it has about how to be consistently creative. They looked at me blankly. 

It took a while to dawn on me that these moms don't think of themselves as creative people. I was shocked. I mean, what's the alternative? To simply consume? To exist? To plod? We're all creative. We have to come up with solutions to problems, no? We're all part of creating a better community, creating ourselves into better people, creating lives of worth and meaning. Which means it behooves us to think about what we can do to become more adept at all those things. Maybe TED talks aren't the entire answer. But I daresay they help.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Finding joy

There are a handful of blogs I loosely follow for work-related reasons. Today I read a piece at Her.meneutics about Kay Warren's new book, and loved this quote:
"Happiness is built on happenings,” Warren told me. “Joy, on the other hand, is about connecting the eternal to the internal so that we can interpret our externals in ways that allow us to say, ‘everything around me may not be all right—but I’m all right."
Yes. Oh, yes. That's what I was trying to say in my post on Cathedral Parenting. But I think she said it more succinctly.

*       *        *         *        *

I have a college reunion coming up. For the first time ever I wrote something to be included in the class Record Book. I had to think hard about how to allocate my 500 words, especially since I've been mute for decades. (Yeah -- me, mute. What's with that?)

One of the unexpected benefits of middle age is that the compulsion to prove something mellows. Most of us have discovered that the real story isn't about job titles and awards, but about facing down difficulty and learning to find joy anyway. On some level we've all succeeded in life, and on some level we've failed. Only part of that is on one's resume. The rest of it is in the you-ness of you.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Making connections

A couple of weeks ago the public school across the street had its movie night. It was one of the nights my folks were in town, and most of the grown-ups headed up to see Snuggler in Kiss Me, Kate. Andrew took Little Guy to see the movie, instead. It was Hugo.

I knew nothing about the movie other than that it was supposed to be good. It turned out to be an excellent choice for my young inventor. Andrew mentioned in passing that it was based on the book The Invention of Hugo Cabret. So on a trip to the library the other day I picked up a copy of the book. Little Guy -- my only reluctant reader -- sat down and read a third of it in one evening.

He elected to read more of it today for school, and at some juncture mentioned that the book spoke about an early movie where the only thing that happens is that a train arrives. I said, "Does it give the name of the movie?" Yes, it was A Train Arrives in the Station. So I pulled out the laptop and lo and behold, the 1895-era movie was there on YouTube.

Little Guy said, "Do they have A Trip to the Moon by George Melies?" Indeed, that was there, too. He watched it twice.

Then I suggested that his writing assignment for the week should be to write a script for a second trip to the moon movie, in the spirit of the first. He was all for it, especially when I said the follow-up project would be to film it.

When his writing for the day was done he asked if he could watch Safety Last, with Harold Lloyd. It, too, was mentioned in the book. We found it, but since it was over an hour long it had to wait until the rest of his school work was done. But this afternoon, after a longish time spent drawing Rube Goldberg-like inventions, Little Guy asked again to see the movie. So he watched it, and laughed, and exclaimed over the famous scenes, and noted how different it was than A Train Arrives in the Station, and how much more of a plot it had than A Trip to the Moon. And I felt that this was a very good homeschooling day, indeed.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Liberating thoughts

I started doing some repair work around the house yesterday. We have a lot of cracks in our 1933-era walls, most of which I'm capable of fixing, but haven't. There's one spot where the underlying plaster has totally disintegrated, so I'm going to have to use more than joint compound and tape there. But I'm pleased that the other areas are being so cooperative. They often aren't.

Of course, now we'll have to prime and paint the entire living room, the dining room, and the entry. I've told Little Guy that this week he's going to learn how to paint a wall. Life skills, you know. Stuff you need to know.

My dad is 'handy'. Basically that means he grew up in the Depression and learned that when things are broken you figure out how to fix them. It takes a certain mindset. When I was growing up, my dad installed the washer, re-did the bathroom, repaired the car -- everything. I do not have a single childhood recollection of having a workman called in. I don't know how to do anywhere near all the things my dad does, but at some point he didn't know, either.

Andrew grew up in an apartment. His idea of what to do when something breaks is to call the super. So the handy person here is me. And I'm finally realizing that now that the kids are older, I can probably fix things without finding small handprints in the plaster or special drawings on the fresh paint. It's a liberating thought.

*        *        *         *        *

A neighborhood friend called yesterday to see if I could go with her to the Philharmonic in the evening. Unbelievably, I had nothing on the calendar. and there were no crises brewing. So we met at seven and took the train down, catching up on family news on the way.

We heard a dazzling Prokofiev piano concerto and Mahler's 1st Symphony. Both pieces got standing ovations, but I thought the Mahler would have been substantially better if the composer had edited out about a third of each movement. Just my opinion.

I don't get to go to the symphony often. Eldest liked going and sometimes got student tickets, so we'd go together. I thought about her a bit while I listened; Dancer is visiting her this weekend. Then I thought about a time when I came to a concert with Dancer when she was nine or ten; a friend had given us tickets. And then I wondered if Snuggler had ever been to the symphony. I don't think she has. I was kind of bummed about that, knowing I don't have the budget to take her. Then I thought, Oh shut up, Julia. There's got to be a way!

This morning I checked online and found out that school groups can go to open rehearsals for $6/student. I think I'm going to form a school group.

*        *        *         *        *

We slept with the windows open last night. It was an accident; I didn't get home until nearly midnight, and didn't think to close them.

Life smells nicer with fresh air.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A tragedy, and a bad day

There was a news item yesterday about a 19-year old who, in a rage, beat his mother to death. It turned out, in one of those too-few degrees of separation things, that the boy went to high school with my friend Ellen's son.

I have a child who has raged out of control. I have a teenage son who has been in psychiatric hospitals, who is in therapy and on medication. This news story slipped in under my skin, lodging itself on my nerve endings, making the slightest thought painful. There have been times -- admittedly not many, and not lately -- when I have gone to bed with the clear knowledge that some day my child could kill me in a rage.

The horror story did me in. I went to bed very, very early. I curled up in a ball and waited for the wave of anguish to pass. It didn't. I lay still, keeping my eyes shut, floating in the pain. I heard Andrew calling the kids for bed, heard the clatter of dishes being washed, heard all the sounds of a normal evening. Eventually I fell into an uneasy sleep filled with endless dreams of court cases and jail cells and misunderstandings, dreams in which I was the perpetrator one moment and the grieving parent the next.

I awoke at 5am. Unrested. Fragile. This morning when the bus ate an extra fare on my transit card, I burst into tears. I arrived at the DMV on the next-to-last day to get a non-driver's license before my passport expires, found a line winding around the block, and began to cry. Be nice to me, I wanted to whisper to the world, Today I can't manage. 

I turned myself around and walked back to the bus stop. I rode back across town, face dripping with grief, wondering why the people of this city all wear black. Is it because they are filled with sorrow, or because it primes us to have colorful personalities, or because monochrome fashion makes it easier to cry in peace? I looked for a place to suffer and found that the only rest was to keep going. There's truth in that, you know.

This afternoon I am better, stronger, still shaken. I have told myself all the things I need to: I've highlighted the differences between my son and this young man, noted the progress Big Guy has made, emphasized the support structures we have in place, and reminded myself that most stories don't end this way. I've spent an entire day talking myself out of catastrophizing, out of predicting, out of overreacting.

Which isn't to say that I've forgotten that my son could murder me. He could. I don't think it will happen, but it could. And here's what's important for me to know about that: it doesn't in any way change my job for today. I still have to be his mother as best I can be, to love him as best I know how, and to give him the very best that I can. I still have to live my life according to all I believe is important. I have to grow and give and cherish and find the joyful things in life.

That's today's job, and I can't let fear of an unknown and undefined future prevent me from doing it.I have to -- somehow -- carry the weight of 'what could be' without having it set me off-balance for dealing with what is. Because today is today, and it's what I know is given to me to handle.

Today is today. Live it.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Different kinds of problems

At our moms group today we talked about how there are two kinds of problems our kids have:
  • those that we're supposed to do something about, and
  • those that give us information 
In the first category go things like health issues, learning disabilities, social difficulties that we can guide kids through, anything that we can make an appointment for.

The second category sneaks up on you. In the earlier years of parenting most of us didn't even know it existed. It consists of the stuff that we initially see as behavior problems and finally realize is something else. It's the amorphous stuff that causes suffering, the stuff we look at and think (or pray) in confusion, "Show me what's going on here."

And then something happens (usually something we normally think of as bad) and our eyes open and we realize, Oh -- this is the answer to my prayer. This is the heart-issue, the character flaw, the tendency that my child will eventually have to deal with himself. This is what I need to know in order to be a better parent.

It's suddenly clear that this isn't a Mom-will-solve-it issue or a matter of bandaids or finding good resources or doing things 'right'. It's not about whether we've set our family rules clearly enough or imposed strict enough consequences. It's about the deeper soul issues in our children, the things that will make it harder for them to grow up to be peace-filled or thankful or generous of heart or forgiving or humble when they make mistakes or firm in the face of conflict.

It's good to know those things. Not easy, but good.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

In which our heroine braves the FAFSA and CSS Profile

For those of you whose children are still young, and thus have yet to venture into the depths of college financial aid, I invite you to stand back in awe: I have survived. Again. I tell you this so that some day you, too, can carry on and conquer.

It is an ordeal. It is not as big an ordeal as it is the first year, when it has to be done by January 15 based on tax returns as yet unfiled, and sent to several colleges which each require their own set of documents and procedures. But if the bar is lowered for sophomore year and beyond, it's still set higher than you want to jump. Unless you do this sort of thing for a living. Which of course you can't, because the people who are subjected to these forms are people who need financial aid and thus don't have money to pay you.

My words of wisdom: allow plenty of time and take copious notes as you go. For when you take a break to get a Tylenol (the 'CSS' in the CSS Profile probably stands for Chronic Stress Syndrome) you will not remember what it was that you weren't sure you'd done correctly. Or you will later realize with glee that you had additional expenses you could input, but you will have forgotten where to add them. And still later you will remember to add in a child's savings account assets but will have lost track of which section it goes in. Rule of thumb: wherever it goes, it's not where you expect.

After days upon days of toting up numbers and retrieving financial records and reading help files, when you finally hit SUBMIT it is because you truly have submitted. You are done, in more ways than one. Oh, you are so done!

And then, only then, will you recall that you neglected to include an infinitesimally small 529 plan in your assets. You will stare stupidly at the computer wondering what you're supposed to do. And since there's no "I didn't mean it! I made a mistake!" button, you will write a note to the college financial aid office explaining that it's your child who's smart enough to attend their school, not you.

As a penance you will have to make copies, page by laborious page, on your lethargic 3-in-one printer of every document in your entire file cabinet. If you get the bright idea to save paper by doing two-sided copies, suppress it. If you're wise you'll label the piles so you know which is the original and which is the copy (okay, okay -- I'll do that next year). Or you'll go to Staples and copy the whole thing in bulk. But honestly, you have to do the copying regardless of whether or not you have earned your Proof of Boneheadedness certificate. Just make sure you have manila envelopes on hand so you don't have to go out and buy some on the way to the Post Office.

Hopefully some day, months later, your financial aid letter will arrive and you will have the pleasure of dividing the dollar amount of the award by the number of years hours that you spent working on the application. Then, only then, can you find consolation in how much you were paid for your efforts. Maybe.

Sunday, April 8, 2012


On the day before Passover my friend Liz arrives with her granny cart filled with chametz. (I want that granny cart: it has a smooth ride, is easy to turn, and has thick padding on the handlebars. Liz says it's from Costco.) Our refrigerator and pantry are filled with leaven-tainted items ranging from potato starch to pasta to a quart of soy sauce. There's a box of chocolate pudding mix (a novelty here), flour, a bottle of vanilla extract, nuts, Cheerios, bulgur wheat, half a bottle of Pinot Grigio, frozen chicken broth, one frozen salmon cake, a large quantity of mustard, and (for some reason) an unopened box of matzoh. We love matzoh.

I wish Liz a good Pesach. She wishes me a happy Easter. There's wonderful symbolism somewhere in this annual passing-on of Liz's chametz, but I'm not sure what it is, and instead choose to rest in the pleasure that a friend has given me what she cannot use.

As I had my "quiet coffee" at 5:30 a.m., I mentally made my to-do list for the day: finish Eldest's financial aid forms (essential), write two more pieces for DG 2014 (due Monday), begin editing a master's thesis on music therapy (draft due Monday), write my April posts for Seeds of Devotion (at least one by Monday), and go grocery shopping/clean the house/prepare for Easter dinner. And oh, right -- it's Good Friday.

Tell me that's all going to happen.

I look at my impossible list and the first thing that pops to mind is that church is not technically required. But a voice in my head whispers, You say that you put faith first. Do you? I wince and wrench my attention away from the gotta-get-it-dones, thinking that Martha and Mary must've squabbled a lot as kids.  I re-organize my day around having 2:45-5pm free.

That settled, I write a blog post and head out to Trader Joe's. It's a train ride away. En route I read a bit of The Hare With Amber Eyes, a quirky book about the Ephrussi family and its collection of 264 netsuke. It's not devotional reading, but I don't feel compelled to force-feed my heart. I know where my day is centered.

*        *        *       *        *

Home again, I ask my two youngest to dust the living and dining rooms. I ask with hidden trepidation; I expect a battle. To my surprise, the kids cooperate cheerfully. They ask if they can put on some music and I say okay, thinking they'll choose something upbeat. It turns out that the disk already in the CD player is Mozart. The kids are surprised, but leave it on. I work with a smile, liberated from the oppression of feeling I am alone in my housecleaning.

*        *        *       *        *

Same day: Dancer asks, patiently, for about the 80th time, when she can open a bank account. I look at the clock and agree to take her. On the way out the door I remember to bring the medical form that needs to be notarized. In 30 minutes we have finished at the bank and are home. Good call: I check off two things I'd forgotten were on my to-do list.

I head to church. It is, fittingly, on top of a large hill. As I trudge up, I remember I need to make a lab appointment for Big Guy. Miraculously, the number to the lab is in my cell phone, and a few minutes later I have checked yet another forgotten item off my to-do list.

*        *        *       *        *

I am caught off-guard by the intimacy of venerating the cross, and cry.


Up at dawn, I write my pieces for DG 2014, make pesto with which to marinate Sunday's lamb, and clean out space in the refrigerator for leftovers-to-come. The day is given over to housecleaning  and baking, but I manage to slip in a quick review of the master's thesis.

In the evening, Dancer and Snuggler and I head downtown to go to the Easter Vigil. We go to the church where Eldest used to sing in the youth choir, knowing the music will be splendid and the preaching good. It is curious to stand on the street in the middle of the theater district as the Paschal candle is lit; tour buses pass, neon flashes, and people rush to get to their shows.

Indoors, during the blessing of the candle they sing:
On this, your night of grace, O holy Father, accept this candle, a solemn offering, the work of bees and of your servants’ hands…
I grin at the  bees but I muse, A candle's a pretty lame gift to sing about! And then I'm caught up short by the thought that everything we can give is pretty lame. I mean, we're talking about the God of all creation, who made the distant stars and amoebas and green peppers, the God who created everything. What could we possibly give that's worth anything? When I look at it that way, a candle is as meaningful as anything else, because the only way it has any significance is because we're dedicating it to God, and He can transform its meaning.  

The house is miraculously clean, but then the tub backs up with black crud, curtailing morning showers. I figure none of our dinner guests will be using the bathtub; this problem can be solved at a later date.  We have another family coming over (three kids), our beloved Miss Dober (godmother to a couple of my  children) and a homeschooling friend whose kids are away with her ex-husband for the holiday. With 13 people to seat, Andrew goes to a neighbor to borrow chairs.

We have a fabulous dinner, with Dancer's ginger spice cake and lime tarte for dessert. Everyone gets along. Our guests laugh and seem to enjoy themselves. I am ridiculously happy: happy to be able to share this most wonderful day and to offer others hospitality. I feel free. This is the first time in eight years that Big Guy has been stable enough for us to invite guests in quantity. I take this luxury -- the extravagance of being able to bring people into my home -- and tuck it in my heart to treasure on days when life is more limited.

We call Eldest and wish her a happy Easter. I wish you one, too.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

In which we survive yet another health insurance boondoggle

Tomorrow Big Guy finally goes for a check-up. He was scheduled for one in early January, but when we went to fill a prescription on January 2 we found out that his State-sponsored insurance coverage had been terminated. It took three weeks to find out why. It took five weeks after that to get the coverage reinstated. It was a long and ugly story, punctuated by two occasions on which we needed to get $200+ worth of prescriptions filled.

Big Guy has been covered for exactly 35 days now. Today the doctor's office called to say that they were trying to register him for tomorrow, but the system kept saying his coverage has been discontinued.

Yes, insert the expostulation of your choice.

Thankfully, neither Andrew nor I ended up in the ER with heart failure. Neither of us were detained by the police for criminal activity, either. Which goes to show that if you set the bar low enough, even we can count  every day as a success.

But there was actually more success than that: after a near-stroke-inducing phone call to customer service, Andrew excavated a name from his files and found the number of a woman who'd helped him last month. And that competent woman, bless her, was able to get the coverage reinstated in a matter of 20 minutes.

At any rate, it occurs to me that it might be useful to relate some of the tidbits of information we picked up in the course of this adventure, in the event that some of it's helpful to others:
  • Do not hesitate to involve your local elected official's office in resolving problems involving bureaucracy. With health insurance you'll have to either sign a HIPAA release or do conference calls with the elected's representative, but it is helpful to have someone working with you who can toss the state senator's name around.
  • Some clinics, even at well-known hospitals, will work with you or waive fees if you are working in good faith to procure insurance or have applied for state coverage or Medicaid. It's always worth asking.  Big Guy was able to continue seeing his therapist and psychiatrist for two months without charge. 
  • Some of the big-box stores (Walmart, Target, etc.) have reduced-cost prescription programs for common medications. One of Big Guy's meds was available for $10 from Target instead of $90.
  • Check with your pharmacist to see if there are price differentials between different forms of the same medication. We discovered that the cost for one drug dropped $70 if we switched from tablets to capsules. The doctor had no idea this problem existed.
  • If you're completely broke and don't have insurance, some of the Pharma companies will provide certain medications free of charge or at minimal cost. You have to prove financial need.
May you never need to use any of these tips. And if you do, you may email me in hysterics and I will give you my phone number and you can call me and expostulate for an hour and I will be nothing but sympathetic. I promise.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Well, look what arrived!

Always There: Reflections for Moms on God's Presence

Last summer one of the contributors to Daily Guideposts: Your First Year of Motherhood , the ever-wonderful Susan Besze Wallace, asked me if I'd like to submit some pieces for this years MOPS devotional book. I wrote a few, and two were selected. There are 50 contributors to Always There, including the illustrious Ann Voskamp (One Thousand Gifts), Rachel Swenson Balducci of Testosterhome, and many women whose bios indicate that I should know who they are but, of course, I don't.

I spent part of the afternoon reading instead of writing (a very bad idea because I have deadlines!), and there are some fine stories in there. Glad to be part of that!

Dancing through the weekend

The morning after Eldest arrived home and the kids all scrunched together and chattered and laughed endlessly, Little Guy threw up. The following day Eldest was laid flat. No vomitting, but every ache imaginable and high fever. She slept for 2.5 days. The day after that, Snuggler succumbed. I was praying like mad that Dancer wouldn't catch it. Because, you see, Dancer was performing this weekend. She's spent three months preparing, and it would have been beyond sad if she got sick.

The cast of Stars and Stripes (Balanchine)
Usually I'm pretty good about adding the "Thy will be done" clause at the end of my prayers. This time around I shot heaven an eyebrow-raised look of warning, the kind my kids know means Did you hear me? After giving up three precious days of Eldest's vacation time to a bug, I wasn't in the mood to deal with a bitterly disappointed child moaning on the sofa. And lo and behold, she didn't get sick.  So thank you, God. (And yeah, I know my attitude stunk.)

So my middle child danced all weekend, three or four pieces in each show for five shows. Me, I did the backstage thing: called the show, did fast changes, and sewed up costumes that fell apart. Except I'm not a seamstress. But there are times in life when you're the best in the room at what you don't know how to do, and so you do it.

What I am good at is solving problems in a pinch. So when someone gets bright red lipstick on the front of a white leotard and there's half an hour before it needs to be worn again, I'm your girl. Option #1: Wite-Out. But we only had the tape kind on hand. Option #2: well, I didn't know. And then just before we needed to put the leotard on the dancer I spied a roll of medical tape -- the cloth kind that ballerinas use on their toes -- in the dressing room. So I tore off a piece and sewed that over the stain. It worked.

I did get to watch the performance from the audience on Saturday afternoon. It was a fine thing to see.