Friday, July 11, 2014

Last 39

I don't know how Google products work any more. There are members to this blog? Does that put them in a Circle? When I go to the email account for this blog, it calls me by a name I made up for logging in to YouTube.

I have acquired too many 'friends' on Facebook, so that I can't say what I feel anymore. A couple of co-workers, a bunch of artists, family members . . .

Too much trouble to create exclusive groups. What I need is a "who do you not want to see this" feature for each post.

And someone I don't know who is around my age is recovering from a second stroke, has a half-million dollars of medical debt and whose friends are sharing one of those fundraising pages while he declares bankruptcy . . . the site mentions he's "completely uninsured." I can't be nice. Who is unthoughtful enough to, after having had a stroke in their 30s, avoid getting pre-existing-conditions-don't-matter-now insurance? Could it really have been more expensive than $500,000? With insurance, perhaps it's $200,000. I'm making that up, but not the original story.

I wish I knew more about the situation so I could be more compassionate, but I can't put questions like that on Facebook.

The things I was going to do this long weekend are not happening. I spent yesterday working anyway. I had 2 or 3 hours of work to do this morning still, so no wake up master of the day feeling there.

I didn't go to lunch with anyone.

I didn't clean.

I read too much on the Internet. I barely moved. There is laundry on the line downstairs, but it doesn't matter if I don't have anything to wear.

There is art to see tonight, as was last, but I can't walk downtown and back. Tomorrow, there's a block party, but why would I want to spend my 40th birthday with strangers?

You'd think I'd be done being so negative by this point.

Thinking is bad for you, I'm sure : )

Friday, May 02, 2014

City birds

Post-dawn and pre-dusk, a woodpecker.
Not my tree, but near enough.
A heron flew over around 5 p.m., and on
Our way home from Aldi, a peregrine battled a red-tailed hawk
In view, west of our path down Charlotte.

Robins chase each other for territory in the
Maple tree, with its half-sized leaves of spring.
Of course, there is another starling family
In the eaves three floors up; nails only
Last so long.

I think the cardinals have migrated.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Horton hears a why


This morning, before I was ready to hear anything, (even) so-called deep (much less good advice), a man who works with us in a supervisory position and who is old enough to get up around 3 or 4 a.m. every day so that 9 is up-time, unlike for me, came 'round talking about "who eats" and how the poor of the world, etc. He was inspired by thoughts and composing an essay.

In other times, perhaps when I was in college, I would have been interested. Most of the time I like what he's talking about.

Since I wasn't able to edit other essays or answer emails while he was talking, I took the opportunity to unpack a box I had loaded up in January when I switched offices; my goal was finding some white peony tea from Shang. Done.

His speech turned primarily to a woman slightly older than I am but who is as "what do I want to do with my life?" She has a master's degree, though, and has just gotten a new job prospect, which involves helping some of the poorest people in our nation, the descendants of those who were here when "we" got here.

One of the things he mentioned, in his sincere advice-giving manner, was that when something feels uncomfortable, it's probably the right thing to do, more so when the risk involved is toward something motivated from . . . what did he say . . .

Compassion? Certainly the word charity was not invoked. I don't remember. I might later. It was early. I was stressed and tired. But it was about honesty and others instead of self.

About six weeks ago I accepted a job writing art catalog essays. Two of them, and then I even said, "o.k." when asked to take on a third, the subject of which was clearly "not wanted" by anyone else.

The third artist has no website and uses Earthlink. Graduated art school when I was about three years old. Etc.

I contacted all three of them in due time and then fell into pits and broke the engagements . . . not really knowing why. Maybe three is too many. Maybe my social anxiety, or to downplay it, introverted nature, is just too real.

Or perhaps the main reason that I don't care, don't care about trashing my reputation with the entire art community by blowing a deadline or about hurting certain people's real feelings and causing major inconvenience or burning a bridge with one person in particular whom I really respect, is that I took this on — like I took on my last art-related gig, still ongoing, two years and running — mostly for money.

I think this started to happen after my last wanted paid job kind-of killed me emotionally and financially. I turned into a bad-relationship rebounder without even trying. It didn't happen before that. I'm sure seeds had been sown, but that fertilizer helped.

And now I'm in the weeds.

The last job I took on because it was my "dream" ended up making my mind-yard run wild with occluding vines.

It's more than a thousand dollars. It is a totally feasible project. Plenty of time. Plenty of capability and previous knowledge (of at least two out of three of these people's work).

Not compassion. Not making the world better. Not even passion. Just money.

I'll fix it in the short term.

Will I learn how to recognize it in the longer one, in the future, and more importantly, in advance?

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Write



Tuesday evening, I met up with the young fellow I mentor (as part of a structured program run by the Charlotte Street Foundation here, which gives artists studio space and opportunities) to go to hear George Saunders at a book reading event.

Will, who is approximately half my age, had bought the book of Saunders’ latest short stories (required) that for $15 that includes two tickets to the talk. He was sweet enough to court me on FB indirectly / directly to come along. We hadn't seen each other since "last year."

Actually, it had been a genuine while.

Neither of us had read anything from Tenth of December, and Saunders, who teaches at the prestigious Syracuse graduate creative writing program, only chose to read from it for about 10 minutes. The fictional selection was of the thoughts of a man whose co-worker had just died, and the text included the funeral.

It was intended as humor; Saunders approaches the fact that we, in his words, are all walking bags of bones, a uniting factor that should compel us to view each other with compassion.

Will laughed at the terse phraseology, lines omitting verbs to add masculine-sounding candor to thoughts like, “Bob = dead.”

I didn’t find it funny that the narrator was making fun of the way the Ukrainian Orthodox officiant was deadpanning about how odd or audacious it was that we “all” automatically took for granted we’d live another second, day, etc.

No, I think of this all the time.

All.

It doesn’t help that less than a month ago one of my first cousins died in his sleep on Christmas morning. He had gone to bed sitting up in a chair because it felt better. His heart didn’t make it, and he left behind a wife and three children.

He was born four months after me.

Right.

So, among the answers Saunders gave to the typical array of Book Reading Questions, is the only thing I can remember two days later, after a host of brain-scrambling, at-work, in-office meetings occasioned by out-of-town writers’ visiting, a new launch of a project I’m involved in, and an overall “new day” feeling going on at my company, is this:

“Bob walked in and sat down on the brown couch.” Is it significant that he walked in? No, well,

“Bob sat down on the brown couch,” then. Well, of course it’s “down,” so,

“Bob sat on the brown couch.” Does it matter what color the couch is? No.

“Bob sat on the couch.”

Is there any reason we need to know that?

Then, after “getting rid of all the crap,” as Saunders repeatedly characterized the non-essentials of any narrative, we’re left with “Bob.”

Not much, but it’s not crap.

He said.

Bob.

This comes from an author who has stuck to the short-story form after having been an engineer and a technical writer who attempted one, Hemmingway-esque, novel back when he was first married, which was an utter failure (the novel, not the marriage, which produced two, all-enlightening daughters who have since, it seems, have given every necessary other meaning to any apparent gap in his life since, etc. and etc. and on and on).

His breakthrough moment came when he overheard his wife laughing when she had discovered some dirty Dr. Suess-style poems and little drawings Saunders had been composing to keep himself sane during business meetings.

The triumph of the kitchen table. And a contrast to her head-in-hands pose Mr. Saunders demonstrated to us that she had had while reading the novel upon request.

So, humor.

And endless revision.

One story he referred to took him 14 years to get right.

Coming from a more theatrical sense of how narrative works, I find pleasure both in reading and writing narrative that describes movement and setting. I should exercise Saunders’ extraction principle on my one, very old short story about “May in the Crescent City.” What would be left after?

May stops being described as walking in her environment? It was important to me as a writer to use that as a way of showing thoughts during the passage of time. Those moments when ideas come, those moments when whose endings' change the opportunities to change ones course's end.

Willa Cather: without talking about that landscape, where is Ántonia?

Steinbeck: without the corn pone fried in pork grease, how would we know the direness of the Joads’ situation? What is and what is not essential detail?

I haven’t attempted a short story in approximately two decades.

Where I’d carve that time from to do so . . .

I had hoped that going to the reading would be more inspirational than it was. I do feel a little better overall two days later, but the lack of immediate uplift troubled me.

My companion was contrasting the everyday existence of workdays with a vibrant holiday experience at home just weeks ago. I remember being that age; I did the same things, but I at this point can’t tell whether our action-paths are any different or will be. I have hopes, for both, for all. I guess I will have to keep in touch with him for a while : )

Currently he’s writing 500 words a day, at the challenge of a friend who is doing the same.

Here are about 800.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Abstemious


Nearly 12 hours ago, half a winter's day and nearly half of the daylight hours, it became 2014.

It's an arbitrary marker, when Janus looks forward and back once again and we all share a sense of beginning togetherness. In spring, more holidays that are designed to draw attention to our need to start over will follow. At the winter solstice a few days ago, other rites marked the beginning of the lengthening of daylight.

In about 60 days, the season of Lent starts, its name taken from the Old English word likewise referring to the lengthening of days.

Forty days (not counting Sundays) after Mardi Gras, another opportunity to overindulge, it's Easter — new life, etc. — all over again.

Once summer hits, we're allowed to forget bettering-ness and resolution-making?

This quote from Mark Twain showed up on "his" Facebook page today:

New Year's Day — Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual. Yesterday, everybody smoked his last cigar, took his last drink, and swore his last oath. Today, we are a pious and exemplary community. Thirty days from now, we shall have cast our reformation to the winds and gone to cutting our ancient shortcomings considerably shorter than ever. We shall also reflect pleasantly upon how we did the same old thing last year about this time. However, go in, community. New Year's is a harmless annual institution, of no particular use to anybody save as a scapegoat for promiscuous drunks, and friendly calls, and humbug resolutions, and we wish you to enjoy it with a looseness suited to the greatness of the occasion.

It's from a letter he sent to a newspaper. He got it right that we humans are adept at trying to start over again all the time while being terrible at self-improvement. My Facebook world is full of people running their mile-a-day from Thanksgiving to Christmas, making personal records at triathalons, dieting, making home repairs and renovations. Having babies.

The bells, always off-tone, of the nearest Catholic church four blocks away are calling the faithful to the daily noon Mass. Though I was compelled to participate in three Communion services this year and found them to be increasingly less intolerable, I'm not about to voluntarily start going to proscribed liturgical events on a regular basis. Indeed, I found the call by the Christmas homily to attend to my relationship with Jesus to be a difficult command to follow, not because of any philosophical opposition to the absurd concept that there is/was a God/man whose miraculous life 20 centuries ago somehow fundamentally changed human existence, but because being like Jesus — giving over your actions and thoughts to the self-effacing, other-centered, service toward fellow humans — is damn difficult.

Very few people I know (and I do have friends who will cite life events in the context of their being gifts from God) express any desire to get better on those terms. People I work with do, but they are a highly specialized group of like-minded peers and the cause of two of those compulsory religious ceremonies I went to. Setting those folks aside, I look out into a very secular place.

Yes, the nurse at the party last Sunday who was on Day One of being a vegan will, if it sticks, experience a healthier cardiovascular system as well as avoid participating in the death of animals, be they lovingly raised before sacrifice or treated as billions of factory products.

Yes, if my friend runs more this year, she too will be happier and able to spread happiness toward others such as her daughter and photography clients.

When you're healthier and happier, you have more resources to share.

But what do we normally share?

On a daily basis, I worry about tuna. Whales. Shrimp. Frogs. Rhinos. Tigers. Birds. The Poor. Water. Refugees. Drones. Politics. Hydraulic fracturing. Pop culture's dominance. My addictions. My health.

What I do with that worry, is another matter.

I'll continue to shuffle the ever-growing piles of paper that represent bills, addresses to transfer into electronic records, cards to write, money owed to a medical institution, a friend, the fired Internet provider, the Internal Revenue Service, state and city. Banks. Three banks.

The path to this current morass is shrouded. My past intentions got me here, and I don't remember making any decisions. I know I did not place service at the forefront. That is clear. I did not focus on accumulating wealth or goods, but I do have a crushing house and a freighter's-worth of possessions.

People who are younger than I am and closer to the (first) beginning of shaping their life's trajectory have been giving me food for thought lately. Last fall, I received the opportunity to be a mentor to a person who is half my age and also a writer. We've only met a few times, for a total of about 10 hours, and I regret the limits of my house, jobs, etc. that mean I can't plunge myself into discussions about books, thought, art, writing, life constantly as I used to back in college. (That's an idealized memory, I admit. Oh, let's not start falling into regret-pits about not having done enough when I was younger, freer and, strangely, so much the same as I am now that I don't know what.)

Within the so-called Millennial generation are subgroups, as with any other. I stumbled on a Catholic one somehow recently. After I got over their "no, you can't write here unless you were 'born during the Pontificate of Pope John Paul II'" rule that excludes me by four years, I did find an article that helps express what I've been trying to say here.

In it, Jonathan Lewis talks about why the new pope is dangerous. His slant is not about how Francis is scaring the conservatives, but that the pope's most ardent followers might sit back and do nothing — not challenge themselves, not grow — because they already agree with his message about charity, poverty and humility. Kind of like what happened to Obama supporters . . . former community organizer hasn't really gotten us to do that kind of real work . . . .

Lewis challenges himself to look at what he calls uncomfortable moments. He says that's a way to grow.

It isn’t as though Pope Francis hasn’t been trying, it’s that we haven’t been trying. He has said plenty of things that should make us uncomfortable no matter our ideological leaning or pet issues:
(Pick one and talk to God about why it makes you uncomfortable and invites you to grow.)
  • He embraces disfigured people who we would walk past every day.
  • He intentionally chooses to not talk about abortion regularly.
  • He reaffirms Pope John Paul II’s definitive statement against a female clergy.
  • He encourages us to go to confession regularly.
  • He holds the fire to an unbridled capitalism that robs from the poor, challenging even the abundance that can be found in the closets of priests or middle-class millennials!
The danger that Francis poses to each of us is the same danger that our interpretation of Pope Benedict posed as well; it is simply a different audience lulled into the complacency of a life lived as a consumer Catholic. We create memes of what we like, skim through the rest and call it the New Evangelization.

I'm leaving this post open-ended / no further analysis.

It's already "too-long-didn't-read."

Cheers.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Acceptance vs. Denial

I have eight pets.

Box elder bugs are gone (outdoors, swarming the neighbor's lawn), recluses-of-death are long-gone (predators are fewer; it played out that way here).

There is a cat.

She has improved in how much I care (she is nice; her medical bill has all but been forgiven).

There are six birds and, by evidence, only one very large sexually dominant squirrel of any gender, living in this house right now, intermittently, and only between floors 1 and 2.

And two Homo sapiens. As I once said to several of you: it's a big, inefficient treehouse.

The others were invited (not the squirrel).

Monday, March 18, 2013

Gooooooal

They, sports announcers, bellow this when a fellow gets his kicked ball into a net.
(Past another fellow.)

Gaol:
A place worse than prison, in contemporary parlance.

I'm sure both are painful.
Scores flying by.

Shackles. (Don't Google things with similar spellings lest you lose faith — as if we had it — in humanity.)

Anyway: I'm having trouble meeting my goals.
And, it kind-of hurts.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Poem for sequester

Random bruises:
Knees, acceptable.
Elbows, visually imperceptable.

Three-pronged marks on the upper bicep, questionable.

Makes a sleuth of me.

Wonders, what didn't I see,
What didn't I feel, and
How the heel
Did I fall, and
Where, exactly, did I happen to land.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Stress test

I used to wake up in the early morning and find that I was positioning my jaws in order to threaten the roots of certain teeth.

I can't remember or physically re-create the action.

Sometimes, I would dream about it. Waking and sleep can be tenuous and mixed.

This grinding out of teeth was a huge fear of mine. As a kid and in general, I do smash my teeth together in waking life. It's like exercise, but I think it may have lessened.

The fact that I don't do this super-death-grind nor remember how to means something positive.

On an unrelated note, I think that the president (any) has a body double who goes and tries on new suits to make sure they fit, without wasting very important time.

So my body has transferred my stress from my teeth and conscious brain (and stomach) to my arteries, heart and other places. Yay?

It's interesting to me that the cardiologist called once, and the cat-dentist has called at least four times asking, "Are you coming in for that test/operation?" I find the former interesting, since I get all kinds of mis-dials on my number . . . the (human) healthcare industry does not need to fish for clients, but you would think they would have time to call more than once or send a robo-letter. Also, perhaps, the fact that veterinarians make you pay right away, with relatively few pet-havers having pet insurance, makes a difference in the profit-chasing. I don't like to accuse any health-care provider with going for the money, but my experience has shown me nothing otherwise.

The dental students who gathered at the Wichita-girl's dad-bought home last night for a "wine party" that was louder and included more varieties of alcohol than any I recall from my own college (the four-year part, not the post-grad) experience … and even if you subtract from the perception/generalized "20" that my husband who went there said said so, those kiddos didn't vote Tuesday nor see any reason to.

I am supposed to go get one of those heart stress-tests. Was supposed to do that about two months ago at this point. No one cares there, though, and I have little faith. The result is Sandy-esque, but I still want to know the answer to the whole Holter monitor affair. Didn't I buy that? Actually, I have not received any bill for that, just for the week-before E-room dealy.

Meanwhile, I have yet to compel anyone to process our 2011 taxes. They were on extension, but that's been expired for about a month. The IRS will get around to telling me so before Christmas, I expect. If I liked my former accountant, or if my prospective one had called me back . . . oh, and if I could actually pay my self-employment portion of 2011, umm, yeah.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Perhaps it's a pattern

Someone who uses her sick days … or feigns she has them to use, what a disgrace.

I do not like being closely questioned about what doctor or not I did or not consult during my mid-week illness. Would someone like to hear disturbing things that can't be responded to about my uterus, perhaps?

Looking back, my first jobs disintegrated on their own. Babysitting: the couple moved to California. Taco Bell during college: they knew my time-terms … and on the last day the A/C was out (hanging from the ceiling), and my drawer at the end of the no-electricity day [all human-based math] was at an exact $20 over. Did I take it — I who had been lectured on a few cents' difference by a manager who could not seem to keep our napkin supply adequate? No, of course, I did not steal that stupid money. What I learned was much more valuable.

I learned that I am terrible at live triple-multi-tasking, though, since then I have acquired many skills in that area; most have been while on my ass, but I trust my body could do just as well interfacing with my brain while standing. Also, no Facebook risk!

Once I quit a job with a letter. I found a replacement, though. Don't ask me why watering plants in coolers, placing pipette-tips into pipette-trays that went into the autoclave (steam sterilizer) and washing lab dishes afterhours was painful.

In many ways, I enjoyed it. Keys to a whole University Building. Flexibilty to come in whenever. Nothing difficult to do …

Then I had a job for 16 hours over one weekend during Finals (I had asked not to be put on until x-date, following Finals and a visit to my mom for Mother's Day, but …) and then I put a three-page letter in to the manager. When I went to collect my paycheck, she said something about my being an English major, but she did not note how much courage I had then to come there at all.

Having gone through the CPR and other "here are the government-approved binders of 'everyone can get this'" material at a few days' training for an overnight position at a home for developmentally disabled adtuls, I freaked out about not being able to sleep all night until my arrival at midnight, must have fallen asleep, certainly put someone's life and others' at risk and annoyance, and put the training binder into their street-side mailbox along with a letter in the morning.

When I worked at a Methodist-based social services agency, itself about 80 years old, I found myself one night upset at the computer trying to make lessons and instead crafted a six-page resignation letter. Parts of older letters were used.

I drove to the site, waited in my car until the day-care staff arrived and then put the letter clipped upright to a standing folder that was labeled "Oh no" on the cramped desk in our planning basement room. Seriously.

Then I drove to Columbia, Missouri, when I still knew how to get to the parks; I hiked around the pines. I read, in its entirety, "The Bell Jar."

My holiday season job at Bath and Body Works started one November. It crashed and burned the following April (they said it was not guaranteed to last, so I guess I was done) when, one Sunday during "change all the decorations around after hours per the hand-out from corporate (never mind that your store did not receive all the props depicted)," I happened to be painting at my other FT+ job.

We all know that Killz oil-based is a bear.

And I drove home, having overstayed, hoping we had turpintine. This place has at least three cans of paint thinner in it now.

Then, no. I freaked out and could not even bear to call and say what was going on. When you work in Beauty, you can get obsessed with how your forearms are covered in white paint.

One of my memories is of driving to Home Depot for solvents. I may or may not have found them, but either way, I was discouraged and gave up.

I sent a letter a few days later through the mail. I never did get the four books back I had lent to a fellow "associate." But I did not have the courage to go and try.

The last job I had I quit all properly, with my eyes off-focus and my rhetoric spilling out.

Before that, I was not so much fired as lied to and not paid.

The IRS experiences are varied:

first time: quit during slowing down season, and legally;

later: quit by calling in a bunch and saying I was ill / I was in school and then using my ID to get in between shifts and leave notice in my "in box" folder file on the desk outside supervisor's office by the "25¢ coffee" pot;

last time: quit by calling in and never hearing back and so being labeled a.w.o.l:

The fact that they keep sending the generic postcard to sign up for next season is charming.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

New Not-a-Bill Received

I would say, on the whole, that so far Aetna's 6-page missives are more explanatory than my United/American Medical Security ones ever were.

So far, it looks like nothing is going toward the annual deductible (?) and that I owe an ER-copay and a doctor's fee.

In other news, the house is getting me down. I don't know what happened to the "to do" list that was posted on the refrigerator for the first three years we were here, but I have a solid sense that very little that was on it was accomplished.

Mostly things have reached a crisis of accumulation, an accretion that threatens to bury me.

No, there are not giant stacks of newspapers everywhere, with little paths between and infested with rodents. There are small stacks of things, however, some even in proper storage containers. The problem is that they represent objects at rest upon which no force is predicted to act in the forseeable future.

There are dust bunnies that, when collected, add up to regular lapine size – and with such frequency that my ardent Swiffer-ing cannot be faulted as the cause.

A dining room table where no one dines. Upon its cloth are a few broken bowls, one containing feathers, some candlesticks, an oil lamp and a stack of postcards that represent 25¢ each were they to be processed as data entry "work at home" work.

A living room in which nothing lives. Magazines are splayed open along the sides of the couches to deter the resident feline from shredding at them. Charming decor.

The deacon's bench has not been a place anyone could sit for perhaps two years. Mostly it has items that were given to us and unwanted. I am too conservative, though, to recycle into oblivion the potentially hazardous (look up aluminum and Alzheimer's) ice-cube trays, for example. They maintain such a pleasing mid-century design and a quaint hint at engineering that I simply can't discard them willingly. There is a lidded soup-pot in the back of our car, a more recent unsolicited give-quisition … along with a few other odds and ends that obliterated the Wow, The Car Is Free Of Both Clutter And Trash that I accomplished a mere month ago.

Entropy.

I don't mind the forces of nature bringing things around in cycles of birth, decay and rebirth – what I struggle with is the human construct that it's Noble to struggle against them. A house is a place of false security. It was made once by human hands only to be ever-needy of their continual intervention.

Would I be happier replastering a hut annually with mud? I don't know. But this hut is so huge by comparison that I can't think of where to begin. I remember when, so long ago in micro-domestic geological ages, the basement was clear, its floor sweepable, its only drawback a few crickets which moved out soon after we moved in.

The basement stairs are still insecure. The stairs leading from the back door are approaching a hazardous state. The hot water pressure is laughable. Think of how depressing it is to take a shower in America like that. Good morning! I wonder that the showers in prison aren't of better quality. I might as well hoist up kettle-water and dump it from a bucket. I might not mind that if other things were not also troubling.

How about this one-year plan:

• paint the rooms that have always wanted painting; plaster up the weird holes and paint — it will improve the mental environment in at least two ways
• scrounge up $10k and get someone to replace the roof … (keeping in mind that the IRS is waiting for approx. $5,000 presently)
• take a real vacation from work that is several days longer than a standard keep-up weekend and haul away or store off-site in plastic tubs all the items that are pre-art-projects (clothes, frames, metals, material, etc.)
• make making things something that happens in a studio of deliberate intention
• see what happens when there is more free space around
• see if someone won't buy it as-is for perhaps the size of the loan it holds
• leave anyway

When I was growing up, I saw twice and for many years the way a house can tear down a life if the life is not financially large enough to support it. I suppose I wonder most about how I did not learn a thing from this long observation. I even had the lesson repeated to me as an adult. What folly the American Dream, that it is strong enough to insinuate itself behind one's own logic and training.

It may have been easier to have just had children.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Health Care Logic

This is not a bill: $15 for EKG.

Second correspondence, a few days later, and 17 days following incident:

Amount billed: $0
Member rate: $0
Pending or not payable, "A claim that needs more review by us or an amount we did not pay. You may or may not have to pay this. Read the 'Your Claim Remarks' to learn more": $232
Deductible: $0
Coinsurance: $0
Copay: $0

… moving on to Your Claims Up Close:

Emergency Services on ____ [#random code] Amy M. Stubbs [Don't you remember meeting her? Really? Wow.] Refer to Remarks Section, $232.

O.K.:

General Remarks:
(1) You or your spouse may have other insurance that would cover this claim [which is silly because we are your only insurance, and you don't know what the claim is]. Please call or write us to confirm. If you or they [incorrect grammar] have other insurance, please send us:

1. Name, birth date, and member ID of the insured
2. Group name
3. The date coverage began
4. Name, address, and phone number of the other insurance company [because we want this to be on your Google-time, not ours — and what makes you think that our industry has some kind of handy database at its disposal? Sheesh …]
5. Employment status of the insured — actively employed, retired, or on COBRA benefits

This information may be found on the ID card for the other health plan [which does not exist].

We will make our decision within 15 days of getting the information. We'll deny the claim if we do not get this information within 45 days from the day you receive this form [a date which cannot be proven but unless you blog about it, but we have no money to look into that; also, it's confusing, isn't it, 15 days or 30 days after that — or is it really 15 days? Business days or calendar? Ah-ha, you are confused now, aren't you? You are not at all sure how you may or may not preserve your rights!].

For claims sent from Texas: Your claim may remain open if we do not get the information. [Please, do not wonder why that is … we can't just succintly say, "Laws vary by state, you know, the United States of states' rights and non-nationalization of anything means exactly this fact, because that would be inefficient and cause loss of freedom (to move to another state that has slightly different and better regulations)."]

For claims sent from North Carolina: You have 90 days to send us the information. If we don't get it [note, this is regardless of whether you send it or not], the claim will be denied. You will have one year from the date of the denial to give us the information. We will then reconsider your claim. [In other words, we often wait YEARS to get paid, and we seem to be o.k. with that. But, no, that has nothing whatsoever to do with the cost of providing healthcare.]

For NY plans [the state of New York does not need to be spelled out like the other ones]: If we do not get this information in 45 days, we will process the claim with the information we have on file

(2) Your provider may have sent diagnosis codes with your claim. [Soooo, why don't we have them — unclear! Why do you need them — unclear!] You may obtain these codes [again, your time, not ours] and their meanings [b/c such things are by no means standardized — you think this is an organized country or something?] by contacting us [not the hospital — remember we don't  really know what happened to you at the ER, and they can't tell you, either (until later in this letter)] at the number listed at the top of the first page. We will also provide your treatment codes and their meanings, if they do not appear on this statement [which you and I both know, they DON'T]. If you have questions about your diagnosis or your treatment [please, no requests about this statment itself], please contact your provider [not us, even though we just told you to call us to get the codes].

*****************

Any suggestions? Obviously, I have to make phone calls. Obviously, I'm not sure it's worth $230 to try.

I didn't mention the two pages after that with each state's Consumer Assistance Program numbers. Are those to help me decipher the bill or to help me pay it?

Also, my policy says I have a co-pay and a deductible. As usual, I just don't understand this system.

And I am pretty sure no one was meant to.

A friend of ours who is about 50 but seems at least a decade younger (and hence is uninsured; a very fit man, mentally and physically) just busted up his ankle on a job site. Going to ER was imperitive, unless he wanted to end up like Jurgis Rudkis and so many others 100 years ago. Perhaps I can provide this poor dear's medical statements for our collective enlightenment at a later date.

Veterinary bills — those make sense!

Monday, October 08, 2012

What Your Amazon On-Demand Movie List Says About You

In no particular order. If I had an editor, this would be more engaging.

Casablanca: you have a thing for inevitability, impossible romances and cheesy one-liners tossed about where folks are drinking.

A Streetcar Named Desire: you have a thing for inevitability, middle-age-reaching women who have a drinking problem and like teenagers; of course, you have read the play and then read it again, while watching the movie and taking notes.

Jaws: you have a thing for inevitability, "realism," mechanized sharks (and the sea); you were so inspired as a young kid seeing this on TV that you drew at least eight scenes, from memory, with Crayola on computer paper.

Amadeus
: you like inevitability, thwarted genius, and costumes; the director's cut is not so bad.

Jaws II: you are an optimist who wishes she hadn't paid $10 for a sleepy sequel (also you like inevitability and you thought it would be as good as the first one).

Cabaret: you like politics, inevitability, green fingernail polish and people whose lives are colorful and tied to things Fosse-esque. You lived with one of his descendants, who was crazy but brought a lot of cable-recorded VHS tapes into your life.

Mary Poppins: you are a whole other type of optimist, who relishes voice-over singing, cardboard sets and one of the earliest attempts at live-actor+animation; you remember that some kids you babysat watched this so many times, you thought you'd explode.

Dazed and Confused: you watched this in college a few times and think it's a fun faux-nostalgic look at the America of your two-year-old youth.

The Graduate: you like watching rich LA people from the '60s be bored with the status quo, set to the soundtrack of something you listened to at least 345 times as a high schooler after you found the record (and taped it on a tape for your Walkman) at the house.

Lost in Translation: you can't get over Billy Murray movies, and this one includes not only that lovely girl but also outdated (when you were there) references to Japan.

America: World Police: you love puppets, especially the irreverent type; you respect the Sesame Street you grew up on, but this is just as good at your age.

Office Space: you like outdated scenes of drudgery that you are old enough to find humor in — a 3.5-inch floppy with a virus? Hilarious!

The Triplets of Belleville: you like animation and dark humor.

Jesus Christ Superstar:  you enjoy the costumes, the sincerity and the extreme danceability of all the tracks; you sing them in your sleep; this reminds you of when you would sit in the basement, reading the booklet that came with the four-record set your mom had; even though she now votes Republican, the fact that she used to sing this, too, along with Elton John, Boy George, and the Who, provides a different kind of nostalgia.

The fact that you have no films that are any newer than 1990 (this is a guess): you also read late-18th to early 20th-century novels no fewer than 20 times each.


The majority of these movies have brought me to tears more times than I have bothered to count. (Not Office Space nor Jaws II).

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Why Shouldn't the Heart Wear Itself Out?


Detail of table vignette in Renée Cinderhouse's Manifest Destiny, an installation of hand-made porcelain objects, artifacts, and encyclopaedia pages amid trees, that takes you into a life-sized pop-up storybook of America's ghost history. Manifest Destiny is at La Esquina in Kansas City, Missouri, and will be on view through September 30. Next Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the Denver Broncos UK fill the space with their unique (and rarely performed live) sound. Scroll down from here and go to the ticketing page.

Unless there is active cancer, then usually, yes, yes, there are also things like diabetes, car accidents, random poisonings (acute, not the cancer-type — think about things that come via blood-sucking insects and bacteria-infected food) that can kill you, but I'm just talking about when the engine itself finally shuts down.

That's pretty much the universal ultimate for most.

I have known people with various chronic illnesses who, ultimately, succumbed to heart attacks. I have known various people who seemed never to be sick (via anything outside their own control) fall to their hearts' accumulated weakness. The latter seem to live, but their attacks come earlier in life.

For the third or fourth time this growing season, we have cut the lawn and trimmed down the legitimate shrubs and tried (as unsuccessfully as usual) to kill the fast-growing woody weeds someone accidentally or intentionally imported from China years ago.

The yard was a disaster of neglect, albeit neglect during drought. The very high temperatures, for days on end topping 100ºF and of a dry, non-Midwestern nature, kept us from venturing out into the yard. We got the trees trimmed, though; I think that should count for something.

We have a tree, therefore, we have limited landscaping options in the front yard. Grass does not like shade, even if you are buying the "I Love Shade!" version of the corporate seed companies' products. Roses do not flourish; azaleas wither, etc. Vines do just great. I am wondering what quality besides speed and swirliness that vines have that make them so successful even in the crummiest of soil, even in the least reliable of light?

The latest vine is milkweed. Joy. The morning glories I foolishly planted and once re-seeded five and four years ago are finding their way anywhere, even in the tedious cracks of our "why is this yard two-thirds concrete?" yard. There are the more natural (I guess) lobe-leaved, little-flowered white morning glories, which take over everything not tended. There are also arrow-leaved annoyances. And we have some kind of pretty but suspect vine that likes the fence and the house. It always gets torn from the limestone and chopped back.

My fingernails took the most punishment. My garden gloves have been shredded at their most brushed spots. Opinions on repair options?

No snakes, only one small cricket and the praying mantis we saw a few days ago on the porch. It is amazing how tall and woody lamb's quarter (or goosefoot) can get. This is a relative to and as edible as spinach, the kind we know and get at the grocery. I read somewhere that it is also quinoa. I find that hard to believe but have not looked into it further.

Today was a bit chilly, which is just fine when doing grueling yard work. Who in their right minds acquiesces to stooping and tearing, to hacking at roots with a shovel, to cutting with inadequate tools (they are Chinese-made, so they did not last more than four years) then hauling and bundling, a bunch of stupid weeds that are choking out your intended and beloved plants (prettier)? Even when we've tried planting food …

I have not noted major changes in my personal cardiovascular concern. I feel a false sense of green-light, given that nothing abnormal showed up, nothing that would indicate a heart-attack's cause (blood clots, thyroid problems, etc.), and I know it's a stupid place to rest, because nothing has changed since before all the tests. They did all this even though there was nothing to indicate a heart attack's results, either.

I am still dehydrated. I am still stuck with some insurmountable deadline based on someone else's grand mistake, which I happened to catch (though only after a week's-worth of work from two of us — we were soooo close to meeting our original and reasonable deadline). Stress has never gotten to my body this way before; I was totally cool with just getting nauseous and having racing thoughts. Racing heart is not acceptable, especially since I can't talk it down like I can my brain. What language does the heart speak?

Certainly not bacon.

Anyway, I was referred, not to a psychologist or other mental professional, but to a cardiologist. I guess for those hours that my blood pressure was too high. Never mind that it was normal on at least one of the automated checks — I grew loathe of that horrible squeezing. Has anyone ever done a study on how compressing violently the vessels in one's upper arm affects the darn thing … when it's done every 20 minutes or so and hurts on the hospital scale of one to 10 at about, for me, a 7.5?

My heart-rate, once mentally relieved of the idea that I had experienced heart-muscle death, also went down unless someone came in to talk to me. When I arrived in my room, which had a curtain that was too short for the glass-span, the movie, "Bucket List," was on. I had never seen it, and I didn't realize what it was until the two dying main characters were off on their trips; fortunately, soon after I had lain down and been hooked up to a pulse monitor and three stick-on snaps for making those sine waves on the machine go, that the movie was at the hospital bed scene.

One of the doctors (the one I liked least; the best one was still a student, go figure — but they all seemed the same age) turned the volume off at one point, so I didn't have to endure the eulogy or the music that I presume was playing when the guide puts the can of ashes next to his friends' in coffee at the top of Everest, perhaps.

The round stickers made permanent circle-marks, three places on my ventral torso. Two of the, "Oh, did you get hit by a few-suckered octopus lately?" items are visible above the standard U.S. neckline of the 21st century (early). I can't believe I'm allergic to the MediTrace foam.

My last nurse told me that I'd be finding "sticky" all over for a while. "The hand-sanitizer works great," she said. I asked about rubbing alcohol. No, it doesn't work the same.

No, I didn't have trouble with EKG or MediTrace freaky glue gumming up my fine skin. Instead, I have weird marks; but no matter.

They spent much of their whole work day dealing with a slow ER-day and my petty issues.

Once, a bunch of people ran down the hall behind the middle desk. It was stressful, but that stress didn't alter my blips. I watched.

Since that desk was a few feet from my head, I heard all kinds of things. Why do they talk when they know other patients can hear them? Am I to presume they rambled down the hall about That Weird Lady Who Seems Like She Just Wanted To Hang Out?

I spent my whole day indoors without windows on the first day of fall, which was blessedly gorgeous outside here, spending more money than perhaps was necessary. A few healthcare professionals seemed to hint that I should have gone to my primary care physician. Screw him. Why drive 20 miles to him, only to drive back and wait days to see someone at a hospital a different 20 minutes away with lab tests that likewise take days? The key to my health is convenience, and the Missouri-side teaching hospital to two blocks away.

I still feel weird, though. I also feel confused that no one has any theories. What else causes continued heart pressure with occasional shooting stabs off to the side? Maybe I'm not giving them enough clues.

Wouldn't it be cool if I could post my X-ray here? Alas, I bought it, but I can't have it.

Coming Soon:
HOW much did that all cost?