It’s No Joke*: Today I Have Health Insurance Again. Finally.

When I had my yearly physical in January, I paid with money I had been saving for two months – money I had set aside solely for the purpose of going to the doc, putting my feet in the stirrups, getting all checked out like a responsible adult does. I was given a ten percent discount for paying in cash and when my doctor prescribed antibiotics for a lung infection for me at that same visit, she took care to prescribe generics that would be likely to be available free or at a reduced cost from most pharmacies.

And later, when I had my eye appointment so I could get new contact lenses (because the poster they have in their office of the eye infections you can get by not changing your lenses FREAKED ME OUT), I purchased my new (totally clean and hygienic) lenses with money I had saved from selling old jewelry, money that I’d wanted to use to buy my kids better gifts at Christmas, but instead used…for my eyes. And that was after my amazing eye doc gave me a free eye exam and reduced the cost of my lens fitting because he is awesome and I? I was broke.

After my divorce was finally officially final last May, I immediately went on my employer’s health insurance plan. Great! Exciting! No lapse in coverage! Whoohoo!

Until my job got cut to part time in July.

Since July 1, I have had no health insurance. Today, my employer’s health insurance coverage kicks in and once again, I can breathe a sigh of relief.

I can’t explain how it feels to not be covered by health insurance other than to say that if you think too closely about how you can be bankrupted by one illness or injury, you will want to wrap yourself in a bubble and spray everything down with disinfectant constantly. Things you might go to the doctor for when you have insurance, you think twice about when you don’t.

That lung infection I had in January? Yeah, I totally wouldn’t have seen a doc for that if I hadn’t already had an appointment I had saved for. Even though I was miserable. Even though I needed it.

There were things I did to somewhat ease my mind – I upped my car insurance a bit so that if I had gotten injured in a car accident, those medical expenses would be covered by insurance. I started taking Vitamin C. I stopped playing in traffic. Just seeing if you’re paying attention.

Anyway. There’s only so much you can do.

Anything can happen to anyone and there’s pretty much not a damn thing you can do about it – and when you don’t have health insurance, it’s terrifying.

In the midst of all that, I saw someone post on Facebook complaining of the effects of the Affordable Care Act on her copays (Note: I don’t care if the Obama administration themselves have taken to referring to it as “Obamacare” – I just don’t). What I wanted to say, and never had the guts to (because I’m not a pot-stirrer) is this: The ACA wasn’t made to help the people who are taking their family of seven on multiple trips to Florida every year. Yes, you’re awesome. You work hard, you earned your money, and you can do with it whatever you want. But… it wasn’t made to help you.

It was made to help people who are in the boat I have been in. People, for whom purchasing their own insurance was out of reach. Before ACA, buying your own insurance was pretty cost prohibitive. Yeah. It’s still expensive. I mean, hell, clearly I couldn’t afford it because I didn’t have it… but it was far less expensive than it had been previously.

Am I defending ACA? No. It’s far from perfect. I think the idea of it is a good one – people shouldn’t have to sacrifice good health and preventative care because their circumstances aren’t ideal for affording medical care or insurance.

But, it wasn’t made to help the people who could afford it. And I budgeted to get a pap smear, so my heart doesn’t break too much for those who may end up reconsidering whether or not they can afford that fourth trip to Disney this year.

(I may have been made a bit bitter by my situation. I own it. It’s been a hard year.)

A few months ago, a woman I know posted something to Facebook about people who mooch (not my words) from government programs. Drug tests for everybody!

And I was appalled and insulted.

If you’ll remember, I had spent FIVE HOURS waiting in line at an unemployment office waiting for a meager sum of money that ended up making a huge difference while my work situation was what it was. Did I not have a full time because I was a druggie? No. Did I not have a full time job because I was lazy? Did I expect to just hold my hand out and have someone fill it? No. I worked hard for years, and when times got tough I needed help.

It happens.

It sucks and it happens.

It has been a long hard road of feeling like I would never find my footing again and today, today I have health insurance again and I hope to not take that for granted, just how amazing it is that I will be able to take care of my health and well being without months of planning and budgeting and penny pinching.I look forward to not having to weigh which of the recommended routine physical tests I will do because I can’t afford them all. I’m looking forward to finally rescheduling the dental appointment I cancelled last month because I had no insurance.

So, yeah, I’m excited. More excited than I should be perhaps (“Whoohoo! I can get my cholesterol tested without pinching pennies before hand!”) but excited because if the past year has taught me anything, it’s that there’s a lot that I had been taking for granted, a lot I didn’t appreciate as I should, and now, after everything, I am so grateful, SO. VERY. GRATEFUL. to have peace of mind.

 

 

 

*I hate April Fool’s Day. Hate it. Hate it. Hate it.

Forward Motion

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One week down.

I had forgotten, kind of, the transition involved with going from a job where you know all of the inner workings and quirks to one where you have a blank slate and have everything to learn. That feeling of going from the one that people go to when they have questions to being the one who is asking the questions. It’s not a feeling I like, this cluelessness, but I do know that it should pass.

All of that aside, for the first time in a long time, I feel on track for getting my feet back on the ground.

I really hope this means the tide is turning.

I’m sure you do, as well. After all, I’m sure this hasn’t been a very fun place to read for the past year or so.

But I’m hoping for good things in my future.

And hope feels good. I haven’t felt hope in awhile…and I kind of like it.

Hey Mother Nature, We’re Getting Sick Of Your Shizz.

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I haven’t had a commute over the past several days that has taken less than an hour. That means I’m spending at least two hours a day in the car commuting to a job with an expiration date.

Chew on that.

It’s a bit of insult meeting injury, but I’m doing it.

(I’m a trooper. A whiny trooper, but I’m a trooper.)

The news is filled with reports of highways closed, jackknifed semi-trucks, cars in ditches. The roads are icy and the blowing snow are making these already poor driving conditions even worse.

It’s been almost a week since my kids have been to school. I’m pretty sure they’re still able to remember how to write their own names and find their classrooms…but I can’t really be sure. Does school amnesia set in after awhile?

No matter, really, because despite my long standing lack of love for snow days, I have to admit… This winter has been pretty gruesome. There hasn’t been a single day over the past month where I’ve thought to myself, “They shouldn’t have closed.” Every closing has felt justifiable to me.

With brutal arctic temperatures and craptastic driving conditions, I’d really rather my kids were safe at home. Does it make things tricky schedule-wise? Well, YES. And I’m grateful that I have family that helps me out and makes my life easy when schedules are anything but. I don’t want my daughters waiting for a bus in -25 windchill. I don’t want them them on the road in a seatbelt-less bus when the conditions are such that there’s no guarantee that the vehicle will stop when you want it to. It’s ugly outside.

This is not a change of heart from my earlier anti-snow-day stance. I’ve come to see this winter that that stance was born of frivolous closings that weren’t justified. A school closing for a morning snow fall that was cleared by 9 a.m.? Pffft. You’ve wreaked havoc on my day FOR NOTHING!

This winter?

Okay. They’re doing right by me, right by my kids. They’re doing right in terms of safety.

Reading accounts of the folks in Atlanta stuck on the freeway for hours on end due to yesterday’s snow and ice in the south is terrifying. I spent ten minutes at a complete stop on the freeway on my drive home Monday afternoon, and it was a claustrophobic ten minutes. I cannot imagine sitting like that for hours, I can’t.

This winter has been no joke.

And I’m so very over it.

I want the snow to stop and the ice to go away. I want the temperatures to rise and I want the kids to go back to school. I want my commute to be less white-knuckled. I’m SO ready for spring.

are you watching the sky too

And We’re All Turning Into Little People-sicles

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The sky was darkening and I was eager to get into the house, shake off the day and get dinner started for the girls. Instead, as I turned into my driveway I got stuck in that huge pile of sludge the snow plow leaves as it clears the street. Thick heavy snow surrounded my tires and they spun and spun as I tried to move forward, back to get out of this mess.

As I began to try to free my tires of snow, shoveling away some of the sludge, a stranger in a minivan got out of his car and pulled a shovel from the back. He walked around my van, helping me shovel around my tires. Finally he said, “Try now.” I got into my car and reversed as he pushed on the hood of my car to help free me from my snowy jail.

Loosened from the snow, I backed all the way out of my drive and then once he cleared my path, hit the gas and just pushed through the snow to get through the muck. It worked.

I thanked my helper and he was gone before I could offer cookies or a slice of lemon pound cake The Princess had baked.

And then I caved and hired someone to plow my driveway.

Gah.

This morning, I awoke early – hoping to find a message saying our office was closed. No go, so I was up at 5:30 piling layer upon layer on to go shovel the driveway so I could get out to go to work and so my stepfather could get in to watch the kids. The windchill was -9.

For twenty minutes I shoveled before escaping to a hot shower and preparing for my day.

This morning’s commute was a tense white-knuckled drive with blowing snow and at times, white out conditions. I turned on to the highway and immediately a gush of snow rendered my whole field of vision a sea of white. I couldn’t see a place to pull over, stop driving. I wanted to cry. A car went by me with its hazards on, then another with its hazards. It was helpful – following the flashing reds, and so I put mine on too, not knowing if it was the right thing to do or not, only figuring it couldn’t hurt to signal other drivers that a) HI! I’m HERE! and b) I’m moving slowly because OMG I AM A LITTLE NERVOUS.

I made it to work, only a few minutes late and eventually my heart stopped its annoying racey-panicky thing and settled into a normal rhythm.

I’ve worked hard this winter and last to handle the shoveling on my own. I actually have grown to like shoveling snow – it’s instant gratification because immediately I can see the results of my hard work. Also? Major calorie burn. Pass the cookies. In the past, we had a service that plowed the driveway whenever we received over a certain amount of snowfall.

Well, those days (and that disposable income) are gone and so I have come to a certain acceptance about shoveling. I spent over an hour and 400 calories shoveling yesterday.

Tonight, with windchills well below zero? I don’t even want to try.

It’s cold. I’m getting a cough. That sludge is freaking heavy and I don’t want to be out there long enough to make it disappear.

And so I paid someone to do it.

I know it’s not a failure – I mean I’ve been busting my ass week after week and keeping up with the snow. I’ve been shoveling my drive before the neighbors with the snowblowers are out.

But it’s just too cold. I can’t do it.

I caved.

And I feel like a bit of a chump about it, like I took the easy way out (well, my wallet didn’t find it to be that easy), instead of braving the cold and just doing it.

But my driveway is clear.

Tomorrow morning, I can sit inside with a cup of coffee instead of shivering and shoveling. And maybe, just maybe, I won’t get stuck again.

I’m stubborn. I don’t like asking for help. I loathe asking for help.

But apparently I’ll pay for it.

Saying Goodbye to 2013

Eye will be happy to see this year go

This year kicked my ass.

I knew at the start of the year that it wouldn’t be easy – I knew that my grandpa was struggling following his stroke in November 2012. I was waiting for my divorce to be finalized and getting the hang of the whole single parent thang (and single paycheck thing). And of course, the new year starts in the midst of my least favorite season, so I was slogging through winter blahs anyway.

I didn’t anticipate my job getting cut to part time.

Getting by on half a paycheck.

My grandfather dying.

The struggles related to trying to find full time work.

My basement flooding.

Hundreds of dollars of furnace repair.

My stepfather’s valve replacement surgery.

My brother’s two broken legs.

It seems like every time I turned around, it was something else.

It seemed like despite the fact that there was still good in 2013, it was clouded over by the things that weighed me down.

I am no stranger to struggle but this year? I felt so tested by this year.

And even today as I sat on my couch crying about something, I felt like it was 2013 trying to get one final dig in.

And that’s just ridiculous.

In my heart of heart I know that it’s not the year’s fault. Bad things happen sometime. We lose people we love. We are forced to find our strength when times get tough. That all of this happened in the span of 365 days is probably all just a fluke.

Doesn’t make me hate the year any less, though.

But feeling that way about it, well, it makes me sad. Because a lot was right in 2013: my kids, Chris, my sister’s surprise pregnancy (when she was told she’d NEVER be able to conceive naturally – SURPRISE! My nephew is due any minute!), amazing friends and friendships, a lot of good times, and a lot of joy.

I don’t know what’s ahead in 2014, only that I hope that the year is kinder to me and the people I love. I know that struggle presents us with opportunity for growth – but, you know, I don’t want to grow right now. I’m okay where I am. No growing necessary. Not for now. None for me, thanks.

There’s no guarantee that 2014 will be any better. The clock could strike midnight and the coming year could bring more of the same. Who knows.

But I always view a near year as a new start and so with my new start, I’ll pick myself up, brush myself off, and keep on putting one foot in front of the other. It’s all any of us can do, anyway.

Happy new year, y’all. Love and be loved,

Sarah

A Grownup’s Letter to Santa

Dear Santa,

I know this letter is late but I figured that perhaps you or your elves might still be checking Google Alerts for your name and so I’m hoping that you might see this in time for Christmas.

I’m writing to you because it beats mumbling under my breath to the universe, it beats slamming doors, and since I’m already frustrated, I figured that you can be my last resort — who knows, maybe all these years of staying off the Naughty List will finally do me some good.

This has been one of the hardest years of my life, Santa, and I’ve been hanging in there pretty well. I’ve managed to do all of the things I’m supposed to be doing, despite a ton of obstacles being thrown at me. I guess the first thing I’m asking for, O Bearded One, is for less obstacles. I know, I know, that which doesn’t kill me makes me stronger, but I also know that I’m getting a little old to care so much about being strong. I want not strength, these days, but endurance so that I can keep moving forward long after I would rather be resting.

I want patience – because the things I’m working for won’t always come easy.

I want persistence so I can pick myself up when I’ve been knocked down. As many times as it takes.

I want the insight and analytical mind required to figure out why things happen as they do and to learn from them.

Sometimes I find myself so frustrated when it seems things come easily for someone else or that they’re not running into the same challenges. I want the heart and the grace so that I can find joy for their joy, so that I don’t begrudge their happiness, and that I remember that I only know just a fraction of their story, just as they only know a piece of mine.

I’m tired of worry and I’m tired of fear and I would love to be a step closer to certainty.

I lost one of the most special people in the world when my grandpa died this year.

I have also been blessed to find love.

I want to be able to counter life’s hurts with life’s joys with an open heart that remembers that both the happiness and the sorrows come from loving without reserve and I want to keep being that person who treasures the love of those special people in my life.

I can’t imagine your elves are going to have an easy time making these things that I want, that I need. I’m not sure there’s a store in the world where these things could be purchased, Santa. I realize I’d have a greater likelihood of getting what I’ve asked for if I told you I needed a new hoodie or a travel coffee mug.

But I don’t need things.

I probably am supposed to be able to do all of these things on my own, Belly Full O’ Jelly, but I’ve struggled this year, so I’m asking you to maybe leave some magic under my tree.

I’d hate to think I’ve been so good for all these years for nothin’. And besides, you know I leave you the best cookies.

xo,

Sarah
Member of the Nice List since 1976

Day 30: Well. I survived. You survived.

Oops. I did it again.

I blogged every day for thirty days and frankly, I can’t even remember what the hell I wrote about except that I knew when I started that November would be  a tough month and I wasn’t wrong so then to make up for having all of those stupid emotions I taught you how to make gougere.

We’re less than a month away from Christmas and we’re already eyeball deep in Elf on the Shelf posts on Facebook and my Christmas tree is up and there are presents underneath and you know, it’s finally hitting me that I’m in the home stretch of making it through 2013. I’m going to do it. I’ll get through.

I was trying to just get through November – to get through writing each day and trying not to get too many emotions on all of you and trying to not have a heart attack from stress and just get through it.

And now tomorrow is December.

Will I write daily in December?

No.

(You’re welcome.)

 

What IS on tap for December?

Well, the holidays. DUH.

Also, I’ll be taking part in Lucrecer’s CELEBRATE photo challenge – I’ll post challenge pics here.

The annual cookie decorating party. Pumpkin’s holiday Christmas concert. The Princess’s second gymnastics meet of the season. Monkey bread. Lots of coffee. Treating myself to a bottle of Philosophy’s Gingerbread Man bubble bath and then rationing it out over the year. Attempting to get my work outs back on track and feel a little bit better about myself. Countless hours of HGTV background noise. Time spent with the people I love – both celebrating the holidays and just being absolutely. lazy.

It’s amazing to think another month is nearly over. Another year is nearly over.

I just keep looking forward to what’s ahead.

Day 29: Sometimes Traditions Change

Yesterday, the girls and I ventured over to taste test my mom’s stuffing before she put it in the turkey, before she put it in the oven (also, before she added the egg because salmonella’s no joke and we sometimes try to avoid food poisoning). Add more sage, add a dash more salt.

The Princess asked to stay and hang out with my mother while Pumpkin and I went home before dinner. It was early and I hadn’t even showered after my treadmill workout.

In the midst of their food preparation, they found out my stepfather wouldn’t be coming home from the hospital as they’d anticipated — we expected him home by Monday.

So it’s not really a surprise our dinner was off kilter. Used to having her husband’s help in the kitchen, mom struggled to get the timing of the meal right. She had to call my brother-in-law to come back over to cut the turkey.

Last year, Thanksgiving was in the recent aftermath of my grandpa’s stroke – and though it was off kilter, my grandmother still came to share the day with us. Yesterday, though, she went to my aunt’s house. Our dinner was just me and mom and my girls — and before dinner, Pumpkin in tears said, “I thought the holidays is when you spent time with family.”

(And then we ate massive amounts of stuffing and all was right in the world.)

And today, we varied from our usual Black Friday tradition. Instead of heading out before the sun, we waited until after 8 — and we took the girls with us. I don’t usually take the girls Black Friday shopping – there’s too many people out, and I can’t really shop for the kids if they’re with me. But, you know, you do what you gotta when things cause plans to change.

I’m a big believer in tradition and I knew that this year would be a bit of a chaotic mess. It was yesterday for Thanksgiving and I’m sure Christmas will be as well. We’re all still reeling from the loss of my grandpa, and this year, having spent so much time together in the nursing home during grandpa’s last days, we are all just backing away from each other slowly, retreating to separate corners. It means my kids might never again have the big family Christmases I grew up with, the family Christmases they’ve had before. We’ll do our best, and the girls and I will hang on to the traditions that we can hang on to – but I’m afraid that my grandpa was the glue holding a lot of it together.

Day 24: The Constant Chirping Is Driving Me INSANE

All day long, there’s been a high pitch chirping in my house. Chirp. Chirp. Chirp.

It is surely a smoke detector – since I tested the carbon monoxide detector and it is a) fully functional and b) not the culprit of the constant chirping – however, there are so many smoke detectors in this house (all about safety), I can’t seem to tell which one it is.

I stand under one and suddenly the chirping is silent – unwilling to either confirm or deny its role as the source of the noise.

And so I sit on the couch.

Chirp. Chirp. Chirp. It feels like it’s right next to me, the noise, but it’s not.

And it could well drive me crazy. Waiting for the moment when it happens to chirp at a moment when I’m in the room – that will end this, this constant annoyance I’ve felt all day being unable to detect and stop the noise.

 

Day 23: And So It Snows…

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I woke up this morning and looked out the windows and was sure that my eyes were behaving badly with all the white I was seeing. That my eyes would be screwy would be no surprise – I’m overdue for an eye exam (I have one scheduled, it’s all good) and I’m kind of half convinced that at some point over the past few weeks, I mixed up my right and left contact – and so I keep switching them back and forth seeing if I can see any better. (I’m sure that’s behavior totally frowned upon by eye care professionals).

Anyway.

All that white garbage wasn’t my eyes being stupid.

It was snow.

The expected high temperature today is less than 30°, and I’m cold and have already said more than once: “That’s enough! I quit winter!”

So, I didn’t really have anything to blog about today. I had a great dinner last night with a friend of mine, and great coffee this morning with Chris… and I dug in my archives for my picture of the day today last year.

And it was this. A light dusting of snow. Just like today.

It’s interesting sometimes to see life that way – today versus a year ago today.

Fun to note that a year ago today, I was probably cursing Mother Nature much like I am now.

The sun is shining and there’s no snow in my yard. It’s still cold outside – and will be for days – but I’m warm with a cup of coffee by my side.

So it begins, winter. The season I hate the most. Hoping to avoid numbness and ginormous electric bills.