Health Care is Complicated: The Letters

I didn’t actually send these letters. Blogging the thoughts helps me settle down and control the stress-related blood pressure spikes that occur when, irony or ironies, I’m attempting to use the health insurance company web site. 

Dear Customer Service Department;

I found what I needed while waiting on hold. That means the information was too hard to find, the web site is not user-friendly, and the time on hold to reach a representative is much too long.

Sincerely,

Techno Geek

Dear Benefits Service;

Thank you for your prompt assistance and good advice. I’m pleased you walked me through the process to make sure it worked rather than just handing out pithy advice like “Use a different browser.” In fact, I should have thought of it myself. My geek brain was exhausted from searching for the EOBs while on hold waiting for customer service.

Much Relieved,

Daisy

Dear Colleagues:

Thank you for your moral support as we navigate the mazes of these online services.

Yours forever,

Daisy

Market Day with a Missing Kitchen

it’s Farm Market season again!

Lettuce, spinach, parsley, strawberries, blueberries, peas, kettle corn (for me!), pomegranate lemonade (for me!) – did I miss anything?

It’s Saturday, and it’s the first Saturday of the downtown farmers’ market. It’s also hot. Hot, muggy, steamy, sweaty. I heard several little kiddos complaining that they couldn’t walk anymore or that they were hot and sweaty. I saw even more young ones with beverages in hand. Families were smart and kept themselves and their kids hydrated.

But other than that, it was a normal and pleasant market. I got a good parking space in my usual ramp, there was still time on the meter, and I grabbed my rolling bag and headed out to stock up on good food for the family. I may have come back with more food than planned and a lighter wallet (dropped tips in three buskers’ cases), but it was a good First Market of the Season.

However, prepping is a challenge because we have no kitchen. I have no sink. Half of the colanders and bowls I usually use are stored in the basement. My favorite knife for shelling peas is also stored somewhere – where, I wish I knew. I rinsed the lettuce and spinach in big colanders with the hose – yes, you heard me, the garden hose. The peas were small enough to rinse in the bathroom sink. I had to set aside the strawberries and the asparagus – just no time to figure out how and where to get them cut up and cleaned.

The next few days may be ridiculously hot. I can spend my time inside, prepping strawberries and asparagus.

Coping without a Kitchen

“How do you survive without a kitchen?”

“Are you using paper plates?”

“Do you get delivery and drive through fast food?”

Actually, we’re doing quite well. It’s not easy, but we planned for it and we’re keeping up fairly well. Planning ahead, then and now, is essential to coping while the kitchen is under construction.

Making Chicken Dinner

Rice: Minute white rice and Uncle Ben’s ten minute brown rice, cooked in chicken broth (the freezer is full of good things like this) in the microwave

Chicken breasts: thawed and cooked on grill a few nights ago as “planned-overs.” I diced and reheated the chicken in the microwave.

Beverage: Sun tea, made on the deck on a (what else?) sunny day

Chicken Dinner!

A few pieces of leftover zucchini and onion, and there it is: chicken dinner, all prepared without an actual kitchen.

Not bad! But seriously, I look forward to having a kitchen again – and what a kitchen it will be!

Summertime, and the living is…is..

Last Friday was the all-important, all-consuming, why did it take SO LONG to arrive Last Day of School!!

We spent the weekend shuttling Amigo to his reunion at the school for the blind and then to Lions Camp. Monday, I finally took a deep breath and felt summer settle around me.

I spent most of the morning taking care of various garden chores. There’s nothing better than starting summer with dirt under my fingernails! Buttercup the bunny came out, too. She nibbled on the lawn and rested in the shade. A little weeding, a little watering, transplanting two tomato plants that were too crowded to another big pot. Did I really use two, too, and to in the same sentence? Maybe my mind is still in school, after all.

And that brings me to the rest of the week, this first week that so many think of as a teacher’s summer “off.” All day Tuesday and Wednesday and then a half day Thursday will be spent in staff development learning more about the technology I use to teach online, but mostly, putting in the hours. Next week I’ll have two commitments: a book study (I’m leading it, so I’d better be ready) and a formal three day training in an intervention reading program.

Without driving the details, I’ll just say that June is a full, full month. I did my best to leave July more free. August isn’t bad, either. None of summer, at least this year, will be a full summer off.

So anyway, my point? I’m not sure I have one. I’m happy to have more time to dig in the dirt. In a few weeks, I might even try Sleeping In. Meanwhile, it’s summertime, the good old summertime.

 

Kate Spade, RIP

She was younger than I am. She was successful, famous, talented, admired. Did I miss any? And yet, she died today at her own hand.

Let’s say the word: suicide. More than an attempt: a completed suicide.

Kate Spade killed herself.

I’ve written about depression a lot. I’ve chronicled my own mental illness and the accompanying pain. I was fortunate; I never felt that dying was a solution. Feeling that way is a common symptom of depression, though. I know that, and I know that my illness could have turned that direction at any time.

I also knew that I put forth a cheery front. It wasn’t an act, it was simply my optimistic nature. As people talk about Kate Spade, her ability to make women smile often came up. She designed sporty, cute, clever accessories. Her handbags were classy and fun. Heck, I have a Kate Spade case on my cell phone – simple yet cheerful polka dots!

Readers, friends, family, it’s on all of us to make sure that people know that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem or situation. It’s never the only way to end the pain. Reach out; help is available.

 

It’s a Garden. Period.

During WWI and WWII, people grew Victory Gardens. It was a good PR move, helping people feel like they could ease the burden of feeding the country by growing food of their own.

In 2008, the term Recession Garden came about. Planting a garden in the backyard, on the apartment balcony, or anywhere there was room for a container helped provide fresh food for the family, even if the country’s economy was shaky.

And now, just when I thought I’d heard every trendy excuse to grow your own tomatoes, there’s a new term: a Climate Victory Garden. By tilling – or not tilling – a small plot, gardeners have a chance to use their efforts as a force for change.

It isn’t my original idea; the concept comes from Green America by way of Mother Nature Network. I like their philosophy; they encourage composting, planting perennials (does my rhubarb count?), avoiding chemicals, and covering soil with mulch to maintain temperature and moisture.

As I said, it isn’t my idea. In fact, I hesitate to put another trendy label on my containers and the approximately 32 square feet with mostly vegetables growing there. Victory Garden, Recession Garden, or Gardening for Climate Change, it’s a garden. It’s not dirt, it’s soil. It’s tilled, compost added, watered, mulched (well, when I get time). But don’t call my little backyard effort anything trendy. It grows vegetables. It’s a garden. Period.

Demo Day!

This kitchen project has been consuming us since…since…oh, at least since December. And finally, finally, it’s happening. The guys were here today. They hung a plastic tarp so the dust didn’t fly all over the house (it only piled up in the dining room), and they did demo. Big time. I can show you better than I can tell you, though.

Here’s one angle.

Here’s another way to look at it.

And that’s that. Nothing left. No sink, no stove, no dishwasher. And that’s where my good old Girl Scout ingenuity came in. We might go to paper plates sooner or later, but Daisy the Compostermom isn’t ready to go there yet. I washed dishes the way I learned at Girl Scout camp, minus the dunk bag.

One bucket with water and dish soap, one with hot water for rinse.

The result?

Air dry for a bit, and then we’re done.

And Chuck was surprised I found the dish soap under the bathroom sink? Hah. I’ve only just started to show my coping skills.

Demo Day on the Way!

You read it right, folks. Demo on the kitchen will begin Tuesday – the day after Memorial Day. We’ve been steadily emptying cupboards, stashing some things where we can find them and others where we can get them when we have a kitchen again.

The emptying process is complicated, too. It means clearing a space somewhere else in the house, and then cleaning out a kitchen cupboard by moving the contents into the just-emptied space.

Some of these moves were big and permanent. Did I mention the main computer desk and its matching bookshelf? All day long. It took a full day to empty them and move them and then put the computer and all of its attachments back on the desk. There was enough space in the room because I’d already emptied a file cabinet and Chuck had moved the cabinet to the basement to await its time in the summer rummage sale.

I’m sure there will be pictures, folks. Pictures of the empty space where there used to be a kitchen, pictures of the temporary kitchen in the living room, pictures of all the things we didn’t predict (like, where will the stove go? The dishwasher? We think we have a plan for the refrigerator) and some that we predicted wrong.

It’ll be a survival mindset for several weeks. No kitchen, routines changed, all kinds of noise and dust and mess.

We can do this, we tell ourselves. We made it through the upstairs renovation with bathroom and second floor laundry. I had to use a laundromat for several weeks, and all of us shared the first floor bathroom. I slept with a flashlight next to my bed so I didn’t walk into any 2 by 4s – and some were so old, they were really 2 inches by 4 inches!

And when it’s done, it’ll be worth it. Keep repeating as needed: it’ll be worth it. It’ll be worth it.

Thoughts, prayers, moments of silence – and action.

The subject came up during a break in a much unneeded meeting: what’s causing this rash of school shootings? “Social media,” said one teacher. “Video games,” said another. “No, no, it’s the easy access to guns,” said one more. “It’s complicated,” I added, but no one listened. 

Didn’t I just say that? After yet another wasted session of thoughts and prayers and moments of silence? It’s complicated! It’s all of the above! Instead of rewriting, I’ll say it again. 

Who are the next school shooters or mass shooters? How can we recognize them, and how do we stop them?

It’s a complex problem, and stopping the mass shootings that are becoming all too common will require a complex solution.

Activists work to tighten gun laws. They want to outlaw guns like the AR-15, guns with only one purpose: killing. They want to require background checks, thorough background checks, any time a person buys a gun.

Mental health advocates work to help people who might consider carrying out such a shooting. Depression, anxiety, and more can be factors in producing a killer of many.

Not to be forgotten are the National Rifle Association (NRA), those who work to keep gun laws weak and widespread access to weapons strong.

It’s a complex problem. After Sandy Hook, after Columbine, after Parkland, expert and not-so-expert analysts look for red flags, events or ongoing stresses that might have built up the pressure on this individual. After the fact, folks in the know pick through a shooters’ profiles and backgrounds, identifying possible triggers, the proverbial straws that broke the camels’ backs.

It’s a social problem. Was the shooter harassed? Bullied? Excluded and isolated? Did anyone reach out to this person? Did anyone recognize the risk, help this person before the potential for disaster became real?

It’s a medical problem. Mental illness, diagnosed or not, can be a major factor in someone deciding to carry out such a horrific event, taking lives of so many others. Mental health care must be available to all who need it – and mental health coverage must be part of any health plan.

It’s a legal problem, a gun problem. That’s hard for me to say because I know so many responsible gun owners. Hunters, mainly, these friends would never dream of leaving their firearms loaded and accessible to someone – anyone – who might misuse them. That said, no one needs a semi-automatic for hunting game. The AR-15 that’s been in the hands of so many mass shooters doesn’t need to be legal.

It’s an accessibility problem. Felons, domestic abusers, people who have been identified as a danger to others must be prevented from owning guns. License to kill only exists in fiction. In reality, life is precious.

It’s a complex problem, and the solution will not be simple. I wish I had an answer.