HealthCare: Denied

healthcareDenied. I’m in a pickle. I know some folks think socialized medicine is worse than genocide, and some think it’s the answer to everyone’s prayers. I don’t know either way. Here is what I do know: I am a mother of three, and I have no health insurance. According to the little charts the health insurance companies use to determine if you can pay them through the nose to be covered on one of their plans, I am uninsurable. No one. NO ONE will insure me. Why? Because 9 years ago, my doctor found a pea-sized cyst in the middle of my brain. It’s been determined it is nothing, and I have had an annual MRI each year to make sure it stays “nothing”. So far, so good. But…

Because of this, and because I have had asthma since infancy (well controlled, I might add), I am utterly, completely without an option. When I say NO ONE will insure me, I mean NO ONE. The only possible way for me to get insurance is to remarry, and get put on a policy of my spouse.

That, my friends, sucks. It’s wrong. So we can argue all day if medical coverage for everyone is a death sentence to America, or if it’s a right, or if the sky is in fact green today. It doesn’t change the fact that I am screwed until somthing changes. And that is not right.

The Swing

swing

If you wade across the little gully creek behind the old iron cook-stove (the one used once a year to boil a hog? yes, that one...) and climb up the vine covered hill (with purple flowers, right? yes, child…), there is a tall oak tree at the top. It’s crooked and leans a little to the left, but hanging from a high bough is an old wooden swing. The ropes are long, and the seat is rough, and if you don’t sit carefully, it might tip you onto your butt in the dirt. When you sit down and start to pump and swing, you’ll see how what looks like an ordinary old tree-swing becomes so much more. Perched at the top of the hill, when you swing out over the creek, you are about a mile high. If you’re lucky, your uncle will meet you on the hill, and be waiting to grab the swing, jumping high with the arc of your ascent, and heave you with all his might back out over the ravine. Your breath will catch in your throat, your heart will pound, your knuckles will be white on the old ropes, and your laughter will explode from your tight, swirling stomach as you swoop backward past the soft worn earth beneath the tree and arch high over your uncle’s head. Your mother will watch, pale-faced from the porch, whispering to the other women as they set out baskets of chips and shoo flies. She knows, even though you do not, that if you fell while soaring high over the creek, you would probably die. It doesn’t matter. You don’t fall, and you don’t die. But you do know what it feels like to fly.

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My Own Ophelia

opheliaWhen I was in fourth grade, my tight-knit group of girlfriends took me out to the Par Course (remember those?) and through the low, slanting light of late fall, told me they had decided together I couldn’t be friends with them anymore. Then they ran away, leaving me standing under the parallel bars with wickedly painful tears welling in my throat, making it hard for me to breathe.

I’ve been through a lot of heartache and pain since then- but I would give birth to five ten more children without drugs before I would stand in my fourth grade blue Nikes, out there under the cold autumn sky.

It was a pivotal moment in my life. The shock and pain was confusing- in grade four, your friends are your life. I was utterly alone. I would hide behind the sun-louvres on the building to eat my lunch. Hiding was less painful than the lunchroom where girls got up and moved. No one would be my partner for games, no one would chose me for teams, in class I was ignored and I slowly became invisible.

So I overcompensated. I became the nicest, kindest girl on the planet. I became a Yes Girl. I would do anything to please the teachers, the other kids in class- anything to have some positive human interaction. Recess gets awfully lonely when you are invisible- and I found every excuse to stay in, to help grade papers, to paint in the classroom. I tested into the Gate program, and studying at lunch became my refuge. I knew more about Greek Mythology and California grassy wetlands than any 10 year old.

In sixth grade, me still invisible, a girl named Wendy moved from Colorado to the desk next to me. She was in Gate too, and was an outsider, and was also the kindest and brightest girl. She didn’t know she wasn’t supposed to see me. We became friends, and were soon inseparable. Sunlight came back into my life because of Wendy.

Junior High started the following year, and with the effluvia of elementary schools flooding into one massive middle school, suddenly my stigma was gone. Girls from other schools knew nothing of my curse, and soon I had many friends. Wendy was still my girl, but I found myself quickly being drawn into a fast moving and popular group of girls. It was heady, to be part of the pretty, popular, (and let’s be honest, snotty and bitchy) clique- but they didn’t like Wendy. I was welcome, she was not.

I wish I could say I chose the high road. I wish I could say I did the right thing. I did not. I bailed on Wendy, and would see her sitting alone in the quad at lunch, her viola next to her, as she read a book. I hid my twinges of guilt and shame in the gossip and machinations of pubescent girl-pack. Make no mistake, there is little more cruel than a group of 13 year-old girls.

I was pretty and popular, I shared hair products, shoes and clothes with the prettiest and most popular girls in school. We shared lockers, had sleepovers, wrote notes about boys, ignored our parents and talked on the phone for hours.

Then, it happened again. How short my memory…

One morning, as I approached the gaggle of girls around our locker, they all walked away. The girl I shared with told me she needed more space, and could I please move my things to my own locker. A cold, hard lump was forming in my belly- but I was still clinging to the illusion that this was just minor.

Walking down the corridor at lunch, I saw the girls lockers open- and in three of them, my school snapshot, amid the many, was turned around, facing the metal. Not gone, not a vacant space- still there- but invisible. Again. I learned that everyone had turned my picture around. They had decided I did not have whatever makes snitty, young, teen girls run, and had excised me.

Seventh grade turned into a living hell. I was no one. I was completely invisible. Wendy had moved on, and was friends with a terrific group of girls who cared more about music, science and grades than about cliques.

Eighth grade was just as dismal. Finally, I met up with a nice girl who was a little bit of an oddball, too, and slowly, cautiously,  our small circle of friends formed. It was those girls I maintained a friendship through the levels of Hell that is Jr. High, and on into High School and through to graduation. But I was scarred. I was guarded, mistrustful and defensive with most people.

To this day, when I think of Wendy, the shame stings my conscience. It embarrasses me that I repeated the horrible pattern. I went to her during those years, apologizing and begging her forgiveness for my crass and hurtful behavior. Of course she was gracious and kind. Of course she forgave me. And of course, her life had moved on.

I don’t know what all this means in the grand scheme of things. I do know the actions of a group of girls, who have probably long-since forgotten my name, changed my life. Even as an adult, I am cautious with new friends. I wait. I wait for the other shoe to drop- I wait to see when they will find the something in me unacceptable. My walls are high, and they are thick, and it takes a lot for me to trust you.

The good that came from those experiences? I take nothing for granted. My friendshipsare choice and few, but deep and treasured. My loyalty is unshakable. If I count you among my trusted, I count you so for life. I value honestly and forthrightness above all else in a friend. And I will return the same.

I will never be invisible again. And now you know.

Wendy and I talk a couple of times a year still, and always exchange Christmas cards. Her husband is military, and she is a chiropractor and naturopath. She has lived in Spain, the middle east, England, Japan and all over the US.  Our kids are close in age. I still love her, and count her among the most amazing people I’ve ever known.

Happy Birthday To Me Photos

   

This is what I woke to- Abby had taken my desk chair and scooted it into the kitchen, and was sitting on the counter eating Hershey’s kisses from the canister. And yes, that is a giant chef’s knife on the far left- where I thought she couldn’t possibly get to it. Thankfully, the kisses were more interesting than cutting herself to ribbons.

Up next was a hairdo and color with Mo and Christina at the salon. Christina had to cancel to go to an appointment, but she and Mo had already arranged to have my salon trip already paid for- my eyes teared up when I realized what they had done. I was also treated to lunch, and a new luscious lipgloss from the Clinique counter- and a new princess coloring book. While in the chair with foil all over my head, looking quite like a Tudor torture victim, this bouquet of balloons was delivered to the Salon- for ME!

 

Jeffrey and Abby have been fighting over them ever since, and the card simply says “from a friend”- so I don’t know who to thank, but I have my suspicions!

When I got home, a bouquet of chocolate strawberries was waiting for me, from the wonderful ladies at MMW. Beanie and I have been gorging on deliciousness. When it came, it was not half-devoured. Really.

So the hair. First, let me say, Mo’s girl rocks. Really, it’s the best haircut I’ve had in a long time. Historically, people are either afraid of my hair and thus nibble and twiddle away on it, leaving me with a thick, unruly thatch, or they jump in with gusto, not knowing what they are doing and leave me with an overly layered, fuzzy mess. This chick was not intimidated, and as a matter of fact, cut three other people while still working on me- she clipped and nipped with confidence, and she foiled it chunky and yet prettily- and she did it quickly. I’ve had it take more than two hours before just for the foil- nope, we were done in an hour. And it looked better than it has in a long time. She left it curly, and I’m fighting wanting to tie it up in a knot, but that’s mostly because I’m just hot- as in sweaty, not as in cute. So, this is what happens when you ask your little kid to take a picture of you:

 

Not sure what was happening here- but that’s my hair! And here I’m reaching to help Bean push the button. Excellent angle. Fantastic. Curly hair obviously photographs beautifully. It really does look good- I swear. I don’t look like the Swamp Thing, really…

  

And here we are trying to all get the auto click to get us in the same frame. It’s the best I could do. Thanks to all of you for helping make it a special day- thanks for the well wishes and the kind words and thoughts. I really appreciate the community we make here;  And Mo, you rock.  But you already knew that…

Waiting to Exhale

I’m out of energy to even come up with new metaphors and allegories for how I feel. I am tired, worn, limp and dusty. Things are hard. They’ve been hard for the better part of almost a whole year. It’s been a trial of almost everything; finances, faith, marriage, health, security, fears, hopes, dreams, patience and on and on and on…

I’m not so myopic that I think what I’m going through is unique or even that special. It’s not. It’s just life- sometimes life is hard. But I also get that things change, and looking back on my life, I know hard things don’t last forever. That’s the rock I keep clinging to- It’s not a whole lot, but there it is.

Hopefully soon, I will be able to look back at this year and count the tremendous blessings that have come from this trial- I could do so already, but I hesitate because I am skittish and fearful from being kicked so many times. The job is only a part of it- and while getting a job would fix a great deal, it wouldn’t make for instant perfection. It would, however, give me the breathing room to look around, squint at the unfamiliar sunlight, and gingerly dust off my tattered and sore arms.

I think I’ve been holding my breath for almost a year…

Milestone: Beanie

A few days ago, while cleaning out the boys’ closet, I was folding Beanie’s pile of colorful pants. Bean was sitting next to me, fidgeting with a Lego thingy when he noticed the pile of bright pants. He stopped, looked at them, and said “Mom, I think I’m going to give all my pretty pants to Abby. I’m going to wear boy clothes now.”

Peering intently at him, trying to hide my surprise, I calmly said “Oh- well, OK then.” I thought for a second, then asked “What’re boy clothes, Beanie?

“Plain stuff, bugs and snakes. A red shirt is a boy shirt, Mom.”

We gathered up his pile of pretty pants and carried them into Abby’s room, and he skipped off happily, in navy blue sweats and a plain red t-shirt.  Since then, he’s not even mentioned his flamboyant wardrobe. He’s wore khaki pants and boy shoes to church Sunday, and seemed perfectly happy to do so. And that, my friends, was that.

Mama is clearly having a harder time adjusting than Bean. We all worked hard to be open and not impose our prejudices- and he left his disco era by the wayside when he was good and ready. I’m proud of my boy, love him, no matter how he expresses himself, but I tell you what- it sure is harder to find him at the park now!

I’m Three

August 22 was my three year blog-birthday. Whoo. I was so excited that I totally forgot. Never even crossed my mind.- cause, hey, I have nothing else to think about except meaningless personal statistics, right? Don’t get me wrong- I like it when I see a spike in my traffic as much as the next blogger, but I just don’t check all that often. Blog traffic statistics are kinda like a new baby’s poopy diaper- only interesting to the mama.

Words. Words are why I write. Is that why others write? I have no idea. But the synergy and poetry that sparks when words are properly combined, creating something more than the sum of the parts- it’s as beautiful as a newborn baby. It doesn’t escape me how clumsy that sentence is, or the irony of  being ham-fisted in the handling of the butterfly that is writing. Oh well. Today, that’s all I’ve got.

Virginia Woolf said “A woman must have money and a room of her own to write…” Maybe that’s why she wrote novels and fiction for the ages, and I bang out… whatever it is I bang out. I have neither.

As I write, Beanie is climbing the bookcase to my left, complaining Jeff is eating all the remaining English muffins. Abby is giggling and chasing a balloon with a hole that is haphazardly bouncing around the dining room, and Jeff is watching the toaster. I’ve stopped to change a diaper, wipe a nose, blow up the balloon three times, calm Bean down and reassure him one muffin is earmarked for him and he CAN have it crunchy even if Jeff likes his floppy, admired a new Lego spaceship, and given two hugs. Jeffrey is now on a time-out for trying to hog all the muffins.

Virginia Woolf didn’t have children, did she?