Monday, April 27, 2009

Makes me sick

I hold in my hand the statement of charges for last month's trip to the ER. Here is the breakdown of what my insurance paid:

Ultrasound $2565
Emergency room $2646
Blood admin $458
Laboratory $1958
Laboratory $1813
Total payments $8640

A few things run through my mind as I examine this:
(1) For this much money, couldn't they have provided me with a long enough bed, an actual blanket, and perhaps a pillow? And is that $2646 "emergency room" charge so high because of the 4 hours I waited in the triage area, for the 4 hours I waited for lab results (even though we all knew what the hell was actually happening)? Or is this charge simply for the remarkably bad bedside manner of the napoleonic attending doc, who couldn't even bother to look at me when asking about my bleeding vadge and who seemed pissed off at me for wasting his time by miscarrying a 10-week-old fetus on his lunch break?

(2) Had I known the u/s was going to cost $2565, I would have asked her to check out the rest of my insides while she was at it. And I would have requested a glass of wine, since we were getting so intimate.

(3) What the heck are the two separate lab charges?

(4) This much money would cover enough groceries to feed my family for at least 2 years. Or pay for a month's vacation on the Mediterranean coast.

(5) Thank God for health insurance that requires me to only pay a $100 copay for an ER visit.

(6) There is something excruciatingly wrong with our healthcare system.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The night I talked Obama out of quitting

Travel with me, for a moment, into my subconscious and take a listen to this fabulous dream I had the other night:

I'm in a Presidential press conference, standing against the wall at the side of the room where all the really important people stand, right next to my BFF, Michelle Obama. Barack (and I can call him Barack now because my status as a press conference wall-stander indicates that we're tight) is standing at the podium talking about the latest jobless figures, the mounting Taliban threat in Pakistan, our over-dependence on foreign oil, yadda yadda yadda. A reporter stands up and asks "But Mr. President, what are you going to do about the pirates?" With that question, Barack pauses, looks down at his hands, then looks straight at me and says, "Pirates? Pirates?! That's it. I'm done." And he storms out of the room.

But wait -- it gets better: A number of people race after him, shouting "Mr. President! Mr. President! Come back! We're not done!" but he's just sprinting down the hallway now yelling "I said I'm done! I quit! This is too much!" This is where I come in. Somehow I'm now running at the head of the pack (which is how you know, for sure, that this is a dream) and we finally end up in a giant gymnasium with 30-foot-high ceilings and strange lacy bunting around the walls.

There's no way for the President to escape the crowd, so he just sits down on the floor and puts his head in his hands. I squat down in front of him and explain calmly that he's just having a bad day, that he can't quit because of the pirates -- they're just silly pirates, after all -- and there are a lot of people who need him to just hang on. I say, "Just tackle one thing at a time. At the beginning of every day, pick one thing, even if it's a small thing, and focus on accomplishing it." (Good advice, right? I really should be a Presidential advisor, I know.)

And then I leap. I jump straight up from where I'm standing and grab onto the lacy bunting at the top of the wall. It's easily 20 or 30 feet above the people who have gahered below, and they're all staring in varied states of amazement, panic, and fear. I look down, still grasping the lace, and I say, "See this? I couldn't do this a few months ago. But watch..." I then proceed to do chin-ups on the bunting. One after another after another, the whole time yelling "See this? See THIS?"

I woke up before I found out if the President actually took my advice and walked back to the podium to finish the press conference. I'd like to think, however, that after such a rousing and inspirational demonstration of chin-up prowess, he did.

You know the best part of this dream, though? I have never in real life been able to complete a single chin-up on an actual chin-up bar, let alone hundreds of them on lacy fabric bunting. Dreams rock.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Time to just do it

My belly is too big, and I'm sick of it. So I bought running sneakers this weekend. Mind you, I haven't really run since I stopped playing basketball. That was 1995. There was a brief period just before I found out I was pregnant with Sweet Boy that I jogged often. It was a stressful time -- Chris had been in the hospital for almost a month, and I found the only way I could deal with it was to just go outside and run. I've had some stress in the last few months, one could say, so lately I've been feeling that same urge. To just be outside, pounding my angst out on the pavement.

My BFF said to me, when I'd told her I bought running sneakers, "Um, did you forget that you hate to run?" It's true. While I'm running, I really hate it. My knees hurt, I cough like a chain smoker, I am keenly aware of all the flabby parts of my body. I don't know if you could even call it running; what I do is more like lumbering, trodding, ka-thumping. More elephant than gazelle.

But I usually feel good after I run. I feel proud of myself, first of all, just for having attempted it. I can feel muscles working that haven't been called on in years. And I'm certain that endorphin thing is true.

So with my shiny new running sneakers strapped on my feet, I have a plan: I'm going to jog/walk (I believe certain fitness folks call this "interval training") until I get to the point where I can sustain an actual jog for more than a couple of minutes. I think I can do this, with the help of the Couch to 5K podcasts. At this point I'm not really aiming for a 5K, though; my goal right now is just to get to the point where it doesn't hurt anymore...then I'll reach higher.

And you know the beauty of this plan? Unlike other times in my life when I was forced to run by some maniacal little man with a chip on his shoulder and a whistle in his mouth, this time I'm in charge. I can jog for a little while, stop when I need to stop, pick it up again at the end of the next block. And unlike a gym membership that would set me back $50+/month, this will cost me only the new sneaks, and maybe a new sports bra or two.

Oh, and another plus: I'm going out early in the morning, when the world is just waking up, the birds are chirping and the day is fresh. It's a great time to not only pound out some angst, but also to just have some me time. (And because most of the world is still sleeping, no one will witness the lumbering!)

Friday, April 10, 2009

A minute to reflect on how good I am at my job

[Alternate titles for this post include, Time to Toot My Own Horn, or Daily Affirmations With TallGirl]

I've written before about how much I like my job (see here) and how I fear for my job (see here). And I've bitched and moaned about my job (see here). This was an especially challenging week, filled with unclear project parameters, multiple do-overs, un-budging authors, and tight deadlines. But today I received some affirmation that, dammit, I'm good at what I do.

An author team with whom I'm currently working sent me the acknowledgments page (finally) for their book. They said thank you to pretty much everyone they've ever worked with, and everyone who's ever touched their manuscript. But the final paragraph made me especially smiley -- and even a tiny bit teary:

An enormous thank you to our editor, [TallGirl]. We’re suddenly at a loss for words to express our gratitude for all of your support throughout this project. Your calm and positive attitude kept us from “stressing out” many times over. You constantly pushed us to make our book better, while always respecting our opinions and ideas. You are insightful, smart, and creative. It’s amazing to us that you seem to know our book as well as we do. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Ahhh, nice. I needed that.

These book projects really are a labor of love. I spend months -- in this case, over a year! -- working with authors, pushing and pulling, poking and prodding, begging and pleading, massaging egos and coaxing compromises to get these books as close to perfect as possible. So today, especially, at the end of a week that made me want to pack it in, it's really wonderful to know I'm appreciated.

I'm good enough, smart enough, and gosh darnit, people like me!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

My crush has a new gig

Indulge me with some celebrity crush time now, won't you?

I'm not sure if it was his portrayal of the little asthmatic with the uncrushable Goonie spirit or the discovery that he and I share a birthday, but I've had a crush on Sean Astin since I was about 10 years old. My mother tried to quell my love by pointing out that even then, I already would have towered over him -- I believe he's a mere 5'5" tall -- but she was unsuccessful, and TigerBeat posters of my sweet Seany covered my bedroom walls.
Nearly 20 years later, when I saw his Samwise Gamgee carry bff Frodo up that lava-spewing Mordor mountain, I dabbed a tear from my eye -- as my husband chided me about my "little boyfriend." I admit, we'd make a pretty giggle-inducing couple, me and Mr. Astin, but still, he's on my List of Five (more on that another time).

Soooo...imagine my excitement that Sean Astin is now voicing a character on a new Playhouse Disney cartoon! This interview rekindled some crushy feelings, maybe because he's now a dad gushing about his own kids...or maybe because he mentions his own round, furry belly. (You know something about men with round, furry bellies just does it for me.)

Of course I have no idea yet whether "Special Agent Oso" is any good; I'm not crazy about Playhouse Disney's other offerings, so if it's anything like "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse" or "Tigger & Pooh," it may make me want to scratch my own eyes out. But we'll take a look, just because it stars one of my alltime sweeties as leading panda.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Have kid, will travel

I was bitten by the travel bug early in life. And I love a good road trip much, much more than a trip by plane or train. Because my parents were both teachers, we spent most of every summer road-tripping around the country -- mostly camping because teachers don't get paid in the summer (at least they didn't 20 years ago), and camping is cheap.

We had a giant green "maxi van" when I was in grade school that my mom rigged up like a camper. (This pic isn't the actual van, but it looked a lot like this.) She built a double bed for her and my dad in the far back, fashioned a little cot for me that fit over the two front seats, and my brother sacked out in the middle bench. There was room enough behind the far-back seat to fit a cooler and a giant box of nonperishables, and the camp stove and tarps and gear fit in boxes under the seats. My mom was super-crafty and innovative. And we saw many of these United States from the inside of Sam van Green. (This was before my sister was born, mind you. When she came along we upgraded to an actual Winnebago that we borrowed from my grandparents.)

My husband also grew up in a car-traveling, country-roaming, KOA-camping family, and we have no problem packing up a car and hitting the highway. Even with a kid and all the peripheral kid stuff required. We haven't yet taken Sweet Boy camping, but it's on our list of to-dos for this summer.

I'm happy to say it's looking like Sweet Boy has inherited a little bit of the wanderlust. Or at least he has inherited the ability to withstand long amounts of time in a car, staring out the window at the trees passing by, counting the cow pastures, noticing the mountains on the horizon or the rivers we're crossing over. In his short life, he's already been back and forth to Maine twice, to Virginia three times, and we often haul up to New York and back in a day.

Sweet Boy and Mommy had a road trip adventure this weekend. We visited my very dear friend and her family in Charlottesville, Virginia -- a good 250 miles from here. Drove down on Friday afternoon, spent the whole day Saturday playing in the clear mountain air and the sparkling sunshine with our friends, then drove home Sunday. Of course the portable DVD player with headphones helps a lot, but Sweet Boy is really a good passenger: He sings along with the oldies station I found; he informs me of every truck that I pass; he helps me pick out the best snacks in the Sheetz markets we pit stop in.

Today something on the news mentioned Virginia, and his eyes lit up. "I went to Virginia, Mommy!" Yep, you have, my buddy. And I'm looking forward to all the other places we'll visit and the many thousand more miles we'll road-trip together.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Musa's going home

Time for some good news --- and a great photo of our buddy Musa, smiling and healthy!

Ruth and Musa will be returning to Freetown today. Please keep Musa, Ruth, and the Kabba family in your prayers as he continues to heal and grow and flourish.

He will be celebrating his 12th birthday in May --- hooray!