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Friday, July 31, 2015

Medicinal Madness

What an interesting week it's been. There were a couple of issues, medication-related, that have succeeded in making this Lunatic a bit more looney than usual. I hope that you'll forgive me for indulging my need (desire?) to vent a bit by writing this blog post.

The first situation I'll tell you about started out fairly simply. Trent had his annual extra-intensive blood tests for the anniversary of his kidney transplant. Although labs are run throughout the year, once a year there are extra tests to assess the patient's overall condition. There was a result (not kidney related) with a much lower than normal number. When Trent asked his doctor about it, Dr. Wiseman said he would refer it to the pharmacology specialist because some medications could possibly cause the problem. We also had the labs re-run to check the status.

When we got home, we had a message to call the clinic. The caller didn't state her name or reason for calling, but asked Trent to call back. We looked at the labs, which had the best number in the affected area that he's had in two years, and thought she was calling to say so. The clinic was closed, so Trent called the next day. There were no notes in his chart about who called, so we didn't speak to Ms. Hospital Person. We did a few minutes later when she called, though.

Here's how the call went, abbreviated a bit so my fingers don't get worn out.

HP: (After some talk about the number still being too low, and advising Trent to quit using acetaminophen and anti tummy-irritation pills.) What is your pharmacy, I am going to call in a prescription for a whosiewhatsis for his GERD. 

ME: (After explaining Trent does not have GERD, he just takes meds that irritate the stomach.) I'd rather get something over the counter because we haven't reached our deductible and it will have to be paid for out of pocket.

HP: (After assuming that we are on Medicare Part D and have hit the "doughnut hole," and saying that is the situation. I correct her and tell her that it is private insurance and we have not hit our deductible yet. I am feeling repetitive.) What is your deductible?

ME: (After counting to ten so that I don't tell her it's none of her stinking business.) I fail to see what difference that makes.

HP: Says it might be a tiny amount. This makes me even more irritated because if it was a tiny amount, I wouldn't be worried about it, would I?

ME: Lets her know that it could cost us hundred of dollars.

HP: Says she will consult with the head of her area, who we wish had called us in the first place, and call us back.

So, a while later, after Trent tells me that no, I wasn't being testy, she was indeed being irritating, especially because she doesn't listen, HP calls back. She tells us that she has a box of samples to give us, sparing us the huge expense, and she will leave them at the front desk. Not feeling eager to make another forty-mile round trip to visit the hospital again this week, Trent asks if the box can be sent to the hospital's Family Health Clinic in Westminster, CO which is much closer to us. 

HP: Is that on the sixth floor?

US: No, it's a clinic in Westminster.

HP: Is it on the sixth floor?

US: We'll come pick it up.

I won't even go into her telling us how to eat to avoid stomach acid and that we need to not eat fried chicken. What the heck? Who said anything about fried chicken? Like a pot of stew, I simmer for the rest of the evening.

The second scenario actually began in January. We received a letter from the new mail-order pharmacy that is on our insurance plan as of January 1 this year. It instructs us that we need to order Trent's anti-rejection medicine through them rather than picking it up at the hospital. Picking it up was a breeze. We'd drive down, get the meds, pay nothing, and go home. The letter says that we have to order the medication, pay for it, fill out a form authorizing them to bill insurance company A and then insurance company B.

This worries us because we are pretty sure that the medicine is fairly expensive. I call the pharmacy on the weekend to ask if insurance A can be billed before the meds are sent out to us. We are told no, that is just how things are. So I ask the price, which I am told will be $2775. No, that is not a typo. I tell him that there must be some way for the billing to be done in advance; he replies that they fill prescriptions for people with real problems. Apparently he doesn't realize that dying from rejection of a transplanted organ is serious, or that having to move into one's car because one month of generic medicine costs more than two months of rent is pretty serious as well. After crying for about an hour, I calm down. We make arrangements to pick it up at our supermarket for almost three hundred dollars.

A few days later we talk to someone in the Specialty Pharmacy who says the billing can be done to A at the point of sale. We receive the meds and fill out the paperwork. Somewhere along the way, we are told that the medication, if not paid for by insurance B, will cost no more than $165. Three months after the first order, we still have not been billed for the first order. I call to see what's up, and am promised a call back. When I receive this call, I am told that the pharmacy screwed up and forgot to bill for the first fill and it is too late for them to do so, so that's a freebie.

That first order was in February. We still do not know how much the medicine costs, and it's the end of July. In the meantime, after numerous calls, I am told in early July that A has paid for a couple of months of fills and the pharmacy will bill B with a paper bill. It will take weeks to know what we owe. Meanwhile, we get paperwork from A about the February order. Rounding out the dollars a bit, here's what happens. Pharmacy bills A for $1950, and A says they can't charge that much, they can only charge $800. Of this, they may not bill us more than $165.

Okay, so far, so good. I keep an eye on B's website to see whether or not they are paying any of that $165, and how much. And then yesterday I see that the pharmacy has indeed sent B a claim for the prescription. And it appears that they have billed for the entire amount of $1950! Does anyone else see this as a problem? It makes me mad on behalf of insurance B, as well as all people who have insurance premiums to pay. I use a phrase that I never use - I tell Trent that this is why we can't have nice things. A company that has been paid $650 so far still bills the entire inflated amount in an effort to get more money. Of course it is possible that the claim information I am seeing does not reflect all of the claim information. Perhaps the bill includes the information from insurance A and their payment. But it sure looks rotten, doesn't it?

I am trying not to lose my mind worrying that more than seven months into the year, I have no idea what the medication will cost and how to plan our budgets other than with the guessed-at dollar amount. That's sort of like telling a bee not to fly toward a flower. It's not in my nature. We'll see what tomorrow or next week or next month will bring. I hope for a quick ending to all of this medicinal madness.


p.s. The super-fancy samples that we drove across town for ended up being something that we can buy over the counter in generic form at a cost of about $10 per month. At least we'll know if it works or not before we have to buy it!


Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Break-up

Dear ________,

Sometimes people change and grow apart. Because they no longer agree on things like what is fun or what is important, they just can't get along with one another any more. Often they try to hold on to the relationship out of a sense of nostalgia. They try to hang in there in case the relationship returns to the way it was when it was the very best it could be. The stress of arranging time together and the potential arguments or long, uncomfortable silences bring a feeling of the deepest melancholy.

________, I think that this has happened to my relationship with you. When we first started to share time with one another, I enjoyed spending late nights staying awake with you. It was fun. The books and movies and television programs that we enjoyed together were delightful. I was young and healthy and shrugged off the worries, if any came to me, about managing to get through a day of school or work on such a short night of sleep. Those short nights meant nothing to me! I bounded out of bed in the mornings, ready to take on the world.

As time went on, though, I wasn't as excited for our times together. When I tried to get up and get going the morning after one of our late-night sessions, I wasn't as perky as I used to be. But I never said anything; I just tried to find ways to deal with the fatigue and lack of energy, thinking that they were a sign of weakness on my part. When I became so ill that I was in the hospital, you were my dedicated companion, and you remained so through the physically weak times after my illness was diagnosed. There were times that I gave you the energy I should have saved for the difficult days that were now the norm in my life. Even though I really needed rest and recuperation, I spent many nights hanging out with you instead.

We've seen a lot together, you and I, on many late nights. But my life has changed. Not only do I have a chronic illness to deal with - I am getting a bit older now. Between the two, I just can't recover from those late nights like I used to. A short night of sleep now turns into days of bone-deep exhaustion. I stumble through my days like a woman who is confused, who is totally lost. I don't possess sufficient energy to continue these adventures with you. And I feel such a great deal of guilt for the times that I am up and watching movies quietly, trying not to disturb my sleeping husband. And then I begin to envy his peaceful rest, ________, and resent you for cheating me out of mine.

So, Insomnia, I think it is time for us to part company. As the old saying goes, it's not you, it's me. Actually, who am I trying to fool? It is you. I just don't have the desire, strength, or energy to continue to have you in my life. I have given you so much of my time and gotten so little in return. And as my old Gram would probably say, it's better to be alone than in bad company. I wish I could say that I will miss you when you're gone. I'll read the books and watch the movies and television programs at a more decent hour, and enjoy them in more nurturing company. Or even alone. What are DVRs for anyway?  

Although I have had some good experiences while you were around, I know that I could also have had them without you. So whether you agree with me or not, I think it's time for us to live our lives without each other's company. Maybe you'll find someone who can appreciate you more than I can. I have to just say it right out loud. Insomnia, let's break up.


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Wisdom?

I am sorry to tell you that the title of this post is perhaps a bit misleading. I don't have buckets of wisdom within me to dole out to others. I am just a regular person who sometimes feels compelled to write about random things in life. There you go, it's out in the open now. Whew!

A friend of a friend shared a photo on a social network showing herself with a couple of ice packs held to her face, sitting with her boyfriend. She had just had her wisdom teeth removed, and was touched that he was helping take care of her. I thought that it was very sweet, but I wasn't surprised that he is being so wonderful since we are acquainted with the boyfriend. That's nice, Katrina, you're probably thinking, but not much of a blog post. Come on, did you really think that was all that I had to say?

As I left the computer behind and began to prepare dinner, it occurred to me that there's another way in which I seem to be different from just about everyone I know. All of the people that I know who have had their wisdom teeth removed have had it done by an oral surgeon. The surgeon dopes them up and pulls all of their wisdom teeth in one visit. The last sentence originally said all four, but I know that there are many variations involved. Some lucky people don't have all of the teeth develop, so there are fewer teeth to remove. 

Speaking of which, what's the reason for calling them wisdom teeth anyway? If they gave us wisdom, I'd be railing against any dentist who suggested that I have them removed from my mouth. I really don't think that their appearance in the mouth is a sign of us having any wisdom either. I've known or heard of many people who were fairly young and had not accumulated a great deal of wisdom by the time these teeth had to be removed. And the teeth themselves certainly aren't wise, or they wouldn't cause such pain and crowding in the mouth that they needed dental intervention that resulted in their removal.

Once again, I've digressed. Sorry. I am the only person that I know that did not have her wisdom teeth removed by an oral surgeon. You see, I had a really great dentist. I had spent years being phobic about going to dentists and ended up with a tooth needing major treatment. A trusted friend gave me the name of her dentist, Dr. Legg, who was wonderful. In fact, the word wonderful is not enough to do him justice. When you get home from work to find that your dentist called to make sure that you were okay, you know you've got one heck of a dentist. By the way, you read that correctly. I began root canal treatment on my lunch hour and went back to work the rest of the afternoon.

When my wisdom teeth started to threaten the well-being of my other teeth, Dr. Legg said that he could refer me to an oral surgeon. I wasn't interested in dealing with an entirely new dentist, so I asked him to remove the teeth for me. Since he couldn't give me general anesthesia, we would have to do one side of the mouth at a time. I trusted him and was ready to take action.

I arranged for a friend to take me to get my right side wisdom teeth removed. After the extraction, she took me to get my painkillers and some yogurt at the supermarket. I was set. But the aftermath was nothing like what I had experienced with any previous dental work. I spent two or three days sick as the proverbial dog. Seriously, I would get up, eat a little something, take a pain pill, try to sleep, toss my cookies, sleep, and repeat. It was awful.

When I went back to see Dr. Legg he was terribly upset that I hadn't called him. He let me know that it was probably the pain medication that made me so sick. I have since discovered that this is definitely the case for me. If I ever swallow poison, all I need to do is take some codeine derivative and poof! the poison will definitely leave my stomach.

I was nervous to have the second set of teeth removed. I can handle pain, but the thought of upchucking for days is more than I can bear. Finally, after much pain and inflammation in my mouth, I scheduled an appointment to have the teeth removed. I went in on a Friday so that I could be sick all weekend, and I think I even scheduled a day or two off of work. I arranged for a friend from work to come to the dentist's office midway through the appointment so that I would have a ride home. Everything was in order. That's when the fun began.

To me, one of the most disturbing things about any serious dental work is the injection(s). The dentist comes at your mouth with a needle that looks like it's about a foot long, and as big around as a pencil. Seeing that makes me want to start running away as fast as I can. We got in the habit of me taking off my glasses (making it difficult to see the needle) and also having the happy gas on until after the injection. The mask actually blocked most of the view of the needle, so it was a welcome thing.

Between the time that I had the first extractions and the second, I had switched to contact lenses. When Dr. Legg came at me with the needle of terror, the gas mask blocked most of the view, and I closed my eyes for the rest. After the drugs had begun to work their magic, the extraction began. One of the teeth came out very easily, but the other was coming in at a bad angle. I mean bad enough that part of the tooth had to be drilled off in order to pull it without damaging surrounding teeth. 

While the drilling was underway, I realized that I could see everything the dentist was doing because of my contact lenses. No big deal, just close your eyes, right? Mm, not really. Because of the extent of the work needed, I was numb almost all the way to my hairline, and I wasn't able to shut my eye. This struck me as hysterically funny. The friend who was waiting to drive me home could hear my laughter in the waiting room even though the drill was running. Dr. Legg asked me what was so funny. "I wanted to close my eye so I can't see, but I'm too numb to close my eye," I managed to gasp out during my fits of laughter. I know. Weird. My dentist and my friend thought so too.

Without the evil painkiller in my body, I felt great when I got home. Gram had made pork chops and mashed potatoes for dinner, and I ate heartily of little tiny bites of both. When Dr. Legg called to check on me, I was thrilled to tell him that I had been feeling great and had been able to eat. Later that same evening, I popped some corn and ate that as well, being careful to avoid getting any of it on the left side of my mouth. When I told him about that on my follow-up visit, the color drained from his face. It isn't terribly often that the patient makes the dentist's face go white. It was lots of fun! In spite of his worry, there wasn't the slightest sign of a problem.

When I hear about someone getting four teeth removed at once, it makes me shudder. In spite of the challenges I had with the first set, I'm glad that I had them removed over two visits. I can't imagine it's easy to deal with that pain and swelling everywhere. And when you have extractions on both sides, you sure can't eat any popcorn!



Note from The Lunatic: I apologize if this post made you feel squirmy! Forgive me, please, I'll try to be better next time!


Friday, July 17, 2015

Only One Sister

Mention has been made elsewhere in this blog of some of the effects my father's actions had on his children. Yes, I know that he likely suffered in numerous ways during World War II and his time as a prisoner of war in a Soviet camp. He came home to a country under the control of the same people who had imprisoned him, and their treatment of the people in his village was horrific. When the Hungarian Uprising of 1956 failed, he was slated for execution, along with my mother and my siblings, who ranged from three to six years of age. He left his family, his home, and his country to save all of their lives.

The seven years that I had with my parents before my father brutally killed my mother have mostly been hidden deep in my memory. What the brain cannot bear to remember is often hidden deep in its memory storage. I remembered very few details for many years. Occasionally a memory would pop to the surface like the bubbles in a mental glass of champage. Sometimes the popping of the bubbles is pleasant, and at other times it can cause confusion or pain, just like when the champagne either tickles or irritates the nose.

Some years ago, our sister Margit came to visit Liz and I here in Colorado. An unfortunate result of the family being shattered is that Liz and I grew up apart from Margit and our brother John. The love is still there, but the natural closeness never had a chance to develop. In fact, during the time that I lived with Alice, she would ridicule my two oldest siblings at any opportunity. They were called crazy and weird and scary, which put them right in line with Alice's opinions of me. 

Anyway, when Margit visited on this occasion, she kept after Liz and I constantly, asking what we remembered about our parents, and specifically our father. This got to be a strain on us since we have blocked out so much, and we finally had to tell her that we'd shared everything that we could remember. We asked her to drop the subject since we couldn't think of anything else to share with her.

Several years later, when the years of experiences had taken their toll on my mental and emotional state, I had a breakdown of sorts. I began to remember some things that were previously forgotten, mostly snippets, some of which were good and some of which were awful. I wanted to know what had made my father the person he had been. I also wanted to remember more of what was lost to me. I would remember something and sometimes ask Liz if she remembered it as well, or if she knew the why behind things that had happened.

One day I decided to email my sister Margit, who lives in Ohio, and ask her to share some of her memories with me. I thought it was only fair; she had asked us what we remembered, so now I wanted to ask her the same question in return. What I received in reply shocked me and left me full of anger. I was told that my sister was no beggar girl, and that she had begged us for information that we refused to share. She said some things about being angry that we did not come to her daughter's wedding more than a year earlier. Neither Liz nor I had been able to take any time off of work. In fact, I was saving my vaction time for a live-organ-donor transplant for Trent that unfortunately ended up not happening. 

She reminded me of my birth name, which had been an Anglicized version of my mother's name, and told me that I was named after my mother. I already knew my name and where it came from, so that wasn't of much help. She also said one or two things about my father that were interesting, but not helpful. But most importantly, she refused to share any information, claiming that this was how we had treated her. I replied to every claim and insult in her email one by one, knowing that this might be the last time we ever communicated. I also knew that no communication at all would be better than us always attacking one another and defending ourselves from the other's onslaught. And with my mental state, suffering from depression, anxiety, and PTSD, I couldn't handle the additional strain.

Last August, my brother died. He also lived in Ohio, and had lived with Margit at one point. Like Liz and me, they were the only siblings near one another. I tried to do the right thing by reaching out to Margit and calling her. She was very calm and seemed unaffected, and rushed me off the phone after telling me there would be no funeral. When I looked at the online obituary for John, I saw what might signal the final blow to the relationship amongst these three sisters. The biography said that John was survived by his sister Margit (and her husband Harlan) and niece Johanna who loved him unconditionally. No mention was made of his other two sisters or his other niece. We had been written out of existence.

Since this, I have felt, sadly, that because of the divide my father accidentally created among his offspring, I now have only one sister. I feared this in the last several years, but it would seem as if the obituary signalled the complete breakup of our family. Even though I am the youngest of four children, the distances between those of us who remain living are far greater than what can be attributed to geography. And I have been told, because of what remained unsaid, that I have only one sister.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Hands Off!

I was catching up on a social media site this afternoon and came across an interesting post. Alvin was talking about something that had happened in his workplace. In short, he was telling one of his colleagues that they needed to apologize to another of his colleagues. Colleague B had gone to Colleague A's desk and helped themselves to Colleagues A's chips. Not only did B take the chips without A's permission; they believed that A should just get over it. Alvin was of the opinion that an apology was necessary because even though it was only a few chips, they were taken, not asked for, and food is important to A. 

This all sounds so very ineloquent compared to the lovely way that Alvin stated it, but I hope that you get the general idea. There were, of course, comments that came in on both sides of the issue. I added my thoughts that people sometimes take both joy and comfort from food and that A may have felt violated when her belongings were taken. After thinking about it for only a few moments, I was back in seventh grade.

Even as a kid, I was always very good at sharing. It came quite naturally to me, perhaps because of starting in an environment where we had little but shared it with one another. Whenever I had some extra money, it was always much easier to spend it on others than on myself. I remember being in the local department store and finding a dollar bill on the floor. A whole dollar! Enough, in those days, to buy at least five candy bars! I took it to the cashier and said that I had found it on the floor. I was told that nobody had said they lost any money, so it was mine to keep. What would I spend it on? Maybe Liz would want something, like radio batteries. Or something for Gram, perhaps? I don't remember what I ended up buying, but that was my typical thought process.

So, back to the seventh grade. I remember that I had a cold that left me with a cough and sore throat. Gram used to buy two different types of cough drops. One was absolutely dreadful and smelled like old, rotten bacon. It made me ill just to open the package. The other was essentially cherry-flavored candy, but it kept the throat moist and helped with the soreness and cough. When I found the courage to tell Gram that the stinky lozenges made me sick to my stomach, she immediately quit making me use them, thank goodness.

Now, you need to consider what school was like in these days. We girls had just been given the right to wear pants to school instead of skirts and dresses. Not jeans, but trousers. And we were not supposed to eat candy or drink things or chew gum. But we were allowed to use things like cough drops. From what I understand, nowadays these things need to be dispensed by a school nurse or some other Officially Designated Person of Responsibility and Power. 

So Gram had sent me off to school with some cough drops to get me through the day. I had them in my cute little purse which probably held nothing else but a pen and some tissues. While I was in one of my classes, which had a very loose format, I went to speak with one of my friends. When I got back to my desk, it was obvious that my purse had been moved. I was both worried and angry. I opened it up and found that several of my cough lozenges were gone. Now I was really mad.

There was no doubt in my mind who had taken my belongings. There were about four or five of them. The tough girls. These were the girls who had the reputation of beating up other girls, or even boys, for any number of reasons. And I was definitely not tough. I had grown up in an abusive background, which turned me into someone who was afraid of being beaten. I had experienced it more than enough times. But I was furious that my property was taken and my private things violated. And I needed those cough drops, darn it!

Without taking even a second to think things over, I stormed over to where the other girls were sitting. I looked straight at them and asked if they had gotten into my purse and taken my cough drops. They smirked and looked straight back at me and said that yes, they had. Their attitude was full of, "Yeah, so what?" Knowing that any one of them could easily beat me up after school, I came right back with my own dose of attitude. I told them that those were mine and they were never to touch any of my things EVER AGAIN. If they had asked, I told them, I would have shared what I had. So if they wanted anything of mine in the future, they could ask, but they shouldn't even think of touching any of my stuff again. There was no name calling, no crying, and no threats to tell the teacher or principal. Just me saying, "Hands off!"

The girls viewed me differently after I read them the riot act. I was the only person who had ever spoken to them that way. They knew, and I knew, that any one of them could have beaten me senseless, much less the whole group of them at once. They said okay, they wouldn't take any of my stuff ever again. And they didn't. And they didn't beat me up, either.

But here's the really amazing part. They made it clear to me and anyone else that they would always protect me. By standing up to them, I had earned their respect. Throughout the rest of my school years, they were always around and they always had a smile and a happy greeting for me. And though I was never the type to be in a fight, if someone had tried to start anything with me, they would have definitely finished it. All because this skinny, wimpy girl had the courage to tell them to keep their hands off her things.

So I feel gratitude to Alvin for defending his colleague and encouraging someone to do the right thing. And I thank him for helping me remember a time when I learned that even the weak can be brave.


Friday, July 10, 2015

When Food Attacks

I have always tried to be in control of whatever I eat. I don't mean that I count every calorie or gram of carbohydrate and fat. Nor that I am so brilliant that I ingest 100% of the daily recommended quota of vitamins and minerals. I'm just saying that I try to get the food I eat from the plate into my mouth without major mishaps. Hey, messes happen. Gram and I used to giggle hysterically every time we ate tostadas. She loved to eat them, but she couldn't manage to get them to her mouth without a lot of problems. While I happily munched on the tostada, which I held flat in front of me, Gram always seemed to turn hers sideways. Lettuce, cheese, sauce, and tomatoes went everywhere but her mouth. She sure enjoyed them though, and couldn't resist eating (wearing?) them. She was a good sport and always laughed wholeheartedly at her inability to eat them tidily.

When Trent and I were newly married and honeymooning, I think we set the stage for how we needed to approach meals. Trent was enjoying some shrimp cocktail at one of the fabulous Las Vegas casino buffets. As I looked at my plate, I saw something come flying across the table at me. Before I realized what was happening, I had been hit in the shoulder by a cocktail-sauce-laden shrimp. Trent looked horrified, but I began to laugh. It had simply slipped out of his fingers. Now, if it had been launched on purpose, that would have been another story entirely! What made it even funnier was that it happened again, this time right on my eyeglasses. I can't remember how many hits I took in that battle, but we both came out of it fairly unscathed.

Gram used to joke that if I didn't have a "balcony," I wouldn't have to worry about anything landing on it. As she sometimes did, I occasionally will have a crumb or drop of something land on the old balcony. Sometimes it's almost impossible to avoid. If you disagree, I'd like to see you eat a nice tall ice cream cone on an extremely hot day. Or even a juicy slice of watermelon. Then we'll see whose clothes are always perfect.

When we lived in a different neighborhood than we do now, we used to enjoy eating chicken wings from a local restaurant. Whether we had them there or to go, they were always delicious. In fact, the first time that Trent met the Mean-Face Girl was at this very wing restaurant. There are some things that are bound to happen when you eat saucy chicken wings. You are likely to go through numerous napkins and still end up with sticky fingers. Your tummy will be happy, and you'll just need to wash your hands before doing anything afterward. 

On one lovely, sunny day, Trent and I decided that we would have some lunch at our favorite wing restaurant before doing our shopping. I distinctly remember that I was wearing some blue pants and a white short-sleeved top on this warm afternoon. We sat down with a good appetite for our tasty wing lunch. And then the chicken fought back. I was ready to take a bite off a yummy wing when it turned in my hand. The next thing I knew, I had sauce on my face and going up one nostril. I tidied up and started over.

The attack wing was conquered and proved to be exceptionally tasty. But it had comrades. The next wing also turned in my hand, but it was a master of combat. I watched in horror as it jumped out of my hand and bounced off of the table. It ricocheted off my white shirt and landed firmly in my lap. I was mortified with the mess I had made of myself. Trent was very kind about it, and I kept on eating. By the time our lunch was done, I must have been the victim of at least three aerial assaults by the wing brigade. I left the restaurant dazed by the battle and daubed with the bright orangey wing sauce.

Trent was kind enough to suggest that it wasn't that bad and that probably no one would notice. It was a kind effort on his part, but I know when I've been licked. I had to go home and wash up and put on fresh clothes. I'm glad to say that both the top and the trousers survived the onslaught and gave many more years of service to the cause. They don't go to wing restaurants any more though. After what they've been through, they deserve to be in a safe place when food attacks.


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

How Do We See?

The question I pose today is a simple one. How do we see? I am not seeking the scientific explanation. I remember some of what I learned years ago in school about corneas and pupils and lenses. There were details about the optic nerves and things like light refraction, retinas, rods and cones, color perception, and all sorts of beautifully complicated things that transmit objects and colors to the brain.  As amazing as all of this is, I don't think it answers the question of how we see. 

What made me think about all of this was the realization that some of the good decent women that I know may only be good decent women in their own minds. These good and decent women seem to have formed a cult of the body. They want to look good and young and healthy, and they want to be surrounded by other women who are the same. They freely share their opinions of what people should eat, what size they should be, and how much they should exercise. Their weight and size have become banners that they wave in other people's faces.

Some necessary statements here. I am overweight. I am trying to be healthy. It is an ongoing challenge. I am also trying to be a good and decent person. When I think about these other people, I have to wonder. When they look at me, how do they see me?

It's entirely probable that the way they see me is very far from who I really am. They may look at me and think that here's Katrina again, and boy, is she fat. And look at her shoes. And that dress! How old can that thing be? Does she even know how to wear makeup? And maybe she could curl her hair once in a while? Oh, and her legs look so disgusting!

That's the problem, isn't it, when we see and judge one another based only on what our eyes see, and what we believe to be important? Yes, I am fat. I'll use the word and take its power away from you. I am trying to get healthier. It's difficult to get sufficient exercise when you are often in pain. No, I don't wear lovely high-heeled shoes any more. The discomfort they would cause me is too great. Yes, my dress has some miles on it, but it is clean. I could probably get a new one, but I'd rather spend the money on important things that we need. 

I do indeed know how to wear makeup. I sold it for years and did many makeovers for people of all ages. I just do not feel the need to wear a mask to try and impress myself or others. My face will never be anyone's idea of beauty or even prettiness. Nothing will change this, especially not their insults. My hair is healthy and is its own natural hue. I wasn't raised by a girly-girl, so all of that styling and whatnot is just not second nature to me like it may be to you. As for my legs - I am just grateful that I still have them. A doctor once told me that because of the problems I have with them, they might be amputated before long. Yes, they are discolored and sometimes swollen. But I'm still walking.

I want to go to these women and tell them that they are deceived by only looking at themselves and others with their eyes, but I am a coward. I want to tell them that if they judge me by my appearance, they will never know the person that I am inside. I weep for the losses they are unaware of in their lives. So many beautiful friendships could be nurtured with wonderful people if only they could see with their hearts. 

If we spent more time seeing with our hearts, there would be an entirely different world in front of us. The person who has a fat body and no makeup and ugly legs ending in casual shoes might be able to tell you stories that enthrall and enrich you. She may be able to cook you a meal that makes you wish she was your mother. Her heart may be so full of love that she will always treat you as if you were part of her family. 

The truth is that what we see with our eyes is merely a shell. Sometimes it is a front that others wish us to see, prettied up with all sorts of finery. Sometimes it is like an old penny, worn down by the years and no longer shiny. If we see with our hearts, maybe we can learn the true value of what is inside. Maybe we all need to ask ourselves, from time to time, how we see.


Sunday, July 5, 2015

Booze And Political Coverups

It sounds scandalous, I know. Here's what usually happens. We're either already out running errands, or getting ready to do so, and planning the stops along the way. We agree that we need to go to Store X because they have a fantastic sale on something or other. But where do we need to go after that? Well, one of us mentions that maybe we should stop at Store Y because we're running low on booze. Yes, you read that correctly. We say we're running low on booze. 

Some day, someone is going to overhear us as we chat in the supermarket about how we're running low on booze and need to stock up. If by any chance they know us, they may be doubly scandalized. Two people who have kidney problems and are diabetics, and all they can think about is boozing it up? Hah! That's where we have one up on you, Judgemental Nosy Nellie! In TrentandKatrina Speak, booze means any sort of soft drink. It could be diet soda or the numerous tasty sugar-free water flavorings that are now available. They are great for us because they have no calories and encourage us to keep up our fluid intake and keep our kids (kidneys) happy. 

Are we the only ones out here who are silly enough to have created our own language as a couple, and also among close friends? You may not recall that due to my sister Liz and her occasional mangling of words or names, Trent and I, along with some of our friends, can only call pulled pork "pull-apart pork." When something is so wrong that it's right, you just have to stick with it.

And that brings us to the subject of political coverups. These occur in our home on a daily basis. No, neither one of us is a spin doctor (someone employed to shape or control public opinion) for any politician or political candidate of any description. Yet political coverups continually happen here. You see, a few years ago, Trent ordered a bumper sticker from the campaign of a political candidate who will remain unnamed because who they are has absolutely nothing to do with the story. This bumper sticker took a place of honor lying on the piece of furniture in our bedroom that houses some of our Important Stuff, as well as the television and related mechanical stuff which I am too lazy to list now.

Well, we ended up getting a spandy-new fancy cable box from our provider. It had some newer features that the previous box did not, and also one that was a throwback of sorts. It has a nicely sized digital clock display on the front that can easily be read from across the room. It also has a fancy power button that shines in different colors that signify whatever it thinks they are supposed to signify. And it's kinda, well..very, very bright.

Seriously, the first night we had it, we turned off all of the lights and went to bed, only to discover that the lights on the cable box were the equivalent of having two night lights sitting within inches of each other a few feet from the foot of our bed. It was kind of aggravating. Okay, the truth is it was really aggravating. We got up, turned the lights on, and set about locating the commands to control the brightness of the display. It was easy enough and only took a few moments.

Well, when the display was dark enough to allow sleep, it was too dark to be useful in the daytime. It also seemed that every time we brightened it for daytime use, we forgot to darken it again before bedtime. Up we'd get, grumbling that we had forgotten it once again. Simple solutions are sometimes the best. We propped the bumper sticker in front of one end of the display and a box of kid-decorated-so-why-do-we-have-them bandages in front of the other. Before long, it seemed only natural to refer to it as what it technically was - a political coverup.

Since I walk past the cable box on my way to get into bed for the night, I tend to be the one who is in charge of political coverups. And yes, sometimes I do forget. Hey, I don't think about either politics or the cable box all of the time, I'm glad to say! I lay down, say my good nights to Trent, and start to listen to a book. As I turn over to get into a more comfortable position, the light beams brilliantly from across the room. Without bothering to put on my eyeglasses, I stumble in the not-quite dark to complete my task of performing yet another political coverup. Perhaps if I hadn't been so focused on getting a glass of booze on the bedside table for the late-night thirsties, I'd be a better spin doctor, able to sleep peacefully in my delightfully darkened room.


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Charitable

It always makes me feel uncomfortable. When we are driving through a parking lot near a supermarket or other collection of stores and see someone holding a sign saying that they need money for food or rent, I mean. Why? Because you never really know the true or full story, do you? We saw some people today with a sign, and it made me uncomfortable. We didn't have any cash with us. I told Trent that I would rather give someone who says they are in need some food to eat rather than giving them cash. I have seen a few examples of people who claimed problems but didn't have them, so it makes me uncertain of what to do.

Two instances happened on different sides of the same major street in Denver. On my drive to work at one of the ritziest shopping destinations in the city, I would see a woman about half a block away from the street, held up on crutches while she asked for money. One day I happened to drive by a bit earlier than usual and saw her on her way to her post. She hurried along on her two healthy legs, the crutches in one hand and the sign in the other. The tender part of my heart that had been touched by her plight was hurt to see her lie revealed. 

Not long after this happened, I was driving in the opposite direction on my way home. A man was holding a sign indicating that he needed a bit of money for food. A car full of generous teenagers who were stopped by a red light motioned to him. He came over to the car and suddenly started cursing at the young people inside and making obscene gestures at them. I was next to them at the next traffic light and asked them what had happened. They told me that they all decided to give the man their lunches. When he was offered food rather than money, he got angry. I told them I was proud of them for trying to do the right thing, and they seemed to be trying to wrap their heads around what happened. I hope that their hearts are still generous. I think they will be.

I also hope that you don't think that I am a person who thinks that everyone is a scam artist, or that I am ungenerous. Quite the contrary. Trent and I know what it is like to struggle with funds. Because of this, we try to help others in any way that we can. One of our favorite Christmases came out of just such a situation. Every year, our department at the bank would adopt a number of families from a local organization that helped women who had left abusive relationships. Each team, including the Training and Service Quality group, would get a Christmas wish list from a family that was trying to get a fresh start.

Sometimes just reading these lists would bring us to tears. Four-year-old children asking for a simple pair of shoes, not the latest $200 fancy ones, and mothers asking for a blanket or some basic cookware. There was never anything outrageous or expensive on these lists. They made all of us realize just how fortunate we were. To make things more fun and exciting, instead of just buying things off the list, every team would do things to raise money which would be spent on fulfilling these wish lists. I made batches of my famous cookie bars to be sold for our team's fundraiser on more than one occasion, for example.

Another team had a very fun approach. Every member of their team would buy something worth about five dollars to put into a themed holiday gift basket. They then sold raffle tickets, with the entire basket going to one lucky winner. During this particular Christmas season, we were feeling our usual holiday-season financial pinch. In fact, we have come to believe that we have a Christmas curse. If an extra expense or lack of funds is going to happen for us, it usually does just before Christmas. And it does so more often than not. But we have our home and each other, so we are more fortunate than many.

Anyway, it was about ten days before Christmas, and a member of the basket-raffling team came to me, asking if I would like to buy some tickets. She was one of the sweetest, kindest people I knew, so I had a hard time resisting. I looked at her and said that if she told me I would win, I would buy the tickets. She smiled sweetly and said, "Katrina, you are going to win!" I gave her the last five dollars in my pocket and went about my business. 

On the Saturday before Christmas, with us down to about seven dollars in our bank account, Trent headed out to get the mail. He was expecting his long-term disability check to be there, just in time for Christmas. He came back a few minutes later holding the letter that came instead of a payment. The letter that said there had been some clerical errors and resulting overpayments, so there would be no check this month. Or the next several months. We were crushed. My first worry was that we had invited a couple of people over for Christmas dinner because we knew that they couldn't be with their families. What would we feed them, I wondered. I asked Trent, who said that at least they would be with someone, and they'd probably be happy if we fed them peanut butter and jelly.

I went back to work the next Monday and tried not to think about the situation. The week went quickly, and one day the sweet girl from the raffle team showed up at my desk with her usual shy, sweet smile. "Guess what, Katrina? I wanted to be the one to tell you. You won the basket!" I was stunned. When I went over to her team's area to get it, they were all pleased for me because most of them had been in at least one of my training classes. Little did they know that this basket was to be our only Christmas gift.

In addition to some movies, treats, games, and other items, there were a couple of five-dollar gift cards to Target. I was so excited that I called Trent to let him know. With the few dollars that we had in our bank account and the gift cards we had in the basket, we were able to provide a steak dinner for our Christmas guests. To add to the blessings bestowed upon us, we found out that we had a small financial windfall on Christmas Eve night. Trent had been having money deducted from every paycheck in order to have an extra week of vacation time to match my three weeks per year. Since he was on leave, the accrued amount was deposited into our account. The saddest Christmas ended up being among the best.

To this day, when we feel the financial stress the worst, we always agree that there is someone who needs a few dollars more than we do. When we pick up the bag of groceries for our holiday meal, we try to donate enough to buy some food for someone else's table as well. We don't need filet mignon to have a holiday meal that is delicious to the taste. Giving somebody else a full stomach lends a lot of flavor to whatever we end up eating.



A note from the Lunatic: At holidays or any other time, it breaks my heart to think of children being hungry. As children in our family, most of the time we lived with our parents we barely had enough food. Please keep this in mind when you might have an opportunity to help others.