A Bit of a Rant

I hate calling the doctor.  I hate going to the doctor.  I hate making the appointment, the time spent on hold, the time spent in the waiting room, the verification of my health insurance.  I hate the whole thing, which is why I don’t go nearly as often as I should.  I made my appointment for my annual exam yesterday, and it has been nearly two years since I have been.  Before that, it was five.  And before that, I pretty much only went when I either suspected I was pregnant, was pregnant or wanted to ensure that I didn’t become pregnant.

And it’s silly, really, because I have no trouble at the doctor.  Hardly ever.  I am exceptionally healthy, despite still being overweight.  I exercise often.  I eat healthy food.  I have always had very few problems gynecologically.  I don’t smoke.  I do drink, but rumor has it a glass of wine a day isn’t a bad thing. And I am exceedingly fortunate to have health insurance.

The insurance card I carry when I go to these multi hour long, mind numbing doctor visits is like the golden ticket.  If I want to enter those hallowed halls, I better have that little rectangle of plastic to gain admittance.  We had a major change to our policy two years ago, and it was amazing how profound the effect was.  Our primary care doctor would no longer accept us.  We had to pay out of pocket if we wanted to still use their services.  Fortunately the kids’ doctor still accepted the insurance.

We were given what is known as a high deductible plan.  Basically, we pay out of pocket for everything except for preventative care until we hit our deductible.  Kid running a fever?  $80 if I want a doctor to tell me why.  My daughter’s ADHD meds?  $144 a month until we hit that deductible.  MRI?  There’s a thousand bucks down the drain.  Last year we hit our deductible very quickly because my husband had to have an outpatient procedure done at a hospital.  Several thousand dollars had to be paid, all at once.

This year, things are a little better.  We’ve had time to adjust and save up money in our Health Savings Account, so now we have funds built up in there in case something happens again.  The HSA helps us plan out and budget for those pricey meds or the x rays the kids might need after that spill at summer camp.  And we are very, very fortunate that we are so far able to meet these costs, and that the preventative stuff is covered entirely.

I mention this because as flawed as our insurance feels like on the consumer end, it’s better than nothing.  My sister’s family will be losing their health insurance next month and will be forced to buy a private policy.  A policy that likely will make ours look like a Cadillac to their Hyundai.  A policy that will likely be very hard to find due to her daughter’s physical and mental health issues, which will become known as the dreaded PreExisting Condition.  My husband’s cousin has a PreExisting condition and has found herself virtually insurable under any private policy.  What they’ll do when she needs to be hospitalized or needs an MRI or any of the inevitabilities that come with her condition (she has Multiple Sclerosis), I have no idea.  Go bankrupt, I suppose.

It just seems astounding to me that in our country we can let this happen.  Let people starve or lose their homes rather than protect their health.  I don’t know if the current law being debated by the Supreme Court now is the answer, either.  It seems like a cobbled mess put together with the compromise of political interests in mind, rather than a true system that universally offers care.   Everyone must know someone, or have had experience themselves with how flawed this system is.

So I will go to my doctor visit in a few weeks.  I will complain about the wait, the tedium and the seemingly uselessness of having another clean bill of health granted to me.  But this time, I will stop myself before I get too far into it, and remind myself how truly lucky I am to have inconvenience be the only negative outcome of that visit.



No Finish Line

I watched my daughter race into her girlfriend’s house, all giggles and smiles and excitement, and I smiled.  More than anything else, I felt….relieved.  Grateful.  Finally, finally she seemed to have found a group of girls to bond with and share typical for her age experiences.

It hasn’t always been that way.  While I always found it relatively easy to make one or two close friends, Missy has struggled.  She had lots of girls she knew, lots of girls whose mothers I was friendly with, and so she kept getting thrown together with a certain three or four girls over the years.  But none of the girls, while friendly, have really blossomed into that classic Best Friend Forever that I always seemed to have growing up.  I watched other girls her age do this seamlessly, effortlessly, collecting friends like they were stuffed animals:  one for every occasion.

It has been hard for her.  She knows, of course, that there are friends she has that are closer to other girls than her.  It doesn’t feel great to her when the girls have sleepover parties and can only choose three friends; she’s hardly ever one of the Top Three.  And it’s hard to help her through this, because I don’t understand it myself.  Why don’t girls like her or bond with her?  She is smart, a little bit of a tomboy, and enthusiastic.  Maybe that’s it.  Maybe she’s too enthusiastic, too ready to show others how much she cares (that part, I get).   My mother never seemed too embroiled in my interpersonal relationships, but I worry all of the time about my girl.  My girlfriends, throughout my whole life, have always offered me a special support and security that I never found in my family.  Is it because we have a stable family that she doesn’t have to hunt for it outside of the home?  But other girls with stable lives at home do have good friends.  I wring my hands, wondering.

And then, this year, something changed.  My daughter moved onto Middle School, which is supposed to be a Personal Hell for most kids.  It certainly wasn’t my favorite time of life.  But for my girl, things changed.  She was forced to sink or swim, and she swam.  She made new friends, rekindled some old ones.  Six months later, she has a stable group of three close girlfriends that share everything.  They call each other for homework help, they video chat in the evenings, they go to the movies together, they have sleepovers.  Today, they are all cabin mates at their school’s camping trip.  Four days that will change and hopefully strengthen their bond as they move into a world where your peers are more of an influence than your parents.

It is both terrifying and rewarding to watch her grow, and learn about life and herself.  I want to protect her from the worst of the lessons I have learned, give her the gift of all that I know after forty plus years.  But I can’t.  All I can do is show her the boundaries, show her the signposts along the way, and hold her hand when she needs me to.  And I know, I know very well, that there is no final quarter, no finish line, no end to this game of parenting.

That’s the best and the worst part of it, all at the same time.

What Are The Odds

“Do you ever wear it?” he asked me, looking down at the ring, not meeting my eyes.

What a question.

No.  The answer was simple.  No.  I never, ever wore the ring.

I’d actually forgotten that I’d kept it, for many years.  Which seems rather amazing, considering all that the simple band of gold symbolized.

Ray had given me the “promise ring” (I called it an engagement ring) late, late one night in August, 1991.  He’d arrived home from Iraq via Germany.  We’d been corresponding via letter and a few stray late night phone calls while he served in Gulf War I.  After our on again, off again high school relationship, the moment had seemed wonderful and perfect.  We spent his three weeks of leave inseparably, slowly letting my family in on the depth of our commitment.  But then he’d gone to his new assignment in Georgia, and then things fell apart.

But I still had the ring.  I must have put it away in one of my velvet jewelry boxes back then, keeping it as the one, tangible reminder of moments of happiness we’d shared that summer.  The promise and the weight and the surety I’d felt at our future together.  I pulled it out every so often, just to make sure it was real.  But then it was put away again, locked away, like the memories I’d had of him taking my virginity and everything else we’d shared.

I was unprepared for the emotion on his face when I sat next to him and showed him the ring.   Sitting next to Ray at all is an event of note; he now lives in Germany with his wife and daughter, and the odds of our paths crossing are as remote as one can imagine.  But somehow, we managed to meet at the most mundane and American of places as Starbucks.  There were pleasantries, hugs, emotionally charged small talk, as if this kind of chance encounter could happen any time.  Never mind that it had been fifteen years since we last were in each others’ presence.  Never mind that we were now both married, with children, and lifetimes in the gulf between us now.  Here we were, me with my mocha and him with his chai tea, as if this kind of thing were an every day occurrence.

I’m not sure what I thought his reaction would be at the sight of the ring.  Surprise, perhaps, that I hadn’t chucked it in a fit of rage after our engagement was called off.  Or pride, maybe, that I still had kept it all of these years, that this small bit of gold and diamond had meant so much.  But it was neither of those things.  It was pain.  Physical pain, that I’d brought rushing back to him, in the middle of our perfectly wonderful, normal, meeting up again after fifteen years.  He seemed surprised, taken aback, moved.  Moved in a way that I simply hadn’t anticipated.

“No, I don’t wear it,” I answered slowly.  “I never have been able to.  At first it was painful,” I said slowly, acknowledging his own pain, “And then life just sort of moved on, and it didn’t make any sense to.  But I kept it, still.  As a token, a reminder.  Something to hold onto.”

He reached out for the ring, taking the small circle of gold in between his fingers.  “It was a promise ring.  A promise I didn’t keep.  I guess I understand why you don’t wear it.”

“It’s not like that,” I said, trying not to remember what those dark days, twenty one years ago almost, were like.  “I look at it as a lovely reminder of the time we were happy.  It was brief, sure, but it was a wonderful time.  That’s what I try to remember when I look at this ring.” I paused.  “I suppose I should ask if you want it back.”  Wasn’t that the right thing to do, the protocol after a broken engagement?  Or did the 20 plus years remove that statute of limitations.

“No, keep it,” he said sadly.  And he looked at me then, his pale blue eyes full of all twenty years that stood between now and then.  Twenty years of living life, growing up, moving on, having regrets and coming to peace with all of it.  “Keep it with you,” he said huskily.

I tucked the ring back in my bag, my face glowing red with all of the things we both were leaving unsaid.

Adrift…And….Feeling Stupid

You know what I hate?

I hate when you go and read someone’s blog and you discover that, through their own words and takes and experiences on life, that you really don’t like them.

This doesn’t happen often to me, of course.  I go to blogs that are written by people that I am sure I would like, if I met them in real life.  I like the way they write, their take and view on the world, I see in them something I connect with.

But there’s this one blog I keep going back to (no, I’m not going to say whose it is), and I am not sure why, because I really don’t like the woman who writes it. There’s something about her that bugs me.  She seems to take for granted all that makes her life wonderful, and envy worthy.  She judges others and makes a living off of doing it.  She complains about her weight, even though she seems perfectly healthy and fine.  She is far too focused on material things and awfully preoccupied with having that which others have that she doesn’t.

I honestly don’t know why I keep going back.  I discovered her blog last summer when she was dueling with another blogger (whom I *do* like), and it was like the train wreck that you can’t stop watching.  I just kept going back to see how much more cringeworthy she could get.  And she didn’t disappoint.

Fast forward to Just. This. Second when I typed into this blog a whiny little post about how I ferry my kids around and how I drink too much and how my husband isn’t nice enough to me and how running is the only thing I seem to be doing right these days when it hit me like a freaking Mack Truck.

I’m her.  I’m the whiny blogger that doesn’t appreciate all that she has and how lucky she is.  Here I am whining about how all I had to do today was run to Target and do some laundry and ferry some kids around.  Sheesh, not a bad life, right?   Who complains about that?  I titled it “Adrift And…?”, a nod to one of the ridiculously too many Grey’s Anatomy episodes I had plenty of time to watch this weekend in my free time.

When I clicked off of my blog entry, the next page I clicked on was a BlogHer entry from Shannon Des Roches Rosa.  About a parent of an autistic child so stressed and so freaked out that she went all Crazy Insane Person and killed her son and then herself.  Me?  I read a book back and forth aloud with my autistic son and then we had dinner (steak and salad and bread) and then he willingly put on his shoes and got in the car so I could take his sister to play practice.

There are lots of people out there with problems.  My whiny, angsty boredom is not a problem.  It’s a blessing.

Consider my ass duly kicked.


A Different World

When I met my husband in 1995, I thought he and I had a lot in common.  We were both crazy computer people, in an age still well before personal computers and internet access were common place.  We both were independent, working hard at our careers and had a lot of ambition at the starting line of life.

What I didn’t realize until months later, long after I’d committed to him and he’d carved out a significant spot in my life, was how different his upbringing was from my own.  It happened one night shortly after we’d moved in together, when his father called our home.  I’d still never met his parents at this point in our relationship.  All of the sudden this man I’d just invited into my home and my life started speaking a foreign language.  Rapidly.  A language that didn’t sound like any foreign language I knew, like Spanish or French or German (the only three that were offered at our high school).

It was in that moment I realized perhaps we were more different than I thought.

My husband has 19 first cousins.  His father is a first generation immigrant, born in the former Yugoslavia in what is now known as Croatia.  They family fled after World War Two and spent years trying to reassemble their family in Canada.  His mother is a Washington DC born daughter of means, having grown up with privilege.   Like my parents, they met while in college.  Except his parents met while both studying abroad, in Spain.

My husband grew up in a two parent household with elements of the Deep South, Spain, Eastern Europe.  Three different languages were spoken on a regular basis.  His grandmother spoke no English.  Holidays meant tradition and ethnic food prepared in specific ways, and family.  Always family.  They ate three or four course meals and played classical music in the background.  They drank wine and before dinner drinks and after dinner drinks.  They danced folk dances from Spain or Croatia for entertainment at family gatherings.

It was, and is, a world I truly don’t understand.  I grew up listening to pop radio and eating Lean Cuisines boiled in a bag.  No one spoke anything other than English, and very few had ever traveled overseas; if they had, it was because they had fought in a war.  We were as American as could be.  No ethnic foods or traditions of any kind.  No booze unless you were celebrating something or upset about something.

In some ways, I love that my world includes this wonderful array of new experiences I might have never had otherwise in my life.  I love the foods, the drinks, the warmth of the family.  In other ways, I feel bewildered and lost and craving the simplicity of what I grew up with.

This summer, we are finally traveling with our children to see Europe, to visit Croatia.  I am both exhilarated and terrified at the thought.

Closing Doors

Someone I know is pregnant.

This statement is becoming increasingly rare as the years keep marching on in my life.  It used to be that everyone I knew was in a couple.  Then, couple by couple, everyone seemed to be getting engaged, and then married.  Back in “my day” (intone the Old Lady In Me here) this was around age 23-28.  Most of my close friends were good and married off by then, which I know isn’t exactly the case with kids that age these days.

Then the babies came.  Each time I was pregnant I shared my pregnancy with at least someone else I knew.  In my eldest’s case, these women were my older sister’s friends.  But with my younger two there were any number of contemporaries that were either in the same family way, or who had just had a child within the last year, or who would find themselves pregnant shortly thereafter.

My youngest was born when I was the ripe old age of 31.  At first, we weren’t really sure if we were done having kids.  I stubbornly packed up all of the tiny baby clothes as he grew out of them and put them in sturdy plastic bins in the basement; the kind that would last.  I put the Pack and Play and the swing and the crib down there with them. We kept thinking….maybe.  Maybe just one more.  But it never seemed to happen.

As M’s issues came to light, we actively avoided the idea of a fourth child in our house.  We had too much on our plates with him and his issues and needs.  So many therapy appointments and meetings at school and worries.  It wouldn’t be fair to bring another child into all of that. And then, after we felt like it might be an option again, our eldest went to college.  He turned twenty.  And then twenty one.  By then, it just seemed preposterous that we would give him a brother when he was old enough to be a father himself (Lord help me that I’ve actually put that in printed form).

That door has been closed for quite a while now.

But then, I heard about this woman I know who is pregnant.  She has two adopted children from China, hard fought adoptions after years of infertility issues between her and her husband.  It had been universally assumed that they couldn’t have children, and their two perfect cherubs made them all the perfect family from the outside looking in.  Except that around Christmastime, the woman somehow found herself inexplicably pregnant.  The weeks wore on, everyone quietly waiting for doomsday to occur, but it didn’t.  She is nineteen weeks pregnant, and forty four years old. It is an amazing thought, after all of this time, that she and her husband will have a biological child.

It makes me wonder if my door is truly closed, as well.  There have been times in the last five years, perhaps six or seven, when I thought I was pregnant.  A few times so sure that I purchased pregnancy tests and took them.  But each time, the test slowly turned negative before my eyes.  And each time, I was a little disappointed.

I do wonder.


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