Thursday, December 18, 2014

And to All, a Good Night

"Is it finally over?"
"It's over, Momma. Now it's straight."
"Well, thank goodness!"

So let me back up. If you read my last blog, then you saw that we were having a bit of a problem with the gub'ment. Seems they accidentally showed Momma's Medicare as being terminated effective 01/01/2014. Seems like a fairly easy problem to fix. Just confirm that the cancellation form is not on file, that her premiums have been paid on time, and correct it.

Yeah - cause Santa Claus is bringing me that Mercedes with the gull-wing doors I always wanted....stuff always works out the way you want it...uh-huh.

But I am thrilled to follow up, and say, IT IS FIXED. It only took from November 6th until yesterday, December 17th, and contacting the following agencies:
Medicare Advanced Resolution
Social Security Administration
Railroad Retirement Bureau
Social Security Administration - two different local offices
Her former employer she retired from
Her former employer's benefits administration group
The insurance carrier
The state insurance commissioner's office
Her congressman
Her senator
Her senator-elect

And don't think each of these was limited to only one phone call apiece. Formal complaints were filed through four different agencies (I think - may be more.)

In fact when the congressman's office got involved, I faxed them TWENTY-SIX pages of documentation I had already accumulated.

But yesterday, Momma got the call we had been working towards. She has been retroactively reinstated. She will be reimbursed for the out of pocket expenses incurred while this went on. And the following part of the call cracked us up - "We are so sorry you went through this. Would you mind calling your daughter, and tell her that it is fixed, and that we apologized?"

Or as my hubby interpreted it - 'Hey, call that bulldog you gave birth to, and tell her to back off of us, please.' (On a side note - he appreciates that I do not use that character trait on him - normally.)

Shakespeare had it wrong. The line should read - Hell hath no fury like a woman whose loved one has done been wronged.

Because I believe in giving credit - huge kudos to her local office of Social Security Administration, to my contact in her benefits administration group, to United Health Care Social Media who took the ball, to the person in Medicare's Advanced Resolution area, and to her congressman. 

To anyone going through this, my best advice is this:
1) Don't believe anyone until you get the same answer multiple times
2) Feel free to go on a multi-pronged attack
3) Document, document, document - date, time, length of call, a name if possible
4) Pray

Now, I'm off to research the cost of a Mercedes with gull-wing doors. After all, we weren't sure I could ever get this fixed, much less an apology so obviously I'm on a roll.

Good night!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Nightmare of the Government Before Christmas

I invite you to take a trip into a parallel dimension. One of neither common sense nor competency. Welcome to the world of the government. Where HAL, the computer in "2001: A Space Odyssey" seems benevolent, and kind. Certainly HAL has a point about human error.

I feel compelled to say the following - this is purely an expression of my own frustration. Also I feel compelled to say that this is a purely bipartisan gripe. I have no idea which administration was in charge of which rules being put in place. Personally, I'm not sure there is a politician with common sense anymore. Both parties seem to spend too much time catering, and not enough time leading.

Let me tell you what happened here. It all started when my Daddy dared to die. He passed away on May 28th. On June 11th, as required to, I notified the Railroad Retirement Bureau. At that time, the very nice, very sympathetic woman informed me that no other actions were necessary other then returning his direct deposit payment within the week. One and 1/2 days later when I went to the bank to instruct them to return it, I found out that the government had already taken it. If only all their actions had been as efficient as they were with taking back money from a recent widow.

Months went by. We grieved, and we moved forward. I executed his wishes as he had communicated to me while he was still of sound mind. At times, Momma almost felt I was too efficient. But I'm a to-do list kinda gal. I have a list. I work my list. I find comfort in my list. Some shop, I make a list.

Then the world flipped, and we DID NOT MAKE IT FLIP. I have spent days of my life trying to correct an error WE DID NOT CAUSE. The Railroad Retirement Board moved Momma's Medicare from being under them, and under Daddy's claim ID to the administration of the Social Security Administration and under Momma's own ID number. Reminds me of when our sons have projects in school, and suddenly need the purple markers with green board - SORTA NICE TO KNOW IN ADVANCE!

We received no notice of this change. She received no new Medicare card. Nope. What we got was a nice letter from her group plan she has as a retiree from a very large employer. It seems they heard from our government that SHE TERMINATED her Medicare. WHAT??? Also that it was "terminated" on 01-01-2014. HUH??? So why has the government been deducting her Medicare premium from her monthly check - WITHOUT FAIL?? Which I verified by looking at every dang month of her banking. Why has her every claim to this point been processed WITHOUT A PROBLEM? YES - I'M SHOUTING!! Though I didn't at first. I sighed. I thought a couple of calls would clear this up. I told her not to worry. Silly, silly me.

Let me just say, that I was closer to reality when I believed in Santa Claus. At least Daddy had a beard, was round, and had his jolly moments, and Momma, and I have the height of a couple of elves.

Since November 6th, I have been in an endless loop of one entity blaming the next entity for the "mistake". Naturally the first entity blamed was me. Once again, HUH? All I did was give timely notice of my father's death. I might add that it's never easy to call anyone and say that someone you love has died - never. I initiated NO OTHER ACTION. Indeed, my research indicated that it is difficult to terminate your Medicare. As I graciously pointed out to one ignor...I mean clueless, person. (Clueless - still harsh, but my kindness is strained right now.)

Medicare would blame Social Security Administration who would blame Medicare and each one would tell me to call the other one to fix it. This was AFTER I spoke several times to her insurance carrier who at first said they just needed her new claim id. Which I gave them. Then they tell me, no, we can't reinstate her - she had no coverage from 01/01/2014 until 10/01/2014. So I also involved that large employer. They've tried to help. Really, they have. One of the only entities which was willing to give me a real person's name, and phone number to help. But help can only go so far when no one truly understands how the systems work, and therefore how to fix them.

Now look at those dates, again. Anything jump out at you? Like, perhaps, how easy it is to transpose 10/01 and make it 01/01. I began (after numerous phone calls) to figure it out FOR THEM, what THEY had done wrong. Mainly because I was tired of being told that WE had terminated her. Someone hit "termination" instead of transfer/change (which would not have been us), and then instead of the effective date for the CHANGE being 10/01, keyed in 01/01. Voila - my mother appears to have been terminated effective 01/01/2014. Or as I dryly said to a few of the many government employees I've spoken to - wasn't that jumping the gun a bit since Daddy didn't even die until 05/28???

Finally after many (numerous, excessive) calls to the various agencies attempting to find someone to help/take responsibility (one starts to wonder - are they paid by the calls answered, not the calls resolved??), a helpful soul named Leah appeared. She works for Medicare, and after several times of putting me on hold to verify the details, and to discuss with a supervisor, she informed me that yes, it really is Social Security who tells Medicare who can have Medicare, and so Social Security are the ones who will need to fix it. She also tells me to ask to speak to a supervisor so it can be escalated, and that it is best to call our local office.

Fine. I call the local office. What happens? By now it shouldn't be hard to guess. I explain what happened (by now, I can do it in my sleep. I've repeated this story more then the telling of our children's births.) So what do I hear - 'you need to contact Medicare, they would be the ones to fix that.' SERIOUSLY? I just got off the phone with them. THEY SAID TO CALL YOU. May I speak to a supervisor? And this woman actually asked me why, when a supervisor was 'just going to tell you what I JUST told you.' Personally, a badge of honor here. I'm not always the best with holding my temper. Just ask my kids. But I very calmly said, that I was fine with that, I would still like to speak to one. In fact I've stayed calmer then expected through most of this. I am however getting better workouts on the elliptical. There's a certain umph to them....imagine that.

Guess what? Best move I made through the whole ordeal, ignoring her, and speaking to a supervisor. Beverly - lovely woman. Extraordinarily helpful. Even called Momma directly to say how sorry she was that this had happened, and she would get it fixed. AND SHE DID - at least the Social Security Administration part. Which then allowed Medicare to issue a new and correct card. Of course how many calls did I make to get through to the one person who could and would help - unknown, but I have a lot of notes, and I could probably figure it out. I've hugged her in person. Lovely lady.

So we should be at the end of the journey now...right...right...rig....wrong. (And if you're sticking with me through this tale - congrats, and many thanks!)

No, now I get a call from her former employer. That big insurance company, United Health Care, won't add her back with a correct effective date of - ALL DANG YEAR LONG - unless they hear from Medicare to do it.

So I call Medicare - again. I sit on hold - again. I explain - again. I get told I'm wrong - again. Finally, I was told that it would be forwarded to their Advanced Resolution Center. Two business days - they must reply. On the second day they called. The wrong number. Poor Momma - she was not expecting the call, BECAUSE I TOLD THEM TO CALL ME. I gave them my number. They have the proper authorizations on file (that could be another way too long blog about authorizations). Instead they call her, and ask for me. That's so indicative of how this entire experience has gone. Never quite right. It's like the blind date that looks good, but can't carry a conversation to save his life. The insurance company isn't fixing this. Medicare isn't fixing this. And I wonder - WHY IN THE HELL DO I HAVE TO FIX SOMETHING I DIDN'T BREAK??????????

So we're waiting. Still waiting for Prince Charming. He needs to make it right. He needs to give her back the health coverage she NEVER TERMINATED. It needs to be effective as of 01/01/2014. It needs to cover her AS IT SHOULD HAVE. I say, HE, because at this point, I've started emailing her congressman, and her US Senators. Do you blame me??

By now, Momma is beyond frustrated. She's been made to feel that she no longer has health insurance, embarrassed at trying to fill a prescription, and sure that this will never get fixed. She's been talked down to, and spoken to as if she is "stupid" to use one of the many words she's used, a more family friendly word. She's a sharp cookie, but no, she never handled the paperwork of life. Daddy did, and now I do. I can't help but wonder about the elderly person out there who doesn't have a bulldog named Evelyn for a daughter? How messed up is their stuff? How many times are they being told it's their fault, and they assume the government is right, and they aren't? Truly it's not just the government either. Big corporations mess up. They bill you wrong, and it's your problem, not theirs.

I, am equally upset. I have tried to fix this, and instead I have been insulted, turned away if the proper permissions were not in place, and spoken to as if I'm trying to cheat the system. I've been spoken down to, talked over top of, and treated as an imbecile. I've spent hours of my life in the special circle of hell called, On HOLD, listening to the most awful, repetitive music broken up by their even worse, repetitive announcements, and been frustrated by automated operators who don't have the option I need - dial x if WE SCREWED UP YOUR STUFF. Indeed, the Medicare complaints site doesn't list a way to COMPLAIN ABOUT THEM - only others.

So, really, how about treating our senior citizens as the golden members who have helped build this great country and not as a burden? My mother has helped so many. Where the hell is her help...which she paid for?

Well, here's what's happening next. I continue to contact anyone who wants to listen to what has happened to my mother. No one should have to go through this. So guess what - the Insurance Commissioner of the great state of North Carolina, her congressman, her U.S. Senators, Medicare, United Health Care..I'm not done yet. My Momma doesn't deserve to be sleepless over this. They say that the first set of holidays spent without someone you love are particularly hard. A big {sarcastic} thanks to all the above for keeping my focus off of my loss and on to your inability to make a simple correction. Yeah, thanks for that.

Thursday, September 11, 2014


I sit here stunned by the silence. The cat, named Elvis in honor of his black velvet fur, is quite content. I have a lovely glass of wine, and a new book beckoning me. All is right with the world. But my thoughts turn to 2001.

I was at my parents. The two of them, the two children, and me. Our sons were the ripe old ages of three, and four. Just yesterday our younger son reminded me that he was too young to have any real memories of that day. Of course, part of that can be attributed to the adults surrounding both children. While Daddy sat in the bedroom, his gold recliner at attention while he watched the nonstop coverage with both an unwillingness to participate, and in inability to look away, Momma, and I traveled the hall. We took turns. One of us would be in the living room, Cartoon Network providing a respite from the horrors down the hall. Children laughed, fought, played, and argued while the world was full of ashes, dust, and fire. News came that a friend had given birth to a healthy, beautiful baby girl. Still the world was aflame. Friends who might be in harms way were located, thankfully safe. We were untouched by tragedy...but none of us were untouched by the tragedy. The uncertainty reaching the remote reaches of North Carolina. The prayers, and the horror, too.

Too often we ignore the evil of the world. Most of us have a desire to embrace the good, and run from the evil. Our sons are now 16, and 17. College is on the very near horizon.  As is registering for the draft. Our younger son discusses a military career after college. We have friends whose sons discuss it sooner, and friends who have sons already in the military. 9-11 is such a simple moniker for a day which changed our world.

I believe stories are an integral part of the world. We learn through stories. We should share our stories. Where we were, who we were with, how we felt. Because through remembering, through sharing with the next generation, perhaps, we can make a better world. Eradicating evil. Thank you to all who serve. Thank you to all who sacrifice.

Monday, August 25, 2014

You Can Depend on Dewey

Anybody out there who believes in those moments? The ones that take your breath away and make you believe completely in a higher power - those are the moments. When your child is born, when someone you love dies, when a rainbow appears, when a song comes on or maybe a music box plays without being wound up - those are the moments. One of my moments happened last week. 

I saw the boys through the first day of school, and then I was gone for the week. 
Momma, and I had worked out our schedule of what needed to be done, day by day. On the list - visiting her credit union. She had this check in Daddy's name. It was a small check, but anyone who has ever tried to work on an estate knows what a pain some of this is. So just as planned on day three of my visit, we went to the credit union. Our credit union has a long row of tellers, but we had timed it well, and there wasn't a line. This lovely young girl called us down to her spot. And there it was - our sign. An ink pen sat there. Someone had left it behind. Or maybe God did. Because it had my Daddy's name on it. I noticed it first. I pointed to the pen to Momma. As she gasped over seeing Dewey on a pen, I rolled it ever so slightly, and we were even more in awe. For on that pen was also a slogan. The slogan, "You can depend on Dewey". Daddy was a dependable sort. He planned, and he worked hard. Still Momma has wondered if she's been making the right decisions. My brothers, and I have assured her that she is making the right choices. It felt as if a sign was sent from heaven. She could depend on Daddy, and he knew it was all OK.

So today is Daddy's birthday, and I always knew it would be a hard day. Father's Day was hard, today was hard, and I can't say I'm looking forward to ECU's kickoff on Saturday night. It's the first ECU football game that I can remember that I don't have Daddy to tell me I'm wrong about something. I'll miss that even though I still have a husband, and teenagers so it's not like I'll miss out completely on the experience of being wrong.

We still love you, Daddy. Thank you for being dependable. I hope I'm raising sons to be as dependable as you, and Pa Cooper always were. Happy Birthday in heaven. The teller let Momma keep the pen you sent. She still loves you, too.

Sunday, August 10, 2014


My last blog was in June. In July I turned 54, I worked on my father's estate, I pressure washed, I cleaned, I organized, I repaired, I did everything I could do to keep busy. I didn't write. Yet, it's the one thing I kept thinking of as something I wanted to do.

I see stuff that I want to comment on, but I don't. Like how Kate Hudson is designing these wild looking yoga pants. One look at them, and all I could think is - only a Hollywood actress would think any self-respecting women would put THAT on her butt. Even starving would NOT make that look ok on my rear end.  And I have to say, there's always a comment I can come up with about the Kardashians. 

Also Facebook has the most fascinating view of me based on the "suggestions" it comes up with. Apparently I'm a liberal, gun-toting, overweight, old woman/man with questionable taste in decor. I may resemble some of those characterizations, but it's difficult to cover them all, even for a Southern Momma.

Grief is a process. Yep - it sure is. Hubby has started listening to country music, and one good friend said our life has been like a country music song. I LOVED THAT COMMENT. Anything with a tint of humor is so welcome, and that cracked me up. Need to find me a broken pick up truck...dang it, and the cat don't resemble a hound dog...but other then that, I see her point.

So I want to start back writing. It's so cathartic...ten dollar word, right there. I need to figure out how to get back to writing. There's so much coming up that is just ripe for commentary. Our oldest son will be applying for college. Our younger son wants to work on his Eagle Scout award. Estates need to be settled, and a car needs to be repaired again. Teenagers drive, and drive us crazy in the process. My Momma adjusts to single life.

So bear with's been in the way. But I want to write, and I will.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

This is for You, Daddy

"This is for you, Daddy." Stevie Nicks at the beginning of "Landslide" on "The Dance" Album

My husband and I are well suited to each other. Momma has often said that she couldn't have designed one better for me. We have a lot in common. This year we have one more thing in common. We've lost our fathers, and this has been the first Father's Day for each of us with no one to call or send a card to. My husband would admit - I was the one sending the cards. It became a point of humor for us. I would say, "You sent a card that said..." And he would grin, and say, "I'm so thoughtful." But cards or no cards, love exists.

"Tell me, where does the spirit go when you die?" "Annabel" - The Duhks
"Tell me, did you sail across the sun?" "Drops of Jupiter" - Train

My Daddy is gone. Momma said yesterday that she kept thinking she would wake up, and he would be there. I told her I knew exactly what she meant. Because I do. I think that puts us in one of those stages. My stage involves Hostess Big Wheels (that's what they were called when Daddy bought them for me almost every day my sixth grade year, and that's what I'm calling them), some Jack and Coke, and digging what's left of my fingernails into my palm to prevent tears. A friend once told me that we write to learn about ourselves. I've learned a lot this past year, but not written a lot. Another friend reminded me that the shower is a great place to sob. I am so very clean - so is the shower stall.

"Up all night, I could not sleep. The whiskey that I drank was cheap." "South City Midnight Lady" - The Doobie Brothers

"And I confess that I'm only holding on by a thin, thin thread." "Sad" - Maroon 5

"Life goes on. It gets so heavy. The wheel breaks the butterfly." "Paradise" - Coldplay

I wonder if I've been kind enough to others when they've experienced grief. This has been such a constant presence in my life this last year. We've not only lost our fathers, but my mother-in-law passed away, a favorite uncle, and a favorite aunt, a loved cousin, even our beloved dog. Our older son can actually write in his upcoming college applications that he lost three grandparents during his junior year of high school. What a dubious distinction. I will say it provides a certain perspective on the other stuff like needing a new transmission in a 2014 vehicle, the broken sprinkler head that was pointing towards the golf course flooding the green, the broken outside water faucet that was dripping for who knows how long (can't wait to see the water bill), the kid who ignored my explanation of how a car battery can be drained resulting in his first lesson involving jumper cables, poison ivy, bronchitis, flu, and the infamous 'I stepped on a snake' incident resulting in a new door mat - one not black and not so easily blendable with a black snake. When you've spent so much time dressing in black, hugging people you love, hugging people you don't remember or never knew, the other stuff just becomes adventures to laugh at. Sometimes the hugs are adventures, too. May I suggest that some people should keep their hands in reasonable places...

"I miss the sounds of Tennessee. I blink and while my eyes are closed, they both have gone away."  "House on the Lake" - Rosanne Cash

Some people are so kind it's almost overwhelming. Others are so clueless that your choices are to be amused or offended. I opted for amused, with only an occasional sprinkle of indignation. So I have even more stories then just the snake one, like the ex-girlfriend who showed up to my father-in-law's visitation flirting with hubby or the ex-boyfriend who tracked down my number, and called me. Which made hubby and I even-steven on the exes front - thank goodness - no need to inflate the man's ego. But really, people, funerals are NOT Eharmony...or a high school reunion. Perhaps you could pick another time to decide we were catches after all.

There's the tendency to question God, and his existence in all of this. That's not my way. I long ago gave up even attempting to understand. I don't get quantum physics, I can't comprehend how to engineer a part, and I for dang sure ain't 'bout to try to rebuild an engine so why should I know all the answers to God's universe. I get that. I'm also good with counting blessings. I had my Daddy for years longer then many people I know had their loved ones, and we were able to be at a good place when he passed from this life to life eternal. That's a gift not all receive though it was wrapped in the sideways paper of dementia.

"Think about it. There must be a higher love. Down in the heart or hidden in the stars above." "Higher Love" - Steve Winwood

Now, I have to say, Daddy was not some perfection of a man. Like all of us, you got the good with the bad. The man had a temper, I mean he could really lay it on. And if he thought he was right, well, there ain't no way that YOU were right. He went almost a year with out speaking to me once because he thought I had made the wrong job choice. But I have that stubborn streak, too. Eventually he was proud when I made my way in a large company just as I wanted to do. I think he enjoyed my spirit, as long as I never forgot to say ma'am or sir along the way. Sometimes two people are too much alike...but there are lessons in all of that, too. Lessons I try to remember raising our teenagers - one is a little more like me, the other one a little more like Hubby. Makes life more interesting as long as we remember the love, and forgiveness. 

"Children get older. I'm getting older, too." "Landslide" - Fleetwood Mac
"Mirror in the sky, what is love? Can the child within my heart rise above? Can I sail through the changing ocean tides? Can I handle the seasons of my life? I don't know." "Landslide" - Fleetwood Mac

The night of Daddy's visitation one of my cousins told me a story I had never heard. Daddy came from a large family. Such a large family means a large range in ages of the cousins, and this cousin remembered Daddy as a young man back from the Korean War. He told me that our grandmother said Daddy would wake up with what they called "night terrors" for months after he returned. I am at an age now that I can look back at how it must have been for my Daddy, not too much older then my sons, and be so impressed by him. This was a man who answered his country, did his duty, came back home, worked full time at night on the railroad while he attended East Carolina College during the day, and spent countless hours helping charities. He never spoke of Korea until dementia came calling other then to tell us that "M.A.S.H." was NOT the way it was. Only then did we find out that he rode trains laying down gunfire to evacuate the dead, and wounded. He led a life, life did not lead him, and there's a lesson in that also. Too much is handed to so many of us. He expected nothing to be handed to him. He became a college graduate. He became Master of his Masonic lodge, president of his Shrine club chapter, and if you didn't know that he was an ECU Pirate then you obviously had never spoken to him for more then two minutes, and certainly never spoke to him during football season. Even as he lay on his deathbed, we played an ECU football game, and he knew it was his Pirates. I could even con him into leaving his nasal cannula in place by telling him that we would beat UNC if he left it alone.

Daddy passed away on May 28. For years, Momma said it would be terrible if someone died and there was an East Carolina University game because none of us would come. Daddy died when there were no active sports going on for ECU. I think he planned that. But still we flew our flags and magnets. His last surviving sister realized what we were doing, and insisted someone put them on her Cadillac, and one of my cousins flew to her car, got them out of her trunk and put them on. No one wanted to disobey her. The last one, the last one of nine siblings. How hard it is to survive.

"We're the Purple and Gold. We are the PIRATES OF ECU." EC Victory Fight Song

The night of Daddy's visitation we had one of those DVD's going. All the good funeral homes do them these days. You send pictures, they set them up to loop through, maybe add some music. Daddy loved music. We all love music. Somehow it felt right that we asked for three songs to be set to the pictures on the DVD. The three songs were, "Sugar Lips" by Al Hirt, "Whipped Cream" by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, and the ECU Fight Song. Nothing else would have felt as right. He loved life, and he saw it in so many ways - war, and peace. He deserved music that reflected his love of life.

Our sons have been a wonder through it all. They have watched their parents grieve, and shown compassion. I will never forget the touch of our sixteen year old's hand on my back as I started a strangled sob walking in the funeral home or the introverted seventeen year old walking up to me, and telling me that he would stay beside me until I told him he wasn't needed.

"No, this child will be gifted with love, with patience, and with faith." "Wonder" - Natalie Merchant

In the bottom of Daddy's jewelry box was an id bracelet. One that had my name on it and was made for me at the North Carolina State Fair when I was a little girl. Long after I stopped wearing it, and discarded it, he kept it. That's how love is - we keep it. We always keep it.

Somehow in grief, we each make our way. We find love. We find faith. We find compassion. Somehow we heal. Each scar makes a stronger place for faith, and love to take root.

"Take this love, and take it down." "Landslide" - Fleetwood Mac
"So I will look for you between the grooves of songs we sing." "The World Unseen" - Rosanne Cash
"Are ye healed?" "Did Ye Get Healed" by Van Morrison

Each time one of us shares love, and compassion, each time one of us turns to God, we are healed. - me

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Beware the Ides of MAY

"It's such a perfect day." "The lawnmower stopped." "Look at the semi's - they're blocking the highway." "There is a meal in your refrigerator." "I watered my front porch." "Sure a car with less then 8,000 miles should need a new transmission." "It's not fair to the other students to accept it so late." 

Let me tell you about my May. Yes, I know it's only half way through - dang it. My tale involves a funeral, a snake, a chipmunk (may be more then one - who knows - they all look alike), a transmission, AP exams, the SAT, school, love, and friendship. Why, yes - that does pack a great deal into fifteen days.

Two weeks ago today, we buried my mother-in-law. This was totally unexpected, leaving unsaid words, and unshared hugs behind. My husband lost his first mother at four years old. He lost his second mother, the one he had since he was five years old, at 55. Are you ever prepared? As we drove to the cemetery from the funeral home, Coldplay came on. "It's such a perfect day." Our younger son pointed out the inappropriateness of the music. Of course, he was right. Then from our position as the second vehicle behind the hearse (we should have been fourth as the fourth child), we watched the time honored sign of respect of others, and their grief. The vehicles kept quietly moving to the side, pulling off where possible, just stopping in the lane where it wasn't possible. But the most touching moment didn't involve a car or truck. It involved a gentleman cutting his grass. Riding lawnmowers are cool. I'd like to have one. But they become elegant, when someone stops, climbs off, doffs his hat, and waits. I have no idea if he knew any of us. But we know his heart.

Since that day, we've traveled back home. Our older son tried to take the SAT. His first score was very good, and we suspect this one will not top it. It's hard when you're tired.

Both sons have hard course loads, and we're near the end of the semester. But our older son has organizational skills issues which is quite common with ADHD. It's hard for him to organize, and prioritize. It's showing now.  He's trying to juggle catching up work, with taking the SAT immediately after returning from his grandmother's funeral, and two AP exams, and normal school work. I wish I could say I've been a great help, but I haven't. But it was a little frustrating to hear from a teacher who imposed no deadline on a project he missed, tell me that it was two weeks late now, and she felt it was unfair to the other students to accept it this late. Yeah, life sucks. It didn't feel fair to lose so many people we love in the last year, and our dog, too. How about a break here? Yes, I know he needs to learn to do this stuff. Dang it, parenting is hard.

I've tried to answer the siren call of other commitments, and traveling to my parents, and then the car, ah the car. I won't say much other then - we need 1.5 days for lemon law status. It's been a peach, make that a lemon...almost. AND THAT'S ALL I'LL SAY....

Oh, the snake, and the chipmunk(s). I know you're dying to know about that (unless you're my Facebook friend - as most of you who might actually read something I wrote probably are - cause I have great, indulgent friends.) My friends already heard about the snake part. See I ran home from trying to help somebody. I had just enough time before meeting someone with a check for the Boy Scout troop (see the earlier statement about commitments...or being committed...sometimes it's hard to tell the difference in a Stephen King sorta way), when I stepped outside to water my flowers on the front porch. I STEPPED ON A SNAKE!! He did not BELONG on my front door mat. For the record, I now have a new door mat. It's very colorful. It is NOT black rubber allowing a black snake to blend. The word blend belongs to outfits, Pinterest, and margaritas - not to SNAKES. I threw the water in the air, thus watering the front porch. I screamed. No neighbors were around thus justifying the alarm system. No, I didn't kill him. I moved too fast to harm him, though it's amazing I didn't throw out my knee. Pretty sure I set a new land speed record.

Then I notice a hole in a board. On the roof. Between the garage, and the dining room. It doesn't look good. I think it's carpenter bees. I call two exterminators. One set says, "Don't bother us." OK - maybe it was a little different phrasing. Second set comes out, looks around, offers for $400, then $100 per month for several months they can "maybe" take care of it - but they aren't going to repair the board. That's when I call my trusted repair guy. Who takes one look, and says I think that might be squirrel damage. At which point his nephew leans out of his truck, and says. "Hey, I just saw a chipmunk come outta there." Ah...the snake wasn't laying in wait for me. He wanted Chip or Dale!! Take them, dude! Oh, and he only wants $150 total. Victory - take 'em where you can get 'em.

By now, I'm feeling whipped when Momma says, your Daddy is not doing well.

I noticed. He doesn't have an appetite. My father-in-law lost his appetite, too before he left us. We lost him last September. By now, I'm thinking that 2014 did NOT need to compete with the suckiness of 2013 where we lost my father-in-law, an uncle, an aunt, and our dog. But we've also lost one of my first cousins this year, and it's just not looking up.

So I sit here starting a pity party when the cat starts playing. He's having a good time. It's infectious. Then one of the sons comes up, and starts telling me about stuff. Stuff at school, stuff he's read, stuff he's interested in - who cares? He's a teenager, and he's talking to me. The other son is working hard, really working. He's gonna turn in that project. Whew. And I remember the dear, dear friends. The ones who put food in our refrigerator and a plant in our home. The ones who emailed, who sent cards, who called, who sent a text. The friends who gave us love. Dang it - pity party over. But if May would like to call off the dogs, I would appreciate it - greatly.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

LMBO - An Accident - While Texting - Who Would've Thunk It?

Back in March, I spent close to the entire month sick - flu, bronchitis, ear infections - it was tons of fun. Our sons don't have their licenses yet. It's just not on their radar as something they care about so why keep the insurance company fat and happy? 

Our sons were often grabbing rides home with friends in the afternoon. One day, I received the text all parents dread: "We're gonna be late. XXXX had an accident." I'll give more on the details in a bit, but yes, texting was involved in the accident.

It was minor, but even scarier to me was the realization that I had never, ever discussed with our teens (who can drive, just don't care about it), what to do in the case of an accident. Never. Ever. Occurred. To. Me. Duh... I also haven't shown them how to check the oil or change a tire. Those lessons are coming. (might hand those off to hubby... though I do know how thanks to Daddy, and brothers.)

So I sat down, and walked them both through my rules of what to do, and in case it's helpful to anyone out there who might also have a duh moment (I can't be the only thoughtless parent...I a warped way.)

1 - Never leave the scene of an accident. At your age, I don't care how minor it is, stay there. Enjoy the scenery, watch the gawkers, but stay put. The exception to this is if you are on a dark, deserted road. Especially important for young female drivers, but applicable to any age or gender. Some will hit your car on purpose. Listen to your instincts. Don't stay put, go to a local police station or well lit, populated area, and call 911. Explain the situation, you will NOT get in trouble for this.

2 - Call your parents or guardians. We WANT to know. We will instantly move into Supreme Protector Parental Mode, and be there. If for some reason, we can't be there, call your approved list. Just like in elementary school, when you knew it was ok for Aunt JuneBug to pick you up, but never climb in the car with Auntie CrazyLoon, same thing. You, and your parents should discuss what responsible adults should be called. (Side note to parents/guardians - Might be a good idea to let those responsible adults know they are on the hook. Also make sure your kid has these wonderful people in their phone.)

3 - Who is your insurance agent, and carrier? Contact number for them? The police, and other driver will ask for that. Make sure they have the proof of insurance, and know where it is in the car. And find out the other driver's information, too. This isn't a one-way street. Don't let them convince you it is. Maybe it is, but let others help with that decision.

4 - Our longest discussion involved this next piece of advice. There will be those who are offended - sorry - my blog - my warped view. DO NOT carry on a conversation with the other driver. It's ok to make sure everyone is alright. It is not OK to admit guilt or alleviate the other driver's guilt. (No saying things like, 'I'm sorry, I should have noticed you' - sliding into my lane where I already was...). Unfortunately these days, finger pointing is the norm, as is the ubiquitous lawsuit. Wait for your parents, and let them handle it. You may speak to the police, and certainly answer their questions. But in this day of recording devices on phones, never assume the other driver is a good, and generous soul. Sorry, but don't.

Now about the accident. Did you assume the teen driver was texting? I would have. But noooo, the middle aged woman who hit him was texting, and rear ended him at a stoplight. So this next piece of advice is for all drivers, PUT DOWN THE FREAKING PHONE. C'mon people. You are not the excellent driver while texting/surfing/dialing/talking that you think you are. It's the same principle as none of us look as young as we think we do. Same thing. Accept it.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A Real Housewife....

I'm a loser. Worthless. My time has not been well spent. I have consumed bon bons by the truckload while consuming the truths of daytime tv. "The Doctors", and "Dr. Phil" are my gurus, providing medical help with the power of the remote control while not requiring me to move off my couch. My colonic cleanse will resume in 3, 2, 1...tmi...

OK - now that some of that is out of my system. I am truly none of those things. I am not a loser. My time has been very well spent, I never watch daytime tv, and I'm not sure where bon bons exist. As for the colonic cleanse, that's what collards are for, y'all.

I finally actually got a real interview for a job! Then I made it to the second round! And I didn't get it. The people were great, really, but the gap, it's always about the gap, and I ain't talking about the thigh gap.

I've been out of the workforce (as determined by society), for a number of years. No where on your resume do you get a slot for the following:

Our older child has severe ADHD. He has gone from a child who was constantly complained about by teachers, to a high school junior who is well behaved, and considerate. After being told that he "isn't very bright", and "doesn't know what my other kids know" (just a sample of comments endured), he is in the Beta Club, and on the Math team. He has letters from schools as far away as Cal Berkeley, Northwestern, the University of Chicago, to all the schools close by, and in our state. How? Persistence, flexibility, research, and prayer, lots of prayer - still a work in progress.

Our younger son had health issues, and a self confidence issue. He is a Master Sergeant in Air Force Junior ROTC, and is working on his Eagle Scout. Oh, straight A's, too. How? Patience, kindness, and I have I mentioned prayer yet?

Now - because I have a hot button about this, let me pause and say - my solution of staying at home is not the solution for ANYONE ELSE! At no point do I want my rant, err, nah, we're gonna stay with rant, to be interpreted as an ultimatum as the right way to raise children. If there is one thing I have learned from being a mother, it's humility. Each one of us has unique children, and unique circumstances, and we try our best.

But I could do with a little less humility. Why is my time so undervalued by society that a new college graduate is more desirable, and viewed as having a better skill set? I have actually had my accounting skills questioned (BS - Accounting - they haven't changed the whole debit/credit system...). I've done quite a bit of volunteer work, almost all centered around my accounting skills. I was told that would help. Maybe a little, but the questions always go back to what have I done these years...

I've honed my skills for working with difficult people. I've furthered my ability to doggedly pursue solutions. I am patient, and calm in a crisis....

And I don't give up easily...

Friday, March 28, 2014

Spring has sprung, the grass is riz. It’s prom time, help me! Here it is!

Prom, the flutter in the stomach, the slow dance, the magical surroundings, the boy, the girl, the dress, does anyone remember? I do, and it isn’t the same. At the risk of sounding like a parent, “In my day,” we did our own hair, makeup and nails, and we felt wonderful! When did the prom become so complicated? It’s a first world problem, the dress, the hair, the nails, and the shoes. When I think of what message spending all this money on “beauty” might be, I cringe, but by the same token, I want this experience to be special for my daughter.

I’m caught up in all of the hoopla. I have been informed that “all” of the girls have their hair, nails, and makeup “done.” Can we add up the cost on that? When did going to the prom resemble the bride getting ready for her walk down the aisle? Its nuts! What concerns me more is that the natural beauty of our daughters is cast aside in yet another market geared to make them feel inadequate if they don’t spend, spend, spend to look just so. Even when I was an adequate weight for my height, I never could look like Cindy Crawford. We are supposed to be different, unique, and lovely in the way we were created. Don’t get me wrong, I adore a great pedicure and hairstyle, I enjoy being pampered, but where do we draw the line? I suppose it comes down to why we are doing it. 

I took my daughter to the hairstylist for a trial run for prom night. I saw the woman inside. She was lovelier than I could have imagined, but she had tears in her eyes. Her hair wasn’t what she envisioned it to look like. When I asked her what was wrong, she responded that the hairstyle didn’t make her as pretty as she had hoped. Well poop. That bugged the mess out of me. On the way home, while she dabbed at tears, I told her that her young man would find her beautiful in bib overalls with mud streaking her face. After all, he didn’t see her across a ballroom when they first met. She smiled, or at least the corner of her mouth lifted a millimeter. I think she got it. I hope she did.

Time will fly, as it often does, and prom night will be upon us. I have no doubt that the hair, nails, shoes and dress will be spot on. I hope the young man is a gentleman, that the night is the stuff that teen dreams are made and that, fingers crossed, my daughter will know her beauty is her own, inside and out.

Friday, February 28, 2014

26 for Life

"You can't be 53. I'm only 27."

"I hear you're considering Accounting."

"Who are you?"

It is a comfortable spot. Elvis, the cat sits near me. The music is playing. I have an abundance of books, and some knitting beckoning me. The teenagers are downstairs, happy to be free for a while on a Friday night before an exciting, but hectic Saturday. Hubby has the big tv going in his kingdom. All is right with the world. But really it's not, as the world has been tilted on its axis for some time, and the end of the tilt is not in sight.

Yesterday, I read an article. Seth Rogen testified before members of Congress regarding Alzheimer's, and dementia. No disease has a barrier stopping at the wealthy or connected, and certainly Alzheimer's, and dementia are not exceptions. One quote stood out, "so few people share their personal stories". (Seth Rogen Testifies, ABC News)

Here are the conversations involving the quotes above:
Last weekend:
Daddy - "Who are you?"
Me - "I'm Evelyn, your daughter."
Daddy - "You're my daughter? How long have I known you?"
Me - "Well, I'm 53 so I would say all 53 of my years."
Daddy - "You can't be 53. I'm only 27."
Me - "OK. I'm 26."
Daddy - "That's better."
Me - "Works for me."

Daddy - " I hear you're thinking of East Carolina."
Me - "Sure, I'm thinking of East Carolina."
Daddy - "I hear you're considering Accounting."
Me - "Yes sir. I bet if I go to East Carolina, major in Accounting, and get a degree, I could make good money, meet the love of my life, have a couple of kids, and a nice house."
Daddy - "That sounds like a good life."
Me - "Yes, Daddy, it does, doesn't it?"
(Since I actually graduated from East Carolina University with an accounting degree in May of 1985, obviously I was in high school here.)

Every family touched by this has stories - some of faith, some of loss, some of blessings, and some of tragedy. We have been blessed that my brothers, and I have pulled together as a team. Some families are not able to work it out. Resources, and faith are strained, and relationships go with them. There simply has to be a way. As for me, I will continue to be whatever age Daddy needs me to be until he forgets me completely, and then I will pray, and cry even harder.

“Those with dementia are still people and they still have stories and they still have character and they are all individuals and they are all unique. And they just need to be interacted with on a human level.”
- Carey Mulligan

Saturday, February 1, 2014

It's a Gift - {Eyes Roll}

It's a gift. Maybe it's one our teenagers feel they could do without, but it's one I freely give - unlike time on video games which is only grudgingly granted.

I can take anything, anything, and turn it into an opportunity to lecture, err learn. We're driving down the road, and I point out another driver's flaws (trust me, I point out my own, theirs, and hubby's too - I may want to work on that side seat driving). A song comes on, and I can come up with a way to discuss the lyrics and what they really mean (except "Brown Sugar" by the Rolling Stones - I am NOT explaining to them that I didn't get that until I was in my 30's. I'm already in the stupid zone - they are teenagers.). And of course, you can't turn on the news or pick up a magazine or newspaper without the opportunities provided by Bieber, Cyrus, Kardashian, the Russians, politicians of any's a constant.

Methinks I may be overdoing it, but one is a sophomore, and the other one is a junior, and I feel like I'm racing an hourglass set at fast.

So here's an early commencement lecture, and maybe I'll try to relax today, and just enjoy them - which is my advice to me.

Don't stay stuck - I'm talking driving. People stack up in the left lane or in the right lane. Use a signal, move to the left to pass, and move back to the right. There are exceptions - understand them. Come to think of it - it does work on politics, too. Look at each issue individually, decide, and make the appropriate moves. Don't stay stuck, not when driving, or when thinking.

Never follow the maddening crowd. It's not necessary to have the same opinions to have a friendship, and if it is, then that's not a friendship.

Become addicted - to learning, to reading, to listening, to music. If you nurture an addiction to these, then you won't need an addiction to drink, drugs, food, smokes to handle the stress of life. Nothing handles stress better then to sit, and listen to nature, sit, and love a pet, and listen to their appreciation of you, and your time, sit, and listen to God, sit, and listen to the words written in a well-written book, sit and listen to an incredibly well-crafted piece of music. There is a peace, you can find it.

When in doubt, show kindness. Sometimes kindness is an act, and sometimes it's not acting in anger. You'll figure it out.

Never decide someone is beneath you. When you do, you've just placed yourself beneath them. The People of Wal-Mart website isn't funny. It's sad. The homeless are sad. We never know the circumstances of someone else's life. The wealthy person who has it all could have had the most horrific childhood. 

Never assume someone is better then you. You are you. Be the best you possible. Never let someone else's opinion of you determine your own opinion of you. 

Always remember - you are loved. Oh, and please use your turn-signal.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Hugging Distance

Letters from colleges are starting to arrive in droves. My daughter is a junior in high school and everyday a new reminder of how little time she has left at home arrives in the form of shiny packages in our mail box. Glossy pamphlets tout what each school has to offer and I see an excitement growing in my daughter’s eyes that I could, quite frankly, do without. It’s not that I dread an empty nest. When she packs up and takes that major step into the academic world, we will still be parents of a child under the age of ten, but I dread my girl leaving non-the-less.

I worry if she will be ready. I worry about the emotional highs and lows she will experience; I worry about boys, grades, distance and the everlasting need to hug her when I want to. Two more well designed packets came in the mail today and I trembled as I laid them on the kitchen counter for her to check out when she came home from school. I know her preference currently, and I shudder at the drive, the climate and hugging distance away. Unlike my husband, I am not a helicopter parent, but as the time nears to push my child from the nest, I catch myself holding my breath and taking in each moment. Even the eye-rolling ones.

All of this has been done before by other mothers, leaning out, letting go and hoping beyond hope they did everything they could to help prepare their child without the manual. Oh sure, there are a gazillion books out there about parenting, and while many are helpful, they are just like life, trial and error. I remember my Mama once saying that “You just do what you have to do in the moment and pray to God you did the right thing.” I know that letting go is the right thing, but no one prepared me for how hard this is going to be.

No, I will not miss hearing the morning out-of-tune serenade of “I AM up.” Nor will I miss the consistent need of a teen/woman/child to always have the last word, but I will miss moments. You know the one’s I’m talking about. The ones that take your very breath away at the amount of love and gratitude you have for being graced to have this very life put in your care. I had an unexpected hospital stay in November of 2013 that caught us all off guard. The recuperation period had both of my children showing their concern with a heck of a lot more attention to me than I was used to getting by them. My daughter walked by to clean a dish in the sink and hugged me on her way. The smell of her hair, the curve of her cheek, the very promise of all she is took me out of myself and found me marveling in the wealth that loving a child is. She looked at me funny, knowing that some moment had passed and then I told her not to worry. I told her I’d be well enough soon and back to riding her butt. She laughed long and hard, and so did I, carrying out the moment and making a memory. 

Thinking of that, I was reminded of my stay in the hospital and of the insatiable need to still have my own Mama taking care of me though she is long gone and spring has long since left my step. Once you are a parent, it never ends, and hopefully, the need for a parents love and affection is always wanted, even long after they are gone. 

From a different sort of distance, I still long for a mother’s touch, and from a geographic distance, I hope my daughter will still want mine. She will find herself in a world where she is becoming. The excitement of new ideas, her sense of self, all of this will be part of the process of leaving. It’s hard to let go, but it’s oh so exciting watching your child become who they will be. 

I had always said my three main goals as a parent were that my children could learn to be content all on their own, be self-sufficient, and not need too much therapy because of my parenting. I know now that I missed one goal. May they always know how much they are loved. A little hug now and then wouldn’t hurt either.