Thursday, August 31, 2017

Should I have a surgeon general's warning on my forehead?


Why, oh why do I let this stuff upset me?  Because I have already suffered my maximum capacity of incompetent clerks, phone operators, and strangers that pass in the night...  or day?  Because working in customer service type environments for so many years has lowered my tolerance level for inappropriateness, untruths, and laziness to just about ZERO?  

This is sounding like one of the soap box speeches already....

I want to know why society makes us believe that one of these is apparently ok to say* and one is considered rude and offensive, even if both are true from the standpoint of the speaker:
"Hello, beautiful!
"Ummm, you are kinda ugly."

Weeks ago, I binged a series on Netflix titled "the sixties".  I remember bits and pieces of a lot of its subject matter as it was happening but admittedly did not really understand any of it...  and I  apparently did not pick up the highlights of the sixties in school or during my years SINCE the sixties. 

I decided to further my Readers Digest version of "highlights of semi-recent history" by watching "the seventies" and "the eighties". Very enlightening.  Apparently, I was too busy at the time to understand the impact of what was going on around me and remained pretty much completely resistance to absorbing the impact what happened in those years when it was offered as a review of history.

The efforts, as referenced in the series, made to promote acceptance of congenital traits gave me pause.  I knew about them, yet I didn't.  When they were happening, I really didn't understand why they were needed and what they meant.  It seemed they made so much headway... until the next episode.

Yes, I was pretty protected from world events during my younger years and the disinterest of my parents in the issues of the day assured me that I need not be aware or concerned about what was happening on the other side of our front door.

So my life goes on while I digest and consider what I saw in the series....  I usually need time to consider and reflect before I really decide how I feel about things.  But even during my contemplation, it seems we are still fighting the same fights..  over and over...  never ending....

I play online games...   how else do I get my Scrabble fix?  Somehow, my game profile contains an old photo that I had posted somewhere and through internet magic, here it is.  I don't remember posting it anyplace that was game related but who knows...  maybe I did.  And as I think we all do, I had chosen the photo because I thought it reflected a somewhat complimentary version of me.  Who would post a photo of themselves after cleaning out a septic tank?

So it came...    a new game and a new chat comment from someone I did not know and had never played before..  I expected "Hi, thanks for playing", "nice play", or "no vowels here" or something game related...  No, I got "hello, beautiful".
  
I immediately thought "what the heck!"

It was probably innocent, right?  He is probably laughing at his joke....  or maybe be meant it.  Either way, why would he think that comment would be important to me?

"Hello, beautiful!"  My gut reaction was to respond with "Excuse me but you are ugly."  But I didn't.  Oh, how I wanted to... but I didn't.  Sarcasm could be considered a congenital trait, right?

True, the accompanying tone and facial that would be presented with these comments are vastly different, if one were able to actually see the speaker.  The "hello, beautiful" comment might be coming from a drooling, anxious man with a horrid combover who is looking to score...  umm, something...  a phone number?  some time ? conversation? a notch on his bedpost?   Guess what!  Hello would have worked WAY better.   I might have even answered!

The facial expressions with the "excuse me but you are ugly" comment would probably arrive with a bit of distance between you and a slight look of shock or distaste from someone who has not ever heard this comment directed to them, because if it did, they wouldn't be saying it to anyone else.  From this one, one walks away hurt and one walks away somehow proud of themselves.  Bad... nothing but bad.  But we all know there is no winner in this one.  One is a loser because he is a jerk and the other is a loser only if he thinks he is... only if he let someone influence his view of himself.

Either way, everyone is judging, or being judged.  What if one does not wish to be judged by their looks?   

True, I chose that particular photo.  Is it considered vanity if I don't choose an uncomplimentary photo to present to the world?   Did I set myself up to be judged?    Did I invite this judgement?    Am I letting his words alter my view of me or my world.

Consider the joke about men driving certain types of cars when they move into a certain age bracket.  The implication I get from the joke is that the car makes the man be, or feel, something that his is, at that point in his life, not or is no longer feeling.   The joke has, over the millions of times it has been uttered, become a judgment about any man that buys a certain type of car.  Unfortunately, not all cars are purchased for this reason.  Fortunately, some men that drive these cars are actually nice guys...  Thus, some are judged correctly and some incorrectly.  Bottom line, everyone is judging and being judged.

Is is humanly possible to avoid judging?  Obviously, being judged falls under the "its someone else's problem".  Should we allow those judging us to alter the view we have of ourselves?  what if they are correct?  I guess I must decide if I like myself, my attitudes, my life, and what I am doing with it.  If I listen to him, consider his words, and decide he is right based on actual facts, then I think its my responsibility to decide if that's who or what I want to be.  If I listen and decide he is wrong based on the reality of my life, I should maintain my course.  What I shouldn't do is let him tell me who he THINKS I am and then start being what he said.   

True, I listen when someone gives me a compliment I like. I am human that way.   But my fear has always been that if someone were attracted to, say, my fancy car....   and for whatever reason, I lost what they were attracted to:  the car, they way I can pull a cork out of a bottle... would they no longer be interested?  Would the thrill be gone, so to speak?

I pretty much regret that I am this cynical.  I would love to say that its not my fault.  I know for sure that I was not born this way.  If fact, that's one of the few things I know for sure:  Cynicism is NOT congenital.  It is result of experience.  And not just one experience.   Not even two experiences....

So here we are.  I now find myself somehow pitying those that are no longer in their twenties with their butts glued to a bar stool and a cigarette hanging out of their mouth, still using the "hello beautiful" line.  Is that they best they can do?  It feels so...  I don't know..  maybe desperate.  So after about five seconds of contemplating his opening line, I already feel sympathy for him.  

Thus, I judge him.  Because I feel he judged me,  I am suddenly the judger.   How did that little role reversal happen?  and so fast....  Maybe he was nervous.... instead of saying what he wanted to, "hello beautiful" just popped out....  or maybe the dog ate his dating notes.  Regardless, is it that hard to just say "HI"?  And I suppose, if you are that nervous, the conversation was probably not going to go all that well anyway.  Sorry.  Sorry I judged but see above reference to CYNICISM.   I continue to try to be uncynical....  is there a 12 step program for that?

In my humble opinion, compliments from strangers hold more weight if you offer one based on something over which I actually have some control.... like accomplishments, abilities. or strengths , or even the shoes I chose to wear.  The other option is to find someone else to try the "hello beautiful" on...  not me.

We all know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder....    But strangers shouldn't "be holding" me.

WOW, I am sounding old.   Or maybe I am sounding wise.  Probably intolerant.  A lot impatient.  Or maybe its just plain old fashioned cynicism.  

For those that are still paying attention: for future reference, opening a conversation with me by making a comment on my congenital traits, like "you are tall... did you play basketball", will be met with definite internal, and possibly external, eye rolling depending on my mood.  It MAY also get you a response such as "you are short... miniature golf?"  And if you keep going, I might suggest that you buy a sleek, fast, new car.  If you persist, I will ask you to do me a favor...  most likely, I hadn't tested my pepper spray for a while...  if you could be a dear and just step away from those other people, we will both see if its still active.

If you, as a stranger, want an adult conversation, make it a conversation. "Hello beautiful" will most likely get you a lot LESS than what you want.

If you are a friend, and you know who you are, go ahead and tell me I am grumpy and no one else in the world would complain about getting a compliment...  go ahead and say I am cynical I will tell you I don't care and we will have a glass of wine and laugh about all those life experiences that made us what we are.   I already know how you feel...  And you know how I feel...  no explanations are necessary. 

And as my friend, you can call me and open with "hello, beautiful".  I will laugh and say you forgot to include "young" and "smart".   Maybe compliments are not so bad...  most likely, its my attitude.

A photo from cousin's wedding....  I love this photo for every reason and no particular reason.
It only take a pinch of good to make a bunch better.
I am still fighting the fight.
So back to the series, "the sixties". 
And "the seventies". 
And "the eighties. 
And now today.....
Intolerance.  
Nothing much has changed, has it?  

* To clarify, I am talking about situations that occur outside work environment.

Hesitantly Nervously Exceedingly Excited

Well, I did it....

Actually, I did it a couple months ago...

I have threatened to do something like this for a long time and always managed to come to my sense in just the nick of time.

This time, I was under the spell of a bottle of wine and Elaine's snake eyes.  I think I was hypnotized and by the time I came to, the shackles were already around my ankle and I was trapped. 

To be fair, I had been warned to never look Elaine directly in the eye... rumor has it that if you look into her eyes, she can talk you into ANYTHING!!   My only defense, as I remember it, was that it was very good wine !

Ok, that's not exactly how it happened... no...  that is EXACTLY how it happened!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Exemplary vs Complacent

We all hate dealing with the health care system.  I mean truly HATE...  but its a necessary evil.  We need them.  And sometimes, we need them desperately.   We moan about costs and rules and regulations but when faced with something serious, we certainly change our tune.   

I had an accident in March.  The accident, a fall from a fairly substantial height, could truly have been life threatening, actually it could have been life ending, but I was blessed to walk (sort of) away with ONLY broken ribs, bruises, and minor lacerations.

The myriad of complicated tests completed by the hospital confirmed that internal organs, including circulatory system, heart, lungs, spleen, liver, kidneys, etc, were not ruptured or damaged and that there was no obvious cranial or spine damage.   I am appreciative of the level of care I was given that night.  And because by the time I arrived at the hospital, the pain was so intense that I could not catch my breath, I was extremely grateful for the pain meds that I was given to allow me to rest.  I am thankful for their compassion and concern and patience with my panic.  I really am.

With no reason to hospitalize me and my pain under control, I was sent home and told to rest... no core activity for weeks.   I was told recovery would be gradual, should be complete, and could take 6-8 weeks but because of my existing health issues, they were unsure if that timeline would hold true for me...  maybe a little longer, maybe not.

Fortunately, the bulk of the healing process was slightly shorter than the hospital's billing cycle.  (do you think they do that on purpose?)

The hospital bill totaled almost $25,000.   I was shocked!   SERIOUSLY!!!  For four-ish hours in the emergency room with what turned out to be no serious injuries?  But they could have been.  They could have been serious...  even deadly.

Once I AGAIN reflected on how lucky I was, I admitted my appreciation that the tests could be done and could verify that no serious damage was done...  Again, I was truly thankful for the service and compassion they provided.

I sighed, pored over the billings (there were several), determined the amounts I was responsible to pay after insurance paid their part and the appropriate adjustments were made, and paid my part.

Thankfulness kicked in again.  I considered the total cost of the accident, the portion that my insurance took care of, and the tiny part (comparatively speaking) I had to pay.

I learned three things from this experience...  check the ladder BEFORE using it, quit complaining about insurance rates, and that I actually DO know the difference between broken ribs and pulled ribs (which I experience on a far too frequent basis) without an x-ray.

Fast forward...  I receive a bill from the hospital saying I still owed another $850. 

Puzzled, I called the hospital billing department to inquire about this outstanding amount.   Of course, they pointed the finger at the ins company.   I called the ins company and gave them the reason provided by the hospital.  They were confident, unperturbed, and pointed back at the hospital. 

The ins company's service was exemplary, explaining they would sent a note confirming my co-pay was the ONLY thing I should have to pay.  I responsibly noted names, dates, times, and explanations of both the hospital and the ins company, satisfied that this should be resolved.

Fast forward... I receive a bill from the hospital saying I still owed the outstanding $850 WITH the accompanying threat of collection agency involvement.  Collection agency?

Another call to hospital with same explanation given before.  I explained what the ins company said, reading from my notes.  The hospital's response was No, No, NO.... YOU OWE US.   I asked if they could conference the ins company to discuss.  NO.   I asked for a supervisor.  While I waited, I grabbed hubby's cell phone and got the ins company on his phone....

With a cell phone on each ear, I waited for the supervisor at the hospital and brought the ins company, aka Audry, up to speed.  Ins company Audry was as disheartened as I - we see this all the time, she soothed.  Ok, she said, you are ok.... we will get this figured out, she assured me.   Audry was confident and I could feel her strength through the phone.

Hospital supervisor, aka Heather, came on and said she read the notes and then repeated the explanation I had heard over and over.  Ins company Angel Audry (upgraded title) assured hospital Heather that this was, in fact, not the case and went through a list of mathematical notes on the account  and concluded with the amount the patient should pay...  NOT an additional $850. 

Hospital lackey Heather  (downgraded from just hospital Heather) explained that she would need a "letter" confirming the patient's responsibility.  Angel Audry said one was sent....  Lackey Heather said she would look in records.....   (wait for it, waaaiiiit foooooorrrr ittttt)

I am sitting on my bed with two cell phones, one twisted so that voice of one was near speaker of the other, listening to them discuss.   Lackey Heather would not speak directly to Angel Audry, but kept saying my name in her sentences.  I asked if Heather could hear Audry and she said yes.   A privacy thing?  not sure since I was on the phone too....  maybe Heather didn't want to get her shoes dirty talking to Audry while she was sitting on her high horse. 

Lackey Heather's tone suddenly changed....  In all its glory, the "letter" was apparently there, sitting all lonely and ignored....  not acknowledged, not recognized as important, not considered in my "outstanding balance", and not even attached to my "records".  Hmph.   Come down from your horse, Lackey Heather!

Lackey Heather said, covering her A$$, that she did not process these items and that she wasn't sure what happened...  she did try to clean it up by saying that she would alert the billing processers of the existence of this letter, that she would follow up with me when it was completed, and that she would extend the billing cycle so the balance would not be sent to collections.

Trust me when I say I will follow up with Lackey Heather to make sure the balance is zero and request a letter saying that this situation should NOT be an issue with my credit bureau score.

But still, I am grateful for the hospital staff's care, compassion, and concern during my visit.

HOWEVER, the billing department and support staff could use a bit of training/refining regarding the storage of documents, their application to accounts, staff initiative to complete a bit of research into repeated concerns by patients prior to blowing them off, and their ability to apologize.  As you can tell from my thinly veiled sarcasm in the last half of my story, I am a bit bitter than this situation went as far as it did.  HOWEVER, Heather has a chance to earn an apology from me.

Back in the "day", I could almost predict a customer's level of honesty by the decibel number their voice would reach during their attempt to convince me of their version of a situation...  the louder they yelled, the less I tended to believe them.  In most situations, honest information was presented calmly and persistently and lies were presented in a bullying fashion and in excess - sometimes several times a day.   And just as often, their anger is their undoing...  they end up slipping up and telling you enough of the truth to allow their house of cards to fall because with anger comes a lack of control...  oopsy.   

Another situation I experienced regarding health care was during a recent out-patient surgery for hubby.  I was reading a book, sitting patiently waiting for the pre-op prep to be done, expecting to be called back to see him and the doctor before the surgery.  This is what ALWAYS happens and what I was told I could expect when we arrived.   Suddenly, I notice the time and ask how much longer it will be - was there a problem?   They look at their computer, blink, and say he is already in surgery.  WHAT?  I started crying, probably a result of surprise, shock, and frustration.  No pre-op talk with doctor, no seeing him before he goes in, nothing.  I flash to anger.   But... I needed to ask questions of the doctor, I say.  They ask if I want the surgery stopped so I could talk to the doctor.   SERIOUSLY?  I am overwhelmed with this information.   I wasn't called back and they are gong to stop the surgery that we had waited so long for...  no, no.   I sit down and cry, trying to sort this all out.   A manager type person comes over with hubby's nurse, who is horrified, and apologizes, offers a drink, and they respectfully leave.   About an hour later, manager-type brings me an envelope and says they are really sorry about everything that happened and there is a gift inside that hubby and I can enjoy.   The envelope contains a card signed by the manager expressing her apology, her business card, and a Starbucks gift card for $5.  They couldn't fix what had happened and I know that.  It was an emotional event that needed time to resolve itself.  However, putting the price of $5 on it was almost offensive.   I think I would have felt better about the whole thing if they would have apologized, offered a drink, and checked on me again later to see if I needed anything.  After all was said and done, I think the $5 gift card made the biggest impact on me and not in a good way.  I still snort when I think of the gift card...  Neither of us frequent Starbucks.... Can you even buy something at Starbucks for $5?

Heather, I understand...  stuff happens. We make mistakes, have personal issues, work loads, time constraints, limitations set by management, etc, but trust your gut....  sometimes, the customer/patient IS telling the truth and yes, in fact, the problem COULD be on your end... it happens.  No one, and no system, is perfect and most often, a little bit of digging can clear things up - either the truth will come out or the dishonesty will be confirmed.   Either way, you will have done your job, helped another human, and both are the right thing to do...  and most certainly, Karma will log your efforts.  A patient should not have to "tell mom" and force you to look into a repeat concern.  With only a slight amount of effort on your part, I would be singing your praises instead of offering up my thinly veiled sarcasm/frustration regarding your part in this little drama.

Heather, I will give you a couple weeks to clear this up.
United Health Care, hang on to Audry!!  
Audry, I send you additional good Karma for your strength and support!
oh, and Surgical Center, your reparation was a FAIL even though I know you meant well.

Maybe I need some quilting and quilting juice....  I can see that my tolerance level is slipping...

Thursday, June 1, 2017

It's so clear now... the meaning of giving

Note that I am posting this with only minimal proofreading.  I felt it was important to get it posted today.  I will, at some point, make some corrections....  or maybe not.  Maybe it needs to be left as-is... raw with emotion. 

Several months ago, my brother, Jay, passed away after suffering a cardiac arrest and brain death.  Once it was determined that he was no longer really with us, the organ donation process was started, per his wishes.  When all was in place, we would remove him from life support, let him go, and send our prayers with each of his donations, wanting the recipients to lead a full and rewarding life as a result of his gift.   It was an odd feeling...  we were heartbroken to lose our son, brother, father, grandfather, and uncle but satisfied that he could  still bestow these gifts upon those that needed them.

Of course, I understood the organ donation process....  someone donates their stuff and someone else gets the stuff.  Sounds simple, right?   What I didn't understand was what it takes to give gifts of this magnitude....  and what it is to receive them.

I won't lie.  The donation process was long, uncomfortable, and well, awful.   I felt I had ran through every ounce of emotional energy to get to the point of making the decision to let Jay go.  By the end of the donation process, I was not sure I could go through it again...  or if I wanted to donate my organs and put my loved ones through the process even though I was fully conscious of the fact that those that received the benefit of Jay's organs and tissues had been far more uncomfortable for far longer than I.  

The benefits of Jay's donations were realized almost immediately.  We were advised that his kidneys were successfully gifted to two gentlemen the very next day and that they were doing well.  Yes, I felt some gratification.  We were told the remaining tissue would be treated and stored until it was needed and could help many individuals, including burn victims.

But the process still sucked.   It seemed like we had been in limbo forever as we waited to make the decision to let Jay go and for the donation process.   It went through my mind that we could quit...  back out...  I wanted it over...  I knew we wouldn't...  I knew we couldn't... but it didn't stop the desperate thoughts.

It seemed that for months, my thoughts of my last moments with Jay were related to the donation process.  I was a little resentful this uncomfortable process replaced the memories I wanted to hold on to from those last hours with him.   As they say, time heals all and I learned to move those memories around and focus on the ones I wanted to remember.  The sharp edges of the donation process softened and my life moved forward.  I had no idea that this would all come back to me with such a velocity that my world would be forever changed.

My husband, a retired firefighter, has suffered with the traditional problems of long-time firemen:  bad knees, bad back, and bad shoulders.  Each year, his range of motion was decreasing and his pain was increasing. 

His right shoulder was repaired a number of years ago without incident and it was time to repair the left shoulder.  However, complications popped up. 

While three of the ligaments could be repaired, the ligament that runs along the top of the shoulder and is attached to the ball was so damaged, and had been damaged so long, that repair was impossible.  Years ago, the only option for this type of situation would be full shoulder replacement.   Shoulder replacement was complicated, possibly a short term solution, and required a long recovery period.

Fortunately, advancements in modern medicine included development of a consistently successful grafting of a two sections of tendons.  Cool!!!   Let's do it.


This morning, we prepared for surgery, arriving timely at the surgical center and feeling like we knew the routine since we had done this before.

This afternoon, my husband received a section of dermis, specifically a section of tendon, from a donor.  This donor section was grafted to the damaged end of his tendon and the surgeon was able to rebuild the attachment to the ball of the shoulder.

I hadn't even considered how a section of tendon would just magically appear at the end of the surgeon's scalpel to be grafted to my husband's tendon.  I am sure they mentioned it at some point..... didn't they?  Then I considered it.  And that's when it struck me....

An organ donor.

This evening, my husband is home, in his recliner,  looking forward to being able to use his shoulder again.

An organ donor.

Someone passed away and their family waited patiently, and probably uncomfortably, while the process was initiated and completed.... and their efforts helped my husband. 

Did that someone's family also pray that the recipient of the tissue would lead a full and rewarding life with their gift?

While I waited for the surgery to be completed, I further contemplated the lives involved in this exchange.   I could have looked at it as just a surgery.  No, I couldn't.  Perhaps prior to my brother's death I could, but things seemed different to me now.  When had they changed?  Maybe my brother's final gift to me was an awakening... an appreciation of the things I could so easily take for granted...  or not even notice.

Of course, the donor's information is private and protected but I knew they must have wanted to help others by giving what they could no longer use.  They gave to enrich the lives of others...   they gave to people they did not know.  They gave regardless of color, sexual orientation, or religion.   They gave everything they had.   They couldn't give more.    They had to be a good person...  how could they not?

I considered my husband.... a good man....  a fireman.   A man who chose a career that required him to risk himself to help others.   He helped others without knowing their name, their age, or if they likes artichokes.  He let kids wear his helmet, offered help on the side of the highway, and pulled a Great Dane and her puppies from a burning building.  He was a man who was viewed as a hero but wanted nothing more than to never, EVER hear another alarm.  He was a man who continued on, knowing his knees and back and shoulders were being destroyed.

Ok, so we have a tissue donor and a recipient.  But it seems more than that.  There is a circle here somehow...    someone helped someone who helped someone.

Perhaps I am feeling that this particular circle is more personal than it really is.  Perhaps it only matters that I am grateful for the two parts of the circle that is in my line of sight:  the fireman... and for the donor...  two people who gave so much... two people that most likely never met.... but two people who gave as much as they could.

Perhaps I would like to believe that, on some cosmic level, I can see this circle in its entirety.  A fireman helped the donor.  The donor helped a fireman.

It could have so many names:
Karma...
Paying it forward...
Kismet.... 
Fate...
Luck...

Doesn't really matter, I guess.  The important thing is that I now understand about the giving of what can not be bought... and the receiving of what can not be sold.   I want to be part of this wonderful cycle... No.  I want to be part of many of them....  now and forever.

To the family of the donor...   thank you...  and I understand.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Why do I do this to myself?

I just can't leave well enough alone....

Hubby will need to have surgery on his shoulder at some point in the future.  In the meantime, he is to wear a sling to support his arm and, mostly, to remind him to NOT use the arm for most applications.  

These slings are ugly things...  but why not?  They are supposed to be medical appliances, not fashion statements.  Ours, left from a previous should surgery, is washable, making it somewhat acceptable

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Thrilled with the contrtibutions!

I offered some of the faux doggie vests just prior to Easter, offering to mail the vests at my cost with a donation of any amount to the post-secondary education account I set up for my niece and nephews after my brother, their sole provider, passed.

I received three adorable photos of poopies sporting their vests....


How cute are they?

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The little dogs will be dressed well too !

....  the saga of the faux vests for the doggies continues.....

I had needed something to do with my hands due to the passing of my brother and the two broken ribs I suffered in a fall.   I do better staying busy but because of the ribs, I was limited in what I could do.

I stumbled upon the idea for neckerchiefs from spending time with a BFF in February.  It was something I could do that didn't take a lot of concentration and I could still be productive.  Fortunately, I had all necessary parts and pieces to make the faux vests.

As a result of my efforts, I was able to donate over 70 faux vests and neckerchiefs to the Rescues for their use at Adoption Events.   A vast majority of those vests fit large and extra large dogs.

And that was wonderful.  I was happy and satisfied....  the dogs would certainly by "stylin'"....

....but what about the little poopies???  tthe smaller dogs would be attending the Events "naked" if I didn't act quickly.... so I grabbed my scissors once again!

As I was cutting, I made a private commitment of donating the smaller sized faux vests in the name of CB and MI, who had also generously contributed to the post-secondary education fund I set up for my niece and nephews.  I felt this important as the kids had lost their sole parent when my brother passed.

I gathered my supplies and spend an afternoon cutting the vests, collars, and bowties from my pre-selected fabrics while binge watching on Netflix.  I just started cutting...  and I kept cutting.