Monday, November 11, 2013
Morning Coffee - Savoring November
Hello hello...No I didn't mean to skip our visit last week. Come on in and I'll share all about it. There are Magic Cookie Bars to go with our coffee. I used to reserve these for just holidays but I noted I had an awful lot of chips in the cabinet: chocolate, caramel nibs, peanut butter. This recipe is adaptable for any flavor of chip you might want to use up. I really like the caramel flavor of the condensed milk in the cookie with my coffee.
Every now and then I don't want milk in my coffee. I'll open a can of evaporated milk or sweetened condensed milk and have that in my coffee instead. I can't seem to find a half and half product very often any longer that doesn't have Carrageenan in it. That is a seaweed extract and I am apparently allergic to it. It's a sneaky thing, in that I can have a cup of coffee one day with half and half and it's fine but after two or three days I develop the most irritating hoarseness and short cough. Ditto for ice cream, too, by the way. Even organic brands often have this ingredient. I do buy Publix brand half and half when I'm in the store, but haven't been in quite a while. Now I'm not in the habit of scaring anyone about ingredients in food. I'm not a health nut per se, but when something upsets my system I want to know why. If you click on the word you can see what Dr. Weil has to say about this particular ingredient.
All that aside, I did say I'd tell you why I didn't visit last week. I've mentioned before that I have these little crying spells. I'm as puzzled as can be about them but have given up thinking anything other than change of life is wrong with me. It seems I remember Granny have what she used to call 'nerves' and Mama certainly had her spells of something or other. These appear to be mine. I've been deeply depressed in the past and I assure you I am not depressed now, nor even a little blue. I seem to just run down sort of, not in a physical sort of way, but in a "Gee I can't handle another single worry or upset," sort of way.
It isn't that we'd had such a horrible week last week but it did seem that every time the news came on I found myself tensing. I am trying hard to make heads and tails of this whole insurance situation that is going on and for good reason. I haven't had medical coverage in 17 years. It isn't lack of wanting it but simply that we haven't been able to afford coverage through John's employer for me. They want a full pay check to cover me. I snort but it isn't exactly hilarious to me that it costs so much! I've been fairly healthy all these years and can count on two hands with fingers left over the number of times I've had to go to the doctor in those 17 years.
My brother is self-employed with erratic income and so he went to the National Healthcare website to see what coverage might cost. Ya'll...I have no words for the amount of money required for each month's coverage. With a deductible 10Xs the high rate of monthly premiums. I felt sick when I heard what the 'low-cost' coverage was going to cost. It makes me so upset to the point I have to remind myself to breathe. It is right in the neighborhood of what John's employer's insurance was going to cost, remember that one that took a whole paycheck? The one we already can't afford? And hence part of my great and deep upset and dread this past week.
I'm going to be really honest here. We bought our house when interest rates were high, and we bought less house than we were told we could 'afford' because we couldn't see how on earth we'd make a payment three times the size of the one we made! The financial world's (and apparently the government view, as well) of what we can afford is crazy skewed. Anyway, we paid off our home about 7 years ago and we were socking the house payment into savings each month. True it was not a huge savings but it was savings, something we'd not had. Over the last six years we've had one small raise. We got that last year about this time and we enjoyed it for two months. Then the tax laws that were in effect reverted to their former status and we lost that little bit of 'extra'. We lost Homestead Exemption in our state, as well. Another big chunk of money had to be adjusted for. In the meantime there were five long years with 40-50% increases in prices (remember food and clothing and gasoline and such are not included in 'cost of living' figures) on a paycheck that went nowhere.
We dug our heels in and played stubborn and cut back and tweaked and reduced and finally we resorted to decreasing our savings by half, because we did believe that things would get better eventually. You know, like inflation would slow way down, or we'd get a raise or something. Well it hasn't happened. And over the past year as costs increased all over the board, we've reduced savings a little more. We're nearing retirement age and our savings for retirement is just about the size of our emergency funds. To be hit with this whole insurance thing, which we HAVE to buy into because if we don't they will FINE us is frightening to me. I've done my level best to be healthy all these years because I worked in the medical field and I know how much it costs to be sick or injured. And in doctors' defense, most doctors are not raking in bookoodles of money.
What doctors are TOLD to charge and what they are actually PAID is as different as day and night. You keep hearing how insurance companies have run costs sky high, let me tell you who sets the fees...THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. The government sets the fees that are charged. A doctor is not allowed to charge more nor less than what the government tells him he can charge. Now the fee is set at say $120 for an office visit but in actuality after this is billed, the doctor may get paid $38. He's paid an employee to code the office visit because only a trained person can code medical procedures (which are already determined by our government) and another to bill medicare or insurance company for it and of course, he has to pay the electric bill, or equipment fees or the cost of supplies or other employees who clean, act as reception, nurses, assistants, etc. That a doctor manages to earn a living, especially the small town doctors, is amazing to me.
The difference between a hospital and a doctor? There are no regulations about what ancillary items are billed for. Ever wonder why a single Tylenol is billed out at $10 a tablet? Ever looked over an itemized bill and wondered why that little plastic basin, toothbrush, tiny bar of soap and bottle of hand lotion (which you THOUGHT was free) costs so much? Or a potty chair? Ancillary services are billed at a 200-300% markup. Procedures (the actual cost of surgery etc) may seem high but those fees are regulated so only a portion of that fee is ever paid just in a doctor's office.
Now it has been 17 years since I was in the medical billing field, so I know that my costs examples here might well be low or laughable compared to what they are at present, but I know what I am speaking about so far as who regulates and who isn't getting wealthy off insurance billings!
Well, that's no doubt far more than you ever thought you wanted to know about such things. My original point was that if I could afford insurance I would have bought insurance long before now. I'm not real sure how telling me I must buy it will make me better able to afford it. I told John I suppose we will have to give up satellite TV and cell phone service, not necessities but doggone they are nice to have!, but that is only going to account for a portion of the fees we're told to expect to pay. A portion. And in honesty there's little else we can do without. I can trim groceries harder and more deeply despite cutting them by over 50% in the past year or so. We could stop saving for any retirement whatsoever, but I can't for the life of me figure how we'll manage later if we do. We weren't planning a million dollar retirement. We just want to live in our home as long as we can and keep it in good repair; buy a used car as we need it, or new shoes, you know. So yes, I have been mighty anxious this past week and it's played heck on my nerves and my mood and my peace. I keep reminding myself that God has it all under control and I've no doubt He does. I just keep picking up this worry again and again (insert serenity prayer here repeated 300 times).
Then there were other things to deal with and I felt drained, empty, dry. I was just so unable to meet all the demands for attention and fulfill all the needs placed before me and be cheerful and willing to do my usual amount of work and such. Friday I felt as though someone had spent the week sucking every last drop of me OUT and nothing had been done about filling me up again. It was all about me in my mind, what I lacked, what I feared, what I didn't have, what I might have to go without. That was what drained me. Not the needs of others but my focus on self. Yes, some of it is season of life. I can't deny that this stage of life has it's own challenges but I must tell you that this unrelenting focus on ME ME ME is no good for anyone. I showed the effects of it.
I can't imagine how much worse it would have been had I foregone Bible study each morning or attempted a day without prayer. At one point, I sat down and just wept and said to God, "I just don't have anything else in me to give. I can't do this! Help!" Others had plenty of their own things to deal with and didn't need me collapsing in their path. So that's why I didn't post last week. Mental health crisis, season of life, LIFE, you name it, call it what you want. It was all I could do to tend to home and hearth.
That is not to say the whole week went by in a blind panic. John and I went out last Tuesday to do some thrifting and run errands. I found some nice enough things. I was shopping at two new to me Goodwill locations and some of the prices were really high but some were about yard sale sort, so I did okay. That was nice. Temperatures had cooled, so we drove home with the windows down, although I had to wear John's jacket because the air was really cool, but so refreshing! Oh I loved it.
I worked my new routine pretty well last week. I had to do some shifting about because Friday there was a yard sale at the local Women's Club and then I was supposed to go by and see Mama after. However, it all worked smoothly enough that I am convinced this was inspired by God because I've struggled for a year and half now with this whole schedule thing since John switched to night shift. I love that man dearly. It's no joke however, that this is a good preparation time for those retirement days because it's a whole different thing to have him around all day long every single day and to have him gone off to work for 12 hours during daylight hours when I could order my days as I pleased and could do hard work and projects as I pleased.
The new schedule is very helpful and as inspired as can be, as I said. I am streamlining tasks now so that it doesn't take a whole day to clean the kitchen well nor a whole day to do meal prep for the week. I need to tweak things just a bit. I think it would work best if my day to sort out the booth was on one of John's work days and not on his off week when we are usually busier with other things. Overall I am happy and find the schedule just bendable enough to work for me no matter what comes up.
Friday morning I got up early with the intent of going to the Women's Club sale. Obviously my main reason was to buy a tiny bit more new stock for the booth. I found a few items but my prize purchase was for me. It's a handmade table. I believe it was made as a telephone cabinet but I plan to use it as a side table in the guest room. I knew the moment I saw it that it was meant to be mine and in my cottage guest room, which is a work in beginning stages.
It was nice to be in town. I saw a few folks I know and enjoyed catching up with them all. It's nice to have someone ask after your family members by name and to show you photos of their new grandbaby or share news about their lives. I don't get out into my own community nearly enough now that Katie is away from home. I really should look into joining the genealogical society or the Quilter's group or something. I used to be involved in my community in a big way before we moved here. I was part of the volunteer parents group at the children's schools, was co-leader of the Brownie/Girl Scout troop and in Jaycees for a number of years. Mind you I don't mind being 'at home' for the most part. I just realize at times like Friday morning's yard sale that I could get out and about just a tiny bit more.
After I got through at the yard sale, I went by Mama's, as I'd promised to do. She said she'd found a box of photos and had no clue who any were but one had a name written on the back and she guessed it was her grandmother's grandfather! Well I was intrigued so went over and she had two shoe boxes filled with photos dating back to mid-1800s through 1960's. Some had faint pencil writing on the back, but we couldn't read them. Mama let me bring them home with me to decipher and determine who is who. After dinner Friday, while John slept, I sat at my desk in the kitchen and used the Estate Sale magnifying glass to read the backs of several photos by the light of the windows. Yes, Mama was right. There was a photo of her great great great grandfather and another of his wife and another set of her great great grandparents.
I spent Saturday re-writing a bunch of scribbled notes I'd made while reading genealogy websites, census records, and old newspaper items. I was able to get an idea of how some of the unknown names fit with family records. I'll be making copies of some of these photos now that I know how they are related to us. I thoroughly enjoyed myself. That and a couple of good night's sleep did a great deal to restore me.
Thursday night, I sprayed the shower with that vinegar and dish detergent cleaner that works wonders on soap scum. I got up early Friday and cleaned the shower, then I took a shower. I reached up to put shampoo in my hair and my back spasmed and I was caught, arm partially raised, bent nearly double due to pain and unable to move. Fortunately the water was hot and relaxed the muscle enough that I could lower my arm, but I've been moving very gingerly ever since. I had muscle rub on hand and I've resorted to taking Aleve, which I generally avoid as I dislike some of the side effects that product has on me but gosh were those pills ever necessary. Tylenol didn't begin to touch the pain. Both my mom and dad and my brother have/had back troubles but I've seldom had more than a twinge now and then. This back spasm just caught me right out of the blue and I was sore, sore, sore afterwards. Aging is an adventure.
I happened to watch Joni Erickson Tada the other night. She mentioned that turning 50 and hitting menopause had been like a journey to Mars...Oh honey! I recall telling John when I began this at 42 that it was like waking up and finding yourself in a foreign country you've never even heard of, lol. I so understood what Joni meant as she spoke. She talked of the pain she's felt in her body, joints, muscles, since she began menopause and I can identify with that, too. There are days that go by and I don't hurt at all. And then there are days...which seem to drag on and on... when my elbow will hurt, or a knee, or a shoulder or a hip. It's crazy, really it is. And hence, my back pain. I didn't move in any unusual way, didn't strain or pull anything heavy or try to lift something. I moved my arm! lol
Samuel contacted me Friday evening and said he and Bess were thinking of coming down Sunday. I told him to come on ahead, we were more than ready to see them. While I rested quietly Saturday, reading blogs and making readable entries in my genealogy notebook, I was busy planning meals out in my head, trying to determine what would be easy but tasty, special but economical. I finally decided on Spaghetti and meatballs. Well I had no spaghetti! I used bow-tie pastas instead which worked just fine but it certainly pointed up my need to do a full inventory of our foodstuffs once more. I haven't done one since June and somewhere or other I managed to lose my lists so I don't even know what we have, obviously, or I wouldn't have planned a spaghetti dinner when I had no spaghetti.
We enjoyed our visit. I got up early and started the sauce cooking so it could slow simmer and thicken all morning long. The salad was made and in the fridge, the spread for the garlic bread ready and I found myself with a clean kitchen and dogs fed, make up on, and Bible study done by 10a...My how slowly time does pass when you're waiting on anticipated guests! I had time to read the paper and emails, too before they arrived. It was a lovely visit and nice day all around.
Instead of doing the Thanks-vember thing on Facebook, I decided to do something I used to enjoy from Woman's Day magazines by writer Kate Swarthout called Life Savors, which reads like mini gratitude lists. It's been good for me to try and sit down to do that post each afternoon, even on crummy mental days like I had last week. There are so many things that I 'savor' in a day's time, that move me with beauty or flavor or feeling or thought. It does help to alter any skewed perception I might have to be grateful for the little things, the things I might otherwise take for granted. I'll share my list for Sunday: