Coffee Chat: And It Most Surely Isn't Spring!
Hello dears...Do come in and yes, we are a bit more formal this time around. I think this is such a pretty image and much happier than what many might see at the moment. The winter weather continues, even here in the deep South. We're due more rain but have had sunshine chasing clouds several days. Today we are back to dull brown and gray clouds. What do you think of the 'outside', the new fresh spring look for the blog with a bit of greenery and daffodils? I suppose some might leave their pages pretty much the same but I love changing the look up just as I do in my home. Do the same for my facebook page, too. It's like a new wreath for the doors to put up a fresh photo and alter the backgrounds a bit.
I would love to tell you that all my being quiet that week of the illness allowed me contemplation of world matters and great moments of insight resulted from all that silence, but no. I was too tired and weary of fighting off that rotten cold to do any deep thinking. I slept. A lot. And I rested and I rested and I slept. I have learned to give my body what it asks for. Years ago, I suffered from severe and repeated bouts of bronchitis and pneumonia. I truly believe that the push to keep going was what kept my body ailing. Well, that and depression which is an auto-immune suppressor...did you know that? I've many and many blessings to be grateful for, not the least of which is the freedom from depression.
Miserable though I might have been physically, great joy was mine one morning when John came in with the mail. I found two letters from North Dakota. Both my grand-daughters had written! I'd little idea in writing Jo that I'd have her little sister jealous. So the younger wrote me quite a mature thank you note for something her Grampa sent and let me know she'd like to write and be written to. I'll look for some suitable cards and envelopes for her stationery and send them to her. I laughed and cried reading dear Jo's notes. I didn't feel I could write her back right away. I'd have left too many tear drops on the pages, and certainly didn't want to chance putting any germs on paper either, but I shall most certainly enjoy corresponding with this lovely girl of mine. She attended her first dance this past week. Her dad posted this picture of her:
And just for contrast here she is with her little sister the very last day we saw her:
So the week was a struggle and a joy... joy because there were good things. I ceased being a criminal of the U.S. I joined the ranks of the insured who can't afford to be insured before the deadline was up. We read articles and looked at plans until our heads ached with more than colds and compared this and that and noted who offered subsidies and who didn't. I admit we struggled with internet programs that didn't work and one hateful site which said it would compare plans for us, took my phone number and offered up nothing but multiple rapid fire phone calls from computerized call centers. Finally we settled on one company that had a decent enough website and a plan we felt we could manage payments on and I broke down and called them.
The application was painless and the person who helped truly was nice as could be. I admit feeling a bit put out when I was told that I didn't have to be an American citizen or legal alien or pay taxes or have a social security number in order to qualify for health care, but then had to verify that I was a citizen and did have to give a social and permission for the insurance company to requisition my IRS and financial records and so much more. I asked if I had the right to withhold permission and was told that I could indeed...but I couldn't apply for coverage. Something in that equation is all wrong, don't you agree?
The amount before subsidy made me gasp hard enough to bring on a coughing fit. The amount after the subsidy is manageable compared to the first. I'm not really sure where we'll find that money in our budget. We will figure out as we go along how we'll pay this because we have to. Necessity is the mistress of all sorts of things isn't she?
When the call was nearing an end, I was told that if we earned more than we'd figured I would have to pay back the government the difference. It was suggested but not said out right that earning MORE is frowned upon. I asked if reporting it as soon as it was known we were might be surpassing that range would help. It would mean refiguring what we were paying and again was suggested that the option of not earning more was for the best. At end of call I was told that the paperwork would go right away. It is now more than a week.
I received a phone call from the company last week. I was offered the option of 'completing' enrollment online but the page that came up was NOT the page for new enrollees but for those applying for COBRA which is another kettle of fish entirely and when I called the office I was told they were sorry. They offered to "let" me make a payment over the phone, but I needed my identification number. I explained I didn't have one. I was told I could just wait for the paperwork which had been delayed in going out but they would be happy to take my payment right away and apply to my account when I had the id number. Uhm...No. This past weekend I received a letter welcoming me as their customer and it told me that I could expect my paper work for payment soon...I still have no idea who is in the accepted network of medical professionals to visit or what I need to do to finish things off. My confidence in this system is being put on hold at present. Nevertheless it is a blessing to have been enrolled if not actually covered just yet because the policy doesn't go into effect until I make a payment.
Another blessing is that I have daffodils blooming here and there around the back yard. I planted bunches of bulbs in two big pots that I shall empty after they are done blooming and plant in other areas of the yard. I have a set of wooden steps up against the pecan tree and I put the pots there where they are visible from my seat in the living room. I planted about half the bulbs in various places about the yard. I do have a tendency to focus hard on the backyard rather than the front. When we moved here I had planted the front yard in several areas but after living here for a number of years I realized that we most often looked out over the back yard and I relinquished those front flower beds. I smile every time I look out the back window right now. These are the big King Alfred daffodils with trumpet shaped cups deep enough to drink rainwater from. I think the dogs have laid upon the tiny old fashioned jonquils too much to allow them to bloom. And the one muscari I've found blooming is barely an inch high.
John is not your typical man when it comes to illness. He's worse than those guys who feel perfectly horrid and whine. This man of mine is a positive thinker, a believer that healing is just around the corner of his next breath and he acts accordingly. When he is sick, he doesn't slow down or stop or acknowledge the illness unless it gives him a really hard knock and literally puts him OUT, which has happened exactly four times in 23 years. He is cheerful to the point that it becomes disgusting, especially if I also happen to be sick. He will tell me ninety five times an hour how much better he feels and how he's believing I'll be feeling just as good myself in a few more minutes. I love him to pieces but honey, I'd kinda like to be the one that comes up and knocks him out myself after about two days of it. I always feel, though he never ever says it, that I'm disappointing him horribly in not getting well right away, indeed that I have some how let him down just getting sick in the first place, and I do struggle to keep on with the daily stuff for a bit. But after a while I have to admit that I feel lousy, I haven't stopped feeling lousy, and while I covet wellness I must just give in and rest and medicate and give myself the time it takes for me to heal.
Of course, he did buy me chocolates once the heart shaped boxes are 50% off. Two. This is the only time of year I get these sort of chocolates and he knows I enjoy savoring my bon bons as he calls them. It's a nod more to the fact that I work hard here at home than to Valentine's Day.
We broke down and went to the grocery after payday this past week. I don't think I have ever spent as much at Aldi at one time as I spent that day. The buggy was loaded into a rounded mound of foods in the basket and we packed stuff under the basket as well. I was not shocked at the total. I was grateful. I mean that truly. I was grateful that we could buy them in the first place and grateful that Aldi gives me so much food for the money. Had I shopped elsewhere, spent the same amount, the buggy wouldn't have been full and I'd have been lucky to have two big bags full rather than the five we took out of Aldi. That's five double sized grocery bags, by the way. It was such a joy to have fresh fruit in the house once more and oh the menu possibilities when you have an onion in the house (or two full bags of onions)!
And to prove me right, we went to Kroger later in the week because I needed dog food. I had a shorter list than the one I took to Aldi and the total was HALF exactly what I paid for the huge amount of groceries. I'm not complaining. I couldn't buy the items I bought at Aldi because they don't have them (or we don't care for the substitutes they do have), but it was three small grocery bags and two bags of dog/cat food that we walked out of the store with. We carried the items from the carport to the house in our hands, rather than backing up to the porch and unloading as we do an Aldi haul.
When I went into Aldi last week, I had to rush to the ladies room. Usually it's not a busy spot. Just as I reached out to open the stall door, a voice said, "Gee there's only one stall..." I nearly jumped out of my skin because I hadn't realized I wasn't alone.
When I was a girl, it was seldom I went to the restroom alone. There were always a bevy of girls with me, either cousins or friends. Somewhere along about the time I had children, alone time in the bathroom became a rather coveted thing. I have always appreciated since then the ability to go into the restroom alone. I realize that in a public restroom this is not always possible but I had not counted on a running conversation while I was utilizing the facility. I told John that from the utterance of her first words when we walked in, until I walked out, that woman talked, asked questions (that weren't too personal) which, if unanswered, made me seem horribly rude and made comments. I was a bit put out. I'm not the person who wants to discuss things while I am in the restroom. I didn't hang around to talk while she went about her business. I figured it was a good time to get out of there. And honestly? It made me think back to last Spring in that stacked up little thrift store when the owner was speaking to me from the back office while I shopped and then I realized she was not in an office but in the bathroom with an open door the whole while...
I've got something on my mind at the moment and you might think it the most petty thing you've ever heard but here it is all the same. I am in possession of a couple of items that are just ugly or unpleasant to wear and I am fighting my frugal side hard over them. It happens at the moment both are wearable items with lots of life in them but one item is so ugly that I avert my eyes each time I see it and the other is scratchy and itchy and unpleasant. I've had this problem before , not with clothing but with, of all things, a colander that Granny gave me. It was convenient and handy. It was also school bus yellow and jarred my soul every time I looked at it or used it. I kept it twenty years before I finally gave myself permission to donate it because by that time I had five colanders of various sorts and sizes which I'd bought for the sole purpose of replacing the ugly one, yet I kept it because Granny gave it to me.
I don't want to waste twenty years loathing these two items. But...my natural instinct is to be reasonable. They are warm, they fulfill a purpose that other items don't, they are practically new! Yet I tell you honestly that just a moment ago given the need of warmth, I chose an old ratty looking but comfortable piece of clothing rather than put the itchy one about me. And if, later, I walk into my room and open the drawer, I will choose an inadequate substitute for the warmer but so very horridly ugly one that makes me cringe. Now sharing this makes me see that in reality I need to just donate both pieces and be done with them. Somewhere someone will be delighted to have them while they are more or less in style and more than serviceable pieces. But oh the struggle I've had over those things!
Have you ever noticed that when you adjust your budget on the positive side that immediately negatives adjustments are necessary? Late last month we removed the truck from our insurance and cancelled the tag. The plan is to sell the truck and that's definitely going to happen. We adjusted our budget to the positive. Insurance and the tax amounts both fell and opened up an additional sum for wiggle room in our budget. It felt really good to see that happen. Ha. Over the past two weeks I've had to adjust amounts on bills that increased, add in health insurance payments and pay two unexpected fees. That wiggle room? Gone. What I'm left with? The need to tighten our belts even harder than before we generated that 'savings'. Isn't that just the way it seems to go? Well no complaining will do good so I'll just keep looking to see where I might take a few dollars from this or that and call it well done, right?
I've said that I'd not complain about winter and truly little do I have to complain about. But I have noticed a certain point each day is just difficult for me and that is the moments leading up to and right after sunset. I do love sunset and especially if it's a gorgeous one, but it does seem that in that hour surrounding sunset the drafts come in thick and hard, the air is chillier than at any other point of the day and I feel a real dip in my mood. I've not noticed this before this year, so it may be truth or it may be one of those age related things that appear to be real.
I've always thought the saddest time of day for anyone recently bereaved must be that sunset hour. Mornings, at least for me, are generally cheerful affairs and especially if the sun is shining, they are easy to swallow. But evening has a certain emotionality that is all it's own. End of the day, in the moments before darkness, a general sense of loneliness must be faced. I've associated sunset with homecoming and when there is no one to come home any longer it does seem to me that moment of expectation is still built into your day and the let down felt doubly because it is unfulfilled.
I generally try to take note of what is going on in the natural world around me. Right now I am seeing lots of geese headed northward. Long deep vees of them fly over daily in a steady migration. I'm not just sure where they are going since everyone I know is deep in snow! I wondered if perhaps there is some secret lovely sheltered spot where all good geese go and wait out storms? Or are they impervious to cold and snow and ice and just fly northward because it is time to go, the migratory gene a fire that burns in whatever soul they have and the command followed?
There are not many blooms in our area at present, aside from daffodils. Not even forsythia has dangled a single golden bell from it's branches yet. Nor is it all that fatly budded either. No peach blooms either thank goodness, which leaves me hopeful that the cold is still beneficial and not damaging. I do look forward to spring and spring-ish things, but I am truly trying to embrace winter and all it means. I remind myself that in many ways, winter is a Shabat of the earth, a time to rest and gather strength and heal and get all the grand benefits that rest has in it. It's a lovely way to look at it, I think, far less harsh than thinking the earth is being vengeful or mean. I trust in God's ability to know how deep and long the rest should be and to awaken the earth at the right time, regardless of my own thinking and considerably lesser knowledge.
On the way into town the other day I noted a rather shaggy short dog on the bank next to the road digging away at something. He turned his white marked head my way and I realized I'd just seen a full grown skunk. We refer to that particular bit of highway as skunk alley because all too often that is where skunks are hit on the road, more than at any other point. I was pretty amazed I got to see one but from what I read it is mating season. I do not think they are anywhere near Pepe Le Pew in cuteness and they are one of the more prolific carriers of rabies here in the South. Now I shall make a silly confession. I kind of almost like the way a skunk smells, from a distance at least. It's a very common aroma in our area and familiar and part of the overall sensory experience of living in the country.
Oh dear...I do seem to have let the conversation dwindle haven't I? Let's see if I can think of anything else to share and possibly discuss a little more deeply than skunks and daffodils.
Have you ever heard of Donna Erickson? She had a program called "Donna's Day" that aired for a half hour on weekdays years ago and then she was on PBS for a long time but we couldn't get the local station at all, so we didn't see it anymore. I can't recall which channel, perhaps it was HGTV or whatever channel Alene's Glue craft program came on, but at one point she was on satellite/cable channel.
She did a short program that included a learning segment, a craft segment and a cooking segment. Katie and I just loved to watch that show when Katie was around 5-6 years old. We followed up on a lot of the learning segments and crafted many of the items Donna demonstrated making. I made many and many of the recipes that were featured and we used them regularly once tried. Except for the Chicken Ground Nut Stew with Couscous recipe. I'm sorry to say that is one of those recipes I became infamous for serving that one time and the entire family mutinied the dining table and raced for bowls of cereal.
One of the recipes I recall using was for a cinnamon swirl quick bread. It was made with buttermilk and was so tender and moist and delicious that I had to make two every single time I made it or I'd never get a slice at all. My kids would just tear through the bread! I had the recipe as she gave it on the show and have lost it somewhere along the way. I hate when that happens! Of course, I am just longing to have that bread now. I wonder if it is as good as I recall it being?
I've been thinking a lot about TV of late. Whatever it was 20 years ago it most certainly is not now. Remember when we actually watched real homes get redecorated on HGTV for families who lived in them? I was a huge fan of Decorating Cents and had favorite designers that I never wanted to miss seeing work on a room. And that one program with Matt and Sherry, Room by Room? Remember Carol Duval? Alene's Tacky Glue? And House Hunters and House Hunters International were good programs. Nowadays, TV is no fun to watch. It is merely one more real estate show, no different than the one on half an hour before. I watch two programs on that channel these days. "Fixer Upper" and "Rehab Addict" and the rare European episodes of House Hunters International.
It's not just HGTV either. There are so many channels and I can name maybe ten programs we watch each week. Today I've been listening to music channels through out the afternoon and I realized this is most afternoons for us. Well what started all this thinking was the new satellite bill which had increased without any warning that an increase was coming. I told John we've got to think about this and think hard about it. We are breathing on a three figure sum each month and honestly? I don't think it's worth it. I'm not sure what we'll ultimately decide to do but there are plenty of alternatives to consider before we just give in and pay this increase without blinking. Personally I'm all for calling them and cancelling right away, especially now that football season is over and done, but John doesn't feel that same desire. I might just write down what we pay annually and show him how much money we are spending. It's one thing to think of it in a monthly form and another entirely as a yearly expense.
There are three areas we targeted a few months back that we wanted to look into different alternatives and we've put off doing it. I think we're just going to have to get busy and really look at those three areas and determine what is serving us and what isn't and why it isn't and what might better suit us. There are also about three big jobs John wants to tackle on home improvements and cutting out satellite alone would cover the cost of the expense of one of the lower cost items. That might be another incentive to him.
Well, I suspect it's time to rinse out these coffee cups and move on back into cleaning mode. I'm so glad you had time to stop and sit with me about. Talk to you again soon!