slugging along the open road

January 28, 2010


as opposed to the camp song: “swinging along the open road”.  nothing much to report.  i feel like i’m gearing up for a prize fight that hasn’t quite been scheduled yet but i can smell brewing in the not-too-distant-future.  oh…work, not health.  (i hope.)  real estate seasons have gone topsy-turvy and traditional seasons mean less than they used to.  but with a number of new listings for me (hooray) coming on the market and lots of new listings for others, it feels like a weather change coming down the road.  lots of bits and pieces.  lots and lots and lots of bits and pieces to take care of.   and trying to shift between needs of sellers and wants of buyers.  let’s not even mention the mortgage road of hell.  it’s dicey out there.

to bed early…maybe i can go down that open road and beat this nascent cold i feel in the back of my head.  anyway, the wind is howling outside and the temperature is dropping.  what better reason to climb into bed early.  stay warm.



January 23, 2010

i’m getting to be old enough to be a snob about what music i listen to.  well, i’ll listen to a lot but i don’t love a lot of it.  the music i listen to on my ipod when i’m walking on ms. bertha (my elliptical) tends toward driving power chick-rock/pop or full-flung broadway that gets you singing at the top of your lungs and running or walking at a good clip  – by the way, have you heard the cast album of ‘the capeman’?  omg.  it’s only out on itunes (paul simon put out his own album earlier) but this is the cast recording and it’s hauntingly beautiful on it’s own.  teenage daughter is caught between very classic rock (her father cheers!) and goofy broadway (her father boos!) and some typical teenage pop. 

as a retired singer, you’d think i would listen to a LOT of music.  no.  it was too painful for a long time.  it reminded me of the life i didn’t have – when i was going through chemo – the toughest time for me – i just watched very mindless tv – the stuff i could purposefully forget and watch again if it was the only thing going during the many hours to get through. 

when i was done all my treatment, i bought an ipod nano.  i was semi-back at work by then and i went walking one day to an appointment with lots of time to waste and decided that it was time to listen to something again.  i put the earphones in my ear and first up was sarah maclahlan’s ‘hold on.’  oh.  i just started sobbing.  walking around with a wall of tears just pouring out.   at that moment, i realized that i was still alive and that i could look, once again, at the world as a place of possibilities instead of a chunk of time to force myself to get through.   now when i get on bertha for a walk, it’s always my first song.  i’ve worked on turning it around – more an anthem of hope than a plaintive wail. 

last night at the ‘hope for haiti’ concert, justin timberlake and matt morris did a duet of the leonard cohen song ‘hallelujah’.  i know next to nothing about justin timberlake but i knew what i was hearing.  a flowing line of deep musicality that was delicate and soulful and deeply beautiful.  so many things are sledgehammered into the banal by too much production and this took wing on the moment…an accomplishment in itself.   it’s a song that usually ends up as a complete cliched howler – and here it was as an almost-perfect jewel. 

i hope you like it too.  hallelujah.

what if?

January 15, 2010

oh yeah.  what if?  what if we had a catastrophic year ahead?  what if teenage daughter broke her leg?  what if darling husband needed surgery?  we spent the last 3 weeks agonizingly dissecting the what ifs?  and one what if went unasked.  out loud.  what if i get sick again?  what if my cancer comes back?  what if what if what if.

the what ifs have been keeping me up at night.  we have been forced to ask because we are in the odd and dark world of trying to change our health insurance policy so that we don’t drown under the burden of purchasing it.  last year, we shelled out $2,000 a month for a ‘family’ policy (no one gives a shit that i only had one kid…i felt like someone should have been servicing my cat for that price).  we’re both independent contractors and all of my doctors were/are on oxford freedom plan.  none of them took oxford liberty – let alone other plans.  you could almost hear the secretaries hold their breath when the answer to what policy i held was: oxford.  before i could barely get the 2 syllables out of my mouth came the answer:  “we only take oxford freedom!  we don’t take oxford liberty!”  (you could hear the !!! ping at the end of each short but meaningful sentence.)  and 4 years post breast cancer diagnosis is not a good time to change your entire medical team.  so we have made concessions in order to remain with our oxford freedom policy.  but the financial burden became unbearable when, in december, i was told that the new monthly fee was $2,500 a month.  it was the absolute point of impossible.

and so we figured out some stuff.  we formed an llc – because we found out that having the company allows us to purchase a small business policy.  and then we went on the hunt.  insurance brokers; talk of hsa’s and hmo’s and out-of-network payments including deductibles and out-of-network payments excluding deductibles (i’m still a little fuzzy on these two but darling husband seems to have a handle on it.) 

my year has a set rhythm to it.  10 doctor visits are, essentially set.  and all are in-network.  3 major procedures (a bilateral mri, sonogram and mamogram) all of which are, for me, out-of-network.  but many of these plans cost a significant amount and then you keep paying in in-network deductible…many of them set at $2,000 more a year.  out-of-network deductibles climbing easily around $5,000-$7,000 more just for me.  my radiologist is out of network and she’s amazing.  caring, careful, loyal and very very good at what she does. 

my husband deserves a medal.  he waded through manila envelopes filed away in our basement trying to assess our past costs.  it had to be a nasty trip down a nasty memory lane to look at receipts for steroid prescriptions that made his wife stomp around feeling like her skin was coming off or the 4 different anti-nausea meds receipt gathered in everyone’s desperate attempts to get me some medication that worked to stop the nonstop hurling after the chemotherapy sessions.  and he kept going.  he added up numbers and crunched everything upwards and downwards and kept calling people who i would have hung up on but instead coaxed out answers that weren’t always immediately clear. 

in the end, we’re finally ready to make a pick.  a bit of an old-fashioned chinese menu:  one from column a and 2 from column b.  mine as a single with the best benefits and the lowest out-of-pocket payments and them together on a parent and child policy where we’ll be ok as long as neither of them go too far out of network.  or need major surgery.  i can’t help but feel that my worst fears are coming about:  as a family we’re not all together.  i’m once again by myself and husband and teenage daughter are tethered to each other.  i know that’s not really the case – but it feeds into all my old feelings of sitting by myself while the world just kept revolving and going on without me. 

what if?  what if?  what if?  and, for that matter, what if we couldn’t afford any of this?  so many can’t.  i mean it’s starting to really tax the system here (and by that i mean we’re struggling to pay it all out) but what if we couldn’t at all?  and the cat still has no health care.  what if? 


from beginnings to endings

January 7, 2010


a beloved teacher from teenage daughter’s school passed away over the holidays.  she was one of those incredible people you meet who are so burrowed into a community’s psyche that you cannot think of the place without thinking of the person.  and today, i attended the memorial service that took place at the school for the upper school students, staff and any parents and alumnae who wished to be there.  although i’m quite capable at crying at the drop of a hat – just walking up to her husband (who i did not know) to hold his hand for a moment and pay my respects was the beginning of my tears.  trying to sit through the choir singing ‘the water is wide’ without having spasms of anxiety was my challenge today.  (the song i fell in love with and sang every day of my pregnancy and every day when teenage daughter was a baby and acknowledged that it would be my choice (but not sung with sadness but with a stiff backbone and some power) should my own memorial service ever come about.)   another death from the ‘c that shall not be named’.  (i am rolling my eyes as i type this – trying not to spit three times on the floor or other moments to ban the worst.) 

i have never heard the word ‘fierce’ (fierce; fiercely; ferocity) used so many times independently by so many speakers – some of them current students and many of them alum or staff.  it inspired me – i knew this about her but sometimes forgot that people – even as they get in their 50s and 60s – can still be quite fierce and forward.   yes, she was the drama teacher (and english teacher and community choir director and actor and stage director and mentor for so many) and therefore many of her students who spoke had a natural talent for the word both written and spoken.  but i was touched and excited to hear so many truely eloquently-spoken memories of her and hoped that every student there had the same deep emotional potential – in fact, for the first time in a while, i felt positive that they did. 

thank you marlene for being a big part of guiding my beautiful teenage daughter and making her feel confident in her steps.  she had less time with you than she wished but i suspect you will be with her in thought and deed and example for her entire life.

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