Apparently, Jerri and I aren’t speaking right now.
On Thursday, I had a mandatory Diversity training class at work. This is about the fourth one of these I’ve attended in my 17 years with the company. They always throw me into a foul mood. Maybe because I don’t like being reminded how much the world sucks sometimes or how despicable people can be to each other. Maybe because I always leave more fully aware of what a rotten person I am and that no matter how much I hate it, I still stereotype and I still have biases. Maybe because it brings back memories from childhood of the nasty racist sentiments vocalized by my parents and grandparents who lived in Birmingham, AL during the heyday of the civil rights movement. Sometimes I cringe at the sewage contaminating my gene pool. It makes me want to gargle with chlorine and take a long, scalding shower. Or maybe because there is always some squeaky white male in the group acting all shocked and horrified that anyone in this day and age would discriminate against women or people of color at our company. Pa-leaseeee!
So when I left the meeting in my foul mood, I checked my phone and found a message from Jerri. (Mental note, never call your sister when you yourself are in a bad place. Just don’t.) Jerri has had a number of teeth pulled—when you’re not in your right mind you tend not to brush—and she’d had the final one, a front tooth, pulled that day. The other teeth have been in back so aren’t that noticeable. She will be getting a partial—Medicaid covers this if you’ve had 5 or more teeth pulled—and last I heard, she’d planned to wait on the front tooth until the partial had been approved. I called her back to ask what’s the deal?
I could tell by the way she answered the phone, Jerri was in her own black cloud. Her mouth was hurting and there was a man in the background which is never a good thing. Jerri has the absolute worst taste in men. If I had to describe her “type” it would be unemployed, homeless, substance abusing ex-cons.
In the course of the conversation, I reminded Jerri that she had a $35 bill from the Ophthalmologist due on November 2nd.
“I can’t pay it. I don’t have any money left.” She just got paid on Tuesday.
“How much did you get paid?”
“$200. Why?” She said this defiantly, like its none of my business. And it wouldn’t be except, if you’ve been following the blog you’ll remember how Dr. Bryant treated Jerri with respect and compassion, giving her free samples and discounting her costs by over half. Is there any wonder there’s such a lack of civility in the world today? Whenever someone like Dr. B does a good deed, she gets kicked in the teeth for it. You’ll also remember that Dr. B is MY Ophthalmologist too.
“And you’ve already spent it ALL?”
“I’m going to pay her just not by the 2nd. And I can’t pay her next pay day because I’ve got that big phone bill due. And I need the rest for groceries. But I’ll pay her by the end of the month.”
What had she spent the money on? She spent half of it at Walmart on things she wanted—a Netflix box, crochet supplies.
And the rest? She was saving for groceries. Catherina was taking her tomorrow.
“I TOLD YOU I would pay it. What do you WANT from me? I forgot about the bill. You only told me about it ONCE. This is what I do. I don’t pay stuff on time but I EVENTUALLY pay it.”
What a freakin’ lie. That’s why she doesn’t have cable or Verizon. She just stopped paying them.
At this point she stopped giving me the chance to talk. Every time I tried to say something, she talked over me, getting louder and louder, never taking a breath, drowning out anything I wanted to say, filling the airspace with twisted justifications and somehow making out like it was as much my fault as hers that the bill hadn’t been paid. And in the background is this guy yammering and I can’t understand the words but it sounds like he’s egging her on.
And I snapped. I started screaming back at her, talking over HER and now neither one of us was listening. When I hung up (and have you ever noticed how unsatisfying it is to end an angry call on an iPhone—I just wanted to slam down the receiver and there wasn’t one) my first thought was, God, I’ve become my mother.
My anger stemmed from at least three things, probably more, but these are the biggee’s: 1) diversity-training-inspired self-loathing. 2) hurt from being totally disrespected by Jerri’s incessant over-talking which, BTW, I also experienced from work colleagues this week and it makes me feel smaller than a pimple on a bug’s ass. Sorry. Anger brings out the profanity in me. 3) concern that Jerri’s late payment would cause friction between Dr. Bryant and me.
The way I blew up and started screaming is exactly like my mom. The way I thought, “I wish I’d never gotten Jerri an appointment with Dr. Bryant because now she’s going to embarrass me” is exactly like my mom. The way I put 2 and 2 together (bad temper, guy in the background, $100 unaccounted for) and came up with “using” is exactly like my mom.
I guess it goes without saying that we haven’t spoken since . . .
Jackie, my Zumba instructor, is taking a break. On Thursday, she announced she would continue the class until Thanksgiving and then take off the month of December. We all kind of nodded at this because it is the holidays after all and really busy. Then she said, “In January, I’ll decide if I’m going to continue the class or not.”
When we pressed, she confided she’d lost some of her passion for Zumba. “I feel like I’m not giving you my best anymore. And that’s not fair to you.”
Awwww! That’s okay. Be unfair to us. We don’t mind, really!
But Jackie held firm. “We’ll see how I feel after the break.”
Crap. I’m not surprised really. Just two days ago, I said to myself, “Wonder how long this Zumba thing will last. Probably not too much longer because you like it so much.” It’s been that kind of a year.
I know, I know, all things come to an end. The things we despise, never fast enough and the things we love, all too soon. But Jackie’s Zumba class? It makes me sad. For me, yes, because I’ll have to get my Zumba on elsewhere, but more sad for Jackie who’s lost passion for something she’s totally loved.
Jackie is great. She’s near my age unlike every other Zumba instructor I’ve had who’s like ten. She’s short and cute with freckles and a thick chestnut mane that refuses to stay constrained by elastic band. She tries not to laugh when I completely mess up or lose balance but I see that twinkle in her eye as she quickly looks away. She was a cheerleader in high school and there’s a precision to her moves that I wish, wish, wish I had. Our taste in music is similar and she always tries to hunt down the “clean version”. And she doesn’t work us like we’re twenty-something’s, making us jump and squat until our knees freeze up and we hobble out to our cars all crab-legged. Still the routines are challenging and glucosamine has wheedled its way into my daily regimen. I miss her already.
Not to mention the location of her class is about 4 miles from my house, so really convenient. Waaaaaahhhh!
I know a few details of her life and like all of us, Jackie’s got stuff. A college-aged son living at home with no idea what to do with his life. A house that needs updating and repair and no money to do it. A job as a school teacher that’s not making her rich. An ex who still makes her eyes roll on the rare occasion she mentions him. Difficulty sleeping. A knee injury. Extra pounds that she can’t seem to lose.
Sigh. It wears you down sometimes. Life does.
Still to hear Jackie say she’s lost her passion is really sad and a little scary. Because I identify. The same thing is happening to me.
Earlier today I was whining (I know, hard to believe, right?) about my own depleted passion. My coworker said, “it’s just that time of year.” Probably a lot of truth there. The first three quarters wore me plum out. And now it’s dark by 6:30, the leaves are falling, it’s getting down in the 40’s at night. Soon the holidays will be upon us and —don’t hate me—I can barely stand them.
So many things I used to love, I just don’t anymore. And I don’t know why. A twinge of depression? Seasonal Affective Disorder?
The house, which Stan and I built, once brought me great joy. I spent hours pouring over House Beautiful and Southern Living, shopping for furniture and wall decor, selecting paint and fabric. Now it feels like a tremendous burden. I can’t keep up with the maintenance and I can’t stand watching it fall into disrepair. I spend hours googling “downtown loft apartments” and fantasizing about men in brown coveralls who have to fix whatever is broken because they are contractually bound by law.
Antique shopping and rummaging through other people’s junk used to be so much fun. I’d spend entire Saturdays going from store to store, searching for buried treasure. I’ve spent many an hour refinishing pieces on my screened porch. Ugh, the thought now gives me hives. Gardening, sigh, another lost passion. At one time, my backyard might have graced the cover of Better Homes and Gardens. Now it’s just a battlefield where I duke it out with the maples and crape myrtles which are totally taking over, replicating at an alarming rate — think Space Invaders who multiply when you shoot them.
If I psychoanalyze this dispassionate state, I can’t ignore the fact that antiquing and gardening are two of Mom’s favorite pastimes. So what part does our estrangement play? Have I lost interest because these activities remind me of her? Is this a form of disassociation? Or did I only once love these activities because she did and I wanted to please her?
That’s the problem with growing up as I did. Mom had a picture in her head of who she wanted her girls to be. She worked to fit us to that mold, punishing resistance and rewarding compliance. In the process, I lost myself. It’s hard to explain really. I want to be me—because everyone else is taken—but I’m not sure at times exactly who me is. Sometimes I look to Jerri to provide a clue. But when I see similarities between us, I still question whether its embedded in our DNA or its the way we were molded. Interestingly, Jerri has her own version of antiquing and gardening. Good Will and other thrift shops are her treasure trove and she is forever taking cuttings of plants, often without permission, and rooting them in pots in her apartment.
My biggest fear (ok, maybe not my biggest but it’s definitely in the top ten) is that I’ll wake up one morning to find I’ve lost interest in writing which on planet TrophyDaughter is equivalent to Jackie’s Zumba. It’s one of the few things that feels authentic, like its mine and mine alone, because no one else in my family does it or is even mildly interested.
So what are your thoughts on lost passion? Is it normal? Is it just that time of year? Have you experienced it? Have you figured out why
DISCLAIMER: This post is just for fun and contains no content of any redeeming value. On the flip side, no animals were harmed in the making of this post and surely that should account for something.
I have a love-hate relationship with my iPhone. Honestly, I don’t get it. I love, love, LOVE my iPad. That I get. But the iPhone? Not so much. It’s very hard to type on – the letter buttons are so small. It’s incredibly difficult to read anything you google on Safari without blowing up the text and then you have to finger the screen back and forth to read every sentence. Annoying. And then there’s Siri. God, I hate her. Worse than the GPS gal who is totally plotting against me, sending me off on wild goose chases into dangerous neighborhoods. In fact, I’m pretty sure Siri and the GPS gal are in cahoots. But then that’s a whole different plunge down a delusional rabbit hole that we can circumvent for the moment.
Stan has the iPhone 4 not the 4S. He doesn’t have Siri. He has a strong attraction to virtual women so he’s totally jealous I have her and he doesn’t. We went through the same thing with the GPS gal. Seriously, he has issues.
But he doesn’t know Siri. He doesn’t know what an intrusive, passive-agressive bi-otch she can be. For example, she interrupts me all the time. To summon her, you’re supposed to hold down the home button until you hear 2 beeps. But Siri butts in when my fingers are nowhere near home and I simply lift the phone to my ear. I’ll be trying to navigate a series of voice prompts and she’s all like “How can I help you?”
You can help me by minding your own dang business!!
Then, when I tell her to “go away”, she says all hurt-like, “I hope we can still be friends.” Don’t count on it, girlie.
Yesterday, she totally made me look like a liar to Stan.
[Me] I hate Siri. And the people at Apple should be fined for false advertising. You know that commercial where that New Girl actress is walking around in her jammies talking to Siri and she says “Let’s have tomato soup” and Siri finds a restaurant that will deliver it? Doesn’t happen. Complete exaggeration of her capabilities.
[Stan] Really? Let’s see. (He picks up my iPhone and I tell him how to access her.) What’s up, Siri.
[Siri] Hey there. (Can you believe the flirting? Completely inappropriate.)
[Stan] I’m feeling like some tomato soup.
[Siri] I’m sorry, I couldn’t find a single restaurant near you whose menu mentions tomato soup.
[Stan] (Raising an eyebrow) Perhaps you’re a little tough on her?
[Me] She never responds to me that way.
[Stan] (Rolls eyes.)
[Siri] Maybe this will help. (Displays web page.)
[Stan] I like her. I don’t know what your problem is. Perhaps user error? (To Siri) Why is Terri such a goober?
[Siri] Let me check on that. . . Would you like me to search the web for “why is Terri such a goober”?
[Siri] I thought so. (See? B-I-O-T-C-H!)
Needless to say, she found nothing. My virtual reputation is completely spotless. She never even returned for final comment. She just disappeared back into cyberspace. Probably had the GPS gal on the other line. Talking smack about me. God, I hate her.
The office for Caramore Community was not what I expected. Think non-profit, low budget, scuffed up, battered furnishings, cracked and sterile floor, walls badly in need of paint. Instead, the office appeared interior-decorated. There were two large seating areas with comfy chairs surrounding over-sized square coffee tables. The walls were painted a warm caramel with matching plush carpet. Magazines and plants were scattered about. The receptionist desk was a long white affair that stretched across the length of the room. We were greeted promptly by Samantha who quickly found Jerri’s appointment and brought her coffee.
After a short wait, Jacob, the admissions director, greeted us and escorted us back to his office. He stepped out to get a copy of Jerri’s application giving us a chance to check out his digs. On the wall behind his desk was a portrait of someone who might have been Andrew Jackson. It was hung upside down. To the right was a credenza stacked about a foot high with piles of paper. Above this hung 8 to 10 apple green paper plates as if they were china. Above these, a bathroom scale had been hung and it took me a minute to realize it wasn’t a clock. On the opposite wall, a tree branch reached into the room, it’s base framed with an ornate white frame. Interesting!
Jacob, himself, was soft-spoken but exuded a sense of purpose and authority. He began the interview by saying this was an opportunity for us to learn about Caramore and for him to learn about Jerri. They are very protective about their community. They have limited space and receive hundreds of applications a year. They only have space for 30 individuals in their residential program and there is a 4 to 6 month wait-list. They only accept individuals who are not a threat to the community – you must be stable on medications, no history of violence, clean/sober for 6 months, ready and willing to work. He told Jerri that he would request records from Telecare and it was important that what she shared with him aligned with Telecare’s records. It was important for her to be completely honest with him because dishonesty was a warning flag and would raise concerns about allowing her into the program.
He asked if she wanted me present during the interview or if she would be more comfortable if I waited outside.
“My sister can stay. She knows everything about me so there’s no reason for her not to,” Jerri replied.
He asked about her diagnosis and how she was first diagnosed. Listening to Jerri tell her story was hard – it brought back a lot of difficult memories and all the emotions I’d felt at the time washed over me again. I don’t remember some things exactly the same way Jerri does, but I have a lot of gaps in my memory – things I imagine I’ve blocked because they are just too painful. Jerri talked about repeatedly running away and our parents checking her into Mandala, a private hospital, when she was 15. One of Mom’s friends had a daughter, Connie, who had “acted out” like Jerri and Mandala had helped her. Mandala diagnosed Jerri as having mental illness – the actual diagnosis is unclear – but my parents never accepted the diagnosis. She did not get medication or counseling.
After that she started using drugs and skipping classes with a 38 year old woman who hung out at the high school, buying drugs and alcohol for the kids, and taking them home. Debbie sexually molested Jerri – at the time Jerri thought herself in a relationship with Debbie. She believed she was discovering her true sexual orientation was lesbian. But as an adult, Jerri recognizes Debbie was a predator. Jerri was so desperate for attention and affection, she was willing to go along with Debbie in order to feel loved.
Jacob then delved more into the substance abuse. “When was the last time you used?”
“Four months ago,” she said and explained the situation.
“If that is true, and I have no reason not to believe you, then you don’t mind doing a drug test today, right?”
Silence. Jerri looked at Jacob and said nothing for what seemed like eternity. Her hesitation was a dead give-away. Finally she spoke. “You’ll find crack in my system. I smoked it yesterday.”
Ayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy! I could just strangle her. Why would she do something so STUPID? She knew Caramore required 6 months of sobriety to get in. She read it on the website and even talked to me about it beforehand. Did she really not want in the program? Was this some twisted passive-aggressive way to get them not to accept her? Was she purposely sabotaging herself?
Jacob closed his folder and said, “I’m going to end the interview now. If I continue the interview it’s not going to go well with you and could prevent you from ever getting into our program. I’m going to reschedule the interview for 3 months and you will need to provide evidence of 3 months sobriety in order for the interview to occur. It concerns me greatly that when I asked when you last used you said 4 months ago which was not the truth. The truth is you used yesterday. Maybe you lied because you want into the program so badly. But if that is the case, the way in is through sobriety. This development delays when you could be considered for the program. If you are serious about changing your life, I’ll see you again in January. There are some people I’ve worked with for years to get them ready for the program. This is not a ‘no’. It’s a ‘you are not ready.'”
I could learn a lot from this man.
He refused to accept any of Jerri’s excuses. She said, “I don’t crave drugs any more. I wouldn’t use if people weren’t knocking on my door offering it to me for free.”
Jacob’s response: “No one held you down, forced the pipe in your mouth and made you inhale. Even when they bring it to your door, you have to take responsibility and say no. Even in Carrboro, crack is available. It will always be accessible no matter where you live. You can’t use that as an excuse. You are lying to yourself when you say ‘I wouldn’t use if I lived somewhere else.'”
As you might imagine, the drive home was a bit strained. Jerri couldn’t explain why she’d done it. I could feel myself disassociating.
“Here’s the thing, Jerri,” I said. “If you really aren’t interested in Caramore, you should have just said so. I took half a day off from work for this interview, and believe me, come January, I will not do it again if you use at all between now and then. What you did was inconsiderate of everyone – you, Jacob, and me.”
“I knew I’d made a big mistake the minute I did it. I don’t know why I did it. I was just so surprised when he handed me the pipe. I didn’t know how to respond so I just took it.”
“Jerri, the way your life is now is the way it will always be unless you choose to change it. That is if you’re lucky because right now you are dependent on the government and they could pull funding at any moment making your life even more challenging. You need to be dependent on you. You need to make a choice – do you want simply to exist? Or do you want to live? No one can make that choice for you. Only YOU can prevent forest fires.”
That’s right. Everything I ever needed to know about personal accountability, I learned from Smokey the Bear.
Many of the bad things that happen in our lives are a direct consequence of choices we make. I’m not saying that we are responsible for EVERY bad thing that happens. Bad things happen all the time to good people out of no fault of their own. Last time I checked, 100% of us can expect to experience something devastating in our lifetime. The untimely death of a loved one. Debilitating illness. Estrangement. Divorce. Bankruptcy. Down-sizing. A crime against us. Abuse. We live in a broken world and no matter how good we are, how religious, how smart or careful or risk-adverse, there is no magic formula. Bad things happen, period.
But some bad things are avoidable. If I make my car payment, my car will not be repossessed, for example. I won’t lose my job because I don’t have transportation to get there. Smokey teaches me that if I don’t light a match and throw it into the woods, I won’t start a fire that may eventually consume me.
“If God wants me to get into Caramore then He will make it happen,” Jerri said.
Really? Because I don’t think so. God forgives but I can’t think of a single time that he supernaturally revoked the consequences of someone’s bad choices. He’s not going to, for example, plant the notion in Jacob’s head to rescind the sobriety requirement just for Jerri.
So the visit to Caramore did not go as planned. Jerri continues to talk about the program as something she wants to do. We’ll just have to see how the next three months unfold.
My sister is legally blind. Without glasses or contacts, Jerri can’t read a page held an inch from her nose. If you point at an object 20 feet away, she can’t tell you if it’s a bush or a Clinton. For that matter, she can’t even tell you’re pointing. You’d have to take her chin in hand and point her face in Hilary’s direction. Even then she might mistake her for a Juniper.
She’s been wearing the contact in her left eye for 4 months. The same lens for 4 months. A lens that is supposed to be discarded and replaced every 2 weeks. She doesn’t have any glasses. Her frames broke quite some time ago. She still has the lenses and when she’s really desperate, she tapes them on to the frames of her sunglasses.
Jerri hasn’t seen an ophthalmologist in two years. Despite the fact that at her last visit, she was diagnosed with glaucoma. She doesn’t use the drops that were prescribed because you can’t use them with contacts.
Now that she’s in her right mind, Jerri is trying to take better care of her eyes. She knows she needs to treat the glaucoma which means she needs glasses. But when you’re as near-sighted as she is, a basic pair of no-frills glasses costs about $300. Medicare and Medicaid do not cover this.
Completely on her own, Jerri researched potential venues for financial help. She contacted the Department of Social Services and was able to obtain a voucher for eye glasses from the NC Division of Services for the Blind. But she had to have an eye exam to get a prescription. In NC, Medicaid used to cover routine eye exams for adults but not any longer thanks to legislation (House Bill 200, Section 10.37.(a)) effective October 1, 2011. Fortunately, and who’d have ever thought I’d be making a statement like this, Jerri has glaucoma. If you have a medical eye condition, Medicaid will still pay for the exam.
So I talked to my ophthalmologist, Dr. Jill Bryant, about Jerri, her disability, and her financial situation and Dr. Bryant agreed to see her. (Not every doctor will you know, given Medicaid is her insurance for eye care.) Not only did Dr. Bryant give Jerri a complete and thorough exam but she treated her with dignity and respect. From the minute we walked into the office, everyone, from the office manager to the eye technician, looked her in the eye, appropriately directed their questions to her (not to me), and were transparent about what Medicaid would and would not pay. For example, contacts are considered to be cosmetic so Medicaid does not cover contact lens fitting but Jerri really wanted a contact lens prescription in addition to one for glasses. That part of the visit was $80 typically payable same day. The office manager told us to stop by after the exam to discuss a payment plan. Dr. Bryant, knowing Jerri’s situation, reduced the cost of the lens fitting to $55. But when we spoke with the office manager, she just waved her hand and said not to worry about it! Dr. Bryant also filled a bag with saline solution and glaucoma medication samples.
I left Dr. Bryant’s office with two thoughts competing for attention. One – what a beautiful gift Dr. Bryant had given Jerri by simply treating her like a human being. And two – what in the world will Jerri and others like her do when Medicaid crashes and burns?
It’s virtually impossible this close to November not to be concerned about Medicaid. No worries, I’m not going to go all political on you. Frankly, I don’t think either candidate has a good plan for this one. Medicaid is broken. It has been for years.
Medicaid is a jointly funded cooperative venture of the federal government and state governments to assist the states in providing medical care to people in need. Because the federal government contributes funding, it also regulates how it is appropriated. For example, the federal government legislates who is eligible for Medicaid. States cannot limit enrollment to manage costs. The primary means that States have to manage Medicaid costs is to reduce the amount of payment for services to doctors. So every year, most States cut this payment. Because of this, Medicaid pays physicians way below the market rates to care for Medicaid patients. In 2008 (when this was last measured), according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), Medicaid paid physicians approximately 58% of what private insurers paid for comparable services. Low payment, the excessive paperwork required to file for Medicaid reimbursements, and the amount of time it takes CMS to pay are all reasons why many physicians choose not to see Medicaid patients.
When physicians do see Medicaid patients, the care they provide is often substandard resulting in poorer outcomes. One study in the Annals of Surgery examined outcomes for 893,658 individuals undergoing major surgical operations from 2003 to 2007. [LaPar DJ et al., Primary payer status affects mortality for major surgical operations. Annals of Surgery. 2010 Sep; 252(3): 544–51.]
In summary: Medicaid patients were almost twice as likely to die as those with private insurance; their hospital stays were 42 percent longer and cost 26 percent more. Compared with those without health insurance, Medicaid patients were 13 percent more likely to die, stayed in the hospital for 50 percent longer, and cost 20 percent more.
It only took a couple of doctor visits with Jerri for me to see that she gets fewer tests and referrals than I do with my private insurance and we see the same doctor.
In 2009, there were over 50 million Americans with Medicaid. Currently, Medicaid provides health care coverage to low-income families with dependent children, pregnant women, children, and aged, blind and disabled individuals.You may be aware that one provision of the Affordable Care Act ( aka Obamacare) expands Medicaid coverage in 2014 to low income individuals without dependent children, an additional estimated 17 million people. Add that to the people already receiving Medicaid and that’s over 20% of Americans. That’s a lot of people!
Perhaps you see my concern. In a system where it’s already difficult to find a doc who accepts Medicaid, how will these people get care? What additional services (like eye exams) will have to be cut to keep the program solvent?
It’s disturbing that so many people are so poor. I struggle sometimes with “entitlement” programs. I’ve met people who are working the system. At the beach, I have a neighbor who’s a veteran. He broke his back in Basic training before active duty and was honorably discharged. He had a number of surgeries and appears completely healed. He kayaks, cycles, runs and lifts weights. But he chooses not to work. He’s living on VA benefits and disability.
To me, that’s wrong. He might not be able to serve in the military but he CAN work. He chooses not too.
But I also know many people with mental illness who would be on the streets without these programs. For example, Jerri and her neighbor with schizophrenia, Catherine, who is in the hospital again because her medications aren’t working. There will always be poor people, legitimately poor people, and we need a way to take care of them. I hate that this responsibility falls to our government, but the practical side of me acknowledges if the government doesn’t do it, no one will. Sadly, I’m not sure either candidate has a friend or family member who is legitimately poor. I think that’s a basic requirement to even understand the problem.