Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Eve 2016

So, I've been a little worried about this weekend. 

It's the first Christmas in their lives that I won't be with my children, and I've been studiously making sure I have set into motion all the things that keep me from slipping in despair. 

But this morning? 

This morning I woke up smiling, and my Christmas spirit seems to have been delivered after all. My kids are safe and warm and healthy --there is luxury in that knowledge that not all moms have. 

Tomorrow I'll be delivering wrapped presents of gently used clothing to the homeless --how amazing to have such an opportunity to be of service. 

I have an huge-hearted and loving support system, plenty of food and shelter, a ridiculous cat, and a vast online family of hilarious and dear friends. I am so blessed.

Happy holidays, everyone.

And thank you.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

How Aetna Failed My Child

So, I have all of these blog posts in the works, but I have to interrupt everything to let you know about something that I just learned about insurance and my college kid.

As you know, my daughter Vega was catastrophically ill this past spring with something that turned out to be vasovagal syncope, complicated by the rupturing of an ovarian cyst and some medication side effects. It took us almost three months to even figure out what she had, during which we saw doctor after doctor and had test after test.

During that time, our abysmal health insurance paid for very little of her treatment. In fact, in the middle of one appointment, with the cardiologist we liked best and who seemed to actually be invested in diagnosing and treating Vega, we were informed that the front desk had made a mistake and the office didn't accept our insurance after all. Appointment over. We were ushered out and referred to another cardiologist and had another wait to try to get into to see THAT doctor.

Those were some good times. Because you know what's SUPER fun? Having your child pass out in a doctor's office and not being able to actually receive medical care there. Seriously, she was in distress, we were both near tears, and I had to load her into a wheelchair, get her to the car and take her home. All those doctors right there in that office, and no help available because they didn't take our insurance.

Our insurance company is Aetna.

Vega's father and I are self-employed and we get our insurance on the open market. In Texas, because of its powerful insurance lobby, the options are awful and more awful. After PPOs (Preferred Provider Organization) were no longer supported or offered in the marketplace, what seemed like the next best option for us was an Aetna EPO (Exclusive Provider Organization.) This way, we could still see the physicians, like our Pediatrician, with whom we had long-standing relationships.

But here's the thing we didn't know: we are only able to see physicians in Texas. The plan has limited coverage for emergencies if you travel outside of Texas, and you can just forget about coverage for ongoing medical conditions or prescription refills if you are, say OFF AT COLLEGE AND NEEDING A LOCAL DOCTOR.

I had no idea.

In fact, we declined the health insurance through USC because we were already paying $1,500 per month ($18,000 per year) for our family to be covered by Aetna.

And because it never even occurred to us that our health insurance wouldn't actually pay for Vega to see a doctor in California. In fact, before she saw the doctor, she got a referrals from the student health center for doctors who took Aetna, and when she saw the physician, his office only charged her the co-pay because they thought she was covered.

Obviously, had I known otherwise, I would have made other arrangements. I never would have sent my medically fragile child off to school without decent health insurance.

Except I did.

I'm writing this at 3:00 AM after having jolted bolt upright with the realization that if something medically catastrophic had occurred, she might not have been able to find a doctor to treat her.  In a way, we got so lucky --we found this out through a routine appointment in order to get her meds refilled. We got so lucky that her health improved so much that this was the only medical care she needed in her first semester at school. And we got lucky because our experience with Aetna is almost over and we will NOT be doing business with them again.

So, as always, learn from my experience. Nowhere, in any of the literature I read about sending a kid off to school (and you KNOW I read a lot!), was there the slightest suggestion that I should make sure she would be covered by my insurance in another state. We submitted our proof of insurance to the University with full confidence that she had adequate protection against something bad happening.

I am so tired of my healthcare, and the healthcare of the people I love, being held hostage by insurance companies. We need a better system. But failing that, we need a system that doesn't operate under shadow rules and fine print.

If you have a kid at college, are you SURE that he or she is covered by your insurance, even if he or she is going to school out of state?

Ask the questions.  Don't be like Barb.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Wow, What a Week



Anyone else here wondering how to identify the truck that just ran us over?

So, the country has elected a President who does not reflect my value orientation. I think it's safe to say that when the Ku Klux Klan holds a parade to celebrate your election, you and I are NOT on the same page.

But there it is. He's the President-elect, and now we have to figure out what to do about it.

A lot of my friends have been talking about moving to another country. Some of my friends are not even joking about it. Some people are actively making plans. So many people were exploring their options that the Canadian Immigration website crashed. (Me? I thought longingly about New Zealand. It's so beautiful there. Plus: one of my favorite artists ever lives there, Jennie deGroot.)

But here's the thing: I can't abandon the people and populations I love without a fight, because they are going to need me. People of color, people with disabilities (how I wish that when I thought of Donald Trump, I could get the visual of him mocking that person with disabilities out of my mind,) the poor, the elderly, anyone who identifies in the LGBTQIA spectrum, immigrants, refugees, our beloved planet--all of these populations and things NEED US.

Now more than ever.

This country needs our collective heart, our compassion, our energy to work for inclusion and policies that take care of the most vulnerable among us. America needs us. So, we can take our ball and go home, or we can work to change the rules of this new game we're playing so that everybody gets to suit up.

Remember this column, A Warrior for Peace? I feel that same calling right now.  I've grown complacent.  I've been so focused on the upheaval in my own family --illness, divorce, teenagers --that I forgot my larger goal of changing the world through unrelenting kindness, compassion, inclusion, advocacy, and intervention. I'm getting to work right this second on behalf of the causes and populations who need me. I'm raising money for women's health, for refugees, for my people outside of the gender binary, for climate change, for people with disabilities.  I'm volunteering my time, my energy and my talents on behalf of those who do not feel safe or welcome in Trump's America.

Remember this famous poem by Pastor Martin Niemoeller?

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist. 
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist. 
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew. 
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

I will use my voice and my privilege to speak out.

I will not be silent.

If you'd like to join me, please leave your plan of action in the comments--we could all use more ideas! Any organizations of social justice or change that you support?  Tell us why. Every positive action is welcome here --from buying a cup of coffee for a disenfranchised person, to marching on protest, to volunteering at the local food bank, to helping settle refugee families, to writing letters of support --anything that taps into your personal privilege and power for the benefit of those outside of the straight, white, Christian paradigm.

And if you are one of those people who feels afraid because you don't feel welcome in Trump's America, know that this is a safe place to speak of that, and that I will do everything in my power to protect you.

(Just a reminder about the comments: I welcome and encourage civil discourse. But if you comment intolerant or hate-filled sentiments, I will delete your comment. My blog wears a safety pin.)

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Tender Times of Transition and Transformation

Apparently, today's blog post is brought to you by the letter "T."

This is a time of great transition and transformation in my life, some of which I can talk about and some I need to process a bit more.

My husband and I are divorcing.

It's been incredibly painful for me.

That's all I want to say about that at this time. I've always lived very transparently and I feel like the events of this year have made it necessary for me to be less open in this forum. Which felt a bit dishonest to me, so I just said... nothing. It's been a difficult time. There are some hard times in the immediate future as we negotiate the terms of our divorce, and as we transition our family into a new normal.

But there is also a lot of good stuff happening. I want to talk about my new little rental cottage and life as a single parent and the growth that happens when a child leaves for college and there is so much to tell you about graduate school.

Starting completely over at age 51 is terrifying and exhilarating and sad and joyful and confusing and empowering and just about every other emotion. It's a new journey and I'd like to share as much of it as I can.

Thanks for your patience, and your love and support.


Friday, July 08, 2016

Diets and Life and Why I'm Going to Grad School

I've been on a bit of a crazy ride lately. Literally crazy, or, you know, craziER.

After a few years of learning everything I could learn about holistic nutrition, I had determined that I wanted to go to school, get a degree in holistic nutrition and open a practice coaching people around their relationships with food. I'd seen in my own life how a whole foods, plant-based diet had so positively impacted my life and I really wanted to share it. I read up on all the various modes/theories around eating--Paleo, Whole 30, Zone, Hormone, Intuitive Eating, Eat for Life --all of them.

And then last October, I joined a diet program that seemed like the perfect fit for me.  It was centered around research done around how the brain responds to certain foods, and it was based on a 12-step program that created "bright lines" against sugar and flour. I'd done a lot of research and had used my own body as a testing ground for how sugar and flour affect me, and this program really seemed to be speaking to me. I kind of wanted to lose a little weight, but mostly, this program promised me PEACE around food. The idea is that you automate your food so that you don't think about it anymore and suddenly, your life opens up. I was sold.

I've been searching for that peace for a long time.  From the outside, I look pretty normal, but my head was really full of The Crazy when it came to food. I'd just accepted it, the way I accepted that I have a disabled foot.  I had an eating disorder as a teen and all through my 20s, and even after I entered into recovery, I was just never free of disordered thinking around food.  It's like an alcoholic in recovery --you're never NOT an alcoholic; you're no longer drinking.

So anyway, I joined this program called Bright Line Eating. The founder, Susan Pierce Thompson, is a psychologist and a likable, articulate personality. The program has weekly video modules, and online community for support, and a very strict structure. You weigh and measure all of your food which you plan out the night before. You eat three meals, no snacking. The program is full of these pithy sayings: "Hunger is not an emergency." and "No one ever starved to death between meals."

So, I lost about ten pounds really fast and then I stopped losing weight. My body, after 17 years of abuse as a bulimic, tends to go into starvation mode at the drop of a cracker. At one point, I calculated that I was taking in about 1,100 calories per day, and this while averaging about two hours of yoga per day. It's so clear now that I was just...starving. Literally.

I kept waiting for the peace to arrive. But you know what? Peace doesn't come when you are actively undernourishing your body. I kept playing wth my food plan, restricting more and more, but I still wasn't losing weight. Finally, one day, I was making some herbal tea and I looked down at tea mixture and I was so hungry, so starved, that I started EATING it. And then I ate a lot of other things. And then I thought about purging --for the first time in almost 20 years.

Which led to a full-on panic attack. I reached out to the leadership at Bright Line eating and was told to just "stay the course." Which is not very helpful when you feel like your recovery of almost 20 years is slipping through your hands.

I withdrew from the program. I unsubscribed from the videos. I left the on-line support community. I set about recovery all over again. It was heartbreaking and it was really, really hard.

I'm still not back to where I was. It's just really hard work.

Because here's the thing about diets: they don't work.  I mean, there are always examples of a group of people who do well in each program, but long-term, diets don't work. There's all kinds of data on this. There is no one answer for everyone. And people with a history of eating disorders need to be particularly careful when choosing a weight loss plan.

I think I've figured out why diets do not work long-term. It's because weight loss is actually an inside job. It begins with understanding that, for some of us, food is just a physical manifestation of our mental health and self esteem. You can't start with the external and hope it changes you on the inside. There are a lot of people telling you to change your behavior, but I believe that, for a lot of us, behavior when it come to what we eat is just a symptom. To really address the symptom of disordered eating, you have to find the root cause.

So I'm going grad school to get my Masters of Arts in Counseling. I still am really interested in the healing properties of food and I'm hoping to find a way to dovetail the knowledge I have with the knowledge I am hoping to gain about the human psyche so that maybe I can help people find true peace around food. As always, I will share my knowledge with you and keep you posted.

So much love,

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Hello? Hello? This Thing On?

Hi, hello, how are you?

It's true: I am resurrecting the blog because I am embarking on a new adventure called, "My Baby Graduated From High School and We're Both Going to College."

Well, okay, it's not really called that.  I guess it's called Life.  I'm on a new adventure called Life. With an emphasis on higher education.

So, FIRST, I must thank you.  Thank you for donating to LASA in order to update the ancient computers. We had the most successful fund raiser in the school's history! It was so successful, in fact, that I got drafted to help with the campaign again this year. ( flattered? And stupid?)  I just couldn't say no--the school needs help and the kids are so, so worth it. So I am helping raise money even though I NO LONGER HAVE A CHILD AT THAT SCHOOL.

Because this happened:


I know.

I. Know.

And honestly, I wasn't sure it was going to happen. Vega got really sick in her final semester. REALLY sick. She missed three-and-a-half months of school, spent six weeks in a wheelchair, and in general had her life torpedoed. Starting in February, she fell ill with a myriad of symptoms, including severe abdominal cramping and random fainting--which was a lot less exciting and more terrifying than I can describe here.  After an ongoing series of appointments with specialists and increasingly invasive medical procedures including a pelvic ultrasound and the wearing of a heart monitor for several weeks, we received a final diagnosis of vasovagal syncope (possibly triggered by the rupturing of an ovarian cyst.)

There are things I want to say about this, but really, suffice it to say that watching my kid be that sick with absolutely nothing I could do about it and with no reassurance that this wasn't something extremely sinister was pretty much the most terrifying and terrible time in my life. I have a different compassion for people going through catastrophic health concerns with their children. It is horrific and relentless and unbelievably stressful.

We were enormously relieved that her symptoms began to lessen and that she was able to return to school in April. I am deeply indebted to the staff at LASA for supporting Vega while she was ill, particularly Shannon Bergeron, her academic counselor, who I’m convinced is hiding angel wings under her jacket. (Ms. Bergeron just started a college counseling business.  I've already signed Jane up. I cannot say enough about her --just the wisest, calmest, most supportive and competent person you could ever hope to have in your kid's life. Go here and show her some love.)

So, Vega's not well, exactly, but she's learning to manage her symptoms and the symptoms seem to be getting better. Which is good because in about six weeks, she's off to the University of Southern California as an astronomy major.

Yeah, I didn't actually see that one coming, either.

Except, maybe I did.
The bike--er, SPACE helmet. Always necessary when eating pancakes with your grandfather.

One of many inflatable astronauts named Jeffery Hoffman.

So, yeah. She's off to college and thrilled about it. Really thrilled and so ready. 

I know what you're thinking and I'm really NOT. I'm not worried or sad or grief-stricken. She's ready and I'm so excited for her.  Plus, you know, I'll let you in on a little secret: They leave before they leave. This entire last year has been a series of small goodbyes.  It's the way things are supposed to work. I'm very close to Vega, and I'm really secure that that won't change. I love her so much. I can't wait to see what she does.

Plus, I'm sure Jane (15) would appreciate it if I didn't take to my bed for the next six months since she's learning to drive and can't wait around for me to have a breakdown.
Pretty exciting! 

And ALSO, I'm going to graduate school to get my Masters in Counseling. I KNOW, what? I'll write more about this in an upcoming post, but I've felt this calling for a long time so I'm doing it.

Okay, more, more, more soon! I promise. Meanwhile, what's new with you?