Thursday, February 28, 2013

I Can't Make This Stuff Up!

The other day, I was just lazing about the house, (ha!) when I received an unexpected phone call.  Let me preface this by saying that as a rule, I am not unkind to telemarketers.  Don't rush out to give me a medal or anything...I mean, we don't actually have a home phone, so I have limited exposure to them.  But as a group of people, I feel a bit sorry for them.  I picture them sitting in a cubicle somewhere, looking all morose and pasty in the florescent lighting...craving a nicotine fix, all the while dreading the next awkward phone call.  I mean, really! Is there a more hated population out there ( maybe besides serial killers and people who open fire in public places and of course, AL-Qaeda)?

Sorry...I got distracted.

The phone call I got was as bad as a telemarketing call; it was the dreaded hospital billing department.  I will now try to reenact the ridiculous phone call for your reading pleasure.  

Billing Guy: Hi ma'am, may I please speak with Savannah (my six year old daughter)?

Me: Uh, no, you may not because she is six years old and is not allowed to take phone calls from strangers.  (I said this in the nicest way possible).

Billing Guy: Oh, sorry! Yes, that would be strange. I am calling from (the hospital's) billing department.  (I am protecting their privacy, assuming that not everyone who works there is this idiotic).  I'm calling in reference to an E.R. visit that Savannah made in January?  

Me: Oh, yes...she was really sick with strep.  

Billing Guy: Yes, ma'am.  You currently have a balance of $240.00 for that visit.  If you are willing to pay in full, the hospital can offer you a discount!  You can pay just $190.00.

Me: Oh! That sounds good.  Could you just give me a breakdown of what we're paying for?

Billing Guy: Well, I see that you've already paid a copay ($75) so after what your insurance has paid, you owe $240.00 for two doses of acetaminophen administered by the nurse.

Me: Um, are you serious right now? You want $240.00 for Tylenol? 

Billing Guy: Uh, yes, I believe acetaminophen is a form of Tylenol.  

Me: No, buddy it's not a FORM of Tylenol.  I don't care if it can sing and dance!  It's still Tylenol!!  (I start cackling loudly).  

Billing Guy: Um...let me see here.

Me: First of all, it was one dose, unless you think the hospital overdosed my child? We were only there for two hours.  Second of all, 7.5 ml of Tylenol is not worth $2.00, let alone $200.  Surely, you must know that you will not be getting that money?  

Billing Guy: I will have to check with the head nurse about the two doses, but that will not change the cost of one dose.

Me: The $75.00 we've already paid you, plus what insurance has covered, should take care of the 7.5 ml.  I think we're done here, don't you?

So! What do you think the Tylenol cost before the insurance paid out?  Like $500.00?  Hey, forget dealing crack!! We need to get into the Tylenol business!!

You just gotta laugh, right?  I don't think that this is the last I'll be hearing from my buddy in the billing department.  We may become good friends, the billing department and I!  But, alas, they may never recoup from the loss of the 7.5 ml of liquid gold.

Maybe, later I will swing by and drop them off a bottle!  





Thursday, February 21, 2013

Little Miss Responsible

Too often, I find myself worrying for my children...obsessing about all of the ways that the world will try to crush their little spirits.  They are so very innocent and sweet right now.  I wish I could surround them with a protective bubble so that they don't have to grow up too quickly or have their hearts broken.  But, these things will happen and I do not get a say in when the first boy makes them cry or which mean girl makes fun of the way they are dressed or wear their hair.  I can only protect their innocence at home, set boundaries that keep them safe, and surrender them to the One who gave them to me.  And when, inevitably, they come home with teary eyes and trembling lips, I can make threatening, menacing phone calls to the parties responsible and sit in the back of the classroom for a few days. 
Just kidding.  About the menacing part...not the stalker behavior. 
Right now, I am trying to let each day be sufficient unto itself and enjoy these little people just as they are.  They are truly fearfully and wonderfully made!  I remember smelling their little heads when they were newborns and just knowing that they had come from heaven.  "I wonder if you remember heaven?" I would whisper in their little ears.  
You know what I love about kids?  They are the best parts of each parent all mixed up together.  Savannah is my type A, little Miss Responsible.  Her biggest struggle in this world will most likely be the unreasonable expectations that she sets for herself.  She looks a lot like me, but her brain belongs to my husband.  One night, I lay in bed next to her as she was tossing and turning, and I said, "Savannah, go to sleep already!" She looked at me and said, "I'm not like you and Lilah, Mommy.  My brain has trouble going to sleep.  This could take awhile!" Point taken.  
She is such a rule follower!  NEVER, would she consider talking in line at school or raising her hand to ask an unnecessary question.  She'd rather get an answer wrong than risk disrupting the class.  She was SO upset when she was sick with strep and had to miss the lock down drill at school.  
Savannah: "Mommy, what if an emergency happens and I won't know what to do?!  Do you think (the teacher) could repeat the drill so that I get a chance to practice?"  
Me: "I don't think so babe.  But, I will be sure to tell (the teacher) that you are worried about it and she can tell you what you missed."
Savannah: "Mommy, sometimes during math, I look down at my feet or out the window, but I would NEVER do that during a drill. Safety is very important!"

She clearly did not get this from me.  I cannot remember a single drill I ever participated in.  In first grade, I was ALWAYS staring at the floor or out the window (a small clock was a permanent fixture on my desk!)

I do like to think I have something to do with her kindness, though.  Savannah is truly one of the kindest, most caring people I have ever met.  
God, please protect that tender little heart!

Lilah, on the other hand, has my stubborn pride and righteous indignation!  Let's call her Little Miss Stubborn. She is fiercely loyal to the people she loves and always stands up for herself and others.  Her biggest hurdle will be remembering not to judge and keeping a lid on that temper.  But, she is so insightful already!  Lilah has a sensory disorder and she has learned at the age of four how to self soothe by squeezing my hand or listening to a familiar song, when she feels panicky.  She is  so very expressive about her feelings and can make you feel loved like nobody else when she snuggles up to you, making her little sucking noises with her blankie.  When Lilah love you, you really know it. 

God, let her share that affection with people worthy of her love.
Before motherhood, I could literally not keep a plant alive.  Now, look at me!  I remember to feed them and even wash them sometimes.  I am in awe of you mothers who have three, or four, or more children.  What an awesome responsibility!  When motherhood gets to be too much, just remember that you are the glue that holds your family together, and you are doing a great work.  
"I am doing a great work and cannot come down." Nehemiah 6:3



Wednesday, February 13, 2013

I Hate (oops!) Heart February

 Recently, my mother-in-law said to me, "Have you been down lately?  The tone of your blog has been a bit sad lately."  This was obviously before my last HAPPINESS! post.  Sometimes I feel like I need to perk things up a bit for you, my lovely readers, but then I remember that a. I don't do perky and b. writing is my free therapy.  And you know therapy does not work unless you are honest...that's kind of the point!  So, if we are being honest, here's my issue. 

 I really hate February.  I want to love it and all it's Valentiney, Black History glory, but that damn month is always bringing me down.  February in our house is the month of germy, sickly kiddos who terminate any healthy being in their path.  February is the month where the skies are perpetually gray (even in Georgia!) and it's just rainy and gross.  I truthfully power washed over 100 worms in various stages of decomposition off my walkway yesterday.  I can still see their squishy little bodies and I took pleasure in blasting them with unnecessary force.  A doctor once told me that I suffered from seasonal depression.  Shocker! The good doctor's advice?  Try to spend a month in a warmer climate.  Really?! That's all ya got? I came perilously close to punching said doctor in the throat. February is the month that I am particularly chubby.  Don't try to deny it.  All of the winter hibernation and overeating has caught up with me and my body looks like a sausage in mom jeans. February is the month our anniversary.  It's always been special because it's the day we started dating (17 years ago) and we decided that we should get credit for all of those years before we were married (because they were hard work).  Herein lies the problem friends: after the holidays we are always too broke to feel justified in celebrating it so we kind of don't. 

Today, I woke up and it is still case you did not know.  The people I love are struggling with major life stresses, as well, and we all know that my s%#$ is highly sensitive so I wake up in a panic many mornings fighting for air.  I feel like I am forgetting something...key check, purse check, phone check, and then I realize the panic is due to all of the stressful events surrounding my family.  You know. The kind of stuff you have absolutely no control over.  I felt stupid last night for getting so angry, so worked up over a sick family, pukey laundry, and a broken clothes dryer, when I have so much to be thankful for.  My dear friend, who is wise beyond her years, had this to say:

 "There may be worse things in life than this, but you know what, Kate? This is your reality right now and it is extremely stressful for you right now. Sick kids are no fun, especially not for 9 days. Puking is no fun, especially not in the midst of 9 days of sickness. A broken dryer and piles of laundry ... No fun, have been there done that many times, and in the midst of 9 days of illness, including the pukies - MISERABLE!!! You have every right to whine, cry, and complain right now and don't you feel bad about it! Got that?"

Got it, Lena!  And there are so many others that have reached out to offer encouragement.  This is why I have the best of friends.  I am doubly blessed with the best of family.  

I came by to drop my niece off at my sister/cousin's house yesterday and she said, "Look at this.  I am keeping track of every day that you have a sick person to take care of at your house.  See? I am coloring those days in on the calendar.  So next time you tell me that your life is making you nuts, I can show you why!"  This made me grin.  Annie is always so sensitive to my struggles and surprises me with her thoughtful gestures.  

And you, readers, are why I stay healthy and somewhat sane.  It is such a gift to know that women out there are reading my posts and nodding their heads.  You have your own giant lists of struggles and we are often praying for each other.  You beautiful women give my hurdles meaning and validate my feelings time and again.  In fact, you may be the best therapy ever.  My cousin by marriage, Marcela, a.k.a. Culture Mami, says this to her readers.  "Your comments make my blog sing!" Amen to that.  

Every time I hear from you...even if it's just a brief comment about your day, my friends, I know that we are all in this together. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

My Happy Beginning

Recently, I was whining over lunch to a good friend of mine. I said, although I am not depressed and have so much to be thankful for, I am not entirely happy a lot of the time either.  I have two beautiful daughters, a husband that still loves me as much as he did when I was 16, and a roof over my head with beloved family living near by.  What's not to love?  

Sometimes, as mommies, we lose a piece of ourselves in being a servant to everyone else.  I'm not saying that serving others is a bad thing; just the opposite!  I really believe that serving God and family is the highest calling that a person can have.  We have to be careful, though, to remember what it is that we love about ourselves, as we are loving everybody else.  When the drudgery of everyday existence snuffs out that little light that resides within each of us, it doesn't just effect one person, right?  When Mama's not happy, ain't nobody happy!  Perhaps, the truest statement ever.  

My smart friend admitted to often feeling the same way.  She is crazy intelligent, a great mama, and incredibly giving of her time.  But, she agreed that when she looks at a dirty bathroom, she often thinks, "Is anyone really going to notice if it stays dirty one more day? Is what I do around here really important?"

What a relief! Here I was thinking that I was the only Mom who is entirely unmoved and unmotivated by soap scum!  To say the least, I appreciate her honesty.  She recommended that I pick up a copy of The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, a New York times bestseller.  Just the fact that this book has spent a year on the New York Bestsellers list is evidence alone that a lot of us women, whether working at home or elsewhere, struggle with finding happiness.  The author, Rubin, was feeling bogged down by her everyday existence and decided to dedicate one year of her time and energy to becoming a happier person.  In the introduction, she talks about always waiting for her life to change on its own.  

Hello! That's me!  Maybe one day we'll start eating dinner at our dining room table regularly.  Maybe one day I'll save up the money to go to a blogger convention.  Maybe one day I will read a book that does not have a smug looking Scotsman or scantily clothed pirate on the front.  Just kidding...The Happiness Project counts, right?! The list could go on.  I am really just starting the book, but I am already inspired.  So I thought I would undertake my own happiness project.  Like Rubin, it is not practical for me to pick up and move to Bali or Naples for a few months (would interfere with a few things), but I can make a few changes here and there to fan the little flame within me.  

My Grown Up Happiness List:
1.)  Always assume people are thinking nice things about you (because they usually are and if they weren't, do you really want to know that?)

2.) Make some time to be quiet with God everyday (much harder than you think...have to do it in my parked car so I don't get distracted).  

3.) Be the kind of person who REALLY prays for people when they say they will (I love those guys).  

4.) Stick a card in someone's mailbox just because.  

5.)  Trashy novels and TV are only allowed after 8pm...TV time is something for Hubby and I to do together.  

6.) At LEAST take a long walk everyday so body does not move any further south (God help me).  

7.) Organize or clean something everyday to make a happier space.  Nothing bums me out more than crap laying everywhere.  

8.) Call my husband's family more.  I love them SO much!  I just HATE talking on the phone.  

9.) Make the drive to Atlanta with my family.  We live in the sticks (not even pizza delivery for Pete's sake) and Atlanta is an urban adventure just waiting to happen.  

10.)  Stop using my credit card (I feel better about myself when I know what I am spending).  

11.) Speak the truth if I am asked for it. Trust that people will still love me even when I disagree! 

12.) Do something creative that brings joy to another person #my Dad's 76th birthday present.

13.) Let my husband see the best version of me from time to time...he usually gets the "it's 6pm and please get your ass home soon" version.  

14.)  Listen to more classical music.  It makes me feel like I am living in a beautiful, period film.  

15.) Be a better listener.  Stop thinking about what you are going to say next and just "be" attentive to what they are saying.  

Okay, you've read mine! Now what's on yours?  It's really quite liberating to put it out there for everyone to see. If you don't want to broadcast it, then tell a friend.  Do something to hold yourself accountable to making some happiness changes.  Only keep it to yourself if it's like, "Stop visiting Asian massage parlors," okay?  

No, on second thought, you should really tell someone that.  


Saturday, February 2, 2013

Naked Me

Here is one tidbit readers may not guess about me: I do not "do" strong feelings well.  I know...shocking! The lady who bares her soul to the world via the Web does not know how to deal with big feelings.  This is actually a relatively new realization for me, but not so much for my friends.  If we took a poll right now, I guarantee you that all of my good friends have witnessed me ugly cry like I am a 16 year old having a coming to Jesus with Dr. Phil on at least one occasion.  If you haven't beheld the ugly cry, just wait...give me a couple of months; we'll get there. 
 This realization occurred to me recently, when I was talking to a dear friend on the phone.  The conversation went something like this:

Friend: Remember that time when my son was so stressed out that he put a hammer through the drywall? 

Me: Oh, yeah! That was awful. I remember how stressful that was. 

Friend: It's kind of funny that my son is losing it and I'm trying to hold it together...meanwhile, you are the one hyperventilating into a paper bag in my kitchen! LOL!

Me: Wow! I totally forgot about that...but you are right. I was a mess!

It got me thinking (only occasionally a good thing).  What was it that made me so panicked about that situation?  Or a million other situations like it when I have had to fight the overwhelming urge to run away before my chest explodes.  Even writing about this subject is pretty tough for me because this is me at my most vulnerable.  As I'm writing, I feel a bit like that dream where you are walking through the halls of your high school and you realize, "Oops! I'm naked!" 

Who knows what makes us lose it during stressful situations?  In college, someone told me it was probably due to the fact that I never witnessed my parents argue growing up (no practice at resolving conflict).  My mom said, "That's rich!  So, now we've screwed you up because we didn't fight enough?" 

Mom and Dad, thanks for the traumatic "Leave it to Beaver" upbringing. 
Please, put away the violins.  I will somehow carry on!

I'm just gonna keep it real and lay it all out for you.  For many years, my thought process around conflict went something like this.  Someone hurts me.  Someone is in a crappy mood and gives me some attitude.  There is a little file in my brain where that person goes and stays until I deem them fit to reenter my life.  I know, messed up, right?  They could apologize, make a kind gesture...doesn't matter.  In my head, I'm thinking, "Take a hike." 

Now, like a good Southern girl, I would never say such a thing.  Heavens, no!! I would smile, say the right things, and slip them into the naughty file.  

It's a little nuts.  I like to think I'm a bit more evolved than that these days. Like a Big Girl, I am slowly learning to use my words and express how I feel.  Largely, the change is due to the presence of honest, real friendships in my life.  Words cannot describe how much I value the close adult friendships in my life.  In these, I find accountability, love, and acceptance. There is no room for gossip, judgement, or resentments. 

But, it is still pretty unbearable for me to feel any negative, strong emotions.  Be it anger, fear, sadness, anxiety, etc., I choose the "avoid at all costs" approach until inevitably things boil over (at the most inopportune times)!  Here is a great example of my avoidance strategy after a super stressful week:

Me: How is your day going?

Hubby: Really busy and stressful.  Too much to get done in one day.  

Me: So this is probably not the best time for me to tell you what I've been thinking...

Hubby: What?? 

Me: Well...wouldn't it be great if you and I got tattoos together?! I mean, there are so many things in our lives right now that are so out of our control and what a great way to feel empowered.  It could be like a birthday present to you! Fun, right??

Hubby: Wow.  Really? What are you, like twenty?  No, babe.  And if I have to look at one body for the rest of my life, I'd really prefer that it not be tatted up, please.  

Me: Okay.  Well, it was just a thought.

Bless my husband's little heart.  It's great to have people that know you so well, isn't it?  They know all of your dysfunctions and issues and they don't let you get away with stupid stuff.  He knows that I look for quick fixes...stuff that will give me a little adrenaline so that I don't have to feel what I am feeling or God forbid, think too much.  This morning, before leaving for work, he asked what was next.  "So, Babe, you going to ask me to join the military today because you think the uniform is cute?"  Ha!  No, I'd just make him buy the uniform, silly man.  

So, what now?  Well, I think I have enough insight to pick up the phone and talk about what is going on in my head before I do something like cut off all my hair, get a tramp stamp, or pierce something.  Let's face it.  Nobody wants to see that stuff on a thirty four year old stay at home least not this one.  Gross.  I might as well start smoking Virginia Slims, wearing toe rings and sporting hoops in my cartilage, right?  Been there, done that.  Instead, if I feel sad, or mad, stressed,  or whatever...I'm going to try to look it square in the eye. 

And maybe, one day, I can stop running around and just sit with it.  Because it's not the negative feelings that get us in trouble. It's the untruth, the belief, that we'd better just put a lid on those feelings because no one else would understand.