January 30, 2014

Health insurance and some rather inventive language

Just an amusing little anecdote today about the wonderful Maryland health system and our ward.

For those of you who may not know, two years ago Tom and I became the 'guardians' of his adult cousin, Eileen, when her mother died. Eileen has myriad developmental problems and some mental health issues as well. She is just able to live by herself in the house she grew up in with the help a home health aide. We have power of attorney. Tom handles all of her finances and I handle health issues and groceries. Eileen pretty much depends on us for everything.

Now between a massive screw-up (no other word for it) with her old employer and its new COBRA administrator and the massive screw-up (again, no other word for it) that is the Affordable Health Care Act in Maryland, Eileen is at this moment without insurance.

So far, you say, not very amusing. It's coming.

I said above 'no other word for it', but I am wrong. My dear husband has found many other words for it. I've never heard most of them. Not that I am particularly conversant with that particular speech form. I've never been a sailor. But I have seen a lot of movies. I've heard a lot of language in those movies. And I think those writers could up their vocabulary a notch or two by speaking to my husband about Healthcare in Maryland.

However, just when things looked pretty darned bleak and what we both needed was a really good laugh, we got a letter in the mail from the Maryland Department of Mental Health. It was a request to fill out a survey on our recent dealings with the agency. God bless their little pea-picking hearts, the letter was addressed to Eileen - the parent/guardian/caretaker of Penny Petersen. And we thought these agencies had no sense of humor. 

The letter did the trick. Tom laughed. I laughed. My daughter laughed. My sister laughed. True, this is not much of a story and perhaps you had to be there, but after a day spent at Social Services trying in vain to correct the whole insurance fiasco, that silly letter turned out to be a life saver.

January 24, 2014

Tunnel vision - or the lack thereof

Writing can be difficult to say the least. That blank page thing is not an exaggeration. Blank pages are pretty damned scary. And my male tunnel vision approach is not working out as planned.

Yesterday I woke up determined to get a two page synopsis of my new book written. To the uninitiated I know this sounds like a piece of custard tart - Mary met John, they fell in love, they discovered a body, the dog ate the evidence, the killer attacked the dog, Mary saved John from a burning building and they caught the maniac. All lived happily ever after, except the maniac who disapproved of the prison's Friday lunch menu.

But I find trying to reduce 65,000 words to a measly 800 or so while keeping some semblance of an orderly plot, and making it interesting and reflective of my writing style is really, really hard. But I was determined not to give in to all of the distractions around me and get it done! (Oh my goodness, my nails really need a manicure.)

I had already done the grunt work. I had reread my notes, scanned the book, and made an outline to follow. I was reviewing said notes and deciphering my chicken scratch (my handwriting leaves something to be desired, such as legibility) when the phone rang. I needed to answer it because we were expecting - no, expecting is too strong a word - we were hoping for a call from the insurance company about our ward's health insurance. So I answered it. Shouldn't have. It was as you might have guessed a salesperson on a mission. (Just a minute, I need another cup of tea.)

Back to the writing board, tea in hand. I had just figured out what "D&R wanr behind" written in the margin meant when I remembered that I had not yet done my aerobic arm exercise - my New Year's resolution. Four minutes dancing with weights to 'I Will Survive" and I was back to business.

Four hours, five cups of tea, three more phone calls, a snack, another snack, a minute dusting the computer, a call to my daughter, and a quick load of laundry later and it was done. 64,879 words encapsulated in a brief 639 word prĂ©cis. It wasn't bad. A little humor, strong plot line, characters clearly identified. This was okay. Culprit caught and put in jail. But it seemed like something was missing. I read it again - slowly. OMG, I forgot the murder! Tunnel vision where art thou?

January 16, 2014

2014 - It's got to be a better year

As the new year begins I am trying to get back into a rhythm of some sort regarding, I was going to say my writing, but my life would be more accurate.

Too much has been going on in the extended family and very little of it good. A death and two serious illnesses have taken their toll on all of us. I have been distracted to say the least. I find myself staring out the window a lot, walking in aimless circles, eating a lot of junk food, and generally wasting entire days unable to focus.

But it's 2014, time to pull myself up by my bootstraps - I am not entirely sure what bootstraps are, but I'm pretty sure that pulling them up is a good thing - and getting on with life, writing, and - heaven help me - a healthier, or at least less fattening, diet.

First step - I will be positive. After all 2013 wasn't all bad. I did get my book published. Last week I went to Barnes and Noble in Alexandria and signed some books for the store. Just like a real author! I'm going to a cozy mystery conference in May. This is all good stuff.

And second - I'm getting organized. I can hear a lot of laughing out loud, but I'm determined. I will develop tunnel vision. I will be like many men I know and completely ignore anything that is not right in front of me.

Of course, this will happen as soon as I finish writing this blog, making dinner, and then spending tomorrow on the phone with the fine people from Affordable Health Care, COBRA, CareFirst and probably a few others in order to straighten out the mess someone - and we have no idea who - has made of Eileen's health insurance. So really, I will get organized when hell freezes over or when I throw the phone out the window, whichever comes first. This is my plan and I'm sticking to it.

In the meantime, I am stuck on a key part of my new mystery. But after tomorrow's marathon phoning I may change the whole plot anyway to a woman driven mad by insurance companies who gets her revenge by locking all of the people who run these companies in a room with a non-stop recording telling them to "Press 1" now, but never letting them do it!