I Bought An Indoor Plant & Life Goes On

I did. I haven’t had a true indoor plant since I killed the last one in over 7 years. I say “true” because I do occasionally keep a basil plant inside, until summer, unless it dies before I can move it outside. I have one presently, and it’s still alive so – so far so good. I also currently have the rosemary plant that I brought in for the winter, but those things have to be supernatural because I had a rosemary plant years ago that I left outside all year long; it turned brown and dry – all the symptoms of a dead plant – and then bounced back like it had nine lives.

Anyway. It’s a palm. I saw it and thought – yes! We need plants in the house. I won’t say why we haven’t had them for so long, but it’s not just because I’m a serial plant killer. Veruca saw it and exclaimed, wow! Because it’s way bigger than it looked at the store. And then she said in all seriousness, don’t kill it, mom. And then she said she can’t wait until it drops coconuts. It’s not that kind of palm, but she wasn’t hearing it. Kind of like when she says she’s Chinese even though it’s plainly obvious she has not one percent of Asian in her.

I’m trying to find the emotional balance again. The grief hits me from time to time, when the thought drops like an empty bomb, clearing the hollow of my stomach and reminding me of his absence, and that it is permanent. The stages of grief always catch me by surprise, you know? Like they talk about the stages and it’s like yeah, yeah, that’s what they say. But it’s real. I found myself feeling something other than sadness when I saw others’ posts of their cats. WHY OLIVER?

Anyway, I am busying myself with completing the tasks of tidying, a la Marie Kondo. I have packed up 12 boxes of miscellania and 7 bags of clothing to be donated to Purple Heart. I organized the junk drawer, and the kitchen cabinets are shaping up slowly. No – I’m not following her program to a “t.” But I’m getting the job done and it’s bringing joy.  I folded my clothes Kondo-style and my drawers look like a work of art and I can’t stop opening and closing them. I did Todd’s too – would you believe he owns 78 t-shirts? SEVENTY EIGHT. I told him no one can use that many t-shirts. And this was after we purged some. And then went out shopping and doesn’t he buy 3 more? So that ups the count to 81. (And no – I did NOT buy him a t-shirt at Opac’s college a few weeks ago. Sue me.)

Anyway, emotional balance. I go to work and it’s pleasant and we laugh a lot (well, except for the absurd. More on that later).  At home, this perimenopause business makes me edgy and impatient. It’s probably partly because we have a canine houseguest, and he’s big and hairy and licks his paws. A few people know this makes me absolutely nuts. There’s hair everywhere, something I am not fond of and one reason why poodles are perfect. It’s no secret I have a threshold for tolerance when it comes to changes in the household dynamic.

Other things that make me stabby: slow internet connection, parents who think the student drop-off rules don’t apply to them, really – anyone who thinks the rules don’t apply to them, someone throwing a cigarette out their car window at the grocery store, and everyone who continually undermines my Kondo house. On a larger scale, the horrific lack of justice in the world and the fact that it’s not illegal for evil people to reproduce.

So I’m focusing on my own habits and making healthy changes. I’m back on the self-imposed wagon again, and truth be told: your body will tell you what you need and what you don’t, IF you pay attention. I have a story about that too, for another day.

I have breakfast quinoa simmering on the stove this morning. I made $80 hummus yesterday. It’s $80 because we had to buy a food processor on Sunday (old one crapped out months ago). I started a new 21-day exercise program because I am almost-50-going-on-25 in my head and my body is all like, hey, feel this.  I took a bikini pic yesterday and recorded my weight and intentions in my journal. It’s only 3 weeks. I can do this.

V is running a 5k in a few weeks, and I was aiming to run it with her. Or, rather, at the same time – since she doesn’t think we can keep the same pace. And she’s right. At this point I am not ruling it out, but I’m also not very optimistic about my knees holding up.

In spite of all the dumbfuckery of the present day, Todd and I have confirmed plans for New York and Phantom of the Opera, another trip to Erie for the State Bowling Tournament, and Vegas over the summer, coinciding with the National Bowling Tournament – because, apparently, very little happens without bowling balls. And, to that end, let me say now that also apparently – in case you didn’t know – all balls are not created equal. This was born of a conversation with Todd about how many balls he needs for the tournament, and the answer is four. He needs four balls. Seriously. Because all balls are not created equal. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

The Absurd (as promised)

*These can also be classified under the “what not to do” tab.

People going through divorce are not normal. (I can say this because I was once one of them and fully understand the crazy.) Sometimes mothers call up tearfully sharing their shitstorm. Others, like the one a couple of weeks ago, forget their manners when they come into the office and turn on us – like, “why don’t you use your knowledge and figure it out?” while attempting to get her child an appointment for “she-doesn’t’-know-what.” (Oh yes, she did.) *For the record, she later called and apologized.

There are also – and this is a fun one – a handful of acrimonious parents who spend their time transferring their kids to other practices, while the other parent is trying to keep them in our office.

What not to do: do not involve us in your custody disputes. Unless there are court documents on file, there is nothing we can do.

Patients in the 16-17 range who arrive for appointments alone. FYI: children under 18 need a parent with them, or at the very least, parental consent to be there alone, and not all offices will even allow that. This situation requires us to call parent and get a verbal, taking up valuable time for other things and not to mention the amount of time said patient is with the provider.                                                                                                           

What not to do: Do not send your minor child to the doctor’s office alone.   I’m all for leading them down the path of adult responsibility, but at least accompany them for it.

And now, my personal favorite:

Parent who calls our office for an appointment Today. Today translates as a “sick” appointment. Child has not been seen in our office. I ask if we have records (this is a requirement to schedule any kind of appointment, as well as what insurance they have and whether or not they have to choose a PCP, which is a whole other story for another time), which is when I find out that child is a patient of another office in our network. I mention this to the parent, as well as the fact that I can see he is scheduled for a well appointment there in less than two weeks (which is going to matter A LOT as the conversation continues).

It is the parent’s responsibility to call the other office and cancel that appointment and inform them they’d like to transfer to our office.* The other office doesn’t “give good service.” I say I’m sorry that he had this experience, but reiterated what I said above. He was surprisingly NOT HAPPY with my response. He didn’t understand why he couldn’t go to any location in the network whenever he wanted; I explained that while we are all connected, we operate as separate offices. That’s when he said this was “like a scene from a socialist movie,” and I have a limited knowledge of political ideologies but I think he might have gotten this one wrong?

*Turns out he wanted a Well appointment not a sick appointment. Currently, well appointments are out at least 3 months, which is why it makes more sense for him to keep the one he already has. It also turns out that the other office doesn’t give good service because he wanted one sooner than that two-week one he already had.

What not to do: Oh my, where to start? Expecting the rules to be changed for you? (see my earlier stabby-trigger) Being rude? 

 

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This Is Why I Drink

Yesterday was Monday and I got up for work. I put together food for Todd to take to work to get him started on a healthy diet and weight loss. It wasn’t a stressful morning. I even made him breakfast. We had a snow event Saturday and Sunday so we stayed in all weekend and cooked stuff and V’s dad brought her home for school yesterday so I wouldn’t have to drive in bad road conditions the night before.

Time to leave for work – completely flat tire on the rear left. Thank God Todd was still home so he fixed it and I was only 10 minutes late to work.

I was on phones yesterday in the morning. It’s January. EVERYBODY and their child has something. This week’s special: vomiting, diarrhea, and ear aches. I’m not mentioning the lingering cough we’ve all been reading about because, let’s face it, it’s now part of the regular menu.

Here follows an excerpt of my morning calls, or, what you shouldn’t do when calling your pediatrician’s office.

First difficult call of the day: I had to conference in a translator so I could register a new patient in Spanish. Patient is in his teens. We still accept new patients up to age 16, but Spock would say it’s illogical to go to the trouble of transferring in for only two years.

She wanted to schedule a well visit for him. Now. We need to have records in our office before we can schedule any appointments. I explained this, as well as the fact that we are scheduling well into March, April, and May. What? Oh no! He needs it NOW. She went on and on in Spanish for several minutes, because she was told by our office in November that she would have to call back in January. Ahem. NO ONE could possibly have told her that, because – need records first, then can schedule. Someone clearly misunderstood. She wasn’t backing down. Several more minutes of Spanish where I was able to pick out a handful of words which I shouldn’t have done because it made my head pound. Finally, I gave up engaging in this back and forth, since it wasn’t going to change anything. She still has to bring records in, she still has to change us to his PCP on her insurance, and we still DON’T HAVE ANY APPOINTMENTS BEFORE MARCH. Longest phone call ever, and it was still barely 10 a.m.

Next up: mom calling for a referral. That was the easy part. Then, both her kids needed well child visits; they’re due in February, and… SEE ABOVE. And – she wanted them both seen at the same visit. Easily spent 20 minutes on the phone with her trying to find a time for both children to be seen, NOT with their usual provider because that just ain’t gonna happen if she wants them together. Said she’d take any provider, but not the nurse practitioner (who has appointment availability sooner) because one child has “issues.” Found her an appointment in April with someone, and she happily took it. It just took forever to end this call.

Finally – and believe me there are several more I’ve blocked out – a dad called and wanted his son seen TODAY. By this time, we were completely booked and so I offered to have a nurse call and advise/direct him, or he could go to urgent care. This was before lunch.

Should I take him to the ER instead? That would be your decision… I’m not clinical so I’m unable make recommendations on that.

Well, can you schedule him an appointment for tomorrow?

I’m sorry, I cannot pre-book sick appointments for the next day. I can have one of our nurses call you and advise you and/or we recommend going to urgent care. Or, you can call back tomorrow morning and be scheduled then.

Well, who does the scheduling? I do, and nurses will schedule sick patients who need to be seen.

So why can’t YOU just schedule him for tomorrow?

I am not able to pre-book sick appointments for the next day. But again, I can have a nurse call you and advise you.

Where is urgent care? Will they take my insurance?

There is ******* in ******* or the CHOP urgent care location opens at 4 p.m. YOU will have to check with your insurance about coverage.

Well, can I speak to a nurse?

Absolutely. I will have her call you. What are your son’s symptoms?

He’s been vomiting and has diarrhea.

For the record, I always end my calls with a big smile, hoping against hope that it is felt through the air waves that I am very pleasant and not the least bit annoyed with difficult people.

Also for the record, we DO NOT see patients who have vomiting and diarrhea. And, in case you don’t already know, this is a VIRUS. It has to run its course and there’s absolutely nothing a doctor can do for you. Unless you are dehydrated and unable to keep even water down. THEN, go to the emergency room. Common sense, folks!

I’m just glad I wasn’t on phones after lunch, having to tell everyone who called that we have no more appointments left today. Sounds awful, right? But, this is the way it is in the winter. Everyone is getting sick and there are only so many appointments available in a day. That we were booked by 10:30 a.m. should tell you how many sick kids are out there. Which is why sick calls are triaged… so the nurses can determine who needs to be seen or who just needs home care.

And then today I woke up with headache and GI stuff and an enormous sore on my lip, something I’ve never had like this, ever. It started yesterday at work, and slowly grew but not terrible. This morning, it only added to the issues I woke with – and it is HUGE and ugly. And, it looks like there’s another one brewing on the other side.

The kids were fighting over the washing machine last night – imagine! So these are the arguments I’m diffusing nowadays. Now they’re both doing their own wash and I’m still reeling from the shock of having more time on my hands. Even Opac has taken on the challenge of unclogging a toilet – thus, I haven’t had to do this in a while either. Who ARE these kids living in my house? Still, no one is cleaning the bathroom.

I went to the store on Saturday, which we’ve already determined is to be avoided at all costs. But, necessity boiled over. I turned up an aisle of the parking lot and sat still in my car while three different people, WHO WERE WALKING TOWARD MY CAR, took up the entire aisle. Not one of them thought to move out of my way. Todd said, I’d have blown my horn. And I said, that’s precisely why I left you at home. People inside the store are no better. The rules of the road should apply to shopping cart etiquette but clearly most of these folks missed the memo.

The animals remain constant, though. Sabra is still freaked out by gunshots (we live in redneck land where no celebration is complete without gunfire). She’s shaggy and stinky again and needs the groomer. She runs from me when I pull out the brush. She acts uncomfortable on the couch when we’re home, but I KNOW she’s up there when we’re not because I see paw imprints.

Oliver lies on the couch every day, usually right after I’ve cleaned all of his fur from it. He continues his morning whine for canned goodness, and afterward waits on the kitchen stool for one of us to turn on his video game. For reals. There’s an animated mouse video on YouTube we put on for him, and he stands on the counter and bats at these mice like Rocky Balboa. Hey – it’s exercise. At least until he tires himself out and lies down on the counter and just watches them go by.

 

Miscellaneous:

Other things to keep in mind when going to your pediatrician:

We don’t prescribe birth control pills.

Pink eye = extremely contagious. You will not be seen for that. Prescriptions are called in.

You cannot be “billed” for your copay. (Well, it does happen, but generally speaking, NO.)

Do not, I repeat, DO NOT “walk in” to the office without an appointment. And, to that end, if your child fell through a plate glass door and is bleeding in multiple places, DO NOT go to the pediatrician’s office. You need to go to the ER.

Fevers that come and go with ibuprofen – will come and go with ibuprofen. In other words, fever returns when the medication wears off? Of course it does. And there’s never a dumb question or first time parent who doesn’t worry about what seems like the smallest things. Don’t be afraid to call for the nurse. Just don’t holler at the front desk person who has parameters to follow for scheduling sick appointments.

Likewise, please don’t holler at the scheduler who can’t pull well visits out of their ass for you. First come, first serve is a real thing ya’ll.

Don’t get mad at the front desk when your ex-wife told you the appointment time was a half-hour earlier than it actually is. Also, by the same token, do not involve us in your domestic disputes. There is nothing we can do about it, unless there are court documents.

When your child turns 18, they are a legal adult. They should be transitioning to an adult provider, but until they do, please know that without your new adult’s consent, we are unable to discuss his/her healthcare with you. It’s the LAW.

Finally, realize that your child is one of hundreds of patients in a practice. We care about all of them, but there are only so many doctors and nurses, and we can’t always perform miracles. Use patience and kindness when asking for what you want, and that kindness and patience will be returned.

 

 

 

What’s Happening Now

Sitting down at my laptop after a rather uneventful weekend. I removed someone’s used dental flosser from my keyboard (I know – WTF???) and cracked open a rather innocuous Corona.

Today’s pain scale: a definite 4. For now. And that’s what the beer is for. Pain meds don’t help, and nobody is prescribing anything stronger than Tylenol Extra Strength from here on out as we are now t-minus 2 weeks to open neck surgery. After I shared a pic of my MRI, one friend said something like, “wow. No wonder you drink.” And my first thought was, WTF? Really? Do I really sound like I drink a lot? Cause I really don’t drink as much as ya’ll think. I don’t have the stamina for all that alcohol anymore, which should have become quite clear after last summer’s soiree with the Amish Outlaws and Todd and my much younger, two-wooden-legs brother.

Anyway. I haven’t been drinking much. I decided to lay off the alcohol after the definitive, diagnostic pictures of my cervical spine, and focus on just healthy eating and 30 minutes a day on the treadmill. However, the Neph laundry debacle on Veruca’s birthday led my mom to mixing Metropolitans for the two of us and my martini glass was never empty for the better part of three hours. At that point I think the pain was either gone, or completely intoxicated itself.

So, surgery. Got all the informational papers yesterday. Pre-op PE and bloodwork. MRSA swab. I have to shower with this special soap the day and night before, and then again in the morning BEFORE DAWN since I have to be at the hospital at 6:30 a.m. This whole thing is creating intense anxiety. The pain I’m having is reason enough to go through with it, but it’s also giving me other worries I won’t verbalize with anyone.

Todd and I had dinner plans with friends last weekend and chatted the whole way there … we both have a lot of potential changes ahead of us… until we dove into surgery conversation and he expressed the anxiety it causes him. And I’m in tears, because I’m remembering my last trip to the hospital and I’m afraid this experience is going to rip that wound wide open. And I couldn’t articulate that in our conversation with less than 30 minutes before our arrival at our friends’ house. And this is the first time in nearly 5 years that I’m feeling any emotion at all about that.

So anyway. The next week and a half are filled with the last days of school, summer workouts, an endocrinologist appointment, haircuts, a pre-op appointment, an out of town trip, my last two work days, and one raucous girls’ day out with my bestie. These are the days BEFORE.

We are now here. The Before Surgery. A long list of stuff I have to get done Before. Before my neck is cut open, Before I am knocked out for 2 or 3 hours, Before I go through the recovery. I want to clean the house. I want clean floors, clean pets, clean bathrooms, clean clothes, and a clean bed. I want to edge and weed my gardens, maybe plant some new things, mulch. I want to paint the shutters on the house. I want to clean out drawers and closets. It’s like nesting, only I come home with new discs instead of a new baby.

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Meanwhile, everything and anything has decided that Mercury is in retrograde – or, for all you not-into-astrology folks – the period of time every so often when shit either breaks or stops working. LIKE my car.

You know the one – that was brand new a year ago. That has already had – count them – FOUR vacations at the dealership in 12 months. This time, while we were safely inside our friends’ house having a lovely dinner during the rain showers, the car decided it wanted its windows down. We come outside and there’s the windows. Down. And the inside of the doors saturated. And the driver’s seat.

The next day the touch screen was completely black. No GPS, no Sync, nothing. This happened twice before, but it magically fixed itself before we were able to take it in.

On Thursday the toilet in the staff bathroom was bubbling and stopped flushing. And then the other two bathrooms had the same thing happen, and THEN someone from one of the offices downstairs said there was water coming through the ceiling, through the light panels. And apparently a bucket or two wasn’t going to do the job.

That was almost as exciting as the day the fire alarm went off at the other office I work in occasionally, which turned out to be a false alarm. Regardless, it was an entirely new experience for me.

***********

Work is going well. Some days are stressful. Those are the busy days where it’s suddenly 6 o’clock and you have no idea what happened to the last 5 hours. Some days are quiet enough until just after 5. Same thing happens on Fridays about an hour before we close. It’s like people panic when the night/weekend comes. Which is crazy to me, because there’s always somewhere you can take your sick child on any day of the week at any time. When my 17-year-old was a baby, we had two choices… call the doctor, or go to the ER. Urgent care wasn’t an option then.

In one week, I got hollered at by some woman who insisted she’d been on hold for 45 minutes with the nurses’ line; hollered at by a mother whose 4-week-old had a stuffy nose who wouldn’t accept any answer without the word “appointment” in it; and screamed at by another mom who needed physicals for her 3 kids in less than a month so they wouldn’t miss out on playing sports. Word to the wise: You can’t get a well visit in under 3 months in MOST practices. The latter two graced the start of two different days.

**********

Out of recent experiences, I have these words of wisdom: DO NOT, under any circumstances, blame the scheduler for lack of immediate appointments. Your 10-minute tirade is not going to change the reality that There Are No Appointments.

Do NOT under any circumstances, ream out the person on the other end of the phone. We are here to help, we’re not here to say no, but we also can’t break standard protocol.

The first appointments to go are always the ones after 3:30 p.m.  If that’s what you want, you have to schedule at least 3 months in advance.

Again, please do not holler at the scheduler that you cannot take off work and/or will not pull your child out of school “just” for a well visit. You are not the first parent to ever have to work it out, and you won’t be the last. As for the 10-minute tirade, see above.

Above all, remember that we are here to do a job and to help. We aren’t here to make your life more difficult. But you have to do your part too.

The End