Monday, May 21, 2012

spring has sprung

at least, it feels that way.  things are growing in the garden, i took four bags of clothes to the thrift store yesterday, swiffered enough hair to create a small dog out of my bathroom, and have started going to the gym again. 

i am so incredibly spoiled that i don't even realize it sometimes.  my work has two gyms in the building; one that's all weights and mirrors (and kind of hidden) and one with a crazy amount of gear.  three treadmills, two bikes, two eliptical machines, a nautilus weight thing, a rowing machine, a stair climber and hand weights.  AND cable tv.  seriously.  you can watch cartoons while getting sweaty.  not only that, but using them is totally, 100% free of charge.  you just sign a waiver saying that if you get your sweatpants stuck in the belt of the treadmill you won't sue, and the gym is all yours.  when i started working at the insurance company, i used the gym on all my breaks, just to get out of my training class to stand up for a while.  then i moved upstairs and stopped doing that.  i go through fits and spurts of using it more and less often, but i have noticed a few things that make me go more.  for instance, if i go on monday, i am way more likely to go again a few more times that week.  if i pack my gym bag the night before, i'm less likely to forget it.  if there's someone else in the gym while i'm there, i tend to stay longer, because i don't want them thinking i'm a loser who only stays for half an hour.  and that ke$ha is oddly motivating.  i'm embarrassed how much i enjoy her crappy songs while working up a sweat.  i also mentioned to my husband the other day how much i like going, how good i feel, but that i sometimes feel guilty not coming right home from work.  the look he gave me was priceless, and the moment i said it out loud, i realized how dumb i was being.  now that i don't feel guilty about not rushing right home and have loaded way too much pop music onto my ipod, i feel like this recent run of gym going might turn into an honest to goodness habit.  in a good way. 

my whole goal with going to the gym is, among other things, to not be so self conscious anymore.  i've gotten to a point with my body that while i'm not hideously deformed and not clinically morbidly obese, i don't feel awesome in my own skin.  i had a biometric screening a few weeks ago, as well, that made me realize my cholesterol is too high.  i figure adding in some more activity and soluble fiber can't hurt, right? 

also, one year ago today i married my husband.  we had a big, lovely wedding, i got to spend time with people i love, and officially became part of this family.  it was a remarkable day, and i'm so glad we had that big party.  we're celebrating on wednesday, because that's the day we made it legal, but today we're being schmoopy and my husband sent me flowers at work and i think if this first year is any indication, we've got some more good years coming. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

hey, guess what?

chicken butt.

ha! does that joke every get old? in a word: no.   

tonight i made dinner, meaning i went to the store and bought what we all the call "the big sandwich."  it's a two foot sub made at fred meyer's and it is amazing.  it's so long you have to carry in your arms like a baby, and don't even think about putting it in a hand cart.  it won't fit.  it was just so beautiful out i didn't want to do anything in the kitchen but unwrap that sucker and then sit out on the deck in the last of the day's sun and enjoy a sandwich someone else made.  needless to say, it was delightful. 

i've also been thinking about the great lynda barry lately, reading her tublr, and trying to spend more time doing/making/creating.  she talks often of just coloring; just taking a regular, old fashioned coloring book, a box of crayons, and just going at it.  the way it makes you feel to just relax and zone in on the colors and shapes, to watch it come together, she says are great for you.  it's a way of taking care of your inner, creative self, like brushing your teeth.  i work with someone who colors in mandalas between calls, and she says it's really relaxing.  thinking of this, i went to michael's when i got off work and picked up some more colored pencils (crazy flourescent ones and earth toned ones) and some coloring books (i found mandalas!).  the girlchild and i sat outside, coloring after dinner; just relaxing and talking and listening to music.  it felt really good.  just to have half and hour of quiet, relaxed, happy time together.  we're all kind of making each other nuts lately, but the one thing we all like to do is make stuff.  art projects are our favorite.  so we colored and showed the boys what we were working on, ate slices of giant sandwich and remembered how it isn't all frustration and eye rolling when we hang out. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

real quick

the teen ennui in this house is thick enough to choke a fucking horse.  it's not even funny, regardless of the joke i just made.  part of it makes me angry and confrontational, and i say things like, "how can you say you don't care about anything? you really, honestly, just don't give a fuck?! how is that a thing?"  the math that goes on in an adolescent head is like the new math, it's like quantum physics, it's truly dealing with imaginary numbers.  when i try to calm down, to speak rationally, to not just ground everything that walks past me with a stink eye (you're next lulu), stop and think "you know, i might just not get it, and that might be okay," it works for like five minutes and then i'm all rant-y and rave-y and back to wringing my hands clean off.  i swing back and forth, feeling alternately annoyed and then terrified that i'll push one of them to suicide and that will really teach me a lesson, a lesson in suffering, a class i will take for the rest of my life and whose final exam i will fail every time.  shit, i bet the ennui is contagious and now i have it.  i feel overwrought and fraught and in a funk. i love these kids, i really do, and i don't love them because i'm "supposed" to: i just do it because i feel it and i have moments when i wish i didn't give a shit because that would be so much easier.  if i were their bio-mom i could use the argument that i'm the mom, so of course i love them, no questions asked; but not only am i the step, but they have a bio-mom who shoots that theory in the foot.  one of them actually said to me, "you're here because you have to be here," and i was like, "nuh, uh, no fucking way. i'm here because i chose it." i picked this.  this is the work that i want to do, even when it sucks. i signed up for this team. if you had to stick around then their mom would live in state, would do more than answer random facebook questions about them, would make them the occasional dinner or at least order out, she would give a single solitary fuck and she wouldn't have bailed because parties sounded like more fun.  she made her choice the same way i made mine, and while those choices are obviously based on different things, even when i get this worked and want to do some drinking or yell or throw my hands up in disgust, i do my best to just try to let them be the people they are.  all i can do is tell them how i feel, i can't convince them with the power of my mind. i can hope they listen to me, and trust me, and don't do anything too stupid.  i am doing the best i can, and i'm sure i can do better, so i'll try that too.

seriously, though, nihilism was invented by teenagers.  you can't convince me otherwise.    

Monday, May 14, 2012

green acres

i may have mentioned that i've started a garden this year.  we had a patch of azalea's out back, right up against the house that the boychik was kind enough to rip out for me earlier, and since then i've planted a variety of things.  here is what i've learned so far, in handy, dandy list form:
  1. some of what i thought i could grow, i couldn't.  for instance, i started some tiny thai eggplants because they were so cute and i love them in curry, but they didn't do well out back.  i think i started them too early and it's not hot enough here.  also, i bought these seeds for lovely, tiny melons and those also failed.  my chinese long beans were also a bust.  i didn't spend crazy amounts of money on the seeds, though, and i learned from it, so i feel okay about my failures so far.
  2. i can grow radishes.  seriously.  it's the one thing in the garden that so far i am totally kicking ass at.  these are some tiny french breakfast radishes, that i pulled up to make room for some of the bigger plants.  they are amazing.  it's a good thing i live in a house full of radish lovers, or else all these radishes would go to waste!
  3. carrots need to be seeded carefully because the seeds are *tiny.* so tiny! like the size of one of the periods in this post. after i planted the first batch, my husband gave me a good tip for next time.  of course, if he had given me the tip before i messed up the first planting i think we'd have more carrots going!
  4. our soil definitely needs work.  it's not awful, don't get me wrong, but it's still very loose and the best way to enrich it is by growing stuff in it, evidently.  
  5. buying starts instead of seeds isn't such a bad thing.  yes, i felt all hippie mama and earth-goddessy buying seeds and starting them indoors but it made D nuts to have plants and potting soil all over the kitchen, and i don't yet have a good idea about when things can handle being planted outside.  a start is already a sturdy little plant-to-be, and i can pretty much guarantee that whoever grew it knows more about plants than i do.  why not spend a bit more for that kind of knowledge?  
  6. the only way to learn how to be better gardener is to just do it.  just go ahead and give it a try, fail at stuff, and be excited when the peas pop up out of the ground like reverse hand grenades.  also, investing in a CSA for the summer is also a good idea. helping out an organic community garden while growing your own is like investing in a back-up plan. a delicious, delicious back-up plan.
i really liked this post thea did the other day, talking about her garden and what she has going on.  i agree that gardening (like knitting and yoga) is totally having a renaissance among 30-somethings, but i think for good reason.  most of us are trying to eat a bit healthier, now that we realize that cholesterol isn't just something our parents worried about, and gardening is good for your boday, as well as your wallet.  i think a lot of people my age are also avid DIY-ers, and growing your own food is about as do-it-yourself as you can get.  it's also just nice to be outside, tending to pretty green things that will end up being part of dinner. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

a mother's day cup of coffee

this morning i got up early, saw my husband off to work, the settled in to play some tetris.  he called a while later, asking me to bring his billfold to work because he'd forgotten it at home.  i told him i was still in my pj's, so i would bring it, but i wasn't going to put a bra on or get out of the car.  he said he thought that was fair.  i brought him his money, then asked him sweetly for a five so i could stop and get a latte on the way home.  he said he didn't think five was enough, he'd give me some more for a tip and for a cup of joe for the girlchild.  he's so thoughtful!  before i left, i asked him to throw away and old coffee cup because if was going to buy two cups of coffee, i needed both cup holders open.  so not only did he give me cash money, he threw away my trash.  what a man.  i giggled and asked him, "aren't you glad you married me?!" he insists he is, even if he does have to buy me coffee and throw away the garbage from my car. 

also, i don't know if i've mentioned this before, but i really love being a stepmom.  the kids are awesome, and i'm glad they let me be such a big part of their lives.  i'm lucky to have such a good, easy-going relationship with my kids, i'm tremendously grateful that they never made it difficult or awful or awkward.  it's true that the secret to our success is that we just all have a lot in common and like each other, but even on those days where we drive each other crazy, there's a lot of love in this house. 

Saturday, May 05, 2012

sweatpant saturday

a few weeks ago my family and i went crazy on the hanes website, and bought $80 worth of sweatpants.  i know that sounds impossible, but it's not, and you know what? it was worth every single dollar.  we all have a few pairs of insanely comfy lounging pants, we got free shipping because we bought so much, and i managed to get a bright red pair.  i'm not going to lie, i love these pants.  they are so warm and smooshy on the inside.  they're red! they're made with recycled soda bottles! can a girl ask for more? 

my sister is having her done today and i get to spend some time this afternoon with my niece.  maggie's bringing over some cartoons and we are going to lay around the house being lazy and goofing off.  i can't think of a better way to spend a saturday afternoon! in my sweats, with my niece, with some adventure time. 

Friday, May 04, 2012

dear jasen harada,

thank you for introducing me to the beastie boys.  the hours i spent riding in your car, listening to  license to ill, were completely, totally, 100% worth it.  is there anything i recall with more fondness than the backseat of that nissan? no. 

i'm sad MCA passed away today.  thank you, beastie boys and jasen, for making my adolescence as awesome as it was.  xoxo

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

insurance boogie man

i've worked in health care now for almost four years.  i went from knowing very little about the health care system in america to knowing more, but admittedly, i am no expert.  i know enough to know that the system we have in place today is deeply flawed, and that there isn't any easy way to fix it.  i also know that fixing it is going to be a long, sucky process, and everyone at some point is going to get their panties in a bunch about it.  i believe in that the way i believe in death and taxes.

working in insurance gives me a very specific view of american health care costs.  one thing you may not be aware of when you go see the doctor is the difference between the "charged amount" and the "allowed amount".  if you have insurance, and your doctor is contracted with your insurance carrier, then part of that contract states that for specific procedures there is an allowed amount.  meaning, your doctor and the insurance company both agree that for an office visit less than half an hour, say, the insurance company will pay $75.00.  however, your doctor and his colleagues at the clinic or hospital he works for may have a totally different amount they actually charge; for the same service, one office visit of less than half an hour may be priced at $125.00.  what this means to you is that if you have an insurance the doctor accepts, your doctor agrees to only charge you $75.   if you don't have that insurance (or any insurance), that visit is going to cost you $125.  the difference between the $125 charge and the $75 charge is called "write off." you can't be charged that, and the amount is written off as a tax break.  many providers (what we in the business call doctors, clinics, hospitals, et al) have charge amounts much higher than typical contracted allowed amounts for a few reasons, one being that if the provider contracts with more than one insurance, and the allowed amounts are different, they'll be covered for both.  the other is that charging some patients more for services means more money, means that the amount they may lose in write off balance out that loss.  it's not always about making mad cash either, although it would be easy and fun to say that about doctors.  "oh, they just want a new yacht!" money is part of it, sure, but it's all not going into gold-lined lab coat pockets.  it pays administrative staff, cleaning staff, lab techs, insurance/malpractice costs, educational debt as well as continuing education costs, etc. (seriously, you want your doctor to keep getting some learning. that cost is totally worth it.)

all that aside, sometimes i talk to people who are upset about what they actually have to pay out of pocket.  i can understand that.  when you get a bill for $500 for a single afternoon's worth of service, you wonder what you're paying for.  if you are lucky, you will call someone like me who will walk you through all the charges.  i had a person who was livid about a $500 bill, just absolutely pissed and yelling about "what's the point of insurance if i have bills like this?" i had to point out that yes, $500 is a lot, but the total charges for the services they actually received totaled over $5,000.  well over $5,000, to be more exact.  if that person hadn't had insurance at all, the doctor would have charged them for ALL OF THAT.  yes, premiums can be high and deductibles are a bitch, but when you take into account the sum total of premiums and deductible and out of pocket cost, if you have one moderate medical issue (a colonoscopy that requires the removal of a polyp, say, or a mammogram that needs additional views, or an allergic reaction to a medication) you're much better off with insurance than without.  especially considering that moderate medical issues usually have follow up issues.

was this totally boring?  because to be honest, i find the whole thing kind of fascinating.  also, i talk to so many people on a daily basis who don't know the basics about insurance, and i think that's a shame.  if more people knew how it worked, what was going on, what motivates insurance companies and health care providers, we could all pitch in and use our massive brains fixing the system.  this is my tiny way of shedding a bit more light on the situation. if you don't all threaten to kill me after this point, i'll do some more of them.  are there any questions you have specifically?