Friday, May 23, 2014

Marriage, My Sister's Almost Death, and an Affordable Care Act Success

We celebrated 12 years of marriage in April which means we've been together 12 years because we got married almost as soon as we met.  Our anniversary was nice, laid back, and we went out to dinner.  We had reservations and went to a little bit nicer of a place then we normally do.  You know what I learned about nicer places...they charge you for everything.  Alright that isn't entirely true, the bread was free.  That was it.  We got to pay for all the other bits.  Do you want a salad?  You get to pay.  Do you want to want another strawberry lemonade?  It is extra.  It was our anniversary though so I enjoyed it.  Does that mean we are real grown ups now?  Marriage is a complex, wonderful beast.  It's a way to say you are committed to each other and a way for the church/the government/the community to recognize that commitment.  It is ups and downs, schooling, jobs, children, taxes, accomplishments, disappointments, extreme joys, and heartaches.  I am glad I hitched myself to this wagon even if sometimes this man drives me crazy.  We are a team: divide and conquer the kids, joint plans for the future, someone to work with and dream with.  The last few months though I've had a lot of opportunities  to think about what my marriage means, what the relationships around me mean, and if they reflect in any way on my own marriage.

My sister died last Friday.  She was getting ready at the bathroom sink while her partner Travis was showering.  They were having a conversation and then suddenly he couldn't hear her.  He pulled back the curtain to see her collapsed on the floor.  Her heart had stopped and she wasn't breathing.  Travis frantically called 911 and then in their tiny bathroom performed CPR.  The paramedics were there in minutes and with epinephrine and shocks they were able to get her heart started again.  For a day she was in a medically induced comma on cold protocol.  Then they warmed her up.  We had no idea what to expect.  When she started fighting the intubation tube we all breathed a sign of relief that she could still move her body.  It has been several days and she's a rock star.  She is up and moving and talking although she is having trouble with her short term memory and has to be told multiple times what has happened, which usually induces anxiety.  My mom texted me a few days ago about a breakthrough.  Here is what she wrote.

"Today when I saw her I said something about her test and she said "Why do I need it?" and I said "Remember your heart and your fall and can you believe it?  You've been here since Friday!"  And instead of getting all anxious and needing the hear the whole story again she just laughed and remembered enough to say, "And Travis saved me." 

And Travis saved her.  I've been frustrated this last week whenever I've told the story that I don't have a better word for Travis.  In a time and place where the lines have been drawn over the marriage debate the word partner has almost become a loaded grenade.  Plus what word do I have that can explain how I feel about Travis right now.  Travis is family.  Nothing will ever take that away.  He saved her.  Without him my sister's death would have been a permanent condition.  He is her savior.  We will be forever in his debt.

It is interesting to note though for the purposes of medicine that the fact that he is her savior means nothing when it comes to making medical choices for her.  They have been living together for years, joint home, joint finances, joint life but because they aren't married my mom was the one making her medical decisions.  Luckily my mom and Travis were on the same page but it kind of bothered me and my other married sister, Ang.  Don't get us wrong, we love our mom and trust that she'd have our best interest at heart but we'd both prefer that our "partners" be the ones to make our decisions.

It made me think about my friend Scott who during a three week period this year when Gay Marriage was legal in Utah married his long time partner.  This week a federal judge ruled that those marriage would hold, that they could not be retroactively dismissed and that Utah had to recognize those marriages as legally binding.  It was a decision that brought joy for some and disappointment for others.  What a blessing for those who had those marriages performed though.  Without these kinds of protections they are not able to make decisions for long time partners and there have been cases where family has disagreed with the partner or have even had the partner banned from the hospital and the partner has no recourse.  I realize this is a sensitive subject.  I know it makes many of my friends, some of my family, and most of my church congregation extremely uncomfortable but I just don't see how people can believe that in the world we live in, the one  that has kidnapings, child pornography, rape, terrorist, bullies, human trafficking, genocides, the war on drugs, abortion the loss of pensions by unscrupulous bankers and CEOs, drunk driving, starvation, mentally ill people left on their own homeless, children dying of diseases that are completely preventable by clean water and immunizations, child abuse and neglect, wars, etc. that in this world people can think that two people wanting to commit to care for each other for the rest of their lives, that that act is the one that is going to break the camels back.  It just doesn't make any sense to me.  Maybe that makes me a bad Mormon, but it just doesn't feel that way to me.  

This situation has also given me a chance to contemplate on the affordable care act.  I'm kind of in a bind over this.  There are things I like, like my completely covered birth control and things I hate, like my office now wants to charge me deductible at the time of service along with my co-pay instead of just sending a bill later in the month after billing insurance which I'm sorry, is just more convient for me.  But this story with my sister is actually an affordable health care success story.  My sister is 30 years old and though she works three jobs none of them had health insurance at a price she can afford.  For years she just tried not to get sick and avoided the doctor at all cost.  Then came the affordable care act.  She got on the exchange and got covered just a few months ago.  Can you imagine what this situation would have been like without health insurance?  She still has a high deductible of $7000 so we're trying to raise some money to help cover her cost (see the fundraiser on the right hand side), especially since she won't be working for awhile but both she and Travis have mentioned repeatedly that without insurance they would have been ruined for a very long time, maybe even life.  Knowing they had that safety net there has relieved so much stress for them and has helped them to focus all their efforts on her recovery.  It also allowed her the funds to get the surgey to place a defibulator permanently conected to her heart which will hopefully keep her alive should her heart ever get off track and stop again.  Had this happened a year ago we'd be looking at a very different story.  So maybe I'm not completely sure of the act.  Maybe sometimes when I think of it and how it affects my financial bottom line I get anxious.  Maybe sometimes when I think of the general well being of society and the system I think maybe it didn't go far enough.  But today when I think of it and I think of my sister I'm just grateful it was there.  

Thursday, May 22, 2014

My To Do List and a Pharmacy Snafu

My to do list has like fifty things on it.  I am crossing them off one by one but it seems like for every one I cross off I add two more.  Like today when I sent my mom copies of our passports and travel plans.  "Don't forget to get an updated power of attorney signed before you leave," she tells me.  Sure mom, let me just add that to the list, print one off and run by a notary so I can get it signed for you.  That's just kind of the story of my life right now.  It would be ok I guess if things could just work out without a hitch, but of course, they just never do.

That today at the pharmacy.  When I went to my gynecologist this week for my yearly and to get a new prescription for my birth control I mentioned to her that I'd like to get the stacked birth control to try and avoid my period while on the trip.  We have been warned that you have to bring your own toiletries since tampons are really hard to come by and almost all of the toilets in country are squatters.  My doctor said no problem and wrote my script out for my normal pill but 4 pill packs at a time, 4 times a year.  I dropped off the prescription on my way home.  Today when I went by to pick it up the girl handed me one pack.  "Um, I'm going to need all four of those packs," I told her.  "Well your insurance company will only pay for you to have one at a time."  "Well then I'm going to have to pay out of pocket because I'm not going to be in the country to pick three of those up."  So there you have it.  Even though my insurance completely covers birth control free of cost thanks to the affordable care act, they do it in a completely inconvenient way.  At least inconvenient if you aren't going to be around.  So I got to take one pack for free and then they asked me to come back a half hour later to pick up the three packs I'll have to pay out of pocket for.  Does this even make sense?  What is cheaper insurance, making sure I have my pill or paying for the baby I'm going to have because I can't get my hands on enough packs? 

Seriously this is the third thing that has happened in a week where I just have to shake my head at the insurance company.  The first was the travel shot fiasco.  The kids and I all had to get travel shots before we left.  The experience left me 1450 poorer and sore, Peach head-butted me in the face after running away three times, having to be dragged back into the office, and kicking the doctor twice.  Luckily we didn't have to pay for an office visit since the travel clinic just gives you the shorts for the price of the immunization but some of these shots it annoys me that I had to pick up.  For example my polio booster, my hep A shot, and the meningococcal vaccinations.  Under normal circumstances the polio shot and hep A shots are covered and the meningococcal shots the kids would get anyway in a few years, but because we are doing them now all at once for travel.  No dice.  Thanks insurance company.  I'm sure me getting yellow fever would cost you a heck of a lot less than paying for this shot...oh wait it wouldn't.  Shot.

Then there is our Mefloquine.  Kenya has malaria so besides staying covered up, sleeping with socks, sleeping under mosquito nets, covering ourselves constantly in bug spray we also have to take anti malaria meds.  We are going to be gone nine weeks, you start a week before you leave, and you take them for a month after.  That means we need 3 1/2 pills a week.  We called around and found that we could get the 50 pills we need for $236 from CVS using a coupon we found online.  When Dr. J went down to the pharmacy they told him he should submit through insurance.  But here is the thing.  In order to submit through insurance he'd have to write a separate script for each person for every thirty days, and because of the way insurance works we'd have to pay a separate co-pay for each prescription.  The grand total, $240.  Needless to say we stuck with the 1 script and the coupon.   

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown Review

This month I have been a total stress case.  I'm a high anxiety person anyway and trying to get everything ready for our travels this summer, well it has just put my anxiety on high alert.  Sometimes I'm so excited to leave and sometimes I'm "WHAT THE HECK ARE WE THINKING!"  In the middle of all this crazy I stumbled upon  Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown.  I watched the first two seasons on Netflix and I loved it (although a little prewarn you the Tokyo one was information I never wanted and could have done without).  This show made me excited to travel again.  It made me excited to eat.  It made me excited to travel and eat.  This is a cooking show, mixed with a travel show, interlaced with a history lesson, wrapped in a news program.  It is funny and colorful and so informative.

Here are the places I've visited this last few weeks:
Koreatown-Los Angeles
New Mexico
South Africa

Everywhere he goes Anthony has an amazing story to tell.  This is my new favorite show.  It even beat out The Supersizers Go...which if you haven't seen this show yet and you love England and you love documentaries, get to!  Seriously an amazing history lesson taught with food!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Cooking With Kids

Pancakes are our go to meal when mom just don't know what to do.  It turns out now I don't even have to worry about making this go to meal.  My daughters have decided that they are ready to take on the job of flipping all the pancakes.  It was hard for me to let them do this.  I worried they would burn themselves.  I worried they'd burn the pancakes.  I worried that they would make a mess...and guess what, they did!  It was fun for the girls though and now they are in charge of flipping all our pancakes!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Seriously Cute Preschool Crafts

This year Peach has come home with some seriously adorable preschool crafts.  These are just a handful of things she's brought home in the last few weeks.  

Last week they pretended they were cowgirls/cowboys.  Each child had a horse put on a wrapping paper roll.  Each child had a hat.  Each child had a handkerchief they had stamped with western stamps and a sheriff badge.  It was adorable.  Peach spent the whole day riding around the backyard.

 This little chick was an Easter surprise.  It is pretty much just a yellow paper rolled into a cone.  A few more pieces of cut construction paper and you have a sunny chick hat.  She of course loved this.
 This week they were doing a sea chapter.  That little whale was just a painted half Styrofoam ball on a piece of blue foam cut into the shape of whale.  It had two googly eyes and silver pipe cleaners to be spray coming from it's blow hole.  We also loved this little crab.  He is a painted paper bowl with eight red cardboard paper legs.  He has Styrofoam eyeballs on the top of  top of his head and his pincer claws are made out of two painted clothes pins.  ADORABLE!  I love her teachers and she loves all the creative projects they have for her to do!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Climbing the Tree

This winter was so long, I mean it really just dragged.  I'm so glad spring is finally here and that we are finally getting to enjoy the outside world again.  This year the kids are obsessed with the ornamental pear three we have.  Captain E and Gigi can easily climb up into it's branches but Peach and Cheetah while they desperately try are just not quite tall enough to get their hands on the lowest branch.  To try and join the siblings they will drag all kinds of stuff under that three to try and get themselves taller.  The wagon is a favorite because it gets Peach up high enough.  It is fun to be outside again!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Teacher Appreciation Week on the Cheap

This year Teacher Appreciation week was not appreciated by me!  Don't get me wrong, I love my children's teachers.  Captain E has the nicest, most fun, bubbly teacher ever.  The moment you see her smile, you smile.  She is so great and has been an answer to prayers for us.  She keeps a great eye on Captain E and is always working with me to help him do his best.  Gigi's teacher this year is sort of the opposite.  On more than one occasion I've thought, "man she is not friendly."  She isn't.  She doesn't really do small talk.  She is very strict.  At the Thanksgiving Party I saw her call her brother out for falling asleep in the reading zone after serving turkey for an hour.  That being said she is a great teacher!  She has done wonders for G bear especially when it comes to encouraging her love of reading.  She has really opened G up to learning and while I don't necessarily want to be besties with her, G loves her and thinks she is the nicest teacher ever.  What matters more, me liking her or G liking her.  Peach has two teachers this year and they are both super fun.  They do amazing crafts, are great teachers, and are doing a great job getting her ready for kindergarten.  So I really do appreciate these ladies but Teacher Appreciation has gotten to be a really big thing.  It is a week long celebration.  The school sends home lists of things the teachers like and ideas of things to bring for each day.  The room moms might try to schedule something special for each day or may ask for donations for a bigger gift.  This year I'm strapped for both time and money.  I've spent over $16,000 in the last month for our trip.  To say we are broke would be an understatement.  I'm also stressed to the max as my time before the trip is quickly leaving.  I just didn't know what to do.  Finally I was standing in Meijer and it hit me.  How about a little drink/cookie treat with a thank you note.  I bought a four pack of  Starbuck's Frappucinos.  They were four for five dollars, 1.25 a piece.  Then I grabbed four 3 packs of Milano cookies.  They were a dollar a piece.  I had these bags at home.  When I got home I had the kids put the cookies and drinks in the bag and then I had them write a personal note to each teacher.  E did his in cartoon form.  Peach drew pictures.  Gigi wrote a story.  I wrote each teacher a sincere note about what they've meant to me this year and we sealed them up.  I sent them in and to be honest felt pretty good about the whole thing.  I do really appreciate all that these woman do for our family and I wanted to let them know it, even if I couldn't afford to do it in the way I really would have liked to!  

Finding a Place to Stay During Away Rotations - med school

When Dr. J was doing his away rotations four years ago we just went on craigslist to find him places to stay.  It was sort of sketchy but he managed last minute to scrounge up something in both cities.  Today I was looking online and I happened to find this site  Hello amazing!  Why didn't I think of that.  Med students can find a room to rent or place a room to be rented while they are gone or if they just have an extra room.  Seriously people, this is so helpful!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Resurrection Rolls - A Sweet Easter Treat

I cook a lot of stuff from scratch.  I think it is healthier.  I think it taste better.  I know it is cheaper.  The nice thing, my kids love to cook too.  Wait is that a nice definitely adds to the mess.  I guess it is nice.  It is fun to see them having a good time and playing together.  This Easter we didn't have church until 1 o'clock so we decided to use our morning making Resurrection Rolls.  Most of the people who make Resurrection Rolls do so using crescent rolls from a can.  I never have any so I went online to find a recipe for from scratch rolls.  I found the recipe I used on Love From Scratch.

3/4 cup warm water
1 large egg
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons dry milk
1 and 1/2 teaspoons yeast
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
24 marshmallows

Mix first eight ingredients and let rise until doubled.  Divide into 20-24 balls and flatten.  Dip marshmallows in melted butter and then dip them in the sugar and cinnamon.  Place the marshmallow in the center of the flattened ball and wrap the roll around the marshmallow.  Dip again in the butter and then roll in the sugar/cinnamon mix.  Place on a greased pan and allow to rise until doubled.  Bake at 375 for 15 minutes.

While we were putting the rolls together we talked about Jesus and the Resurrection.  We talked about how the marshmallows represented Jesus's body and how after he died his followers took him down and rubbed it with oil (the butter) and spices (the sugar and cinnamon).  They then wrapped him in linen wraps (the roll) and placed him in the tomb.  When the rolls come out they are hallow in the center.  While we were eating the rolls we talked about how when the disciples came to the tomb they found it empty.  It was a great/delicious way to spend Easter.

Easter we also spent some time in the back yard.  Can I just tell you how much I am loving spring.  Enjoy looking at my beauties in a their Easter outfits :)


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