And This Is How I Re-Entered the US Healthcare System

When I think of the 50's, I think of sock-bops and sunny skies. I think of homemade apple pies cooling in the window. I think of women who always wore dresses and looked fabulous in them. I think of men who called their wives Mrs and how endearing I find that concept. I think of slow moonlit drives, of breathing deep under apple trees, of living slowly and deliberately. What I don't think of is letting strange men shove metal duck bills up my chocha.

It's taken us over 10 months to brave the rough seas of the US healthcare system. We've had insurance, we've just been too scared to use it. The beauty of the Canadian health care system is how simple it is. You never, ever have to worry that you'll walk in to the doctor with a cold and walk out with a diagnosis that will bankrupt you for generations to come. It's easy to get used to that. It's hard to leave it.

But we left it and the kids need physicals for school sports and I need a bi-centennial check-up so we found doctors, booked appointments and went. The kids went first because I am too chicken to go first. They're my litmus test. If it goes well at their appointments, if I can remember how to fill out a tree's worth of paperwork for them, if I don't leave the office a blubbering mess of tears, then I can do it for myself, right?

And it went well at their appointment. Very well, actually. They found a doctor they like, they're in good health and I didn't have a heart attack at the check out desk. So I went for my checkup the next day.

I can't remember the last time I had an annual. I think it may have coincided with the last time someone decided to shove their shoulders out of my delicates. I also think that was the last time anyone saw me undressed in the light of day, and yet I marched into that OBGYN's office prepared to wear a robe that doesn't close, climb up on a table and let some strange man fumble around with me under florescent lights. I was brave, I was determined, and I was completely unprepared to be greeted by the cast of Grease.

Every single member of the staff was dressed in 1950's poodle-bop. I am not a person who is afflicted with too many phobias, but it turns out that having Sandy and Rizzo and Frenchie stick tiny scrub brushes up my coochie is one of them. I sat in the waiting room and realized that you could make a pretty good horror movie with some 1950's costumes and a set up stirrups. Think of how much more terrifying that scene from Se7en would have been if Kenickie had been sitting there under flickering, dirty lights, sobbing, brandishing a razory speculum.

*shudder*

Thank god in heaven that my doctor was dressed up as a doctor. I asked him what the deal was with the horned rimmed glasses and pick jackets everywhere, and he said that every Friday had a costumed theme to add some levity to the office. I told him it wasn't working. He told me he usually didn't work on Fridays, mostly because he completely agreed with me. We scheduled my follow-up appointment for a Tuesday.

I'm praying to god that Tuesdays are Rocky Horror day. Because that at least makes sense.

Stuff that scares me...A continuing series

My middle child scares the crap out of me. It's not just that he makes these faces all the time, though that would totally be reason enough. He scares me because I think there's more to him than meets the eye.

When he was a baby, he regularly watched, played with and conversed with a ghost in our house. Stop rolling your eyes at me; I don't believe in ghosts, either. But what I saw, what his godmother saw, it's undeniable. I can't explain it, and that is the creepiest part of all.

My father claims to have had encountered lots of ghosts. We lived in a part of the country that has a good, solid history in the haunting department, and his stories were definitely consistent enough with the historical facts we had on hand as children to achieve their desired affect*, which was either to make believers of us or keep us out of that gross, abandoned house on the corner already.

But this is not about my father, is it? It's about my son. Every Halloween, we play Ouija. Because I like to tempt fate, that's why. We only do it on Halloween. The three of us play together, and the damn thing never works. This year, however, 2of3 and I played alone. And, I kid you not, that thing went nuts. I wasn't pushing it, and 2of3 can't spell all that well just yet; and so, again, I can't explain it, and that is the creepiest part of all.

He is a Pisces, and this sort of thing comes with the territory. It also runs freakishly wild in our family. Both of my grandmothers were into divination to some degree, my dad, well, we covered that, his auntie and godmother are both practicing witches, and I regularly have dreams that come true. But, none of us are like this kid. And my dad is a story-teller, my grandmothers were bat-shit crazy, and the jury's still out on me.

I tell you all of this to tell you this:

I am not a checker-iner on my kids when they sleep. I don't have baby monitors and only once or twice have I ever licked a finger and stuck it by sleeping baby nostrils to check for breathing. I am, however, a tucker-iner. Anyone who falls asleep on my watch gets a blanket on them. Period. Every night, before I go to bed, I stick my head in my kids' rooms to make sure they haven't kicked their blankets off.

This one night, eons ago, I checked on the boys, and they were both covered. I paused by 2of3, because he's the most beautiful thing in the world when he sleeps, and I knelt down by his bed to stare at him for a minute. I didn't touch him, I didn't make a sound. I just sat there, and I thought to myself, "Oh, I love you, kid."

Right then, he rolled over on his side, shot both eyes wide open, and said, "Oh, I love you too, mom." And back to sleep he went.

This could quite possibly be the sweetest story in the history of stories, except that it was the single creepiest thing I have ever seen. He answered my thought exactly the way I thought it. I can't explain it, and that is the creepiest part of all.

(And this whole post is in response to LatteMommy's post the other day, because, sometimes, I'm just not smart enough to figure out how to leave comments. Blonde.)

*SHIT! Is it affect or effect? Affect is the verb, effect is the noun, right? Grammar police, HELP!

Stuff that scares me, take 3

I am afraid of being an Atheist.

(Save it, Andy; I already know what you're going to say :) )

I am an atheist. There, I said it. I don't say it a lot. It's not that I am ashamed of it, and it certainly isn't that I don't have the knowledge behind me to argue my case. If you and I were out for drinks, this wouldn't even be an issue, the whole you-knowing thing. I'd probably bring it up at some point, because, well, I like the discussion. I just, in the world of moms who blog, find it difficult to discuss this. There are few of us in comparison to the teaming masses of moms with I love Jesus blinkies. When I find blogs written by overtly Christian parents, I tend to pass over them. I don't do that because I don't like reading about it; in fact, I DO like reading some of those blogs. It's just that I know that with a click here and a sitemeter there, that parent can find their way back here and then it's with the disapproval and the grumpies. I don't like disapproval.

So, my atheism is a semi-secret. The thing is, though, that when I was a Christian, I shouted it from the rafters. It was everything to me. This Atheism? Yeah, I don't really care. It does not, on any level, define who I am, and I couldn't care less if you never knew that about me. There-in lies the difference.

I could leave it at that; that being 'I don't want to rock anyone's boat', but it's more than that. It's something deep at the core of who I am, and it's fighting this thing. See, when I was little, and life wasn't always so grand*, I always leaned on God. Yes, I was a Christian. Sorta. I was more religious than you, I promise. I ate, slept, breathed God and Jesus and the Christian way. I took every scripture at face value (there is no way I could ever count the amount of times I have read the bible cover to cover. It's at least 16, quite possibly double or triple that) and lived it to the utmost. So, when things got tough, I put my faith in the lord almighty and the fact that he would never give me more than I could bear. I believed that and it brought me a tremendous amount of comfort.
The lord watches over you, the lord is your shade at your right
hand; The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.
The lord will keep you from all harm, he will watch over your
life; the lord will watch over your coming and going both now and
forevermore.
I remember sitting in my bedroom, looking out my window, and talking to god. I remember telling him that I must be the strongest child in the world, because sheesh he sure sending a whole bunch of tests my way. I remembered Job. I remembered Lot. I remembered all the people in the bible who showed such tremendous strength during adversity and I tried to be like them. But I knew I could do it because god wouldn't let it happen if I couldn't, and there must be a bigger plan for me and a reason I was where I was.

And then one day I woke up. I realized that yes, perhaps I was the strongest child the world had ever known, but that this wasn't something happening because god let it happen. This was happening because of a chemical imbalance in my mothers' brain brought on by systemic childhood abuse, bad genes, mosquito trucks in the 1950's and my grandfather's super great idea to shut up his kids by cracking open thermometers and letting them play with the mercury. I realized this all a bit after I had hit the more-than-I-could-bear point, and I had a complete, total breakdown, right then and there. I had a crisis of faith. I topped that with an honest realization of the absolute horrors my brother and I endured. The cherry on the top was, of course, the complete abandonment by the very church I had been raised in, the admission by its leaders that, "Yeah, we knew what was going on, but who were we to stop it?"

Um, you were adults. In a position of authority. Over me and my mother. And you were all I had.

At least I wasn't an alter boy.

Anyway, that faith in the support of god, the assurance that I could handle anything thrown my way, that was the first thing to go. The rest followed shortly thereafter. I am not bitter about it, the way some atheists can be; in fact, my sons both have a strong faith in them that has evolved all on its own and is backed with an expansive knowledge of various religions (mom dabbles in theology, when she's not busy blogging), and I encourage and promote that. They know dad and I don't share their beliefs, and they couldn't care less. And I applaud that even more.

But as an adult, and an adult who has chosen the path less traveled in her life, I hit a lot of bumps along the way. Sometimes, these bumps are big. Sometimes they make me grind my teeth all the way down and cry more than I'd like to admit. And I find, in these times of hardship, that I miss that feeling that somehow, it's all going to be ok. I miss the comfort of that, because I know that sometimes it just doesn't all work out ok and sometimes really shitty things happen and really, super hard choices have to be made. And though I am luckier than many people in the world, with a great support structure and not a terrible head on my shoulders, none of us are omnipotent, are we? None of us can snap our fingers and make it all stop. I guess I'm really just afraid of admitting that I let the hope of that go.

*Yes, that would be a gross understatement.

Tattoo Removal

We have this monkey. It's one of those stuffed animals with extra long arms and velcro hands so a child could wrap it around themselves and wear it/hug it/show it off. We really like to play, 'Who's Got a Monkey on their Back'. (I know that this is a totally inappropriate thing to say to your children, especially given the amount of *aholic* in their gene pool, but when one spends all day, every day, in the company of 3 people who haven't even gone through middle school yet, one must get one's kicks where one can.)

3of3 loves this monkey. Me? It gives the THE SHIVERS. It's bright red and quite probably comes alive at night and kills prostitutes. Anyway, she was up all late again the other night, because my girl wants to rock and roll all night, and she was playing with the monkey. I told her it was time for monkey to go ni-night so she could go ni-night, and she, well, she did this thing. She wrapped the monkey up in the blanket and started rocking it. I asked her if we should get a ba-ba for monkey, too, so they both could have one. She thought we should.

So, baby and monkey sat on the comfy chair (please read that with the proper Spanish Inquisition inflection; it doesn't work without it) and they had ba-bas. She held monkey, gave it mo-mo-wa-wa (water) and rubbed its head. She talked to it in whispers that I couldn't hear. She brushed its weird ass hair off its weird ass forehead and kissed it. She cradled it. She gave it lovin'. She was copying me.

Flashback to 1975-1992: My momma didn't love me. Cliche prison tattoo; summation of my childhood. She really didn't. She kinda hated my guts, actually. I was always terrified of having a daughter and totally fucking her up. I was afraid that I would do the only thing I knew to do with a little girl, and I had no interest in either beating the shit out of a child OR crushing all of her hopes and dreams. So, I vowed to never have a girl. The first time I got pregnant, I was sure it was girl (you'd call the looney bin if I told you why, so I won't) and I didn't keep the baby. I couldn't have a girl, not me. I'd ruin it, just like every woman in my family ruins it with their daughters.

Fast Forward to 2004: I find out I'm playing host to one baby girl. Total. Freakout. Nothing, ever, has scared me that much. I was afraid to be alone with her after she was born. I was afraid to talk to her, to tell her anything, to touch her. (Um, nobody knows that part, by the way. Let's just keep that between us.) I have been sitting here, waiting for 2+ years, waiting to snap, waiting to turn on this kid, waiting for a sign that no matter how much I want it to be different, that I am no different than those women I share a genetic code with and that I can't raise a girl.

Fast Forward to 2007: Guess what? I haven't ruined her. I haven't hurt her, ever. I have done right by this kid, clearly. SHE knows how to be a momma (to a monkey, but it's something). To her, ni-night means kisses and hugs and stories. I never knew those things. That night, with the monkey and the ba-ba, that little girl laser-removed that cheesy tattoo that has sat over my heart for 32 years. Because, you know what? Who gives a shit who my momma loved? I love this kid, and I am better than all those women, and my daughter is lovely and fine and perfect. And she's going to be ok, and so am I.

Escalation

What's another word for something that grows, that gets bigger over time? (Not THAT, dirty bird. More like danger, or fear, or a stupid unjustified invasion of another country.) Hmmm.....

Oh, that's right, escalating. Thank you, Thesaurus dot com.

I am petrified of escalators.

I always have been. One year, the fam and I were at Veteran's Stadium in Philly, cleaning it in preparation for our annual cult convention*.

We were at the Vet really early one morning cleaning, working our way to the upper levels to scrub toilets and seats and stuff, and my sister tripped on the escalator. The power was out in the whole building (they gave us power for the assembly, but not the clean-up phase), and so you'd think the damage would be minimal. Slight misstep + non-functional escalator = minor owie. You'd be wrong. She hit the jagged edge of the escalator step right in the fleshy part of her kneecap and ripped out a chunk of knee that we could've throw on the barbey for dinner. There was blood. There was flesh. There was a passed-out 6 year old. It was not cool.

It was just me and her, and so I picked her up in one arm and with the other hand I scooped up her knee and we headed off to the infirmary. Turns out, you can't just tuck the glob of flesh back into the hole from whenst it came and throw a band-aid over the whole thing and have her knee grow back. So much for my 12 year old medical ideas.

You'd think this would do it for me, that this would be the defining moment between me and the escalators, but OH NO. I tell you this just to illustrate WHY I fear them so. I was afraid of them well before that, and I am still.

I am one of those annoying people you get stuck behind who doesn't walk up/down the escalator. I stand, feet touching both sides to brace myself, white knuckles gripping the rails for dear life. And that's when I'm alone. You should see me with my kids on one of those death traps. We have to tie shoes tight before we get on. They all have to hold my hand. I literally can't breath.

The is absolutely no good reason for this. I have never personally had a foot chopped off because a shoelace got stuck in one; I have never seen one collapse, but you can only imagine how well this went over in my head. This is merely an irrational phobia brought on, I can only imagine, by my severe distaste for forward momentum in general (I hate roller coaster and swings, too).

But dear lord, they scare the bejesus out of me.

*Yes, every year the Vet rented us their space for the weekend so we could have this big ass convention. They charged us almost nothing for it, since we did such a freaking bang-up job cleaning the place. This is how I got to see Live Aid for free; I just mumbled about heat stroke and took a walk. That walk just so happened to take me to the part of the Vet that overlooked JFK Stadium. Free. Concert. Tickets. Not totally free, though; we ended up cleaning JFK's parking lot after the concert, too. I think that may have been the first time I'd ever seen a joint.