That stands for Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act and is the law that allows workers who lose their jobs to keep their health insurance. And these days, that would be me.
Let me tell you how it works.
I can, if I choose, keep my current coverage. The only difference anyone will see is me, who now has to pay 100% of the costs, instead of splitting the cost with my employer. That means, for a family of two, with not the best policy, but a good policy, and a Point of Service plan, not a true HMO, I am now expected to pay $1,400 a month. That's more than my mortgage.
My unemployment benefits are the maximum allowed by law, and pitiable. They don't even come close to paying that premium. And I have to pay income taxes on the unemployment benefits, to boot.
But back to COBRA. I had about ten days to decide whether or not to take the plan. I had about ten days to pay the bill, when it came.
My old employer, on the other hand, had two months to send me the paper work, and they took every damned day of it. That meant that when I finally got to say "Sign me up" for COBRA, I was now a month in arrears. My first bill was for more than three thousand dollars, and that would take us up to May.
So I paid it. Promptly. Don't want to be caught without insurance, now, do we. Because, you know, with health care in the state it's in, and the costs for it so high, one serious illness or accident could bankrupt a person. Or it could if the Republicans hadn't just made bankruptcy harder. Anyway, I paid it in full.
Then I went to get my prescriptions filled. And the pharmacist told me I no longer have insurance. "But I paid," I wailed. Yep. I did. But COBRA now has up to two months to get me reregistered, during which time, I am expected to pay in full, out of pocket. Once the insureance company gets around to reinstating me, then I can try to get reimbursed from them.
Did you follow all that? I had two weeks to elect to remain covered and get my check in the mail, and they have two months to dick me around.
When I complained to the COBRA rep and tried to get the computer to list me as covered, the rep told me that yes, I was paid up, but the letter of the law allows the insurance company so much time to reinstate me. There was nothing they could do to help me. There was nothing I could do to help myself. I was shit out of luck.
If the meds I needed were life-saving, like a chemo drug, then the company rep could have made an emergency override. But these are just drugs I take for chronic depression, so it wasn't an emergency. Wait two months until I'm on a roof someplace threatening to jump, or take someone with me, and then they can put the emergency request in. Welcome to the system.
The compassionate conservative system of being outsourced, unemployed, uninsured (although, technically I am insured) and being tossed less a living wage to get by.
Although I'm not working for the man anymore, I am still working at my computer, trying to write code for this website.
Last week, when I was buying fabric for the two commissions I have, I started talking to the owner of the fabric shop. One thing led to another, as it always does, especially when I'm one half of the converstion, and he offered to put my business cards out.
Which is all very well and good, but this is hardly the place to send nice Pinecrest Princesses looking for tallitsim for their princelings and princessettes. I need to create a new site, or at least a new look and feel for this site, and move some things around, or hide them or just jetison them completely.
All of which means that I need to redesign this site. In DreamWeaver. And MT. Using all sorts of crap that I never needed to know when I was working for the hospital.
I have spent the past week and a half buried in tech books, cruising how-to websites and forums, going back and forth with my pages. I add something, it doesn't work. I research and redo until I get the thing (whatever that thing is) to work, and then I move on to the next part. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
I am the uber-geek. And I can't take my cards and sample to the fabric store until I get all of this sorted out and working right.
Ugh. I need a drink, a bath and a meal, and not necessarily in that order. I think a martini in the bathtub is on tonight's schedule. A martini the size of the tub is what I want, and what that previous statement sounded like I meant, but it really. No. Just a long, hot bath and a long, cold drink.
If you've read this far, then let me ask one last question:
Is it just me, or do you think that the judge should have requested a drug test today for Michael Jackson instead of threatening to have him arrested for showing up late. In his pajamas. He's gone from his sartorial delusions of kinghood to an almost normal suit to his pjs.
I woke up to the bleeping of the heavy machinery's warning thingy.
Things went downhill from there.
The tiny, one-lane road in front of my house is being double laned because of the new construction in the empty lot across from me. They are building what I like to refer to as "Strip Mansions". This would be townhouses, but two- to three-thousand square foot townhouses going for more than $200 a square foot. Do the math. It's still only got windows on two sides, people. And less than six feet of grass between your back door and the wall that keeps the riff-raff like the neighbors out.
So, this being Florida, that meant that they had to dump crushed coral rock onto the road bed and then steam roller it into submission. Five or six times. Until there was a foot of substrata.
My house was rattling like there was an earthquake. I had to move all the glassware around. Then I walked past my miniature cabinet
. Those items not previously shattered by falls were dancing around on the shelves like water on a hot griddle.
I trotted outside and asked the very nice driver if he would cease and desist for five minutes so I could empty the cabinet and make my tiny treasures safe. He said to come and get him when I was done.
It wasn't even lunchtime, yet.
I spent the rest of the day working on redesigning the rest of Girlyshoes. It amazes me how much I can forget about computers when I'm not writing code all day long.
I tried to watch De-Lovely. I've been trying to watch it for four days. No sooner do I drop it in the DVD then the phone rings, or an errand needs to be run, or the dogs need to go out, or the cat throws up. I finally saw the end. I should have stayed with Cole in Paris, because life definitely took a down turn after the horse fell on him.
Finally sat down to eat dinner, and the Drunk Neighbor came over with a dog he'd found in the street. Said dog had a collar with a phone number on it, but the Drunk Neighbor couldn't be bothered to call it himself. It would be more fun to drag the little dog over to our house so the Noble Dog Nails and Miss JoJo could work themselves into a tumultuous uproar over the sight and smell of a stranger in their yard. Besides, the Drunk Neighbor said that he couldn't call because his wife was drunk.*
So the RLA and I called the number. It turned out to be the people who live on the corner--next door to the Drunk Neighbor (and his mortal enemies). Of course, they couldn't be bothered to actually come and get the little dog. No. They left him with us, and my dogs barking non-stop for another hour. Until I called again (third time) and said if they didn't come get him, I'd walk him down to them. RIGHT. NOW.
Another ten minutes and they DROVE!!! out of their driveway, and two doors down. Except they are too lame for words, and parked in the driveway of the house between us. Lame. Lame. Lame.
Then there was the obligatory complaints about the construction, and the notes of who's selling now that the construction has started, and the damned woman would have stood in the neighbor's driveway all night and chatted except the RLA and I insisted that dinner was getting cold and left.
And that was life in Miz Shoes neighborhood.
* His wife is ALWAYS drunk. Ugly, stinking, screaming, channeling-the-snake-god drunk. She's not allowed in my house, anymore.
I've collected miniatures since I was one myself. My mother collected art glass, and when I was just a mere prat, she'd take me to the antique stores with her, teaching me what was what and sending me to scout the nooks and crannies.
The first piece I got for my own collection was a hand-blown pill bottle, from an antique shop in Newport. I held it in my hand as we made our way to the counter. The gentleman proprietor asked if I had found something I could not live without, and I showed him the bottle, and the pontil mark which made it so valuable. He gave it to me, starting me on a life of collecting.
Right. Like I wasn't going down that road anyway, what with the family of origin and all.
Thank all the gods and goddesses that that little bottle wasn't on the shelf that collapsed today, sending my tiny china and glass animals to the Cuban tile floor, and from there into a million shards.
They are irreplaceable things, of course: the set of glass cats from Venice that my mother brought back to me one year, but not, again giving thanks, the set I carried around Europe the summer I was eleven. The set of Hagen Renaker bear cubs that I've had since I was very small shattered. I've seen them on e-bay, but not in the dark matte finish that mine were.
A porcelain horse, no more than half an inch tall, with legs no more than a sixteenth of an inch in diameter had no chance. Even the doll-house scaled sewing machine made of metal broke when it hit the tiles.
I couldn't bring myself to photograph the carnage. All the pieces are in an ashtray, waiting for me to sort through and salvage what could possibly be salvaged. The rest will go into the graveyard of broken toys, either in the RLA's miniature Halloween Village, or my mosaic on the koi pond surround.
When the sistergirlfriendgirl and I were little 'uns, we used to play make believe in the ferns beside the house. We played Greek Goddess Warrior Princess Barbies (many decades before Xena Princess Warrior) and made houses in the ferns and moss.
It wasn't much of a stretch for us to imagine living in those mossy caves, and we spent hours and hours doing just that.
The garden I'm building around my koi pond is my homage to those fairy caves and moss gardens, and I'm doing my best to create a life size recreation of what we imagined.
Yesterday I was laying the jigsaw puzzle of Miami Oolite that I'm paving the sitting area with, and I misjudged the weight of the hoe I was swinging. In my own defense, the hoe in question had had its wooden handle replaced by a length (a long length) of steel pipe.
Said steel pipe took a nasty bounce back and this is the result: what looks like a swollen blood sausage where my left thumb used to be.
Let me tell you that the scan doesn't to justice to the color of my thumb, a sort of half-ripe aubergine.
The dogs were helping me dig.
I've been reading the surrogate daughters' blogs. Number One is in her junior year of college, Number Two is in her senior year of high school, Number Three is in high school too, and I've lost track of the year.
Number Three is all about boys and friends and I have to bang my head against a wall when I read it. It's just so jejeune and sophomoric and mostly so badly spelled that it takes all of my loyalty to her mother to read it. Cause, you know... Mom can't read it, and someone has to keep track.
It's Number One who makes my heart hurt so much. I am reminded of the story of Gertrude Stein telling F. Scott Fitzgerald "Oh, we are ALL a lost generation."
My N1SD is wallowing around in those deep and heady days of being away at school, drinking and getting stoned. She thinks that her generation invented ennui and depression and philosophical angst. "Oh," she laments "The world is so lousy, the job market is so lousy, what's the point of it all?"
Imagine, if you will, this being said by a facially-pierced young woman with fuschia streaks in her hair and an English major, whilst posturing with the back of her wrist against her forehead, and you will know why her mother and I want to slap her senseless... except that she's pretty senseless right now anyway.
Don't get me wrong, I love this girl. She is smart, and talented, and utterly, utterly lame at this moment in her life. She is cynical and jaded, only without the experience to back it up. She is scornful of her peers, but exhibits the same lax habits and mental shortcuts she disdains.
I love her to death, and I want very much to slap the bullshit out of her. She is, and it pains me to my core to say this, turning into a female, less libidinous version of her wasterel father... a companion of my own salad days, when I was young and green.
Except, stoned as I was, drunk as I was, I maintained my GPA. I graduated cum laude and was in an honors fraternity. I rarely, if ever, skipped class and I never, ever went to class high. I worked enough to pay for my own bad habits, and never had to call my parents for more money. I lived in the dorms, despite that I rather would not have. I ate in the cafeteria, and managed just fine on tuna melts and gallons of coffee.
I was not, nor do I pretend to have been, perfect, or even good, but I was always punctual about turning in work and getting to class, and meeting my deadlines. I learned a lot in school, and being responsible for my own vices was one of the most important lessons. I hope N1SD learns that one thing before she graduates.
It's occured to me, as I sift through the detritus of my home studio, that I really don't have to go back to work as a corporate art hack. I could change careers. No, really, I could.
The question, of course, is what should I be now that I have ostensibly grown up.
On the one hand, I'd like to be paid to be a smart ass. That means either doing stand up, or comedy writing, or taking over as the new, female, emergency back up Dave Barry. (Which I fully feel capable of doing.) I could sell my manuscript (finally). I could try to parlay this blog into a money making enterprise.
On the other hand, I would just adore going back to school to become a chef. I would not adore the long hours and back breaking work involved to become the oldest sous-chef in the worst diner in Miami.
On still another hand, I really would love to lock myself away in my studio and just sew and bead and make things. I don't even mind selling the things I make. Unlike the RLA, by the time I finish a piece of artwork, I don't want to live with it, I want it out of the house, preferably forever.
On yet another hand, maybe I should just get a part-time job at a Starbucks or Borders... you know, something where I could go to work and never have to engage my brain at all. The only down side I can see to one of those jobs is dealing with the public, and I hate the public. I'm not even too keen on people.
So maybe I should go to work as a vetrinary assistant, and make minimum wage, and swab dog poop for a living. Or not.
I dunno. Maybe I'll just float along in an undecided fugue state until something falls in my lap.
I got up early, again. Figured out why, though. The pounding of the caterpillar truck next door, crushing its way through the coral rock as they prepare to lay the pipes and foundations of the new, million-dollar strip mansions.
Then it was off to do errands, where I was forced to consort with the riff-raff that lives in this city.
I have a new pet peeve: people who cut in line, with the excuse that they only have a question. Or one item. Or any other damn thing that they thinks makes their time more valuable than mine.
My Clie has a burnt-out screen, and I thought I was still within the year warranty, so Cicuit City was on my list of places to go. When I got there, I saw that there were two registers open at the Customer Service counter and both were occupied. There was also a woman standing a discreet distance behind them, clearly (to me, at least) in line.
I stood behind her. Some antique Jersey skank came up and parked her skinny, badly dyed, leathery self at the counter, beside the woman who was being helped.
The woman in front of me said in a timorous voice, "There's a line here." New Jersey Skank said, "Oh, but I'm not buying anything." As if that made a difference.
I said "That makes no difference. You are asking for the clerk's time, as are we all. There is a line. Behind me." I’d like to note that I was firm, but polite and didn’t swear or use demeaning language. The timid little woman in front of me turned to me and said thank you.
NJS got in said line, protesting all the way. She didn't let it go, either and bitched volubly the whole time.
And then, the next one came up. This was an Hispanic skank, also of a certain age. Also with time too valuable to stand in line. I remarked to her as well that there was a line. She allowed as how she knew that and was standing in it. I told her she was not, and pointed behind the NJS. She said that the line wasn't where she would expect a line to be, it was too far away from the desk, (Yeah, a polite distance, giving the people at the counter privacy, and the people wandering around the store, an aisle. Apparently both were foreign concepts.)
Now I had the two of them behind me, commiserating over my bad manners, ill dress and questionable upbringing, that allowed me to speak to such obviously fabulous people as them in such a manner. “Oh, the mouth on her,” the NJS kept repeating… loudly.
By this time I was at the counter, and I had had enough of those two. I turned around and said in my teacher voice:
“Oh, you two haven’t begun to hear the fucking mouth on me.”
They gave it their best, trying to be supercilious and tee-hee, oh aren’t you quite the lady, but they just didn’t have it in them. I turned and gave them one last glare and shut them up. And the Jersey Skank? Just for the record, her “I only need a second” was still in process when I finished my business, found and collected the RLA, and walked out the door.
Hmmmph. The fucking nerve of some people.
I slept in. All the way to 7:30AM. Whoopeee.
After a cup of coffee, and the delicious realization that I didn't have to put on make up today, I sauntered off into the living room, where twelve years of employment and hard work has been packaged into six cardboard boxes.
I pulled out the office sweaters and the Happy Bunny desk sign book, the spare pair of socks, the container of mints, and the squishy brain that sat on my monitor.
I sorted out the tech books. Outdated systems and program version learning guides went into a bag for the used book store. Usuable manuals and in-depth guides went into smaller box, for me to finally read and work through.
I pulled out my desk calendar, marked the day of separation (free at last, free at last) and the upcoming jury duty and interviews.
I sat on the couch, depressed despite myself.
I went back to the boxes, extracting the cables, cradles, docks and chargers. Those will go to my studio. Ditto the radio/cd player.
My awards and framed samples will go into storage. I sigh. I sit on the couch and remind myself how much joy and relief I felt yesterday when I sneered at the senior vp and told him to spare me the platitudes.
I wander off to refill my coffee, pet the dog. This is going to be fine, I think.
The final reports from my family up the coast are in. One cousin lost a section of his roof, another lost merely soffits under the eaves. Still another, who was up in the heaviest weather, lost nothing. My brother lost his pool enclosure, his big tree and his mother in law.
I'm off to her funeral.
I haven't been sleeping well. Too depressed. I stare at the ceiling, then at the glowing lights on the clock. When I finally get to sleep, I have anxiety dreams, with my own pantheon of archetypes. The unattainable lover, the high school clique that does not include me, being lost, trying to run and not being able to.
On the plus side, if there is one, I have no appetite. I've always made jokes about the High Stress diet, and how it is my only successful one. I ought to be in negative sizes by the end of the year.
I'm off to build a new web site from an old one. Chicken salad from chicken shit, speciality of this house.
In the immortal words of Firesign Theater
: How can you be in two places at once when you're not anywhere at alllllllll?
I took my car in to the shop to have them check out the randomly soft brakes. My regular mechanic wasn't there, and so nothing could be done. Came to work, got my computer booted up and then all hell didn't actually break loose so much as it just started oozing out around my grasp on life.
The RLA's lung cancer (he was sure) turned out to be a strained muscle. But then, he once thought his newly-developed lats were tumors. He'd never seen lumps there
(Update) The RLA insists
that he never said it was lung cancer. He says he merely said that he felt a "dead spot" in or on his lung, which he says (now) was maybe something swollen and pressing on the lung. He says that maybe he thought it was his heart. Pleuresy, or something. Maybe. But that he really, really didn't think it was serious. Which is why he really DIDN'T say something to the effect that he'd clean the kitty litter after his doctor's appointment, if they let him come home and didn't check him into a hospital for x-rays and tests.
The phone rang again. It was my mother's neighbor. She's sure that mummy's caregiver is abusing her. I called mummy's case manager to discuss the matter, and my brother called in, very upset, having just had the same conversation with the neighbor.
The Senior VP of Human Resources has noted that there is old and crappy information on the hospital's web site, and has made it their mission to force PR to supply new. Which they are now doing. Stacks and piles of it. And I'm trying to keep both the existing site up to date and do the conversion to the new site, at a rate of 100 pages a day.
But tonight is Miss Aretha
. And tomorrow morning, I get to meet my new trainer at the gym. He looks like Nic Cage
in "Con Air". Tats. Ripped to the nines. Hubba, hubba. If that can't motivate me, then I'm dead and shouldn't be taking up space in the weight room, anyway.
More news as it happens. Maybe.
I woke up this morning feeling so productive. I felt like a million dollars, allowing for inflation, and like I could just breeze though the stack of work on my desk.
Thinking was my big mistake, clearly, because I can't do jack shit. I am sorting and sorting the link order for the same twelve pages. I can't get it to organize logically. I can't figure out the content, I can't figure out how to convert from one design set to our new look. I just can't get a grip on this chunk of the site.
But the headphones are on, so there is at least a rhythm to my work. Today's playlist includes "Strange Magic, the best of ELO", "Ramones Mania" and "Sony Music: 100 Years, Broadway: the Great Original Cast Recordings".
Actually, what I really mean is, give me the money.
I'm going to do something I never, ever do on this site: I'm going to show you my face.
That was me and my film school buddy Nick. I've written
about him before. The photo was taken in New York City in 1985. Six years later, Nick would be dead of AIDS. He never told me he was sick. In October of 1991 I received an invitation to a "celebration of his life", which I thought odd, since his birthday was in January. Slow, but not dumb, I figured it out.
Later this month I will be participating in the 2004 Miami AIDS Walk. I do it for Nick. And Shel. And Scotty. And John. Among others. I always repeat those names, but this year I thought I'd show you a face. Let you know, like I do, that they were real and vital and important to me.
If you lost someone, or if you didn't, if you can find it in your wallet, this close to tax deadlines, then please, help me raise money
for the cause.
Thanks. I mean it.
Working for the county has its advantages, now and then. Today I had off in honor of the generic presidential birthday celebration known as "President's Day." I took a nap.
Not just a nap, but the hallowed, mid-afternoon, workday couch nap.
There are just no words.
I also worked on a new quilt top and took the old cat to the vet to make sure he's just old and not old and sick. Old and sick seems to be a theme in my life, at least as far as the humans in it goes, so I was worried about the cat. He's 15 and a half. In cat years, that's um, 108.
The vet's prognosis: just old and he doesn't like his food.
There's only 24-ish hours left to vote in Blog Madness, Round Four
. What are you waiting for? Follow the link, and vote for your favorite. That would be me, right? Right? RIGHT?!
Thank you. I promise to go back to my regular bitching and moaning tomorrow. But now, I'm going to bake chocolate chip cookies. With pecans. For the guy at the pharmacy who doesn't suck. He can rub it in and show them to the Insufferable Mr. Pimple, but no sharing.
And if you vote for me, maybe, just maybe, I'll bake some for you too.