yes. i know. it was auto-generated. the three mailings (first class mail stamps cost $1.74) and the three emails and the text were all auto-generated. and all of it? dehumanizing.
we are no longer on molina healthcare since during-the-year 2021, but for a company that literally charged $19,927 for the period of time we were, a balance due of 27 cents seems a bit inconsequential and the threat of policy termination and coverage loss – in the middle of a global pandemic – while they claim to be “caring about people and advocating on their behalf” and “helping those most in need” – well, it would seem that a bit of real-people-ness might need to shine through.
i know that we have grumbled before about healthcare in the united states; this will not be an out-and-out rant, for i’ve written that in previous posts and want to have a bye for future ones. but it is surely a tad bit humorous to think that a company with a january 2022 net worth of $16.24 billion – billion! – cares about 27 cents.
even funnier is that as soon as i knew we had an outstanding balance over and above our premiums – this 27 cents – i paid it online. yet the letters, emails and texts kept coming, even a month after we no longer had their services. auto-generated, aggressive, uncaring, impersonal.
molina – in their employee handbook, as part of how they describe their core values – states: “we focus on what is important. ‘it is a business of nickels.’ little things matter and the nickels add up.”
ahhh. yup. i’m guessin’ they must. focus on nickels, that is. “we are careful with scarce resources.”
this is a company that bases their existence on the early clinic of their founder, “where caring for people was more important than their ability to pay.”
“if we don’t receive your payment, your policy will be terminated and you’ll lose your coverage.”
we paid our 27 cents. molina healthcare lost at least $1.47 in that exchange.
to the casual observer, i’m sure it looked clandestine: gas station parking lot. man pulls up in newer vehicle. woman pulls up in older-model vehicle to newer vehicle’s driver’s side. woman stays in vehicle and opens passenger window. man gets out and goes to passenger window with envelope. man extends envelope into vehicle. woman extends package toward man. yikes!
the woman in the very-nice-car next to me was watching. i could feel her eyes on the back of my head. i turned toward her and she raised her eyebrows and frowned at me. i made sure to hold the binax-now-covid-self-rapid-test box up high so that she could see it. from the look on her face, i’m guessing she thought that i had disguised the real stuff with this box. 20 and i exchanged envelope and box and, although the envelope had nothing to do with the box at all, and this was just me bringing 20 a rapid test since he couldn’t find any, it appeared – to this woman drawing conclusions – that we had done a deal. ewww.
the last time i felt that way i was in the kansas city airport. i flew in and, with a sizeable bank check in hand, met a complete stranger in the baggage claim area. i was purchasing littlebabyscion and driving it home that same day, but it sure looked kind of suspect.
back-in-the-day, decades ago now, when i worked for the state attorney’s office in florida, my husband was a detective with the sheriff’s department. there are many stories of stings and deals and situations to which i have been privy. some stories are funnier than others. like the time he landed the department helicopter in the field having watched a guy pull marijuana out of a neighboring field and run into the nearby house. from my recollection, when he went to the door a small child answered. he asked if he could speak to his daddy and the innocent little boy said, “right now he’s in the bathroom flushing plants down the toilet.” yes. a different situation.
these are indeed strange times. and we are all trying to do the best we can. we keep track of where we’ve been, who we’ve seen. we are cautious to be vaccinated and boosted and wear masks and sanitize and avoid crowds and obvious circumstances that might be more dangerous from a contagion point of view. we sacrifice some now in order to have a better (and sooner) future without covid. we make soup for others, call on people to check in, deliver groceries, share masks and rapid tests and information.
saturday night we watched a documentary: the first wave. our daughter sent us the link; one of her friends with nat-geo was involved in its production.
if you have forgotten why you are being vigilant, why you are vaccinated, why you are boosted, wearing a mask, isolating, keeping distance, not gathering, not eating in crowded restaurants or going to crowded indoor events, you should watch this movie.
if you have been wondering why you are emotionally and physically exhausted, why you are sometimes edgy, why you have been pining for normal, you should watch this movie.
if you have somehow lost the vision in your mind’s eye of the absolute terror and fear in people’s eyes who have been stricken with covid, you should watch this movie.
if you have forgotten about courage and science and the miracle of others sustaining each other, you should watch this movie.
if you have lost perspective and are just d-o-n-e with it all, you should watch this movie.
our daughter wrote that she had never seen anything like people on respirators, ventilators or in the devastating state this pandemic slammed upon them. i wrote back, still crying from watching, even a half hour after this movie, that neither had i. and the thing i had to keep reminding myself during the movie? that it was real. that it was true. that it still is.
we all know we’d do just about anything for the people we love. it is important – in these times – for us all to be honest and forthcoming. to let each other know if we are at risk, if we might be putting the other at risk, if we are ailing, if we think we are ‘positive’, if we need help or, simply, if we need the emotional support of the people who love us back – standing with us in the middle of it all, even if that is virtual.
our hearts are all connected together. and i would, once again, risk the unfair judgement of a bystander to stay that way.
if you are wondering which type of heater is warmer – the standing-propane or the pyramid-propane – we would have to answer specific to one experience where we were surrounded by both. though i don’t believe the standing-propane was functioning 100%, the pyramid-propane on our end of the table seemed much warmer. nevertheless, we would likely purchase the more highly-rated standing propane. i guess. visually, this pyramid is kind of like watching a fireplace, so there is that to consider as well.
the windchill dropped to about 17 degrees in the courtyard, yet, there we sat, with big blankets and glasses of wine, between the two heaters. we weren’t the only al fresco table in the outdoor space of this restaurant just north of chicago. another table of patrons was also doing the safe-thing and had gathered outside to dine together post-holiday.
we were there with our son and that in itself kept me warm. it was time to celebrate and we had bags of gifts for him to open. i cannot tell you – though i suspect i needn’t try as this is a universal feeling – what it felt like to hug him when he walked through the back door to join us. it had been kind of a long while and i was kind of giddy. wine and soup and good food, even dessert, and hours later we parted. glenn – the maître d’ – held his hand over his heart on our way out; i did the same. these times. “strange times call for strange measures,” i texted a friend. we three laughed together at the-table-in-the-snow-shoveled-courtyard about how indeed strange. and i was inordinately grateful.
these strange times continue and continue, it seems. here we are – rapidly approaching two years of this pandemic affecting our behaviors, our actions, our plans, our health, our travel, our work, our safety and security, our relationships, our out-and-aboutness-in-the-world. we have been vaccinated and vaccinated and boosted. we have worn masks – better and better and better ones – everywhere, even when barely anyone else has. we have distanced and isolated and avoided crowds. we have gone through a lot of hand sanitizer.
as the new variant explodes around the world, we watch various stories play out. the tennis player – a gigantic role model – who refuses to get vaccinated, expects to play in the international arena, receives an exemption from a locale but not from the country of australia – has a hissy fit. i suppose i wonder why he, a breather-of-breath-in-and-out-the-same-way-you-or-i-breathe, feels he is above doing what-is-best-for-the-world. for that matter, i wonder why anyone feels that way. truly. a moot point at this juncture. it is two years – years – now.
in the meanwhile, we do the best we can. we are missing a lot. we know that. there is a precious great-nephew i have not yet met. there are indoor/in-the-car/in-restaurants/at-our-home/at-their-homes/up-close-and-personal moments we are not sharing with others we love, with others who make our personal world what it is. most of our spare time has been outside or alone. we wonder how and when this will change.
i write “better” on our flying wish paper, crumple it up, uncrumple the crumpled, shape it into a cylinder and light it. the wish for “better” flies off to come true, tiny bits of ash floating.
when the exposure notification availability showed up on the iphone, i x-ed it out. it comes every day and every day i delete it. i’m not sure we need any more reminders of covid exposure. we are already hyper aware of the dangers of this virus, the breakthrough possibility, the guidelines. last night we talked about all the places we would go were it not for this pandemic. the list was seemingly endless and we were in wonder about missing all of it.
we know that others are out there living life as any other day, as in any other time. i don’t know how to do that right now. any moment i forget about it and start talking about something fun to do or someplace fun to go, i remember. the benefit-risk factor is mightily dependent on, well, every facet involved, including higher threat and protecting ourselves and people we love. but i do know this – if it is for my children, i will do it. though we don’t get to exercise it much, that risk is unconditional.
we are finding that maybe we are more conservative, more cautious than others as we weigh our activities and destinations. it’s frustrating. we are a year and a half into this and, while vaccinations help us significantly, there is no stopping a mutating virus that wants to spread without the cooperation of everyone.
at the end of this pandemic, when there IS one, we will look around at the wreckage. lives and health and homes and jobs and security have been decimated. there are those who have been ultra-cavalier and have blatantly denied and defied any safety measures. there are those who have gone to disney, who have gathered in large unmasked gatherings, who have traveled widely. and there are those of us who have not. it’s a wide spectrum where, really, the most prudent route seems a narrower band of collaboration. and it – truly – sometimes makes me ponder what we’re missing. and, even though i ask ‘why?’ time and again, we stay on the track we have decided on, committing to an end to this insanity.
i suppose an argument against the way we are navigating through this would be that we are living out of fear, that we are limiting ourselves in a limitless world because, even when we have no guarantee for life in ANY given circumstance, we have bowed to covid-19, a frightening reality that makes us pay attention. it makes me sad to write that.
at the end others will have lived through it and have traveled and celebrated and eaten out. and hopefully we, too, will have lived through it. but our experience-list will be shorter; if traveling and celebrating and eating out are the things that count we have the tiniest list. our experience-list includes a serious respect for medicine, for science, for experts trying to help us mitigate this. it includes a deep concern for others and a wish for their good health and well-being. it lists to the end goal and not the short term. it includes the very-fewest visits with beloved children and family, in some cases none, tearing at my heart, painful. it includes much home-time, gratitude for this place in which we work and learn and cook and grow and dance. it’s much narrower than we would have imagined and, yet, it is rich in ways i also could not have imagined.
and next year, or sooner, i hope, maybe our experience-list will include irish fest and farmer’s markets and eating at the bar at wine-knot and restaurants in chicago and exploring in north carolina and live-in-person conversations with people who have been there for us, national geographic live events and long stays in the rocky mountains with mornings at cabin coffee in breck and winterfest in cedarburg and a slow dance party revisited on our patio, with people spilling into the kitchen, making drinks and preparing hors d’oeuvres.
maybe our experience-list will include a booster shot and no masks and fewer headlines about staggering loss and more news about communities coming together in support of each other.
maybe our experience-list will have less worry and less fear. the end goal.
normally i would shudder at this sort of sentiment. the “above ground” part is so … grim. yet, as we were walking down by the marina, on the 20th anniversary of the horror of september 11, it got my attention and i went back to photograph the back of the pickup truck.
like many of you, we immersed in shows and conversation about 9/11 this weekend. interviews and video and photographs, all visceral remembrances of a day when everything stopped.
so walking along the lake on saturday we were well aware of the anniversary, revisiting where we were at each moment of impact that day, each moment of devastation. we felt inordinately fortunate to be taking a leisurely walk on a warm and sunny afternoon, twenty years older than we had been.
cnn offered a special on saturday evening and spoke to “tuesday children” – adults who, as children, had lost family members that day twenty years ago. “shine a light” also featured two men – david paine and jay winuk who began 911day.org, a non-profit whose “ongoing mission is to transform the annual remembrance of 9/11 into a worldwide day of unity and doing good, and to encourage millions of people to remember and pay tribute each 9/11 through good deeds that help others and rekindle the extraordinary spirit of togetherness and compassion that arose in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy.”
goodness in real life. instead of that day continuing to be about evil, they set out to redefine the day into acts of doing good deeds in the entire spectrum of good-deed-doing. it has since become the largest day of service in the united states with over thirty million people participating annually.
i couldn’t sleep last night. something woke me up and then my brain does that thing it does in the middle of the night, jumping around, topic to topic, no apparent thread of connection, just one concern after another. my restlessness woke david and we sat talking in the middle of night.
we had both been moved -yet again – by the footage of this tragic day in the history of our country and we had both been moved – yet again – by being reminded of the acts of kindness and heroism that were so much a part of this day and the days after.
yet last night, as i lay there, the breeze coming in the window, we spoke about how our country – so united in those days – has regressed, no – has twisted – in more recent days. why have we not all come together in the same heroic spirit of 2001? why have we not all embraced whatever it takes to save each other’s lives? why, when 2,996 people were too many people, aren’t over 660,000 too many?
we are lucky to be above ground. yes. everyday above ground is a blessing. yes.
do we need – in our above-ground-state- to be reminded to push back against evil – global terrorism, global tyrannical leadership, a deadly raging global pandemic – to practice goodness?
“he who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. he who accepts evil without protecting against it is really cooperating with it.” (martin luther king, jr.)
“apathy and evil. the two work hand in hand. they are the same, really…. evil wills it. apathy allows it. evil hates the innocent and the defenseless most of all. apathy doesn’t care as long as it’s not personally inconvenienced.” (jake thoene)
hannah arendt’s words, “evil thrives on apathy and cannot survive without it.”
apathy (noun): lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern.
“the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference.” (elie wiesel)
and what is beyond indifference, what are the intentional misdeeds committed by people who are living in community with each other?
how much light might be shined by simply wearing a mask or being vaccinated?
might it be possible to “rekindle the extraordinary spirit of togetherness and compassion that arose in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy”? to love one another?
jen told me yesterday that the 1918 pandemic, though most often referred to as a two-year pandemic, actually lasted two and a half years.
two and a half years.
i shudder to think of the toll this pandemic will have taken if it lasts yet another year or more. we have learned so much; we have learned so little. the pandemic has been like a kaleidoscope and like a microscope, both. it has scattered us into constantly changing patterns and it has brought everything into minute focus. yet i wonder where this will take us.
artists aren’t typically conservative in-the-boxers. we take risks, live gig lifestyles, put ourselves out there, are vulnerable and push back against things we consider inequities, ironic double-talk, disinterest in humanitarianism, opacity where transparency is touted. we aren’t quiet, for it is our job to speak – in whatever medium our talent. we are, as artists, there to raise questions, to promote pondering, communicate ideas, tell stories, express emotion, encourage engagement, inspire connection and collaboration, reiterate interdependence of all people.
though this burden does not remain singly on the shoulders of artists, even banksy has participated in making statements about safety and guidelines in this pandemic. i’m not sure how much more blatant it needs to be. encouraging covid-19 responsibility, his work in the london tube in july 2020 was titled, “if you don’t mask, you don’t get.” he spray-paints the words, “i get lockdown, but i get up again” at the end of the video featuring his rats on the tube.
though attendees were 100% vaccinated, the invitation read, “masks required at all times unless actively eating or drinking.” they provided masks, sweet ones with the initials of the wedding couple and a heart. the venues had high high ceilings, exposed rafters and ductwork. the wedding was outside, cocktail hour was outside, dancing was outside.
when the rain came, we all kept dancing. outside, twinkling lights all around, we breathed in fresh air. even with masks on.
“a lot of people never use their initiative because no-one told them to.” (banksy)
initiative (noun): the ability to assess and initiate things independently; the power or opportunity to act or take charge before others do.
“it is a serious thing just to be alive on this fresh morning in this broken world.” (mary oliver)
really, truly exquisite. the last few mornings have been exquisite. we woke up early-early on saturday and sunday morning, nowhere to be, sat and sipped coffee and listened to the quiet world outside. our impulse was to be home, to read together, to write, to go slow, to exercise in the basement, to sit on the deck and watch the birds, the squirrels and the chipmunks, to cook good meals. we felt no need to go anywhere. instead, feeling the sun and breathing in a cool breeze, we reveled in the staying-here.
as headlines point out, the pandemic is heating up. again. the prediction that there will be 300,000 diagnosed daily in mid-august is stunning. so much sickness, so much loss. we feel fortunate to be vaccinated and we are dedicated to continued safe practices. we want at least ten thousand more exquisite mornings, at least ten thousand more days, ten thousand more sleeps. to sacrifice now, we feel, is to bestow upon ourselves a chance at those ten thousand wishes. it IS a serious thing just to be alive. and, even in moments of taking it for granted, we don’t take it for granted.
if i could find a four-leaf clover or blow the puffball off a dandelion or spot a shooting star or spy a haywagon from the back, i would issue a hope for each of us to recognize the gloriousness of this very day, each very-day. to stand in responsibility for each other and to seriously choose to mend the tiniest piece of this broken world for the rest. to stitch together the biggest quilt honoring the inhabitants of this good earth, each thread an acknowledgement of gratitude, each piece of fabric a choice to take care of each other, to live in community the best we can, to do everything possible to keep each other healthy.
just to be alive in this broken world takes some chutzpah. sacrificing for the whole takes some humility. bowing to safety guidelines in a pandemic takes some love.
we still wear masks. at festival, at target, at lowes, at costco, at woodmans. these flipflops are one of the reasons. though we have been totally vaccinated and, according to the cdc guidelines, could discard the masks – like most people in these parts – we are still vigilant. this is not because we don’t want the pandemic to go away. oh no. we would love to think that it’s over. but we know it isn’t. because, well, science. and these flipflops stop us from any cavalier disposal of all the masks on the hook on our refrigerator.
we have only eaten in one restaurant now since march of 2020. it was about six weeks ago and, admittedly, wonderful. phat thai in carbondale, colorado and our girl and her boyfriend. priceless. we were nervous – being newbies back at a restaurant – but the benefit/risk factor was obvious, the reservation was later in the evening when there were not as many diners there. we pass many restaurants in our own downtown area and they are often mob scenes of patrons. we couldn’t do that yet; it would make us uncomfortable. phat thai was relaxing and truly a lovely evening. we remain cautious though. because of these flipflops.
i just checked the cdc website. since covid statistics are no longer posted as chyrons we have limited exposure to the toll of deaths from this pandemic or other such concerning numbers. i scrolled around as there is much information available on this government site. i noted that our county has a 40-49% rate for folks having at least one dose of the vaccine. i’m a bit surprised by this number. this county has made it inordinately easy to be vaccinated. it is hard for me to wrap my head around why so many people have not gotten even one dose of any of the readily accessible shots. 47.9% of the state of wisconsin is vaccinated. 45.7% of the country. the whole united states. a population clearly not united in covid-vaccines. it’s perplexing. once again, i am at a loss as to why a larger percentage of this country is not vaccinated. surely there are flipflops in the lives of the 54.3% ‘out there’.
our social experiences over the last year plus now have been pretty minimal. we’ve seen our girl and our boy and their boyfriends. we’ve seen a bit of colorado family and a bit of missouri family. we’ve seen the up north gang on the deck once and, with great celebration, in the dining room once. we’ve gone back to weekly dinners with 20, post daily-phone-calls through the time we couldn’t gather. and we have been with the owners of the flipflops – our dearest friends who have happy-houred with us into late fall and as early as possible this spring – with a firepit and blankets – in their backyard. we know that it is risky for someone vaccinated but with a suppressed immune system and we join force with them in being careful so that we might be with them.
it isn’t a big sacrifice to wear a mask in the grocery store or in the big box stores. we are definitely in the minority. we definitely get looks sometimes. we are quite sure there’s a bit of scorning going on. but these flipflops are worth it. i mean, what’s a little piece of cloth over your nose and mouth to keep loved ones safe? just a little bit longer, we think. we are hoping that the 54.3% will head to a vaccination site and do their part to save lives – of those who they love and those who they do not know, of the lives of children. perhaps the population of this country will heed the cautionary words of dr. leana wen: “there are more contagious and virulent variants emerging that could lead to a surge in infections, especially in parts of the country with low vaccination rates. those unvaccinated, including our children, remain at high risk. (washington post, june 14, 2021) dr. wen concludes, “different families have different perceptions of risk as it applies to the virus and the necessity of the vaccine. for our family, it comes down to this: if you have the option to reduce a low risk of something awful happening to your kids to essentially zero, would you take it?” i would add, if you have the option to reduce risk of something awful happening to any one you love to essentially zero, would you take it?
what flipflops influence your decisions in these times?
i know little to nothing about farming. driving through eastern colorado, missouri, all of kansas, iowa and across the state of wisconsin, there are patchworks of farmfields that stretch on seemingly forever. gorgeous and rich in the colors of good dirt and rising plants, we admired the quilted beauty of our roadtrip and talked about farming as we passed the lives of people we would never meet.
the billboard read, “don’t let pigweed creep back!” it was an imperative to research. pigweed is, apparently, insidious and something that hardworking people who have chosen crop-growing, stock, and all means of agriculture, have to deal with. pigweed can be toxic to livestock and will aggressively take over grain and soybean fields. it is resistant to mitigation and hard to control. it can be destructive. once eradicated, one must remain vigilant about its presence so as to avoid further damage to crops and animals.
i am struck by how this invasive plant mimics what has happened in the political arena of our living.
we had just, a mere couple hours before, stopped at a gas station to fill up big red and run into the restroom. wearing masks, we entered the convenience store where all conversation stopped as the door swung closed behind us. no one inside had on a mask and the stares at us were pointed and aggressive. it was unnerving. had we entered a miraculous-global-pandemic-free zone? or had we entered inside a building where pigweed had never left, where the insidious, toxic dis-ease of misinformation and selfishness was spreading its roots, reaching out underground and above to damage all within its cloying and suffocating grasp? is there no hope for this place with entrenched pigweed?
it would seem to me, as we read the current news of steps forward, of good intentions, of attempts to advance efforts toward equity and equality, social justice, healthcare, hunger and homelessness, of work to aid in getting past this horrid pandemic and all its fallout, that we should do all we can to not let pigweed creep back.
i’m pretty sure earth is weeping right now. we have just had the seventh mass shooting in seven days in this country. earth’s occupants are in danger and earth is profoundly mournful. i’m with earth.
i don’t want to think that going to the grocery store could end anyone’s life – it’s unfathomable – and yet, as i write this, we have lost another ten people – who simply went to the grocery store. last week we lost eight beautiful lives with a shooter’s ‘bad day’ excuse. time and again, time and again. why is it we cannot stop this? it is no less real if you are not directly in the line of grief in any one of these mass shooting circumstances. the line of grief is all of ours and i wonder if you will think of this the next time you are in the grocery store or the spa or at a vigil or in a club or at a party, not to mention at a mall, in a church, at a concert, in a movie theatre, at school. i read a post with the words “…cheap thoughts and useless prayers now being rushed to the scene. more on this soon-to-be-forgotten-and-then-repeated story as it develops…” earth is reeling, its heart breaking into a trillion pieces in the midst of violence people seem unwilling to cease. i’m with earth.
i’m pretty sure earth is weeping right now. we have lost 540,000 people in this country to this pandemic, shy of 2.8 million across the globe. in miami’s south beach, there are restrictions that officials are begging thousands of pandemic-weary tourists to abide by. we pass folks in the local costco with masks under their noses; we see crowded bars and restaurants in our town. despite the government’s pleas for compliance and its new-administration’s plans facilitating and expediting vaccinations and aid, the level of apathy is disconcerting. wishing for everyone to believe we are all in this together doesn’t make it happen. earth is wondering what’s so hard about decent-human-behaving to save each other’s lives. i’m with earth.
i’m pretty sure earth is weeping right now. climate change and environmental flippancy is wreaking havoc on this good planet and the almighty dollar seems to be ahead in the race against any chance to reverse the damage. we were behind a pickup truck with the sticker “i’m with earth” as we drove across town. a little googling revealed what i couldn’t see from our vehicle, what i can’t read in the picture i snapped. these stickers are available on the website http://www.ilovegurus.com. each time someone purchases a pair of gurus – sustainably-sourced flip-flops – a tree is planted. every time someone purchases this sticker a tree is planted. their site reads, “continued emissions of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and long-lasting change in all components of the climate system, increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive, and irreversible impacts. it may sound daunting, but if we work together, we can plant one million trees to improve our planet for generations.” we are all responsible. we all must make decisions, choices to take part in saving the planet. being aware. being answerable. taking action. planting trees. maybe earth is cautiously clapping her hands as people become more knowledgeable, more protective, more potently effectual, watching her advocates gently plant saplings, tenderly seeding for the future. i’m with earth.
a serbian proverb declares, “be humble for you are made of earth. be noble for you are made of stars.” each and every person – yes, a balance. a coalescence of earth’s humility and stars’ nobility, both. weeping earth, lofty stars.
today, i am full of sorrow for those people who have lost others who ran out to buy chips or bananas or a gallon of milk, each of them brilliant stars. i’m with earth. weeping.