reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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fluid. with wings. [k.s. friday]

“when she transformed into a butterfly, the caterpillars spoke not of her beauty, but of her weirdness. they wanted her to change back into what she always had been. but she had wings.” (dean jackson)

“trust the wait. embrace the uncertainty. enjoy the beauty of becoming. when nothing is certain, anything is possible.” (mandy hale)

i had an IME on tuesday. an IME is an independent medical exam. it is a brief exam ordered by an insurance company and the physician is both chosen and paid for by that insurance company. it is defined as an independent assessment of an injury or illness, in my case, my wrist, and the determination by the doctor-chosen-and-paid-for-by-the-insurance-company-paying-for-treatment will be placed next to the reports of the medical hand specialist and the occupational therapist who have been treating me consistently for the last five months. a basic review of articles about IME reveals that the insurance-company-paying-for-treatment will pick the report they wish to concur with and that will decide if there is to be future, in this case, my future, treatment. so be it.

there is nothing to do now but wait.

my OT is wonderful. she has encouraged me, pushed me, held me accountable and she has brought me from twenty degrees of forward right wrist movement to fifty-five. this is big news, since, at first, six degrees was all i could muster. brutus and my OT have caused me much pain, but what’s that saying? no pain, no gain. we have worked hard. and, in the way of hard work and healing, there are things i can do now that i wasn’t able to do a few months ago. and there are things i fear i will never be able to do again. uncertainty.

there is nothing to do but wait.

sometimes i wonder what life will look like in a year or two years. i wonder what i will be doing. if i looked back a year i would never have guessed back then what this year would have looked like. no, last july looked very different than right now. it just suggests that truly everything is uncertain, that everything is in the act of becoming, in the middle of the fire, maybe everything is ashes transitioning to riches over and over again. possibility, evidenced in tomato plants bearing fruit on an old barnwood potting stand, evidenced in a nest-home created in a birdhouse hanging empty for years, evidenced in the smell of the rain bringing cool on a summer morning.

there are times, when you are simply going about your business, going about life, that you don’t expect change. you don’t expect to be thrust into ‘different’. times when you find out the caterpillars were talking about you all along. after reeling from the surprise, after trying to grab the wheel to stabilize, after railing about the unfairness of it all – for life does not seem to be fair, you find yourself out of the deep, dark water – in the shallows.

and in the shallows there is abundant life, abundant food, abundant shelter. in the shallows we can rest and nourish and breathe. we can sit in uncertainty and the unknown. we can imagine new. because anything IS possible.

there is nothing to wait for and everything to wait for. it’s now.

i’ve written here about transition before. and again. and again. and i suspect i will yet again.

because life, i am learning over and over, is one transition after another. fluid. with wings.

*****

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read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

IN TRANSITION from RELEASED FROM THE HEART ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood


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covid test. the unknown. [merely-a-thought monday]

the unknown is often worse than reality. i had all kinds of monsters in my head battering my nerves, just thinking about having a covid test. i wasn’t feeling well and, with my symptoms aligning with the utterly vast myriad of symptoms attributable to coronavirus, i was checking the list and checking it twice. worried and already quarantining for 14 days since we had been exposed, we scheduled tests. and i started getting nervous. it felt like we were living inside a sci-fi movie.

my adrenaline was rushing before we left the house. i felt shaky. it was a big response to what must have been a letdown for that adrenaline rush. the test itself was easy, painless. it was a rapid test and we knew we would find out our results in a mere half hour.

david’s came – “negative,” read the email. my email asked me to come back inside for a confirmatory test, a specimen that would be sent to a lab for results that might have a slightly lower degree of fallibility. we went back in, standing on the dots stickering the floor, slathering with hand sanitizer, speaking through two-ply masks. and now, we wait.

we have been inordinately careful. we’ve been wearing masks, washing hands, our fruit, the bottles of wine gift-delivered at our front door. we’ve wiped our groceries and kept our mail separated. we have distanced and not gathered. we have worried about ourselves. we have worried about my girl and my boy. we have worried about david’s parents and all our family members out of town. we have worried about the people in our community, the customers and staff at the corner store, the people in line at the grocery. we have tried to be respectful. it has mattered.

a friend re-posted a meme today that read, “it shouldn’t have to happen to you for it to matter to you.” this feels like the baseline, a low bar of compassion, the starting gate of people taking precautions to protect other people. it has been stunning to watch people of this country ignore all cautions about a pandemic raging across the nation. a dear friend, way earlier in the year and in the early arc of this devastating disease sweeping the world, wrote that the lyrics “you would cry too if it happened to you” were on replay in her mind. a number of people were quoted as saying, “i don’t know how to explain to you why you should care about other people.”

what does it take?

there truly are no exceptions. we have been instructed in the use of masks, the advantages of social distancing, the merits of proper handwashing. as things have been escalating up the devastation scale, we have been encouraged to limit our gatherings, to not travel, to not have parties, to not make exceptions. because, truly, there aren’t any. every one of our lives is valuable. every single one. to be cavalier is to take chances. big chances. it is all an unknown.

healthcare workers and hospitals are overwhelmed. they are at the brink of collapse. yet, households of people are gathering together, playing a russian roulette covid game. citizens of this country are dying in situations that are “harder, scarier and lonelier than necessary.” yet, people are refusing to wear a simple piece of cloth on their face. the statistics of this pandemic are exponentially climbing. yet, people on the trail fail to move six feet away as they pass, people in the grocery store have masks around their chins, people regularly scoff at the science – S C I E N C E – that is guiding the medical experts.

on monday evening, in the middle of our quarantine, i had intense pain breathing. my lungs, my windpipe, my trachea were on fire when i took a deep breath. i had a video chat with a nurse who told me to go to the ER and have an EKG to rule out a heart event. i did not believe i was having a heart event. to me, it seemed pretty clear that it was a breathing issue, but there are definite limitations to having a medical visit online and i understood her desire to err on the side of caution. because of the sheer arrogance of people who scorn the restrictions to help with this pandemic, our healthcare system has been forced to regulate that only patients are allowed into the hospital. the very idea that i would be going A-L-O-N-E into the hospital, perhaps with something serious, was more terrifying than not going. thank you to all those people in this country who have foisted this gross unfairness on anyone suffering, on anyone in a medical emergency, on anyone hospitalized for absolutely any reason. the lack of compassion for others is abhorrent.

one morning we made a big pot of texas chili. we loaded a folding table into little-baby-scion. we packed plates and plasticware and cups. we drove over to 20’s and set up our folding table at least 8 feet from his folding table in his open garage. and we had chili together with our coats on and blankets covering our legs in the open-air cold garage. two days later he had symptoms and two days after that he tested positive. his covid was gifted to him from a friend of his sister’s who casually walked into his sister’s apartment while he was working there. she wore no mask and boasted of a party she had attended. she clearly did not care. it did not matter to her that 20 has chronic asthma or that his sister has a compromised immune system. her freedom to not have a piece of cloth over her face was more important.

he called us to tell us. that was the beginning of our 14 days. we didn’t go anywhere except outside to walk. no stores, no gatherings, nothing. nowhere. it was unknown to us if we were contagious. it was unknown to us if david was asymptomatic. it was unknown to us if my symptoms were covid. but it mattered to us.

meanwhile, 20, who needs a new cellphone did not purchase one. “why not?” i battered him with questions. he told us that he didn’t want to spend the money if he wasn’t going to live. the unknown. i want to shake the supposed-friend of his sister’s who just didn’t care. “what is wrong with you?” i want to scream at her.

and now. waiting. by the time this publishes i hope that i am done waiting. but in the meanwhile, i am waiting. for the unknown.

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY


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two broken wrists. and the saga continues. [k.s. friday]

and the saga continues

bananas.  they were $.49 lb.  we picked up a bunch and walked to the register.  a moment later, with no question or drama, we paid our $1.17 and left.

the next step in my two-broken-wrists saga is occupational therapy.  not because we do everything with our hands.  not because we write with them and open doors with them.  not because we use them for our personal hygiene or because we cook with them.  not because we drive with them or dress with them or shake hands with them.  but because using my hands IS what i do.  the therapist asked me how long i have played the piano.  53 years.  it’s what i DO.  so getting my wrists back to pre-snowboard-fall is imperative to me.  there are no other options.

before we went to this first appointment i, responsibly, called our healthcare insurance company – the one we pay $29,000 a year to – the one with the slogan ” for the care you need at a price you can afford” – to check in about the coverage of OT.  i was told, after much menu-choosing, that i am limited to 20 visits and that the cost will be $50 per visit.  with the OT’s recommendation that my getting-these-wrists-back-trajectory would involve appointments twice a week, that would add $400 to the already-$2400/month in healthcare costs.  bracing.  impossible.

the OT office checked in with me to remind me of my appointment, coincidentally, just after i hung up with the insurance company.  i told them what i had just learned and they insisted i was wrong.  “no,” i was told, “we have never heard of molina charging ANYthing for a copay.”  I asked them to please double-check for me and they assured me they would and that they would apprise me at my appointment.

when i arrived, the receptionist checking me in told me that they had their 23-year-insurance-veteran in the office check and that there would be no copay.  i asked them to provide a written document to that effect so that if and when i was billed i would have recourse.  they assured me that they would triple-check and to stop back after my appointment.

at the end of my appointment with the therapist, the receptionist told me that “no, you don’t have to pay $50 per visit.  it’s actually worse.  instead, you have to pay 100% of all fees until your thousands-of-dollars-deductible is met.”  what?!!!!  now this is the third story i am hearing about the same service with the same provider and the same insurance company.  who am i to believe?

i stood there and literally cried in front of the receptionist in the middle of the waiting area.  you mean to tell me that our $29,000 a year doesn’t really cover much of anything???  this is blatantly wrong, grossly outrageous.

bernie sanders, if you have listened to him speak, has given a example of the perverted and pathetic healthcare in this country.  he speaks about a family who makes $60,000 a year and that this family must pay $12,000 for healthcare.  “that’s 20% of their gross income,” he bellows.  what i wish he would add is this next example:  consider a couple who makes say $65,000 a year (this is the magic healthcare cliff for two people and only $5000 more than the previous example).  that couple will pay anywhere between $24,000 and $29,000 for a policy that will still have high deductibles and yet (clearly) not actually have good coverage.  i want to jump on the bernie-bellowing-band-wagon and yell, “that’s 45% of that couple’s income!!!  what is wrong with that???? EVERYTHING!”  how is it that we can live in this country, the richest country in the world, and have the worst healthcare for our populace?  how is it right to set the populace up for financial disaster when they have to deal with the eventual health scare, injury, illness??  (on a side note, i won’t even beGIN to start talking about Covid-19, for i have nothing good to say about the administration’s handling, lack of information or truth, and unpreparedness for this pandemic that will truly test the resiliency of our country.)

when i could take a breath at the receptionist’s desk i asked, “what do these appointments cost?”  how much is my professionalism worth to me, i am thinking.  i earn my living playing the piano, i am thinking.  i have fifteen albums of piano music, i am thinking.  i am a pianist, i am thinking.  i just need care for my wrists so that i can do what i do, i am thinking.  at what cost, i am thinking.

but healthcare is not like bananas.  i was told, “we can’t answer that.  we don’t know.”  i beg your pardon???  “billing handles that.  and it’s different depending upon insurance plans and whether or not you have appropriate insurance.”  i beg your pardon???? “what if i just wanted to pay cash right now?” i ask.  “you can’t,” she says.  “we don’t know what it costs.”

i wonder if it would be more if i paid cash – after all, i’m not an overstuffed insurance company that has the capacity to deny portions of the billing or disallow costs or base payment on the coding used to describe my treatment, while at the same time accepting ridiculously high premiums from clients with the knowledge that the insurance offered is incomprehensibly lacking.

no.  i’m just a person who needs her hands.

we left, went to the store and bought more bananas.

read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

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two broken wrists. [k.s. friday]

two wrists

day 4

it broke more than both my wrists, that snowboarding fall last monday.

it broke my ability to do many things for myself.  it fractured my independence.

it exploded my previous gratitude of those around me, loving and caring for me.  it expanded a dependence on others, particularly david.

it broke through my vulnerability threshold.  it made me acknowledge my modesty and encouraged me to try to stand tall in my new temporary disability.

it broke what i knew about others around me.  it both surprised me in all the best ways and surprised me in all the worst.

it broke my assumption that all things – all my relationships – all my work – would stay the same.  it shattered any sense of security.

it further broke my trust in our country’s healthcare coverage.  it pointedly drove home that point.

it broke through any calm-in-the-storm-around-us i had found.  it exacerbated a profound sense of worry.

it broke my muse.  it scared me, really scared me, and it made me wonder if i would play again, write again, perform again.

day 5.  my quiet piano welcomed me into the studio.  i stood in front of it.  determined.  and i played.  nine fingers, not ten.  not the hand-span of all other days, but never mind.

day 12.  eleven days after breaking them i still wake up, after night’s elusive sleep, surprised to see my wrists, well, more accurately, my cast and hard splint.

i think, “here we go,” and i set out to see what’s beyond two broken wrists.

read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

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“emergency room/urgent care.” [merely-a-thought monday]

er or uc

emergency room to the right.  urgent care to the left.  it was a choice point.

as we drove from the ski hill back to our town, i was worried.  terribly worried.  but my worry was less about my two broken wrists.  it was less about the pain.  it was less about all the things i could see – already – that i couldn’t do for myself.  it was less about my piano and, thus, my life.  it was less about how long it would take to heal and what that healing would look like.  it was less about how important a role david would play for me in this process of getting-my-wrists back.  it was less about how this injury would impact me.

my worry?  it was about what it would cost.

i wracked my brain for all the research i had done in selecting this year’s healthcare plan and how the deductibles work and what is covered and what is not covered and whether x-rays were completely billable sans satisfying our deductible.  i worried about the cost of the emergency room, the cost of the ER staff, the cost of radiology, the cost of casting.  there was a moment, driving through paddock lake, that i began to sob, thinking of the financial worry of all this.   my wrists throbbing, our health “insurance” a whopping $29,000 a year out-of-pocket, and i was sobbing, in the middle of post-injury shock, at the worry of the additional burden this would put on us.

and that’s pretty pitiful.  what a pathetic country in which we live that the first set of thoughts when injured is not getting well, is not healing.

i believe in an effort to more fully understand what i was going through, ptom told me he read a few blogposts written by or about people who had broken both wrists.  it occurred to me that might be a good idea so i googled them.

the first post made me made me frustrated.  after telling the story of her injury, deborah, who lives in new zealand, spoke about her experience with the socialized healthcare in that country.  i wept as i read the motto is “prevent, care, recover,” and there was no cost to her – at all – through diagnosis, treatment, healing, extra care helpers, rehabilitation, transportation.  she lost no work salary during the time of her recuperation.  every single thing was covered and paid.  she states that, “this has been a huge relief to me and has definitely aided in my recovery, because I’m not stressed.”

why am i so amazed by such a humanitarian approach to a nation’s care of its populace?  is that not of utmost priority?  should our population have to worry about seeking care to remain in or regain good health?  what kind of country does not put the health of its people first?

as we approached the hospital in kenosha we had a choice.  emergency room or urgent care.  i asked david to park by urgent care.  in the middle of pain emanating from both my wrists, two slings fashioned by ski patrol around my neck, i thought i remembered that maybe the co-pay or coverage would be more palatable in urgent care.  we sat in big red for a few extra minutes; i repeated i wasn’t sure what to do or not do.  not sure about the differentiation between urgent care and the emergency room, i thought we could at least ask if urgent care could handle what i presented – a need for x-rays and exam and treatment.

we walked into a crowded waiting room.  indeed, they could handle my injuries.  we waited hours with all the others there, many of them with masks covering their mouths and noses.  everyone looked worried.

a very kind doctor examined me, did x-rays, cast me, gave me directions and sent me on my way with follow-up to an orthopedic doctor in a few days.  at that office, a very kind doctor examined me, re-cast me, gave me directions and sent me on my way with a follow-up and more x-rays in ten days, a likely change of cast-type in four weeks, physical/occupational therapy on its heels and a standing invitation to see the reigning hand specialist whose expertise had been proffered.

and, of course, we haven’t received any billing yet.  i’m quite sure that will be the icing on the cake, well, so to speak.

or maybe i should say – that will add insult to injury.

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY

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healthcare.gov [flawed wednesday]

healthcare.gov

this could get ugly.  it could also get too honest.  and maybe too personal.  and too detailed.

this is the week.  i’ve been dreading it for months.  it is the final week to select health insurance for 2020.  sometime this week i will wait online for probably hours to take my turn, to take my turn to sign up for a plan on healthcare.gov. i have been awake all night on and off for weeks.

we are artists.  both of us.  neither of our jobs and none of the other work that we do provide health insurance or benefits.  we live in the state of wisconsin and have four options of healthcare companies on healthcare.gov.  an insurance agent pointed out that we could opt for short term health insurance (up to 360 days) instead of a regular policy, but those do not cover any pre-existing conditions, do not provide for physicals and most preventative care and are basically catastrophic plans.  hmmm.  as a grown-up who has been working my entire grown-up life, i would really like to have grown-up insurance.

so.  four companies.  bronze, silver and gold plans in each.  none of these companies provide nationwide coverage and a couple do not even allow for emergency room coverage out of network. two of those companies do not cover our doctors, professionals with whom we have established relationship through years; last year (2018) our coverage did not allow us to go to our own doctors, so we didn’t.  we paid for coverage and never visited the doctor’s office at all.

so let’s get more mealy here.  there are plenty of arguments about healthcare out there and plenty of naysayers and supporters -each- of the affordable care act.  are you even familiar with it?  if you would prefer not to know, i would stop reading here.  but if you really want to know more, please read on… but keep in mind, i love math and research.

we are 60 and 58 and healthy.  these four companies on healthcare.gov presented bronze, silver and gold plans that will cost between $1600 and $2800 per month out of pocket, which is a total of $19,200-$33,600 per year.  the $1600 options have deductibles between $14,000-16,000.  in many cases, this is what you must satisfy before the company even begins to pay a portion.   that would mean you have paid in the neighborhood of $33,200 a year for you and your spouse to be treated on a bronze plan, without figuring in the actual cost of the treatment.

let’s explore an example for example’s sake.

let’s say you make a combined salary of $70,000.  let’s assume a meager (and understated) tax bracket of only 20%.  $70,000-14,000 = $56,000.  now let’s assume you own a house or pay rent and your mortgage plus escrowed real estate taxes are about $1200 combined (also underestimated in most cases). $56,000-14,400 = $41,600.  add to that your utilities bills; let’s just estimate that at a lowish $250 per month, which is $3000 year.  $41,600-3000 = $38,600.  now subtract out for cellphones, home phones, cable, wifi again lowballing at $250 per month, $3000 per year.  $38,600-3000 = $35,600.  at this point you have not included any of your outstanding student loans or parent plus loans, nor have you subtracted out for home insurance, car insurance, life insurance, dental insurance, any kind of retirement savings or a car payment.  nor have you even considered food, clothing or gas for driving to and from work, even if you don’t drive anywhere else.  any outstanding rotating credit card debt or medical related costs that you are paying on installment are not subtracted.  but you are sitting at $35,600 usuable income.

so.  if you take the bronze plan you must assume that you have approximately $16,000 in the bank for the deductible and you must subtract $19,200 (27% of your gross income) from your $35,600 leaving you with $16,400 to cover all the aforementioned items we hadn’t subtracted and maybe perhaps saving a little to cover the percentages of medical expenses you need to cover post-deductible.  OR you can take a silver plan, which is in the neighborhood of $2200 per month or $26,400 year (38% of your gross income) leaving you with $9200 to cover loans, home insurance, car insurance, life insurance, dental insurance, car payment, food, clothing, gas, etc.  you clearly can’t even consider a gold plan at $2800 per month (the most grown-up plan) because that would cost $33,600 a year, leaving you with a mere $2000 to spend on the rest of life (as listed above).  again, that’s assuming a meager 20% income tax rate and not considering state or local income taxes as well.

i’m sure you are beginning to see my point.

and then there are the subsidies.  yes.  if you earn below 4 times the poverty rate in your state, you are eligible for subsidies for this healthcare insurance.  naturally, the more you earn, the less subsidy you are able to receive.  that makes sense.  it feathers out as the numbers go up.  and then?  there is a dollar level – one dollar this way or that – that a granted subsidy would drop from hundreds, even more than a thousand or fifteen hundred to – ZERO – .  for instance, if you are granted a subsidy because of your level of income and sometime in the year (as you have worked hard to earn more to live a little better) you go over the healthcare cliff by ONE DOLLAR, ONE dollar, you will owe back the entirety of the insurance plan.  in the above case, that would be anywhere between the difference of what you paid in and the plan total of $19,200 or up to $33,600.

we are the poster children of this so-called sweet spot in the healthcare crisis of our country.  a bit older, working hard, multiple jobs, no job-provided healthcare.  not making enough to scoff at spending say $29,000-$33,000 (silver or gold plans) or even $19,200 (bronze) for one year of health insurance, nonetheless be able to actually budget that, but making a bit more than the cliff.  no ropes.  no guardrails.  just a cliff.

the professional insurance agent on the phone said she had “a lot of people your age in that circumstance.”  she suggested considering short term health insurance, the kind i mentioned above that precludes pre-existing conditions etc etc. etc.  that doesn’t sound like grown-up health care to me.  and the deeply disappointed, frustrated cynic in me asks this question – when will breathing be considered a pre-existing condition?

something needs to be done.  is the health of the people of this country important or not?  it’s a basic question.  with an obvious answer.   where do we place value?

read DAVID’S thoughts this FLAWED WEDNESDAY

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