Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Personal Update

I'm sorry I haven't posted here in quite a while. Instead of thinking of something wonderfully funny and interesting to grump about, I've been dealing with many small but real life difficulties.

I've been blogging for money lately. When I got offered compensation for "providing content," I was in hog heaven. But you know what they say, if you make your hobby into a job, then you've lost a hobby. Dealing with promotion and deadlines makes it much less fun. It doesn't replace the income of a real job, but it keeps the wolf away from the door. But it is very time-consuming. While I surf for material, I tend to get distracted: Oh, Scott Adams has an opinion on something! Oh, there's a squabble between blogger x and blogger y! Oh, a new episode of The Daily Show! (which happens every day, duh) So what should take a few minutes takes an hour. When I really need to use the time to look for a real job.

Then the transmission went out on my van. The good news is that it was only a blown seal. The bad news is, they had to remove the tranny to fix it ($$$). And it took a week at the shop for my mechanic to get around to it. Meanwhile, I drove a borrowed Cadillac, which cost more in gas than my van cost in constant tranmission fluid transfusions.

The CPA finished my income tax forms. Federal was OK, but the state of Kentucky wants thousands of dollars, a fine for underestimating my income last year, and quarterly payments 500% above last year for 2007! Well, 2006 was an unusually good year, but if my income stays steady for this year, the state will be withholding 50% of my income. I have to figure out some way to get out of that. My best bet would be to move out of state. If I can afford to!

Then my youngest got sick. She said she had never been this weak in her life. With no health insurance, it cost me $200 to determine that she has the flu. She was excused from school for an entire week, which would be followed by ten days of Spring Break. With the help of the good Lord and Tamiflu, she is back at school today to give me a little break before their vacation.

Today I am sorting our possessions preparing for a yard sale on Good Friday. Yes, I could use the money, but the main point is to get rid of this ton of furniture and stuff before a possible move. Wish me luck!

Friday, March 23, 2007


Everyone should know about Maslow's heirarchy of human needs. Doctors should know about it, husbands should know about it. It would make life so much easier. We should know about it.

Sometimes it seems to me that only two sorts know about it, same as only two sorts really ever study human frailty through counselling or NLP or any other framework:

1. Those who would help you to soothe your wounds and provide for your needs and insecurities (counsellor, healer types who you never get to see unless you've already flipped and had a meltdown)

2. Those who would manipulate you by creating needs and insecurities and then prodding you in the wounds. That would be the evil antithesis and the dark side as represented by, *ahem*, arseholes, torturers and salesmen.

I don't know if I see the triangle the way Maslow saw it (or the way others see Maslow) because I haven't gone reading. Just looking at the darn thing, it all seems pretty obvious.

You need to be completely satisfied in a lower layer to be able to put your attention to a higher one. Its that simple. You need to not be in a panic about whether people even like you before you can think about projects to attract applause. You need to be secure that you have enough air to breathe (not suffocating) before you can be arsed to worry about anything else at all like whether you have something nice for tea.

As you grow up you build layers (compare the bottom three to ages zero, five and ten). At any point in life, damage to any layer will force you to sideline anything above that and rebuild. This is where salesmen come in on the baddy side, because their whole focus is to turn a product into a desire and turn your desire into a percieved need. If you only want something then you may or may not treat yourself. If you can feel that you need it then the sale is as good as made. Their task is to make you percieve a deficiency in your safety, your sense of belonging or your ego and chance to shine.

Some people cite apparent exceptions to the triangle; heroic types who can function at the top, altrusitic level, without material possessions or even *enough* food/water/air, even with death impending.

The funny thing is, however, that we allow ourselves to assume our pyramids are all of roughly the same dimensions and this is a big mistake. We can go through an entire, comfortable life, assuming that we 'need' this or that and for many the distinction between the bottom two levels never needs considering. They, we, get completely mixed up with the minimum requirements for survival (empirical fact) and our much more subjective and individual requirements to feel safe and comfortable.

This is the dreaded comfort zone and the one where addictions attack. Shopaholic, chocaholic, workaholic, alcoholic, name your poison; it sits here and tells you you HAVE to have it, so that if you go without you lose the ability to focus on anything else.

Some people have wide, wide bases to their emotional structures snd need everything 'just so'. Some who seemingly dwell constantly in the self actualisation peak of achievement would have genuine panic attacks at the loss of things they categorise as basic human rights, such as waterproof shoes, or three meals a day, or at least one holiday a year. Going without these things would before long become distracting or even disabling for them. Cheer up. Look at superstars - the types who have apoplectic fits because the wrong colour smarties were delivered to the hotel room. There but for the grace of God.

Others find to their surprise that although they always assumed they were normal; under this unwitting facade they find they have the slimmest, tallest pyramids; more like needles. When these people are attacked then as far as the world is concerned, more and more is seen to be taken from the base of the structure in a way that ought to cause a total cave in, but in reality its all just breeze block and not the supporting wall.

You can never tell how sleek and minimalist each level of your true pyramid happens to be, until someone takes a chunk out of it. You never know whats going to go beyond being challenging to breathtakingly unbearable, until it does.

What Maslow doesnt seem to approach is the concept that on balance, personal survival is not always essential, or rather, once you are high enough up the pyramid you can reorganise the foundations and overcome animal instinct. If this theory holds water then the bottom level named 'physiological' should really be named 'principles'. Your principles are what really matter to you and in an undeveloped state physiological needs (obviously) come first. There is, however, room to insert a kind of basement level here - to consciously decide that there are morals and standards that matter even more than physiological comfort or survival. Instantly this relegates physical requirements to desires rather than needs and they function as a sublayer of safety and security. To put it another way they simply cease to be the bottom line.

If you believe in the pre-existence of the eternal soul then you may like to call this life path or soul purpose; some predetermined state of self that was there all along and needed only to be seen. In that case when I say there is room to insert a lower level, you would say there is the capability (only if it is your path) to discover a lower level that was hiding there all along. Either way its not for everybody.

Its only a concept. Perhaps at the final moment the only thought crossing the mind of an apparent hero is not "I did it my way" but "Oh shit".

God only knows, and thats not blasphemous as you would have to be everybody ever, or at least be with them, to have a clue.

Enough waffling. We are not all heroes; most of us far from it. If, however, someone is being unreasonable, if you are tempted to bite their head off, then before you do, compare their behaviour to the triangle. It may just be that against their best intentions, you are not their main focus.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

I have cancer

Finally, I'm one of those people you raise funds for at coffee mornings and on long walks. If you were one of those people who did the raising, I tell you - I really am grateful for those 'recent advances in cancer treatment'. No, really! But that's about all I'm grateful for.

At my first diagnostic hospital appointment, the consultant said 'I am so certain that it's cancer that if the biopsy turns out negative, I'll make them do it again'. And then he went on holiday.

Really scientific, I thought. And bad timing.

I noticed that he shook my husband's hand before he turned to me, both on arrival and departure. Sexist issues, too. Maybe.

That afternoon, I had been dumped in a small cell-like treatment room for over 40 minutes, and left twiddling my thumbs instead of being given the expected prone tour of the diagnostic rooms. They later said I should've brought a book. (The fact that I had a bag full of them in the main waiting room and a husband who could have kept me company seemed to have passed them by.)

Anyway, finally giving up, I had marched out of the treatment room in my little diagnostic cape (neat little red riding hood affair), ready to march off home. It was five o'clock and the other people in my life had need of my presence back home. I hadn't banked on a nurses' station almost immediately outside which kinda halted me in my tracks.

To their credit, they did then start to get everything in motion but by the time everything was done and dusted the hospital appointment system had closed for the night so they couldn't even finish the day's work by setting up the next series of diagnostic appointments.

After the biopsy ('You're not a bleeder, then' - quote of the week by a nurse as she jammed her fists into my roly poly flesh like she was turning dough for some homemade bread), they had taken me to 'the quiet room' which had comfortable chairs and the offer of a cup of tea. It was pretty obvious what was coming except it wasn't to me as I didn't know consultants diagnosed ahead of the results of the tests they ask for. But there you go. My expectations are always dashed.

Oh, bless...the apogee of that day was his question to me as I sat there waiting for him to speak. "Do you know what is going on?"

How the fuck should I know what's going on? Nobody had bothered to keep me informed so far. However, I did manage to provide a polite version of 'Well, I'm here for a range of tests and you're going to let me know the results when you have them at my next appointment, unless you're such a smart arse that you think you know already'. Of course, he did and he was.

My next appointment - to confirm the diagnosis *officially* - took place in one of those little weather stations where the little man comes out for the good weather and the little lady comes out when it's fine. Oh - actually it was the same cell-like room as before but I think the doctor and the nurse were auditioning to become a double act in a weather vane. The only consistent was an observer from another hospital. We became quite good friends while the others dashed in and out. I haven't seen her since of course because she actually works, did I say? in another hospital.

Finally the Oncologist turned up. The weather settled for a while - everyone just on a quiet rev while decisions were made as to whether it would be wet or fine. But then the Oncologist spoke the unexpected and the weather vane started again in earnest. Pieces of paper were hurriedly taken out of the folder they had just newly given me, additional labels were required, people flitted in and out and I was told I wasn't going for various tests after all (except I had no idea I was going for them in the first place as I hadn't taken very much in so far).

I had been shaken, rattled and rolled by the stand-in consultant to a point of oblivion. (Keep clear of Associate Specialists whatever you do!) He had entered the room without so much as the merest eye contact, keeping his gaze on the paperwork in front of him. And then he had pursued his various points. Whenever I muttered 'yes' or grunted an acknowledgement of what he said, he'd look up briefly and then quickly took his attention back to the safety of the printed page.

He was completely oblivious to the fact that at one point he had lost me. I had disconnected from the conversation. I was devastated by something he had said. The nurse had managed to stay in the dry weather section for a while and asked me a couple of times if I wanted to ask something but I didn't have a question. I knew I had emotional things to say and I just wanted him OUT so I could talk about my feelings. But it wasn't to be. And finally I had to start talking and then I couldn't stop.

I am embarrassed to say that, from that point, every time the stand-in consultant started to talk to me, I turned to the nurse to give my answer. Finally he escaped from the room and came back with the Oncologist.

Later he congratulated the Oncologist for having calmed things down. He seems to have missed the fact that all the emotional work went on while he was out of the room.

In the meantime, having been reassured that none of the tests would be 'invasive', I received an appointment for a scan which involved very invasive treatment. He lied to me and had the lie confirmed by a nurse. Yeah, I know he didn't actually intend to lie. But he 'misinformed' me. Who was more scared that day, I wonder, him or me?!

And yesterday I went back in and asked for a copy of the letter I should have received a fortnight ago with the details of my treatment - my GP hadn't had a copy either. And when I read it, I saw they had decided that I should return to see the consultant for a scan of a hitherto unexplored part of my body. WOT?

We have since established that I am in fact going back for another scan of the affected part - so that's all right then. BUT in the process, we discovered that they had given me another appointment on that same day for a small operation similar to a biopsy - only there's never anybody there to do that job on that particular day of the week. I settle myself down - only to get thoroughly rattled again as my world, like a kaleidoscope, takes off again in a different direction.

If they take the wrong leg off, I won't be surprised. And it's even not a leg I'm expecting them to operate on.

Since then, they've had me travel an hour there and an hour back for a stomach scan. The scan took precisely three minutes during which time my husband had disappeared to put more money in the meter in the hospital grounds. I was hanging around for him to come back for much longer than I was lying on the investigation table. I'm glad he didn't decide to go for a coffee on the way back.

Then they had me travel an hour there and an hour back for a body scan. That was more worth while - that one took six hours.

Always a life of extremes.

I wonder sometimes if it's a plot to make you look forward to oblivion as an escape from the chaos of an earthly life.

Anyway, I have blogged my spleen. I am no longer a GOB Virgin.

Monday, March 05, 2007

So much to say (and no way to say it)

Of course, I check this blog regularly along with a bunch of others. I love to read, and of course, being a talker in general in any and all formats, I love to comment. I love feedback, and I love to give feedback. For the last couple of weeks, however, I have been feeling very thwarted.

I read a blog entry about "experts" telling people-- including people with adopted kids, kids who may well have some level of attachment issues- that any parent who sleeps with their kid simply doesn't know how to say no. That they are letting the kid run the house, and basically that they need to learn to toughen up and be the grownup. I seethe, and burn to give all the "experts" a swift kick in the pants. I head to the comments section where I write my usual long diatribe... only to have blogger refuse my comment.

I check another blog, where there is a thought-provoking post about whether or not you can make your kid eat specific foods that you choose. I go to add to the discussion, making a comment about kids eating what they like or what their parents tell them to eat. About how damaging it can be in so many ways to force your children to eat things they don't like. About how people do not grow up damaged by being fed a small collection of healthful foods that they do like and yet not eating vegetables for, say, 15 years straight. That they grow up damaged by being forced to eat things they hate, by being dominated and yelled and and force fed. Insightful comments. Brilliant comments. All refused by blogger.

This very blog had such an interesting discussion about how this society chooses to care for (or not) our most vulnerable members. I went back over and over again, trying to make comments. Comments about healthcare for all and the government that will never allow such a socialist (too close to communist, you know) thing to happen, no matter that it is the right thing to do, to take care of the poor and vulnerable, to make sure that every member of a society has access to basic health care. Again, brilliant, witty, scathing comments. Insightful pollitical commentary. All refused by blogger.

"Wrong password" it likes to tell me, if it feels like telling me anything. Sometimes, it just keeps bouncing back to the top of the comment section, refusing to indicate my transgression.

The same password that gets me to the dashboard, that allowed me to write this very (annoyed) post, will not allow me to post comments on any blogger blog. Posting without logging in to blogger doesn't work, either (though I have not tried to post anonymously, which I suppose will be my only choice). It just doesn't want to hear from me. It's like blogger has its hands over its ears, saying "blah blah blah I can't hear you, I'm not listening to you!"

Does this mean I talk too much?

Friday, March 02, 2007

The Telephone Man

So many people are getting rid of their land lines, I had considered it. But I just never got around to it. My cell number is on my resume. It rang one day, and my MIL told me my house phone just rang and rang. I checked -the line was dead. Another phone, another jack, yes, all dead.

So I called the phone company Wednesday and a computer talked to me. By following all the menu options over the span of fifteen minutes, they let me know something was wrong with the line and they would schedule someone to come fix it. Wait a minute! How much is this going to cost me? That question wasn’t a menu option. So I frantically punched zero, and got a real live person on the line, who told me that since I didn’t have the maintenance plan, it would depend on whether the trouble was inside the house or outside. So I cancelled the work order. I can’t afford that.

The next day, I made my decision. I called the business line and asked that my account be terminated. She wanted to know why, so I explained that I couldn’t afford to have the wiring fixed, if that was the problem. I could put you on the maintenance plan today. But that wouldn’t cover a pre-existing condition, would it? Yes, I will put in a waiver so it would cover this problem. Oh, I don’t know. I’m afraid that a repairman will get here, fix it, then tell me I’ll have to pay. No, that won’t happen if I put in a waiver. Are you sure? This kind of thing has happened to me before. Ma’am, we are AT&T/Bell South. We don’t do that to people. I stifled my laugh and said OK, we’ll try that. She told me someone would be there by Friday.

Have you ever heard of retroactive insurance? Me neither. This is the kind of deal you can ONLY get if you ask to have your service terminated. Notice this was never offered Wednesday.

That was Thursday morning. Early Thursday afternoon, the repairman showed up. He listened to all the phones and said, Yes, they’re dead. Now, since you don’t have a maintenance plan, the cost to repair will depend on whether the problem is inside or outside the house. Sigh. Why was I not surprised? OK, don’t fix it; I’ll just have the service disconnected. Then I explained what the woman on the phone told me this morning. No, I don’t have any record of that. We can try it, and if it shows up on your bill, you can have it taken off. Yeah, right. I’ll believe that when pigs fly. Let me take a look, if its something small and easy, I won’t charge you.

So he checks all the phone jacks. The he checks the big part of the basement, where all the spaghetti wiring of several DIY homeowners make him blink. Then he checked the crawl space under the new part of the house, which is a real acrobatic feat. Moe, Larry, and Curly didn’t leave much of an opening in the foundation, and the “door” was a nailed-on piece of paneling. Its a feat for me to get in there, much less a normal-sized man. He ended up back at the phone box. Replaced some parts, and still hadn’t isolated the problem. He took down the wire. Then he climbed the phone pole.

Thats when he discovered his diagnostic equipment was not working. After an hour’s work, he had to start over with a new testing phone. All the jacks, the spaghetti, the crawl space... and he found the problem. It was in the crawl space, a legacy of Moe, Larry, and Curly’s adventures in building my addition. Just another in the long line of repairs to their work.

But then a miracle happened. He said, Since most of the time I spent here was my fault, I won’t charge you for this. The heavens opened. The angels sang.

But I still won’t believe it til I see my next phone bill.