Monthly Archives: April 2014


10168118_698968240145380_479671495923664439_nThere isn’t a gentle way to say that our cat Gandalf passed away last week.  We knew it was coming, but that didn’t make it any easier.  The house is empty, and more poignantly so is my lap.  He was at least 15 years old (I can’t keep track) and stayed with us through two other cats, a dog, a marriage and a divorce. . . We got the cat from a friend who has a farm.  He was a “special needs” kitten.  He was the only one of the litter who survived.  Mom cat was a little too genetically close to the father.  He was polydactylic, but none of his feet matched in numbers of toes. .

Gandalf and Sinbad (the cat that left with the ex)

Gandalf and Sinbad (the cat that left with the ex)

His rear legs were sensitive, his kneecaps floated leaving the nerves exposed.  His hips were displaced and he walked with an odd gate.  We called him a Cabbit because he would hop like a rabbit to get around. . . He was going to be Orion’s cat and so on the way to get him I asked Orion if he’d thought about names.  Orion announced the cat’s name would be Gandalf.  I thought maybe he’d want to see the cat first, get to know him a little.  No.  As always Orion was sure, and right.

lap cat

lap cat

. Although he was careful about letting people pick him up, Gandalf was a social cat.  He was always interested in visitors and willing to make friends.  Because of his disability he wasn’t likely to jump into a lap without an invitation, but he was happy to cuddle up and get some attention.

Helping with the computer game.

Helping with the computer game.

. . . When we got him, given all his congenial defects, we didn’t expect him to live so long.I’m so glad he did.  We’re going to miss him.10153727_698969416811929_6092997639059324219_n


30 degrees

Noon 16 April 2014

Noon 16 April 2014

What a difference a week makes!  I’ve talked about our crazy weather in previous blogs.  The Twin Cities has the largest population on Earth that deals with the Broadest temperature range.  The other place where the highest highs and the lowest lows are that far apart is somewhere in Siberia!  Even when the weather talks about “average” temperatures – that average is plus or minus 15 degrees.   Hence the title of this particular blog. Last week I got to drive across town in a blizzard.  Well, there were storm warnings and white out conditions.  The temperatures were just below freezing hovering between 29 and 34.   The storm system split across the cities.  Out in the western suburbs of Minneapolis there was 6-8″ of snow.  In town there was some snow (maybe an inch or two) but mostly sleet.  In St. Paul it was rain, mixed with a little bit of snow.   They got a dusting.

7 am 17 April 2014

7 am 17 April 2014

Both Orion and I woke up the next day because it was so bright!  The setting waning moon reflected on all that new snow came in our windows brighter than sunrise.  I tend to be very aware of the light because it changes so much.  The variation in length of days isn’t as dramatic as further north, but it’s not insignificant.  The angle also shifts as the Earth shifts in its relationship to the sun.  And then there’s the effect of the weather.  I may have mentioned that during our winters a bright sunny day generally means frigid temperatures and a grey day is considerably warmer.


You see that planter in the first photo?  This is what it looks like 7am 21 April 2014.

You see that planter in the first photo? This is what it looks like 7am 21 April 2014.

Last weekend the high temperatures were between 70 and 74.  The sun was shining and there were plenty of folks outside for Sunday BBQ or Easter egg hunts.   It was glorious, even into the evening.  Our days are getting noticeably   longer.  Sunset isn’t until after 8pm.  Last month at the equinox sunset was 7:27pm.   I got home later in the day Sunday than I expected because sitting outside was so bright and pleasant.


Promise of flowers and mowing.  :)

Promise of flowers and mowing. 🙂

The rains continue to come and go, but at these higher temperatures its cleansing and pretty rather than dreary and deadly.  The month is almost over and we’re finally coming to the point where April showers – rain or snow – may indeed bring May flowers.


These haven't been out of the box since I tried them on a year ago.  (Two years ago?)

These haven’t been out of the box since I tried them on a year ago. (Two years ago?)

You didn’t think I meant exercise did you?  More appointments today, more all week.  I was up at 5:30 this morning and we still were rushing to get out the door.  We would have been on time for our 8:30 appointment but there was road construction.   On a day when the North wind is blowing and the temps are below freezing it seems wrong to be waylaid by our second season (winter and road construction).

Gandalf is hanging in there.  I can’t tell if he’s perked up or if he’s just upset that I’ve been gone so much.  I’m hoping he’s going to be willing to eat something today, he hasn’t all weekend.

Tax day is tomorrow.  I’ve managed to get as far as sending a note to the accountant to ask him to file an extension.  That counts right?  Thing is that once the deadline moves it becomes just as easy to keep putting it off.

This is Gandalf last week.  He's not looking THIS good.

This is Gandalf last week. He’s not looking THIS good.

One day at a time, one appointment at a time, one mess at a time.  And squeezing in a little blog post during my rest breaks in between.   What I really want is a good nap, but I’m not going to get one today!  I have to put away groceries!




Some of those waiting rooms are actually quite pleasant.

Some of those waiting rooms are actually quite pleasant.

I have a complicated medical history, as does my son.  The piece of the ACA that I was most excited about was the part where “pre-existing conditions” would still be covered when you changed insurance companies.  The second most exciting piece was the elimination of the “lifetime cap”.  If Orion had stayed on the same insurance he had from the day he was born he would have reached that lifetime cap long before he graduated from high school.  In fact, he may have reached it before he started kindergarten!

My list of Doctors, grouped by specialty, looks like the yellow pages.  I don’t have a geriatric specialist listed……yet.  We see the ophthalmologist, the orthopedist, the allergist, the psychologist, the internist, the cardiologist, the GI specialist, the pulmonologist, and the surgeon at least once a year.  Given that some of those specialties apply to both of us and that several of them involve ongoing appointments it is not unusual to average one lengthy doctors appointment a month.  Add on the extra trip for lab work or radiology and we exceed that.

My schedule has always been complicated by unpredictable demands.  Both Orion and I have been in physical therapy which can be anywhere from every other week to three times a week.  I have weekly allergy shots.  Orion’s occasional hospital visits can go anywhere from 3 days to 3 weeks (as can mine.)  There are also meetings with the county for Orion’s funding, meetings with the program staff to set up goals, meetings with public health professionals and social workers.  Then there are incidental things like taking the wheelchair in to get the brakes adjusted.

It’s difficult.  As a single Mom holding down a full-time job isn’t in the cards for the long-term.  Even when there’s been another adult in the household,  the demands of my life interfere with the expectations of employment.  My projects and volunteer jobs have also been disrupted by the demands of Orion’s health, and mine.  Part of the reason I’m so good at delegating is because I can promise it will get done, but I can’t promise I’ll be there to do it.  I’ve done a lot of supervision on the phone from the hospital.  I’ve made a lot of phone calls on the way to or from a doctor’s office.

Orion missed my parents 50th anniversary bash.  They stopped in the next day so he'd feel included.

Orion missed my parents 50th anniversary bash. They stopped in the next day so he’d feel included.

As a strong supporter of ANY kind of revision to the health care system I wasn’t too upset when the county letter came saying, “your insurance is up for review, you will not be insured after December 31.  Please sign up for the ACA.”   I was unhappy about the computer problems and frustrated with getting booted out of the system but I managed to make a successful application as of December 17th.  The computer said I qualified for help from the state program – MNsure – and that they would contact me.

Ok.  I figured I was good and would hear from them before the first of the year.  Not so much.  I started calling early in January.  MNsure couldn’t even see the application.   Apparently the federal computer wasn’t speaking to the state.  About a month after my original application was accepted I found someone who said, “We have the application, you should receive a letter asking for proofs.”   Now I’ve been insured by the state before and I know what that looks like so I asked what specifically they needed and faxed it in – to both the state and the county.

Funny thing I never, ever got a letter from the state asking for those proofs.  Apparently the county and the state aren’t speaking to each other.  One side has to actually scan the proofs into the computer and the other side has to analyze them for qualification.  Both sides agreed they had received them, they just weren’t in the system.  My proofs still weren’t in the system in February when I went to Pantheacon.  They are in one system, but the other system doesn’t have access to them.  They seem perfectly fine and you clearly are going to qualify but a determination hasn’t been made yet.   Every week I call and every week I get some version of, “I don’t know what’s holding this up.”

In the middle of March, literally 3 months after my original application, I am finally given the news that the case is processed!  I have been given an insurance affordability number.  Theoretically they will send the options for insurance plans that I can choose from and there will be an amount listed that will be my monthly payment.  None of that appears in the system.  Isn’t that strange?  In fact, this case that has an approval number issued in March, that I’ve been calling about every week, seems to have been closed in January!

MNsure asks me to go back to the ACA website and reapply.  Now I’m looking at the March 31 deadline and again the system is slow.  I have to establish a new file, new log in, new passwords and I am guessing at the taxes from 2013 (which I still haven’t done) rather than reading the form from 2012.  Eventually it goes through and again a note saying I’ll hear from the state.  (I still haven’t received anything in the mail from the state!)  I’m following this case much more closely and 48 hours after I make the application on-line I’m on the phone again.

Orion and I aren't the only ones at the doctor this week.

Orion and I aren’t the only ones at the doctor this week.

Yes they have the information from the federal system and yes they will need proofs.  I asked them to refer to the original case, since the proofs are actually there already.  I asked them to reference the old case in the notes for the new case.  I asked them to especially make a note that the original date of application was December 17, 2013.  I asked them to please expedite processing the new case. None of that is unreasonable.  I’m trying to establish a case for them covering my medical costs for the last 3 months, but that’s not today’s battle.

I call again a few days later.  Yes I have a case, yes it’s been approved but again there is no information about which plans and what co-pay.  The second case has stalled out in exactly the same place the first one did.  I have returned to limbo and I’m not happy about it.  Apparently I am the hole in the computer program and it’s going to take an IT guy along with the case worker to hand push this thing through the system.  Stupid computer.  I asked to talk to IT weeks ago, but everyone assured me just reapplying would be sufficient.

As of April 1st Success!   I have some kind of insurance approval that’s real.  (I STILL haven’t gotten anything in the mail and I’m not convinced this isn’t a joke.)  I haven’t got a plan, but I do have the insurance billing code from the state.  So last week I ran to the pharmacy and to any doctor I could get in to see (and Orion’s appointments as well).  I’ve got another week of appointment catch-up and the rest of the month to work on addressing a shoulder injury that will require some tests and physical therapy.  All the things I didn’t dare do out-of-pocket.  Hopefully by the end of the month I’ll actually have an insurance plan and be able to proceed with what the tests I took in December recommended.  Most of those need prior authorization.  We’ll see.

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