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Friday, December 31, 2004

Happy new year

Well, ok, I'm a bit early. We don't do much to celebrate the new year. We never have. Maybe I'll do something really festive, like put Ellie to bed early. That's a sure way to perk up an evening.

Bye bye office

Yesterday we emptied Linda's office. It was quite a bit of work--for me mostly. There were quite a few trips up and down the stairs. I ran into one of my students, and he helped me with a trip too. Although she didn't do a lot, the trek to her office really highlighted that she isn't ready for work. Just getting into the building and to her office left her pretty tired. Of course Baldwin is not the most accessible of buildings, in ways I could elaborate on. Unfortunately for the people who have to work there, it would seem that Baldwin won't undergo rennovation until sometime next century. I guess that sentiment has been repeated so many times it isn't really funny any more.

On the way out, I made Linda do a walking exercise that I learned at Rusk. We had done it once in town with the therapists, but it didn't go all that well. She did comparably well yesterday. That's not to say that I didn't have to catch her a few times, especially after she started laughing. But when we had gone a ways, I told her to look back. My coat was laying on the floor about 20ft behind down the hall. She was surprised we had gone so far. That was nice.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

An errand day

Ahhhhh. Day care is open again today. Linda and I used the opportunity to get some errands run. We tested Linda's blood clotting to make sure it's not to think or thin. It was just fine. So was my blood pressure. I always have them take it when we go in.

Linda has therapy in about 30 minutes. I had completely forgotten, but she remembered. I think I am going to take my tape recorder and transcribe some of my insurance conversations so the time isn't wasted for me.

Best friends

The other day Linda and I were having a spat over something small (don't remember what already). When I snapped at her, Ellie scolded me. "You're her best friend! Don't yell at her!"

How could I argue with that?

Monday, December 27, 2004

A welcome phone call

The Maytag fellow called this afternoon and said he had the motor for my dishwasher. So, instead of laboring through yet another set of dishes by hand, this evening I was able to load them up and forget them. They're probably cleaner than if I did them by hand and we used less water. Ahh, sweet technology. Sweet when it works that is.

Happy birthday

Linda is 36 today (she said I could tell). Her twin sister has a birthday today too, coincidently. They are going out for lunch later (without Ellie) and then a movie.

Linda is a bit tired this morning and boy-oh-boy grumpy. She says she didn't sleep well last night. Part of the problem seems to be with our heavy blankets on the bed, she can't get turned over. She asked me a couple of days ago if we could get an electric blanket instead. This is a real concession for her, since she has never liked electric blankets.

I was sick yesterday, or we might have gotten it then. It seems to be tradition (in our house at least) for someone to be sick around Christmas. I'm feeling better today.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Christmas cards

In case you haven't guessed, I'm not sending Christmas cards this year. It's nothing personal and not some kind of humbug thing. In fact, if you've known me long enough, you may know that I have sent Christmas cards at least twice in the last decade. Maybe next year I'll get out a batch.

In the meantime, I guess you'll have to think of the blog is this year's Christmas letter. It's too bad I'm not artistic, or I might be able to make it look prettier.

Christmas day

Today is a quiet day for us. We opened some gifts this morning. Ellie explored everything this morning. Then we watched a few new (to us) Zorro episodes which I found online for Linda. This afternoon, Ellie helped me do dishes. She really is no help at all. The Maytag folks will be out Tuesday to work on the dishwasher. That's good, because I really hate doing the dishes.

Ellie finally agreed to a nap. By the time I actually get her to lie down I'm usually beat. It's just the same today.

Linda suggested that for supper tonight we order in. I suggested that we could go out and there would be no dishes to do. She thought about that for a while, but she just informed me, "I looked in the mirror. I don't want to go out." She's still pretty banged up from falling on her face the other day. I can't really blame her for wanting to stay in. People notice her a lot as it is.

Hopefully Ellie will stay asleep for a while, and I can do some grading. I know we still have a few days, but I'd like to get it behind me.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Fat lip and a bloody nose

Linda's hand slipped this morning when she was getting back in bed. Naturally she fell on her face. That's where I would choose to fall too. She seems to be fine although frustrated. She scuffed her upper lip just under the nose and the bled for a while but not badly. I notice this morning she has something of a fat black-and-blue lip. It's a good thing it isn't Ellie. The day care would have to report it to the state.

Linda bent her glasses, and I can't find her other pair. So I'll be taking her in to get her frames straightened, and I'll be doing a bunch of searching for that other set. We were just talking last night about how we hadn't seen them for a while.

Maybe I'll take her out for coffee when we get the glasses repaired. That always cheers her up.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Holiday at the day care

Santa came to Ellie's day care today, and the kids exchanged inexpensive gifts. Happily, Linda's therapy was earlier than usual today because the schools got out early and her therapist was free. So we just meandered over to the day care when therapy finished.

I thought that Linda shouldn't have to miss everything, including Christmas parties at her daughter's day care, so I dragged her along. She would rather have gone home. Linda did a bit of Christmas shopping yesterday and over-did it. So she was still tired today, and, after her therapies, she didn't really want to go to a party.

Has anyone noticed that it is really cold out? It was hell getting Linda into the day care. It's much harder for her to walk when she is cold. I'm going to have to get her a pair of gloves with leather palms because she can't wear her mittens and grip her canes both.

She endured the party, which lasted about an hour. Santa brought Ellie a movie, so we came home and watched it and Linda didn't have to move. Hopefully that will help her recover her energy.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Calming down

I got a very nice distraction about 1:00am last night, which helped me quit thinking about bills for a bit. Ellie threw up on herself. Luckily Linda had heard her crying before it happened. She flipped the lights in my end of the house (via remote) and I came to check on her. It was over pretty quick. Then I changed her sheets and her clothes and put her back to bed. I let her sleep in a bit this morning and took her to day care a bit late after it seemed clear she was better.

I spent this morning sending letters. I believe the insurance people got 3 (one was just something that had to be in writing--not complicated). The collectors, who haven't called (though I have a voicemail message in with a "manager"), got one. And I paid a real bill that did apparently burn up in that mail truck fire.

The doc suggested that I collect my documentation about Ellie's blood test and take it to an attorney. That will mean more going through taped phone calls--a bit tedious. I haven't started that yet.

Linda and I had lunch out, where we ran into friends who encouraged me to grouse about my woes. And this afternoon, I am actually feeling pretty relaxed.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Why am I here?

Why am I here? Not existentially or anything. I'm happy to say that I am because I am. Why am I writing on my blog in the middle of the night?

Because, I can never sleep after having words with the collectors or the insurance. I have to do something else until I am so tired I can go to sleep. Tonight is probably the worst it has been yet.

So. I'm balancing my checkbook (I'm one of the people that does that). I'm looking through my bills (two were lost last month---for real, not that phoney kind of lost that you get from collection agencies). I'll obviously have to send them again.

I went through my tapes hoping to get that first conversation I had with the collection agency. Alas, I wasn't expecting their phone call and I didn't get it recorded.

I'm looking now for the last letter that I got from Linda's insurance where they did the post-review of her speech therapy. In summary it said, "You were right her speech therapy was necessary. We've approved it. But we've decided that now it isn't." I want to drop them a letter telling them they don't know what they are talking about. They've been paying for her speech, which is kind of a tacit approval of necessity. But if I don't have them a piece of paper before 180 days goes by, they'll count it as some kind of tactical victory and try to pressure me by saying our rights in court might be diminished.

The insurance is particularly two-faced in that way. They'll send you a negative in writing, but on the phone be positive. ``It's just a coding error. Have it resubmitted.'' Then after 180 days of running around, they'll tell you that your lack of a written request for an appeal might hurt your case in court.

That might be true, I suspect, if you didn't record all of your telephone calls.

Chatting with the collectors

I knew the collectors wouldn't be happy to hear that I had their check returned. In fact, I tried to call on Friday to see if they have an I-believe-you-acted-illegally-and-I'm-writing-to-inform-you address. Unfortunately, when I called, they had closed for the day. I suppose I should have left a message, but I didn't.

They called today. It is no fun being in that conversation, let me tell you. At one point, I found myself asking the representative, "Why are you so angry?" She ended the conversation shortly after that and transferred me to a "manager." Naturally, he wasn't there, so left a message, and I suppose I can expect to hear back.

In the meantime, I have reviewed my telephone conversations with them and made up a transcript. That is tedious work, but I thought it a good idea. It was enlightening as well. For example, I was surprised by how the transcript doesn't show the intensity of the conversation the way I felt it when it happened. It was also interesting that there were things that I thought I had said, that I hadn't. I don't know if I was interrupted when or if it was from another conversation I haven't found yet.

The most important thing I found was that the conversations are completely full of misunderstandings. The information about the account she had in front of her did not get expressed to me, and she doesn't have the information I got when Linda's equipment was delivered. So half the time, I'm saying one thing and she's hearing another. After a careful review of my tapes this afternoon, I finally figured out what she was talking about, and she only said it once. Sometimes she said it was "one file" and other times it was "three" something.

So, maybe I should amend my collection agency advice. Not only should you review the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, you should ask for an itemized accounting of the bill in writing before you agree to any action. Trying to act in good faith has just made this even harder to sort out. Tell them up front that you dispute the bill, that you don't consider telephone notice appropriate and that they must contact you in writing.

Verify that they have your address correct and get their correspondence address. Notify them in writing of the same things you said on the phone. And make sure you read the law so you can use the right language.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Not working and full of advice

Linda told me I should take the afternoon off. What she means is that I shouldn't pick up the threads of some insurance or collection agency thing and then stew about it all weekend long. That's probably a good idea. A little relaxing grading would be better than that, so I'll probably do that instead.

I should say that the bank has apparently managed to reverse the second check that was not supposed to have been cashed on my account. I'm not reluctant to reveal now the identity of my bank, Bank Midwest. They have been really excellent about helping me get this straight. For future reference, I would recommend to others out there to just do the proper stop payment thing in advance. I think they would recommend it too. Much simpler.

Speaking of stewing. I realized something this week about myself. I'm not cut out to be an attorney. That's not to say that I don't think I could do it, and I think I might even be good at it. But I don't think it would be good for me. I would stew over things all of the time, thinking about cases, going mentally through arguments, refining ideas. Not the life for me. I have a lot more empathy for my brother-in-law though!

Speaking of him, he was kind enough to point me to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act which was a very interesting read. It's definitely worth looking through. I think back to my first phone conversation with the credit people. They asked me, "What do you intend to do about this account?" If you find yourself in the position of talking to one of these people, I believe the correct response is, "I intend to review the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. If you would give me your number and extension, I'll call you back in an hour." It's best to get things started off on the right foot. Oh, and tape your phone call.

I recommend taping all of your phone calls (with medical people, insurance, collectors, the bank). Earlier than you think you need to. I wish I had been taping my phone calls from the beginning now. When seemingly reasonable people turn on you, you'll want the recordings from early on to contrast with their later unreasonable behavior. The pivotal conversation where they expose their dark side is probably particularly important to record, and you won't know it has come until after. So you just want to be documenting, and there's no easier way to document than to tape it.

It's been particularly easy for me. Since Linda never answers the phone, I am almost always in the position of returning calls. I use the phone in the bedroom which has a tape on it. I always dial "time and temp" 627-5752 and record the date and time, then I make my call.

I bought my tape recorder from Carl's Electronics Inc. It's just a mini-recorder with a $5 phone attachment, and I probably paid too much, but I've seen a lot more outrageous prices on the net. Look under the very drammatic section title ``Spy and Surveillance'' then ''Finished Products.'' Or maybe just ask at Radio Shack for the $5 cable and use your own tape recorder.

So there you are. No work and lots of advice.

Computer woes

Linux people (and free software people in general) don't have computer woes. That's a lie of course. Linux people are accustomed to a particular kind of computing woe, doing without.

There isn't a free Photoshop, so you use the Gimp. That's fine, but the Gimp doesn't have quite all the polish and features. Free software is about the patience to wait for the features to arrive, and about supporting the community to make it happen. Sometimes the wait is painful and sometimes not. But that's part of free software.

What Linux people are not accustomed to is things "breaking." If it worked yesterday, it works today. But this week, my video driver quit working. No graphics. At least you can boot a Linux computer without graphics (and fix it). If I were using Windows I would be going back to the recovery disks. I got it fixed, but I didn't like it. Linux people don't have to deal with that kind of crap.

As if that were not enough, Linda's computer keeps eating her files. No errors, no complaining. She uses an ancient DOS word processor that she has used for years reliably (called Sprint). Now this week it has eaten her file something like 3 times. I can't figure out why. I don't like it.

Time to give a final or I would keep complaining. Lucky you.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Everybody dies

As I was putting Ellie in the car today she said, "Jayden says Mom is going to die." I had to think about that for a split second. Jayden is a nice kid, and a bit older than Ellie, so I expect she has just discovered about dying.

"Someday Mom is going to die. But I hope it is a long time from now."

"Jayden says Mom is going to die."

"Yes, someday. Everyone dies. That's how things work. Someday Dad is going to die."

"No! You can't die!"

"Well, I hope I don't die for a long time. But someday I will. And someday you will too, and so will Jayden. Everybody does, and it's okay."

Then she started to list all of the people at day care who are going to die someday. What a funny kid.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Bank update

I just talked to the bank, who in turn talked to people "higher up." Although it is too late to issue a stop payment, it turns out that there are still protocols for fixing mistakes with a check. I believe that, essentially, they request the bank at the other end to return the funds and contact me directly about the check.

It is not guaranteed. The other end can refuse. But it is typically successful more often than unsuccessful. We'll just have to wait and see how it plays out.

A bad bet

I got a call from the bank this morning. They told me that it is too late to stop payment on the check. We talked about how this situation occurred, and I explained that I was specifically told by a bank representative that I would be able to stop payment within a few days.

I am still trying to decide how angry I should be. On the one hand, I made a decision on the basis of help from the bank that caused an unauthorized payment of $116.16 to clear my checking account and that is now irreversible. A $20 fee ahead of time would have stopped it.

On the other hand, the money isn't clearly lost. It was applied to an outstanding account of Linda's. The reason the account is outstanding and in the hands of a collector is a long story, the short of which is Apria (medical equipment company) has totally bungled Linda's account. The bill is still in dispute with the insurance company, but Apria sold our account to a collector so I have to deal with that.

As I see it, this can turn out one of two ways. The insurance company will refuse to pay, and supreme efforts of the courts, and congress, and all honest folk will fail to prevail upon them. Then, the account is mine to settle, and my bargaining position (for a discount) is damaged because the collector already has more of my money than intended.

Or the insurance company will pay their portion. In that case, my account will become overpaid, and I will be in the awkward position of trying to collect from a collector.

How this was a bad bet:

Part of me thinks I should view it as a poker bet. The bet is $20 I could have paid up front to stop payment on the check when I first learned of the problem. If you make that bet, then you are betting that they check is not lost, and the stop payment at a later date will fail. In this case, I am out $20, the cost of the stop payment but I have save $116.16 of unauthorized charges.

It's really a bet on these pieces of information. What is the probability that the check was really lost? What is the probability that the bank representative is right about the stop payment? At the time, both seemed pretty likely.

Out of 7 situations like mine, if 6 times the check were really destroyed, it would pay on average to not stop payment and take your chances. If the advice of the bank were accurate, when the check wasn't destroyed, it could still be handled most of the time. Perhaps if the check were destroyed in only 2 or 3 of the 7 cases you would be better to take your chances.

When you bet in poker, you can't care whether this time you got the right or wrong card. You'll go insane asking questions like that. It's part of the game if you are wrong, and you are happy if you are right.

Unfortunately, it's not poker. It's not a game to me, and there was an aspect I didn't think of before: If you care that dishonest people got the better of you, you should spend the money up front and stop the check. It's worth $20 to see dishonest people thwarted.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Quiet Sunday night

Amazingly enough, tonight Ellie came to me and said, "I'm tired." She wanted me to read to her and put her to bed. It isn't even 8:00 yet, and she has been in bed for about 20 minutes. Ahhh, luxury. I actually feel relaxed (although it takes a supreme effort not to dwell on the dishonesty of insurance companies, collection agencies, etc.).

I should walk out and get the mail. I forgot to get it yesterday. But it is so cold outside, and so warm inside, I think I can wait. There might be something in there to make me angry, and I wouldn't want to break the magic of the evening.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Why does everything get screwed up at the same time? And why is it always on the weekend when offices are closed? The only time I have ever needed to stop payment on a check, and it's Saturday. I have to stew over it until Monday.

I thought I would quick run the dishwasher before I took Ellie out this afternoon. Linda had declared a desire to go nowhere. She is tired of being on display. When I started the dishes, there was a very loud noise. My best guess is that a plastic straw from one of Ellie's sippy cups went down into the food chopper and gummed it up. In any event, the dishwasher will fill with water, it will empty, but it will not wash.

I'd use paper plates until I can get it fixed, but I forgot to take the garbage out on Wednesday and I don't have any space left in my trash bin. I do have a burn barrel out back, so I suppose they aren't really out of the question.
That bastard collection agency cashed two checks on my account. After harranging me over my lack of payment, and after I specifically forbid them to apply a double-payment to my account, they found the "lost check" and cashed it.

I guess we know who the blood-sucking liers are now.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

There's really never a good day to get a letter from the insurance company is there? I don't know why I let it get me worked up. They are such bullies.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

An expert on mermaid matters

Ursula the Sea Witch: You'll never e'en miss it. What I want from you is, your voice.

Linda: Take it from me. You'll miss it.

Don: [breaks out laughing]

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

A good heart

Today was the day we went to the cardiologist. Linda had a freak attack of car-sickness on the trip but was pretty much fine after that. Since we were closer to Columbia than home we decided to go to our appointment anyway. Unfortunately I hadn't packed extra clothes for her, although I had considered it, so her jeans got a bit messed and she had to take off her sweatshirt.

It was a pretty uneventful appointment. They reviewed her records from spring, listened very carefully with a stethoscope both sitting up and laying down, and asked her questions about how she feels (which is generally fine). We made an appointment for all of the regular battery of x-rays, sonograms, and such for late next year.

While we were there, several nurses and doctors came in to say hello. Having seen her at Boone, they were appropriately impressed by her progress.

At the end of the appointment, Linda said to Dr. E, "Nice to meet you." He smiled, and we laughed a bit about her not remembering Boone. No one thinks those memories are anything to miss.

Since Linda had a big spot on her jeans from the ride, they gave her a pair of scrubs to wear home. She said, "I feel just like Lyndsay." They are very comfortable, already a favorite.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Lability update

When I put Linda to bed tonight, she was laughing. It's hard for Linda to talk when she laughing, or when she's smiling even, but she eventually told me it was just labile laughing. Late-night, slumber-party giggling.

Well, naturally I couldn't resist the opportunity to feed it. So I would look right at her and then snort or spit like I had just burst out laughing. She totally couldn't resist that, and pretty soon we were both laughing hard for real.

Of course, it's not really funny. It's not the worst, because the crying is the worst. But it is still frustrating to be out of control. On the other hand, when you get in one of these fits, it's pretty easy to just laugh it all off.

That holiday cheer

We put up our Christmas tree today. What that really means is that I put it up. Ellie hindered. Linda did not aid or hinder. I'm pooped. Linda almost cried once because she felt left out, but the thought was short-lived. She's really getting better at handling her lability.

When we talked about getting the tree it reminded me that at one point I thought Christmas might be the target date for Linda coming home from rehab. No one could give good estimates at the beginning because strokes vary so much. But I do remember talking to her in the hospital and saying she would probably be home by Christmas. She was looking up and down back then.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Movie night

We watched Notting Hill tonight, one of the movies we picked up from a sale rack when we were still in Columbia. It was a concession. That is, it was a concession for Linda. I love that movie.

Here's something kind of ironic. I have a desperate crush on Bella, one William Thacker's (the main character) few true loves, who went off and married his best friend. I love watching her on screen. She is beautiful and smart and funny, who also happens to be in a wheelchair. I just love watching the actress (Gina McKee) on screen. Her facial expressions are so subtle and beautiful.

I wonder if I met the actress if I would feel the same way or if it would break the magic. Sometimes it goes one way and sometimes it goes the other.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Try to explain this

I got another call today from a collection agency. They weren't as nice this time. They asked me why I hadn't sent them any money. Naturally, I replied that they were mistaken. I had said I would pay the unambiguous portions of Linda's bill. I did that, and I have followed up with the insurance company to get the remainder paid.

They were amazingly uninterested in what I am doing to get Linda's account paid. Uninterested, that is, in anything but getting payments from me. I re-iterated that I had sent a check. They said they didn't get a payment. I told them that I would check with the bank before I took any further action, that I would absolutely not make any payments until I had verified that the payments I sent had not cleared my account.

I suggested that perhaps they had made a mistake somewhere. I got a pretty testy, "We don't make those kinds of mistakes."

Nobody is going to tell me that mistakes never happen, so I spat back, "You don't make mistakes, and I sent my payment. I'm not going to do anything until I check with my bank."

Well, that pretty much terminated the conversation.

I did check with the bank, and the check hasn't cleared. I asked what it costs to stop payment on a check; $20, and you can do it even a few days after it has cleared. Then she said, "You do know about the mailtruck that burned?" This little revelation was a big help. It turns out that a lot of mail posted on the day I sent my letter was destroyed.

Wow. You try to truthfully tell a collection agency that your check really was lost in the mail. Luckily, when I called back, I got voicemail. I left a message explaining what I believed and declared the intent to send a replacement check tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

"There must be a reason I don't feel as well with my right." Then lots of crying. No matter how much you have, you miss the things that are missing.