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Monday, February 28, 2005


Becky B. asked how we're doing this semester. She mentioned that she feels like a rock has been sitting on top of her the whole term, crushing her down.

It isn't that bad for me. In some ways my semester is going better than last. I arranged Linda's therapy to give me a bit more free time in my schedule. I started picking up Ellie a bit later from day care. And I just refuse to stress about things I can't control, like whether the president of the university is going to recraft the administrative structure of Truman (hint: she is).

That's not to say that I'm not busy. I have several capstone students this semester, and extra meetings with them have consumed the extra time I got from moving Linda's therapy. I've also tried to attend an informal seminar in the department (sporadically at least). I'm doing a lot of new things in my Calc III class (that I didn't get to finish last year when Linda's stroke came along).

Maybe I'm not overwhelmed because I refuse to be. I'm probably doing enough that I can't do everything well, but my students seem pleased with how our classes are going. I pushed my LAS Calc students a bit too hard at the beginning, but we seem to be settling into a good pace. I'd probably like to give my capstone students a bit more guidance, but part of the point is that they do a bit of synthesis themselves, so I'm probably balancing that better than I know. And my Calc III students deserve more quizzes than I've had time to give them.

Linda seems a bit run-down though. I'm not there for some of her therapies now (her speech therapy at Truman in particular) and that seems to make things a bit harder for her. She always feels like she needs a day off. It seems that having a morning off is somehow more time off than an afternoon off. It is the reverse for me I think. More flexible afternoon time seems to keep me less stressed. All of Linda's therapies are in the morning, which makes it my kind of semester.

It may turn into more of her kind of semester soon though. Her OT can't make morning appointments now, so they are trying to schedule us in the afternoon if possible.

In a slump

Dr. Seuss noted that, Unslumping yourself is not easily done. Linda is in a slump right now. She is unhappy with her speaking and unhappy with her walking. She has good times and bad times, but not enough good times. She's used to wowing people, and lately progress has been a bit harder. Or maybe she just isn't practicing as much as before; she did mention that could very well be the problem.

But it's no fun practicing when you feel like you're in a slump.

That's the nature of rehab in a way. As my friend Randy might have put it, Believe you me, you don't want to need rehab. It's constant work on things your aren't good at. Because when you get good at something, you don't need to work on it and you put it away.

It's worse than piano lessons (or some other instrument if you happen to like the piano more than Linda did). At least when you practice an instrument, you work a piece up from time to time. You get a chance to perform a piece really well and enjoy it (at least ideally). Rehab isn't like that. It's more like endless technical studies, the ones that make your fingers tangle. Your therapist knows the ones that do that too, and he picks them every time for the rest of your life.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Ellie comes home

Ellie has been visiting her grandparents this week. Our morning routine has been downright relaxed with her away. I've tried to do a few of the tasks around the house that I'd rather not have help with. Some were more successful than others, but that's how things go.

Linda and I overslept two hours this morning. We never do that and it was completely unintentional. We both had some plans for our last free morning. Oh well, it's probably just as well that we slept.

We leave to pick her up in about an hour. They didn't call, so we really haven't talked to Ellie for a week. I expect she's been asking for her daddy some, she usually does.

It will be nice to have her back. Hard, too of course. That's part of being 3½.

Friday, February 25, 2005


Linda had a good checkup today, but she's still frustrated. She was walking much better a month ago than she is lately. Lot's of days are bad walking days lately.

It's because she is afraid. Linda doesn't walk well because she can't relax. You can't walk smoothly when you're all wound up tight. And she's wound up a lot since the last time she fell. It really scared her. It happens every time she falls, and she usually works out of it pretty quickly. But this time, she stays scared. She generally only falls when she gets distracted, but you can't exactly predict when you are going to be distracted (by definition).

Mad Eye Moody would bellow, "CONSTANT VIGILANCE!" Unfortunately, that's no recipe for relaxation.

It was nice to see the therapists. They were pleased to see her quad-cane. Most everyone noted how her speech continues to improve. Two weren't there, Tori and Fred. We'll have to see them another time.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Off to see the wizard

Linda has a checkup in Columbia tomorrow. I've got my classes covered, we printed a copy of Linda's book about her stroke for the therapists to look at. I've got some FreeCDs (I always like to spread the cause).

Linda's PT said she thinks Dr. R will be pleased with the progress Linda has made. I expect he will be. Linda herself is a bit frustrated not to be doing better, especially of late. It does get exasperating having so many things be hard all of the time.

Hooky from therapy

Linda was too tired to go to therapy today. That seems to be happening more of recent, although, with little bugs going around Linda is the only tired person skipping appointments. Part of it seems to be one of her medications which really knocks her out. I sort of refer to the effect as the doldrums, and I can always spot it. Linda's eyes get a bit droopy and her speech get slurry in a particular way.

Unfortunately it often comes right about the same time as therapy (which was moved to the morning this semester to accommodate everyone's schedule). This morning she was so tired it made her cry, so I called and cancelled. After a nap, she was a bit better and in the end had a pretty ordinary day.

Hopefully, getting Linda's medication adjusted and cutting her PT sessions back to 30 minutes (which happens when the new schedule comes out) will help with her daily endurance.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Life's invariants

Some things about life never change. Of course other things change, and when these two forces meet it can sometimes be not as nice as you would like. For example, taxes are one of life's invariant things. They come every year.

Unfortunately for me, or maybe fortunately, my life is completely different this year. I bought a house, I had a lot of medical expenses. My spouse might count as disabled; or maybe not.

I find that I have no idea how to do my taxes this year. And more than that, I'm not actually that interested in piling through stacks of forms trying to decipher whether they actually apply to me. I know that is very un-mathematician. But I would rather sit down with someone who does this all of the time and ask for help. Next year I promise to do them on my own, assuming I've learned from this year.

I'd be glad to accept recommendations for the job. Since I've never actually hired my taxes out, I don't know who to ask.

I know some would suggest it, but I'll probably not just go out and buy software. For one thing, I don't have a (Windows) computer to run it on, so I'd have to buy that software first and find space to install it. Then there would be the emotional suffering of agreeing to a proprietary software license...

Sunday, February 20, 2005

2004 Almost over

Just wanted to note that (I believe) I got my last EOB for therapy in 2004 and it was paid. That should square everything up between us and the hospital here in town.

That leaves only the status of Linda's wheelchair pending, but I just informed the insurance of the error on that this week. And more importantly, the error did seem to be an honest error and not something that will lead to conflict.

Oh, I guess there's a dental insurance thing being worked out, but that also seems to be an honest error. There's really nothing too controversial about routine dental visits so when the paperwork gets done that will be paid too.

I should be getting my check from the collection agency soon as well.

It would seem that all of 2004's medical expenses will soon be resolved.

I have started a new binder for 2005 medial stuff. I'm getting better and better at organizing all of this stuff. I should find somewhere to give a talk about this. I believe I'm something of an expert.

Where the missing socks go

When I got home from work on Friday night, Linda was so mad she couldn't talk to me (without crying). According to Linda, her computer ate all of the edits that she made this week. Every change she saved has been lost.

I objected that she couldn't have lost all of her edits, and I checked through all of my backups. They showed that she had saved many times in the last week (and I had backups so everything should be fine). She acknowledged that she had saved many times, but still her changes are missing when she re-opens the file.

I admit, the unreliability of Linda's new laptop has had me almost pulling my hair out. But today we finally got to the bottom of the problem.

It was user error. Linda accidentally created two files containing the text of the same story, dreams. and dreams.spr. When I sat behind her and watched her work, she opened the first file, made some changes but saved it in the second file.

Consequently, when she went back, using the exact same methods, she opened the first file and it reflected no changes. Unfortunately, she has been making the mistake repeatedly this week saving older files over newer work. In fact, when she demoed for me this morning, she overwrote several hours of Friday's work.

Well. It didn't make her feel any better to know that it was just a mistake she was making, particularly when she was following directions I had given her. At least I was able to grab intact copies of her correctly-edited files for her. She'll still have to proof them again, but hopefully that will go quickly.

Fortunately, although her first impression was that the problem was wide-spread, it actually only affected the single story. And most important, now that we know why her files keep getting eaten, we can keep it from happening again.

Looking back

Linda met her therapists at Rusk a year ago today. It was a Friday. Fred had actually stopped by the day before, but today we worked with everyone. Linda doesn't remember, and even I only have sketchy memories of it. I remember Lyndsay asking about how many steps and levels there were to the house. I was thinking to myself, "Why the hell is she asking me this right now? It's going to be quite a while before we have to worry about any of that stuff."

I'm sure they remember it better.

Up all night

Linda's been having trouble sleeping lately. She said she was up for several hours after 2:30am only to fall asleep around 5:30am and dream she was falling face first down a flight of stairs. That woke her up again.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Funny accounting

I decided that I had better get to the bottom of Linda's wheelchair issues today. In preparation for my call, I collected the various EOBs from the insurance company, showing all of the payments made last year. I then called the insurance folks to find out what the purchase price of Linda's chair was.

You would be surprised just how hard that was to pull up. Luckily, I'm getting an instinct for these things, so I was able to lead the customer service person to it. The cost of Linda's chair is $986. I found that very interesting, because all of my insurance statements from October 27th on note that the insurance will pay no more (they've met the purchase price).

When I summed the payments on my pocket calculator, they amounted to less than the purchase price. I noted this to the woman I was talking to, and she diligently added it up. She got an even lower price than I did. I no longer wonder that I am still getting bills. The insurance people are going to look at it and I should hear within a week.

Here's an amazing fact. By my calculation, the amount they've actually paid is only 15 cents different from 80% of the cost of the chair. I'd bet that someone keyed in the 80% figure by mistake (because until you reach your out of pocket limit, that is the rate they pay for durable medical equipment). In any event, it looks like this should actually get straightened out correctly.

We can hope. The wheelchair people (Apria) have sold Linda's accounts for collection before. I know precisely how fun that is.

NBC sucks

Well, actually their web site sucks. A friend called to tell me that the episode of ER tonight is supposed have a woman about Linda's age having stroke-like symptoms. I don't have TV, but I thought I would see what their web site had. Apparently, there's a video clip of the actress talking about the role. I wouldn't really know. The web site has declared that you must be a slave to Microsoft if you want to see it:

The current version of your browser does not support ActiveX

Windows Media Player 9 not detected.
Click here to download.

Frankly, I'm thankful that my browser does not support the security nightmare that is ActiveX, and there are other media players than the one made by Microsoft. I wish they would just deliver the damned video clip. I'd complain to them, but they're TV people and their minds have the limitations of TV video people's minds. For example, they think the web is a one-way medium and I couldn't find a "contact us." I didn't look too hard; it's easier just to grouch.

Slow start this morning.

I was about to take Linda to therapy when she informed me that she wasn't feeling well. So I told the therapists and took her home. I stayed home for a while to see how she would do, writing up a set of challenging 'z' words for her to use in speech therapy. You know, words that start with z, like zoom, zest, zeal, and zany. Words that end with z, or have it on the 2nd syllable or 3rd syllable. I have words that have z following a consonant (like kudzu). I also included special lists of Linda's hardest, z after s (as in capsize) and z following long 'a' vowel (like amaze).

For fun I included 4 words under the heading evil. They are Uzbekistan, Schwartzkopf, Shevardnadze, and anesthetize.

I typed them up using Abiword. No humans were harmed by proprietary software licenses in the creation of her therapy materials. I don't use word processors very often (mathematicians use typesetting programs), but it was pretty easy to use.

Home practice

Since Linda missed therapy today, she practiced some with her parallel bars. Specifically, she worked on lengthening her stride which is otherwise quite short. It went well. It's easier to take longer steps when she feels secure from falling.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Linda's parallel bars arrived today. Actually, they arrived yesterday afternoon, but I didn't learn about it until I checked my voice mail this morning. I brought them home at lunchtime and set them up this evening. I was quite surprised how easy it was to set them up. There weren't even directions in the box.

She was excited to see them. I've already adjusted the bars a bit to be correct for her height, and she practiced a bit of walking back and forth. She's still tired today, so she didn't do a lot.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Even champions get tired

Linda woke up tired this morning. She predicted that she would cry in PT, and she did. Overall, it was a really good sessions though. She told me tonight that today was the first time she walked all the way around the track with her 4-point cane. She's always had two canes before. "If I can do it when I'm tired, I can do it any time."

I used the time to get a bit of grading done. Linda asked if I would stick around since she had a substitute therapist today. She is so unconfident about her speech.

Around lunch I decided I should make some phone calls. I started by calling the collection agency. I admit, I have put it off a little bit because I don't like to talk to them. But they owe me money, and there's no sense in that, so I called. I asked for 'Donna' my usual tormentor. I would have been transferred to her eventually anyway.

She did something today that she has never done before. She verified that my address is 3190 Rt Hwy H. My heart sank. They got that address from Apria. I explained that and told her that have never been my address. The fact that Apria can't figure that out is the whole reason I've had to deal with her (the collector) in the first place.

I told her my correct address. She asked me why I had given her the incorrect address before. I told her that I hadn't. She explained that she has a protocol of verifying addresses for every incoming call, to which I replied that she hadn't done that. When she insisted that she always does, I told her that I checked by transcripts and she has never asked my address. I've learned to expect what came next, "Look, I'm not going to argue about this." This is what she responds with if you confront her with facts.

I quietly asked to be transferred to a manager, who actually didn't seem to think that every word I uttered was a lie. He verified that they are going to cut me a check and said he would put a rush order on it. It will be for 10 cents less than I should get because the insurance company paid $100 on an item instead of the correct $100.10. I laughed and told him he could keep the $.10.

But I've been tired ever since. Miss Donna-I'm-not-going-to-argue-about-it just galls me. Like Apria, she has bungled my account, and I'm the one suffering for it. Then she has the temerity to lie about it to Don-who-records-everything-and-knows-what-he's-talking-about. They have no idea how close I have come to filing a complaint of dishonest collection practices with the FTC over it (the whole thing, not just today). I've been collecting my transcripts and tapes to submit with my complaint. The only thing that saves them is that in the end, the appear to be refunding my overpayment to me correctly.

The fine for dishonest collection practices can be $1000. That would make my $62 look pretty small.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Things that make me tired

I was opening the mail this evening which contained an EOB (explanation of benefits) from our new insurance company. It didn't appear to be for any medical expense we had actually incurred. Then I saw the name of the provider: Apria Healthcare, Inc.

This is the name of the medical equipment company that screwed up their billing so badly that I ended up having to straighten it out with a collection agency, a collection agency that still owes me $65 because my account ended up being overpaid.

This is the name of the medical equipment company that received payments summing to the full purchase price of Linda's wheelchair last year from our previous insurance company. And as far as I can tell, they received it pretty promptly by insurance company standards.

They sent me a nice letter at the turn of the year thanking me for my business. I sent them a reply politely saying that I hope I never have to think of them again. I would prefer if they harass someone else.

So I find myself struggling to understand why I'm seeing wheelchair rental submitted to my new insurance company and applied to my deductible. This stuff makes me tired.

Heart day

I'm not much of a believer in Valentine's day, but I didn't let the day go by entirely unnoted. When I gave my calculus class a test this morning, I printed heart-shaped watermarks on it. I did the same for the quiz in my other calculus class this afternoon. Once you learn a skill, you should make it go as far as possible. I'd give a test with shamrocks on St. Patrick's day, but it appears to fall during break.

Valentine's day is one of those dishonest sells anyway. If "she" never noticed you before today, why should you think that if you get her the perfect valentine that she will suddenly take note and think you're wonderful? It's kind of like believing that a Trapper-Keeper notebook will actually make you more organized, when really you'll just be the same disorganized person with a nice folder.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Calmer weather

Ellie has been a human hurricane this weekend. She makes messes faster than I can clean them up. I had hoped to actually clean her bedroom this weekend, but I'm lucky to have been able to just straighten things up and not have it all backslide too much. Her room will have to wait until another time. Perhaps I can find a little time when she is at day care. That's an ideal time to clean.

She likes to hang around when I'm cleaning. Actually, she likes to hang on me when I'm cleaning; literally a little monkey on my back. That doesn't bother me too much most of the time. She's not too heavy yet, and she can't make a mess from up there. A few times she's been too clingy and I've had to tell her to go away and just not touch me for a while.

At least she went to bed well tonight. That's nice, and it doesn't happen that way every night.

Linda's parallel bars are supposed to come this week--she's excited. It's ending up costing an extra $40 to have them delivered to Truman at the truck dock on Science Hall (yes I know Science has a new name, but I don't want to take the chance of misspelling it, and you shouldn't name buildings after live people anyway). Still, if I don't have to drive to Quincy to pick it up, I think that is worth it.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Linda and Don went on their first date 16 years ago today. It was a Valentine's dance. She thought he seemed a bit macho and he thought she was a bit prudish. Both suspected that there was something significant about their date, a potential for them to be "the one." Neither admitted it to the other until much later.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Those quiet speech students

Linda and I spoke in one of the speech therapy classes on Wednesday morning. Essentially our task was to make everything seem more real and tangible than a textbook. I did most of the talking. I brought the communication boards that we had created for Linda. I showed them pictures of Linda's brain (on the computer), and explained where the blood clot lodged.

They were pretty quiet, but I have no problem finding things to talk about in general. They asked Linda what her goals are. She said, "I want to be normal." Pretty simple. They asked how long it was before she could communicate anything non-trivial (about 3 weeks--when I made her transparent letter board). How long before she could have food (about 4 weeks).

I got to meet Linda's student therapist, Bobby. We didn't get much chance to talk, but she was nice.

Scale back on that PT

Linda told me tonight that her PT is going to shorten her therapy visits. Now that the insurance underwriters have said she can exceed 24 visits, it will be possible to move at a more reasonable pace. Shorter visits are less expensive, so it will save money now (but cost later). Linda was given the choice of course, but she asked to have the shorter visits.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Is that my bill?

It was weird getting the first bills of 2005. I've become accustomed to getting some bills declaring (incorrectly) that some very large sum is "my responsibility." It's always been simple. As long as they said my responsibility was anything more than 0, they were wrong.

Now that it's a new year, there are deductibles and co-pays. I'm actually going to have to start looking through those bills for the part that is really mine. It reminds me that I intended to call a few congresspeople about "truth in medical billing." Some of these things really are ridiculous.

Monday, February 07, 2005

It's been one year today.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Batch of updates

I finally ordered Linda's parallel bars. I know several people suggested that we could make a set cheaper than we could buy one, or that with research we could find a set used. In the end I just ordered a new set anyway. That was already plenty of work, and life is busier than it used to be. The biggest trick was getting them shipped somewhere reasonably near, which I suppose would have been an issue with used bars as well. The box is too large for FedEx, UPS, or the mail, so I had to get it sent by freight. That effectively means I have to have it delivered to a truck dock or the shipping costs amount to 60% of the cost of the bars themselves. It took a bit of calling around, but at least I don't have to drive to Quincy, Il to pick them up.

I finally heard back from the underwriters of the insurance company. Actually I heard from Benefits who heard from them (and nothing in writing so far). They have agreed to approve Linda's physical therapy visits above the 24 visit maximum as long as we provide evidence of medical necessity. It might mean some of the same fights as with the previous insurance company, but that would be true with anyone. No insurance company is going to provide services unless you show necessity; it just doesn't make financial sense.

Linda has "the cold." Her speech therapist warned her that it could develop into pneumonia. That's what speech therapists do. We love them for it.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Spic and span

The carpet is looking much better this morning. I made a real breakthrough when I read the back of the directions on the bottle (which reminded me to shake well before using--that really helped). You'd not know now looking at it that something happened there. I may go over the spots one more time tonight just to keep things looking as new as they are.

Linda is feeling really well today too. She woke up warm and relaxed and just cheerful. Her speech therapist had the flu so she gets the day off from therapy. She has new Zorro stuff to read. She's set for the day.

Ellie was as whiny as ever, but I just packed her up and dumped her at day care. Her crankiness evaporates as soon as she walks in (most days) and this morning was just the same.

I still have a bit of solitude before my first class this morning. I also don't have to run Linda around, so I'm going to buy lunch for myself somewhere (probably Main Street, but maybe Pagliais).

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Still here

I know I haven't updated things much the last few days. We're still here. My girls were both cranky on Sunday. There was crying pretty much all morning. Except for me. That much crying makes me yell.

Ellie in particular seems to be going through a crying phase. Crying to get what she wants. She'd better be careful or she's going to find herself spending more time in her room by herself.

Speech at Truman began yesterday. It's only the first session, so not much time to meet the therapist yet. But I'm sure it will be good. I didn't watch. I've decided that this semester we'll do speech therapy while I teach calculus. I was a bit tired of all of the running around that last semester contained, so I'm trying to get more things to overlap.

Linda's doing pretty well although she smacked her head on tiles today and bled all over. I've got it pretty much cleaned up, but no matter how much I work on it, the edge still shows just a bit pink. I'll probably give it another shot later and see if it comes clean.