Thursday, January 29, 2009

Drama Queen dethroned and we need Al Borland!

As my wonderful friend Mark Martin said 'dust off your skirt and get back up.' He inspired me to get over it - along w a few solid days of feeling sorry for myself.
I did want to catch up on progress quickly - last Thurs I posted a 5lb loss (I think the drinking more water effect is kicking in.) and just today I was down 5 more lbs. - WOWZA! Yay! I'm still experiencing dread and trepidation when I step on the scale - pretty sure that's just human - but I also think there's a mental element here where you just feel like this can't possibly work - gotta be a fluke right?! So I keep assuming the worst and hoping for (and the last 2 weeks SEEING) the best!

So now we're grand total of 37lbs down. Woot!

Calling Al Borland...

Also did a few home 'improvements' - improvement is simply the turn of phrase - not always the truth behind it...

We actually did these back over holiday break - I just hadn't shared yet.

We now have a lovely stainless steel (working!) hood/exhaust over our stovetop where our decrepit, old, almost useless microwave was mounted. When Rob pulled that out - it was astounding how much more space there was to cook - we could actually USE the back burners - and it really opened it up visually. We also found TWO layers of wallpaper - umm YIKES...

We already had his outrageously GOOD stainless countertop microwave - which we had been longing for every day since we moved in and had to use the crappy over the range microwave. SO it's dusted off and micro-ing like the champ it's always been!

So improvement - CHECK!

Now onto the 'other.' For those who have seen the house, 99% agree that its wallpaper is hideous. There's some on the bottom half (below chair rail) in the kitchen - that's passable in that it doesn't assault your eyeballs - but it surely wouldn't be my choice... then there's the dining room... now that is truly frightening...
SO what *better* time than when you're absolutely stir CRAZY and trapped at home to remove wallpaper? Rob ventured into the world to secure me the supplies - and then I began to 'pirannha' away w this lovely medieval looking tool and coated the first few panels of paper in gel Dif wallpaper remover. Soak in, pull off... wait - it's supposed to come OFF right?!

Well - the Mattoxes - who lived here before us - Debbie (wife) had told us at the walk thru - when I *specifically* asked about that same occular violating wallpaper - that 'it should come down, no problem... they sized it when they put it up.'

Well she was either lying or truly had lived there SO long and had taken one too many bong hits (the Mattoxes were def hippies) she hadn't remembered that the monstrosity was there when she moved in...

there was no sizing...
there was no primer...
there was no sealant...
there was... NOTHING...

So after a panel or 2, we determined that something was WRONG...
That's right folks -- we have the perfect storm creating the MOST difficult wallpaper removal situation you can have. We have drywall so we can't use too much liquid... we have wallpaper that's old as shit and covered in glue and it's been APPLIED DIRECTLY TO THE SHEETROCK.

So there was cursing and giving up... I busied myself poking at the kitchen wallpaper afterward - at least THAT was primed and came off...
There was a few days of 'I'm not dealing w this shit' --

Then there was copious googling done by yours truly to figure out exactly WTF to do... in parallel w Rob polling the experts at Lowe's and Home Depot.
A few themes emerged --
1. You're screwed if you do remove it - then you're either replacing the drywall completely or you're spending days repairing and re-drywall 'mudding' the whole room.
--- PHEW, glad we stopped 2 panels in ---
2. You can seal it and prime it and then apply 'wall liner' - aka - plain wallpaper that's paintable - over it and pretend like you're starting from scratch.
3. You can mud/spackle to repair what you've done, sand everything - including existing wallpaper - and then seal and then prime and then you can 'start from scratch.'

I think we've settled on what's behind door #3.
We would have to buy sealer, primer and spackle anyway - between wall repair and general painting needs... this way we save the extra expense of buying a room of wallpaper. (Well half - it's luckily only above the chair rail in the dining room.)

So I'm sure there will be upcoming developments on this front that's worthy of blogging...
Rob's Mom and Dad were supposed to come up in Feb but his Mom's shoulder surgery was more serious than initially thought so she's out of work for longer - and clearly needs a longer healing time... that buys us a little more time in getting the dining room up to code for their visit.
Stay tuned...

Monday, January 26, 2009

Dividedwefail FAIL

Insurance fail. Or maybe it's Kate fail.

I about had a cow yesterday when sorting through the week's mail, I found bills for my surgery in early Dec - totally $4200?! What could this be?! I already paid $1100 at the surgeon's office beforehand. That's a fuckload of money right there. I mean this procedure is COVERED by insurance? $1100 sounds reasonable... pricey but doable -- and for my avid readers you already saw my rant about that bill...

Oh how I wish it were *just* $1100. (This of course on top of the $300 or so I'd paid already toward deductible.) Who would think my earlier blog rant about that only covered a small amount of the 'holy shit I'm going to become a dividedwefail commercial.'

"I had a job. In fact I HAD insurance coverage -- but the medical bills kept coming in."

Well FUCK. And eff my company for year by year making our plan shittier and shittier - but not really cheaper... and ironically they were touting how 'great' it would be for 09 since 'benefits weren't changing.'

So shock, disbelief, tears characterized Sunday. Seething anger began Monday morning.

Kate -- "But I have a max out of pocket each yr of $3500 -- I already satisfied my $1000 deductible and my co-insurance is only 30%!! And I already paid $1500 to healthcare in 08 - WTF?! "

Radiologist - "Call Aetna."

Surgeon's office "Before you call anesthesiologist ($800 bill opened Sunday) or St Mary's ($3400 bill opened Sunday) -- CALL AETNA"

Kate -- "Ok." so I call Aetna...

Astoundingly this poor woman was able to make me understand WTH was going on. Oh and by the way - 1 night in St Mary's (NOT counting surgeon's bill) -- $33K - HOLY SHIT. And w Terrible Teri to boot?!

Well apparently due to some strange LIFO type insurance payment scheme - or perhaps just really delayed billing from the surgeon's office, their claim was paid out last. Which means I should be getting a full refund of the $1100. Unfortunately that's bc I'll be LEGITIMATELY having to pay $4200 which satisfies my deductible and co-insurance max out of pocket for 08.


The only concession is that St Mary's allows you to take 10% off if you pay within 30 days - so you BET I'm gonna be racking up the rewards points w Chase as I pay that off to the tune of saving me over $300. Hoping all still goes well, my bonus in March will go COMPLETELY to medical bills and some 'we just bought a fucking house 6 mos ago' expenditures.

To add insult to injury, my fill -- that took all of about 15minutes (w 2hrs wait time) -- guess how much that cost?!

I'll give you a minute...

A 'negotiated' price of $3307. Negotiated apparenlty meaning that some pay MORE.

Which means I'm now smack dab into 09 with another bill coming soon from St Mary's for $1700 -- satisfying my 09 deductible at $1000 and already going another $600 into my max out of pocket of $3500 in 09.

So the moral of the story is 'multi-fold'

1. Insurance STINKS. PERIOD. Even if their bookkeeping was totally accurate - about which I am floored. The cost of healthcare is outrageous.
2. Put whatever you can in FSA. Worst case you end up with hundreds of dollars to blow at Walgreens EOY.
3. When in doubt, call and make them itemize upcoming expenses -- I figured my bandfills couldn't be that much since they *used* to do them in their office for a $50 co-pay. How WRONG was I?! Wish I'd done this and coulda padded FSA way more.
4. We'll never afford to get married. Great... fucking great... we haven't even ever taken a vacation together. And it's not due to spendorama - first it was moving to RIC and building up some $, then my 2nd back procedure, then buying a house - and now medical bills. DAMMIT - how at 29 do I feel like I'm telling the story of a 50yr old?

And as if that's not bad enough - of course BEFORE all this shit of the last week... I got my tax forms for all my accts. That includes my 401K - of which I lost $30K. Which was 30% of my total acct -- the acct that I started 8 years ago. How bout them apples? Thank GOD I'm not retiring anytime soon.

Oh yah and last Thursday we announced a loss - first time ever.

At least I still have a job (SO FAR) and a house to live in.

And if we elope, I can get on Rob's (also Aetna - eeks!) health insurance... it's the Aetna plan I had years ago - when I never even GOT a bill for my 1st back surgery.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

This damn movie...

I saw a movie on HBO the other night and haven't been able to shake it. I tivo'ed it bc it has one of my favorite actors in it - Nathan (Hottypants) Fillion - who was in Buffy, Firefly and some other bit parts in cult following type phenomenal dramas and also has some decent parts in movies to his credit. I think mainstream-wise he has recently been in that show 'Drive' that lasted like 4 episodes last year and in the show Brothers&Sisters which i have yet to catch. Anyway, he's really good - and frickin HOT.

I couldn't be happier having taped it based solely on getting to watch Nathan Hottypants for 2 hours. But much to my surprise (it also stars flippin Felicity... oh and Andy Griffith!) I hit the jackpot! I thought this movie was PHENOMENAL.

It's called 'Waitress' -- it absolutely qualifies as a chick flick but w/o the ultra happy and sappy bits that epitomize chick flicks. It deeply resonates with all things 'woman and love' but not in any feminist way nor perfect love story nor fairytale way - just in what is frighteningly real.

Anyway, I went to find out more about it - including what other movies the writer had done and found a tragedy belied it.

The writer/director Adrienne Shelley - many accolades - including for this movie - was an indie director - actually died while making the movie... actually -- was murdered.

There are a few other films she's written - though I've never heard of them.

Anyway, it's worth a netflix or trip to blockbuster. It so hit me that I *must* own it - for fear someday I might forget how wonderful it was, and then that it even existed...

The first fill...

I have been really good about weighing weekly. Giving it a week between weigh-ins is good for a # of reasons - mainly bc it is less than obsessive and it actually can give an accurate picture of significant loss/gain.

What however is more depressing than eating less than 1000 calories a day, every day, is when you don't lose weight from one week to the other... With such consistency and significant reduction in calories, you begin to expect to see losses weekly... not the case. This week I hit my 2nd week overall without a posted loss. I guess that's better than a gain... but it goes to show that for a portion of the population, losing weight *isn't* always a sure thing if you 'just eat less.'

Overall, I'm still down more than 27lbs since I began this journey less than 2mos ago. Which is phenomenal - and I'm thrilled about it. I think I'm slightly more disheartened bc the last time I lost a significant amount of weight (since my 100lb loss 6 years ago) was about 2 years ago - and that was 25lbs. I need to make it beyond this hump to not feel like this is yet another 'fad' diet.

But to the new part --

I got my first fill.

A quick refresher -- the band has a hollow/balloon like piece around the band itself - this is connected to a tube that ends in a 'port' - basically a large circular tough 'pad.' (same as when ppl get lines for chemo) -- this port is attached to my abdominal wall via stitches during surgery.

There's a pic about 2/3rds the way down the page --

Anyway, fills are meant to make the band tighter - and therefore keep you fuller longer with any food consumed - and this is about 1/2cup. It is filled w cc's of sterile saline - and can hold 8-10cc's.

SO the first fill -- headed to St Mary's, checked in - had to get the hospital bracelet and everything! They do these fills at something called the 'Pain Center' -- really?! who named that?!

So you get directed to this room - the pain center is also a pain to find - you actually walk out of the hospital and then back in - it's an externally accessible room. There's a bunch of people waiting - fellow banders - some fatties, some not as fatties and one slim woman who has lost all her hair to cancer - I'm not entirely sure that she's there for a fill - perhaps taking fluid out to ensure she can eat a lot to make up for the chemo effects.

What I've discovered that's outrageously refreshing is how OPEN people with the bands ARE to talk about their experience, weight loss, issues, etc. It's like this topic that's been totally taboo for all our lives -- even most relatives you don't discuss your weight issues openly with... Because we've all gotten to a place where we acknowledge our shortcomings and need for help - and it's totally liberating as we can finally talk about it bc there's hope that this doesn't define us and that it may change in the future. So picture campfire, guitars, com ba ya, etc. I will spare the details since most folks who don't have issues with this could care less... Let's just say I think I've been a SAINT on my first few months - bc about everyone in there had some comment about having issues w certain foods - all of which were ones they told us NOT to eat! haha! (subs? icecream? WTH?)

SO I get weighed and then sit for a while - then get called into a room where I immediately recognize 2 of the 3 people from my office appts - very comforting!

I then stand in front of what looks like an open MRI machine sans bed - turned on its side. It's a stand up x ray (but w less clunky camera and smaller plates. I stand in front of it, the dr finds my port and puts mark on my skin where it is. (recall - port is subdermal - not visible from the outside - when I get smaller I'll be able to feel it and possibly see it slightly) She then tells me NOT to look at the needle - apparently it's not small...

In goes needle (all this is being xrayed) - little prick - not bad - some rooting around to get it situated and then attached is the syringe - she pulls out the oxygen (they apparently prep the bands w oxygen for surgery) - then she puts in 3 cc's. She has me take a sip of barium -- while she watches it go down on the xray - pretty cool! She has ME holding the syringe at this point so she can move to see the xray pictures - apparently bc of the hard plastic the port is made of, it'll shoot out if not held in. She puts in another 1.5cc's - I drink more barium and she says I'm good to go and they record the amount.

I asked her how she knows what the right amount is - and she patiently explained the xray pics - which were totally rad (and I will see if I can take a pic w my cell of it next time) - much like the upper GI post surgery. She shows me where the band is and where the barium is passing through it -- then she shows me - using her THUMB where my 'pouch' is - ie the piece above the band that holds the food -- and I'm shocked that it's little wider than her thumb! Then I notice how small the opening is between this and the larger stomach below the band - like the width of an ink refill! Unreal - and super cool!

Then I'm done - that was IT! Nothing scary at all :) They have you then drink some liquid before you leave to be sure it's not too tight (too tight = liquid comes back up) - I'm then on liquids the next day and a half and then mushies and then solids again tomorrow -- Friday.

I actually think the liquid part (which was terrible this time - as before) has me probably ingesting more calories bc they are 8oz portions (rather than my 4oz 1/2 cup ones) - which I attribute to this week's plateau. But damn does tomato soup still make it all better...

Safe travels to Spevak!

The unseemly Smoketree underbelly

There is a plague upon this quaint, quiet suburban neighborhood... I think thy name is teenager...

I expected less property damage in the burbs than the hood - but alas, so far my annual neighborhood dues have only contributed to MORE expenditure...

Oct08 - I bitched about the pumpkin being taken off our porch and smashed down the road...
Nov08 - I bitched about the mailbox being beaten...
Dec08 - then it was run over - totally obliterated...

(drumroll please) -- and now the latest juvenile deliquient scheme - no doubt replete with cunning and rigorous planning...

Picture this - we wake up - the first Saturday of 2009, we're recovered from our houseguest and candy coma; we're bracing ourselves for the last day of vacation before 09 really starts... we look outside, it's chilly but not too cold - what will today have in store? yard work? shopping? hermitting? And something is wrong with the picture. It's not so much the inclusion of a strange element - but the opposite - something's MISSING... hmm

Jan09 - dumbass took our trashcan and drove it a block and a half away - dumping it in someone's ditch.

Luckily Rob had the wherewithall to go on the canhunt. I assumed it was stolen or we somehow had forgotten to pay our trash bill. In parallel to the canhunt, I rummaged through any outstanding mail to verify that indeed we were not deadbeats and were all paid up.

What followed was what I'd call adult temper tantrums - which I have much more frequently than my better half - well because I'm way more vocal, stressoutable, and enjoy my moments of being a drama queen... the rest of the day we went on relationship SWAT and pretty much did our own things alone so we didn't bite each others' heads off (for something that had NOTHING to do w either of us!)

For Rob that meant heading out to a bar, watching football and drinking beer. For me, it was heading upstairs to catch up on my trashy tivo'ed teen drama - One Tree Hill. Which cleverly btw - an homage to the network formerly known as the WB's original teen drama Dawson's Creek - they cast James Van Der Beek (Dawson) as a coke addicted Hollywood director - amusingly exactly what was always Dawson's dream - plus a drug addiction - SWEET!

All because of some punkass teenager - that or some Hokie that is really bothered by my UVA flag. Get over it - you got a bowl game and are now 'America's university'...
We'll stick to our #1 public university status - most recently apparently we made the 'best value in public school' designation - which I'm not sure is *exactly* the right connotation -- I mean 'best value' makes it sound like Walmart or Big Lots...

bit of a clash w our ultra pretentious 'The University' windshield stickers

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Another year down...

I already did my 08 retrospective so I'll keep it short w just a Happy New Year!

Rob and I rang in the New Year at the new house w a roaring fire, Andy Cooper and Kathy Griffin on CNN and the notable LACK of the staccato of gunshots outside... WOOT!

Now I am a Kathy Griffin fan (thanks to D List's endless repeats on Bravo.) When it comes to comedians, Rob is a misogynist so he's predisposed to dislike KG... well he got a taste last year w KG and Andy, and as this was our 2nd celebration, he was starting to break down and perhaps not *hate* her :) -- well she has now forever endeared herself to him - with what will likely have her FIRED from doing anymore Andy CNN NYE celebrations...

Happy 2009!

Oh and Merry Effin Xmas in the new house...

As most of you know already, we've been initiated into the burbs w 1 smashed pumpkin and a batted at mailbox (which broke off the flag) in the first 6mos of living here...

What more could there be?

We found out 2 days after Xmas -- some asshole (probably drunk bastard taking the backroads from Cap Ale Midlo) ran over our mailbox.

As in left it in 4 splintered pieces - w 6 inches left in the ground - the clearance of a car bottom... RAN IT THE FUCK OVER... And he left tiremarks in the grass - clearly showing the swerve afterward...

So thanks - and merry effin xmas to that douche. Glad that the Lowes giftcards we got for Xmas - the FIRST ONE IN OUR NEW HOUSE - will be put to such good use - as to buy a new mailbox bc of some worthless puke who's probably headed back to some b list VA college to 'get ter drinkin' w his frat bros in another week.

As I found myself stressed the hell out after a botched grocery trip for NYE provisions yesterday, I actually took some solace in cruising the hood looking for dented bumpers and our culprit. To no avail of course...

Band update

I'm a week into solids - another 1.5lbs down - woot! I'm having no nausea and really no trouble w any foods yet - but I am not full on my 1/2 cup. That said, I have no fluid in my band (which is what tightens it/restricts me more.)

I had my 4week checkup on Tuesday - went great - except for the 1.5hour wait in the office beforehand - astounding!! I am also now scheduled for a fill - which should address my fullness issues above - on January 12th!

I didn't end up getting any visitors post surgery - which bums me out A LOT... I'm also feeling like I'm begging to see folks - i.e. to get people to commit to making time for either a visit here or at their place or in honor of a new arrival, etc. I'm telling myself this is merely bc it is December (but it's not as though my schedule was tough - we're talking home all December - weekdays and weekends) and will get better as we settle into the cold, crappy and planless months of Jan/Feb. And I think the underlying problem is I'm just STIR CRAZY - I've never had this much time off since summer after my freshman year in HS! (And even then I had a season's pass to Busch Gardens and spent all my days there!)

But w Xmas soon afterward, we got a parade of folks visiting starting mid December - which was fun and exhausting. I'm also a little shocked that not a single visitor made their bed when they left!! I mean, really people?!

But I am also relieved to say I've now been able to have some wine and thus far do not appear to have the 'cheap date' syndrome - PHEW! ;)