Category Archives: Money

Lumpy, Sneezy, Dopey and Doc (Or Why Policies can Suck It) – Part 2

Part 2:  Sneezy

In her first 2 years of life, my darling daughter, Calamity Jayne, had more than 20 ear infections.  It seems that every time she caught a cold, she got an ear infection.  And she caught a lot of colds.

I feel totally cheated by this injustice.

I nursed her for nine months – throwing caution and modesty to the wind by pumping in offices, airports, and hotel rooms.  I took nursing-lunches in our car when my uber-understanding hub drove down to my office to afford me baby time during my post-partum battle.

Yet my bub was a snotty, sneezy mess for much of her young life.  She had several ear infections that lasted months because the antibiotics we used to treat her didn’t cure the infection.

Pediatricians we saw offered little advice.

Instead, we were reassured that “kids get sick.”  I admit, I was comforted that this wasn’t my ‘fault.’  As a first-time parent, I was fairly convinced that I was doing it wrong.  (And by “it” I mean everything.)

We saw plenty of pediatricians.  This wasn’t a situation where one doctor was responsible for our inability to prevent or treat her ear infections.  Our Chicago practice has more than a dozen doctors on staff.  We love being able to get an appointment at any time and having the diversity of experience, thought, and treatment that all those doctors provide.  Our St. Louis practice was smaller but seemed wholly competent in their
treatment and fairly advanced in their technology and organization.

We thought we were doing everything we could.  And our doctors agreed.

Earlier this year, we saw a doctor at our Chicago practice in her 50s.  She took quite a long time with us (a rarity among all sick-care providers) and reviewed CJ’s charts all the way back to her birth.  She was really shocked at the volume of infections and the frequency with which we returned to the office.

She raised the red-flag.

She told us she suspected that the antibiotic courses we’d been given our daughter (non-penicillin because of an allergy) weren’t strong enough to kill the underlying sinus infection.  So, although the ear cleared with the single round, the sinus infection raged on and then landed right back in the ear(s).

This made sense.

She put us on back-to-back rounds of antibiotics.  Until the cough was gone (that pesky post-nasal drip from my childhood seems to have been inherited by Big Red), we kept re-upping the antibiotics.

Finally, after three rounds, the child was cough-free, sniffles free and ear pain free.

Around this time, my sage sister-in-law also raised the issue that no child this age should be doing so many rounds of antibiotics.  Drugs, as they say, are bad, mmkay?  Well, not ALL bad, but certainly this was a disproportionate amount of unnatural toxins for the itty-body of a toddler.  That, and she might just develop immunity to the only strain of antibiotics she can take leaving her susceptible to horrible sickness that most people would, well, sneeze at.

My sis also recommended that we see a specialist.  An Otolaryngologist.  So we got a recommendation, made an appointment, and saw a specialist.

The specialist asked us why we had waited so long to get our daughter seen.

Instead of “kids get sick,” we were told that CJ was having far too many infections and could absolutely benefit from getting grommets inserted to help with drainage.  We were also encouraged to hear that the surgery might improve her mood and manner considerably.

Earaches suck.
Calamity might very well be acting out because of her constant discomfort.

WTF.

Like any parent of a toddler wants to enjoy additional fits and general obnoxiousness just for giggles!

I hated the idea of putting my precious little baby girl under anesthesia, and my growing belly was wrecking havoc on my logic and emotional stability, but I didn’t see how I could justify not giving my daughter some relief.

So we had the surgery.

And I cried buckets when she went in and buckets more when she came out.

But she’s been ear pain free ever since… for six months.  And that’s a miracle.

So, my hub and I have asked ourselves… what did take so long?  Why didn’t we know to see a specialist and get the ear tubes done after the first six, ten, twelve, fifteen, etc. infections/ rounds of antibiotics?

Sadly and cynically, it seems the clear answer would be because our pediatricians don’t get paid if we stop coming to see them for ear infections.  And was the surgery necessary?  How can we know for certain?  But we do know that the Otolaryngologist wouldn’t get paid if she didn’t absolutely endorse her speciality.

Medicine for profit is bullshit.

It makes a mess of patient care and breeds mistrust.

I want to respect and trust medical professionals.  I want to know that they have my and my family’s HEALTH in their best interest – NOT what procedures are billable, NOT what drugs they are incentivized to promote, NOT what the insurance company covers at a higher percentage.

I don’t trust any of this is happening.

Medicine is enough of a guessing game without making patients wonder if they’re actually getting their doctor’s best recommendation or the best priced one?

The system is broken and it is making us broke.

Lumpy, Sneezy, Dopey and Doc (Or Why Policies can Suck It) – Part 1

Part 1:  Lumpy

Earlier this year, I found a lump in my breast.

Since I’m not a regular self-examiner, I found it because it itched.  It was huge.

The timing of this discovery coincided with a) a report about breast cancer during pregnancy in older women and b) finishing a book where the heroine’s best friend dies from breast cancer leaving two young daughters.

What went through my head was
holymotherf*ckingshitImgoingtodieandneverseemygirlsgrowthisisn’tfairwhatthef*cknonononononono!

Or something along those lines.

What’s worse is I forgot to mention it to my OB.  For a month.

When I finally did, she suggested I get it checked. (um, yes.)

So I had an ultrasound done by a  radiology technician.  The doctor never came in, never introduced himself, never called me with results.  The results did not indicate cancer (evidently cancer shows up on film like bright white alien life) but because it was so big the radiologist wanted me to have a biopsy.  He never mentioned that to me.  Instead, my OB followed up with him, heard that a biopsy was the way to go and relayed that info to me.

So I called several oncology offices for a biopsy.

No office would schedule a biopsy without an exam appointment first, which meant not only the delay of getting the original appointment (two weeks) but also the delay of the follow up appointment (unknown time) and double the appointment with a specialist appointment (what am I made of money?).

Being five months pregnant at the time, I lost my mind.  I literally scream-cried at several people.  I’m not proud of this but it is what it is.  I had reached the point where logic and rationality left and hormones took over.

My OB and her reassuringly competent nurse took over.  They got me a few names and told me what I needed to say to get the right appointment.  The exam/biopsy by the first doctor who would see me was nothing short of violating.  I don’t know if what he did was normal or not but it was mortifying and I felt abused and disgusted for weeks.  Those biopsy results were “inconclusive” so I was told I needed to go through the process again.  I would have rather “died” but since that was actually on the table, I decided I’d better suck it up and get a second opinion.

I chose a doctor via my hospital network rather than revisit the site of the ‘attack.’

That experience was SIGNIFICANTLY better – sterile, clinical and very very public.  Rather than one dude in an office exam room, I had two doctors, a radiologist, and three nurses in the room with gloves, gowns and masks.  Two nurses were hands-on comforting at all times.  The doctors were slow and careful in their practice and talked to me about my family and in particular my unborn daughter the whole time, sharing anecdotes about their own families and offering kind, reassuring commentary.

They definitively concluded that the lump was normal breast tissue – likely a duct that went haywire under hormonal showers and would
either go away on its own or be a benign part of my breast until I wanted it removed in a simple surgical procedure.

Here’s the kicker:  my sister-in-law, a nurse in Australia, suggested that exact diagnosis when I first discovered the lump.

Maybe this was a case of CYA.  Maybe our litigious society mandates that doctors ignore Ockham’s Razor and pull as many levers as possible in our complicated and expensive sick-care system.

I have an estimated 47 separate bills from this experience – from the doctors, the hospitals, the labs, the radiologists, the techs, the
offices, the insurance company, etc.  Everyone billed me separately with terms and codes I couldn’t possibly understand.  I tried calling a few times to determine what exactly I was paying for and why more wasn’t covered by my insurance but I quite frankly gave up.

It was exhausting and confusing.  I’m pretty sure that is intentional.

Whatever the case, the system is broken and is making me broke.

Mommy Hours

Warning:  This isn’t one of those “deep thoughts” posts that I fancy myself to have been creating.

It just occurred to me last night as I was flipping through a ridiculous number of channels, procrastinating any housework that might be piled up on my bedroom floor or on the dining room table, and wrestling with the couch pillows for a comfortable position – I really want to go shopping.

It almost didn’t matter where.

But since I loathe sacrificing the 5-8p portion of my day to anything other than Peanut-time, I don’t often go out after work.  As any of you familiar with toddlers knows, taking them with you can be like navigating Forest’s box of chocolates – if half of those chocolates were poisonous.  With gravel and razorblades in them.  And combustible.

I would really like to go out after I put Calamity Jayne to sleep.

How great would it be if retail outfits picked one day a week to be open until 11p?  They could open late that day, I don’t care.  But give me a couple of hours where I can shop for shoes (because they’re the only thing that isn’t obnoxiously oversized now), or kids clothes, or household goods, or arts & crafts, or… well, like I said.  I’d shop for anything.

It got me thinking… maybe I’m just a dummy without a clue.  Maybe stores are already DOING this and I’m just living in the dark and wasting some valuable shopping opportunities.  So I checked.

Here, in all their glory, are the shopping hours of some of my favorite time-killing, money-sucking, halls of commerce:

  • Target – Open until 11p M-F  (WHO KNEW?!?!?!?!)
  • Kohls – Open until 10p T-Sa (Not too shabby.)
  • Marshall’s & TJ Maxx– Open until 9:30 M-Sa (I think they can do better.)
  • DSW – Open until 9p M-Sa
  • Home Depot – Varies by store but many are Open until 10p M-Sa and SOME are open until Midnight.  (I feel a new project coming on…I can do it.  They can help.)
  • Home Goods – Open until 9:30p M-Sa (Cue choir of angels!)
  • Michael’s Crafts – Open until 9p M-Sa

World Market, Pottery Barn, JoAnn Fabrics and Z Gallerie didn’t list their hours.  I suppose they want me to call the store and find out?  Fat chance, suckers. 

I know many of my mum friends shop online, and until recently saved themselves the considerable retail tax of cities like Chicago (10% WHAT?!?!?!?!).  However, as someone who works from home and works online, I get very little joy from shopping online.  Unless there is a store I can’t visit (The Company Store, Ballard Designs, etc.) or I get massive savings & convenience thrown my way (Diapers.com & Soap.com), I really don’t see the point.  I know, I know… I WORK in online advertising.  I’m SUPPOSED to be all “ecommercy” and stuff.  Suck it.  I’m not.  Advertise to me – promote your sales – and make it easy for me to shop you however I want… not however YOU want.  That’s how you get my business.  Everyone knows that no self-respecting W25-54 with kids in the household will click on your ad.  Unless maybe there’s a coupon code.  Please don’t get me started on this.  I have nothing nice to say.

But I’ve gone off-topic…

I don’t know if the later store hours discovery is good news or bad (I fear my spending may go up considerably), but I want to thank these stores for being considerate enough to employ staff and keep their doors open into the night.  Maybe I won’t be shopping late every night but now I at least have the option of giving my girl(s) all my attention during their waking hours and still having some mommy-time doing projects, or dressing up our home and our selves.

Ok mamas and shoppahs, what are YOUR favorite late night or odd-hour shops?  Do you get the same thrill picking out stuff online as you do in-store?  Teach me your ways.  I’m about to go plastic.

Hooray for Retail!

If this is Schugar, why does it leave a bad taste in my mouth?

I’ve been rereading some of my posts to see how closely my project is aligning with my mission.  It seems that I talk very little about this “schugar” I claim as my own.  Money is a funny thing in my world.  It is very personal and usually painful to discuss.  Some of this is residual inheritance that I haven’t cured and some of this is my own wackadoo creation. 

This past week I finished Michael Lewis’ The Big Short and watched Too Big To Fail  on HBO.  If you’ve a strong stomach and enough mistrust for rich people to want to study them like lab rats, I recommend both.  The WSJ reviewed the latter as more aptly titled “Too Boring To Watch” but if you approach it as documentary-like viewing, you’ll be fine. 

I do agree with Mark Gongloff (the reviewer) on two things – I wish the characters had been more developed and more “real” people had been included.  Don’t misunderstand me, the characters were all actual people – but I hardly count the ex-Chairman of Goldman-Sachs as representative of the rest of us, even if he tries masking his shady background with a bit of public service.

Now here’s where I endure a little painful confession:  Before I read the incredibly compelling Lewis book, I really didn’t understand that Wall Street was like Vegas without the strippers. 

A couple of important things to note: 

  • everything I know about Vegas is 2nd hand or from the movies
  • I’ve had a 401K and separate stock portfolio since my late 20s
  • investing, saving, and money management were not among the lessons taught in my childhood home

One thing at a time.

The third bullet, my financial upbringing, warrants its very own post.  I just have to consider how to tactfully discuss in print.

I’ve never been to Vegas because it appeals to me the same way that a Pride parade, Jersey Shore, or the actual Mardi Gras do – not at all.  I support others’ right to enjoy them but I find them vulgar and tacky.  I actually enjoy gambling.  I like to play cards – blackjack and hold ’em.  I usually play the pokies when in Oz.  I’ve even won a bit of money at cruise ship gambling which purchased a pair of diamond earrings.  It’s a pasttime, a source of entertainment, and I can’t possible imagine throwing money on a felt table expecting to “hit the jackpot.”  That, my friends, is sucker behavior in my world.  Nothing comes for nothing.  At least, not for real people like us.

Yet, I have regularly invested my little pennies in a retirement fund because “it is the responsible thing to do.”  I thought that my investments into individual stocks (companies I support directly or believe in conceptually) and in mutual funds were my “vote” (put your money where your mouth is) for their success.  By supporting their stock I was saying to the company, I think you’re worth saving please keep up the good work.  Except, that’s just a teeny weeny part of investing.  There are masses of jackholes who are betting – literally gambling – with their own and other’s money AGAINST companies.  So instead, they are saying – and usually with much more significant sums than my 15% – ‘we bet you suck it big time. ‘ 

The book(s) and the movie that startled me out of my naive investment cloud told the story of how massive deregulation, minimal oversight, bribes, incompetence, greed, marketing, and widespread sucker behavior allowed a whole lot of people and companies to bet that we’d all ‘suck it big time.’  And anyone who didn’t bet that, lost their asses.

The thing about the financial industry that blows my mind – no matter what happens in the market, someone is making money.  It just isn’t usually you or me.

So what is our alternative to investing?  Pensions are all but dead.  Social Security will be insolvent when I’m 52.  My parents, your parents, and pretty much everyone over the age of 60 will bankrupt us when they run out of retirement funds and have no healthcare.  At 38, and the bread-winner for my family, I’m pacing so far behind my personal savings that I will work until I’m dead.  And I’m way ahead of the average woman.

Do you know the financial statistics for women?  They ain’t good, honey.  Pretend for a minute that women make as much as men for the same work (they generally don’t) and that earning less over a career equates to a smaller pension/social security payout.  About half of us are out of the workforce at least part of our foundation or earning years because of children.  Even if we work full-time throughout, our earning power is impacted by our breeder status through job-changes, missed promotions, under-utilization/employment.

Now consider this – 50% of marriages end in divorce in this country and 70% of married women are widowed at some point.  Please TELL me you aren’t counting on a man to take care of you.  Even if he is the most kick-arse, generous and loving man…  you are responsible for your own financial health.  To believe otherwise is sucker behavior, my friends.

Try these statistics on for size:

  • women live seven years longer than men, on average
  • over 70% of the US elderly poor are women
  • one year after divorce, the average mid-life woman remains single with an average income of $11,300
  • women have higher healthcare expenses
  • over 58% of boomer women have less than $10K saved in some form of retirement

(Some of these statistics come from the slightly outdated and heavily dog-eared WOW! Quick Facts on Women 2007 edition I keep by my desk.)

Scared yet? 

Now think about the absurdly insulated jackholes in charge of our stock market who make money whether your stocks go up or go down – who are betting against your mortgage, your life insurance, and your employer.  Who are handing over big campaign contributions to other jackholes to make sure they don’t get hampered by any pesky rules of engagement. 

I change my mind – Wall Street is like Vegas meets UFC, without the strippers or the blood. 

And these people have my money.

Holy fuck.