Behind the 8 Ball

free-magic-8-ball-vectorIf you live here in the states and have had to rely on the  Affordable Care Act (ACA) I would truly like to know how you are managing, or if not, how you are faring.  If you wanted it, then are you getting what you thought you were getting?  I’m not trying to be flip, I just really am interested to know if you are getting the help you need through this program.


When Bob’s previous job realized that they were going to have to give up their current coverage due to the insurance changes, they began paying him a bit extra to help defray the cost.  It wasn’t enough.

When he was then a victim of downsizing, he was out of work for months.  We had to change our ACA coverage to reflect that he had no income other than unemployment wages.  This still cost us about $400 a month and incurred a mammoth deductible for each of us. (About $5,400 total).

We got sick.  Very sick.  Both of us.  The bills piled up, we became overwhelmed and had to take money from our retirement savings to help cover costs.  Irritatingly, I had a TSA that had matured and was worth almost $25,000.00 at the end of the year, but we had to wait to cash it out because we didn’t want to end up owing back all the subsidy money for the ACA coverage we relied on…  By the time I cashed it out in January, it had dropped in value to $18,000.00 due to the stock market crash.

Bob finished the taxes today.

Bob:  You don’t want to know how much I am hating Obama care right now.

Me:  What?  We don’t get anything back?

Bob:  I really don’t want to tell you.

Me:  We owe some?

Bob:  Sigh… We have to pay all of the subsidy back and we don’t get anything from the Federal at all!

Me:  How much?!

Bob:  $8,000.00!

He explained that in the midst of trying to make ends meet and paying the regular bills and necessities, plus the ACA payments, plus the deductibles, plus the co-pays, plus being out of work and being sick, we managed to make about $1,500.00 too much (remember that was the money we socked away for retirement!)  and now they want all the subsidy monies back.

In the past week we have sprung a leak in the roof and need a new roof.  The roofer has patched us up and it stopped the rain from running down the stove-pipe, into my cupboards and out onto my stove and counter tops, but the roof needs replacing.  $8,600.00.  He found hail damage and we are waiting to see if the insurance company will cover the new roof…

Are you keeping count?  We need $16,600.00 to pay for it all.  There goes the left over from my TSA monies and Bob’s IRA ++++++

After our talk, I felt awful.  I wanted to cry, but couldn’t.  I felt sick to my stomach and just wanted to crawl into bed and pull the covers up.  I wouldn’t.  After I calmed down some and began to feel better I suddenly flashed on a scene from my favorite movie of all time:

My Man Godfry

It is one of those madcap BW comedies from 1936, staring William Powel and Carole Lombard.  If you haven’t seen it you must, and if you do want to see it , well look up the copy from the Criterion Collection (<— link to synopsis, etc) because it has a missing scene that makes the whole thing make sense!!!

Here is the scene I remembered and which gave me a chuckle in spite of it all!

In the meantime I am grateful to God that we are once again in better health.  Feeling better makes it easier to take things in stride, although it doesn’t preclude the changes we will need to make over the next year.  We are talking it out, and thinking about our options, but we don’t have a definite plan as yet.

I’ll tell more when we figure it all out.

Observations on getting sick.

Today’s post comes with a pre-warning:

If you are even in the least bit squeamish about being sick, then please just skip today’s drivel and whatever you do – do not watch the clip at the end of the post! 


Yesterday, having been sick with a 24 hour stomach bug that at age 62 leaves you low for four days instead of one, I felt good enough to crawl out of bed, take a shower, and think about living again.  I had slept for nearly a solid 48 hours. Up for necessities, meds, water, and then back to sleep.  I was weak, achy, and moving slowly, but I did a bit of pushing the Swiffer to catch the *buffaloes that wafted by as I passed.  I sat down and ate a very light breakfast.

BTW, I haven’t mentioned that I got this nasty bacteria from Bob.  He got sick at work and they thought it was his hydration/low blood pressure problem again.  So they bundled him into an ambulance and back off to the hospital.  (Yes, another ambulance ride that will not be covered under our insurance.)  Once there, they again checked him for everything and found not much at all.  Suddenly, Bob announced that he had to “…get up NOW!”  Whereupon, he got very sick. In the aftermath of his episode the nurse and the Dr. looked pretty amazed by the mess. 

It was at this point that I recalled the scene in Stand by Me about the pie eating contest, and  I’ll tell you it was just like that! The bug that’s going around stops your digestive system in it’s tracks.  So, everything from the morning (including all the bottles of water he’d been drinking to stay hydrated all day) were stuck there and wanted out NOW.  It was nearly 4:00 pm. 

And he wondered why his stomach hurt so bad?  Poor baby!

Anyway, back to yesterday.  I then I got up and started a load of contaminated bedding, and cleaned the kitchen with a healthy dose of bleach in the water.  Being meticulous about giving every surface we may have touched the once over with hot, soapy, bleach water was gratifying.  From there I conquered all the switch plates and door handles throughout the house.  Time for another rest.  Then it was on to the bathroom, and more contaminated laundry with good hour rests between each task.  I felt I was vanquishing those little bastard bacteria who had invaded our bodies and made us so horribly ill!

By the end of the day our house smelled hospital clean,  and I was tired, but it was a good tired.  The activity of detoxing the house had bounced me back from my morning-after-illness-malaise and I just felt good!

DIE you mangy bugs, die!


I suppose it goes without saying, that hand washing is especially important when this bug, or any bug, comes to town!


Stay healthy out there!


*aka: dust bunnies to you that don’t own a big wooly dog named Buddy.


OK, and now for the point of reference for those who don’t know the story, and remember, you were warned. 😉

The Pie Eating Contest

It is sophomoric humor, I know, but I still think it funny… well, OK, maybe not so funny while we were going through it.



In the great state of Texas the Rain Lilies defied an historical drought.

Clouds formed,
rain fell,
the lilies awoke.

Stretching to meet the sun their fragrance filled the air…



As you may know Texas has had one of the most severe droughts in recorded history.  Cotton crops have been lost, rivers, streams and lakes have dried up, and then there were the fires.  It has been a difficult time for the residents of this stricken state.

Recently, there were rains over a large portion of Texas, and in the Austin area Steve Schartzman was able to find a very large colony of these beautiful Rain Lilies.  That is the colony in the picture above and their name tells you their story.  When rain comes it takes only a few short days and the lilies spring forth.  Sadly, their beauty is short-lived, but for the time they are here you may choose to take them for granted or, as he has done, go out and enjoy them,  photograph them, breathe in their fragrance, and share the experience with others.  In so doing, he has made his readers aware and they take notice of their environment, enjoying the loveliness of a fleeting little white lily.  An ephemeral in the floral world.

Ephemeral:  Lasting a very short time.

Ephemeral.  There is a parallel for me in this, and it nicely sums up my career as a teacher.  I returned to school late in life and studied hard to get my BA and teaching credentials.  On graduation day it was as if I were in a dream.  The calling of my name.  Me,  the girl who most hated school, and barely graduated high school.  Fact is, the only reason I graduated was to prove my father a liar.  He said I wouldn’t.  I proved him wrong.  I remember the last name being called, the valedictorian speech, the hat throwing (I held mine tight!) and the million multicolored bits of Mylar confetti  floating down from the highest point of the sports arena’s ceiling. I had pushed myself, striven to get to this place.  Why, my last quarter in university I carried 21 units just so I could be done with it all.  It had taken me almost ten years to make up for ill spent time in high school and to get in all the new learning, but I did it, and I was so proud!

Then I got my first job and my own classroom.  I was teaching first grade.  Two weeks into the first month of school found me on my lunch break standing alone, the lights off, in the middle of my classroom.  Slowly I turned round in a circle surveying the room.  I thought, “What in the world was I thinking when I decided to become a teacher?”  The truth of it was that I was terrified of the responsibility, and yet, exhilarated too!  We learned from each other my students and I, and by the end of the year I was in love with teaching, and adored my students.

I spent three years at Morris Elementary.  In my time there I lost my mother.  We lost Bob’s father, and when his mother moved into an assisted living facility we moved into his parent’s home.  I then left Morris for a position closer to our new home.

My last two years at the new school were very difficult.  I broke my foot and the district would not allow me back on campus till it was healed.  I was out of work for over two months.  Bob had hernia surgery which turned into prostate problems, which led to another surgery, and almost a year of pain and suffering for him. He was one of those rare individuals who bled… a lot.  It necessitated two more surgeries, with several trips to the ER, overnight stays, and a blood transfusion.

Then my youngest brother died.  He was forty-nine and had a massive heart attack.

“Father, give me strength.” I cried.

You might imagine I was coming unglued and you’d be right.  However, as a teacher I was expected to keep it together and be there for my kids.  We had to pass the state tests and I had to prep my students to do their best.  It was high stakes and everyone was wound too tightly.  My coworkers didn’t understand the many times I had to leave, because my husband was ill again and in the ER.  They didn’t understand when after taking three days bereavement, I later took two more days and left to go to Alabama for my brother’s memorial service.  This would be a total of five days of “out-of-state bereavement time.”  This was cleared with the office and I didn’t think I needed to explain it.  I was wrong.

When I came back I was informed there was to be a meeting after school and I should attend.  I arrived and found that the meeting was about me.  In the course of the hour-long discussion roast I was told by my coworkers I was not a team player, I wasn’t supportive of the other staff, that I had purposely hurt myself to get out of work, that I was making up all the trips to the hospital for my husband’s problems, and the killer was the statement made about my going to my brother’s memorial service,

“You took three days a couple of weeks back,  and now you’ve taken two more!  Weren’t you over it the first time you were off?”  and, “We think you just wanted a longer holiday weekend for Easter.”

I never cried so hard as I did in that meeting.  I was destroyed emotionally and couldn’t wait to get out of there.

Alabama is a beautiful state.  When he was alive my brother had begged me many times to come and see for myself.  I did not get the opportunity.  However, once here I realized he was right.  Over the course of the rest of the school year I would work as hard as possible to be  “supportive of the other staff,”  to walk on eggshells and smile when the bile would otherwise have me grimace.  I did it for my students.  I took it all, and got the job done, for them.  All the while knowing that I was moving at the end of my contract.  That made all the ugliness bearable because I could see there was an end to it, and soon.

We packed, we moved cross-country, and we were so happy to be in our new home.  Bob found work and is now fully healed.   I praise God for that because I never want him to be that seriously ill and uncomfortable again.

Me?  No, there would be no teaching job for me.  The recession, and then later the laying off of thousands of teachers throughout the US meant I would not be hired.  Would it have made a difference if I’d stayed in California?  No, I was told they laid off twenty teachers at my old school, some with fourteen years tenure in that district, so I was surely on the chopping block if I’d stayed.

Our first summer here passed quickly and I didn’t get hired.  The first day of school came, and as we drove by on the highway I could see all the bright faces.  I saw the children wearing their shiny new shoes and new clothes.  There were parents holding hands with their children and walking them into their classrooms.  The teachers looked rested and excited for the new school year.  It was wonderful and I wasn’t to be a part of it.  I cried.

That was three years ago and I feel blessed.  I still don’t have a job, but I have a home that is paid for by the sale of our home in California.  Our bills are paid, Bob makes the same wage as he did there, and that makes all the difference.  We watch our pennies and we are OK!

I have adjusted to not being a teacher, but Oh do I miss it.  And yet, I feel I gained much from the experiences of helping my students to grow and learn.  To be honest, I grew and learned as much from them as they did me.

And so it is, that I feel a connection to the Rain Lily Steve shared with us on his site.  Though my career was short as a teacher,  I drank it in, blossomed, cast seeds then faded.


the beauty of my time in teaching remains.


If you would like to see more of Steve Schwartzman’s beautiful work, then please visit his website Portraits of Wildflowers .


Thank you Steve for allowing me to illustrate my story with your lovely photographs.