coming out of my shell

coming out of my shell

Friday, February 26, 2016

Cruel to be kind, in the right measure

Although there can still be the odd day in the mid-50's (Fahrenheit...), now there are an increasing number of days in Central Florida when the temperature hits the mid-70's. The deciduous trees remain stark and bare; no sign of leafing out yet, but it won't be long. Spring is definitely on its way.

The crepe myrtles in the neighborhood have been cropped cruelly hard, looking like massive sticks. They look terrible right now, but it had to be done. Proper pruning promotes new growth and keeps plants full and lush.

Crepe myrtle waiting for spring, and some azaleas beating them to the punch.
Those are live oaks in the background, they are called that because they don't lose their leaves in the winter.
When it comes to gardening, you have to be cruel to be kind, as the man sang back in 1979.

Once again it is time to work outside, pruning, moving, dividing, and planting. That is exactly what I have been doing all week. It feels good to be outside digging in the dirt again, knowing good times are ahead. Any minute there will be a surge of life and all those gnarly twigs and massive sticks will wake up, bursting open and showing us what they can do.

I have been looking forward to this gardening season. We are less Upstate New Yorkers and more Central Floridians now. It is human nature to acclimate over time. It happens if you live someplace long enough, even if you stubbornly don't want to change.

I have a better appreciation for this place and some idea of what will grow here. More to the point, I know what will NOT grow here. I learned the hard way. I guess I have been pruned back hard, too. I am anxious to see what I can do, once spring brings me back to life.

And yes, that is the fabulous Carlene Carter who married Nick Lowe in this video. 

Friday, February 19, 2016

Arm Wrestling

AAAAACK, what a morning.

T is going to a physical therapist for short term treatment. No big deal, right? If only it was simply about physical therapy; but no,
bureaucracy is involved. I swear people are becoming less willing to think for themselves as technology gets smarter.  

Don't get me wrong. I have great respect for bureaucracy. I realize bureaucracy is the basis of modern civilization and without it we would be subject to the whims of inbred, hereditary tribal strong-men. I just happen to think humans should run the bureaucracy instead of vice versa.

Apparently it is the responsibility of this clinic's receptionist to verify insurance when a client starts PT. In doing so, she made a simple mistake, noting in the computer file that we had a large deductible to be met before our insurance could kick in. In fact, our current insurance has no deductible for PT.  When T came back saying he had paid a large bill in cash at the front desk, I was "surprised."

I am the one in our relationship who deals with bureaucracy. It is what I did in my work-life. I cannot say I "like" dealing with bureaucracy, but I am comfortable navigating those murky damn waters.

I called the clinic billing office. The woman I talked to (let's call her Miss No) was adamant the notation in T's file proved there was a deductible. I tried to get her to hear what I was saying. She simply could not believe her computer screen was wrong. Interesting assumption.  

I quickly realized that instead of listening to what I was saying, Miss No assumed I was a dotty old hag who simply did not understand what a deductible was. If you are not an older person you may not fully understand how infuriating that stereotype is. But you will... 

As she calmly and painstakingly took the time to explain this great mystery called deductibles
I fantasized about reaching through the phone lines to wring her neck. I let her finish and then I calmly and painstakingly reiterated there is no deductible required for PT in our insurance policy.

I knew Miss No was going to get annoyed when I did not say "thank you" and hang up, but I couldn't.
We do not have the money to waste on a deductible that is not required. I also couldn't back down, because, well, I was right.

It was hard to convince her there "might" be an error. She was busy, probably overworked. Truthfully, I was sympathetic. I found myself hoping she was right and I was wrong so that I could hang up and leave her alone.

Sheesh, I hate when I do that - put other people's feelings and desires ahead of my own. Gloria Steinem would be SO pissed, and there is probably a special place in hell for women who get too tired to fight back. Luckily for my immortal soul I am a woman, W-O-M-A-N, and I just couldn't let it go.

Miss No wanted me to go away.
She hung tight to the idea that if there was a note in the file, then all was right with the world.
She said the receptionist had already verified my insurance and indicated the deductible based on what the insurance company said. Miss No was having a hard time understanding why I didn't accept that. In truth, I totally accepted what she said happened
, but I also knew there was an error. Why is that so hard to believe?

If a customer insists, you really should take a fresh look. It will go a long way towards making your customer feel valued, and it will prove what is right and what is wrong in a way the customer can accept. If you just try to shut the customer down, s/he is going to feel like you do not care and you have not listened. Which, by the way, will be true. And, of course, it works both ways.

Finally, I told Miss No she was probably right (big fat hairy lie on my part) but I was going to call the insurance company to make sure. That made her happy. She probably assumed she would never hear from me again

The insurance company quickly confirmed there was no deductible. I called Miss No back, left a message, and waited.

Eventually she called me back to say that she would have the receptionist call the insurance company to re-verify as well. Fair enough. Now we were cooking with gas!

Later in the morning I got a call from the receptionist, apologizing. She had been in error when she first verified our policy and left the note in the file. She seemed nervous, as if Miss No had chewed her out for making a mistake. Or maybe she was afraid I would yell at her? I was not angry with her in the least.

I support a person's right to be wrong. I do not mind mistakes being made unless they make me physically ill, or dead, or change the course of human events in a really bad and significant way. We all make mistakes. We are only human. That is how we learn. The person I was annoyed with was Miss No because I practically had to arm wrestle her to get her to take me seriously. It is hard not to take that personal.

By the time Artificial Intelligence is advanced enough to take over the world and replace humans with robots I think I might be ready for it. By then I will be much too old and feeble to win an arm wrestling match.

Sometimes we can't see the forest because of all the big-ass rocks that are blocking our view

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

I've got bagels!

We found a real live, honest to God BAGELRY in Central Florida! It is a dream come true.

We were on our way to see the manatees who huddle together at Blue Springs State Park where they spend what animals from this part of the world like to refer to as winter. T was driving and I was riding shot-gun. Now that I have discovered strip malls hold the secret to the Central Florida eating experience, I spend my travel time scanning an endless procession of strip malls (aka open air shopping areas stretched out in a line) for eating opps as we drive by.  I have come to realize the better eating joints are often in the older strip malls. The newer malls tend to house franchises. All of this is counterintuitive, I know, but I am learning. 

The magnificent "bagelry" sign caught my eye as we drove by a funky old strip mall alongside the highway. The mall itself was old and deteriorated.  I had to force myself to look at the stores, but there it was. I screamed "BAGELS" and T skillfully maneuvered to the extreme left of our three possible lanes and made the first U-turn he could so we could retrace our steps and check that sucker out.

The storefront has seen better days, and the inside has not been updated since about 1975. The signs describing the offerings were all handwritten on white paper with magic marker. It was, in a word, perfect! They sold bagels that are made at their main bagelry in Daytona, which is about an hour away from this sacred temple. They had 17 different kinds of bagels! I told you that if we were to find real bagels they would have to come from the Atlantic Ocean side of Florida! This bagelry also sells rugelach, black-and-white cookies, and potato knishes. Geez-O-Pete, I think I have died and gone to heaven.

You know a good bagelry when it is filled with crates of different kinds of bagels and you get to pick and choose what goes into your bag. After loading up, we ordered potato knishes to go, with spicy mustard of course. T ate his while he drove, which was a truly harrowing driving experience.  For me, anyway. He seemed more concerned about how much potato filling fell into his lap.

My breakfast this morning, a plain bagel with toasted cheese.  Life is good.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

When smoke gets in your eyes

It is always interesting when the same topic pops up all over the place and becomes a pattern or a theme. Anger has been discussed and/or displayed on a number of different, unrelated blogs lately, and people are going nuts with angry rants on social media.

Perhaps it's happening because it is February and cabin fever is getting to people? Or maybe because politics are so disrespectfully infuriating and in-our-face right now? Who knows? I don't. I only know anger is out there in full force and it gives me pause.

This post is going to be about anger but
I want to be clear. I am not writing about your anger, that's your business. I am writing about my own. 

I'm a bit of a hot head. I have a short fuse.  However,
I try to tread lightly around anger because I like it too much. I am not referring to bad temper, annoyance, or crankiness. Those things are interesting as well, but are not really "anger" in my book. I am thinking specifically about the kind of anger that is a reaction against an injustice.
You know, the kind of anger that turns red hot and makes smoke come out of your ears?

Anger is complex. It can also be comforting and seductively familiar. I could easily get stuck in an angry loop. I totally get that. However, being rip-snorting mad always makes me feel like crap once I come back down to earth. I
wish I could learn to manage my emotions better so my anger could work for me instead of against me.

Please note I said "manage" and not "eliminate."
Anger definitely has its place. I think of it like the good china, or the good scotch. You only bring it out when the situation warrants and absolutely nothing else will do.

Anger seems like the opposite of good, but it isn’t. Anger is an appropriate reaction to injustice. I mean, how is the universe going to hear us unless we yell really, really loud? Still, I don't want strong emotions to own me.

Quilt: Unresolved Emotional Themes

Saturday, February 6, 2016

True Colors

At the end of this month I am going to see Kinky Boots with my daughter and granddaughter. I have always liked Cyndi Lauper. The highlights of her career took place in my daughter's heyday, not mine. However, Cyndi is only 2 years younger than me. That always gave me pause and inspired me a bit.

There is great pressure on women to "act our age" and to live our lives according to age appropriate norms. She never allowed herself to be bullied in that way. I like that she retained her youthfulness and quirkiness. I like that she always promoted equality and acceptance. She has always been honest, genuine, and true to herself. That's why I love her.

Cyndi Lauper - True Colors (Live Letterman 1986) from You Tube