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Uncertainty

I wonder why we humans often get to thinking that the status quo is “static”? Isn’t it change that actually dominates our lives? No matter what our daily routines might be, something soon intervenes to shake things up a bit. My husband and I are experiencing some of those troublesome changes now.

Recently, Robin began having some unusual sensations in his brain. These “flutters” would last only a few seconds, but they were accompanied by a chill running down his body, a quick drop in pulse rate, and then after his pulse returned to normal, he would have some confusion and memory loss. Fortunately, the episodes have subsided now, but the “mushy head” condition is still with him.

We’ve been visiting our doctor and having various tests run. So far, brain scans and MRIs, as well as a Doppler test on the carotid arteries and a week’s reading with a heart Holter monitor, have not indicated anything too abnormal. One scan showed a small 8 mm lesion in the right frontal lobe of the brain, but we don’t know what might have caused that. Our next step will be to see a neurologist. Hopefully, we will get some answers soon.

We humans do not handle uncertainty well, do we? Not knowing what to expect is uncomfortable. We like to be able to plan for what is coming. But the truth is none of us knows what changes may be just around the corner.

Prayers for patience and a willingness to “go with the flow” can help us stay calm in the midst of uncertain times like these. Those of us who believe in a loving God can rest more easily when we remember that “we may not know what the future holds, but we know who holds the future.” That is indeed a comforting thought!

The weekend before Thanksgiving, Robin and I, our three children, their spouses and fiancée, a daughter-in-law’s mother, and our five grandchildren had a great time at the Buckhorn in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. We celebrated Thanksgiving and also exchanged our Christmas gifts—thus the name, “Thanksmas.” We’ve had Thanksmas many times through the years, but this was our first time to gather at a beautiful place in the mountains.

Early in the spring, our son Steve had reserved two rental houses for us at the Buckhorn, a favorite resort where he and his wife Tonya often go for “RWG’s”—romantic weekend getaways. They know the owners well, and we were able to get a big discount on our family’s weekend. We would spend Friday and Saturday nights and have delicious breakfasts furnished for us in the Buckhorn Inn’s private dining room on Saturday and Sunday mornings—all as part of our rental fees. Then we could have our own traditional Thanksgiving meal in the larger rental house on Saturday afternoon, and all of us would work together on that.

After breakfast on Saturday, I began my stint in the kitchen, first preparing a large cabbage slaw, which I placed in the fridge along with the chilled cranberry sauce. Then I peeled and cooked sweet potatoes for a sweet potato casserole. With only one small oven available, we had worked it out for me to bake my casserole first and place it in an insulated casserole carrier until dinnertime.

Next on the agenda, Mike, our daughter’s fiancée, emptied large cans of green beans into a crock pot to simmer. When he turned on the stove to sauté bacon and onions to go in the green beans, the burner’s drip pan under the heating element caught fire! It was so encrusted with grease that it flamed up, but Mike was quick on the draw. He slid the skillet off the burner, cut off the switch, and blew out the fire. Then he was able to continue frying on another burner. Later, I scrubbed off some of that caked-on grease from the first burner’s drip pan. No need for a future renter to deal with a similar fire!

Our daughter Sharon had prepared a large pan of cornbread dressing several days before our celebration, and she brought it already baked, but frozen, in an ice chest to the Buckhorn. That worked out great! We thawed it in the fridge overnight and, after the sweet potato casserole came out, we placed the dressing in the oven to heat for a while. The rolls baked last.

Tonya peeled and cooked potatoes for mashed potatoes, and she also made a scrumptious gravy, using a special recipe she had found online. Marty, our younger son, sliced the honey-baked ham and the smoked turkey he had brought from home, and Anna, his wife, set out the chocolate and pumpkin pies she had prepared ahead and brought to serve as dessert.

The staff at the Buckhorn brought in two long tables with folding chairs for us to set up in the large living room of the rental house, and they also furnished us with long white tablecloths and a set of fourteen dinner plates, dessert plates, glasses, cups and saucers, and silverware. They made sure that we had all that we needed.

When everything was ready, we all stood in a large circle, holding hands around our tables, and Steve offered a beautiful prayer, thanking God for our many blessings and for our family. Then we adjourned to the kitchen where we picked up our food, buffet-style. Everything tasted so good!  After our meal, we waited awhile before we had dessert, and we used that in-between time to enjoy several rituals we’ve been doing at Thanksmas through the years.

First, Marty read James Whitcomb Riley’s poem, “When the Frost is on the Punkin,” and we all chimed in together on the final line of each stanza: “When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.” This was a favorite poem of my dad’s, who was also a Hoosier, and he always read it at Thanksgiving.

Then Audrey, our oldest granddaughter, now seventeen, read her poem “The Night before Thanksmas.” This is a parody of “The Night before Christmas” that she wrote when she was only nine years old. It begins with this line: “Twas the night before Thanksmas when all through the house, not a creature was perkey, not even a turkey.” Fun!

After that, Maddie gave her annual ornament gift to each grandchild—angels for Audrey and Emily, a snowman for Libbey, a gingerbread woman for Lily Grace and a gingerbread man for Sam.

Finally, we opened all our Christmas gifts to each other. Maddie had also filled a stocking with small surprises for each one there, and Sharon, Tonya, and Anna had filled Maddie’s stocking with surprises too.

Times like these are so special, and they get even more precious as the years go by. Someday Robin and I will not be able to do these things with our family. However, we will always have this happy Thanksmas at the Buckhorn to remember.

I’m sure you and your loved ones have many happy memories too.

“Rainy days and Mondays always get me down.” Remember that old song by the Carpenters back in the 1970’s? Today the weekend’s events in Paris fill my heart with sorrow.

What causes some humans to lash out at other humans—to inflict death and destruction on those whose culture and beliefs are not their own? Where does that righteous desire to “cleanse the world” come from?

Now we in the “civilized world” believe we must retaliate to take out the extremists. Religious zealots must learn they cannot force their beliefs on others through terror. Justice must be done, we say.

However, let us remember—this is NOT a war on Islam. Millions of Muslims practice their beliefs in peace.

Those of you who read my last blog post about our aggravating situation with the drug insurance company will find this note of interest, I think.

Friday morning, Robin called the company again and talked with a woman higher up the chain of command. He confronted her about them NOT following their own clear guidelines in their formulary book about notifying their clients 60 days prior to any change in their formulary and also about NOT providing him with a 60-day supply of his medication on Friday, Oct. 16.

The woman told Robin that his drug was not on their formulary, but Robin insisted that it was. “You’ve already filled my prescription two times this year,” he said, “once in March and once in July.”

“I’m sorry, sir,” she said, “but your drug is not listed in our formulary.”

“I know it’s not on your formulary NOW since you withdrew it. But I do know it was on your formulary earlier this year. I received the drugs at the formulary price in March and July, and I have the receipts right here!” Robin’s voice began to rise a bit now from its calm and controlled tone.

“Sir, what I’m telling you is that your drug is NOT listed in our formulary for 2015.”

While Robin was on the phone, I went to our files, pulled out the 2015 formulary book, and searched the alphabetical index at the back.  Guess what? She was right! Robin’s drug was NOT on their 2015 formulary list!!! We had no idea, of course, because we’d been getting the drug with no problems. However, it must have gone off their list at the beginning of the year.

So now we have a new mystery. How did it happen that we were able to get the drug at the formulary discount two different times this year? Apparently, that was their mistake! Also, now we wonder what will happen to our request for “an emergency refill” that Robin’s doctor sent to the company?

Robin still has an appointment with his doctor on Tuesday to explore options for transferring from this drug to another one, and he’ll still have to have enough of his current medication to taper off safely. However, Robin did apologize to the drug insurance company rep he talked with.

What a crazy development this has turned out to be!

Frustrated and Mad

Every one of us has experienced a time when someone does something we think is unjust or unethical, something that completely ignores what is in our best interest. We want to strike out and make them stop!

Last Friday, I went to our pharmacy to pick up a prescription for Robin. “That’ll be $479,” the clerk said.

“What?” I couldn’t believe what I heard.

”Your drug insurance is no longer covering that,” she said. “It’s no longer on their formulary.”

“How can that be? How can they drop a medication in the middle of a contract year?”

“Well, all I know is that this is the cost now for a 30-day supply.”

I left it there and came home to talk with Robin.

On Monday, he contacted our Medicare Part D drug company. During a two-hour marathon, Robin explained to different people up a chain of command that he must have the drug. It’s necessary and one that he can’t just stop “cold turkey.” Even if he could switch to another drug to take its place, he’d have to have enough pills to taper off.

At last he talked with someone higher up who agreed that if Robin’s health care provider completed a form confirming that this was “an emergency situation,” they would work with him to provide the drug for him at the formulary cost the rest of this year.

Next he called his doctor and talked with his nurse. “They will be faxing you a form. Please let me know when you receive it.”

Tuesday we received no call, so Robin called again and left another message with the nurse.

Wednesday, he had still not heard from the nurse! Robin called once more, but he still sounded calm and polite. When he got off the phone, I fussed at him. “You should have upped your tone,” I said. “She needs to know how urgent this is. You only have enough pills to last until the end of this week!”

Thursday he finally got a hold of the nurse. She did receive the fax, she said, the doctor had signed it, and they were faxing it back to the drug company. She would call our pharmacy and ask them to sell us just enough for ten days.

Robin picked up those ten pills yesterday. Each one cost over $7.00. Meanwhile, we’re hoping that our drug company will be adjusting their actions toward us before those ten days run out.

Our drug company states in their formulary book that they will give a 60-day notice if they change their formulary in the middle of a year. Also, they state that if a client comes in for a refill of a drug that is no longer on their formulary, the client will be able to pick up a 60-day supply at the same cost. That has NOT been our experience!

We’ll continue to deal with all of this. Robin has an appointment with his doctor next week to discuss the possibility of transitioning to a different medication before the end of the year. And we will also be exploring the possibility of going with a different drug company for 2016.

What a frustrating and maddening situation this has been!

 

This morning at breakfast, Robin and I talked about today, September 26, being the birthday of our baby daughter, Sharon Ruth. We were absolutely thrilled when our third child was a girl. Not that we didn’t love our two boys—they were wonderful. But to have a little daughter was so exciting! Robin brought me a beautiful bouquet of yellow roses. And today, Sharon still brightens our lives, just like those roses!

September is a special month for many of you too– the onset of autumn, cooler days and nights, gorgeous foliage, college football.

Do you remember that old Mother Goose rhyme? “Thirty days hath September, April, June and November…” We talked about that this morning, too, but neither of us could remember the rest of the rhyme. I googled to find it. “February has twenty-eight alone. All the rest have thirty-one. Excepting leap year, that’s the time, When February’s days are twenty-nine.”

Many years ago back in the classroom, I taught my fourth graders another way to remember which months have 30 days or less and which have 31. Do you remember this little game?

Hold up your two fists. On the backs of your hands, begin pointing to each knuckle and valley between the knuckles, starting on one end and naming each month of the year. Your first knuckle is “January” having 31 days. Then the valley is “February” with 28 or 29 days. The second knuckle is “March”– 31 days– and the next valley is “April”–30 days. “May is the next knuckle, and “June” is the next valley. The last knuckle on one hand is “July.” When you begin counting on your other hand, the first knuckle is “August” having 31 days, and “September” is in the valley. You can continue that way right on to “December.”

Enjoy the rest of your “valley days” in September!

Love Story Photos

Here are a few photos from the weekend.  Thought you’d enjoy seeing these!  : )Sharon says YES, Sept. 12, 2015

“She said YES!”  Then the happy couple posed for the camera.

Sharon and Mike, Sept. 12, 2015

Sunday night, Sharon and Mike took Sharon’s girls, Libbey (13 years old)  and Emily (17 years old), out to celebrate.  Soon Sharon will have four sons and two more daughters!  What a crew that will be!

Mike and girls, Sept. 13, 2015

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