A long time ago, I came across a saying, attributed to a Nantucket sea captain. It went something like this: Most people don’t care about your troubles, and the rest are damn glad of them.

Tribulations. That’s what’s kept me away from this blog since…erm…some time.

I am responsible for handling my elderly mother’s financial matters. It fell on me, as the only child living here, though my father did everything he could to make sure the passage from his hands to mine would be smooth and stress-free.


He organized everything as best he could with the limited eyesight he had left.

He paid for a funeral, though we never did locate the proof he’d given the funeral director a check for $5000. When he died, we had to pay everything, which, because my Dad was a meticulous and money-wise guy, was no burden on my mother.

Odd how we are told to retain records seven years in case the Internal Revenue wants to squeeze us one last time. That always was my understanding anyway.

Yet my Mom and Dad’s bank retains records five years, which proved to be a few months after the check my Dad thought he’d written to the funeral director was written. My brother and sisters, when they visited, helped me by going through the piles of paper and checks trying to find anything that proved the case. Nothing.

Then, in the stress of my Dad’s passing, I retired. Not connected, just coincidental.

In the jumble of papers regarding my retirement, I was receiving another jumble from various insurance companies requesting proof that my Dad was dead.

I put it bluntly. They had verification from Social Security that he was off the list because of death or I wouldn’t have heard from them. I learned this later when a couple annuities I didn’t know about sent out letters saying my mother had to respond to the request for proof of her relationship to Dad and of his death, in the form of yet another death certificate ($6.00 per copy) from the State of Nebraska, proving what we barely had time to absorb: Dad is dead.


Yeah, yeah! Insurance fraud is a big deal, and it increases the cost of insurance. Blah-blah-blah.

“Just give her the f’ing money!” I’d scream at the walls as I tried to pull together all the signatures and paperwork required for Mom to get what was HER money, not the damn insurance companies’.

Of course, the more circuitous the path, the more vulnerable the people involved in trying to retrieve necessary money from these bandits, the longer the insurance companies had the money to make money through their investments. How’s that for insurance fraud!

Yeah, yeah! It’s money made legally. It just has a taint of immorality about it, the stench of blackened corporate souls. Oh. Corporations don’t have souls. Right! So they can do anything the SEC or whatever agency regulates their business deems OK- until the whole rotten pile falls, and the world has fallen into an economic collapse, such as we saw in other parts of the economy in the past couple, three years. Don’t let me get started!

I finally (I think) managed to stumble my way through Mom’s insurance and care center payment issues (all the time dealing with a major one of my own), barely closing the door on the hungry wolves of the billing department of the care center where she lives.

She’s allowed to keep $4000 in assets under the rules of Medicaid. Her application wouldn’t go through until I could establish for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services that two annuities she receives money from are for her life, that nothing will be there to inherit.

By the time the insurance companies coughed up the information needed, weeks after the request, I had to pay Mom’s January health care bill of $6343.61 or the billing department was going to get rough, really rough with me. That also took her below $4000 in assets, something I was told not to let happen.

What was I to do? They won’t throw Mom out on the street, but I apparently am the “guarantor”, which I take to mean, “The person who will end up f’ed if the money isn’t turned over. NOW!”

(Gad, don’t you wonder if the people in the upper 10% have to grovel and suffer these indignities in their own way, or do they just pay someone to grovel and suffer indignities for them. I feel more like a socialist the older I get, the closer my association with people with financial and political power.)

Oh, yes, the billing department of the care center also wanted their money for February, though I’d told them the application for Medicaid was in process. They sent me a letter. Blah-blah-blah…. I call this sort of letter a “…then we hold your children hostage and kill your dog” letter.

Very sensitive. Yeah.

I called Mom’s caseworker at Health and Human Services about the application. Seems Mom’s bank changed the rules about how outside agencies such as HHS had to request financial information, so the request had to be resubmitted using the new form, I suppose. It’s always paper in this litigious country, the United States of America. If it isn’t a new form, it is an old form: those yummy pieces of paper with Founding Fathers and dead Presidents on them.

As Judge Judy says, if you want to find the bad guys, follow the money trail. That’s a paraphrase, but how true.

It so happened that Mom’s caseworker received several of the new applications back from the bank that morning. Mom’s was with them. She quickly resolved the matter, allowed for payment of Mom’s care center bill back to January, sent me the verification, answered a question or two for billing at the care center, and Mom was once again a welcome part of the residents, not some piece of refuse to be bartered over. Bastards.

Postscript. My Dad lived in the care center from the end of August 2004 until his death on Election Day, November 4, 2008. Every penny of his care came from funds and savings he and Mom put together in their working and early retirement years. Mom went into the care center in November of 2007. Until October of 2009, all her expenses were paid by her and Dad’s hard work and smart investing. Medicaid paid from October 2009 until October 2010 (I think…too tired at this point to verify.)

I detailed in another blog how an annuity I was unaware of and a clerical error at Blue Cross Blue Shield Nebraska (they continued to take a premium payment for a dead man’s health care insurance for two years…because they hadn’t attached a Social Security Number to his account that would have flagged it when they got a roster of the newly deceased removed from Social Security), and the nightmare that was to resolve. The money from these two accounts paid Mom’s care center bill for three, maybe four months after I told Health and Human Services about them so they could stop the help they gave.

All of those months at almost $5000 to a little over $5000 for Dad at the first to almost $6000 to slightly over $6000 add up. When both were in there together, they paid over $10,000 a month for both. They bought a wing to that care center! No kidding. They spent over $300,000 of their own resources to occupy a double room (Dad, though the last year his roommate was Mom) or a single (Mom, after Dad died and we decided she was going to go out in comfort one way or another).

The lady in charge of resident welfare says I should feel proud of Mom and Dad that they were able to provide for themselves this well in their last years.

Yeah. I’m trying to feel proud. I know they would have wanted to donate a nice sum of money to the church at the end of their lives. I know they wanted their children to get something from them at the end of their lives. Their children wanted them to spend their money on themselves, so the lack of an inheritance is no issue, but I still feel bad that the church won’t get anything. It was a big part of their lives.

Dad didn’t want to die in a care center or a hospital. He was content, though, once he reached a point where he was unable to do things for himself, to live there. Of course, Mom and I visited him daily and ate one or more meals a week with him. Sometimes, when we were up to it, we’d have Dad over to visit us since we were half a block away. (I had some serious health issues in 2007 that wiped out having Dad over at the apartment.)

Mom is content over there. She is waited on hand and foot. (At the charge per month, I encourage her to insist on it.) I visit her nearly every day, and we watch “Down Home with the Neelys” and “Judge Judy”, our routine.

Me? I’m trying to get past these tribulations. It is sick. I feel tainted by the issues of money and the people whose lives are centered on taking it from others. I use the Lenten season to work off grudges. More than any other Lenten season, I pray I get past the hate and resentment I have come to feel for the insurance and care center money people. It is a sickness that consumes me and leaves an empty shell.

WWJD? If I were Jesus, which I am not. What would Jesus want me to do, is a better question. It is my Lenten quest to find out.

forgotten promises

We all do it. Make a promise, then forget it.

That’s OK, I suppose, among very good friends, friends who overlook transgressions those outside the circle regard as hopelessly impossible circumstances, a reason for judgment, a sure fire cause for cessation of the acquaintance. People!

What, then, if the promise is a Lenten promise, one, in essence, to God?

That’s where I am just now. If you go back to the start of these blogs, you see one that has to do with patience with others whose driving habits DRIVE YOU CRAZY.

The stupid cows! You know who you are! You drive 20 in a 35 mph zone! You signal turns by applying your brakes! OR you signal two clicks of your turn signal before you turn, but I’ve been waiting a HEN (my late father’s all-pupose cleaned-up curse world, bless his soul!) LONG time for you to cross the intersection so I can turn onto the road where you drive. Get the point? If I knew you were turning right on my street, I could turn right on your street. Traffic would move efficiently, smoothly, at the speed it would move if YOU WEREN’T A STUPID COW! Or SOB. Or, well names that are imaginative and deny you your humanity.

The conclusion I drew, in that earlier blog, was that I’d achieved a level of maturity where I realized the driving behaviors of others- the ones that didn’t kill or maim me, at least- didn’t make much difference in time it took to drive from one side of the small town where I live to the other, so I just grinned and didn’t let these behaviors bother me any more.

Almost a year later, however, I realized that not only did the driving behaviors no longer bother me any more, they sure as hell didn’t bother me any LESS, you STUPID SLUT COW! Use that turn signal. It came standard with the pickup. Yeah! Drive the speed limit. Pu-leeze!! SLUT COW!

What happened?

I do not know. So I made examination of the hate and discontent with other drivers my Lenten challenge. It worked, after three solid years, on grudges. Lent is the start of the process for me, the trial run, the promises made time, the prayerful examination of myself in a Christian context time. Tedious to you non-Christians, I know, but this is one of those things we flog ourselves about, if we use the time more constructively than “I will give up televison”- or “I will give up chocolates”-variety of Lenten challenge.

During Lent, those forty days, I examine myself prayerfully, devise means to extricate myself from a private hell, make myself more presentable to our Heavenly Father when the time comes. “Jesus was sacrificed on a cross for you, so how did you adjust your life to reflect you understanding of his sacrifice for you?


No, no, NO! He loves you regardless of your lame efforts to walk with Jesus. Even those you call slut cows. We all are his children. Yeah. Even the slut cows. Yep! Them, too.

It’s going to be a long Lent this year. So far I’ve failed miserably to address this afflication. Perhaps Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services will shame me into a serious effort: I am very moved by these two days in the liturgical calendar.

I don’t know. If you are inclined, please pray for me. I need healing.

Thank you.


end abuse

This entry has a religious content that may be offensive to non-Christians or non-believers. That’s fair warning, I think. More than any other entry I’ve written, this one touches on matters of my faith. As such, I hope it burns brightly with the guidance of the Holy Spirit

I have strong feelings about what should be done to people who abuse spouses or children, their own or not. I suppose it is rooted in my Christian faith, the Golden Rule, yet people from other backgrounds and faiths stand with me: spousal and child abuse must end, and the perpetrators must be dealt with severely. Death? No, that they be removed from decent society. Forever.

I am concerned that that statement has an internal contradiction. Shouldn’t I love the sinner, if not the crime? As a Christian, that’s the path I am committed to, yet…!

I pray for the victims I know of, of course, adult or child. Those that appear in the paper, at any rate, as part of the summary of District Court proceedings, I pray for. I pray for those I learn of because a victim comes to ask for prayers of my Prayer Team partner and me after church. I pray that I always remember to ask the right questions before that victim leaves the prayer room: Have you talked with the pastor about this? If not, will you? And so on. Abuse is a complex issue that needs a gentle, accurate, and sensitive course of action.

How can prayer help? To those without faith or a different sense of prayer, the answer may be it doesn’t help, it can’t help, it’s a waste of time.

To those of faith, the answer is prayer is a living conversation with Our Heavenly Father, that He hears our prayers, and those prayers are answered in ways with many times we miss if our ability to discern the answer is clouded by doubt, non-belief, naysayers in the victim’s circle of support. Or discerned in changes in the way people respond to the situation that brought about the prayer. Just as we don’t always get what we want on this plane, we think we know what’s best for us when we approach the Lord in prayer, ignoring the possibility that He has a different direction in mind for our lives. If we can discern it.

Another way prayer helps is to unload a terrible burden Our Lord, on the shoulders of others, if only for a few quiet moments in the prayer room. Typically, those on the Prayer Team assignment for any given week continue to offer support and prayers for those who sought prayer from them. It’s the humane and Christian thing to do. It’s a way of restoring some small corner of a victim’s life, one where people offer hope, not destroy self-worth and offer nothing but despair. It’s a light touch on the shoulder, a hug, a reassurance that the victim isn’t the cause of the abuse.

In all this prayer, too often, in my anger, I forget the most important prayer: for the abusers. It also is the most difficult because of my williness to judge, not forgive, to hate, to fall outside of Christian love and forgiveness.

But I try.

And I ask God to forgive me, too, for my hard heart, to guide me toward acceptance of His wisdom and ultimate judgement of us each, including the abusers in this life.

faith, the other kind

I have faith. I am, in fact, an elder in the local Presbyterian church. But that’s not the type of faith I’m writing about today.

A few weeks ago, I received a small box in the post. It isn’t that unusual that I receive such boxes, but I was curious to open it to find what I’d ordered this time. I slit the tape sealing the box and opened the flaps, expecting music CDs, perhaps movie DVDs, because the box proportions suggested those treasures might be inside!

I cleared the packing away, and looked down in shock. Horror? Instead of something lovely, like a new J.S. Bach CD, the treasure turned out to be… three shrunken, black, organic somethings, the nature of which I could not guess. Then I found the packing slip under the black, mummified remains. Rhubarb! I’d forgotten I’d ordered rhubarb last fall, and these three scary things were it!

I have a rare form of vasculitis (Wegener’s granulomatosis) that nearly killed my body five years ago, but rekindled my faith, the first kind. Since then, the path to recovery left me less able to do gardening at first, though the strength needed (and a move from a house to an apartment, where the garden is much smaller) has returned mostly. I can do such things as plant tomatoes, if I wish, or lots of flowers (which I always have around me), or dried out, mummified rhubarb starts.

That’s where the other kind of faith comes in. To look at the starts, I would guess the best place for them would be the compost heap, if I had one, or the trash. Yet I have received such unpromising “bare root” packages before that turned into magnificent roses, lavender, grapes that were ambrosia and nectar in one, right off the vine! “I dunno,” I thought, because the “bare root” rhubarb starts looked, umm, unpromising!

I put the rhubarb starts in a plastic tub I’d filled to the top with water. “Over night” is the usual time you soak “bare root” starts, but I couldn’t imagine a week of soaking doing much to revive these specimens! I checked the next morning, decided to soak them 24 more hours. At the end of 24 hours, I checked for: 1. any sign of life, and, 2. any indication of which end was up because the starts, in the mummified state, didn’t give many clues. Both questions answered, at last! One end showed growth that suggested the top to me, even if the little shoots almost looked like roots.

Maybe another night’s soak would sort out the ambiguity….Which it did! The rooty-looking sprouts turned out to be the start of stalks. That’s all I need to plant the starts, which I did this morning after preparing the ground with lots of organic matter and rich, loamy garden soil, the way rhubarb likes it.

I told you this was about faith. It is! Gardening is an act of faith, a belief that working the soil to create a perfect environment for the flowers, fruits, and vegetables you like and want to grow will result in a harvest- in time, the Lord willing, and if you have faith, the other kind!