Monday, September 28, 2009

Weekend Getaway

I had the privilege of spending this last weekend in Denver/Estes Park, Colorado with two very special friends. We found each other through the message board and our blogs and have been in touch via phone, email and blogs for the last year or so.  We finally decided it was time to meet each other in person, so Karen (from Maryland) and I headed to Denver to spend this past weekend with Jen.  Unfortunately, Jen was very sick and wasn't able to get away with us to Estes Park.  But, it was a nice weekend spending time with Karen and just relaxing and taking in the Fall colors of the Colorado Rockies.  The weather was perfect!

Jen lent us her car for the drive to Estes Park. When we returned her car on Sunday, we were able to spend some time with Jen.  Faith was sick too, so I only got a short peek of her, but she did flash me a big, beautiful smile before she fell asleep.  We also got to meet Jen's husband and Faith's daddy, Brian.  It was a great weekend and we are sorry that Jen was too sick to spend it with us, but one can never plan when they are going to get sick!

Me, Jen and Karen
(Jen wore a mask the whole time except for this picture - she was so worried she would get us sick).

And this picture is for Karen .... we finally got the freaking rock cracked.  Eric was disappointed that there wasn't a precious stone inside that would earn him millions! :)

(this was a geode I brought Eric back from Colorado)

It's back to the grindstone this week, but it's a short week for me.  Mary and I leave on Friday for Rochester, NY to visit Hilary for the weekend.  For someone who hates to fly, I'm doing a heck of lot of it lately.  All I can think of when I'm on the plane is "H1N1"  Eeekkk!!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Happy Wednesday!

Nothing like starting your day off with waffles, chocolate milk and Diary of a Wimpy Kid. It doesn't get any better than that!

Have a fabulous WednesDAY!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Fall has come to the Jungle

Fall has not arrived here in Arizona, but it has made its way to a certain jungle located in these parts.  It's still 100 degrees here in the desert, so Fall is no where near showing its face. But, you'll get no complaints from me - it's the price we pay for the beautiful "Winters" we get while most of the country is dealing with ice, snow and windchill.

Although, I have to admit ... I love the Fall (and the Starbucks Pumpkin Lattes that come along with it!) So, I thought it would be fun to bring a little Fall to Jack's room.

I'll get to experience Fall the next two weekends, as I'll be out of town visiting friends and Hilary in much cooler parts of the country. But, this is about as much Fall as Jack will see this year. Pathetic, I know.

Have a great week everyone.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Time and Experience

As a shuffle through a week's worth of mail on the kitchen counter, I find scattered in with the junk mail and bills an envelope with Jack's name on it.  I've learned not to throw anything away without opening it first because everything looks like junk mail these days.  Sure enough, the letter is from a collection agency.  My friends at Apria sent us to collections for 21 freaking dollars! This company that collects at least $3000 a month from us for Jack's equipment and supplies, sends us to collections for $21. Ridiculous!

But that's not the point of this post.

Five years ago a letter from a collection agency would have enraged me.  My "fight or flight" response would have kicked into high gear and my response would have been 110% fight.  I would have picked up the phone, cursing the entire time I was on hold and then likely yelled at the person on the other end who had the audacity to call me "Ma'am". (You know that condescending tone I'm referring to.)  I would have furiously pounded out a letter to Apria threatening legal action if they didn't remove my account from collections. I would have stewed all night about the injustice of it all, and then rushed into the office to fax the letter off to Apria first thing in the morning.

I would have done that . . . five years ago.

Now, I simply tuck the letter into my "Personal" folder that I shuffle back and forth between home and work every day.  My folder full of stuff that requires attention whenever I can find a few spare minutes here and there at work to deal with it. Today -- a good two weeks after it arrived in the mail -- I pulled out the letter.  I called Apria's billing department.  I calmly explained to them that we have Medicaid as our secondary insurance and that not only do we not owe the $21, it's against the law to bill us for it.  I calmly explained that for reasons I don't understand, they (Apria) unilaterally changed the party they bill as our secondary insurance.  I calmly explained that we've been getting our respiratory equipment from them for over seven years and that we've always had Medicaid as our secondary, that they have always been paid by our Medicaid provider until recently when someone at Apria decided to change who they were billing as our secondary insurance.  Based on the clicking of the keyboard I was hearing through the phone, the person at the other end was furiously typing his notes as I was giving him my spiel.  At this point, my call had already been escalated to the next level. (Which likely means nothing more than that the person answering the phone didn't want to deal with me, so he put me on hold hoping the call would roll over to the person sitting next to him.)  I provided contact information for the person at the agency they are supposed to bill as our secondary, and I was assured that the matter would be handled expeditiously.  I calmly ended the call with "I won't hold my breath, but thank you for your help today".

Now what to do about the collection agency threatening nothing short of imprisonment if I don't cough up the $21?  (Okay, so that's a bit of an exaggeration.) As I look at the letter, I realize it's addressed to Jack.  I remember that the monthly billing statements from Apria are addressed to Jack, and when I call Apria's billing department, they ask for Jack's date of birth.  Everything is tied to Jack.  Fact is, Jack doesn't give a rip about his credit score.  And, while I recognize that I'm personally liable for my minor child's medical bills, I'm not going to sweat over the $21 allegedly owed to Apria or the collection letter.  I calmly put the letter back into the folder and cross it off my list of things to deal with.

Done.  Calmly.   No ranting, no raving, no high blood pressure or spitting nails.  A simple phone call, a simple explanation and the ability to LET.IT.GO after that.

It's amazing what time and experience gets you.  You learn that "it is what it is" and all the screaming and cursing in the world won't change it.  You learn that you are so not in control, and you learn not to sweat the small stuff -- and the majority of it is small stuff.

I've lived so much of the last (almost) eleven years in a constant state of urgency and anger, with a "my way or the highway" attitude. (Well, let's be honest, I've probably lived most of my life that way.) And certainly, I still have my moments and there are still those times when my "fight" response kicks in.

However, time and experience have tempered the anger and have brought to me patience, confidence and perspective.  All things that make for a much better -- and healthier -- way to approach each day.

And if you don't believe me .... just ask the guy at Apria.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Necklaces Are Now Available For Purchase

The Willow Tree necklaces are now available for purchase. (See sidebar)  The new website for The Willow Tree Foundation is not ready yet, but I ordered my first shipment of necklaces and keychains and I wanted to make them available for purchase now.  You can purchase using PayPal or if you want to pay by check, please make it payable to: The Willow Tree Foundation and send it to P.O. Box 13145, Chandler, AZ 85248.  If you are paying by check, you can get the price of the piece by clicking on the "Buy Now" button.  I only have a few necklaces on hand, so the first to order will get theirs the quickest.  I will order more from the designers as orders come in, but the turn around time will, obviously, be longer once I sell those I have on hand.  The second necklace is designed by Kristen's Custom Creations  and it's a beautiful necklace too.  Kristen's design can also be put on a bracelet or key chain - if you want one of those, email me and I'll get it ordered.  Selling items via PayPal is new to me, so I have no idea how this will work, but I'm told it's easy and painless. Just make sure I have your email in case I have to contact you.

Thank you everyone!

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

He Doesn't Want To Live On The Moon

Tonight Jack was watching one of his Sesame Street videos. Yes, I realize that a ten year old should be well beyond watching Sesame Street, but he really likes the music and singing.  Except for one song, apparently.  I was buzzing around Jack's room, getting him ready for bed, giving him his last can of food for the day and enjoying the singing right along with Jack. Then, the song "I Don't Want to Live on The Moon" comes on and I glance over and see this face:

Apparently, he doesn't want to live on the moon!  You can't help but wonder how much Jack really "gets" when you consider that he has never been able to communicate to us what is going on in that head of his.  Jack's body allows for very little self expression.  Even his ability to smile has been progressively affected because of the weakness in his facial muscles.  Yet, every once in a while he reacts so deeply to what he hears, and it's usually when he is listening to a song.  I'll never know what it was in the song "I Don't Want To Live On The Moon" that triggered the reaction I captured tonight, but these random moments of expression are a much needed reminder that a wise soul, with feelings and emotions, likes and dislikes, and a gentle spirit is very much alive in that silent and paralyzed body of Jack's.  I often wonder about the "why" of it all.  But, Jack continues to remind me that he is very much here and he understands a lot more than most people will ever give him credit for.

Here's the song, in case you want to hear it.

On a Hilary note  - she sent me a text today that went something like this "Because I'm not really fitting into my writing class, all the students just sign. It's likely I'll go into a new section. I think it's good for me, I just want to talk with others. Ok".

I can honestly say that I didn't think I'd ever see the day when Hilary would say that she "just wants to talk".  It makes me so happy that she's finally in a place where she is comfortable and willing to talk without worrying about what others will think.  

What a day.  All of it good.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Labor Day

Hope you aren't checking in for that certain "blog thought" I promised.  I didn't take get the opportunity to work on it this weekend.  It would have required me to sit down at my computer and think  . . . and labor.  It was Labor Day weekend after all, which I believe means that we are supposed to take a break from laboring, right?  I'll get it finished eventually, I promise.

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It's amazing how one particular seven year old can turn my entire house into his playroom.  It's insane, actually.  I miss having a basement.  When we lived in St. Louis, we confined the girls and all their thousands of pieces of Barbie paraphernalia to the basement. I have no place to confine Eric and all his crap stuff.  For example, today my family room was invaded by army men.

Eric somehow convinced Mark that he needed these army men because he certainly doesn't have enough toys to play with already. Or maybe, Eric wanted a reminder of his Uncle who is in the Army (Ohio National Guard) and who will be leaving shortly for Iraq for his second year long tour.  Except that Eric really has no clue who his Uncle is because he lives in Ohio and we don't see him too often. So, that's probably not it.

Whatever the reason, Eric managed to entertain himself for several hours with these guys, so I guess it was worth it.  They've all been neatly thrown packed away in their container for the night.  
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I promised Jack a trip out of his room this weekend.  Poor kid rarely gets out of his room, let alone his house (and yes, this fact is accompanied by much guilt).  We went for a walk around sunset, with camera in hand ... of course.

It was a typical, beautiful Arizona sunset.  And, just in case you are wondering, these pictures are of a neighborhood within walking distance from where we live.  We do not live in this neighborhood.  We live on the other side of the tracks street. But, it's nice to pretend on occasion. :)

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And for my friend Dana and anyone else who is wondering - Hilary is doing well.  She doesn't seem to be missing us at all! Her first official day of school was today (what's up with that!) She is beyond thrilled because she is on track to get into the school of film and animation next year (which is highly competitive) and she will spend this year taking classes to prepare her for the program.  I've already made reservations for Mary and I to fly out to see her the first weekend in October because that's her birthday.  I've also  booked her flight home for Thanksgiving.  I should own stock in Southwest Airlines with the amount of money I will be giving them over the next four years!

As always, thanks for checking in.  Have a fabulous rest of the week!

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I already posted this on FB, but I'll share it again here because it made me laugh out loud:

May those who love us, love us; and those who don't love us, may God turn their hearts; and if He doesn't turn their hearts, may He turn their ankles so we'll know them by their limping.
(Irish Blessing)

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Weekend Warrior

Just a typical Saturday morning in the Schrooten Jungle!

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Chugging Along

I suck. I promised more regular updates and I've not come through.  For those who continue to check in on us, I apologize.  As a blog stalker myself, I know how disappointing it is to check in for updates and see the same old post day after day.

I've been working on a "blog thought" the last few days, but I'm struggling to finish it.  Ironic, since it's about my "struggles".  In an effort to increase my hours of beauty sleep (because God knows I could use it), I'm making a real effort to get to bed before 11pm on week nights, which really cuts into my blogging time.  I promise a post worth reading (well, I suppose you'll have to decide that) by the end of the weekend.

Life continues to uneventfully chug along.  You know, same $#$^, different day.  Not that I'm complaining, because I'm not.

Enjoy your Labor Day weekend and think of Jack if you happen to tune in to the Jerry Lewis telethon.

Thanks for checking in.  I really mean that!

It's 10:45pm .... 15 minutes before I turn into a pumpkin! Gotta go :)