Tuesday, January 24, 2012

mind to page

 pencil to paper, fingers to keys, and font to screen

    I was having a great time reading Fountain of Swans.  I hadn't worked on the draft directly in years. It was fun reading it like a reader, rather than like someone struggling to write it. Sure I noticed things like missing details, merely suggested sections, and areas of suckitude, but I was also totally caught up in the story; excited to be on this ride, this journey. There were scenes I had forgotten, and the words I used to frame ideas surprised me (that doesn't happen with Echo. I've worked on it for so many years, that when I change something the original words reverberate back to me. I don't get caught up when I read it, I get stressed out.). It all went along nicely until I hit page 88, which is where the story suddenly ended, even though it wasn't at its end. Like a reader who bought a book that was missing its ending I was flabbergasted. What the....where is my ending?
  I knew the ending, I knew I had written all this stuff down.. somewhere...oh goodness..all that information...all those ideas..they can't be lost....they have to be somewhere. Where? Oh the mental meltdown as I searched through my computer note pages- the information wasn't there. Ugh. Upstairs to the lair of everything, scooping up piles of notebooks, knowing there are forty of them I might be forced to slosh through. First ten nothing, and obviously not the right sources. Searching high and low, oh not long ago, it was all in piles on the floor according to what it went with, but then I thought I should clean the floor- so now where was everything?
Ah finally I found the right ten notebooks, flipped through them, found a couple of pages in one...then in the official FoS notebook (duh) finally the lost information was found-but of course it was written in my less coherent than chicken scratch style (OMG what if I have found it but can't read it, so it is still lost to me). But wait- every page has a big check in the side margins- which is what I do when I type a page up. So that means at some point it was on my computer. Okay found my back-up discs. Had to beg son to help me- my notes tried to lock me out saying I needed a password- but then finally my own words were opened back up to me. Hello old friends.
Now among many other things, I have found a drunk swan, and a boy with a club foot. But I am still missing some french monks, and a staircase hidden behind a mirror which leads to a secret room under the castle. I don't know if I should keep searching for them,  or try to re-imagine them, or just let them go. Do I need them, do I want them, is something missing without them?  I don't know yet.
Right now I am busy inserting my found information in the correct locations, and then reading through the parts to make sure they work together. A lot more work than reading as a bystander, a lot more writing too.
So far I am enjoying it though. And the best part is I am playing hopscotch, jumping back and forth between FoS and Echo. At times my inability to stay completely focused and see one thing through has upset me- but right now I'll let it be- for this is how I feel safest- hiding from one in the other. And as long as I am seeking shelter from stress over one, in words and pages of the other, then I am writing. And both are moving forward.
My not feeling well before- has led me to realize that this matters to me. These stories I want to finish. What if I don't have tomorrow? What if I am still here but unable physically to write? I don't want this left undone. I want Koji to exist in the world with or without me (and the other characters and stories whisper, "me too."). I have surrendered the idea of making any sort of living off of my stories, but I haven't surrendered the idea of having them mean something to someone. Someone other than me. Whenever I fall, tomorrow, fifty, sixty years from now, I want them to be in a place, to have a chance to go on, without me.
Besides my son, my husband, and the patch of earth I try to bring forth flowers in, I believe this, these stories, are my work, what I am to do. A thousand flowers set in my heart waiting to bloom.
And maybe they never will bloom. Both my gardening abilities and writing abilities are subject to failure- but this is how I have decided to perceive my life: trying to coax a thousand flowers to bloom.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

    I've decided to attempt a rewrite of Echo using third person. For some crazy reason I thought this would come naturally. By the second sentence where I had to replace I, I became angst ridden. Now having completed one paragraph I'm distraught. So, I'm going to modify my initial strategy, from complete rewrite, to simply going through a copy of the manuscript and changing it to third person. And then later going back through it and seeing if I can make it better. I really wanted to approach it with a different spirit. Koji is the narrator, and I wondered what it would be like instead to have a fairly limited omniscient narrator; one close to his shoulder, who carries some affection for him. A blanket of thought spread out around him for his paws to walk upon. I wont get that from merely making I, he. Maybe I will give it another day or so. Lean into it, re-imagine. Maybe I will have to just do a simple edit form of rewrite first, and then it will be easier for another tone to unfold. Or maybe he still just wants to tell the story himself. I don't know. I worry that this struggle is just a waste of time, and that I should focus instead on making the story stronger as it is. But I wont know until I try, and fail, and try some more. And I do feel the need to know this answer. It would solve some problems. Yeah, I'll do just the basic edit and see how it feels, then I'll know if I should spend the time and energy re-imagining/rewriting.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

                                            orchids- Longwood Gardens

    Regret. A word for big mistakes, and small oversights. I thought I was careful. My blunder, financial. When the doctor told me I should get an echocardiogram, I let them make the appointment. They named several nearby facilities, all having basically the same words in their names, just in different orders. I picked one on a road I am familiar with.

    I asked how much it would cost. The lady who made the appointment called my insurance company for me and tried to get this information. Fifteen minutes later, she gave up. I was told it shouldn't be too much and most insurance covers it.

    Of course I didn't let it go at that.  I went home and looked up my insurance info online. I had to add info and set up a password. I made sure the place I was going for the testing was covered by my insurance (in-network). And I found out that my insurance covers 80% of procedures-AFTER I reach my $1,400 deductible. But I still didn't know how much this procedure would cost me, so I called the facility and asked them. They didn't know how much it would cost and gave me the number for billing. Billing told me they couldn't give me a number- I told them my deductible and said I'm going to be paying for this out of pocket I need to know how much it is going to be. They said the number is so inflated they wont tell me because it isn't the number I would ever pay anyway. And then told me there are payment plans that can be set up to make it easier to pay.

    I didn't find any of that reassuring, so I called my insurance company. It took a while to weave through all the junk where I talked to a machine and said this or that and pushed this or that button, and several times it didn't like what I said, and made me repeat and pick something else, but eventually it connected me with an actual person. The person I reached quickly repeated all the info I had found online, 80%coverage after $1,400 deductible, and while I was in the middle of asking a question hung up on me.

   Alrighty-So I got to start the whole dialing and talking to a machine process all over again and tried to think of a different category for my question in hopes of getting to talk to a different person this time. Ah..a much better person, one who listens and then responds. She was very helpful, reassured me that echo bills come across her desk all the time, and no they aren't in the thousands but in the hundreds of dollars. And that there was a surplus of several hundred in our account (because we hardly ever use any of our health benifits) so it is possible that they would apply that to it, and I could end up paying nothing. She also helped me find the cost estimator on their website. And there I was able to see that my test would cost $200 dollars. Whew did I heave a sigh of relief. Okay I had all the info, it would be reasonable to have this test done.

    So imagine our shock when we got the bill. $3,219.68. After insurance adjustment-$1,290.64 due. What?????!!!!! I still can't believe it. I mean this was a 15 minute test, just ran the ultrasound thing over my chest area. We thought it must be a mistake. We had to wait several days because of New Years holiday to find out what was going on. My husband called our insurance ( he got to do the long talking to the machine process) but eventually I got on to ask the questions myself. I mentioned the cost estimator- she said it's an estimator not exact- I said, I get that but um $3,000 extra is more than a little off. I may have screamed that part. (I kept getting worked up and then having to bring myself back down again.) She said well it wasn't just a basic echo, it was 2d complete, and was recorded. (I didn't ask for it to be recorded, it didn't say anything special on the form, it was recorded so it could be looked at later because no doctor was there for it.). Okay I said so how much more does that sort of echo cost. She looked it up and then said, Oh. I said how much more- about $34 she said. I asked her why I was being charged so much. I told her I couldn't pay this much, I never would have had the test done if I had known it could cost this much. She said our insurance was applying some surplus account money to the charge so it should end up costing us about $700,  she didn't know why I was being charged so much but that it has to be paid- the insurance company has an agreement with the facility to pay a certain amount for a procedure- it is all about the code for that procedure, maybe this was a special code. I should call the facility and double check that the right code was put in.

  I call the facility. Again they switch me to billing department. Matter of fact tone, she scoffs at me. Like how could I ever be surprised over such a thing. I had my test done at a trauma center, of course it would cost me more than it would anywhere else. I said over a thousand dollars more? She said, "Oh yes. We don't do echos here for less than $2,000 and that is for a standard echo and you had a 2D complete and it was recorded" (lucky me.) Thinking of the future I asked her if this would also be true for an MRI. Yes, at least $1,000 more at a trauma center. She said I could call and ask the amount of one if I decided to have one (she said it like it was an easy and obvious thing to call and get a price. I felt like screaming that is what I tried to do for the echo! And no one would tell me _ _ _ _!) I then asked her if she had the adjusted bill saying we owe $700 now instead of $1,200+, she said no, it shows here you owe us the full amount. She told me I could set up a payment plan, and that I had 90 days to pay then it goes to a collection agency, and she hung up.

    Ugh. I felt so sick. I still can not believe this. I am desperately hoping (we are calling our insurance company back today) that it is at least the modified 700 number, the 1,290 number I can't even wrap my head around.

    Oh, and the fact that I tried so hard to find out how much this procedure would cost ahead of time, because I knew we couldn't afford much. And that I still messed up. I still made some stupid error that resulted in this cost. If I had known our local hospital was a trauma center and that, that made some sort of a difference I would have gone somewhere else. I didn't choose it specifically (I didn't even know the facility was within the hospital when the appointment was made.) it was just that it was on a street that I knew, thus was easy to find. I knew the hospital was on that road, but so are many medical and dental facilities.

    If only- one teeny tiny decision- here instead of there, and this would have been $34, or perhaps even free. And despite my efforts, it is my fault. I feel like I am robbing my family.

   But then I have to step back, remove myself from that space, from that heavy distraught feeling. I have to let it go. It hangs there, it doesn't dissipate, but I stand outside rather than within it.  It is done, this has happened, the situation is, what can I do now? Not make this mistake again. Not go to the writer's conference this year. Try to squeeze this money out of other areas of my life. Feeling distraught and sick over it, that wont help at all.

          -My heart is fine, normal. So if it wants to skip some beats, or thunder along for several seconds here and there no big. And both the perpetual exhaustion, and chest pain with exercise, are gone now. Because I am fine, I more regret the expenditure as it was all unnecessary, but ultimately if the test had been shown justified- abnormal results, um that would not be in any way comforting.
          -Possibly an upside- I now know beyond a shadow of a doubt that stress and anxiety do not make me feel any dizzier. It comes and goes whenever it feels like it, and to whatever degree, regardless of my state of mind.
         -Gee if I do get worse, I have now met my deductible- our year stops sometime in June- so I will have 80% coverage if I get an MRI, and I now know not to have one at the hospital. So that knocks at least $1,000 off the price right there. I don't intend to have one though. I'd have to be sure something was really terribly wrong (not just off) before I would get such a test. And I have every intention of being terrifically well instead.
        - I still couldn't resist putting pretty orchids at the top of this post. A.k.a, this is a sucky thing, I feel I have been treated ill. Allowed myself to be tricked, used. I have been a fool. We have worked hard to cut back on all our spending, yet I have offered up our resources unnecessarily. Stupid, stupid, stupid. But this isn't an insurmountable thing. Everything, anything, could so easily be much worse. Live and learn, I get more chances, today is a new day; and like Anne of Green Gables would say, it doesn't have any mistakes in it (yet). And I don't take simple things like movement, my ability to walk, or dance (when I can dance without feeling sick) for granted anymore. It is a fine and remarkable thing to be able to move about the world.

I apologize for the randomness through which I approached tense, swinging back and forth between present and past tense without regard. Ah to be freely reckless with something :) . Oh and I suppose I should apologize as well, vaguely, for the myriad of grammar-ish mistakes I am aware of but not going to take any time to attempt to fix. Really, as I am sure anyone could agree, been here writing this far too long already. I am not however inclined today to apologize for all the grammar-ish mistakes that I have made but am completely unaware of. No. I want to take a moment, and a few deep breaths, and not hold myself accountable, for being stupid, and unaware. A space to feel okay and free to not know, and not feel consequence. I do try to know better but I often don't. And rather than apologize to you, I am going to forgive myself for it.