Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Open enrollment time...

This is the time of the year when I am trying to finish up my flexible savings account money.  Also, it is time to renew or make changes in my benefits for the next year. At my current company, there is a lot of pressure to join a HSA plan. It is tempting: Funds roll over year after year and you do not have to spend them before December 31 like I am scrambling to do right now. Plus my employer contributes a nice amount per year.

Another selling point is that you may add more tax free money to it, you can even have it invested in something similar to an IRA account, and eventually when you retire you will have some nice savings to count on if you never needed them.

But you know what? That is what  401Ks and IRAs are for. Health insurance is something you pay for so that when you do get sick, you do not have to break the bank. And with a HSA you get to pay very high deductibles when you actually get sick.

Let us assume that I end up in the hospital with kidney stones in January of 2014, just like I did in January of 2011. My brand new HSA account would have no funds yet to cover the extremely high deductible. I know I could set up a reasonable payment plan until my HSA contributions caught up. But there is the catch:  the amount of money my employer would contribute to the HSA each year is less than the deductible.

Bottomline? HSA accounts work better for people who join when healthy, and manage to stay healthy for a few years before any major medical emergency. And while I consider myself to be reasonably healthy, I have seen an ER bill up close. Getting away with a $50 dollar co-pay was the only good thing about it.

The spouse wants me to really explore all possibilities before making a decision. And here it comes: One possibility is getting laid off. I survived the initial witch hunt but I am not confident I will still be working here a year from now. And, like I said, HSA accounts work best when you've accumulated a nice cushion over a few years.

While all this needs to be decided, I still have to go on a shopping spree and spend the last of my tax-free FSA dollars. On my shopping list: prescription steroid creams, disposable contact lenses and maybe another pair of prescription eyeglasses. Too bad over-the-counter drugs don't qualify anymore.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Taking care of myself

Not having any kids means I cannot expect anyone to take care of me in my old age. Of course, kids these days don't necessarily take care of their parents, as a friend pointed out, but, oh well. Meanwhile, I want to stay healthy.

My mother and sister have osteoporosis. They both had someone near them who called an ambulance when they had a fracture. I don't ever want to have a fracture, even if I could get some guarantee that I'd be picked up by an ambulance right away. So I had myself checked a few years ago and learned I had osteopenia. I was told I needed to do some weight bearing exercise in order to strengthen my bones and muscles.

I was doing Zumba back then. Not enough, the doctor said. Better than nothing, I thought.  I later started doing strength training with machines at the gym, along with some yoga now and then (still having problems with inversions). It's been a year now, doing all those three things, and I  feel stronger. Strong enough to try some real weight bearing. And so I joined a class called BodyPump.

Icono gestual levantador de pesas stock photographyLots of weightlifting there. Good for upper body strength, no? NO. It's my legs and butt that are hurting. Plus sorry, the music sucks. And they play it loud enough that it is difficult to understand whatever it is the instructor is yelling at you. Luckily, when I was doing something really stupid, someone came by and made sure I avoided serious injury.

It am trying to fit this into the "doing nice things for myself" category, but it eludes me. Yoga is calming, Zumba is fun, and even those boring machine exercises allow me to listen to podcasts while I work out. But BodyPump? Pure evil, if you ask me.

Nevertheless, having sore muscles in regions where I did not even know I had a muscle has piqued my curiosity, so of course I'll be back. If my butt stops hurting by next week, that is.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Changes, changes....

I am not good at dealing with changes. My strategy is to hide under the covers and wait until it is over.

So what is this post about? Restructuring. Per wikipedia,  "the act of reorganizing the legal, ownership, operational, or other structures of a company for the purpose of making it more profitable, or better organized for its present needs." In practice, it means jobs are lost.

I angrily wave my fist at the fates for letting me accept a job that was bound to be restructured less than a year after I started. I'm still standing, albeit I am now a part-timer. And the Sword of Damocles is still hanging above my head.

It is not a problem from an economic standpoint, but very frustrating career wise. What is my thing? I am not a mother, I am not a career woman. What else is there? On my days off, I scrub and mop and walk the dog and run errands and take the car to service. I go to the gym, I take German classes. I play the piano. I knit. I read. I watch documentaries. I put up with suggestions about going to grad school, volunteering, getting a second job, finding a better one, learning a new hobbie, fostering, adopting, rescuing another dog.

I don't want suggestions. I just want to be able to answer, when I get asked what I do, that I actually do something significant.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


I was asked if I might want to talk to a couple that had  lost their twin babies in their second trimester.

I did not want to talk to them, but I felt I had to. We come from the same country and speak the same language. I wish I had had someone to talk to in my own language when I went through infertility and miscarriage. And so, I went and talked to them. It did not feel good. It was sad and discouraging and overall extremely depressing, but they seemed to be grateful I was there for them, listening, sharing and crying with them.

Unlike me, they are citizens, and are legally allowed to adopt. But they decided to try foster care first. This was before their attempt at IVF that resulted in pregnancy and miscarriage.

Well, foster care did not work out for them. They got a five year old with fetal alcohol syndrome who was extremely violent and difficult to deal with. They were constantly pestered by their three social workers, each with a particular point of view and interests. They found it extremely hard to keep up with the state's expectations on the child's care and what they were actually able to provide with the stipend they were given. They needed a tutor and a babysitter, and the child needed constant appointments with doctors, nutritionists, speech therapists etc, all of them exerting pressure on the couple, setting up goals that were unattainable and making them feel under too much pressure. After a few months, the state decided to give the birth mother yet another chance and the child was taken away from them. In spite of all the problems this child had brought into their lives, their hearts were broken, and they decided never to do it again.

And so, they moved on to IVF.

I did not know what to say. But then, there is nothing you can say that can cheer anyone up after a story like this. At least that much I know.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The third miscarriage

I  never talked about it. In fact, the only other person that knows is the spouse, and I think he seriously doubts it really happened. Me too, because it was kind of surreal, and that it happened when we were not even trying to get pregnant. I'd been off the pill though, with my period more or less coming once in a while but without me really tracking it. And then it did not come for almost two months, and when it came, it came with a vengeance, that is, with heavy bleeding, some weird membranes and some cramps.

I was numb. I examined the membranes without really wanting to, and then I threw everything in the toilet and decided to go back on the pill. I tried very hard to forget it and not talk about it.

Still, today, with a friend, I talked about  my three miscarriages, not my two miscarriages... so I guess deep down I am really counting the incident as a third miscarriage. But does it  really count? I guess I will never know. It cannot be good, when something like this happens and you just brush it off and ignore it for months.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A new milestone

Guess who walked into a Babies R' Us today and actually enjoyed her shopping experience? Well, perhaps  enjoy is an exaggeration, but at least I did not hate it as much as I expected. I am sooo proud of myself... I bought a layette, a tiny dress and a couple of bibs, one of which is embroidered with two flowery owls and it says: "I love my Aunt".

All these are gifts for my sister in law, whose baby was born today. I am green with envy and crying with relief at the same time. Please note that I did not buy a single gift until the baby was born. This was a scary pregnancy with several ER visits and many months under the equivalent of house arrest, culminating with a C-section. I know a healthy baby is the best gift ever, and all my sister in law was hoping for. Still, knowing how horribly wrong this could  have ended, because I've been there myself, I feel that the mother really deserves something special. Any ideas?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Not loving myself lately...

People who are never depressed think depression is something you can easily snap out of. As if being depressed were something you were doing to yourself.

Well, I'm doing everything I'm supposed to be doing. I'm exercising, I'm eating well, I keep up with my hobbies... The only part that I'm finding very difficult is having a social life.

I tried to join a knitting group a few months ago, but decided it was not for me. A lot of knitting women are stay at home moms who knit too many baby items. They also talk a lot about their kids.

Did I mention before that I joined a book club? The books we read are good, but half the women in that club never read them, and those that do complain a lot about how horrible, ugly, difficult, boring, disgusting etc. the books are. Then they talk about their kids.

There's one other social activity I actually enjoy much more, since it involves practicing a foreign language in a small group, mostly retired seniors. I showed up today, pretending everything is normal, and someone said: "Oh my God, are you OK? What happened to your face?" I've been trying to ignore the mirror lately, but I guess my eczema is getting really out of control. Then again, it gave me the opportunity to make it clear that it's OK to sit next to me because it is not contagious.

I came home and cried a lot, which only made my eczema worse. But it also made me realize that mothers obsessed with their children don't give a shit about somebody else's face and hands being covered by red, scaly patches. Maybe for now I should stick with women who'd rather talk about their kids, and not about how ugly and disgusting my face looks.