Monday, April 23, 2012


I started working two weeks after my last blog post. I guess miracles do happen. (not really) It was the best thing for me mentally and financially, although the pay is not what it should be it's enough for now and the company provides health insurance. (Hallelujah... not really) The biggest issue for us, still, is Andrew's health. Since we had to do without health insurance for 3 months he didn't get all the meds he needed to save his kidney transplant, that situation was already tenuous. So much money and time (and hope) went into his IV/IG treatments that it was all for not in the end. He finally did get that permanent position at Target, albeit it wasn't full time so there were no benefits to be had. By the time he was well into the swing of things at his job his health very quickly declined. We both saw it coming, though we never talked about it, there was nothing we could do about it. By December it was clear that the battle to save the kidney was lost. The rapid weight loss, the nausea and headaches were all to familiar to me, I knew. One Sunday evening he told me he was having difficulty breathing and felt pressure in his chest. "You know what that is don't you? You are having congestive heart failure. We should take you the ER." I didn't feel panicked, just more concerned. Panic is quite exhausting and I don't have the energy for it anymore. Of course, as is Andrew's way, he wanted to wait because "it wasn't that bad" and besides he could just ask the doctor about at his appointment in two days. This might not seem rational to, well, just about anybody, but there is little one can do when Andrew makes up his mind. He worked a full day the next day and went to his appointment on Tuesday. The doctor took one look at him and said, "You need to be in the hospital. You need to be put on dialysis right away, you are in congestive heart failure." Straight to the ER for Andrew and I was stuck home with the flu, and no car since he drove himself to the doctor. He spent the first night alone at the hospital. I found a way to get to him the next day and retrieve the car but he stayed for some four or five days. I had to tell the kids what was happening and let them know that daddy needed another kidney transplant. Gabi decided that she would research the age limit on donating your kidney to someone and she decided that it would be perfectly appropriate for her to give her dad one of her kidneys. We are not going there at this point. She's too young and we need to sort out the rest of our lives first. Andrew was unable to go back to work for a while as he adjusted to three day a week, three hour dialysis treatments. He looked great after the first few treatments and I saw a glimmer of the old Andrew. Unfortunately, he decided that he must return to his job and he immediately lost all his energy and his healthier look even though he was only working ten hours a week. He has constant joint pain and body aches now and I hardly see the point of exhausting his limited stamina for $80 a week. But again, little one can do when Andrew makes up his mind. Now we are forced into another barrage of tests to find the cause of these new ailments. The doctor mentioned something about rheumatoid arthritis (I doubt it) or something systemic or possibly a malignancy. Really? No tests done yet but we are already jumping to ridiculous conclusions. Sometimes, and remember this on your next doctor visit, sometimes these doctors are idiots. In the meantime, I try as best I can to manage the unnecessary and frivolous drama at work that some of these women create. I want to scream at them to get a grip. Some problems are real and some are just bullshit that you create in your own mind.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

What's going on...

Summer is over and somehow we made it through. To be honest, as each day passes I am not entirely sure how much more difficult things can get. But I get up everyday as if everything is fine and all I can do is push that perpetual scream back into the depths of my mind. No one is allowed to hear it but me. It's like a bee that's chasing you. But you have given up running away from it because you realize it's futile.

I am disheartened by how much the people in this country have come to despise one another. And the ridiculous irony of their death like grip on their religions and their flags. Because somehow it became patriotic to step on those who are less fortunate than you. That's America for you.

We are still living in this apartment and I hate it but I accept it. Andrew is still working at Target and although they have asked him to apply for a management position they are making him wait weeks until he gets an answer. Under the pressure of outrageous COBRA payments we were informed of an organization that might grant us some money to help make these payments. And in an unexpected turn of good luck we were granted some money. This of course was too good to be true. You need to actually have insurance to get the money and Anthem cancelled us on August 30. So, no money for us. And no insurance.

Gabi has walking pneumonia again as we find ourselves without insurance. I called our doctor's office to appeal to their sense of common decency. That phone call ended with me hanging up the phone on the condescending receptionist. Angry, but without another option, I called back and demanded that the receptionist take a message and ask the doctor to call me personally. She finally understood that there would be no getting rid of me and took the message.

The doctor actually called me. He has treated both me and the kids for pneumonia before. So he asked about her symptoms and then he called in a prescription. He is now my momentary hero.

The kids and I have resorted to selling our possessions to get our hands on some cash. I didn't tell them we didn't have enough money for rent but it was nice to see them learn how to be resourceful. They sold some of their stuff and used it for themselves and they seemed pretty proud of themselves.

I scrambled and sold an old coin collection and some jewelry I had been hanging on to for sentimental reasons. Sentimentality is a luxury when the refrigerator is empty. Thankfully it was enough to cover the portion of rent that we could just not scrape up.

I still write my freelance articles but the pay hardly justifies the work that goes into it. But it's still important for me to keep at it since it's great experience, and let's face it, it's the only money I have coming in right now. It also serves as a great outlet for me to talk about issues that are important to me even though it pisses a lot of people off. Though I'm not too bothered by what people think about me anymore.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Summer is just around the corner and we have been settled in our apartment for a little over 2 months now. It's a nice place, pool, tennis court and fitness center. Hopefully enough stuff to keep the kids busy so I don't wind up as a chauffeur for the entire summer.

The kitchen is dark and small which has caused me to lose all my passion for cooking right now. Or maybe its just the fact that the type of cooking I like to do is not affordable. Its a little depressing but its just where life is right now. The cupcakes are on hold because most of my stuff is in storage and I don't have a place to work right now. Mostly I just work on my writing since that endeavor has been slowly expanding.

Gabi quit soccer, much to Andrew's dismay. She has decided to run cross country at the high school instead. Andrew is going to concentrate on Drew's soccer team now and hopefully that will provide him with the outlet that he needs.

In the meantime he has been working on securing employment for himself and that has been a fruitless and frustrating challenge for him. Healthwise things are up in the air.

Things are not looking up around here so until next time...

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Oh where to start? So much has happened in the past few months. We did finally have to move. Landlord went a little batshit, harassing emails and irrational behavior was on his agenda this winter.

We are moving from our four bedroom rental home to a three bedroom apartment. Immediate action was required since medical costs have put a $10,000 dent in the savings that we are living off of, plus the small salary I get for my writing gig (Although I do love it!).

Living in an apartment will be an adjustment but worse things could have happened. But let's be honest, they still could happen. For today, for now, life is ok. Today, that is.

Right now we are staying in an extended stay hotel until our apartment is ready. It's interesting, two parents, two kids and two dogs living in a one bedroom suite. The kids have adjusted nicely, or as well as can be expected. It seems that this is an adventure to them. My son likes to go to the little "cupboard" they have here at the hotel where you can buy snacks, get free coffee and do your laundry. He walks down the hall every morning to get a cup of Joe, he doesn't even drink coffee. I think it makes him feel grown up, or he just likes free stuff.

I have noticed that the more challenging my life gets the more "friends" disappear from my life. This is an phenomenon that I have only experienced since living in Orange County. People love to regale you with their stories of their pain in the ass spouses, how they were dissed by other OC moms, how they didn't get the proper customer service at the spa or the Bloomingdale's make-up counter.

Ask them about politics or world issues and you might get that blank look coming back to you. "I don't have time to read or watch the news. But hey, isn't there a sale at South Coast Plaza this weekend?"

Don't tell them about your problems, that's off putting to them. Well, because its not about them. If you tell them, they will surely write you off. Only the struggles that directly affect them are worth their time. Just smile and listen, nod in agreement or share in their disdain for others, that's how you get by in the OC. That is if you give a shit.

I don't.

It's actually good to know who is worth your time once and for all.

Next week we move into our apartment. I can't wait to sleep in my own bed. I can't wait to eat a home cooked meal.

It seems (I hope) that Andrew's IV/IG treatment seem to be working. Just one more to go.

He picked up an infection in the hospital late January and was violently ill for about 6 weeks. It was quite a difficult time. An antibiotic induced infection, that's what they said. Of course, the only treatment was the antibiotic that made him sick in the first place.

Now three or so months later (and 28 lbs lighter) Andrew is still struggling with his recovery. There have been two blood transfusions on top of all of this. For some reason his body is not producing enough. Hematocrit is not what it should be and we are still waiting for answers on why that is. It makes the move that much more challenging as he is very weak.

My friend Claire brought her boyfriend over and they were lifesavers in terms of helping us pack and get out of the rental house in time. I don't know what we would have done without them. Before you start in on me about OC friends Claire is from the UK so OC mentality does not apply to her. Although, you can be from somewhere else and just assimilate, as most do.

Not sure what life has in store for us once we close this chapter but I am sure it won't be boring, it never is.

Some nights I pray for boring. It doesn't work, probably because I am an atheist, thank God!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Starting the Year off with a Bang?

Andrew is dealing once again with acute kidney rejection. The doctors say that the upside is acute rejection can be stopped with the right drug treatment. Of course, the downside is that we have to deal with this yet again. The drugs are outrageously expensive (last tally in the past 10 days has been about $2800). Difficult to manage when you are still out of work.

The drug therapy makes him feel ill. He is constantly cold and fatigued overall. His appetite is gone and he didn't eat all that much to begin with. Tomorrow we go back for another biopsy to see if the new treatment is working, he just had one two weeks ago. The doctors are monitoring him very closely with what feels like daily blood draws.

I went with him yesterday to see his nephrologist. Those two crack me up. Andrew and his doctor have quite a sarcastic dialogue whenever they meet. If you didn't know it you would think they were old college buddies with the ease in which they converse about such serious matters.

Andrew is not the most compliant patient. Not that he doesn't take care with his meds but he likes to remind the doctors that he is going to have the last word. If the doc wants an ultrasound or another test taken the following week, Andrew refuses. He will insist that he will take the test when he is good and ready, he will make them wait an extra week or two. I think it's his way of somehow feeling in control of what he knows is out of his hands. When dealing with more urgent issues, as we are now, he follows instructions without question, thankfully.

Right now the plan is to do monthly IVIG treatments for the next three months. It is a 20 hour intravenous infusion of gamma globulin. This should stop the body from rejecting the kidney. The pounding his immune system will take leaves him vulnerable to a myriad of complications. The protocol requires him to be on a battery of prophylactic antibacterial, anti fungal and antivirus meds.

Things get more complicated for a patient like Andrew because he is CMV negative in a world where 80% of the population, I believe, are CMV positive. To make it simple, most people are exposed to CMV by the time they reach adulthood and develop an antibody to it. For the average person walking down the street it would be like getting the flu and it is not generally life threatening. For Andrew it is.

With the two transplants that he has had both donor kidneys were CMV positive, of course. With the proper precautions these kidneys were life saving transplants. When the immune system is suppressed, as is being done intentionally now, he has to have special protection from CMV. That special protection comes in the form of Valcyte, and stuff ain't cheap. Those life saving pills alone are costing us nearly $1300 for a one month's supply. And its only one of the almost 10 drugs that he has to take. That's the paradox, life saving drugs that kill us financially.

It's so easy to see how once stable people become homeless. (Relax, being homeless is not what we are worried about, at least not for the next few months)

It all seems so complicated and I guess it is, but that's our life.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

New Year, Same Challenges

Regretfully, I was unable to connect with all of you through the Christmas and New Year's holiday. On the other hand, it was because I was so busy writing, baking, cooking, shopping, and of course going to soccer games.

I never did attempt my own menudo or tamales. But Gabi and I did make it out to my mom's house in the desert to partake in the annual tradition of our family tamale making. My sister Vicki and I were outnumbered by the next generation of tamale makers, which is a pretty encouraging thing. Gabi, her cousins, Breanna, Sarina, Madeline and Christopher were all in attendance and were promptly put to work. They did a great job and it was nice to see the interest they showed in what we were doing. It was also a great opportunity for all of us to catch up with each other since we all live at least an hour from one another and rarely get a chance to spend time together.

The girls range in age from 11 to 16 and when they became a little weary of the tediousness of tamale making we sent them off to the movies together. That was our cue that it was break time at Nana's, the perfect time to break out the bottle of Patron and let it relax and warm me. Oh, of course I didn't drink alone, my nephew (Yes, he's old enough) and my sister joined in the consumption. We took a few shots and had some great conversation.

Then it was time to get back to work. I can't tell you how many tamales we made because, frankly, I don't know. I can tell you that we used 35 pounds of masa and about 15 pounds of meat. We used pork shoulder butt? What! I never understand the concept of shoulder butt roasts, aren't they on opposite sides of the animal? Who know, who cares, cook it nice and slow and it's wonderful!

The week before Christmas was nothing but rain. I had articles to write for my new freelance writing gig, which has turned out to be a great gig. Doesn't pay much, but it pays me to write, for the first time in my life. Hey, a girl has to start somewhere, right?

I had about three days to do all my Christmas shopping, not too big of a task since we weren't able to buy too much, what with us having no jobs and all. The first day of shopping Andrew and I set out together and put a serious dent in our list. Nice! The next day I set out on my own. Standing in the chaos of Big Lots three days before Christmas, I received a call on my cell.

A woman claiming to have found me on Facebook wanted to order cupcakes for her client to be delivered the next day. Uh, oh, I wasn't in cupcake mode so it took me a few moments to register what she was asking me for. But, I never say no. I accepted the challenge. I had less than 24 hours to do a gift package, go out and buy a Christmas card to go with it and get it delivered to Newport Beach. Jesus, I had so much to do, but I never say no to a client. My stress level went through the roof. I still had an article to write.

Every effort was met with the rain, rain everywhere. It made it more difficult to get around because people drive like tools when it rains. Needless to say the gift box was delivered as promised. I spoke to my editor that evening around 7 p.m. and pitched an idea for an article. He loved it but he would need it before 9 a.m. the next morning. Oh crap! Gabi had friends over and we had just finished dinner. So, I broke out my martini shaker, poured myself a little vodka inspiration and got to work. I was done before bedtime.

We were expecting Andrew's parents for dinner on Christmas Eve so we did mad house cleaning. I also had many things to prepare for Christmas Day at my brother's house. I had to do my baking as I interacted with my in-laws, there was just no way around it. Thank god my mother-in-law brought and prepared all the food for our dinner because I was not sure how I would pull that off. We ate crab legs, crab cakes, shrimp, baked salmon, potatoes and two kinds of dinner rolls. I looked at my mother-in-law and said, "You do realize that there are only six of us here?" She laughed but she just can't help herself. I felt sick when I went to bed.

We opened presents with the kids and Andrew's parents in the morning and they made a quick exit back to their home in the desert. It was time for me to get back to work. I had to make salsa, cranberry salsa, candied pecans and guacamole for the party at my brother's house in Arcadia, oh, and we had to be there by 1:00. Gabi helped my box up all the cookies I made. We loaded up the car and we were off.

We grazed all day long on tamales, menudo, pozole, ham, cookies, chips, candy, oh so many things I can't even remember. There was wine, vodka, tequila and beer. I only had two beers because, well I had no desire to feel like crap again.

Time to relax you think. No such luck. Gabi's soccer team had a tournament starting on the 28th and it was all the way in Whittier. The second day of the tournament it rained, and rained and rained. And the girls the mud. It was 48 degrees pouring rain and windy. The field was crap and I just wanted to sit in the car and curl up in a ball. My heart went out to those girls, soaking wet, playing their hearts out. I was completely bundled up and I couldn't seem to get warm so I had great respect for them.

After the first game of the day, we had to find a laundromat and wash Gabi's uniform so she could be ready for the next game. There was no way she could sit for three hours in that mud soaked uniform and be prepared for the next game. We ran into so many people for other soccer teams at the laundromat with the same goal in mind. It was a miserable day but the girls rallied and really made an effort just to have fun with it. They even took a group dive in the mud for the cameras after the game. It was pretty hilarious.

After the tournament we made our way back to the desert for New Year's. Andrew stayed at his parent's house and I stayed with Drew at my mom's house. We all spent New Year's Eve day at the Living Desert. It's a small zoo with desert animals from all over the world. It was a nice afternoon.

We all had New Year's Eve dinner at Andrew's parent's house. After dinner there were two card games going on at the same time. Texas hold 'em was being played in the dining room and some of us played 31 at the kitchen table. I think my 16-year-old nephew, Matthew was the last one standing in the poker game. Once midnight came and went, I packed the kids in the car and headed back to my mom's to climb into a warm bed, it was freezing in the desert. Well almost, it was 36 degrees. Close enough.

We all made it back home, safe and sound and we are back into our normal routines. It was a nice few weeks, even with all the craziness. I think I needed the break back to normal life. It's much easier to manage than all those expectations. Hey, what am I thinking? We still don't have jobs. And I think the new auction date for our house is January 11th so still not sure where we are going to wind up living. Huh, oh well, that is pretty normal, for us anyway.

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 10, 2010

So Many Goals

We find out today if the house actually sold yesterday. Our real estate agent will be giving us a call today to let us know if we have a new landlord. It has been pretty annoying dealing with this for eight months now but at least it will be over today (we hope).

Sleep was not something that was going to happen last night so I got up at 6:00 a.m. and in my bleary-eyed state, I made coffee, bacon and then I put bleach in the sink to clean it. That's definitely a great aroma combination first thing in the morning and it definitely wakes you up if the coffee doesn't. What was I thinking? Maybe multi-tasking is not the best thing to do when you are half asleep.

Soccer is in high gear right now and our frosh/soph team is doing well in the preseason. We had a game last night and we have a tournament starting today that goes through Monday. I think that gives us a schedule of seven games in seven days, but the girls are having a great time. Last night I waited at the school for the bus to deposit the girls after the game. I could hear the singing as the bus made its way down the hill, it was quite amusing to hear the girls laughing and singing as they rolled into the parking lot. Gabi jumped of the bus, with red and gold balloons hovering over her head as she tried to manage the secret sister packages she received and her soccer gear. She played really well yesterday and her coach gave her high fives and high praise as she walked off the field.

I was planning on trying my hand at making a small batch of tamales on my own (OMG) today, but that will have to be postponed since Gabi's tournament schedule changed and we now have a game today. I don't know how I am going to squeeze in this little project with all of this soccer going on, my new column starting next week, and trying to get ready for Christmas. I'm also the point parent for Gabi's soccer team so I am in charge of organizing the team pasta parties and the charity backpack event for Christmas.

I was also thinking about trying my hand at a small batch of menudo. I helped out in the kitchen as a kid but that was the last time my hand actually touched tripe. Most people are grossed out by it but I happen to love it. I need to find other ways to prepare it besides having it in menudo, not that my husband or kids will touch it but I need to experiment, I have been in the food experimenting mood lately.

Baking has been a priority these days. I tried out a new ginger cookie recipe and although they weren't quite what I was shooting for, they were gobbled up immediately. I need to take another shot at them before Christmas. I had an interesting cupcake order which shot my stress level through the roof. I had to work with a local chocolatier to make it happen and although she was making very little money from my order, she went above and beyond the call of duty so my cupcakes would be a success. And, they were. I can't wait to do another order just like it since now I have a handle on how to do it.

I have a few books sitting around waiting for me to read them, but right now, I don't have the time I had just a few short weeks ago. I picked up "White House Diary" by Jimmy Carter from the library and a friend of mine loaned me "Where Men Win Glory" by Jon Krakauer, the story about Pat Tillman. I'll tackle the library book first, and to be honest, I am hesitant to read the Krakauer book as I warned that it is going to make me angry, I don't have a lot of energy for angry right now. That one will have to wait a bit but I will read it. I have also been bombarded with reading essays that Gabi has written about "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "Tom Sawyer". Of course, that leaves all my newspapers piling up along with all my cooking magazines unread. There just not enough hours in a day.

For now, I will just try to focus on my column, which I am so excited about, and a little nervous, but I will make it happen.

Maybe next time I blog I might have an idea where I will be living next month.