Monday, January 31, 2011

Being an Environmentally Conscious Mama

Is it possible to be an environmentally conscious global citizen as well as an overwhelmed mama?  I think I've found the answer:


I read somewhere that mothers are the champions at harboring guilt.  House is never clean enough, child is never nurtured enough, husband is never cared for enough, etc, etc.  So, as a result I've decided to simplify my life and take a 30 day paper challenge. 

For the next 30 days, I am using all disposable dishes.  I've hidden our dishes from the menfolk and bought paper products (except for silverware--I draw the line at forks that break off while trying to eat!).  I am no longer adding to the mound of recycling that piles up so high we cannot open our back door (Houston is located in the heart of oil country and therefore does not encourage recycling...wannabe green consumers have to drive to the nearest center in order to recycle!).  And guess what.  I am refusing to feel guilty about it!  And maybe, just maybe, during the next 30 days I'll get a handle on my inferiority complex about how I'll never be as good of a mom as my own mother.  And maybe I'll quit feeling guilty about spending time with  my son or checking my email without having to avoid the kitchen all day long because of my guilt about the dishes that have piled up.

The earth is important, but so is my family and my mental health.  I've prided myself on being "green" since college when I first learned that non-organic milk can be full of pus.  But now I've realized there is a balance to be maintained.  And a family living within that balance is both a happy family and a responsible family.  No, I don't think living on paper products is the answer.  But I do think it is ok to allow this time to help my family find that answer.  And in the meantime I'm going to play with my son and not tap my foot anxiously waiting for naptime so that I can do work, because that is no way to live!

Don't worry, once I find out how to live green AND sane, I will let you all know.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Are You as Money Savvy as You Think? (Public Service Announcement)

I read somewhere sometime that people lose an average of $1,000 YEARLY in medical and insurance billing errors.  The article said you should always be vigilant about checking over your bills and keeping records.  Insurance companies can be lazy or downright corrupt in the amounts they bill.  Doctors offices sort through lots of payments, confusing and elusive insurance agents.  Often, bills come back with errors or incomplete payments.  But since its usually been months since the actually visit, and the language itself can be so confusing, and service reps hours so inconvenient that even if you notice an inconsistency its easier to just pay the bill! 

I'm sure I've overpaid my fair share.  But this past year with Ezra I knew money would be tight for us, and bills would be coming in from many different places so I decided to be vigilant.  Despite the inconvenience of checking bills, calling offices, calling companies all the while dealing with a newborn, I persevered.  The results are still pending for further savings (or I guess I should say overall less spendings), but so far I have avoided paying $702 in false charges! 

Some things I caught:
-incorrect treatment date billed by doctors and subsequently denied by my insurance
-wrong member ID number (dr office duplicated a digit in the middle of while coding)
-incorrect coding of services by dr's office
-random duplicate bill indicating additional (accidental) charges

Basically, I had to wade through a lot of technical language and ended up frequently calling my insurance and doctors' and labs.  Anytime a bill looked too high, or if it didn't have an insurance payment I called.  It took an average of 3 calls to get each bill resolved.  I received several "final notices" that threatened collection agencies while I was working to get the payments worked out.  Currently, I am even appealing my bill from Ezra's delivery back in June, which I think was grossly underpaid!  Hopefully I'll get another couple hundred dollars knocked off, which will bring us right up to that $1,000 marker for the year!  Guess whoever wrote that estimate was right!

So, word to the wise--read your bills before you pay them!  Call your insurance companies (the 800 number on the back of your card) and ask them about it.  Often they will go through the bill with you and itemize how much they paid and why.  Or, if it is a mistake on the end of your dr's office, your rep can call with you on the line to get it resolved.  It may be a lot of time and effort, but definitely worth it for the money saved!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Precious

"My Precious..." The whisper echoes through the air as a hand gently strokes its most precious object of desire. The caress is loving, possessive.  Another voice breaks into the stillness.  It is commanding, authoritative, yet full of compassion.  "It's been called that before..."

All of a sudden I am brought jarringly back to the present, and look down at those dumpling cheeks that I love so much to kiss with a new perspective.  The journey that I am right now on is not so different than that our beloved little hobbit friends took many years ago through Middle Earth.

**Please don't picture me now as a withered drooling bug-eyed shell of a person, hunched over my baby (for those of you that aren't LotR fans, just ignore that image)**

Take a moment.  Hear me out.  For those of you that are mothers, or parents, this is not a difficult stretch of imagination.  As I sat today, rocking my little munchkin to sleep I realized with startling clarity that no matter what I may think, the precious little bundle in my lap was not mine.  In spite of the numerous pronouns and adjectives that I may use to describe him, my son, Ezra, has only been entrusted to me for a short while.  On this journey, similar to the one embarked upon by 9 friends from a different world, I am responsible for the well-being of something small and infinitely valuable.  He is mine to protect and carry along the same path until I return him to whence he came (which is where the analogy loses steam-the implications of the end of this journey is far less ominous as I have no intention of tossing him into a fire pit now or ever!). 

However, I don't have the ultimate say on what he does, who he becomes, or what happens to him.  I am ushering a fellow soul towards his destiny, but I am not in control, nor dare I attempt to possess him.  Frodo was not to wear the ring, and could not wield its power. And while for now Ezra may need to be cared for physically as a child, he has a soul that will be eternal. 

It is both reassuring and terrifying.  Reassuring that my failings are not the end-all in his development.  Reassuring that if I do not exact complete control over his surroundings (obsess over the car seat, stuffed animals in his crib, food allergies, germs, cold weather, hot weather, peers, role models, etc etc...) he is not automatically doomed.  And yet it is terrifying.  Terrifying to leave him in the hands of an almighty God.  Terrifying to realize that I cannot exact complete control over his surroundings.  Terrifying that in spite of desperate prayers for safety, health, wise decisions, and infinite happiness, he may end up with something completely different. 

But I have faith.  I choose reassurance over terror.  I recognize that unlike Lord of the Rings, my Lord seeks set us free from the darkness rather than bind us.  And as his mother, my duty is to usher Ezra into His presence and raise him into the man he is supposed to be.  "The ring yearns to go home, to return to the hand of its Master."  So my son, already since the day he was born has been yearning to return to his Master.