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This & That

March 9th, 2011 at 03:09 pm

**Shopping shopping shopping

Bought BM a jacket for $15 at Target. Wasn't my choice, but he really liked it. Looked like it would last 5 minutes. (I don't buy adult clothes there generally, but the kids' stuff usually holds up well enough for the rock bottom prices - all their $4/$5 shirts, shorts, pants). Anyway, I will keep my eye out for something better. This one will do for now.

Kohls - had no jackets (we had gone there first), but I had expiring coupons. One was $5 off. So, I bought some earrings. Full price $16 - I paid $4. I LOVE them.

My ears are sensitive so I usually get silver earrings, or apply nail polish to them. I try to avoid the cheapies, that said. BUT, those cheap earrings I got at Payless have been very nice. No ear irritation, etc. Go figure!

Kohls - one final shopping trip. After first track practice. I felt dumb about how unprepared we were (since we signed up ages ago). Went to look for some sweats or more appropriate track wear. Plus look at the shoe sizing there (didn't expect to find wides or half sizes, but was able to get a better idea how the Nike shoes fit BM - the zappos order was way too small).

Got the info and ordered up a full size from zappos again - will see. IT was $10 more, same shoes. IF these fit, I will call and ask to treat it as an exchange - can maybe get $10 back.

Anyway, we scored gold at Kohls, this round. Track pants on sale for $4. I got about 4 pairs (LM wanted one too - whatever for $4). Got a couple of pairs of shorts that were reasonable, and the kids wanted these matching t-shirts. I chose Kohls because I had a store credit from a gift exchange. So, was feeling generous.

Full price for everything was $120-ish. (I know - who pays that???). I had a $45 gift card and ended up paying about $5. I could have used a 15% off coupon, too, If I had planned ahead better. Didn't have it with me. Oh well.

Once we get track shoes, BM will be SET.

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**Track? I think track will be great for BM. They were torturing him yesterday by going around the track with the slowest person in the lead. BM Was second and I wouldn't be surprised if there was pushing and shoving. He ALWAYS has to be first. I was thinking, that was genius - he needs to learn some patience. That said, I think they will quickly see he can easily outrun his age group. He was pretty bored because they were mostly walking, but I told him he had to stick with his team and work together to get everyone's stamina up. So, will be interesting. He liked Monday much better since he was able to run a mile full speed. Whoever was in front the second half was a little faster, anyway.

Likewise, one of his school friends was there. They are probably both the top of their class - nerdiest of their age group. I was kind of surprised. What is it about track that attracts the nerds? That said, I liked the parents a lot more than the soccer parents. Track is a thinking person's sport? Who knew? The school librarian was there too (her daughter) so people were reading instead of yacking on their cell phones and talking about all their stuff. A VERY different dynamic. Hopefully BM likes track. Seems right up his alley - he loves to go to the track and time laps, so I think he will enjoy it. That is why I signed him up. I liked that I could read my book without appearing extraordinarily anti-social.

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**Had a thyroid blood test and everything came back normal. Absolutely no surprise (I feel great - better than before), but is nice to have the solid numbers. I personally think my thyroid is functioning better than before. From the second I had surgery my body acted like, "Good Riddance!" So any feelings about surgery being way overly aggressive have gone out the window.

I suppose "normal" thyroid levels are very subjective. I've had hormonal issues since 2006 (last baby), so wonder if I have had this growth since then. When my body kind of went whacked. As such, I may feel better than I have in 5 years. I didn't feel bad before, and most of that had worked out, but I definitely seem to have slightly more energy. I also believe my metabolism has sped up a bit.

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I may come into a little money this month.

Close relative insists on paying me $300 for tax help. For the most part, EASY money. Will just put to savings. Dh and I discussed it - will somehow get it back to this person or use it for family stuff.

MIL insists on paying for the kids' piano lessons. She had mentioned it before, BUT FIL is retiring this year and she has been kind of wishy washy about this kind of stuff. I think dh and I feel more weird accepting this kind of help with our parents not working. IT's one thing when they are working and have all this disposable income. But, particularly with my parents (unexpected early retirement), I feel weird when they offer to pay for this or that. I suppose dh's family had a little more planned retirement. But, they will take a large income hit - that they have been open about.

So, I was pretty surprised about this.

Again, will just put to savings. For the short run, will build up future piano lesson savings. One of the reasons I resisted the idea initially is I don't want to turn off piano lessons if something happens to their finances. If I signed up the kids I wanted to commit to it. So, I think it is best saved for future years when MIL may not be so generous. In addition, I told dh that maybe we should save it for travel with MIL, since she always wants to travel everywhere and we can never justify the expense. Then she insists on paying, and it can get a little weird.

So, all in all, another $1300-ish to savings this year that I didn't expect. I presume MIL will just give us a $1k check. She knows we manage our money well. Getting a monthly check wouldn't be my choice, but will see. Beggars can't be choosers...

A lot of this comes from the fact that MIL and GIL babysit SIL's kids for free. So MIL feels a strong need to make this more fair and give us money. Which always has annoyed dh and I. It's like, "You don't need to give us money because SIL can't afford her own daycare. We don't want that kind of charity and would never ask that of you." But, it is what it is. In past years she would sometimes mumble under her breath that dh should get a job. Particularly when we couldn't afford a last-minute Florida vacation. Interestingly, that was before SHE retired and took over most of the SIL daycare. I think she has come to prefer that we don't ask for free daycare, over the years.

Likewise, $1k here and there wouldn't come anywhere near the cost of full-time daycare. But it makes her feel better, so, lucky us.

Good News!

January 27th, 2011 at 03:31 pm

I got the news that my thyroid nodule was benign!

Woohoo!

To celebrate, we went out for a way overly expensive dinner.

It was good though.

We took the kids, because a $5 kids menu item was cheaper than childcare.

My mom was appalled and tried to talk me into a date night with dh. I have been sitting home with dh for 2 weeks and we have a dinner out planned next week (fundraiser - no kids). I thought it was appropriate to celebrate with the whole family, anyway.

I can assure you we didn't need a *date night.*

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Reminds me, all of my friends are mourning my return to work. Especially the clueless SAHPs who think I never see my kids. Yes, I will lose that 4:00-5:00 hour with my kids. I don't think anyone will notice or care. They spend most their hours at school. Wink

Beyond that, I can not wait to get back to work. Tax season is not my favorite time of year, but beyond that, I am grateful to like my job and HAPPY to go back!

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I had already committed increased mortgage payment for January, before I got the news. I can't help but feel the timing was to be. February is a short month and so I figure if dinner put us over budget for this month that we can probably make it up in February. Mortgage payments will stay, as is. No spending money left for January (though probably plenty for groceries and gas).

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I dipped my toes in at work. I don't even know where to begin, and I know today I have the potential to be bombarded (I return full-time today - and today is when my clients expect my return - probably LOTS of phone calls).

But, for the most part, it has been much better than expected.

I also got my Continuing Ed. materials, so will either knock that out this weekend or next. Office is closed next weekend so no overtime earned this week or next, but I feel just fine. Probably for the best - a couple of more weeks before I jump in to 50-hour weeks.

At home I have been completely useless, for the most part.

I need to:

*Get taxes done this weekend
*Do my continuing Ed. at some point
*Thank you notes - I put off the whole of the last 2 weeks though I have mostly felt fine

& finally, dh really doesn't do much housework, so the house is a disaster. I haven't lifted a finger, while recovering. I probably could have done a little more.

I could feel more overwhelmed, but am gratetful that I do not have to work next weekend!

More Good Medical News

October 26th, 2010 at 01:43 pm

I finally got in to a Doctor for the lump on my throat/thyroid.

He really thinks it is nothing. I have an ultrasound Wednesday to look closer, and he is considering if I should get a MRI or a Cat Scan, too. (I guess Cat Scans are better for the thyroid, but do expose you to radiation. No wonder MRIs are the "go to " scan in this day and age).

It's funny because there are a lot of HDHP horror stories out there. For example, my dad's friend called an ambulance once (for a fall? turned out to be nothing?) and they got some huge bill.

I have tried to explain that our deductible is only $3k, and we save more than $3k in premiums, so it we come out ahead, regardless. Until dh's brain tumor, we never hit our deductible, anyway. So we are WAY ahead.

Our out-of-pocket increased this year and I figured that was how they would stick us - this has all been "too good to be true" on some level. Don't get me wrong - we still pay a fortune for insurance, but so much less than we would be if we had no HDHP options.

In the end, once we hit our deductible, they REALLY racheted down what they have been charging us. I could still get a surprise bill down the road (timeliness is not their strong suit). But reading all the fine print, it did seem we wouldn't get charged much beyond the deductible, and that seems to be standing true.

Under the insurance that cost a small fortune, we were charged much more heavily for things like emergency and overnight stays (maybe $500 vs. the $50 we are paying now. That's pretty substantial).

So, overall, I am still happy with our HDHP, all things considered. I feel like we are still ahead, even with a very heavy hospital/doctor usage year.

Doctor visits have been $0 (& I have had a pile), $10 for blood draws, $10 for ultrasounds, and $50 for MRIs. We maxed our deductible in January with dh's surgery, so this is all we have had to pay for, since.

Before the deductible, MRIs cost $1500. So, $50 sounds like a steal, to me. Since we will have 3-4 MRIs between the 2 of us this year. Phew!!

Good News, Fast!

October 21st, 2010 at 03:34 pm

The good is that the Doctor does not think dh's tumor has grown at all.

The bad is he wants to do another MRI in 6 months (because he is not sure). Which just means more $$$$$$$

Overall, it's good!

Cross Your Fingers for my DH

October 20th, 2010 at 01:46 am

He is going in for an MRI tomorrow. (He did finally set that up!)

IT would be a miracle, but I am hoping his tumor shrunk/died/disappeared.

It looks like the odds are that either it is growing again, or it stopped growing. So, realistically, I can only hope for no growth.

We probably won't know any results until the following week.

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I am so glad we waited 6 months to bring this whole thing up again. It is still very likely that his doctor will recommend radiation. (cyber knife - small amounts of radiation directed only at the tumor - much safer than other radiation. A VERY simple procedure).

We just couldn't handle all this immediately after his surgery recovery. But, I think we feel ready to open that discussion and tackle it, if need be. So, I am kind of bracing myself for round 2 - which may be brought up even if there is no growth.

*News* on California Refunds

February 25th, 2010 at 12:44 am

Just in my inbox:

"California refunds could be delayed (02-24-10)
The state budget crisis is not yet fixed, and the state's cash flow is dismal. It's too early to tell, but you can't rule out the State Controller delaying income tax refunds or issuing IOUs if California lawmakers don't resolve the budget crisis.
"

The rumblings are starting later than last year, though. & it is still only speculation, at this point.

As for me, I am not owed a refund. In fact, paid in the minimum I had to - just for this reason. But, figured I'd pass along since I have seen the questions around here - about state refunds this year.

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Feeling relieved today. Took the kids for dental cleanings. BM seems extremely cavity prone. So, basically, I hold my breath every time we go to the dentist. Not only for BM, but wondering if LM will develop the same cavity-proneness.

It turns out BM did not have any cavities, and the plaque they had been monitoring had desisted, so no X-rays next time either. (Not sure I agree with this - give the boy X Rays! Beats a surprise of an army of cavities festering all year). But, was all good news, yes.

However, his baby teeth had been falling out, out of order, and as a preventitive measure, they did want to pull a tooth, in an effort to get the teeth growing in the right place. I exclaimed it was already loose, as of a few days - more for BM's sake. I have had teeth removed - baby teeth are easy - and loose ones must be easier. Dentist thought I was fighting her and said, "well, if it come out on its own in a couple weeks." Pfffft. That is not going to happen. Told her I was just glad it was already loose - we will come in for the extraction.

Full price is $200. 10% cash discount. 25% off that for tax deduction. In the end $135 for a little prevention, is no biggie. Not that I really think it will matter. The kids inherited my teeth - so we are screwed. I have been saving for orthodnotia since before they were even born.

I suppose this is why a tooth extraction doesn't bother me as much. Those are given, with my genes!

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I couldn't fit another dentist appointment in BM's or my schedule for another 2 weeks. (To be fair - trying to work around school more than anything!) Lord I hope dh is up to taking him next time. He should feel mighty fine by then.

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Found out my friend's child has a benign brain tumor. THey have been spending the last couple of weeks ruling out cancer. I feel extra grateful we didn't have to go down that route. (They have been meeting with oncologists and getting biopsies in the time frame we were already interviewing surgeons - dh's tumor was so obviously not cancerous).

But yeah, it's like there is something in the water. Yeesh.

As for us, I can't believe we may be putting this chapter behind us, in just a few days. Dh went out for a hair trim yesterday, and his hair is back to all one length. Can still see the scar, but it will be covered up completely in no time. (If he had darker hair - it would probably no longer be visible). His next MRI is in a few days. Hopefully, his final MRI!

Surgery is OVER!

January 22nd, 2010 at 06:23 am

It felt like this day would never arrive, as we have been anxiously waiting.

Surgery went better than expected. Can we call my dh "miracle boy," or what?

Wednesday was a whirlwind of medical appointments and tests. We met briefly with the surgeon, who told us that he may leave up to 50% of the tumor, in a futile attempt to save dh's stereo hearing. He said he had never saved hearing with such a large tumor before (ever), BUT that it is extremely rare that any one with this type tumor has much hearing to begin with. The fact that dh lost his hearing only temporarily twice, is no less than miracle. Usually, once it's gone, it's gone.

Oh yes - let me back up - the weather here is CRAZY. It is also a miracle we made it to the Bay Area in one piece. Egads, what a week it has been. We drove through some terrible rain, saw some amazing rainbows, and somehow managed to miss every lightning storm with all our driving. We also have sat in a lot of homes without electricity. The hotel and the hospital have been a nice change of pace, with electricity and all. Big Grin

So, back to surgery (it's been a LONG day!!!)

It was a whole day affair, though the actual cutting and stitching was about 6 hours. Was at the hospital over 12 hours, though.

We were all stunned when the surgeon walked out and said that 95% of the tumor had been removed. Too early to tell, I suppose, but he said that radiation may not be necessary after all. That, I never expected. He said his hearing seemed okay, but they never know. The truth is it would be a miracle.

Dh was pretty insistent when he woke up, that he see me. The first thing he told me was that he couldn't hear (out of one side). I told him 95% of the tumor was gone, and he seemed relieved. I think we had more second thoughts at the last minute. Truth is, how would he feel with 50% of the tumor still in there, and no hearing? Which in the end was a likely scenario. I am so relieved we don't have to live with that. It was never raised as an option that we would skip radiation. It is amazing.

I do admit, that I hold some hope on the hearing. He's got it back before. What about when all the swelling goes down? Even a little bit means a simple hearing aid as opposed to more expensive hearing procedures/devices. Will see...

Facial paralysis was another biggie. Doctor said the tumor was most entwined with the facial sensory nerve. Which had really been his only symptom (numb face) besides hearing that came and went. In the end, he asked if his face was droopy. It looked a tad droopy, though I don't think I would have noticed otherwise. He has a beard which I think hides it. His eyes and cheeks seems fine, we only really noticed his lips being a little lax. Regardless, the surgeon felt his facial nerve was fine, and temporary facial weakness is expected. Paralysis is pretty rare. Not a lot of worries there. Clearly he wasn't paralyzed...

Dh looked amazing! Everyone warned me about how terrible he would look, etc.

Is that it? But for the bandaging, you'd never guess he had brain surgery. He was obviously doing quite well.

All along they told us he would get a private room, probably. Which surprised me as we were in an old hospital. In the end, they were wrong. I was rather relieved. The nurse said she would be in the room all night, waking him every hour to check his vitals, etc. I was so relieved to come to my hotel and rest. I couldn't stay over since he didn't have a private room. (Bummer - not?) He won't remember anything. Well, so they say. He seemed amazingly alert. Not "too" loopy? Though admittedly, loopy!

Tomorrow night he may get a private room, and that may be nice. When he gets out of ICU. He may go home Saturday or Sunday - is that absurd?

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Anyway, I suppose we already knew, but there is nothing more important than friends and family. Times like these you just kind of get that kick in the butt. This week has been made bearable by the love of friends and family.

I know MIL was set on this clinic in LA, but I think being so close to our family has been FAR more important. & let's face it, the doctor we decided on kicked butt! I can't tell you how relieved we are today that we didn't fall for the LA hype. I had reservations all along about the logistics of all that. It wasn't a sole reason to not go there, but I have to kind of say, "I was right!" I was so annoyed that MIL was writing off places like Stanford, for LA. I couldn't understand why looking in our own backyard (with AMAZING medical facilities) wouldn't be a priority. All we have heard all week is how our HMO has the best neurosurgery facility in Northern California, and how our surgeon is one of the best in the world. & we have been justifying our choice all along. What sweet revenge today was. Though maybe the best thing is that all our family is here, too. It just is kind of the icing on the cake. I never imagined that today could "fly by," but it kind of did with all the support we had.

Anyway, this is really just the beginning, on some level. But, I think it's a good start. I am wishing dh a very speedy recovery!

It's Official

December 29th, 2009 at 03:42 pm

Dh got his surgery date - it's in about 3 weeks.

O.M.G.

Yesterday we freaked out a bit. I don't know if it is more real, or if we are just so panicked because it ended up much sooner than expected. We were expecting a February date.

I am relieved we haven't had to get our affairs in order. Long said and done. It's not like he was in an accident and we have minutes to decide. We have had weeks. But it's nice to know that our life insurance and wills and all that are well squared away. I don't know if dh is as insurable any more, so another sigh of relief there. He's well covered for the rest of his life - with the extremely low cost life insurance we bought in our 20s.

Lots of daycare arrangements are to be made in the next 2 weeks!!!

Anyway, to the doctors, this is no big deal. It would be like a 1-night hospital stay if he could get up and walk out. Since they are severing his balance nerve on one side, they want him to regain some balance before he leaves. 3 days in the hospital if all goes well. There has been no talk of risk of death or brain damage, because the odds of anything like that are SO slim.

& yet, they are operating on his BRAIN. It's just hard to accept that it will be so easy peasy.

I assume we will be a bit of a wreck the next few weeks. I will feel so relieved once this surgery is over with.

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His pre-op appointment is early, the day after his birthday. So we will go to San Jose the night before and have a BIG birthday celebration, I am sure.

He assumed I would work hard to catch up at work the next few weekends. I asked him if he was crazy - I am spending some good quality time with him while he is well! Though he may make some plans to get together with friends.

So yeah, we decided to take the kids down with us and we will have a leisurely day before his surgery. Will get a hotel a couple of nights, since we have to be at the hospital at dawn, for surgery. I figure I wanted to be close to the hospital the first night - and it will be nice to have a place to rest if the surgery runs super long.

If all goes well he will have surgery Thursday, and be home by Sunday.

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We decided to get a nice family portrait before his surgery. Compliments of my dad. Something I'd be willing to pay for, but I know we can get something real nice, for free. Big Grin There is a possibility his face will be paralyzed, so he wants to get some pictures of his "perfect face" before surgery.

Thinking to 2010

December 7th, 2009 at 09:45 pm

I am with the others in the West. Brrrrrrr. We've got snow, and a freeze warning. Both which happen, never? Living in the valley, I don't think we got snow (certainly nothing that stuck). But a lot of my co-workers live at slightly higher elevations (500-1000 feet?), and all woke up to snow today. Color me jealous! Nothing more than a light dusting, of course.

I don't see any more snow in the forecast - just freezing temps. Like anyone here knows what to do with that.

It's a bummer that it will probably be too stormy this weekend to drive up to the cabin and see all the snow up there. BUT, will keep an eye on the weather, just in case. If the weather clears, we will have an impromptu snow weekend.

My basil plant may be a casualty, from last night. Will bring it inside tonight, just in case it is still alive.

The heat will work extra hard the next couple of days!

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My brain is in 2010. Since any bill I get going forward can be pushed to 2010 (put on credit and paid in 2010), 2009 is mostly over for me. Though I will wait for 12/31 for investment values and such, to determine my 12/31 net worth.

So I still have a little financial housekeeping to do, for 2009. But for the most part, I am thinking to 2010.

I updated my sidebar, in light of this.

Last year I thought long and hard about my goals. It was a good year, I am happy, and so I don't have much to add this year. On the flip side, I think with all that is going on, simplicity is best. We won't have a lot of money to spare. & we will probably focus a lot of energy on dh's health rather than other things.

Thus, my financial goal is rather simplstic:

Save $15k.

$0 to ROTH.

Re-evaluate once we pay all the medical bills.

Instead of saving in various buckets, my only real bucket this year, is "cash." Though I would be happy to divert some of that to retirement, if the year goes better than expected. (Efund and medical fund are fully funded, as of 1/1. So other cash is really my only other savings goal. Cash for car replacements, orthodontia, house repairs and the like. I can't seem to make any progress there since I seem to get a pile of unexpected expenses every year. $2k here, $2k there. Medical, dental, smashed cars, etc. Feels like I Am spinning my wheels a bit, and why I am happy to hit cash hard this year).

I also had a long-term goal to put 15% into retirement. I am putting that on hold, for 2010. Until all this mess clears. 10%. Of course, I still don't know what my compensation is. By some miracle, I could get a raise and keep 15% to retirement. Just not exactly counting on that one. Big Grin I am assuming no raise, or something very minimal, considering the economy and everything. I also don't expect I will be able to do big on overtime this year - though some overtime is calculated into my $15k savings goal. I can probably only save $12k, otherwise.

My HOUSE goals mostly remain the same. I thought I would have enough cash this year to implement a lot of put-off purchases. Probably not, in the end, so may push them off. But we did make some progress on some inexpensive repairs, and have more to do in 2010.

My PERSONAL goals mostly remain the same:

**Personal**
[ ] Read a book a month
[ ]2 weekends away, with just dh
[ ]1 camping trip
[ ]1 trip to the snow
[ ]More trips to the cabin
[ ]More biking & hiking
[ ]Season passes to Raging Waters

I feel like I should add "survive" to the top of my list, and I would be happy with that.

BUT, 2009 was very fulfilling as we focused on things that were important to us. We want to make sure we make fun things a priority for our family. Most the things on the list were very frugal too, but fulfilling. IF we do all that, I don't think anyone in my house cares if we can't afford a bigger vacation this year. (We've really only had room for more "vacation" the last couple of years, and as such, are used to extremely frugal weekend getaways and such. Of course the whole thing point is that long/far vacations are not our priority. We like making use of what we have here - and did excellent with that in 2009. I suppose we didn't particularly "vacation" in 2009 if I think about it. Though we did pay for a few more hotel stays than we usually would. Coud live without...).

I did add a new item to the list: To read at least one book a month. I have been staying with that pace, since about October. Before then, "what's a book?" But putting it in writing, as a goal, really makes it more of a priority.

I suppose I don't care if a lot of this part of the list gets put to the side, with dh's health issues. I just don't want to forget these things, for when he is better.

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The theme for Christmas this year, is decidedly "kitchen."

I was just telling dh that I was probably going to get my dad a smoothie blender, and didn't have much else to buy. I also had confirmed that the spoiled cousins (our children and their cousins - with the Grandma gift hog) were not exchanging gifts.

Dh and I never exchange gifts, so I clarified that. I guess the rule is since BM has an allowance, that he has to buy gifts for us. Dh told me they had bought me a $25 gift. Ugh. (BM contributed like 1/3 of it).

I was wondering when I would have time to shop, and annoyed at wasting money on useless items, when I remembered dh wanted a larger food processor (we have a mini one). Not what he had in mind I am sure, but heck if I am going to waste $20 on something he will never use.

In the end, I perused amazon a bit and it worked out. I found a mandolin slicer with rave reviews, for about $20. We had been talking about that. Bonus was it came with a knife sharpener, for about $5, which would make it eligible for free shipping (amazon). Might as well take the sharpener.

So basically, I spent 5 minutes shopping for dh - and am done! (Will consider the food processor for his birthday. Better yet - will suggest that one to his mom).

I suppose I should have included BM in the process, but I know he will really like the idea. We will have to talk about it later. I'll ask him what he thinks and steer him in that direction. Wink & if he HATES the idea, I suppose he can buy some stupid trinket for dh. I suppose it is the thought that counts!

Roller Coaster Week

December 3rd, 2009 at 03:13 pm

I only have one word for this week - CRAZY!

I am actually at work 3 days, but it is filled with meetings and such. I am starting to feel "behind." Ugh. Maybe next week will be normal, though I may take a day off to meet with the Bay Area surgeon, with dh.

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My mom's health has been going downhill a bit.

I am not sure how much of this I can take. Both my folks, and dh.

My mom called me yesterday, sounding somber. I asked, "Who is it now?" I figure someone was in the hospital or something. Why not? Why not make it one more person to worry about?

In the end, she had her own rough week, and I wouldn't be surprised if she was holding back since she knows what I time I am having.

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I mentioned earlier, this whole trial has been life-affirming on some level.

For all the negative, I am just glad dh can look back so positively on his life. & like I said, he is expected to live, but still, it gets you thinking. Many deep discussions around here of late.

I feel moreso than ever, that we made the best financial choices we could, to move here. I have considered opening a HELOC, if it comes to borrowing money for surgery outside of our insured options. The thing is, we have that option. Back home, we would both be working, and could perhaps have over double the mortgage. (Or just be paying 2-3 times as much to rent). We likely would have much younger children, if any. Putting more important things on hold, for insane cost of living. Are we more glad than ever, that we thought outside the box in that regard.

On the flip side, it has been important to be close to family. We have needed each other a LOT this year. Since we had talked so much about moving out of state, I am glad in the end, we stayed. & yet, moving to our low-cost haven gives us so much more flexibility and financial options, as we face crisis.

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My birthday came and went, and I was spoiled rotten.

I also got to see dh's MRI - and it was hard to see. Just, wow! His tumor is quite large.

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I have greatly welcomed the chance to return to work and to have other distractions. Phew!!!!! Maybe the timing of all this is a blessing in some regard. Work will keep me busy!

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**In financial news, I got our new bank account, in Trust, all set up and funded. Getting 2% on our cash, now.

**I am not sure what our HELOC options are, if so needed. Thing is, it goes against every fiber of our being. But I suppose I could consider up to $250k in loans against our home, to save dh's brain. (Thing is, we never take ANY debt lightly). Leaves us about $40k to borrow ($250 was just the max we said we would ever borrow for a home - we ended up closer to $230k when we bought this house). I am not sure we have the equity to borrow that much though. Lord knows - the market is so wacky here. The thing about this year is just nothing has sold. Nothing has particularly sold less than $300k. But, who knows.

**Last I looked, my perspective was that the school daycare was EXPENSIVE.

I guess perspective changes? It is $6/hour, $24 max a day (holidays and such), AND full-time is about $330 per month. I won't stress about it - easy/convenient/affordable/good option.

These are the kinds of things I am looking at. I guess, trying to prepare for the worst. I hope none of this stuff is really needed, of course.

We've been told that dh could "recover" in 2 weeks. Or he may have balance issues and be unable to drive, for many months. So many unknowns at this point. I am just trying to think ahead and be prepared as possible.

Maybe now is a good time for surgery...

December 1st, 2009 at 04:32 pm

I haven't read the comments on my last blog yet - it's going to be a crazy week.

YEsterday we actually had a pleasant time with MIL. So goes the rollercoaster. I know better than to hand her over our medical record #s, but she may be helpful in the end.

So is today - will see about tomorrow.

I am highly skeptical of the surgeon she wants to do the job. I know he is highly regarded, and was trained by the BEST, etc., etc., etc.

What's the catch? HE seems very EAGER! She has made a billion calls and said he could get in to surgery at our HMO for $10k.

Huh? That's it? I actually had an outside surgeon do a procedure at the same HMO when I was 17. I said, that sounds awfully cheap (for a brain surgeon) as mine cost $10k about 15 years ago, for a jaw surgeon.

She says - oh no - it's a nonprofit organization and blahdeblahdeblah.

I told her that we were not sure our surgeon would do much but supervise. For $10k, is he really going to do anything but watch. Our his stats as good in an unfamiliar environment?

As I tried to ponder why the "best" would be so "affordable" in the end, it all comes back to the economy. Everyone I have seen who openly discussed their experiences online, paid $100k-ish for the shole shebang at THEIR Office. Hospitalization, staff, and everything. Obviously, in the boom, people afforded this with home equity and such.

I can't help but wonder if in this economy, they are a little more desparate for patients with that kind of cash - searching out reasonable options.

So, I couldn't help but feel that now is a good time for brain surgery, in that regard. To us, $10k is nothing. For dh's brain? We've got the cash.

I just found the whole thing interesting.

Anyway, as we are talking in the realm of reasonability, and I can tell MIL about my own experience, we found some middle ground.

Dh is leaning in another direction than we prefer (more risky surgery at small chance of hearing preservation). BUT, it's up to him, I ain't going to push him either way. I suppose I will support him and help keep his mom off his back.

It's ironic, that in all this mess, we are the ones that are being logical and making MIL think through some of her bizarre assertions. But then again, as a mom, I'd probably be overly emotional too.

Which reminds me, a co-worker praised me as being tough and getting through this. She said, "You're not like those other girls we have who cry all the time." LOL. Not sure I agree, but I suppose I can be tough when I need to. IT just struck me as funny. Other people's perceptions can always be interesting.

I have found myself worrying about something like a mile down the road, and keep telling myself to stop it. One day at a time really. IT's the only way to go. That is such a dh thing - he worries about stupid stuff way in the future that will never come to be - constantly. I am glad that in times of crisis, he seems to have put that aside.

I think his personal opinions on treatment will lead him to our covered surgeon anyway. Will see! If so, he can fight it out with his mom. Big Grin

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BTW, by some miracle, when I had surgery, the surgeon ended up doing the entire surgery AND our HMO paid his bill. I don't think we even asked - I think his office asked for reimbursement and got it, by some fluke.

I always figured if I got stuck with some $10k medical bill, I Wouldn't sweat it. Or what are the odds I could be so lucky again? Though I am still a little skeptical about this doc's eagerness, the $10k figure is almost like a "sign" in some regards.

Financial Round-Up

November 27th, 2009 at 06:43 pm

Dh woke up with hearing loss, again, this morning. Ugh!

His appointment was Monday, but I could not make it. We postponed until Tuesday. Regretting that a bit - did not expect he would have issues since it had been 3 years in between his first and last episode. (He lost and regained most hearing, twice). We are starting to wonder if surgery will be rushed to try to preserve hearing. I am not sure how early they could possibly do the surgery. Tuesday seems a million years away.

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His family is intent on cashing out retirement to send him to the world-renowned place I mentioned. Ugh, on that.

We did discuss it and I said I could see borrowing the money, because he could return to work and pay it off in a few years' time. Could be worth it. Though, we both are leaning towards sticking close to home and sticking with what is covered. Just thinking to if we are not impressed with our covered options. Of course, the risk is that dh could become disabled, and could not ever work again. Then we are just stuck with a six figure medical bill. I just gotta hope our HMO has good options. I don't really see why they wouldn't...

Of course, MIL said she already talked with this surgeon and he would come up here. This is not anything I have read, and sounded odd to me. I had to wonder if the economy had less people cashing out their savings and left with less equity to borrow with, for this type surgery. (Everything I read was that everyone who could, went for this surgery there. Seems there would be a waiting list of sorts?). If we lived down south it is reasonable we could be referred there. But since we live up North, if we are referred "outside" our HMO, I am sure it would be somewhere up here. Which I think we would prefer anyway.

Just to say, we have gone down the "six figure medical bill" road a bit. Obviously I hope we feel extremely warm and fuzzy about our covered options. Would be a lot easier.

On the flip side, it may be more important to save money to save hearing after surgery. Though it's apparently far more cheaper to gain hearing back than to remove a tumor. More amazing technology. Who knew, that regaining lost hearing was "affordable?" In our world, much more affordable.

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2009 is not quite over yet, but my brain is in 2010. Financially.

All of our December bills will be carded and paid in January, so I guess in some regard, 2009 is about over for us, financially.

I sat down to see where we were at. Before all this mess, I wanted to stop ROTH contributions while the market was high, and tackle our cash savings goal. I also figured I would just put aside our $3k deductible at Jan. 1, and only contribute to "mid-term savings" for 2010. I have been contributing to mid-term, medical, and retirement. I just wanted to make 2010 simpler, and achieve my goal.

Of course, obviously if the market fell, ROTHs would become more of a priority.

I guess it works out to be already in this mind-set.

In the end, our medical deductible remains $3k, but our out-of-pocket was doubled to $6k. I suppose after the deductible, we are relegated to smaller co-pays. But if there is a year we will manage to get $3k in co-pays (in addition to exhausting our deductible), 2010 would be it!

Of course, I am starting to worry that dh will have surgery end of December and we will max out 2009 and 2010. I suppose we have $1500 deductible remaining for 2009, which isn't huge. But would save $1500 if we could just do it all next year.

So, anyway, I just threw $6k into the "medical fund," (on paper - I don't have separate savings accounts). I already had $1k in there, which hasn't been billed yet - but will cover most the MRI. So really, $7k in the medical fund, should cover 2010, for now.

We still have $12k emergency fund. Obviously, all this stuff falls under the realm of emergency.

The sad thing, is I only have about $1k left in mid-term savings. I built it up from $0 to $10k, in 2009. Guess I will just have to try and do the same, again for 2010.

Of course, this year, the ROTH will probably be sacrificed. We were on track to put $5k away, and even as I built up cash, I was sure I would transfer some to the ROTH at year's end. Or if the market dropped substantially, etc.

It looks more likely we will just ignore the ROTH this year. We still put 10% away to retirement, and that has ALWAYS been our "bare minimum." To face all this and still be able to put away 10% is a blessing, in my opinion.

If all goes well, I should be able to save $15k-ish this year, cash. Who knows, we may make our cash savings goal and/or put some money to the ROTH anyway. I know it is likely some of this will be diverted to daycare and more eating out/convenience.

The only other large expense on the horizon is we need a few thousand to paint our house exterior. I worry how much it will cost. & why I am not happy to see me mid-term savings dwindle to $1k for a time. (DIY is not an option - house is too large. I don't do heights!!! Would need some super-sized ladders and some bravery to boot. Plus the time to tackle the whole thing). Willing to pay more for a good job that would last a while though. Original paint job sucked.

Of course, I have always said I wouldn't touch my efund with a 10-foot pole. But this is precisely the kind of exception an efund warrants. & you know what? It feels awesome to have that $12k sitting there. Big Grin The kind of emergencies I always envisioned were job loss or major house destruction (flood, etc.). I suppose its hard to foresee every possible emergency.

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That's the long and the short of it.

Thanksgiving went amazingly well and we had a great time.

Not sure what we will do this weekend. Not much planned. Will enjoy any "peace" we can before the storm. Though it kind of sucks we pretty much have 3 days with "nothing to do" as we eagerly await dh's big doctor appointment next week.

Another Update

November 26th, 2009 at 03:22 pm

I saw the SA blog and it showed what we have learned this week. I did comment on it.

http://www.savingadvice.com/blog/2009/11/26/105446_at-the-en...

Dh and I had a long talk about all this the other night. & he said all he wanted to do was take BM rock climbing. Because he had been meaning to and hadn't got around to it (indoor rock climbing, that is).

It is possible he would maybe want to travel a bit, but we feel his last flight set all this off. (Flying put some pressure on his ear). So basically, he doesn't want to fly anywhere. & I think on some level he rather just be home.

The interesting this is we concluded our lives were fulfilled and there wasn't much to do. If the important things are family, that is what we have focused on all along. We have always prioritized heavily in our life - meaning we don't tend to put off important things. Which is an awesome feeling. He actually told me his only regret would be missing seeing the kids grow up, etc. What more could you ask for, as you face mortality at such a young age? No other regrets?

There is not a high chance of death in his scenario, but it gets you thinking very seriously about your life, and death, regardless.

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I laid off the computer yesterday. Which was a good thing. Can be information overload.

Today I did some research on the hearing side of things.

Looks like hearing prognosis is good. I even found that as of the last year or 2, our HMO covers "bone attached hearing aids," which they refer to as BAHA. I am not 100% sure they would cover it if he only loses hearing in one ear, but I guess there have been a lot of advocacy groups fighting for the "right to hear." & they said his specific tumor led to more acceptance of full coverage of implanted hearing aids. It looks promising, and looks like it could be a hell of a lot more expensive and not covered, if this was just a few years ago.

Just, interesting. Glad to know there are options. Of course the hearing device is $5k-ish and we could swing it. Seems surgery is usually approved - the truly expensive part. Though I am not sure why an insurer would pay for surgery but deny the device. But, whatever...

Hopefully dh will *not* lose his hearing, and will all be moot. But it is good to know he will have options to hear again, if it comes to that.

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Our final headcount is about 21 for today. We lost 2 people but then gained 4.

I made fudge and eggs in the end. (The fudge took seconds to make, it seems).

Dh did some cooking, but most of it is more of a potluck. So not a huge amount of T-Day stress here. Never is. We try to make it easy on everyone.

It's kind of cool how we all work together. Great-Grandma is the stuffing master, and Grandpa does the gravy. Grammy picks the turkey apart afterwards. Grandma makes the pies, and on and on. IT's like a well-oiled machine. Somehow I am the egg and fudge master. It's nice just to be responsible for what I am good at. Big Grin

Happy Thanksgiving!

Feeling Down

November 25th, 2009 at 03:38 pm

I suppose my blog will veer off into "life with brain tumor" for a while. Particularly since we haven't told many people yet. Not until we *know* more. I've got to brain dump here!

Oh yes, and thank you so very much for your kid words and thoughts. It all does mean a lot.

Per further research, it's pretty clear that dh will have surgery within 2 months' time. Highly likely. Faces large chance of permanent hearing loss and facial paralysis (on one side).

Yesterday was hard to keep upbeat. Though I did dream it turned out to be cancer. I guess it could be HUGELY worse. At least it's not spreading and cancerous! This is what I have to think of to remain upbeat, I suppose.

Mortality rate for surgery is less than 1%. The fear comes from the permanent damage, and the intensity of it all. Brain surgery recovery will be long and difficult.

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Dh is the one you want around when someone is sick or in the hospital. He just knows what to do and say. I wish I could say the same for the rest of us. He deserves the same in return. The rest of us are not so good with the whole thing. He's already frustrated with me and his family. Boy, it's going to be a LONG few months.

Though I personally dread the hub bub of Thanksgiving, with all this going on, he looks forward to it. Hopefully his family will be comforting.

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I haven't thought too much of the logistics if he does have surgery. One thing at a time, I guess. I can't let that crash around me yet. BM would be thrilled to go to before and after school care (he is always begging to stay) and LM could live with relatives, at face value. Has its pros and cons, but probably beats thrusting him into daycare. He is not nearly as social as BM and not so into the whole daycare thing. (BM thrived with it, which is why he so wants to be in daycare even still).

The practical side of me thinks I should sign up BM for the school care, ASAP. They have drop-in care, which is expensive considering LM can't go. (Then they both cost $10/hour, as opposed to $12 for the two of them, other places). BUT, with all these doctor appointments and such, would be useful and needed. My mom mentioned neighbors for help. Neighbors are no help. All of our close friends and neighbors work full-time! Makes them rather useless in times like these. (You could argue they have evenings and weekends - but the people we know can barely function in their own lives, much less help other people out). We will have to rely on family 2 hours away, and paid care. I *so* wish Ms. Preschool was still here. I need her back!!!! I just can't fret about all this at this point - I know it will work out.

The thoughts did start to creep in my mind that it will be quite expensive with daycare considerations, and someone like me having to take care of careful meal planning and shopping. I haven't perfected that art, like dh. Though I suppose it is nice that he does not have a job to worry about, the fact is he saves us a lot of money being home, and him being out of commission will display just how expensive it will be to not have him performing his duties.

These thoughts are on the peripheral of my mind, but it's all too much to worry about at this point.

Of course, if dh had the decency to be diagnosed in the spring, I could have taken a couple of months off with state "paid family leave." As is, we can time the surgery so that I can take a few days off, but that's all I can really spare. My employer is very flexible and will work with me. BUT, we simply don't have enough staff to get the work done. BUSY season begins in just a couple of weeks. That stress is a bit much. I'd probably lose my mind thinking about it, and stressing about the whole thing, but I know our family can step in and take care of dh and the kids. Thank goodness!!!!!!!!!! I can't imagine where we would be without their support. If my boss gave me his blessing, I would be home worried about work, or just slammed beyond oblivion upon my return. Between now and May, I just can't do it all. & I need my job to pay these bills!

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Today I have to set it all aside.

I haven't done a thing to get ready for T-Day!!!!!! Thankfully, dh is taking care of most of the food. Today will have to clean house. We will probably feel less obligated to get the house sparkling. People will understand.

We have been eating out a lot this week. Dh had the meals planned, but no one felt like cooking the other night. Which threw everything off. I just noticed no one put the food away last night. Usually dh is - wasted food sitting out. Ugh. (I hope dh pulls himself together a bit!) Today we figured we'd eat out. Something cheap like Taco Bell. No room for leftovers in the fridge - it's jam packed with turkey and such.

I think today and tomorrow will be filled with distractions. I've got to think about other things. Nothing else I can really do at this point.

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I do hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving!

For us, we still have tons to be thankful for. Food, shelter, health, family, etc., etc.

The News is Pretty Terrible

November 24th, 2009 at 12:31 pm

I am SO over 2009. My foundation has been rocked!

Dh went in for a MRI Friday and we knew it wasn't good. He was in there an hour (as opposed to 20 minutes). I asked if he had moved, etc. Wondered if he was just too fidgety or something. He said, no, that they had injected him with die mid-way through to look at something closer.

This put us in a tense mood. We still went away for the weekend and figured if they didn't call him to emergency before we left on Saturday, that maybe it isn't so bad.

They called him in yesterday for an appointment with his ear/nose/throat doctor - the one who ordered the MRI in the end. Neurologist didn't think the MRI was warranted. Fair enough, since his brain seemed totally fine. Even his hearing tests did not seem to warrant a brain tumor - though that seemed to be mostly what they were ruling out. This early follow up didn't sound very promising - he was supposed to go in Wednesday.

Of course, wires crossed, and before he met with his doctor, Neurosurgery called him for an appointment next week. We still had no idea what is going on, but that did NOT sound good! Should have called after he met with his doc, but they seemed eager, which was also scary.

I came home to watch the kids. I would have like to have gone with him, but it was so last minute. I am glad I didn't go - his ENT doctor is an IDIOT! She diagnosed this, sure, but her bedside manner is terrible. I am glad I wasn't there - hearing dh's rundown.

His appointment was short and he called me in an upbeat mood about 10 minutes after he was scheduled. I was relieved to be called so fast. Though, admittedly, his upbeatedness was probably just shock.

In the end, he does have a brain tumor. A large one. (1.5 inches or about 4cm)

There is a lot of good. They have said all along it is 100% benign due to his symptoms (if he had one). They still say it is 100% benign. It is a very slow growing tumor, etc., etc.

We don't know much at this point. Doctor said he is not necessarily being rushed to surgery - may try to shrink it first (radiation, drugs, etc.). Though perusing online, most people with tumors his size seemed to be RUSHED to surgery. It's overwhelming to think he may undergo brain surgery before the year is up.

But, who knows. We basically don't know much until we meet with the neurosurgeon next week.

Though I am extremely happy with our HMO, all I could think was I want the best damn neurosurgeon we can find. Talk about intense! In the end I looked up his doctor, and he looks excellent on paper. Hopefully we like him so much in person. So far, I am pleased. He performs all the tumor removals of this type, for our HMO, in Northern Cali. That sounds good to me. Plus he has been there 20 years. So many of the best doctors seem to come and go, so like I said, on paper I am pleased.

Anyway, what we gather is though the tumor is benign, it is a bit of a misnomer, because it can cause so many problems as it grows. & brain surgery is no easy fix. It is possible he will lose hearing in one ear - facial paralysis is another concern. The good thing is I didn't really see any other mention of any side affects, from surgery, etc. Though it would certainly suck to lose hearing in one ear, I am glad that more important brain functions seem to be preserved with this type of brain tumor. Heck, hearing technology is so advanced - who knows if "loss of hearing" means much in this day and age.

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It's a lot to digest. I am glad they called him in Monday so we had a few days to digest it, before Thanksgiving.

I do know we will have all the support we need from our crazy family. 4 of them are coming up Tuesday to watch the kids, so I can go to his appointment with the neurosurgeon. Overkill? Perhaps. But, gotta love family. I am not worried about what we will do if dh is out of commission for a while. Family will be there.

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I have always been particular about our health plan (Employer offered plans have always been crappy and expensive). This pickiness hopefully pays off. This is why I am PICKY!

I don't know if dh is insurable any longer. We have private insurance, and so as long as our HMO stays afloat, and we can afford the bills, insurance coverage is there. None of this switching jobs/losing coverage business.

Of course, I couldn't sleep and woke up around 3am. It occurred to me in all this mess that I never got our new premiums for 2010. I must have a rogue e-mail setup for the notification. I logged in and sure enough, the info has been there about a week.

All I can say, is Ugh! Our premiums are going up 20%. $100 per month increase.

Health insurance has been a nightmare for us the last decade. With the introductions of HDHPs, we had a calm couple of years, and is precisely why we had a couple of good financial years, recently.

All along I felt our HDHP was a little "too good to be true." That they were phasing it in to higher deductibles, etc.

I called it! It looks like our deductible will remain at $3k. BUT our out-of-pocket is increasing to $6k.

I've read through everything a million times in the past and I told dh I felt I understood our health plan. This will really put it to the test. I guess if all we pay is $6k for brain surgery, I shouldn't complain. I always feel wary that maybe I am missing something. Who trusts these insurers???

Anyway, not that we have used our deductible any given year. BUT, obviously we are heading to an expensive 2010. Which means we could end up paying $14k next year - for premiums and deductibles/out-of-pocket. But what else is new? We are used to double-digit increases, and large raises being eaten up by health insurance. I've got to find another $5k for next year. (There goes our ROTH? At face value, not sure where else I could cut $5k - is a pretty hefty sum).

I had wanted to hoarde cash next year, to get to our long-term cash goals, etc. Guess I will be hoarding it for medical expenses instead.

This is why I feel like we have been spinning our wheels the last few years. For everyone who has put me down for being too stingy, it's time like these I feel we haven't been stingy enough! Does no one else have these large $$ surprises??? What others call "stingy," I call "keeping afloat!"

Oh, anyway, lower deductible plans all cost about twice as much, and I am not sure dh could switch plans at this point, with his newfound pre-existing condition. Still seems like we have the best option available.

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I actually had a client whose young spouse (close in age) had a brain tumor. Looking back, I always assumed it was cancer, and I really think it was, from the way they talked.

Talk about intense! He's been on disability a couple of years, at least. He was not well enough to watch their children.

Though they were well insured, at some point there was a mix up and they were sent over $1 million in bills. !!!! They felt very blessed to have such good insurance. They were on the hook for very few dollars.

I try to remind myself this is precisely why we pay for such catastrophic insurance. I need to keep my perspective in these times. $14k per year is a bargain compared to how financially devastated we could be right now, without health insurance.