Friday, June 28, 2013

I just woke up, and see that Penny left without me. :-(

I truly do love my wife, and I appreciate her so much regarding thinking of me this morning (my pain got so bad yesterday, that I went to a free clinic and sought help while she went to "Lifetime" fitness to swim). When I got home last night, Penny asked me if I should stay home. I told her that was inconceivable. So, this morning I woke up and she was gone (she had left for CTCA without me). I was initially.... upset, but that quickly turned into love and appreciation.

She truly knows me better than myself (as I could barely walk out of the bedroom a few minutes ago... as my right foot is now swollen too as the gout takes its course throughout my body), so it is probably for the best that I remain home today.

It is hard for me to admit that I am human, fallible, and that I am not a superman capable of being at her side no matter what is thrown at us. The Marine and stubborn Norwegian in me refuses to waver. But she took it out of my hands. To be honest, this is the first time I am not at her side for one of her treatments / hospital visits since February, 2012 when she was on life support. I think she is trying to tell me "Physician, Heal thyself" and for me to accept the fact that sometimes I can't always be there (and that is actually "OK"). I just worry about the fact that something will happen if I am not there...... so today, I will put it in God's hands.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways... acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths.
                                                                                 - Proverbs 3:5,6


So I will just have to accept that today, Penny was thinking of me so she wouldn't have to worry about me as she underwent her chemo treatment. And I just have to work on getting better (and a little prayer in that direction on my part will only help in that regard). Even Travis won't let me drive him to work (he has chosen to ride his bike instead). "There's the sign".

So what is Steinar (the stubborn fool) wanting to do today? Well, it is Sunny for a change (see the picture below that I just took), and the Lawn/Jungle needs to be cut. I think I'll accept fate and take it easy for the next few hours and trust that my family knows best and that I should actually stay off my feet. We'll see how that goes. ;-)

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Will someone PLEASE turn off the rain?

The weather pattern here by Casa Andersen has been putting almost every inch of moisture coming out of the Gulf Of Mexico or the Western Rockies through our corridor of loveliness (between Rockford and Huntley) for over 3 months. 6 inches of the stuff at last count from yesterday (buckets started pouring for hours in the early morning and it drizzled for the rest of the day).

As we have our A/C on (set to 75 degrees), our inert gas filled windows are showing moisture in the upper windows this am  all around our house. That means, the dew point / humidity is at a saturation point.

ENOUGH RAIN ALREADY!!!!

Our jungle called a lawn needs to be mowed. I know that sounds insensitive considering how some areas of the country are going through drought, but really (rain everyday)? Is this Seattle?

The low pressure systems that keep passing through are FEEDING my gout attacks like nothing I have ever experienced. I am now officially in awful pain for going on my 2nd week. It is 5:10 am and I cannot get any sleep. I cannot get anything done around the house. I feel like a prisoner of my own body. I know there are vets out there dealing with lost limbs and horrific injuries... but can I just describe the stabbing pain going on in my left foot's big toe? I am at a point that if I could lop off the foot and use a prosthesis to walk around (and if it was a choice), that I would take that choice. I can't begin to describe the pain (and it isn't just as I try to walk/hobble/crawl, it is when I am sitting down or trying to sleep).

My work trying to deal with the paperwork jungle is at a snails pace as a result (and Penny would like her Kitchen table back). Just give us more than 1 day of High Pressure and some sun.... it's not much to ask.

~from the hurtlocker of pain

Monday, June 24, 2013

The avalanche of paperwork (or, how to kill multiple trees to keep the government at bay OR happy).

To see why stress plays a role in the disabled and the unemployed (my gout attack explained away), I am going to post some pictures of the leviathan of paperwork we have dealt with since last year plus break down what we are dealing with (and I am not posting this as a "poor us" issue, it just usually never gets talked about amongst friends/family and explaining what we are dealing with may help others know how to address their issues head on). And we are not trying to be "benefit hounds" relying on government, after working for 31 years straight... we are only applying for what we are "eligible" for given the circumstances:
  • Unemployment (9 months so far... we are past state benefits and are now on "Tier 1" of federal benefits... of which is reduced by 16.8% due to the governmental sequester... tier 2 next month and tier 3 in September ending in October)
    • Job hunt  (9 months so far - keeping records of who I apply for a job at)
    • McHenry County Workforce Network ~ Woodstock, IL.
    • Illinois Joblink (online)
    • "Marine for Life"
    • "Marine Corps League"
  • 401k and ESOP disbursement from former employer (it took 6 months) ~ We are officially out of these benefits now.
  • Penny's medical bills (ongoing for 22 years - but increasing since last years hospitalizations)
  • Penny's medical treatment (since Feb, 2012 - ongoing regarding cancer treatment / surgery / hospitalization)
  • Penny's Social Security Disability Case (Ongoing - Denied 3 x and trying to reopen)
  • Snap/DHS (in October, we applied for and were denied SNAP plus SSI benefits for Penny & Travis due to how much I made from unemployment plus how much Penny received from her Long Term Disability benefit... and Travis' limited P/T work income).
  • Our monthly bills (ongoing - reducing monthly spend to bare minimums - trying to eliminate debt including selling off RV plus trying unsuccessfully to hand back 2011 Mitsubishi to Mitsubishi Credit)
  • My Veterans Healthcare effort (ongoing - denied 2x based on last years salary / "means test")
  • My Veterans Disability rating effort (ongoing - takes at least 2 years to process due to backlog)
  • My State of Illinois "Vetcare" effort (since Vet Healthcare was denied)
    • I interact with multiple different entities regarding Vet benefits:
      • The State of Illinois Veterans Affairs Department
        • (via a Veterans Services Officer in Elgin, IL.)
        • An IDES vet employment rep
        • The Illinois Veterans Assistance Commission Woodstock, IL. office
      • The Veterans Administration (Federal Government)
      •  Veterans & Family Services in McHenry, IL.
        • Transitional Living Services
  • VRAP Benefits (Veterans Rehabilitation) - I was approved, but found out I cannot use them for retraining / certification effort as I would lose unemployment as a result (the governmental law of unintended consequences)
  • Foreclosure (we averted this by working with Wells Fargo directly without a lawyer / credit agency late last year & putting the overdue balance at he end of the loan & negotiating the loan rate down to 3.25%.... & did this before Illinois Hardest Hit took effect in December, 2012)
  • Illinois Hardest Hit (It took 2 months to go through the process, reviewing our budget / accounts with a credit counseling agency & exposing our revenue / spending to that agency)
  • Fundraising effort via GoForward.com (tax implications)
  • Federal and State Tax submission (before 04/15). Please note, I have my taxes plus all supporting documents in files dating back to 1989 filling 1 file drawer in our filing cabinet.
  • Plus my occasional efforts regarding the "Comprehensive Immigration Reform" issues facing congress at the moment.
The paperwork is literally a part time job (but if we didn't do it, we would most likely be homeless by this point as paperwork not done affects everything regarding keeping one step ahead of chaos and being proactive with creditors / revenue generators / government agencies keeps them at bay):

 

Now, this isn't the first time I've dealt with such overwhelming flooding of paperwork (it is just.... the latest).

From 1979 to 1983 - Applying twice for US Citizenship (my first file was lost in Chicago), and ultimately going through the process until earning my Citizenship in October of 1983.

From 1989 to 2010 - we dealt with the insanity that is "Child Support" regarding my children. I have an entire drawer in my filing cabinet dedicated to that disaster. I cannot begin to describe what the system does to father's who actually are cooperative and who actually pay their child support. Apparently, we are required to be perfect and keep paying on time despite adversity and job loss (and are called dead beats when trying to do what one can to survive such adversity). Any time there is a hiccup, it takes months to recover (and many meetings with faceless government bureaucrats who don't know the word "accountable" regarding their own actions). Despite many varying issues that we faced, we were still able to keep up 95% of the time (and when we couldn't, we made sure we made up for it). In the end, the state managing the Child Support reviewed the case 4 times and adjusted the end date FOUR TIMES (once, the case worker in Arizona told me the case was closing and I was to be reimbursed an overpayment... witnessed by my mother and step son no less and yet, it came back at us yet again 6 months later). I can write a book on this issue alone.

From 1989 to 2010 - we dealt with the insanity that is "Child Support" also regarding Penny's children. In this case he was ALWAYS behind (to the end), and so we had to endure that process also. 

From 1989 to present - My step son Travis was born premature by over 2 months with collapsed lungs. He was airlifted to Lutheran General and stayed at that hospital for 3 months (multiple surgeries)  and then came home with a heart monitor for the next year. I met Travis after he was home from the hospital. He had and has multiple disabilities (and has had multiple surgeries since over the years). He is considered developmentally disabled and his measured IQ is 59. He started with many different educational experts regarding help with his education at the age of 3 (we put him and pre-school to prepare for his needs). He was "special needs all during his school years getting supplemental help and whittled down his needs down to 4 experts by the time he was done (he was also part of Sedom / Pioneer Center regarding his continuing education until the age of 23... when he received his High School Diploma). Travis' file takes almost 1 drawer in the filing cabinet also (especially prolific were the individualized educational program (IEP) reviews which kept his education on track. Our IEP meetings for the first 9 years were major battles to ensure Travis got the education he needed (especially when he transferred schools). Also, our daughter Sondra was "Home Schooled" for the last 3 years of her schooling (Penny made sure that Sondra finished High school despite the many issues Sondra faced also.  As a matter of family pride, we can honestly say all four of our children actually graduated from High School.

In 1991 - Penny was injured on the job (and her employer - JJ Finnegans at Springhill Mall - didn't pay their workers comp premium, so we battled them for 7 years until the Restaurant went belly up).

In 1996, we dealt with our child being "attacked" in another state (not by anyone in our family) and I spent the next 2 years pursuing the perp (he was eventually given an expunged sentence as he finished a court ordered "Diversion" program). He spent a total 2 1/2 days in prison and was protected by his family as he was the main wage earner and it was allegedly not heinous enough of an act... and was allegedly his first time (he couldn't be prosecuted for his previous infraction as it was past the statute of limitations despite his admitting in writing that it happened). This takes up almost another drawer in our filing cabinet (and consumed me for years as the State of Washington fought me every step of the way regarding my effort to get my child justice).

In 2000 - that same child was attacked by neighbor in California (the man was caught & then prosecuted under the 3 strikes law & is now serving life in prison without Parole). My brother and I went to California and pursued whatever legal avenues we could to safeguard our child.

In 2001 - Penny was shot at JB's pub in Elgin (a couple of blocks from our house) with 2 others shot dead and over 14 injured by misc. injuries including bullet wounds. The ensuing medical treatment / neurological - musculature surgery / rehab took 3 years. We received a minimal "dram shop" settlement from the Insurer for JB's Pub 7 years later.which paid for the medical costs associated with her medical care / hospitalization /

In 2001 through 2003 - The court case for the perp who shot Penny (covered  by the Death Penalty statute as 2 died) was high profile. He was found guilty and was on death row until 2003 when former Governor Ryan emptied death row of all inmates in his political swan song (despite evidence the perp was caught with the weapons in his hands still smoking). Ryan used the death penalty process as a way he could have political footnote in history and to use that "good works" in his future prosecution as a way to say he was actually a good guy. That file takes up 2 large 3 ring folders.

In 2006, Penny was injured on the job at a bank and went on short term / then long term disability and has been disabled since then. She has had 3 carpal tunnel surgeries, 1 arm surgery, 2 knee surgeries, and endless rehab in the past 22 years. She was immediately approved for STD, then LTD benefits (and she gets a benefit check once per month).
  • 2 years later - her LTD carrier (Standard Insurance) denied her claim for being disabled for "Any occupation". I personally took on the battle to fight this decision and after deluging the company with her medical records and breaking down for them what she has been facing medically (to the point an investigator came to our house and we spent over an hour answering all questions no matter how personal). They reversed their decision after that and Penny continues to get LTD benefits to this day (until age 65).
2006 through the present - Social Security Disability benefits ~ Penny applied for SSD and was denied at initial level, at the 2nd follow-up level, and at the Administrative Law Judge Level. We asked Allsup and Associates to represent Penny for the 4th and final review... and Allsup never contacted Social Security so she is not eligible for Social Security Disability due to a change in the law limiting reviews for a disability time period to once per time period (a technicality)... as they did not get a request within 60 days of the ALJ decision from either Allsup or us.

2006 through 2010 - Multiple time, my mother, brother and his wife, my wife and I dealt with my sister's (and her sperm donor's) multiple drug problems. She lost multiple apartments during that time (where my brother and I plus mother moved her out more than twice when she abandoned an apartment while we dealt with the upset landlord). We actually had to go 110 miles where she was last "hiding" back in 2008 and had to pick up our niece and nephew as they were being abused (we took our nephew to our home and my brother & his wife took on our niece).... and took care of them for 3 months while fighting Illinois DCFS as they handed them off to us without having first gone to a judge so we could put them in school (and we suffered multiple setbacks as a result). In 2010, after my mother passed away, my sister called me in a panic saying she was losing the children the next day and if I could help her. The sperm donor was in jail for not paying his child support for another child he had fathered before meeting my sister. I managed to vouch for my sister and stop the proceedings (by her assurances the sperm donor was no longer in her life), got her moved into a inexpensive mobile home in Rockford within a month. 5 months later, he got out of jail and she proceeded to allow him back into her life (and I have engaged in tough love ever since). That file is 3 file folders.

2006 through 11/29/2009 - My mother started deteriorating medically in 2006 (she was 66). She was approved for Medicaid but had been denied Social Security Retirement (as SSA could not find her Resident Alien # via their computer systems that were connected to "ICE's" computers. I spearheaded the effort with ICE to get a new Alien Registration # for her (that took almost 3 years to get done), which ultimately was their adding a "0" to her previous number. She was hospitalized multiple times during that time for Pancreatitis. Ultimately, she  almost died in 2008 and was in a coma for a week (and I had to take over her finances in order for her bills to be paid). We then helped clean up part of her apartment as she was living with us almost full time during those 4 years). In 2009, we got her back to her home on Mother's day, and then soon after, we found out she had Pancreatic Cancer. She moved back in with us and we slowly saw her whittle away to skin and bones. She died 3 days after being put into Hospice (thank God, my Aunt had come for that Holiday and helped us deal with the repercussions of what we were dealing with.

2008 - My ex informed my daughter that I was not her biological daughter (right before our grandson was born), taking it to the point of arranging her to meet the man who contributed to the disintegration of my first marriage (without first asking for a Blood or DNA test). We forced the issue and eventually convinced my daughter to contribute a dna sample to an independent DNA company (I provided my own sample). It was independently determined that I was her biological father (but not before our grandson was born, and since we were told the "other guy" had been invited to the hospital, we decided not to go so as to avoid a chaotic situation our daughter didn't deserve to go through). This one issue caused this side of the family horrible heartache as it was so vindictive on the other parent's part.

11/30/2009 through April 2010 - Dealing with my mother's estate and all of her belongings. I headed up the effort of communication with the estate attorney and managed all of the ratcheting down of her assets. My mother had gotten another apartment 2 months before she passed, so we had 2 apartments to deal with. At the end of March, 2010.... my brother Erik, my wife and sister on a couple of days, my mother's best friend (Christie) and her daughter, and 6 people from a company called Clutter Coach cleaned out my mother's apartment she had lived in for 18 years. It is astonishing what we accomplished in that time and we accomplished our goal of emptying it (we still have a 25 foot storage locker for what was pulled out of there). There were many creditors that we dealt with and the estate ended up with $1,400.00 left once all was said and done. That file is over 4 three-ring folders.

Please note that I had a full time job during that time (and in Information Technology from 1997 to 2012 where I put in longer than 50 to 60 hour days on many weeks where I also did updates on weekends). 

Presently, what I wrote above at the beginning of this post is what I am dealing with now.

Here is the latest in that effort:

Here is Penny's Shooting / Medical folder.

Here are the folders I interact with on a weekly (sometimes daily) basis.

Here is the paperwork I have to catch up on.. on our Dining room table.
 
My gout as of a few minutes ago:
 
 


Sunday, June 23, 2013

Well, Penny is not having a good day physically.

Yesterday, Penny spent the day with her friends (it was a good friend's birthday) and she also went with them in the evening for a girls nite out (she actually engaged in some dancing for the first time in a very long time). Unfortunately, she is paying the price for that today (and since my gout is still in full flare up, we felt we couldn't make it to church without making things worse).

She now remembers why she needs to take it easy after chemo treatments (and I will be sure to remind her the next 3 weeks). We'll have to be sure to listen to the mp3 version of the sermon (its been a while since we missed Church).

I am starting to see why my mother (who died of pancreatic cancer in 2009) had such difficulties taking care of day to day activities (and why the house eventually became unmanageable regarding it's care). I have so many projects on hold while I try to recover from the latest gout attack (and Summer is now here). I feel like I am getting nothing accomplished (because I spend so much time working on my unemployment effort at finding a viable job and spend an inordinate time trying to get past government bureaucracy regarding benefits that by any measure, we should be eligible for).

I will have to spend some time with the Bible today and ascertain why I am feeling so low (and give it to God and trust in HIM instead of sweating the small stuff as I tend to do).

Its supposed to be a hot day and I still have the lawn to do (with all the rain, it is growing at a very fast rate... thank God we still have the 25 yr old Montgomery Wards riding lawn mower that works as good as the day it was built). Without that hydrostatic drive (no clutch, automatic transmission), I wouldn't know what I would do. As it is going to rain all day today & tomorrow, I'll just have to do it another day. In the interim, I just started bleeding urologically, so I have to deal with another issue due to the medication I am taking on top of it all. :(

In the interim, I will day dream about being at Illinois beach with Penny.

~ Steinar

It's 4:40 am on Sunday morning, and I can't get any sleep.

We have Church to go to in 5 1/2 hours, and I am looking everywhere online for a job. I'm awake as I have been taking my Excedrin  / Aleve cocktail for 6 days straight to deal with my gout attack and the caffeine has me wired for sound. Here is my foot as of a few minutes ago:



A former co-worker emailed me a link to a job (at a former employers), and I made up my mind that I had enough of high pressure cooker positions (where one is an island and where one has to drive over 100 miles a day). And there was a reason why that job has a revolving door (and the posting actually states "high pressure environment"). Don't I know it (no thank you).

Stress contributes to gout attacks (I am quite sure that Penny's medical situation where she is now getting chemo after we decided not to have her bladder removed yet is not helping my stress levels). Also, the State of Illinois' continued efforts to state they haven't received my documentation for Vetcare are also not helping.

So, my efforts are to find a job that will cause me as little stress as possible that is close enough to my home so I can be there for my family (I have always worked 38 miles or farther from my house since 1990 and it is past old). I am not sure such a job exists. On Illinois Joblink, my searches come up with zero results for the background I have..... not a good sign at all.

The upside right now is that Penny hasn't shown any adverse effects yet from the Chemo on Friday, and she is sleeping tonight and I haven't seen her get up to go to the bathroom yet (bonus). So, hopefully that will continue for the rest of this early morning...... while I stare at the Super Moon and the ceiling for the next 4 hours.........