My Letter to Oxford Insurance

Here’s my first draft of an appeal I need to send to my insurance company:


Dear Oxford,
First I’d like to compliment you on your nonconformist and expert way of really knowing what’s best for your customers, like me!  While I was experiencing what would end up being the hardest month of my life, you and your big machine went ahead and preauthorized every procedure I was enduring.  My head wasn’t really in the game at the time, and somehow I seemed to be thinking about the choices ahead of me more than double-checking if you really really really pinky-promise meant it when you said you’d cover these medical expenses.  I suppose in my lazy haze of indulgent sorrow, I was setting myself up to learn an important lesson!
The lesson you’ve helped me learn?  Stay on your toes!  I probably should have been braced for the unexpected call I received while playing with my son at the park, telling me I owe thousands of dollars to the hospital because, shucks, you guys changed your mind.  Well listen, we all have changes of heart sometimes, right?  Like this morning, I thought I’d like cereal and then I changed my mind and had toast!  See, we all do it.
I suppose the most valuable thing you’ve done for me is force me to repeat my story over and over again to anonymous telephone operators who have absolutely no stake in empathy or human emotion whatsoever.  Your robot army is truly impressive.  I’m guessing that by the 10th or maybe 11th time I have to re-live it to someone I don’t know, I will be able to laugh right through it AND set up a payment plan.  Fingers crossed!!
Finally, I look forward to the challenge of getting my mind around why you would approve in advance, every doctor’s visit and medical procedure I had done, and then *poof! * change your mind, though none of the information or diagnoses have changed.  I’m not the brightest bulb in this here chandelier, and am having more trouble than you’d think trying to figure that out.  I’ll come around, though – don’t stop believing in me!  In the meantime, I’ll take comfort in the solace that writing an appeal and collecting medical documentation to support my appeal will bring.  Like a warm blanket on a cold night, those activities!
Many Many Many Thanks,
Jodi Nelson Call
P.S.  Wondering if there’s any chance you could increase our premiums a little?  I feel that I owe you so much more. 

Holiday Sucker

I’ll just be honest here and admit I really love the Winter Holidays. I do. I know that it’s patently uncool to buy into it, but I yam what I yam. I love that Brooklyn smells like pine trees rather than urine. I love the lights because you can see them turn on at around 4:30, when it’s already dusk. I love that Roan’s internal excitement volume has been turned up to 11, as his 1-2 combo of Birthday/Christmas approaches. And I really really love the superfast fleeting moments when I feel that drunken anticipation exactly as when I was a wee young lass, for all of the parties and celebrations.

We went and picked out a tree this weekend from one of the million vendors in the neighborhood. Roan had his eye on a beauty and once he got the nod of approval from Anson, the boy and I ran (literally, because Roan runs everywhere.) home and broke open the boxes of ornaments. Anson dragged the tree home and we dialed up some Holiday songs, poured eggnog and got that tree dressed up to the nines. It’s beautiful. I have always loved the first time you darken all of the lights in the house, and then sit by the glowing tree. Roan and I got on You Tube and I showed him the Heat Miser/Freeze Miser song from “The Year Without a Santa Claus” and he was hooked. We put the movie at the top of our Netflix queue, and the song has been going round and round both of our heads, which for now is cool.

We rounded the weekend out with a Vietnamese lunch and shopping binge in Herald Square. This
is where Macy’s lives, and where Santaland is housed, but we couldn’t go there on the weekend or it would murder my Holiday Glee.
Instead, Roan whispered in each of his parent’s ears, “Let’s sneak away from Mom/Dad and pick some presents for her/him”. We separated, and Roan told us each the same decoy story, that he was going to buy white socks, with nothing of interest to look at in the bag he would later be carrying. He’s a clever dude, that child.

I only suspected that I had overdone the weekend partying that night when we returned home. I
put Roan into the bath and as we went through our ritual of him sudsing up and me sitting by the side of the tub talking to him and feeding him cranberries, he kept nodding off.
It was the funniest thing I have seen in maybe my whole life. Mid-sentence, his eyes would lower, heavy, and then he would slip sideways into the water and be startled awake. The kid was so spent that this actually happened three or four times, when he finally just propped himself up against the wall and closed his eyes. I think it must be awesome to be six in December in NYC.

(Just a note: his bathwater wasn’t really this color.  That’s just the way the filter I used on the camera made it look.  No, really.  I mean it.  Filter.  Are we clear?)

Seven Decembers

This is my seventh December I’ve had with Roan. I can’t believe how lucky I am. These photos were all taken in the same week of December throughout the years. This kid? He rocks my world in a most astounding way.

Roan 2003 / Newborn

Roan 2004 / 1 Year Old

Roan 2005 / 2 Years Old

Roan 2006 / 3 Years Old

Roan 2007 / 4 Years Old

Roan 2008 / 5 Years Old

Roan 2009 / 6 Years Old

Super Power(less)

Brooklyn Bridge from Manhattan Bridge

Before I became pregnant, I enjoyed running a beautiful route in the morning that included two boroughs, two magnificent bridges, and seven neighborhoods, a few whose commercial and boutique signs mainly are written in foreign languages. This run included views of the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, and more Government Housing Projects than I could count. I began to pass the same people who were commuting to work on their bicycles, or running their own route, and would smile, wave or high-five them in passing. When all the problems with my pregnancy began raining down, I would console myself with many different approaches. Sometimes that approach would be me looking forward to resuming my running route, thinking about how much I loved the feel of beginning it, being in it, and finishing it.

I wrote about my maiden run, and the epic break down I had on the Brooklyn Bridge. Since then, I have looked to my runs around this city as a gamble in therapy. There are days where I feel like throwing in the towel and think being strong is terribly overrated. On those days the only way I can seem to get my body out the door and my feet to hit the sidewalk is by remembering how badly I wanted to be able to run my entire route but couldn’t the first few times I tried. I felt totally defeated each time I tried to run in the beginning – even to run slowly – and would say some hateful things to myself, punishing myself for not being strong enough to get through it. I would run as fast and as far as I could, usually with tears rolling out of my eyes and into my mouth. It felt awful to be that sad and powerless, but it also felt part ridiculous and part punk rock to be out in the world living it and experiencing it in such a raw way, and not hiding from it. Those parts made me come back for more.

I can now easily run the whole route. (Ummmm OK when I say “easily” I don’t mean it isn’t hard. I just mean I know I can do it from start to finish without falling over dead. So, to be clear: easy = being able to do something without falling over dead.) It didn’t take me all that long to get my breath, to get my endurance, to get my legs back. But what seems to be harder is to lose the sense of powerlessness I have adopted through losing this child, through being limited physically, through not knowing when I’m going to need to talk about it, through not knowing when I cannot bear to say one more word about it. I suppose the discipline I try to adopt is my way of trying to be kind to myself, to erase the hopeless things that I hear myself thinking. It is my way of battling the sense of powerlessness that has been introduced into my life, which seems to be intent on staying.

The beautiful thing is that the run has remained the same. I have started seeing the same people I used to see, waving and smiling at them. The city looks the same and my bridges are there every single time I need to cross them. My power is that I can get myself there, into the world, and see all these things and experience all these things even as my rollercoaster emotional state rides up and down. That is my power, which is not a super-power, but it is something I can count on.

Birthday on the Cheap

Birthday Party options are everywhere in NYC for a kid. This is a land where you can have all your friends swing on a trapeze in a warehouse which houses the most talented trapezeists …..trapeziologists…..trapezianados, uh…people what swing on a trapeze in the world. Or alternately, you could have a glittery makeover party styled by the likes of J-Lo’s or Lady Ga Ga’s or Madonna’s make-up artists. They’re all here; they’re all available for an afternoon. Want to shake it up? Close down a nightclub and have the DJ rock the 1’s and 2’s for your little homie while the roof is raised with cataclysmically cute six-year olds.

Obviously you love your child enough to spend a little lolly on their special day, hmmmm? Me too. I’m even a little extravagant when it comes to trying to get Roan’s birthday celebration to be memorable. Still – this year I cannot seem to make it make sense to host one of these parties that will set us back $500 or $1,000 or guess what, I cannot even make sense of being set back $300 for the day. And though I love you Brooklyn and I love you Manhattan, this is where you come up criminally short: a reasonable price for an awesome birthday party is nowhere to be found. No. Where.

Roan and Boone / Fulton Ferry Landing

And so I’m going old school. That’s right people, I’m calling upon my village to raise this child so to speak, and we’re going to have an old-fashioned party in a home (But not MY home because due to size constraints we would have to whittle the guest list down to three. Including Roan, Anson and me. You see the problem, no?) And Kara (who yes I’m writing about again and I suppose I should just put a ring on it already and make it official because holy cow could I bring her up any more often?) anyway KARA has offered to host the party at her house. We’re not hiring a clown or a magician or a character actor or a DJ. We will be making gingerbread men and gingerbread houses, we will play some games, Kara is making a Kitty Litter Cake (per Roan’s request), and there will be music from Roan’s play list, coffee for me, and I do believe it will be the perfect day for everyone involved.

This will also have the happy result of my family being $500 or $1,000 or $300 dollars richer, which isn’t really the point, but does allow for me to buy Roan a gift that he’d really like. And this is where I can use the delicious variety and richness that can be found in my city. NYC… have you heard this… NYC has awesome places to shop. Yin and Yang, good and bad, it’s the way of life, hey?

Feel free to leave ideas in the comments for good homegrown birthday party game, snack or decorating ideas. Roan is asking for a pie-in-the-face so I’ve got that one covered.

Happy ‘Stachegiving

We are in the country at a friend’s house in lovely Massachusetts for the holiday weekend.  It is awesome.  We are surrounded by trees, in a home large enough to house three families, with children running up and down stairs, pounding on floors, eating loads of food, exploring paths in the woods, finding hidden patches of ice to skim across and nothing pressing to do. 

All of this seems to have positively impacted the growth of the sweet ‘stache as it seems less “Child -Toucher” and more “Burt on a Bear”.  Just sayin’.  Also, for about one and one-half days last week, Anson was rated as the Top Grower of New York, as he had collected the most donations.  

He’s still in the top five, but hear the cry: brothers and sisters, friends and enemies,  

Republicans and Democrats, carnivores and vegans, devil-worshippers and evangelicals – let’s all band together and donate here to propel this deserving man to the Number One Grower in New York again.

Not in-the-know-on-the-down-low about the ‘stache?  In short: From November 13th through December 13th, brave Growers will be sprouting totally sweet Mustaches to benefit NYC public school students.  Read here to find out about Mustaches for Kids, the organization Anson is humiliating himself for, click here to support and sponsor Anson (you get to choose which project your money goes to), and click here to enjoy Burt on a Bear.                  


What’s My Age Again?

I love my family.  Of course I love my boys Anson and Roan, but I’m talking today about my Brother and Sisters.  I love those guys.  We all seem to have influenced each other in ways that have given us similar senses of humor, similar ways of speaking, and all of these shared experiences that give us the same memories to smile about.

However there is a problem.  I don’t know if it is so much a problem as it is a phenomenon.  The thing is, when I’m with this family, I turn thirteen.  I am possibly stuck forever with the maturity and whims of my thirteen-year-old self.  And it isn’t just me.  I notice that Elden, my brother, turns about seventeen.  Kellene, the oldest of us, maintains her seniority, barely- by reaching for eighteen.  Lori has the aura of her 

sixteen-year-old self, and Christy.  Poor Christy.  That child is stuck at eight.

I don’t know what the mechanism is for us to be stuck at these ages when we get together.  I have no idea what events cemented us in these places, but it is real.  My thirteen-year-old tendencies to shock with inappropriate comments come alive. Elden begins entertaining us with jokes, voices and impersonations smacking of his Speech-Team-Tournament days, Kellene listens with perpetually rolling eyes and loving (but slightly condescending) smirks, Lori will laugh at everything going on but is probably secretly planning her escape from the room.  And Christy?  She gets teased and harassed (mostly by the thirteen-year-old). 

It is a rowdy bunch.  It always seems a little shocking if one of our own children enters the room.  The time-warp breaks, and we get back into our current-day characters, pleading for good manners or the like from our offspring.  I don’t know about the others, but I always feel a little fraudulent about being a mother when we’re all together.  I mean seriously, am I ready to be a mother at thirteen years old?  I think not, though it would explain certain hair-coloring tendencies my son has. 

Living on Top of Each Other

A drawback of living in New York is that we are all living on top of each other.  Sometimes it feels a little crowded.  But sometimes the crowd morphs into a caring community and then that drawback becomes a lifeline.


Last night at around 11:30 pm Anson and I were on the couch talking about the weekend we’d had, the week coming up and Friday Night Lights.  Suddenly we stopped talking because our entire home was filled with the most terrifying and paralyzing sound of screaming.  The screaming was just screaming until we heard the words, “My brother is dying.  Call the police!  Help!!”  You’d think we would jump off the couch to the door but it seems like Anson and I looked at each other for an inordinate amount of time before going into the hallway.  It was just too surreal.


I found Rose, our sweet neighbor (who, along with Guy and John were the subjects of an article I wrote here) in the hallway shaking and sobbing and screaming.  I held on to her as tight as I could while Anson ran into her apartment. He found her brother, Guy, on the floor with blood coming out of his mouth.  His brother John was trying to get some response from him.  The hallway filled with neighbors, an ambulance was called and Rose just kept asking me “Why is this happening?  I’ve never hurt nobody.  I’ve never done nothing wrong.” And then she would beg me not to let go of her, and to not leave. 


We all stayed in the hallway until Guy was taken to the hospital, until the paramedics had gone, and the firefighters left.  Way too many people helped Rose back into her apartment and listened to her whisper “Thank you” with her scared voice.  We all watched a few smiles come and go from her face, and one-by-one returned to our homes, reminding her that it was ok to knock on our doors in the night if she needed us.


Anson and I sat back onto the couch and marveled at how a community had formed immediately to lift this family up, within seconds of them sending out their cry.  We were both thankful that we had been home and able to help our sweet neighbors when they needed it.  We were also thankful that had we not been here, there were many many others who were right there to help at exactly the same time.


Things have calmed down and Guy is being watched over at the hospital still.  I saw one of my neighbors on the stoop this morning as I left the building and remarked that it had been quite a night, and he agreed that it had.  I walked down the block and looked at each big building, with all the people living on top of each other and was thankful that they all had each other, thankful that we all have each other.

What Brad Pitt is Doing is Really Uncool

I’ve tried to stay away from this drama because I know you don’t want to be drawn into it, but I have to address it.  Brad Pitt is stalking my husband’s style.  It seems Anson can’t go one day without The Pitt trying to be like him. As you can see:


                                       He does grow a fine mustache.  Still Brad, you’re no Anson.  


Here’s the end of the week progress.  Anson’s ‘stache is coming in beautifully.  So beautiful that a man remarked to Anson today, “I wish I could just borrow your face and use it as mine for a week, just to see how it is”.  Kind of weird but you know the ‘stache does magical things to people.  I was even interviewed for a documentary by Flicker Flacker Films this week and all they could talk about was the mustache.


Be part of the magic.  Click here to get a look at the NYC classrooms projects that Anson has chosen to sponsor, read here to find out what “The Little Mustache that Could” is all about, then donate.  You know your $5.00 would be better spent there than anywhere else today. 


And if you see Brad Pitt, tell him to back off.  What he’s doing is really uncool.

I Will if You Will

I think I am like you.  I cannot help but look up every possible medical outcome for each physical anomaly I experience.  Do you do that?  It spirals out of control as I go from Wikipedia to Web MD and if I’m on a binge, I end up on the message boards nodding my head in acknowledgement that I too experience mood swings, hangnails, frequent urination, a twitching left eye and a hankering for salty food and that this is just no way to live. 


The problem is that while I could probably convince myself that I have any number of problems in a session with my online indulgence, I discount all of my findings as I walk away from the computer.  If I can still go and play with Roan and have the energy to keep up with him, if I can run from my home in Brooklyn to Central Park in Manhattan, if I can be punched and kicked by my Muay Thai students without crying, I reason that I am as healthy as can be, symptoms or no.


But recently I’ve been seeing a specialist to reconcile some health issues that I thought would be a walk in the park.  Turns out that the walk in the park has become a puzzle, and my specialist has me coming in a few times per week to try and collect all the pieces.  For the past two months it’s felt almost like a sport to me, just trying to see if she can solve the mystery.  The problem isn’t so serious that I’m freaking out, but it seems like something that I probably should have approached a long time ago.  That’s why I’m writing about it.  That and the looming appointment on Monday that is likely to involve a few doctor-tools.  I hate it when they use hardware.


In talking to my friend Kara on the phone last night about the different angles of this thing, I mentioned that I force Roan and push Anson to address anything and everything health-related immediately with a Doctor.  But I somehow don’t hold myself to that same standard, always with the attitude that I’m mindful of my health so I’m indestructible.  Now I’m figuring out that it is a selfish way to live, and that if I want to hang around in my best form with these boys for the years to come, I’d better start paying attention to the things my body says.


So that’s the message for you, reader: address the weirdness in your body before it becomes the badness, or the puzzleness.  Or any other “ness” that isn’t the awesomeness.