Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Television Tuesday: Fall Premiere Week

This week is fall premiere week on the telly, when the networks debut (for the most part) all their new shows and new seasons for existing shows. 

Ooohhhhh. Exciting.

Well, it is if you're like me and enjoy a slightly unhealthy addiction to the boob tube, as my father used to refer to it. I like me some good drama and comedy and there's a lot of T.V. shows that have been delivering just that for a while now (Justified, I 'm looking at you. Hurry back!). This year, for the first time that I've been aware of, it feels as though we've hardly gotten away from things over the summer. Adverts for new fall shows have been running since before the 2010 spring season ended and my EW magazine has been hemorrhaging ads for new shows practically since Memorial Day. It's hard to get excited for new programs when you're being hit over the head of them before you've had a chance to finish processing the finale of LOST (to be fair, I'm not sure that last bit will ever happen.)

But I am having television fatigue. Yes, I said it – I am weary of the boob tube. Even with my DVR, I simply cannot keep up and the time suck that's happening from trying to is becoming detrimental. 

As a result, I have decided to parse down my DVR "Must-See" list for this fall. A quick rundown after the jump.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Thrilled to Pay the Piper

Courtesy of LOLCats
I love paying bills. I get particular pleasure mid-month when I clean out the household bills. There have been too many times when I haven't been able to pay when I've been out of work or out of sorts or simply having a bad run of it all at the same time. I know what it's like to dread the phone ringing and stare at the ceiling worrying throughout the night. Finally, there came a time when I had to make a conscious decision not to be afraid of any of it anymore but to answer the phone and open the mail and deal with it. It was tough and it was challenging but damn if a piece of paper was going to make me quake. 
It makes being able to pay things off now all the sweeter. For the first time, and I knock hardily on wood praying I don't jinx myself with this statement, there's more than only a flicker of dim light at the end of the tunnel.

Yesterday, I paid off an outstanding medical bill that vexed me on several points (do not get me started on the abysmal changes to our health insurance options that my company implemented for the year). The sheer joy of knowing that it's off my ample chest is almost indescribable. It's a real feeling of accomplishment, on a slightly smaller level than when I paid off my first car. Earlier this year, I finished paying off the bed I'd bought in 2009. Those were two debt goals I had this year and they've been reached earlier than I had originally planned. Whee!

As with other flawed decisions his administration has made (cough healthcare cough), the changes Obama has made to how credit cards determine payments has caused more day-to-day harm than good, certainly it did in my situation. I have two outstanding bank credit cards (which I have long since closed) that have large balances due to being out of work for an extended period of time in the early 00s, a time when my mother's physical disability kicked in full throttle. There was a lot of charging going on for nearly three years mostly on extracurricular things like food and gas and medication. I never once missed a payment or was delinquent in any way and I'm pretty damn proud of that. I am absolutely pathological about my credit rating and bust my butt to keep it pristine, even in the worst of times. This is why I've avoided using a consumer credit company all these years. While it can be incredibly helpful and beneficial, I wanted to wait until it was absolutely necessary so as not to ding my credit rating. 

This year, with the Obama changes, minimum due amounts are now being determined by taking 1% of the overall balance and adding the finance charge to it. The goal here is good: help consumers pay down more of the principal balance faster rather than have finance charges eat up nearly all of their monthly payments. Unfortunately, this "new math" increases the monthly amount due considerably and, for someone like me with a healthy balance on not one but two cards (they were really bad years), well, let's just say that the shriek I let out when I saw the amounts was matched only by the speed at which my hands began to shake.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Fair and Balanced

I unload a lot on this blog about the frustrations of having my mother living with me and all her health issues that the last, oh, eight years have seen landing on our collective doorstep. It's only fair that I also include those things that go amazingly right because, let's face it, it doesn't happen often and it's good to be reminded that, as Tolkein put it, the darkness is only a small and passing thing. There is light and high beauty forever beyond its reach.

My mother has had a medical aid here in our apartment since she was discharged from the rehabilitation center in late 2008. This is one of several benefits she receives under her Medical Medicaid qualification and it is priceless, truly. Isabelle, Mom's aid for the last two years, has been a real blessing in many ways but, as in all personal interactions, everything wasn't perfect. Among other things, her lack of conversational English was greatly prohibitive to any significant collaboration between her and my mother. She was very, very good to my Mom and they share a real and genuine affection, but there were bumps.

Isabelle went on vacation in early August and we had Mara for a week, and she was terrific but scheduling issues prevented her from staying more than a week. This was right at the time when I was going on vacation. Thankfully, Velka came to work with Mom and she couldn't be more perfect. With a little scheduling creativity, we were able to retain Veilka permanently. Unfortunately, the agency handled the situation with Isabelle poorly and there were some hurt feelings in the end. I volunteered to be the bad guy and the agency – and my mom – leaped at the option. Fine by me.

Velka is a dream. She is outgoing and positive. She chats with my mom and is a real companion to her. She monitors her medication and her new, multiple treatments for hands, feet, and lungs that Mom has to go do each day, and – Lord be praised – she proactively insists on and monitors Mom's exercises to the point of counting the reps and keeping her focused. The difference in Mom is atomic. This is best catalogued by the fact that her text messages to me have decreased from 15+ some days (and that's not an exaggeration) to 2 – maybe. Last week, while I was chauffeuring my grandfather to the VA clinic in center city Philadelphia , Velka's fan belt broke and she wasn't able to make it to the apartment. Throughout the day, she sent repeated text messages to Mom to check on her and make sure she'd taken her meds and eaten when she should showing an above and beyond commitment to her charge. Frankly, she checked in with my mom more than I did that day.

Now when I get home at night, Mom isn't climbing the walls, desperate to talk to someone (me) when all I want is the telly, the kitties, and some peace and quiet after a day editing pharma. And things get done! My sister's Christmas gifts are now packed and ready to be shipped – just in time for this Christmas. Mom's bedroom is transformed into organization – well, maybe organization is pushing it, but I can walk in and not trip over a thousand things and that's genius. And Mom herself has improved dramatically.

It's amazing how something so simple as having the right person in place at the right time can make such a huge difference.

See, I can manage fair and balanced. Some of the time.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Death and All His Friends – Grandfather Edition

On the phone with my grandfather

K: Hi there!

Dad-dad: Who's this?

K: Kiersten

DD: Who?

K: (shouting) IT'S KIERSTEN!

DD: Oh, hi! You don't have to shout.

K: (sighing) OK. How ya doin'?

DD: Oh, all right I guess. That pain doctor wants to burn my nerves

K: He's getting on your nerves?

DD: No, he wants to burn the ends of the nerves in my spine off. Where I have pain.

K: Um, I don't think so. Who is this guy?

DD: The pain doctor I've been seeing. The injections aren't working see. Your mom wants me to see Dr. J- first

K: I was going to say that. I definitely want you to get his opinion before you let anyone burn anything. He's a great pain doctor. He did really well by Mom when she lived down there. If anyone's taking a sodering iron to your nerves, it better be Dr. J-

DD: Yeah. I need to get this cardiologist stuff done first. Your aunt takes care of fall of that. She knows the guys at the hospital, see. I don't know why I don't just call Lownes and be done with it.

K: Who's that? The cardiologist?

DD: No! Lownes. The funeral home.

K: (laughing) Oh! Of course. Well, sure, that's definitely an option. A little premature perhaps…

DD: Yeah, I was talking to Peggy. She's the lady that organizes the van transportation and everything, mostly with the assisted living and healthcare people. She set me up when your aunt and I went down to the VA clinic last week in the van. And I was telling her that my granddaughter was driving down from north Jersey next week to take me back so I wouldn't need the van again.

K: Ri-ight.

DD: And I said to her, we should just go get a discount at Lownes. Six for the price of one.

K: (laughing) Did she laugh?

DD: (chuckling) Oh yeah.

K: Who are the other five people? Do you have anyone in mind?

DD: I dunno. I'm sure we could rustle up a few candidates around here.

K: Yeah. That shouldn't be any trouble for you.

DD: Whadythey call it when they drain all the blood from you?

K: Exsanguination?

DD: (with exaggerated patience) Noooo. I don't wanna bleed to death.

K: Mummification?

DD: Closer. Yeah. Embalming! That's what we should do. Just have them embalm me and be done with it.

K: That would save me from having to drive down there next week.

DD: See what I mean? Works for everyone.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Wrestling With My Better Grammar Angels

Being a writer with a day job as an editor is a recipe for madness, because, inevitably, the little quirks of everyday language that most people would never, ever notice stand out like a garishly lit billboard in Times Square. I get a tad irked when "which" is used without being preceded by a comma as is grammatically correct in 99% of its usage. I'm irritated when sentences end in prepositions like "with" to the point that I've spent upwards of 10 to 15 minutes rewriting a sentence to try and avoid it only to (usually) fail. And the whole who/whom thing bugs me from time to time even though 9 times out of 10, I'm getting it wrong myself. Like any good editor, the urge to correct such errors is nigh irresistible.

It's tough because so much of our spoken language is grammatically incorrect and that's before we start looping in slang and urban and regional dialects. These days, there's almost a negative connotation to it and if you insist on proper grammar use in everyday conversation, you'll quickly get tagged as an elitist snob or something of that ilk. I wonder when it became a bad thing to insist on the "King's" English, so to speak. Probably about the time we picked up muskets and pointed them across the pond.

I was buying cat food the other day – or cat fud as I tend to write it on my shopping list thanks to an old Boynton cartoon. Yes, I make a list. I'm not completely undomesticated. At the checkout counter, one of those paw shaped magnets caught my eye. "Who Rescued Who?" it asks. Charmed, I bought it for the CR-V. It wasn't until a few days later when I was loading groceries that I looked at it, smiled as I always do, and then thought, "Shouldn't it be Who Rescued Whom?"

Well that was that. Seriously, people, it would not leave me alone. Finally, I caved and asked my boss to weigh in. No kidding, we spent ten minutes debating it on the phone and she even suggested I look it up in our AMA style guide. I managed to restrain myself from that level of craziness, but it was a near thing. And I only managed to do that because I decided the magnet was wrong. It should definitely be "Who Rescued Whom?" and that's all I have to say on the matter.

Except it taunts me. Each and every time I swing open the back gate to the CR-V, there it is, waving its irregular usage at me like discount shoes in the wrong size.

To put the cheeky thing in its place, I'm on the hunt now for a magnetic "M" of sufficient size to tack onto its end. That'll teach it to mess with me.

This grammar stuff ain't for the weak, you know.