Looking for options

I cleaned out the shed today. It was near freezing yesterday and is cool today so I was hoping the wasps who made nests in there during the summer would not be active.  I needed to find my circular saw so that I could cut a hole in the laminate for the heat vent in the bathroom and finish the floor. I also wanted to go through the Tupperware tub that held last year’s warm clothes to see if anything would still fit the kids.  And I was avoiding facing the latest news regarding health care costs.

It’s open enrollment time at work and premiums always seem to go up with the new plans so when HR sent out the letter and forms and comparison charts I wasn’t looking forward to going through it all.  I downloaded it and printed it for later reading but one paragraph in the email caught my eye – the plans we had (Plan 1 and 2) were going away. They are no longer an option and if you don’t chose you’ll automatically be enrolled in Plan 3.  So I knew I had to read through everything sooner or later.

My current health insurance costs me $193 per pay period for medical and dental coverage.  The deductible for the family plan is $600. I went for the high premium, low deductible plan.  So I was initially pleased and surprised to see that the new premium on the offered plan would only be $141.  I calculated that my savings would be nearly $1,250 over a year.  My giddy excitement lasted a second or two before my usual skepticism set in and I perused the small print.  What else had changed?  Oh, the deductible was now $3,000! Five times as much as before and not nearly made up for in the lowering of the premium.  There are other changes as well – costs for prescriptions are up, as is the maximum out of pocket that you will pay. Mind you the corporation is saving $5000 by switching us to this plan.

All of this explained the 2nd email from HR reminding us we had the option of dropping health care coverage entirely! And to top it off when I got home there was a bill from the kids’ dentist. We’ve been going to this dentist for over a year and I’ve NEVER gotten a bill from them. Each time we go I inquire and each time they’ve said, “We’re waiting to hear from your insurance.” Well I guess they finally heard. And apparently they heard that the insurance won’t cover much of anything as the bill is for $1,287! That’s over 80% of my take home pay for a month (which, needless to say, has other demands on it) so the chances of being able to pay that within the 30 days they are giving me is pretty damn small! Since I got the bill Friday night there’s nothing to do for the weekend, other than worry and lose sleep.

Since I’d never gotten a bill I didn’t even know what they were charging me – they submit to the insurance and then send me a bill for anything not covered.  So I never even knew they were using nitrous oxide (laughing gas) on the kids during fillings and charging me $60 a time, which wasn’t covered.  When my daughter broke a tooth and needed a temporary tooth until they could get her in for a cap that wasn’t covered either.  I could have paid the $60 here and there if they’d billed me when the service was provided but there’s no way I can pay $1287 in the next 30 days.

Dentist bill aside, I have to figure out the insurance options. Does anyone know if you can buy insurance from the exchange if your employer provides some coverage?  It seems like if I drop my school insurance I’m saving them tons of money but naturally that won’t mean any more in my paycheck (other than the saved premium).  In another state I might try to get the kids covered by Medicare but Indiana’s a joke in that area. Before I got the teaching job I tried to get them covered and we were on a waiting list the entire time.

Honestly, I like teaching and I feel like I’m doing something worthwhile, but more and more I am seeing that not only is it not possible to get ahead as a teacher it’s not even making a living.  Getting a night job (by the way I wasn’t hired for the night security position) might help to make ends meet but frankly I’m not sure how long I could last running on 4 or so hours of sleep. I suspect it would be very difficult to keep up with lesson plans, grading, coaching, committees, etc., and my work would suffer. It would be ironic if getting a night job caused me to be fired from my day job!

There doesn’t seem to be any easy answer.  I did find a few things while cleaning out the shed that I can put on eBay – the rooftop tv and JVC radio that were in the van, a few little collectible porcelain houses (think Christmas village), some craft supplies that I don’t have time to use, but pretty soon I will have sold nearly everything worth anything and the little left will be things I intend to pass down to the kids.

I do want to thank readers who have recently reached out in support and who have sent us items from our Amazon wishlist.  Thank you so much! It’s lovely having coffee again in the morning – tea just wasn’t doing the job of getting me going at 5 AM.  And the colored pencils arrived the day before the students started doing a poster project – perfect timing.  It’s not easy to thank folks individually as I don’t receive any contact information from Amazon, just your name and I don’t want to put anyone on the spot by giving you a shout out on Facebook. Please know that we love your thoughtfulness and kindness and are deeply appreciative. We have only made it this far because there are kind people out there willing to reach out a hand. Thank you.

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Some Progress

I got some work done on the bathroom floor over fall break but I didn’t get it finished as I ran out of materials and pulled a muscle in my lower back.  Naturally it turned out that there was more rotten floor than just the bit under the window where rain had leaked in – the previous owners must have had some fun in that big tub because there was a good sized rotten patch off the side where water might have sloshed overboard!  And the patch under the window extended much further than I originally thought, running alongside the toilet so I will need to replace some linoleum there.

I cleaned out the rotten wood and mildew as best I could – probably the right thing would have been pulling up the entire floor and replacing it but that’s beyond my level of expertise, tools, materials and frankly will.  I pulled out damp insulation, dried the compartment as best I could (since I could see the ground under the trailer I don’t know how any of the insulation remains dry) and layered in new plastic and insulation before laying sheets of plywood.  Since I was fitting new with the old, but still good pieces I had to do some fancy cutting to make it fit.  Not master carpenter work but pretty good for me (I might be getting better at this).


Next I swept since I was doing the cutting in the room and sawdust was flying (and next time, although I’ll be honest and say I hope there is NEVER a next time, I will wear a dust mask) and put down the under floor foam.  Then, I started laying the laminate floor down.  I got a little more than half way when I pulled a muscle in my back and had to stop.  Hopefully I can finish next weekend and fix the holes in the wall. I got a small piece of dry wall to fit into the hole, just need some joint compound to make the fix.


I also need to borrow a circular saw to make an opening for the heater vent. Mine is broken so I’ve been using my skill (ha-ha) saw. I scored the laminate at Habitat ReStore during the summer but had to get plywood, the sub-floor foam and insulation at Lowes so the underside of the floor cost twice what the floor cost.

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Sometimes its the little things that buoy you up in ways you don’t realize until they are gone.  We jumped pretty quickly into raising goats when we got to Indiana.  Even though they were an expense and I wasn’t working, the goats gave us something to focus on, something to work towards, so we went to work cleaning out the barn, patching holes and building fences. We were all a little bit lost at sea (if you can do that in the middle of the ‘heartland’), the children unsure about new schools, me wondering how to remake my life and move us forward, and we delighted in losing ourselves in caring for Honey, Ginger and Nutmeg.  None of the reading we’d done (OK, I’d done) had prepared us for just how charismatic and fun goats could be.

Of course goats meant we needed goat food, mineral block, hoof trimmers, fencing material and tools, fly spray, and straw and hay.  And so, along with the library where we whiled away hours making use of the free internet and I bonded with the librarians, we quickly became regulars at the local feed store.  It wasn’t a big place but you could find everything you needed there. If they didn’t have it they’d order it. In the fall it smelled faintly of the new mown hay that was stacked to the rafters in the adjoining pole barn. There were store cats to pet (and sometimes kittens on loan from the humane society), free wooden pallets to build goat stalls out of, food for every animal we owned as we added a 4H pig, a rabbit and chickens, to our little hobby farm, and friendly folk.  Whether it was the owners or the employees they were always ready to chat about the local news and gossip, pass on advice on animal care, and commiserate about the weather.  I found myself confiding my goal of returning to school to get my teaching license and bragging about the kids as they settled in to the local schools (one of the owners was on the school board so there was always the chance you’d hear something relevant to the children as well as the animals).

It was my ‘Cheers’ – you know the place where they always know your name and they’re always glad you came?  Granted I didn’t haunt the place the way the Cheers regulars did but I looked forward to going to the feed store, knowing I’d be met with the feeling that they knew me and were glad I was there.  And then they closed.  Yep, retired, sold the business and its now a plumbing place.  I buy my feed at Tractor Supply or Rural King, both large warehouse like places, and staffed by people who barely look you in the eye much less remember what you buy and ask after your animals and kids.  That just leaves the library. And I don’t get there that often anymore.

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