Tuesday, June 07, 2011

The Gifts of God Alone Remain

I say it to my shame:  I still have no medical insurance. Thus I had to reapply recently for financial assistance from the hospital system that did my cancer surgery and chemotherapy.  Today I received a letter from their financial assistance department.  The second paragraph read:

This letter is to inform you that your recent request for financial assistance has been approved for a 100% discount.  This approval applies to your accounts with outstanding balances before 06/02/2011.  The total amount adjusted is $x,xxx.xx.  Please note that this financial assistance approval applies to all N--- Hospitals, N--- Cancer Centers, and/or N--- Physician Services for services which qualify under our policy guidelines.

I read this and I was deeply humbled.  I nearly cried.  100% of my outstanding balances forgiven?  Oh, what a difference that will make, especially with the school year ending and my teaching income coming to an end for three months or more!  It was almost too good to be believed.

Well, maybe it was too good to be believed.  I know good and well my total outstanding balance is more than the amount given.  I went upstairs to my computer and checked for sure.  Yep.  The amount I'm still making payments on is actually 40% higher than the amount given.  Oh.

The last character I want to emulate is the welfare queen who thinks she's entitled to other people's money.  So if there was some reason why "100% of the outstanding balances before 06/02/2011" doesn't mean "100% of the outstanding balances before 06/02/2011," I wanted to know how that would affect any payments I still needed to make.

So I called the "any questions" number.  I was transferred to a nameless someone in the Financial Assistance Department and asked my question, reading out the relevant paragraph in the letter.

At first she said the letter had given only a partial amount "because the rest of it hasn't been billed yet."  But I told her out that pretty much all my outstanding balance is from the surgeries and hospitalizations I'd had in March and April of 2010 (my chemo, barring last week's followup, is paid up and current), so it certainly has all been billed.  She insisted, however, that my balances on "those two accounts" is 0.  Funny, I have three accounts with balances yet to pay  . . .

Nevertheless, I said how grateful I was, considering my circumstances, and what should I do with the statements I've already received for payments on account to be made in June?  I wasn't about to be presumptuous and say, "Oh, good, I guess that means I don't have to make any more payments, right?"  There was still that discrepancy between my figures and theirs.

It was about now that she said, "I need to check something."  I visualized her digging around in some pile of papers, but of course it wouldn't be that, it'd be on her computer.  She gets back to me and says, "I think there's been some confusion.  You already had a 80% discount on the bills you incurred last year.  We can't give you any more discount on that.  This $x,xxx.xx applies only to services since January of 2011."

Oh.  But wait a minute, ma'am.  I've had nowhere near $x,xxx.xx of services since the beginning of the year, and most of that is already paid for.   (Not to mention that my previous 80% discount had extended to mid-March).  But she went on about the forgiveness applying solely to my "Physician Services" bill, including, she said, to an amount "in May" that could only be my last week's post-chemo check up.  That's what was being taken care of.  Yes, nice, but that's not Physician Services, that's Oncology-Hematology.  She wouldn't or couldn't clarify, so I, taking to heart the maxim about not checking the gift horse's mouth, didn't press the matter.  True, I felt rather as if I'd been promised a fine Morgan plow horse and ended up instead with a miniature Shetland pony.  But it's not like I had earned either, right?

So, as I summed up to her, I'll go ahead and pay the statements I have in hand as arranged, and wait for the July bills to see if or where any adjustments have been made.  It really was too good to be true, so it's not like I'm suffering from any big letdown . . . though I have to wonder what the point of the letter was . . . it really looks like I'm in exactly the same situation I was in before . . . and what's going to happen with my future chemo followup bills, which will certainly be incurred after last Thursday?

Guess I'll have to wait and see in the weeks to come.  What's apparent now is what I implied in the title to this post-- Gifts given by man fade, wear out, are consumed, or even are taken away.  Only the eternal gifts of God in Jesus Christ remain.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Living in the Past

Is there as such thing as a chrononaut, and if there is, can such a person get the bends?

The past few weeks, I've been living and breathing genealogy, and it's hard coming up for air.

I've done more or less with it off and on in the past.  But given that most of my research perforce had to be over the Internet, it seemed I had hit brick walls on pretty much all my lines.  More would have to wait until I had the money to travel to some archival library or at least could afford to subscribe to Ancestry.com.

Then this past February, I started watching this season's run of Who Do You Think You Are?  And I thought to myself, Well, maybe there's something new on the Internet that was posted since I looked last.

There was.  On the site Findagrave.com, there was a report on the burial site of my three-times great grandfather.  And one for his wife, my ggggrandma, whose name I hadn't known before.  And a list of some of their children.  It overlapped the family's enumeration on the 1850 census, which I'd accessed via microfiche and printed out on a trip to Washington, D.C., in 2005, so I knew it was the right guy.  I e-mailed the man who'd posted the Find a Grave memorial to tell him about the missing older brothers and sisters (including my 2x great grandpa).  He immediately replied back, and joy, joy, he turned out to be a fourth cousin, he supplied me with further info about our mutual forebears going back to colonial days (including our family's reputed relationship to Daniel Boone-- it's true, he'd be first cousin to both of us, several times removed), sent me a facsimile copy of an important document or two, and generally broke the logjam for that branch of the family at least.

I'd been messing around with Geni.com since 2009 when my niece Micki* started entering the family info onto it, and after I talked with cousin George*, I logged back on and filled in the members he'd supplied me with.

Only trouble is, since I'd last looked at it, my tree had been overrun by unknown putative distant cousins (or whatever) who've added to my tree without my permission, merging theirs with it so it had tons of duplicates, sticking in folks with only initials for first names, and most annoying of all, modifying the profiles of close deceased family members that only my mom and my siblings have any direct relationship to.  Carp.  I'd thought it was bad enough when my niece put women in under their latest married instead of their maiden names.  The state of my tree was scary, and without getting "permission" from a lot of unknowns, there was little or nothing I could do about it.

Worse, I read online that Geni.com is infamous for violations of privacy, that their goal is to make one worldwide family tree, and who cares if it's accurate or not.  Me, I don't care about everyone in the world.  The family tree I'm interested is mine.

So I blew the money for the Legacy software, the Deluxe paid version, because it has what's supposed to be a handy way to enter sources.  I've already had one extensive Family Tree Maker tree go into the cyber bit bucket thanks (no thanks) to faulty backup software and to my reluctance to post it online with no sources attached.

In time, my new genealogy software arrived.  But it wasn't the most user-friendly program I've come across, so I let it, and my family research, alone for a month or two.

But then, towards the end of April, I got a positively juicy idea.  Now that I've got more information, wouldn't my mother like an updated version of her chart for Mother's Day?  Oh yes, oh yes.  I figured out how to use Legacy 7.5, I got out my paper files, and off I went.

And off I've gone, and gone, and gone.  For all of a sudden, a lot of the brick walls are tumbling down.  Where it came to one particular line on my mother's mother's side, I hit the, um, mother lode.  Pay dirt.  Grandparent after grandparent after grandparent, good, credible, documented progenitors, going back literally to the Dark Ages.  So of course, since I've got the information, I have to add it in.

There's a line in Shakespeare's Macbeth that goes, "What! will the line stretch out to the crack of doom?"  And that's how it feels, only in this case it isn't a family line into the future, it's the one into the past.  Thanks to this one ancestress sometime in the 1500s, I find I'm directly descended from most of the Irish, Scottish, Pictish, Welsh, and even a couple of the Saxon kings who stomped around waging war and exercising their petty tribal authority the length and breadth of Great Britain after the Romans pulled out.  I'm not descended from Macbeth himself, thank goodness, but apparently Duncan, the king he killed (in battle, not in his bed, it turns out) is some sort of multiply-great uncle . . .

What I think about all that, with theological reflections, needs to go in another post.  The point is that I've somehow grown obsessive about this.  Addicted, more like it.  Here it is, what? four weeks after Mother's Day, and I feel I can't send the chart to my mom until it's finished.  I stay up all hours working on this, I'm neglecting my house renovations and my English teacher certification studies, I dream at night of filling in the blanks on the Legacy family pages, and fathers of mothers and mothers of fathers call to me, saying, "Add me in!  I'm here, add me in, too!".  It's actually a relief when I settle that some ancestor reputed to be descended from British nobility really is not (Matthew Howard, I'm talking about you), because British nobility and gentry were so damned conscientious about documenting their pedigrees, and if I really am related, I have to put them in.  That's how enslaved to this process I've become.

And oh, the mess it makes when they start marrying their cousins, especially cousins once and twice removed!  Even today's advanced charting software can cope with that only by duplicating the trees.  As it is, my mom's chart is almost four feet high-- goodbye to the idea of printing it out at home and taping it all together.  But how can I leave all that out?  I mean, won't she get a kick out of knowing that she's the 49th-great granddaughter of Old King Cole?

I've gone back in time, I'm scarcely living in the present at all, and don't be surprised if you hear I've painted my body blue.
All this said, see this post here.