Friday, December 23, 2016

Family Medical Leave.....

Today is my mother's 79th birthday. Last year at this time, Mom was actively dying.  Babygirl's health is always precarious. Citygirl had gotten married just a few months before, and my Dad died less than a month before THAT. All in all, I was running out of paid leave.  So, for the first time, I put in paperwork for FMLA.

The Family Medical Leave Act is a legacy of the Clinton years.  The rules are (relatively) simple.  If your employer has more than 50 employees within a 50 mile radius, they must grant FMLA time to their (usually full-time, been-on-the-job-at-least-a-year employees).  FMLA time is time off without pay (up to 6 months/year) for personal illness, illness in a family member where the employee's presence is needed to provide care, or the birth/adoption/foster placement of a child.  The employer is required to hold the employee's job for them while they are off.  Leave can be continuous or intermittent.

I applied for leave on Babygirl's behalf.  I could just have easily used my mom, or myself, but my office manager played rock/paper/scissors for me and picked Babygirl.  To get the leave, I had to fill out paperwork with  human resources, and send papers to her doctors.  It was a pain, because they didn't do it right the first time and I had to send them back, and I was crazed between work and home and hospital and grief and family and... Well, you get the idea. (Side note:  One of my elderly patients mentioned to me this week that I look much better this year than I did last year.  I wasn't sure if I was flattered or horrified.  Needless to say she passed her dementia screening.)

This year, around the beginning of November I had a flash of foresight and checked to see when my FMLA was due to expire, realizing that after having been ill much of the summer that I was in the same situation I was in LAST year in terms of remaining time off for the year.  There was less than a month left, so I sent in an application.

Within a day I got an email denying my request for leave because I had to wait another two weeks (until just two weeks before the old leave expired - which, given how complex it is to set the leave up in the first place just seems rediculous in my opinion but nobody ever asks me) and reapply.

Needless to say, I totally forgot all about it.  Until this week.

Last week I had noticed that out checking account balance seemed a little low.  Since Hubby and I both have access to the account, and both of us have been known to make purchases (pharmacies and gas stations being the most common) without recording them, I have a habit of keeping a pretty large balance hidden in the account.  I assumed that Hubby (or I) had paid something and failed to write it down. But when I got our bank statement on Tuesday, I realized that my last paycheck was substantially less than it should have been.  Since it is direct deposit and there are no paystubs, I had no idea at all that this had happened.

When I got to work on Wednesday I checked online and discovered I had been paid for only part of the two weeks I worked.  There was no obvious explanation in the pay document as to why, so I called my manager, and she discovered that I was no longer on her payroll. AT. ALL.  Awesome.

It turns out that despite being denied FMLA leave, despite having no medical documentation of my need for FMLA leave, and despite having applied for intermittent FMLA leave, I had mysteriously been granted continuous leave, beginning when my old leave expired.  I had unknowingly been working full-time without pay for about three weeks, and was less than two days away from my next paycheck, which was officially set to be $0. That's a FABULOUS paycheck to get two days before Christmas, aye?

My office manager worked on this frantically for two days, but at the end of it all, I'm not paid.  Merry Christmas, indeed.

Thankfully that built-in buffer that I leave in my account kept us from bouncing things all over the place. But it isn't big enough to catch everything that is going to start pulling out of our account at the end of next week, so here's hoping they get this figured out.


Tuesday, December 6, 2016


It is no surprise that I am still mourning.  It was about a year ago that mom took the fall that was, in the end, The End.  (I instinctively looked back to find the blog post about the fall, her hip fracture, and all of the rest but....there is a massive gap from December 1, right before she fell, until February 4, just days before her death.)  A lot happened in between there.  I guess, in a way, that is what this post is about.

December is Mom's birth month. Last year she spent her birthday in the hospital while they worked out doses of pain medications adequate to manage an irreparable hip fracture.  She was oblivious to the time of year, and had entered that phase of dying that includes visits from long-departed loved ones.  It was clear she would never come home, and decisions had to be made about her belongings, her kitties, family photos, trinkets and jewelry.  I had to work.  I had to make Christmas merry for the grandkids.  I had to manage her finances, figure out nursing home paperwork, visit her in the hospital and still attend to the usual miscellaneous medical needs of Babygirl and the rest of us.

It was a whirlwind.

My brothers came and sorted through thousands of pictures.  Curlygirl used her internet savvy to get a lot of furniture sold and moved out.  And as Curlygirl and family had already planned to move in and help, they went forward with the move, directly into the chaos.

January was hardly better.

Sorting/selling/settling continued.  Mom was moved from the hospital across the street to a nursing home 10 minutes away.  Hubby had massive back surgery.

February brought baby BamBam, followed immediately by a run to Philly for Babygirl.  We arrived home, exhausted as always, late on Wednesday evening.  I debated a run to the nursing home but was just too tired.  As I was getting ready to go in the morning, I got the call that she had just passed.  And not even one minute later came a call asking me if I could come pick up Squeaker at his school because he was throwing up and they couldn't reach his parents?  I'm not kidding, not even a little.

Just writing this down brings on a head spin.

We live in a crazy, crazy world. And we live at a frightening pace.  And while we did have really good family time at Thanksgiving with Mom before her fall, and good family time at Christmas before she died, AND good family time at her just didn't seem like enough, you know?  I look back on those three months and it's like looking through a kaleidescope of shifting, bright brittle colors:  Beautiful, but difficult to interpret.

What triggered all this, you ask?

At the end of yoga class today, because the room was chilly, the instructor came and covered each of us with a blanket during shavasana, the final quiet pose of the class.  The act of having someone 'tuck me in' was so intensely evocative of my mother that it made me weep.  And while I was lying on my back with tears trickling into my ears I was flooded with memories, each and every one of them of my Mother's laughter.  Monopoly at midnight on New Year's Eve.  Girl Scout Camp.  Makeshift living-room plays about Bible characters (did the Bible mention matzoh ball soup??).  Seriously, my mother once laughed so hard at us that she crashed the car into a tree (low speed, no injuries).

I'm already 30 years older than EVERYBODY in this class.  The last thing I need is to have the lights come up while I'm trying not to simultaneously laugh and cry for no obvious reason.

It's amazing how much emotion you can begin to process in three minutes, and how much time you can compress into that space.  This is, by the way, entirely against the point of shavasana as I understand it.  But the soul needs what it needs, right?

My Christmas cactus is blooming.  Right or wrong, I believe my Grandmother makes flowers bloom for me when times are tough.  It started blooming on my Dad's birthday, and I'm thinking it may still be blooming on Mom's.   Hugs come from heaven to us from all different directions, be it a flower, or a blanket from a stranger.


Thursday, December 1, 2016

People Look East....

One of my favorite Advent hymns is People Look East, although it was new to me just a few years ago.  Written in 1928, it has a more ancient sound to it, and it has an awesome alto part (always a plus in my book LOL).  

But the appeal is very deeply rooted in the things that are most important to my heart:  Being prepared, being hospitable, making life as lovely as you can with what you have been given with what strength that you possess. The hymn calls us to prepare, to endure, to grow, to shine.  It calls us to be excited, VERY excited!

Guest, Rose, Bird, Star, Lord - they are ON THE WAY!  Get cracking, people! It IS the crowning of the year.