Category Archives: Humor

Sometimes You Just Need a Lion on Your Side…….

I called the hospital today. Well, more accurately, I called the hospital billing department. The billing department is no longer in the hospital. The hospital is in Pennsylvania, where I live, and where my loved ones go to the hospital when they have a problem, medically.

The billing department is in Tennessee, where nobody, who goes to my hospital, lives or goes to if they have a problem medically or otherwise. Okay, maybe that ‘s not true, maybe some people go to Tennessee if they have a problem with say, country music, and want to see if it’s them or the music.

By putting the ‘billing department’ in Tennessee, it prevents all of us in Pennsylvania from actually going to the billing department to talk about a problem. That way no one has to discuss these problems face-to-face. So much easier, said no one, ever.

I called Tennessee today, and although the gentlemen was very nice, the problem was apparently unsolvable.

“I want to know if this bill, which started out at $4500 and is now magically down to $500 has been paid? ” I queried, for the third time in three months.

“Well, ma’am let me see. Now before I answer that question, even though you’ve given me the account number, can you give me the address on the bill, the date of birth of the patient, the date of the bill, the services rendered, the patient’s blood type and the name of their cat?” he asked ever so politely.

Okay, he didn’t ask for the blood type or the cat, but why not? My question is, why in heaven’s name do you put an account number on the bill if it means absolutely nothing in terms of information? Do you make more money by keeping me on the phone? Are you tracing the call just to make sure I’m not in Tennessee, but that I stayed in Pennsylvania where I belong?

We do-si-do all around the information, until we’re both exhausted and wish we had taken more square-dancing lessons, and finally, he says:

“Please ignore that bill ma’am the insurance company has agreed to review it.”

“Okay, but I have an estate to settle, so can I assume that the bill will be no more than the $500 you currently are requesting?”

“No, you cannot.”

Here’s where I want to find a cat, maybe a tiger or a lion, and release it into the wilds of Tennessee with the scent of this insurance company on its nose like a barrel of catnip.

“Um……….why would that be?”

“Well, what if the insurance company decides to take back all the payments they already made? Then the bill would be more.”

“Why would they do that?” I asked, “Medicare paid this over a year ago and this has been your fault for not properly submitting the balance to the other Medigap insurance carrier.”

“Well,” he replied, “we don’t know what they will do.”

‘Cause you don’t know what you’re doing……that’s really what I wanted to say.

But since he told me to ignore the bill, I’m gonna’ do just that. Probably forever.

“You Just have to Laugh…..”

©Cathy Sikorski 2016

 

Prequel, Shmequel…just stick to the publication date……..

Sometimes I think we forget how the generation above us made a sensible life for themselves.  We fail to give our moms and dads credit for having figured out how to well…figure it out. Life has always been complicated, the addition of technology as not only a tool, but our new best friend is  making it worse. And yes, this flummoxes people like my 88-year-old Mom. But let’s not pretend it doesn’t do the same to us too.

I was trying to explain the concept of a pre-quel to my mom the other day.  My mom and sister and I have become rabid fans of the Jack Reacher novels by Lee Child. There are like 20 of them and I’m happy to read them in whatever order the books come into my life. Some I get from the library, some I get from my friends, and I read whichever ones I haven’t read yet. And then I pass them on to my mom and my sister.

The one thing that was bugging all of us is that all of a sudden (Spoiler Alert, but probably not really if you’re a fan) is that everyone was talking to Jack about how sorry they were because his brother died. What? When did that happen? He was just alive two books ago. And how did he die? Nobody (at least not the characters) is talking.

So my mom and sister decided  to put an end to this. They are both Virgos. They cannot abide this frivolous lack of organization. My sister finally put her foot down.  We are going to look in the newest book we have, get a list of all the titles and start from the beginning.

Okay, fine.

Turns out not one of us ever read the very first book by Lee Child with Jack Reacher as his main character, the Killing Floor.  That’s where his brother, Joe Reacher dies.

Now my mom is confused, outraged and refuses to accept this.

“I ‘ve read dozens of these books, so far,” she said, “and the brother is alive in some of them. This doesn’t make any sense.”

“Well,” I told her, “perhaps the author wanted to go back in time with Jack’s life and talk about  where he came from, his mom and his brother and their life together. So he had to create a pre-quel.”

That seemed to be the end of the conversation, until a few days later when we were going shopping.

“I need you to give that book, “The Killing Floor” back to me, ” she said.

“Okay, but I’m reading it. Can it wait?”

“Well, okay, but I wrote down the publication date as 1997, and I just want to see if that’s right because I’ve gone through all the Jack Reacher books I have at home and none of them are before 1997. I just don’t understand it. I must’ve written it down incorrectly.”

“What are you talking about, Mom?”

“It just can’t be right that that book was written in 1997 because his mother and brother are dead and they are alive in other books.”

Now, here’s the thing. Do not try and use Star Wars as an example of a pre-quel to your 88-year-old mother. I tried. She’s never seen any Star-Wars-anything.  Princess Leia sounds naughty, Yoda sounds like exercise and Obewon Kenobe sounds like sushi, all of which she detests.

Since pre-quels didn’t seem to exist before  Star Wars, well, you’re just going to have to figure it out.

I’m not finished The Killing Floor yet, but I’m thinking about ripping out the copyright page and dummying up one that says 2016. For my mom, for my sanity, for senior citizens book clubs everywhere, and for all readers born before 1983.

“You Just have to Laugh…..”

©Cathy Sikorski 2016

Who does this at your age?!?!?

Just thought I’d lighten the mood a bit and share my latest Story Slam.  The topic was RISK!  This is as good as it gets from a goodie two shoes Catholic School girl!

A-rears or Ass-inine?

Yesterday, I went to the Social Security Office unannounced. It was a big risk. You could be there 20 minutes or three hours. You never know. There was only one couple in the waiting room and one lady at the window talking to a representative. Jackpot!

My number was called in less than five minutes. Clearly, the gods were on my side.

I was in the Social Security Office to check on the missing checks that were to be sent to the children of my brother-in-law. See, there ‘s a rule in Social Security. If a bank receives a check after a recipient has died, the bank must return that check to Social Security.

Now this might make sense to you. However, what you need to know is that Social Security pays in arrears.

What that means is that if  you die in October, and you receive a check in October, you are being paid for September. So that’s still your check, alive or dead. You lived all of September. You get paid for September. Admittedly, if you don’t tell Social Security that you died ( well, okay if someone else doesn’t tell them that you died), and those checks continue to go into your bank account they should be returned to Social Security.

But here’s the rub. Almost every funeral home alerts Social Security that  you’ve died and the whopping $255 death benefit will be sent to the beneficiary. It’s a nice favor that funeral homes do.

And yet, 99 times out of 100 that monthly check that the bank returned to Social Security does indeed belong to the deceased. And it would naturally flow to the estate of the deceased and dealt with accordingly. The bank can’t help it. The bank is required by law to send that check back as soon as they are notified that someone has died.

But because of this stupid rule, I had to go to the Social Security Office, get the proper form and submit the names, addresses and Social Security numbers of the children of the deceased.

And I did that….on March 27, 2016.

By August 27, 2016. five months later, the beneficiaries contacted me to tell me they had not received their checks. Which I was grateful for, since I have no way of knowing if Social Security did their job or not.

So I went to the Social Security Office after Labor Day and asked the representative if she thought it was weird that we hadn’t heard anything, hadn’t received the checks and seemed to have fallen into the black hole of lost paperwork. Of course, I had a copy of everything I submitted. She admitted that was weird.

So she looked up the case from my paperwork and said: “Oh, that case was cleared August 29th.”

“What does that mean?” I asked.

She just shook her head and shrugged her shoulders and said, “well, I would just wait another week to see if those checks are delivered. And don’t lose these copies.”

Yeah. I made those copies for just such an occasion, not because Social Security told me that would be a stellar idea.

Hmmmm.

Five months to correct a thing that never should be happening. Why is this even a thing? Who made up this stupid rule, costing deceased families time and money, costing banks time and money, and especially since Social Security knows they pay in arrears.

Imagine waiting five months in your office for someone to read a paper and take action. The checks came, my beneficiaries were happy and we all just shook our heads and shrugged our shoulders.

Think of these blogs as instructional, so you don’t lose your mind and please……

“You Just have to Laugh…..”

©2016 Cathy Sikorski

 

Cool, Super, Groovy and……Tidy!

My husband and I went to an exhibit at the Chester County Historical Society of ‘ 60’s memorabilia. In the first 10 minutes, I realized, if I opened up our basement to the public, we would have a pretty sweet ’70’s and ’80’s exhibit.

My first takeaway was nostalgic. lots of toys, telephones, fashions, album covers, LIFE magazine covers, all harkening back to my childhood. After that, it got kind of ugly.

Race riots, Vietnam, Charles Manson, the 1968 DNC, Kent State, JFK, Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy, all of it gut-wrenching reminders of a child’s take on unsettled times.

And then it occurred to me that as things change, they really do stay the same. Today’s climate seems so divisive, so harsh, so ugly and yet in my 1960’s mind, I remember the same discomfort watching the news or hearing grown-ups talk while silently holding my mother’s hand.

This didn’t really restore my faith in humanity, except to say that, well we are still here. So there’s that.

And then came the fun part. The music in the background, just begging for us to dance, clap and sing out loud. The crazy clothes that looked like they stepped out of Laugh-In. The same John Romaine pocketbook that my mom used every day. The Jetson’s toys, the Princess phones, the 45 records that came inside the National Geographic magazine, that you could tear out and put on your record player! Yes, kids there really was such a thing.

Apparently, where I grew up was a key player in the creation of the Space Program, all top secret, of course. John Glenn and the Mercury astronauts can thank Southeastern Pennsylvania for much of their successful program.  And Alan Sheperd, the first man in space can also thank us for his wife, Louise Brewer Sheperd who was from Kennett Square, PA! We were also a place where secret missiles were stashed during the Cold War. Yikes!

But my absolute favorite throw back a mere 50 years ago, was the instruction manual “How to be a Super Secretary!”

Here are some of the highlights:

  1. Hide your light under a bushel. Don’t take credit for any ideas you may have. Give them to your boss. If your boss does well, you move up with him. And even give  your good ideas to other men. Your reputation as a good secretary will get you where you want to go.
  2. No matter how much you ask, your boss will never tell you what your failings are. Bosses are always nice people and just can’t tell you bad things about your performance. So it’s up to you to scrutinize your work.

    She didn't get the memo to be tidy and happy.
    She didn’t get the memo to be tidy and happy.
  3. Keep your voice beautiful over the phone!
  4. Your office space is your kitchen! Keep it as tidy and clean as you would at home.
  5. Don’t be too smart, it’s overbearing.
  6. Never have a bad attitude. Keep that at home. Nobody wants to see that in the office. You always need to be pleasant and happy.

There were many more suggestions. It was a whole book kindly supplied by Remington typewriters! In the back of the book was a score sheet. You, or your boss, I’m not sure who, was supposed to rate you on a scale of 1 to 10 on all of these facets of your secretarial personality. Probably you had to do it because you know, your boss would never tell you if you were deficient.

I always thought I was born in the wrong decade. I love the clothes and movies and romantic times of the ’40’s and ’50’s. Now I’m not so sure. If my personality ( and affinity for an Oscar Madison lifestyle)  stayed just as it is today, I would be getting fired every other week.

Thank God, I work for a woman boss (myself). I tell her how great I am all the time. She, on the other hand, has no problem pointing out my deficiencies, on a daily basis.

Thank God for change…..otherwise, how could we ever be smart enough … (and yes, I know things are sadly still the same…..)

“You Just have to Laugh………..”

©Cathy Sikorski 2016

 

Call Me, Maybe…..for Quality Assurance

My Publisher  Extraordinaire campaigns for everyone to just ‘Be Nice.’ I would like to take her advice and suggest we start with our Veterans and their families.

Last week the Veteran’s Administration hung up on me. Granted, I wasn’t giving the guy what he wanted….but he HUNG UP ON ME….AT THE VETERAN’S ADMINISTRATION.

Those of you kind readers who follow my blog, know that I have been in a kerfuffle with the VA since January when they unceremoniously stopped my 87-year-old mother’s health insurance. They discovered a mistake they made 15 years ago, by putting her on the wrong insurance. So they just cancelled her policy. They didn’t bother to fix their mistake. They didn’t  bother to put her on the correct insurance. They didn’t even bother to tell her that they cancelled her insurance.

So, as I told you in the past, my Congressman Representative Ryan Costello (R-PA) (well actually his amazing administrator, Lisa Reynolds) helped me quickly and efficiently fix the problem. If you’re having problems with the VA or any other governmental agency, I

Your current Congress might be more helpful.
Your current Congress might be more helpful.

highly recommend you ask your Congress person to help you. Really. Don’t waste too much time trying to fix it yourself. You will be quite surprised and, hopefully, happy that  your Representative or Senator has staff who are there to help you. Try it. That’s what we pay them for, to work for us.

All that being said…..please VA don’t hang up on us. Even if you don’t like what we are saying, don’t engage in the rudest form of behavior.

I wasn’t yelling, complaining or even causing trouble. I just wanted to refrain from filing additional paperwork with the VA, if they didn’t need it, thereby making everyone’s life easier.

This is what went down:

“Hello, this is Bob from the VA, we are returning your call as requested.”

“Hi, Bob, I was calling for my Mom who has a complicated case that goes back 15 years.”

“Well,” said Bob. ” what do you want me to do? Look at 15 years of claims?”

“No, Bob,” I replied, “I just want to look at one provider, if you can search by that to see if you have already processed that claim,  I won’t resubmit it.”

“Okay,” replied Bob with a bit of exasperation, “What’s your address?”

“Do you mean my Mom’s address? Because she is the insured.”

“No,” replied Bob, getting a bit testy, “I want your address.”

“Well see Bob, that has caused problems before, because my Mom and I don’t live together and………….”

He said: “When you’re ready to give me your address, you can call back.”  And he hung up the phone.

I tried to call back, but there was a 13 minute wait time which is standard procedure when you call the VA.  Which is why Bob was returning my call in the first place, three days later.

Then I just thought, okay. I tried to help. I’m just gonna’ file this and make you do the work twice. And I may begin to implement my new practice where everyone I call for this kind of business I say before the representative can help me:

“This call is being recorded for quality assurance.”

I’ve tried it a few times. It brings silence and confusion. But no one has been rude or hung up on me since then. I say we all try it…….you know, for Veteran’s sake!

“You just have to Laugh…….”

©Cathy Sikorski 2016

On the way to Cape May……….

This is a little naughty—ish ditty Story Slam I did this week…..you can think about it on the way to your vacation at the beach. It just may help. I don’t know, it helped me!

 

 

You just have to Laugh…………..

You might be a Caregiver….Part One

Just as I was sitting down to bring you the next installment of caregiving comedy, my computer decided the last laugh would be on me. Done, died, dead. With no warning, no goodbyes, no fond farewells, just dead.

These two weeks provided lots of time to come up with all the joys that caregivers experience. So in a huge nod to Jeff Foxworthy, I bring you the first installment of:

“You might be a Caregiver……”

  1. If you know Medicare’s phone number and website without Googling….You might be a Caregiver….
  2. If your search for an Assisted Living Community for your Mom starts to look like a nice vacation spot for you and your spouse….You might be a Caregiver
  3. If you cancel your dentist appointment to attend Ice Cream Social Wednesday at your Dad’s nursing home, because you want the ice cream….You might be a Caregiver
  4. If you know your parents’ Medicare number, AARP number, United Healthcare number but not your own cell phone number…You might be a Caregiver
  5. If you feel the need to correct WebMD about all the missed additional symptoms of a urinary tract infection….You might be a Caregiver
  6. If your iPhone calendar has words on it like ‘catheters’, ‘hearing aid’, ‘urologist’, or ‘dentures’…..You might be a Caregiver
  7. If going to the Emergency Room is like Cheers where they know your first name and how you take your coffee…..You might be a Caregiver
  8. If you took the black Sharpie to your husband’s underwear to mark it for the wash instead of your Mom’s for the nursing home…..You might be a Caregiver
  9. If you’ve had more knock-down, drag-out fights with Insurance Companies, Hospitals and Doctor’s office than Muhammad Ali…..You might be a Caregiver
  10. If everyone around you thinks you are speaking in tongues because you are constantly saying, PT, OT, UTI, or DME….You might be a Caregiver

And this is only the beginning, my friends. After all, this is a new computer, so there’s lots of room for humor here now!

“You Just have to Laugh……”

©Cathy Sikorski 2016

You talkin’ to me?

So these stories about medical insurance could go on endlessly, but they give me such good material.

My Mom called me a few days ago to tell me that she received eighteen EOBs (Explanation

What do you mean you're not Zsa Zsa?
What do you mean you’re not Zsa Zsa?

of Benefits forms) from her medical insurance. If you’re not an EOB counter, 18 is a Zsa Zsa galore. A normal amount might be 2 or 3 on a busy day.

The reason she received 18 is because of the huge mix up created by her medical insurance 15 years ago. Fifteen years is a lot too–a whole teenage year of angst. Now, there are two insurance companies trying to figure out how to pay each other back for 15 years of screwing up.

Half of the EOBs indicate that Insurance Company B paid claims formerly paid by  Company A, and everyone is happy about that.

The other half of the envelopes  were filled with EOB’s and checks. Lots and lots of checks. All these checks are payable to my Mom for claims going back to 2007.  Insurance Company B has paid all that money that is supposed to go to various medical providers to my Mom.

So somehow my 87-year-old Mom is supposed to divvy up these checks, figure out who needs to be paid and how much and hope that the medical providers can properly credit her account, some going back 9 years. Really?

I got on the phone.

I have come to love you so much, my dear readers, that you won’t get every bit of every one of the 4 hour-long conversations I had with Insurance Companies A and B.  You know some of this is priceless.

“Hello, my name is John, thank you for calling Insurance Company B, how can I help you?”

“Hi, John, my name is Cathy, I’m calling for my Mom, who is sitting right here with me.”

I hand the phone to my Mom because I know that John needs to interrogate her. She also needs to give John permission to speak to me. After they complete that happy dance, Mom hands the phone back to me.

John asks me for my address.

“No, John, you can’t have my address. You can have my mother’s address, as she is your insured. I have called your insurance company thousands of times and no one has ever asked me for my address.”

“Oh,” said John, “I have to speak to my supervisor.” I’m pretty sure this is John’s first day of work.

He comes back five minutes later and tells me he can’t talk to me if I won’t give him my address. I am undaunted.

I hand the phone to my Mom. He asks for her address, birthdate and phone number. My Mom tells him everything he requests. Then she says,

“Now I want you to talk to my daughter because I have no idea how to deal with any of this.”

She hands me the phone. John and I have a long conversation about how to deal with this complicated problem. John cavalierly tells me that this happens less than one percent of the time. How he knows this from one day on the job, I have no idea. It is, however,  supposed to reassure me.

“John, just stop sending checks to my Mom.”

“I have no idea why that happened. They should be going directly to the provider. I have 458 claims here to be processed for your Mom over the last 10 years. But we could just start over. We could reclaim those checks and redo those claims. I don’t know……”

“NOOOOO, John, DO NOT DO THAT!” Yes, I meant to use capital letters, because it was a capital letter kind of response.

“But……,” said John…..”we……”

“No, John, just NO. Do not add insult to injury. Just stop doing what you’re doing.”

“Is there anything else, I can help you with , ma’am?”

“No, John.” I so wanted to say….”But you did talk to me without ever getting my address, didn’t you? ”

I win!

We all know I haven’t won…but

“You Just have to Laugh…..”

©2016 Cathy Sikorski

 

 

And now, a Massage from the Swedish Prime Minister….Monty Python

As we were discussing our daughters’ fierce food requirements when they come to visit, my friend, Pat revealed that she feels the same way as I do about  the wonders of kale.

Pat’s daughter is a vegan and my daughter is very careful about her diet. When these girls  come to stay at our respective homes, we grocery shop for them, we cook for them and we try very hard not to make a mistake, insult their food, or give them any excuse to never return.

Each and everyone of you knows that kale is the Super Woman of super food. When you ingest kale, you are creating a vortex of health, wisdom, happiness, hale(ness?) and heartiness throughout your body. Kale will not be denied. It will make all things well in the world, especially in your colon, pancreas, pituitary gland and all those other internal organs you play like a fiddle.

I hate kale. I hate mean girls and I hate kale.

Do not give me recipes for kale. Do not tell me to eat kale chips, kale salad or kale smoothies. I tried. I hate it.

This is where Pat explained to me, that her daughter explained to her, that in order to release the power and joys of kale you need to massage it.

Okay, seriously, I’m done now.

I don’t even know what that  means…massage the kale. Do I need massage oil for that? Can instructions be found in the Kalema Sutra?

Looks pretty, but is it worth it?
Looks pretty, but is it worth it?

I’m not massaging my kale. I don’t even massage my husband.  If anyone’s getting a massage here it’s me. I will buy non-dairy yogurt, gluten free bread, only shredded Brussels sprouts for the healthy visitors in my house . But even if it makes kale taste like anything from Ben & Jerry’s, I refuse to massage the kale.

Yes, I’m far from perfect. Yes, I eat and drink things that are naughty. And in the interest of full disclosure, I snarfed up all the Easter Candy. left over wedding favors and the real Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in the freezer last night before our daughter came home for a lengthy visit. I say that as a point of pride, not shame (about the food, not my daughter). After all, I was creating a healthy food environment for my house guest, right? Oh, the things we do for company.

As for my personal constitution, all my grandparents lived well into their 90’s and I’m certain that not one of them ever massaged a leafy green vegetable. So I’m good.

“You Just have to Laugh…..”

©2016 Cathy Sikorski