03 October 2013


Congress shut the government down two days ago.  Our daughter was born 3 months ago yesterday.  I quit my job so we could move to Vermont for Michael's dream job 4 months ago.  In the midst of all of this I've been trying to understand something: how were we supposed to do all this without government assistance?  What bootstraps were we supposed to grab?

Around this time last year, we realized we could indefinitely put off starting a family if we waited until conditions were just right.  Having both gone to private liberal arts colleges, we had an image of what being a grown-up should be.  Working jobs that didn't even pay what our colleges cost per year wasn't part of that.  But, we adjusted our expectations, realized plenty of people have families who are in situations similar to ours.  And we decided it was time.

Michael was working at a record store while doing everything he could to find a job that put his Masters degree to use.  Michael was able to get that Masters degree with financial help from the government while he was working. While he wasn't at work, he helped a professor edit a (hopefully) forthcoming book.  He still has yet to see a penny for doing that work.  He served on the board of the literary journal he edited the year before.  When that year's editor had to step down from her position, my husband and editors of other past editions stepped up.  When he wasn't busy with any of this, he was applying for jobs.

I was working a job where I put my Associates degree to work.  I was able to get my Associates degree because the government helped me pay for it while I was working a job in retail.  I was working a job in retail because I had previously burnt out in the human services field.  I went to the private liberal arts school to work in the human services field.  I was able to pay to go to the liberal arts school because I was born into a family that was able to pay for it.  Academically, I was able to get into the school because I grew up in a town with taxes that provided quality education for its residents. 

We both were doing what we loved.  I was working with animals and science.  Michael was editing.  He just wasn't getting paid for it.  Yet.

About three months before our daughter was due to be born, Michael received an email from a friend: there was a job opening that was pretty perfect.  It would put his self-designed Masters degree to work.  He applied, interviewed twice.  He didn't get the job because he was over-qualified.  The publishing company instead created a new position for him.  Saying no was not an option.  This is when things started to happen fast.

Michael commuted over an hour both ways for a month while we found a place to live.  We had to find a place to live that we knew we could afford with just one paycheck while I looked for work.  I let work know that I'd have to start my maternity leave a month earlier than expected so that we could move.  We found a place and moved up to Vermont a month and a half before our daughter Sadie's due date.  I found a new hospital for her birth.  I navigated health insurance.  My previous employer-provided coverage would last until 12 days before Sadie's due date.  After that, if I opted for COBRA, I would pay $574.27 a month.  On top of that, I would pay a $500 co-pay for our hospital stay when Sadie was born.  I applied for Vermont's state-funded health insurance and was accepted.  The coverage was retroactive to a month before we moved up to Vermont.  I let my employer know, who let the health insurance company know.  Bills that had been paid by Blue Cross Blue Shield would end up being covered by Dr. Dynasaur.

Due to the timing of all of this, I've been getting bills for all of our medical care.  The current tally is a little over $10,000.  Without government assistance, this is what I'd have had to pay to give birth to my child.  The best the federal government could have done with its provision of COBRA would be for me to pay around $1,100 the month my daughter was born and $575 a month after that.  The state of Vermont helped us spend nothing.  We are still "just getting by" while I look for work.

The question that I keep imagining asking someone who is "anti-big-government" is: Weren't we doing everything we could to "pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps"?  Where did we go wrong?  In wanting to start a family?  In striving for jobs that make us happy people?  Where?"  I can't imagine any logical or compassionate answer to this.

29 July 2012

Heavy petting

My boss does a weekly interview with local morning DJ, Monte Belmonte.  He usually comes in on my day off, but one week I was lucky enough to be there while he was recording.  He ended up follwing Steve and I around during a possible urinary tract infection appointment.  Hear me talk about urine and say "Oh boy" too many times...

Click on the photo to listen

02 January 2012

Michael Walter Maier: 1923-2011

Mick + Betty

My Grandpa Maier passed away on December 15th.  Michael and I flew out to Beaver Dam, Wisconsin the day after Christmas for his funeral.  Most of the Maier family gathered at Grandma and Grandpa's house that evening.  Grandma led the way in deciding to celebrate his life rather than mourn the loss of it.  He lived 88 wonderful years, after all.

It was strange not having him there.  I kept thinking of his laugh, which I can still hear in my head.  I hope I never lose that.

The funeral was at St. Katharine Drexel Parish, in downtown Beaver Dam.  My cousin Mindy and I were tasked with "Placement of the Pall."  I had no idea what this meant until we got to the church: we would unfold the cloth that would be draped over the casket before it was wheeled from the back of the church to the front.  After the priest said a few words and crossed himself (I fumblingly crossed myself), he laid the cloth on the casket, and Mindy and I went to work.  It sounds pretty simple, but unfolding that cloth felt powerful. 

I walked back behind the casket to join Michael and Mom - Dad was a pallbearer.  As the Maier family followed the casket down the aisle toward the front of the church, Grandpa's death became a little more real.

The service was a traditional Catholic mass.  Various family members played different roles throughout - Dad read 2nd Timothy 4:6-8 toward the beginning of the service:
6For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.
 7I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:
 8Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.
Once the service was over, family and friends drove over to Old Hickory.  The photo poster boards were set up, as well as a commemoration of Grandpa's two holes-in-one.  We chatted and ate and drank, then the time came for his internment at St. Peter's Cemetery.

As we approached the cemetery, a group of veterans waiting outside in the cold became visible, guns in hand.  Several local American Legion members performed the military funeral honors: a 6-gun salute, Taps played on the bugle, and the presentation of the flag to Grandma.  She stayed very still and quiet.  We all moved toward Grandma.  The funeral director then said some words and invited us all to take our winter gloves and mittens off and touch his urn so that we could leave a little bit of ourselves with him.  We approached the urn one by one.  Grandma remained very still and quiet.  We all moved to comfort her.  We all stood for a while, and slowly made our way out of the cemetery.

30 November 2011

Bike Path Runs

from Turners Falls River Culture

I try to run on our neighborhood bike path as often as I can.  The days are getting shorter and colder, and I'll be sad when winter finally hits New England and my runs there dwindle down to none.

Each day there brings its own bird-, people-, and canal-related adventures.  Lately, the Canada Geese have virtually taken over the place.  I'd guess I've seen about 500 at one time on some runs.  Today, maybe about 200-300.  They, along with some crows, seemed a little panicked as I approached them today. 

As I neared the portion of the path where it leaves the Power Canal I heard a buzzer, which I'm guessing signaled the opening of the dam there.  I turned back toward home and saw most of the geese flying out of the canal as the water started to rush a little faster.  A few groups flew right overhead.


As I was running by the geese on my way back home, I heard the ring of someone's bicycle bell.  As the rider passed by she mentioned, with a look of concern, that there's a homeless person living right where she saw me turn back toward home.  My thoughts swayed from caution to wondering why I should inherently be wary of someone who is camping out on a bike path.  I started wondering what his (assuming it's a he) story is.  How he ended up where he is.  In the end, I decided it won't keep me from running where I love to run.

29 September 2011

Settling in.

Now that I'm no longer in school and just working, it's hard to figure out what to do to fill my days.  I've re-joined the Y and am having a great time doing laps regularly.  The only drawback: sometimes having to squeak my way around older folks swimming laps more slowly than I wish to swim mine. 

I've been taking Sully to Unity Park more often, but can't on rainy days like today.  So here I am, streaming way too many TV shows.  I tried Raising Hope, but meh.  I'm liking Sons of Anarchy, but don't want to pile on too many biker-gang-violence shows in one day. 

I'm hoping to start brewing my own beer, but am waiting for my birthday to roll around so I can ask for a starter kit.

So I guess I'll just stay a little restless for the time being, and maybe get some cleaning done.  Maybe.

31 August 2011

An earthquake and a tropical storm

Last Tuesday, I was sitting at the front desk at the animal hospital, calling a client and noticed the light shifting on the glass of a picture frame in the waiting room.  The reflection was waving back and forth and wasn't stopping.  I looked to my fellow front desk occupant and quickly told her with eyes wide: "the building's moving" before the client picked up on the other line.  The shaking apparently lasted for about 30 seconds, and was a result of a 5.8 magnitude earthquake centered near Richmond, Virginia.  I think this earthquake was stronger than what I felt in San Francisco in 2003.

This past Sunday, Hurricane Irene was predicted to hit Turners Falls.  Michael bought four jugs of water and my mom (my parents had their Sunday afternoon flight cancelled) bought ingredients to make shrimp and grits (provided we still had power Sunday night) and contact solution.  The storm was forecast to hit Sunday afternoon, so I figured we would gather the flashlights and batteries before sunset.  We were fortunate to only get heavy rain with barely any strong winds.  I feel guilty saying it as folks have died and others nearby are unable to make it to stores for food and water, but I was a little disappointed with my first hurricane.

07 August 2011

Bon Iver

Michael and I sat in the sixth row at Mountain Park last night for one of the best shows I've seen.  Here's what they played:
  1. Perth
  2. Minnesota, WI
  3. Towers
  4. Brackett, WI
  5. Holocene
  6. Beach Baby 
  7. Hinnom, TX
  8. Wash.
  9. Blood Bank
  10. Flume
  11. Michicant
  12. Re: Stacks
  13. Calgary
  14. For Emma
  1. Skinny Love
  2. Beth/Rest
  3. The Wolves (Act I and II)
They had two drummers along with a FULL band, which led to the shaking of my raincoat (Justin Vernon declared the motto of the night: "You can either get wet.  Or not.") and chest, which led to a little bit of a tear to the eye on a few occasions.  Also, one of the musicians looked like a cross between Mark Ibold and Eric D. Johnson.

With the exception of a few front-row ladies who were eventually asked to take a seat by security, we all sat and took it in.  And head-bobbed.  Until the very end and the three encore songs, when everyone stood up to rush the stage.  Michael and I promptly headed toward the exit to watch the encore from the near-exit, aside an umbrella-bobbing couple. 

As we drove away, the rain got heavier and we chatted about our favorite songs of the night.