Saturday, December 18, 2010

My friends call me Tombi

There may be a few of you who have no idea that I always introduce myself as Adriana to strangers, and since 7th grade have gone by Adriana at school and work. My middle name is Tombi, but it is the name my family has always called me by and introduced me as.

So at the recent Microsoft Christmas party I noticed that when Nick introduced me as Adriana to his co-workers that it sounded absolutely alien coming out of his mouth. Then I started thinking about the reasons I started introducing myself as Adriana. I was starting Jr. high and switching schools. The last thing I wanted to do was stand out, and a name like Tombi deep in the heart of TX was basically a giant target. To make matters worse I was a total tomboy and it doesn't take a real rocket scientist to make the Tombi-tomboy connection. Thus was born Adriana.

Pretty soon I had this elaborate name structure in which once friends were permitted into the inner circle they got to know Tombi.

While it's pretty amusing to watch people who've only known you as Adriana encounter people who only know you as Tombi it leads to lots of confusion during the birthday song.

Currently a lot of the people I consider friends call me Adriana and it seems a lengthy but worthy task to re-introduce myself as Tombi. So with just a little bit of sadness Adriana Ericson has passed away and been supplanted by Tombi Ericson.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Now for something completely different

Here are some of the outtakes from this years christmas card photo shoot. I'm still holding out hope that I can get a few cards out in the mail so I'll save the keepers for a later post.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Held Hostage by the American Dream

So the last ten days have really made me take a hard look at this country, and what it does to it's middle class citizens. The American dream . . . work hard, go to college, buy a house and live happily ever after.

College was a struggle. I started out lucky, and didn't even know it. My parents were able to pay for my school. Instead of taking advantage of this opportunity I floundered and failed out of my classes. My parents of course withdrew the checkbook, and their own financial situation had changed when I was ready to go back to school, so it would be up to me to fund my education. I don't even really know why I went to college, other than the fact that, that is what you do. When I went back to school on my own dime I was a much improved student and never made less than a B. I worked full time while I was in school and was able to keep my student loans down to about $15k. I never got any practical work training through school and my degree in Biology with an emphasis in zoology provides me with zero skills with which to get a job. It would have been really great if the school that I gave ridiculous sums of money to would have sat me down at one point and explained that I would need to work for free as an intern if I wanted any practical work experience. I wish I'd gotten a two year degree . . . then I'd have a skill and a job.

Nick fared a little better. At least he chose a degree you can make some money in. Allthough since he went for a masters his student loans ended up closer to $30k. All in all we're much better off than most students who pay their own way through loans. We came out of school with nothing but $45k in student loan debt over our heads, but at least we never got credit cards.

So we continued our frugal life. We NEVER go on vacation, maybe eat out once a month. Never got to the movies or really do anything that costs more than $5. I keep our groceries below $150 a week and work hard to be a thrifty bargain shopper.

We saved up $60k and decided to buy a house. In the Seattle market that's a scant down payment, but we found a short sale we could afford, and bought a home. 2 years later like many other Americans our house is now worth $70k less than when we bought it and we are now trapped by our house, unable to sell it and unable to rent it for anything close to our mortgage. Despite the added expense of the house we were able to purchase and payoff two used cars and save up another $60k dollars over the last two years.

Another major development was the increasing severity of my psoriatic arthritis. As if my loser father didn't do enough to ruin our family I have the lasting legacy of his genetic disease to remind me my whole life, just where I came from. My arthritis was so severe after Kiah was born that I could no longer walk without something to hold on to. I was taking multiple over the counter pain killers, prescription pain killers just to get through the day. I cried a lot, both for the pain in my body and in my heart. If you would like an idea of the pain think about how it feels to hit your bone against something hard, that sharp pain that makes you cry out, now put that pain in to every joint in your body. Even the ones you never think of in the middle of your hand or foot. It got to the point where my body had begun to refuse to follow instructions because of the pain. I got stuck in the bath tub, unable to crawl out because my body simple refused to move. It's a very strange sensation to realize that your own body is shutting down from pain.

You become keenly aware of just how many joints you have in your body when every single one of them is screaming out in pain constantly. I thought of the burden I already was on my family and the burden would become as I already needed a walker even though I had refused to admit it. I was really, really depressed and even considered taking my own life to prevent my children from having to take care of me, but hope is a miraculous thing and I just kept hoping that this miracle drug my Dr wanted to try would save the day. The day I went to the Dr for the first injection, it took me 10 min to shuffle across the 2 parking spots between my car and the door to the lobby, there was no hand rail and so I had nothing to help me walk, and would fall over from the pain if I tried to take a step.

1 week later I could walk pain free, one month later I could run. I had my life back and whatever the side effects of the drug they were minimal to the amazing glory of a pain free day, that was my salvation. We were very fortunate to have insurance that paid completely for the medication as it is $2k a month without insurance.

Now after being in Seattle for 4 years we still find ourselves unable to make any meaningful connections with people here. Sure we have acquaintances, but it's very lonely here. I don't have any girlfriends so I spend 20hrs a day, usually more at home and the only person I ever talk to is Nick, the kids, or my mom. If Nick goes out for the evening then I don't talk to anyone all day, I'm just alone. It's really hard to meet people when you are home all day with your kids, and for whatever reason our peculiar set of hobbies are shared by lots of people in Bellingham and seemingly no one in Seattle. Everyone we meet, just seems to busy to add anymore friends to their social calendar.

Nick was recently offered a well paying job in Bellingham. A job that pays this well in Belligham only comes along every 5 years or so, I was so happy. I thought everything in the world would be right again. We'd be able to move, I'd be healthy and surrounded by friends. As it turns out we can't sell our hose without being completely wiped out, so we thought we'd rent it and make up the difference in the payment and just live on an even tighter budget in Bellingham, so we could continue to save.

Then we came to the next hurdle, health insurance. We did find carriers that would insure me, but not pay any out for my medication. So I did the math and even if I work full time for $11.50/hr, I will not be able to pay for my medication. I don't even know how to really absorb that fact. I have a college degree and can't earn enough money to pay for just my medication, forget living expenses. I can never go off of this medication . . . this is something I will need my entire life and now in addition to overcoming the challenges of owning a giant money pit of a house I now know that I can never switch insurance carriers and Nick can never switch jobs unless my medication will be covered and after 16hrs on the phone with different insurance companies I am realizing that pigs will fly before that happens.

So just to re-cap before we can move away from this place that has brought us nothing but misery the housing market has to turn around (10 years hopefully). The government has to offer a public option for health care, because no insurance company wants to have anything to do with me. Based on these realizations it's obvious that we're screwed.

I feel like an indentured servant, part of Americas new class of slaves. Canada is looking better every day.