Sunday, September 27, 2015

Renegade Medical Billing

Have you ever encountered a live person who codes hospital medical expenses for a living? I would wager you have not. Medical billing coders who still live among us must conceal their identity for their own safety. If they’re outed then they must go into hiding. I suspect that most of the medical billing coders in this country live together on a remote farm in Arkansas as participants in the Medical Billing Coders Witless Protection Program. I say this because, although I am a pacifist, I don’t trust myself to behave pacifically if I ever identify the medical billing coder who put together the itemized bill I received from the hospital for my emergency room (ER) visit in July when I was stung by a demon nest of yellow jackets. (In case you missed it, here is the link to my blog post about this life-altering event.)

If you have ever received a bill for services provided to you by a hospital, I challenge you to figure out exactly what you were charged and for what. You could conceivably have been charged $80 for a Band-Aid and $500 for the privilege of having a teenage clerk ask you for your date of birth. You could make a down payment on a blood pressure cuff manufacturing factory for the amount you were charged to have a junior assistant nurse-cadet-in-training take your blood pressure. I am outraged that hospitals are allowed to bill patients for services without being held accountable for even vaguely justifying the costs.

When I received the bill for my ER services, I was dismayed that it did not break down the expenses. The bill listed a lump sum of $4,250.19 with no explanation whatsoever. Mystery medical services. After my insurance paid their portion, I was left with $750 to pay out-of-pocket. I called the hospital billing department to set up a payment plan AND I requested an itemized bill. I thought the itemized bill would reveal exactly what I got for all that money. Silly me.

When the itemized statement arrived, I called the billing department again to have them interpret it for me because it was more confusing than a Chinese schematic depicting how to assemble the space shuttle. Below is a simplified version of the itemized statement as reinterpreted by me after my conversation with the billing department. This resembles the original statement, but without the confusing billing codes, equipment serial numbers, account numbers, patient ID numbers, VIN numbers for the vehicles owned by the staff in the ER at the time I was admitted, inspector number of the inspector who inspected the vending machine in the ER lobby when it was originally assembled, and the phone number of the hair stylist for the family nurse practitioner on duty. Itemized expenses follow:
   INJ IVP ADD SEQ NEW $307.96
   INJ IVP SNGL/INTL $307.96
   INJECTION SQ/IM $214.78
   ED LEVEL 4 $2655.85
   EPINEPHR 1ML INJ $59.76
   PRED 20MG TAB $22.82
   PRED 5 MG TAB $22.82

Alrighty then. Let me break it down for you as I see it. The first thing that I notice about my itemized bill is that it does not add up to $4,250.19. It seems impractical to employ math-impaired individuals in a hospital accounting office, but that appears to be what was done by this hospital. You would think that a prerequisite for the job would be the ability to add, but what do I know? Moving right along, next I notice that 20 mg of prednisone is billed at the same amount as 5 mg of prednisone. This leads me to assume that prednisone is one of those all-in kinds of things, like virginity or being dead. Either you are or you’re not. No matter how much prednisone you buy, it’s always going to cost $22.82. That does simplify matters.

This is what disturbs me the most: How can the hospital list one line item for $2655.85 without breaking out those expenses? Seriously? By way of analogy, what if I took my car to the shop and the mechanic handed me a bill for $2655.85 with no explanation? How can a hospital toss a huge lump sum in there like that without breaking out how much the carburetor cost to replace and how much the spark plugs were and how many hours of labor at XX per hour, etc., etc. When I called medical billing and asked if I could get that cost $2655.85 broken out into its parts, I was informed that the $2655.85 is the fee for the use of the room in the Emergency Department. Wait, what? I wasn’t even in a room. I was in a corner with a curtain pulled around me. So was the curtain valued at $1500, the bed at $600, the blanket $100 (I should have taken it home with me), and so forth? How much did I pay to wear the gown? $300? $800? If I had known I was going to have to pay so much to wear the gown I would have had my husband take a picture of me in it. I would have asked for matching shoes. What was it that cost 85 cents? Rental fee for the doctor’s stethoscope? The 2.75 inches of surgical tape used to tape the cotton ball to my arm after they removed the IV needle? The lint I picked up on my shoe? Sheesh! If they can come up with such a precise cost, down to the penny, why can’t they provide a list of what it includes?

The main thing I needed to counteract the yellow jacket stings and keep me breathing was epinephrine. The epinephrine injection cost $59.76. Apparently, the use of the room in which I was injected with epinephrine was $2655.85. I should have asked them to give me the shot in the restroom. I wonder how much they charge for the use of the restroom. I didn’t use the restroom while I was there, but if I had, then my bill would probably have been another $400. I notice that the diphenhydramine, which is a fancy name for the antihistamine Benadryl, only cost $1.62. This was the primary drug I needed to stop the symptoms of my allergic reaction. The Benadryl was administered via IV, which cost $592.06. The IV had nothing but water (listed as hydration therapy on the bill) and Benadryl in it (this according to the medical billing department when we spoke). I drank a gallon of water after I was stung. I didn’t need any further hydration. I have Benadryl in my medicine cabinet. They charged nearly $600 for IV water and Benadryl. I could have declined the IV and swallowed a Benadryl tab (washing it down with water) and saved $600. Furthermore, NOT included in the IV, I apparently received an injection of new sequins (SEQ NEW) and an injection of single international (SNGL/INTL), both costing the same amount, and both as indecipherable to medical billing as they are to me. I’m grateful the sequins were new and not used.

As an interesting aside, the ER doc gave me a prescription for Benadryl to fill at the pharmacy. But as it turned out, the prescription was more expensive than buying the exact same amount of Benadryl over the counter in a generic brand. The prescription epi-pen I needed to buy (in the event I am ever stung again) at the pharmacy cost me $50 and the doc told me to carry it with me at all times for the rest of my life. The darn thing is the shape and size of an intermediate-level dildo. I have not worn pants in 40 years, but I’m tempted to buy a pair of jeans just so I can put the epi-pen in the front to see how people react. I wonder if anyone else has developed transgender fantasies in the wake of a yellow jacket attack.

The ER bill, by-the-way, does not include the cost of physician services. Physicians bill separately for their services. So I received a separate bill from the ER doc for $704. I only have to pay $50 out-of-pocket on that one, which is a good deal. He was a nice doctor (young, he looked like a teenager to me, or maybe that was just the insect venom talking) and he saved my life. The thing that concerns me about the physician’s bill is that it lists the services as ER VISIT LEVEL 5. Notice that on the ER bill the visit was listed as a LEVEL 4. I found this so curious that I called the hospital billing department to ask which level I had actually been. A cheerful woman who introduced herself as a “patient advocate” informed me that sometimes the medical billing coder for the physician codes a visit at a different level from the one assigned by the medical billing coder at the hospital. I asked if the cost for level 4 services is less than the cost for level 5 services and the patient advocate told me not to worry about it. I suspect she was lying about being a patient advocate and that she is really a medical billing coder incognito. She belongs in Arkansas.

So, what did it cost me to get stung by a nest of yellow jackets? ER bill $700 + physician $50 + epi-pen prescription $50 + yellow jacket nest exterminator $200 = $1000. I’m not complaining, because, you know, death is like prednisone, all-in (virginity is no longer an option), i.e., it’s either $22 or it’s not; and I’m truly grateful to be alive. But next time I get attacked by insects I’m calling an ambulance. I’ve learned from experience that if you can prevent the ambulance paramedics from taking you to the hospital, and you can get them to treat you on the spot, then the ambulance service is free. And free is a better deal than the cost-obfuscating ER. So I’m calling an ambulance and chaining myself to my front door.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Which Day Would You Pick to Live All Over Again?

If you could magically have one day of your life to live over again from start to finish exactly as it happened, which day would you choose? Tomorrow is the one-year anniversary of the marriage of my son to his wife. Thanks to the generosity and hard work of his wife’s family, this event was super-wonderful, a fairytale wedding. I would love to relive that day, but if I could only choose one out of my whole life, would that day be my choice? I could choose my own wedding, 33 years ago. That seems too far to go back in time; seems like honest-to-goodness hardcore time traveling. None of my children had been born yet in 1982 and it was years before I moved to my beloved 40 acres in the forest in gorgeous Mendocino County. I don’t think I would choose to relive a day without my children. From the moment each of them was born, I could no longer imagine the world without them in it.

This week I’m reading Charles Yu’s book How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe. The protagonist repairs time travel machines. In Yu’s sci-fi, people usually choose to return to the saddest day of their lives because they hope to change what happened, or at least their relationship to what happened. But in his book it doesn’t ever work that way. The past can’t be changed. I think he’s wrong about people wanting to return to sad days. I think people would want to return to the happy days, but I think that because that’s what I would do.

So what would constitute a happy day? One of the happiest? I could choose to return to the exciting day we moved from Berkeley to our land at the Ranch, when our adventure as a family living in a remote forest in paradise first began. I could choose to return to one of the extra-special Thanksgivings that we spent on the land with my parents (when Mom was still alive) and our friends (when all of them were still alive, before so many of them passed away much too early, too young), and when our Australian shepherd was still alive (I feel guilty putting her in this sentence with friends, and, of all people, Mom, but she was an excellent dog and Mom loved her so she would forgive me for wishing to spend more time with them both in the same breath). I could choose one of the festive Saturdays over Labor Day Weekend when the abundance of friends, food, music, and laughter overflowed at the Ranch. I might choose the particular Labor Day party when I celebrated my 40th birthday, or my 50th birthday, or our 25th wedding anniversary. I could choose the first Christmas after all my children left home when they all returned for the holiday (including my son’s wife, who was his fiancée at the time).

Or how about one of those perfect sun-drenched days at Manresa Beach near Santa Cruz, sparkling blue, graced with passing schools of dolphins, on our family’s annual summer vacation during the years that the children were growing up? I might go for one of those days to live over. Building elaborate sandcastles, flying colorful kites, talking for hours with our children and their friends as we lolled on the beach, going for long walks, collecting sand dollars, playing Frisbee, digging a hole to China. In the evening, cooking dinner over the campfire and finishing up with s’mores. Playing Taboo at the picnic table by lantern-light. Perfection. However, if I chose such a day (and they were often glorious so I am sorely tempted) then I wouldn’t get to see my mom again since she never went to Manresa with us.

Maybe I would choose a day of great accomplishment or recognition. The day I found out that a publisher wanted to publish my novel that I spent 20 years writing? Recently a friend of mine whom I have often admired for the good work he does in the world opened up and confessed that he wonders what he accomplished in his life. I was stunned. How could he, of all people, feel as though he has accomplished nothing? I share with him my fear that one day, when my time comes, I will face death wondering if I used my life wisely, to do good in the world, to make a small difference. So perhaps if I could relive only one day I would do well to choose a day on which I was reminded of something I had accomplished to make a mark, something that matters. But I am, in the end, so tiny in the inconceivably huge depths of the universe that, seriously, how could anything at all that I do here really matter? I am smaller than a blip on the screen of the firmament.

One day. One day to have again. I would not choose an auspicious day, an unusual day, an eventful day. I would choose, instead, an ordinary day. I would choose a slow summer day, during the Ranch years, when my parents drove up to visit and Dad took the dog for a long walk up the hill, and we chatted by our modest doughboy pool while the children played Marco Polo (and I jumped in to play with them for a while), and the lazy afternoon slid by filled with homemade pesto on crackers, watermelon, lemonade, and small talk with my folks, my husband, my children. A day when we had challah French toast with real maple syrup for breakfast, enchiladas for dinner, and ice cream for dessert. A day when I picked purple and red flowers I had grown and put them in a vase on the kitchen table; and picked tomatoes and basil from the garden and made tomato salad. A day when we played R&B from the old days in the late evening and danced around our house for no reason other than that we felt better than James Brown. When the children gathered before bed and listened to me read aloud from a good book, maybe the latest Harry Potter, because it seriously doesn’t get any better than J.K. Rowling. When the country night filled with infinite stars and, after the children went to bed and my parents headed back home, I sat on the deck with my husband to enjoy the beauty of the vast universe in the hour before sleep. When I drifted off at the end of the day under the watchful gaze of tall, tall Doug firs and oaks, embraced in gratitude, feeling blessed. I would choose that kind of ordinary day. I could choose that day again and again and again.

Sometimes I am lucky enough to have one of those kind of miraculous ordinary days appear out of nowhere in the midst of my life as it is now, even with my children grown, even after leaving my beloved land, even when so many loved ones have moved on. Delight happens, taking us unawares when we least expect it.

Which day would you choose to live again? Message me to let me know—I’m curious. I’m grateful for the miracle of living at the same time as you, my friend, so that we can pass this way in each other’s company. May you be inscribed in the Book of Life for a sweet year, a good year. Wishing you L’Shana Tova (Hebrew for “good new year”) at this time of the Jewish High Holy Days.

Still life photo taken by Akili Wachspress. 
We were fooling around with ideas for book covers for "Memories from Cherry Harvest." 
None of our photos were used of course by the publisher.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Terminology for Use When Dating Over 60

You might well ask what I know about dating since I’ve been out of circulation for 35 years, but, hey, I have women friends. We talk. And terminology is one of my specialties. To begin with, should we even persist in referring to it as “dating” when the daters are over 60? I mean, seriously, by the time we go past 60 we don’t have time to mess around; we know how to cut to the chase. Dating is spending time with someone to find out if you share similar interests, if you laugh at one another’s jokes (or at least get them), if the grandchildren are well-behaved, if at least one of you can see at night to drive, and if your meds are compatible. This can be accomplished quickly and then we are no longer talking about dating but have graduated to a relationship. Once we reach this point, then how to refer to this person-of-interest? That’s the crux of the matter, the question that got me going here.

One of my closest women friends met a man online a few months ago and so far he’s more than passing muster. He has a roaring green light. The critical question that my friend asked me recently when we got together was, “What should I call him? How to introduce him?” Because “boyfriend” sounds ridiculous. You just don’t refer to a mature man, over 60, retired from a long and illustrious college teaching career, with children and grandchildren, as a “boy” in any way, shape, or form. “Man-friend?” Ugh. We tossed out “significant other” as too politically correct, self-conscious, uptight, and text-bookish. “Partner” sounds like my friend has met someone to go square dancing with. She was also concerned that “partner” makes it sound as if she’s in a same-sex relationship, and of course there’s nothing wrong with a same-sex relationship, but in this case that’s misleading because she’s seeing a guy.

We commenced to use our vast reserves of creativity to come up with terms to consider. Paramour. Consort (or, in more formal situations, Royal Consort). Suitor (too 18th Century). Escort. Lover (too much information). Milkman (wait, no one has milk delivered anymore). Mate (too anthropological). Latin Instructor. Gardener. Pool Boy (oops, no, not a boy of any type). Soulmate (sounds like a Chess move; anyway, too pretentious and New-Age-y). Squeeze (as in a sponge?) or Main Squeeze (as in a very big sponge?). Chauffeur. Hanky-panky Companion (OK, that’s a stretch). Late-night Collaborator. Playmate (this begs the question “What are you wearing?”). Romantic Interest (works if trapped in a Henry James novel perhaps). Associate (buying real estate together?). Novio (can’t fool me, that’s just “boyfriend” in Spanish). Admirer (has potential). Guy, as in “My Guy,” but the Temptations might have that one copyrighted. Florist. Flame (sounds dangerous). Honey, Sweetie, Tootsie? So many terms of endearment to choose from and none of them a comfortable fit. I don’t have this dilemma to contend with because I can refer to Ron as my DJ. Or baby-daddy. Or my husband. I suppose my friend could refer to her guy as her Potential Husband (with his permission of course).

After brainstorming terminology for quite some time, I mentioned that my 30-something daughter often refers to the man in her life as her “boo.” That’s cute, but a bit ghetto, and definitely not a good fit when the boo is over 60. (Unless he’s a little scary, I guess. Then you would say BOO!) However, she also refers to him as her Beau. I think we have a winner. My friend loves that one. I cautioned her to beware of putting an “x” on the word because Beau is French and, in French, Beaux is plural, and therefore implies that my friend is involved with a ménage. The 60-something who has the energy for a ménage is rare, and, in my opinion, deserving of careful scrutiny. If someone over 60 is genuinely involved with more than one beau then I would imagine they are not accomplishing much else in their life. Not impressive.

My friend met her beau (that term definitely goes down easy) at an online dating site. I have two other 60-something friends who met a great guy online (they each met their own great guy, not the same one, not a ménage so don’t get excited) and embarked on a relationship via that route. This makes me think that there should be an entire set of terminology for relationships that originated through online dating or other online, electronic, or digital communications. Maybe these should be called computer-initiated relationships or meet-and-tweets. This adds a new dimension to dating terminology (woo-hoo, my specialty). A person could call someone they’re seeing whom they met through online dating their Cyber-link, Virtual Hunk or Electronic Gal (depending on gender), Keyboard Pal (as opposed to Pen Pal, which is so last century), Screen Savior, Bed-Byte, E-Male (obvious one), or Google-ee. The possibilities for newly minted terminology are endless. Perhaps I will invent terminology that will soon appear in the cyber-sphere; perhaps I will be credited with starting a meme or two. If my terminology catches on then it will become permanology. My terminology may make you wince, but I assure you I am well-meming.

Alrighty then. Calling it quits and winding up this blog. Tonight is Rosh Hashanah. May you have a sweet year, a good year, a year full of joy and wonder. Thanks again for reading me. You’re a terrific blog-ee.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

The Ranch Labor Day Party

One of these days I will write a detailed memoir about the annual Labor Day Weekend (LDW) parties we hosted during the years we lived at the Ranch while the children were growing up. My thoughts are filled today with memories of LDWs from those glory days. The LDW event had a life of its own, that overflowed the confines of our family and our remote 40 acres of forest. In its heyday, it was an extraordinary phenomenon that touched many lives. I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to share that experience year after year with so many wonderful people.

We moved to the Ranch on August 28, 1991 and we invited our friends from the Bay Area to come up and camp out one weekend at the beginning of October. It was in preparation for that October camp-out that I painted and posted the original “Where the Heck Are We?” sign (that eventually found its way into the SF Museum of Modern Art, which is another story) on the boundary of our property. That sign, unmistakably the result of our family’s sense of humor, prevented many a visitor to the Ranch from throwing in the towel just short of our driveway and heading back down the five miles of dirt road they had just traversed from 101. The 1991 autumn camp-out was such fun that we hosted another camp-out the following year on the anniversary of our move to the Ranch, which coincided nicely with LDW. The LDW camp-out was an excellent way to wrap up the summer and it became our family’s signature celebration.

Invitations to LDW suggested that visitors bring everything they needed with them and not plan to return to the store from the Ranch (since it took 30 minutes to drive into town) after arrival. Our list of what to bring (and not bring) grew longer with each passing year. I asked LDW guests to bring tents, food, lawn chairs, coolers, musical instruments (especially drums), dogs, ponies, elephants, Noah’s bagels, swimsuits, towels, books, games, magic carpets, ice, costumes, and, once, talking pineapples. They were asked not to bring firearms, misbehaved dogs, beets (I greatly dislike this unfortunate vegetable), and bad vibes. Despite our suggestions and wish-lists, it seemed that people mostly wanted to bring food, food, and more food. After our friend Jessica arrived with several truckloads of food from Costco two years in a row, we started writing on the invitation that she was not allowed to stop at Costco on the way up. We threatened to call Costco Security and ask them to locate her in the store and to tell her to step slowly away from the pie.

We met Jessica, who became the quintessential LDW guest and has become family to us, when a mutual friend brought her and her children to the first LDW camp-out. While the mutual friend did not return, Jessica returned every year with her children. This happened with quite a few people, who came with mutual friends and thereby met us by staying on our land. Certain people returned every year, which was the only time we saw them (and the only time they saw each other). A core group of LDW cult members formed and came every year religiously.

During the years when we had small children, many families with children, toddlers, and babies camped out on our land for the weekend. Some years we had as many as 30 people camping out. The children quickly coalesced into a pack that ran like wild wolves; roaming the woods, riding things with wheels, playing games, swimming, and climbing trees together. The visiting dogs formed their own pack and, under the naughty influence of our Australian shepherd Juno, snuck off to the pond to get muddy, returning with their tongues hanging to their knees and big smiles on their faces. A few years after we moved to the Ranch, we put in a doughboy pool, which became the beloved watering hole of the LDW crowd, especially the children. The adults sat under the watchful gaze of a wizened old oak tree while the children frolicked in that tiny pool (4 feet deep and 18 feet across) all afternoon as if they were at miles of beach; playing Marco Polo, making tidal waves by running around and around in a circle, jumping onto pool noodles and floaties, riding inflatables back and forth, and devouring lemonade, peanut butter sandwiches, and watermelon every couple of hours.

One of the best LDWs we hosted was the Tropical LDW. We wished we could go away on a family vacation to a tropical location, but we didn’t have enough money to do it. So we invented a tropical vacation by telling everyone it was the theme of the LDW party. The children made themed signs that we posted throughout the property. One sign pointed to the coconut grove, another to the beach, and another to the coral reef. One read simply “Yoh Mon” and another “No Worries.” We bought an inflatable shark for the doughboy and posted shark warning signs. We played tropical music and spoke like Rastafarians. We bought leis to present to guests as they arrived and drank tropical drinks with paper umbrellas. We have a friend who likes to dress and accessorize Barbie dolls and place them in “scenes” so we put on the invitation “No Malibu Barbies allowed.” Our Barbie-obsessed friend set up a display at our gate featuring Malibu Barbies, action figures, and plastic dinosaurs holding protest signs accusing us of discrimination. The display evolved over the course of the weekend, with many additions and changes, and photos taken.

Once, as we chatted over breakfast on the deck with the last few guests on the final morning of the weekend, we discovered that a young couple who was sharing that breakfast with us had not come to our house with anyone we knew. They had heard in a nearby bar that there was a good camp-out (with drumming) up in the woods in our direction. Did someone draw them a map to our land on the back of a bar napkin? To this day I have no idea how they found us. This was before the invention of the Tom-Tom -- but even after the invention of the Tom-Tom, our house was not on the radar of navigation systems.

The food was always spectacular and abundant. August was apple canning season so I had a kitchen overflowing with apples, and I baked pies. I always did pasta with pesto made from garden basil, and a huge garden-tomato salad. I often baked bread. We usually made hand-cranked vanilla ice cream (the best). We always BBQed. There was the year of the famous exploding hotdog. (I have no idea how this piece of meat on the grill blew up.) Ron started the ball rolling with ongoing references to the incident by warning our guests to beware of pork shrapnel. Naturally a Jewish home was not a safe place to cook pig meat (does pork shrapnel qualify as flying pigs?). One year Ron was having so much fun hanging out with our guests that he burnt all the meat on the grill. No one seemed terribly concerned about the loss.

There was the time that we were sitting on the deck eating dinner when our friend Bond arrived from Berkeley. As Bond raised his hand in greeting he managed to toss an entire Boston cream pie over his shoulder. It landed with a thump behind him on the deck, all in one piece, but it had jumped out of its tin pan. We gently lifted it and placed it back in the pan and later ate it for dessert. And the time that our friend Nanette went into the woods to drum and managed to attract a flock of 40+ wild turkeys that settled in the trees around her and “booped” at her (as turkeys do). She drummed madly to her appreciative avian audience, which loyally remained perched around her in the trees, undeterred by her racket. Another time we had just said farewell to the last camper on Monday afternoon and our family had collapsed into our respective beds for a nap when we heard voices in the living room calling, “Hello? Where’s the party? Anyone home?” A couple of friends had misread the invitation and thought the party was ON Labor Day, not on the Saturday of LDW. They had turned up with a casserole ready for action. We were exhausted. Party on.

The Ranch was a magic place and the LDW party always reached one or more bright points when a late night conversation or early morning coffee convocation on the deck organically turned to deep truths of the heart and in some miraculous way changed our lives. It always came down to this eventually over the course of the weekend. People left the LDW at the Ranch slightly changed from who they were when they arrived; they were more hopeful, renewed, clearer. One year a couple that was having relationship problems sorted them out and decided to remain together. One year a couple with relationship problems decided to split up. One year the adolescent son of a visiting friend lost his virginity with his boyfriend in a tent in our forest. One year I celebrated my 40th birthday and we cleared the living room and danced the Electric Slide with the crowd for hours. (We often danced and one year we set up karaoke.) Once, a group of theologians talked philosophy, religion, and spirituality until after midnight under the splash of bright stars where they sat at the picnic table – the group included a rabbi, an ex-priest (Catholic), an ex-nun (married to the ex-priest as they had both left their vocation when young to marry and have children), a man with a PhD in theology, a minister, and a group of deep thinkers. LDW was a spontaneous retreat, a spiritual affirmation, an embrace from the universe, without ever intentionally trying to be any of these things. The extraordinary beauty of the land and the awesome presence of our ancient trees brought out the wonder and made transformation happen.

When a Midwestern friend was visiting us in California one summer, I asked her if she would still be in the area for LDW. “Why?” she asked, “what happens on Labor Day?” Our youngest child, then about seven years old, gave her an incredulous look and asked in astonishment, “You mean you don’t know about Labor Day?!” In our family Labor Day was as legendary and adored in the canon of festivals as Christmas or Passover. We took an ordinary, generally unfestive, three-day weekend and transformed it into a community event of significance and splendor filled with exploding hotdogs, drumming, shark-infested swimming pools, talking pineapples, dancing, pesto magnifico, and transformational conversations. Now that we have moved off the Ranch to our house close to town, and no longer have the energy or inclination to put on a big shindig, we invite a few close friends over for the evening during LDW and raise a toast to the days of the all-in LDW event. We made some sweet LDW Ranch memories to carry with us always, for our children to carry with them. 

And we have not given up on making memories; not by a longshot. We had a fun music jam with a few close friends last night. Keyboards, guitar, harmonica, drum, and other percussive instruments. Dancing and singing. Celebrating our good fortune to live here in the same time and place with such terrific people, aging together, watching our grown children step out into their lives, appreciating the overflowing abundance of our lives. I am a lucky woman. May you be equally blessed, dear reader.

This photo of the sign was taken by Jessica Nelson. Here it is in its natural habitat. 
The sign is no longer there after a complicated series of events, which you can read about here