Friday, January 30, 2009

Brian's funeral

It's today. When I posted earlier that it was the 29th I was mistaken. Dave flew to Wales on Tuesday and arrived there on Wednesday. I feel so terrible that I cannot be there for him.

He will be speaking at the service, as will his sister Claire. I wish I could be there. I still feel bad that I missed Anne's funeral. We all need a chance to say farewell to those we love and to share our memories with all the others that are affected by the loss. We all need to mourn in our own ways and for me, it's difficult for me to process my feelings without a memorial service of some sort.

I've decided that the boys and I will get dressed up and have our own private little memorial service here at home.

Expressing myself

California Labor Code 1030. Every employer, including the state and any political subdivision, shall provide a reasonable amount of break time to accommodate an employee desiring to express breast milk for the employee's infant child. The break time shall, if possible, run concurrently with any break time already provided to the employee.Break time for an employee that does not run concurrently with the rest time authorized for the employee by the applicable wage order of the Industrial Welfare Commission shall be unpaid.1031. The employer shall make reasonable efforts to provide the employee with the use of a room or other location, other than a toilet stall, in close proximity to the employee's work area, for the employee to express milk in private. The room or location may include the place where the employee normally works if it otherwise meets the requirements of this section.

Apparently federal agencies don't need to abide by California labor laws. I asked for a private room for expressing milk and was told to use the public restroom. There were plenty of vacant offices, as well as private file rooms that never got used. Ms. G. was nice enough to allow me the time I needed to pump, at least. I do appreciate that!

I had to sit in the sink to be close enough to the plug for pumping. I was interrupted several times during pumping, by Ms. G. and a few other women who were "regulars" in the 8th floor restroom, which Ms. G. told me never got any use because the floor was practically vacant. One woman was in there pretty much every time I pumped and she asked all sorts of personal questions. She was the one who took this picture.

When Ms. G. told me where I could pump, she didn't specifically say I should use the restroom. She said to go to the 8th floor, which was vacant since all the businesses up there closed. I went up there and tried several doors and they were all locked so I was satisfied that it probably was vacant. I found a part of the hallway which was around a few corners from the elevator and near a plug and I set everything up, feeling very nervous about pumping in a hallway, but at least it wasn't a bathroom!!! Just as I was about to bare it all and start the milk extraction, a man came down the hall and saw my kit of stuff on the floor, smiled, and said, "they need to give you an office" as he walked into the men's room. Ugh! So I picked everything up and went into the women's room and that's where I pumped ever since.

Like I said, there were many people who went up to the 8th floor to use the restrooms. Apparently a lot of people have public restroom issues and went up there thinking they were the only ones to use those particular restrooms, Ms. G. included.

Oh well, I'm glad I resigned. As I mentioned in my last post, I may have to go back and if they put me at the airport I have no idea how I'll pump. It might be a moot point, anyway, because if I have to work at the airport and wear sleeves that are not of my super soft fabric and sewn dolman style, then it will be too painful for me to cope without going back on Dr. R.'s cocktail (neurontin + vocodin), which would mean the end of breast milk for babies. Very sad, indeed!

Resigned!

I'm happy to say that I resigned from my position at the TSA on Wednesday. It might not be that easy, but we'll see. I may have to go back.

Dave found the DOL rules that they have to play by; essentially my claims examiner's guide book. It says that "job abandonment" for a better paying job is acceptable. This means that if I left my employing agency for a better paying job that is specifically within my medical work restrictions, then it should be okay. However, my claims examiner is the boss of this game and she might continue to play hardball. We will appeal, though, if she doesn't accept my job offer.

Yes, job offer! The new job is perfect and provides a lot of solutions to the problems posed by the TSA. The TSA job is very problematic, not just financially but medically. When my doctor wrote my permanent work restrictions he had to go by the AMA rules and guidelines. There is no way he can write an official clothing restriction that would be acceptable to the DOL. With the RSD it is difficult and painful for me to wear most sleeves. Sure, I've found a few items of clothing with sleeves that don't hurt so bad as long as I don't move my arm much and I only wear the sleeve for limited periods of time. The job at the TSA is a uniform position and though Ms. G. promised she wouldn't make me wear the uniform when I signed the offer, she told me that she could place me anywhere she wanted and that she was intending to eventually place me in uniform at the airport.

Yes, she knows about my issues with sleeves. Dr. R. puts it in many of his reports. So have all the other doctors and nurses I've seen over the last 6 years. The DOL knows of this issue, too, and they have argued that it is not a real medical restriction and that if I get a job that requires sleeved clothing, I have to wear sleeved clothing. Most office jobs, including the office work discussed at the TSA require full sleeved clothing, though Ms. G. allowed me to wear my clothes that went up to the neck but didn't have sleeves, provided I wore a scarf and/or wrap to cover my shoulders. In the week I was there my arm pain got a lot worse, partly from having the fabric constantly touching my arm and partly because they kept the temperature in the room I was in set at a cold 62 degrees. One night I came home and my arm was so stiff and painful, I couldn't change the babies' diapers without a great deal of pain.

The 60 day rule is also a farce. It's a "minimum" of 60 days. There is no guarantee that I'd be allowed to leave the job after 60 days without repercussions, or even 100 days, or even a year or two or more. This rule leaves it up to the claims examiner to decide when to close that part of my claim.

The new job is perfect and it has taken an awful long time to find it. If I waited until my "at least 60 days" sentence at the TSA was over, the job wouldn't be there for me anymore. I can't write much about this new job. I'm sure you all understand my reasons.

My claims examiner strongly discouraged me from looking for or accepting any other work for "at least 60 days" but kept pulling a "Palin" whenever I asked her specifically if I was barred from looking for or accepting other work, meaning that she evaded the question by saying her well-rehearsed lines that were neither here nor there.

Now we wait to see what happens in this very complex game of chess.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

This is hard!

I've got to hand it to working moms. I never realized how hard it is to go back to work after having a baby (or babies in my case) until now!

It has only been a week and I'm wiped out, even after a weekend of supposed recovery time. Granted, we've been dealing with a lot of crap on top of my returning to work. Brian's passing has been rough and I believe it will get worse. Neither Dave nor I have really let it sink in, we're too busy fighting fires and taking care of the babies.

Even so, it's really hard working full time with twin infants (I like to call them twinfants). It's a huge effort from both Dave and me. We get up each morning at 6am. We make tea and cereal and I pump while consuming my breakfast while Dave prepares the bottles to send with the babies to daycare. I wash the pump kit and pack it all up to take with me to work while Dave helps me prepare my lunch. We get everything ready that I need to take with me. Then we get ourselves dressed and ready for the day, hoping the boys will sleep just a little while longer.

The boys need to be changed, dressed, and fed, too. This task often takes at least an hour. I help Dave with as much as I can before I leave for work at 7:30. Dave finishes everything and puts the boys in the stroller and walks them over to the school, leaving the stroller there for me to use when I pick them up. It's too much for me to carry them in their car seats.

When I arrive at work, I never really know what I'll be doing since they don't seem to know what to do with me. So far, they've had me read outdated policies and procedures and take a class, mainly because they were short of students and needed more people. I have no clue what they'll do with me tomorrow. Further, I have no faith I'll get paid, at least for some time. I've long since closed the account to which they were paying me on direct deposit. Every year I've been getting w2 forms with small amounts of earnings they tried to pay me, earnings I have to pay taxes on but never received. Every year I try to get it sorted out but nobody has been able to help me. I tried to bring it up with Ms. G. on Friday but she didn't seem too interested in helping me. I waited for 45 minutes for her on my lunch break on Friday so that we could sort this out and so that I could give her the massive amount of forms she had me fill out on Tuesday, but she never made time for me. I tried again at the end of the day on Friday, but again, she instructed me to just leave it for her and we'd work on it on Monday.

I haven't been granted access to the offices, either. Not really. Every time I go to the restroom or out on break I need to track someone down to let me back into where they have me sitting. Ms. G. has been great about letting me have the time I need for pumping, but the only facilities I have for pumping are the public restrooms. The one on the 8th floor is the least busy, but it takes awhile to get up there and get set up and inevitably, there is this woman that comes in every time I'm pumping and she spends several minutes talking to me about what I'm doing and asking very personal questions. She's just being friendly, but it feels so awkward and makes it difficult to get a good milk supply going.

After work I go directly to pick up the boys. The school closes at 6pm and with traffic I have to leave right when I get off work at 4:30 to have enough time to get there and get them in their stroller to go home. They are usually among the last 3 babies left and though I've given the teachers a clear schedule for feeding times, the boys are usually either just starting their last school feeding when I walk in or haven't had it, yet. William is a real challenge to feed, too, due to his reflux and his desire to do anything but eat, and the teachers haven't quite grasped the tricks to feed him well. I nearly cried on Thursday when I picked him up and discovered he'd only had about 8 ounces all day when he should have had about 15.

All this sudden change has been hard on the boys, too. They were being breastfed 4-6 times a day, which suddenly decreased to once in the middle of the night, around 4am, which is hard on me since I haven't been able to get to bed much before midnight every night. Neither has Dave.

My milk supply is dwindling. I was able to provide at least half of their nourishment with breast milk, usually even much more than that. Now, on top of the 1 breastfeeding, they only get about 1 bottle feeding of whatever I'm able to express that day. Fortunately, I am able to breastfeed all I can during the weekend.

After I get home with the boys I have to feed them immediately and change them. They are always really fussy until this is done. I try to get it done by the time Dave gets home. Dave and I try to get our dinner before the 8pm bath/feeding after which we send the boys to bed, but it doesn't often work that way. We often get our dinner at 10pm, which is far too late.

Ms. CT. of the DOL has been sending me a lot of correspondence, as well, and demanding immediate replies so Dave stays up late with me to write all the letters back to Ms. CT. I swear, she really wants me dead. I often wonder how many lives this woman has ruined and how many deaths she has indirectly caused, either by pushing the claimant to suicide or by denying them health care until they die.

She's scheduled me for not one, but two second opinion medical evaluations for the 29th of January. Both are at the same time of 1:30 but they are with different doctors at different locations. I may be capable of many things but I am not capable of physically splitting myself into 2 so that I can attend both appointments. I wonder if this was an error on her part (she has told me several times that she doesn't make errors, and her supervisor has also told me this in writing on the letter I received yesterday). My injury didn't render me incapable of being in 2 places at once, I've always had this affliction.

Further, the 29th is Brian's funeral. We are still trying to figure out a way I can go with the boys. I'm going to have to call Ms. CT. tomorrow and actually talk to her on the phone about not only fixing the conflicting appointments, but rescheduling them for another time when there isn't a funeral. Do you think she'll offer sympathy? She has no soul, how could she sympathize? I'm sure she'll simply be disappointed that it's not my funeral and that she still has to push harder to get me into my grave.

Dave and I are wiped out from burning this candle at both ends. At this rate, Ms. CT. will succeed in killing us both!

We are talking with a lawyer that may take on the case so that we can be relieved of a lot of Ms. CT.'s harassment. Further, something very good happened late last week, something I cannot divulge right now but it may help the situation out a lot. For all I know, Ms. CT. may be reading this blog and using it to her advantage. She's pure evil, I tell you!

We can't even trust our phones. There is an odd beep here and there and it seems that the line may be being tapped. We can't think of anyone who would want to do this other than the DOL. It sucks to feel that my basic freedoms are gone all because I got injured while working for the federal government.

I just want my life back.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A big day for a great man

Today, January 20th, was a big day in many ways.

I worked my first full day at the TSA after 3.5 years of workers' comp which amazingly enough kept me from working when I wanted to work and forced me to work when I wanted a break, followed by the short 3 months maternity leave. I returned today to a job that takes me away from my babies and pays little-to-nothing. I'm working for people I don't trust. I had to pump in a public restroom while sitting on a counter with my feet in the sink, and had to eat my lunch that way, too, while a woman had explosions in a stall just a few feet away. My lower back aches from the hard surface and uncomfortable position. It was a horrible enough day that just got worse as it progressed. Though, that wasn't the biggest event of the day.

Today was the boys' first day in their preschool. They did really well, according to the teacher. She said they were quite calm for their first day and really seemed to enjoy the company of the other babies. As big as this is, it's still not the biggest event of the day.

Barack Obama was sworn in to the office of President of the United States today, making him the first African-American ever to hold the great position of power. Heck, he's the first man of ethnic origin to hold the office. But still, not the biggest event of today.

George W. Bush ceased being our President, much to the relief of millions, but as big as that is, it still pales in comparison to the biggest event of today.

Today, Brian Halliday left this world for a far better place. He was my father-in-law and I love him very deeply and am greatly saddened by his loss. My poor husband will miss his father so much; they were very close. Brian hadn't been well these past years but he was strong of spirit and fought his battles bravely. He made it through bladder cancer, but in the end it was MRSA and esbl e. coli. At least, that's what I think it was. I'm sure I'll learn more over the next few days.

This afternoon, evening for him in the UK, he left to be with his Anne, beloved wife of over 40 years. It pleases me to think of them together again, hand in hand, laughing and enjoying the rest of eternity together. It pleases me to think that though Brian never got to meet his grandsons in person, he must have paid a visit to them today as his soul was lifted from this mortal coil.

Brian was one of the most generous and loving people ever to grace this planet. I owe him greatly for that, because I am fortunate enough to be married to his son, another of the most generous and loving people the world has ever known. Dave's sister, Claire, also deserves that honor. Claire cared for Brian during the most difficult times and I hope she knows that though we weren't there in body, we have been there in spirit all these years and greatly appreciate her tireless efforts.

I wish wish wish I could travel to Wales for the funeral. It's where my heart is right now. Dave will be leaving soon. I can't go for many reasons. This work thing is one of them and for that, it makes me hate the situation all the more. The boys don't have passports, though. Further, we just don't have the money, especially with my new job sucking us dry.

Dave is holding up pretty well, but I think he's in shock. He seems to go from numbness, to sadness, then to being okay with it all. It's hard to see your loved ones in so much pain and Brian's last years were very difficult. For all that he went through, he sure put up a very brave fight and even when he was feeling at his worst, he smiled and laughed and carried on with his generosity and famous hospitality to the end.

Yes, today was a big day for a great man. I believe the two greatest days in anyone's life would be birth and death. Today, January 20th, was the last great day of Brian Halliday's physical life as we know it, and his birth into a spiritual life where he is free from pain and free from the toils of this difficult world.

He will be greatly missed.

Monday, January 19, 2009

More to add to this fiasco

It's in writing that I was to report to work today. My claims examiner sent me a letter just a few days ago verifying that I would do so. All weekend Dave and I frantically prepared for today. I got the laundry caught up, we bought the boys what they need for "infant school." We needed all new bottles because the school doesn't allow glass bottles so we had to find some affordable BPA-free plastic bottles. I gathered everything they might need, washed it, and got it in their big diaper bag ready for tomorrow.

We can't get them in at least until tomorrow late morning. We need their doctor to fill out paperwork and get some copies of their immunization records. We can't get that done until tomorrow morning at the earliest. Dave had planned to take today off work unpaid to stay with the boys while I worked. With my small TSA salary, well, it's just ridiculous!

I'm pretty certain that this job was created for me and my claims examiner never intended for me to take it or work it. She wants to close my claim in the negative manner, making my future much more difficult. I'm pretty sure she wants to retaliate for my winning my appeal last year. It's like the difference between getting an honorable discharge from the army or a dishonorable discharge. My claims examiner is doing everything in her power to have my claim closed with a "dishonorable discharge" while I'm working hard to try to get that honorable discharge. I've begged for closure for years but they wouldn't do it. Why must they be so hard on me now?

Anyway, Dave and I bought food for me to pack lunches so we could save some money, since this whole thing is costing us dearly, financially and otherwise.

We worked so hard all week and through the weekend in preparation for today. We got up early so I would be able to get there not just on time but early. Dave was up most of the night reviewing documentation on my case and he was up before me, packing my lunch and putting my stuff together for today. He's such a sweetheart!!!

I breastfed the boys at 6am then pumped. I packed everything I needed for pumping today, and wondered if I'd have a place to pump or if that would be another battle. I drove there and arrived with 10 minutes to spare. I knew it was MLK Day but the airports don't close today so I knew that their would have to be support staff available. I was never notified that I should not come today.

The door was locked so I waited. About 5 minutes later Ms. K. came and helped me. She went in and talked to Mr. J., Ms. G.'s boss (one of many? I don't know the structure there) and he said Ms. G. told him that I wasn't expected until tomorrow. I still have it in writing that I was to start back to work on Monday, the 19th. As you may recall, the last day I went there to work and show my willingness to cooperate, I was told to be there at 7an but Ms. G. doesn't start work until 8am so I had to wait an hour for her.

And she reminded me last week that she expected me to be professional! I wonder what her definition of professional is.

Anyway, I'm glad today went so easily and it's enabling me too ease into this nightmare. I'm happy to have another day with my boys and Dave is glad to have been able to go to work since he had a lot he needed to get done.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

I've been thinking

Yes, I know it's a surprise, but my brain has been very taxed this last dramatic week.

I've been wondering why the TSA suddenly came up with a light-duty position for me, a permanent light-duty position, when their official stance is that they do not offer such a position. I've been wondering why such a position was offered to me one week to the day that I notified the DOL would be my cut-off date for being able to work for awhile due to my having the babies. I wondered why the DOL pretty much forced me to sign acceptance of that job, and go in and work while so far along with twins (thanks to Ms. G. for letting me sign the paperwork and go home, or I may have had the babies right there). Is it a coincidence that my boys were born just one day after my return to work date?

On the conference call a few days ago, my claims examiner accused me of never intending to go back to work ever, at the TSA or otherwise. She really laid into me and made me shatter emotionally. As a result of that phone call, I have requested a new claims examiner be assigned to my claim because it was obvious that she has personal feelings against me that I believe make it impossible for her to work on my claim in the way she should. Many of the things she said got me thinking even more.

She didn't want to accept that I was going to actually return to work at the TSA. She told me I had to work 60 working days and after that she'd review my case and sign off if everything was satisfactory. Again, that got me thinking.

She told me many lies in that conversation, as well. I can't get into it because she may be reading this blog. I need to keep many of my cards to myself for now.

Dave has been great, devoting a lot of time helping me research this issue. He found the OWCP manual that my claims examiner has to follow. That's how I know she lied, not only in that conversation but also in many other conversations we've had. She makes me think of a line from one of Morrissey's songs, "...because you're evil and you lie."

From now on, I refuse to speak to her without consulting counsel. It's for the best.

The other day I talked to one of my neighbors whom I know also has been through a nightmare of a workers' compensation case. I didn't know this before, but his is also federal. He truly knows my pain. It got me to thinking about someday when I'm at the lighter end of this dark tunnel, trying to put together some sort of support network for others trying to get through this awful ordeal.

So I've learned a lot from the OWCP manual and it has given me some hope. Further, Dave has agreed that we can now hire a lawyer. I just hope I can get a good one who will take on my case, and soon.

Now I wanted to clarify something. I'm not in this for the schedule award. It would be nice to get it, and I know I'm entitled to it, but I think that the DOL will fight it tooth and nail. I had a claims examiner lie to me once and tell me that the only way they give them is if the claimant lost the entire limb. Okay, maybe those are the only cases they actually close with a schedule award, but their manual has a formula for granting a schedule award to anyone who is left impaired from an injury, the amount of the award is determined through a formula based on the disability rating given by the attending physician and is based on full loss of limb, partial injury being a percentage of what they would give for a lost limb, the lost limb being 100%. One can even get a schedule award for carpal tunnel syndrome. You cannot get a schedule award until you get through the OWCP part of the claim. The DOL sure drags the OWCP portion out, I think forever perhaps.

They are supposed to review the OWCP case for closure after the claimant makes it through 60 days of suitable employment. Their manual mentioned a case that was denied for the claimant being "uncooperative and unwilling to work" because he retired after 2 and a half years after returning to work. It made me realize that this job at the TSA is not truly a 60-day sentence, it's a life sentence.

Their manual says they can apply "sanctions" to any claimant declared "uncooperative and unwilling to work." I can't find what those sanctions are but they are not good, I know that. Further, being declared uncooperative and unwilling to work renders the claimant forever unable to claim SSI or a schedule award. It also may hurt the claimant's chances of obtaining employment in the future. Let's say I wanted to be a teacher at a private school. They do a background check and this turns up. Do you think they'd hire me? Probably not.

Let's face it, this economy is BAD and it has been difficult to find a job not just lately, but since the dot-com crash in 2000. Jobs are getting more and more scarce. As they become more scarce, employers require more in skills and in work history. They run more background checks. If an employer had 2 applicants that were equal in skill and work history, but one had a workers' compensation claim that was closed due to the claimant being "uncooperative and unwilling to work," you can bet that person wouldn't get the job. They can't fall back on SSI, that's cut off, too. Also, they are permanently disabled, cannot get a job, and cannot get disability, where to now?

They are supposed to pay for my injury related medical treatment forever. They haven't approved any pain treatments in 2 years. I have no faith that they will pay for anything other than my regular doctor visits with Dr. R. and this is probably for their benefit to monitor my case closely.

They are pure evil, these people.

So, in all my thinking it dawned on me that the offer was not in good faith. Perhaps Ms. G. is not complicit in this; perhaps she's a pawn. This is what I think happened:

  1. My claim was in the process of being closed due to my being "uncooperative and unwilling to work" because I couldn't find a job in a bad job market.
  2. I appealed this decision.
  3. I won the appeal.
  4. I requested that my benefits continue retroactively from the date of termination.
  5. My request was accepted, not long after I got a new vocational rehabilitation counselor (she's very nice, btw.).
  6. One week after the last day I was allowed to work, I was offered a job that officially never existed before and was against policy. I think that my claims examiner or someone else involved in this case strongly urged and convinced Ms. G. to create a position.
  7. They didn't expect me to accept it or show up to work. I don't think Ms. G. was knowingly complicit because she did. If I hadn't, it would have been a slam-dunk for them.
  8. They didn't expect me to agree to going back, but I did. Again, they missed another slam-dunk.

Do I really think they'll review my claim after just 60 days? Not at this time. I think they will delay that review as long as possible. What will I do about it? I really don't know. Do I think this job will be easy? No. I think I am on very thin ice right now. What am I going to do about it? I'm going to go there and be the model employee for as long as I can. Maybe it won't be so bad.

There is the budget issue to consider. Dave and I canceled our housekeeper that was coming a few times a month. It's going to be hard going without her. She was the only help we got since we don't have family very close by. When my mom comes up she is a HUGE help, but she lives about 90 miles away and doesn't make it up here very often; she's very busy herself. I'm going to miss the housekeeper.

We are also going to cancel our water delivery. We've been meaning to, anyway, since the water comes in BPA bottles and I don't agree with the politics of bottled water, anyway, now that I've learned more about it. We are investigating filtration alternatives and will make the switch in a matter of weeks.

We may have to cancel our satellite television. It bums me out, but with working full time and caring for twins the rest of the time, and without a housekeeper, when will I have time for tv? I don't really have time for it now and our Tivo is constantly running out of space.

We're also reviewing other "luxuries" we can trim. By trimming a few hundred dollars a month we may break even with my job. The daycare is a nice place and we'll write to their corporate offices begging for a break, especially since they don't offer a discount for the 2nd child. If they give us a discount I may actually make a little money at this job after we deduct child care expenses from our taxes.

So tomorrow I go to work. It sucks and I'm torn up about it. I'll miss my babies. I hope they'll be nice to me there. They were pretty terrible to me last time I worked light-duty for them; and when it was clear my light-duty was permanent, I was told there no longer was a place for me. They wanted to fill my spot with a full-bodied employee. That's why this whole thing is very fishy.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Shit storm #2

I got notice yesterday that the DOL is sending me for another 2nd opinion medical examination. The doctor is supposed to remain unbiased and impartial. The appointment will be held in the same complex as the TSA headquarters, convenient especially since I shall be at work there on the day of the appointment. Hmmm.

I have no problems seeing as many doctors as they want to send me to. This will be the 3rd doctor referral from the USDOL and the 9th doctor I have seen (at the least) throughout the history of this injury, not to mention the umpteen physical therapists, nurse practitioners, and nurse case managers. All of these professionals have been in agreement, that I have a lot of soft-tissue damage, scarring, nerve damage, and RSD as a direct result of the injury. I don't think another doctor will necessarily disagree if he is, in fact, unbiased and impartial. I also have concerns about my privacy at this appointment.

Yes, they are trying to break me and I realize this is no different than any other workers' compensation case, regardless of the fact that this is the US Federal Government I'm dealing with. I recently learned that the DOL's claims examiners are actual insurance adjusters contracted by the US gov. The sad thing is, they handle all federal workers' compensation claims, including the military. With a war on our hands, it breaks my heart that a wounded soldier and his/her family would have to go through this same hell and same poor treatment. They deserve much MUCH better.

On top of all of this, Dave's dad is doing very poorly. Dave may have to go back to the UK again. I won't be able to go, first because the boys have no passports yet, and second because I'll be stuck serving that sentence for the TS of F'ing A.

Everything all at once, I'm simply breaking inside.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Infant school

They have schools for infants with an infant curriculum. I knew this before and always kind of found it funny, but it looks like we may be sending our 4-month-old boys to school. I checked out 2 of them today. It's not easy finding a place that takes infants, let alone somewhere that has accommodations for 2 infants. I had an appointment at one place (childcare #1) to check it out this morning but they called an hour before the appointment to tell me that one of the spots just filled up and they could no longer take the twins on Monday.

I called another place (childcare #2) and they have room, but only just. I went this afternoon to check them out. It's a 20+ minute walk, so they'll probably have to be driven over in the mornings, whereas childcare #1 was just around the corner. It seemed nice enough, the infant classroom was large and had lots of nice toys and play areas. They use mini cribs much like ours and provide everything but diapers, wipes, and extra clothes. I passed childcare #1 on the way home and decided to pop in for a look around and it was very similar, just smaller.

Childcare #1:
1. Close to home (just a 5 minute walk)
2. Uses and teaches baby signs (ASL), Babywise scheduling
3. 1 teacher to 4 infants
4. Daily walks, weather permitting
5. Hours that work for us
6. Small, and a cramped room full of mini cribs
7. We provide diapers, wipes, 2 crib sheets, extra clothing, bottles
8. Not as many play areas as childcare #2
9. Provides a discount on the 2nd child. Still costs a little more than my salary with the TSA.
10. Not enough openings for my boys. We are on the wait list.
11. They will let us pull the boys out at any time, no notice required, no minimum.

Childcare #2:
1. Semi-close to home (20-30 minute walk)
2. Baby "on demand" scheduling, unless otherwise requested, no ASL
3. 1 teacher to 4 infants
4. Regular walks, not necessarily daily, weather permitting - only sitting stroller so babies a little too young, still
5. Hours that work for us.
6. Mini cribs in semi-separate place than big room, but also right there, not as cramped
7.They provide wipes and sheets, we provide diapers, bottles, and extra clothes
8. Many play areas in large classrooms - 2 infant classes based on infant skill level
9. No discount on 2nd child, also costs more than my salary at the TSA, a little more than childcare #1
10. Immediate openings, can accommodate both babies
11. Pay month to month, 2 week cancellation notice required

Due to accommodation of #2, that's what we'll probably do.

This just breaks my heart. I've shed so many tears over this.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

60 day sentence

My crime? I got a job working for the TSA, a federal agency. Really, I guess the crime was getting injured. The coworker that caused the accident didn't get such a stiff sentence, so maybe the real crime was my filing an accident report and becoming a claimant in a federal workers' compensation claim. So far I have served an open-ended sentence of about 5 years. Now I have been given a 60-day sentence to work a job that has no real definition, for people that I've grown to hate (not personally, but as an organization). Basically, they do own me. I wrote somewhere earlier that they don't, but I'm finding that they really do.

This sucks.

It's not just sucky, it's perfectly sucktacular!

This sucks.

So, for now I have told them that I wanted to start Monday, though they said I had 30 days I can put it off. Why put it off? I just want to get this overdonewithgone. I start Monday. My poor children will go into the daycare around the corner, if they have room. This daycare teaches them sign language, which is something I've been starting so at least there is that benefit. Plus, I guess I'll get time to crochet and read a little on breaks. I won't get much sleep, though, as I won't be able to nap like I try to do when both babies are asleep (a rare occurrence, but it still happens from time to time). They aren't sleeping through the night, yet.

This sucks.

I will have to try to figure out when to breastfeed these little guys since they are used to being breastfed at night and bottle-fed by day. For now I'll stick to breastfeeding them in the night and early morning feedings, but if I'm to be to work by 7 or 8 (they haven't clarified my hours), then that cuts out 1-2 breastfeedings per baby. How sad. They actually won't take the breast much when I offer it in the day. They are very used to their routine. I'm afraid that they won't breastfeed much after I get home from work.

This sucks.

Ah, routine. Well, that will get messed up. Joy of joys. Also, the EC we've been doing with the boys will also get messed up.

This sucks.

I had a conference call today with my claims examiner with the DOL, the DOL guy in charge of my vocational rehabilitation, my vocational rehabilitation counselor, and the person who will become my boss at the TSA. I was doing really well until my claims examiner started accusing me of being uncooperative and unwilling to work. Oh, I hate those words!!! I hate her! I lost it. The stress became too much for me. I hyperventilated, and started gagging. I just physically couldn't handle all the stress. Later in the call I lost my cool in another way and called the claims examiner and the DOL guy in charge of my vocational rehabilitation "devils" because they are truly evil of the purest form. I told them they are basically soulless, otherwise I asked them how they could sleep at night. I told them they are experts at ruining lives and that their actions will not only affect me, but my husband and my children. I accused the claims examiner of being negligent of her job and told her I will follow that through in writing to her manager, providing evidence - and I have evidence. She is continually putting erroneous information in her letters to me. I have to give credit to my vocational rehabilitation counselor. She was very helpful and she's been very kind and supportive, and I'm sure that if she could, she would get me out of this very bad situation. I'm not sure about the TSA woman, yet. I don't think she's evil, but maybe the government has already sucked her soul, too. It depends on how long she's worked for them.

My vocational rehabilitation counselor was cut off from the phone call not long after she defended me. She was not reconnected and I was left on my own, outnumbered against the devils. That's when I truly lost it.

This sucks.

Anyway, they said I need to work 60 days to fulfill my obligation, to prove that I am capable of earning $36,665 a year with my new restrictions. This amount is supposed to be suitable, after all, I worked for that amount 5 years ago when I was single and without children. Never mind that I made much more than that at my previous job, and have made more than that at any of the jobs I've worked since the early 1990s. Never mind that I took the TSA job more for something to do while the economy got into better shape after the dot-com crash, and that I also took the job with the full intention of moving up within the government and transferring to an office job in another agency when the right time came. When I worked for the TSA I was volunteering for extra work and authority so that I could apply for a promotion to supervisor and then manager when there were openings. Basically, they expect their claimants to have no drive, and no career path. They expect them to be lazy, uncooperative, and unwilling to work. They aren't used to dealing with people like me.

This sucks.

And yes, if I were to get the schedule award for my disability rating it would be worth it. However, they will fight me tooth and nail on that affair, too. I know that. There is the principle of the matter. I learned from an insurance lawyer a few years ago that 95% of all injury claims are dropped within the first year due to the stressful toll it takes on the claimant. Those that remain are those who are usually truly badly injured and have the strength to stick it through. Make it through that first year, he told me, and they just up the ante and make things harder and harder. Their goal is to get out of paying or to pay as little as possible. Dave and I have stuck it through this far and I am entitled to a schedule award, and if it is high enough, it could cover the boys' college education.

But then, that's a different fight and frankly, I'm not sure how much fight I have left in me. I just want my OWCP part of the claim closed once and for all. I wanted it closed cleanly so that the DOL can't come back after me for any reason. I want to buy back my life. The only way to do that, it seems, is to work those 60 days. The 60 days are work days, not calendar days, so it will be nearly 3 months. 12 weeks. Right now it seems like an eternity.

This sucks.

Have I mentioned that I hate them? I don't like being filled with hatred. Hatred brings out the worst in people and it's just bad energy. I don't want my children being around hatred. Hatred causes cancer.

This sucks.

I saw Doctor R. this morning and he verified that my claims examiner got her details wrong in her latest letter. He also told me that if they make me work outside my restrictions then he will have no problems pulling me back off the job. I have another appointment with him in 4 weeks to see if the job is taking a toll on my arm.

This sucks.

So, I start Monday and have to try to get these little guys into the daycare around the corner. At least I can walk them over there in their stroller instead of dealing with car seats. At least they are in the neighborhood.

Oh, and I gave the TSA woman a heads-up warning that I will require a room for pumping my breast milk, a room that is not a toilet stall, and that I will need breaks to do this. She said that she was not aware of any obligation that they had to provide that for me. I reminded her that it was California labor law that she was required to accommodate and she used the whole, "we're Federal" bullshit that they don't have to abide by California law. Well, that may be another fight I will have on my hands.

Have I mentioned that this sucks?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Support

I wanted to say thank you to all of you for the kind words of support and encouragement through this struggle. It means a lot to me.

We're working hard at trying to get through it. I want nothing more than to be done with the DOL once and for all. I have never been filled with such disgust and hatred in my life and I don't like it. Those feelings are poison, but then, the people at the DOL are experts at dishing out poison and breaking people.

Since it's the Federal Government, there really isn't much I can do about it. I can roll over and not cooperate, but then that could come back on me in a bad way. I could lose any of my workers' compensation benefits as I would be labeled "uncooperative" and "unwilling to work." I don't know what future repercussions this could have, but it is not the best way to escape from the claws of the DOL.

I could hire a lawyer, but very few lawyers handle federal workers' compensation cases. The government has made it illegal for lawyers to handle these claims on contingency and they have also set up laws about fees charged and limits to what the lawyers can do and how they can work the claim. It would cost us over $3,000 to hire a lawyer to help with this situation and possibly another $3,000 to hire a lawyer to handle any other issue regarding this claim. For instance, this vocational rehabilitation issue would be one issue and the schedule award would be another. Any appeals and such may also be considered separate issues. This could cost us dearly and for nothing.

There is also no guarantee that I'll get a schedule award. The fact of the matter is that I AM permanently injured. I have been given a 96% right-arm disability rating. This does qualify me to apply for a schedule award but from there it will also be a big fight. They'll do whatever they can to dispute that disability rating and dispute that I'm permanently injured. The fact that I have permanent work restrictions are evidence enough that I have some level of permanent disability and deserve a schedule award. I don't know how much that may end up being, but there is the principle of the issue at hand, too, and it would be wrong to let the DOL get away with screwing over, yet, another claimant.

If the schedule award is granted for the 96% disability rating, which I doubt it will, then it might be worth some of all of this frustration and pain. We just need to figure out just how much we'll go through and when to call it quits. Unfortunately, I have tried to call it quits several times but the DOL just won't let me. They always seem to find a way to step on me and make me do their bidding. It is my wish to be done with them once and for all. For years they have been dictating to me what kinds of jobs I can and cannot apply for and what jobs I can and cannot accept. In this economic climate, nobody really has that luxury, and they have truly stunted my career path.

Now they offer me this position, okay, not so much offer as insist I take it or be "uncooperative and unwilling to work." One of the worst things to be with the DOL is uncooperative and unwilling to work." It's like your "permanent record" but seriously permanent and seriously affective to one's future. Right now I don't fully know how, but I know that if that happens then it can get much worse, and I have seen the DOL get bad, so I am terrified of their worst.

There is the huge issue of psychological distress. They have put me under tremendous pressure over the last 5 years. If it weren't for Dave, I would have dropped this years ago before I got in so deep. Sometimes I am bitter about it and other times I love him for it. The whole situation has caused me a great deal of agony and grief, not to mention the physical pain from the injury and subsequent RSD. Dave has been so strong and has been a trooper through all of it.

I'm trying to "let go and let God" because I know that given time things will, well, they will happen one way or the other. Things don't always get better, at least not quickly. I do have a feeling things will improve, though. Neither Dave nor I relish the idea of putting the boys in daycare. I'm sure that the daycare centers in our neighborhood are very nice, but it's really not our ideal situation. I want nothing more than to be with my boys as much as they need me, and they really need me right now. They aren't ready to be weaned, and it breaks my heart to think of them being cared for with many other children en-masse by strangers. Besides, we can't afford it when the job being offered pays so little. If the situation were different, for instance if I had another job, one that I loved as much as being a stay-at-home-mom, or if being a stay-at-home-mother wasn't for me (I understand it isn't for some people, but for me it's really wonderful), and/or if the boys were a bit older, than I wouldn't feel so heartbroken about it.

I guess that's about it for today's brain dump. Thanks for reading.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The gov

Take my word for it, don't get a job for the Federal Government. If you work for Them, get out. If you get injured, take it to your private insurance; do not file a workers' compensation claim. If you do, they think they own you.

The people that work for the workers' compensation division of the Department of Labor are soulless creatures that are well trained in making their claimants suffer. They are experts when it comes to ruining lives and making people miserable.

Fuck them.

Nightmares

I've been plagued with nightmares this past week. They've been terrible. In one, I found my friend Anna murdered. Her body was strung up and a contraption was rigged so it had giant needles going through her chest, like she was being stitched up by a giant sewing machine. I didn't tell her about this dream, but maybe she'll read it here.

In another dream I was stranded in Oakland and there were vampire bats that were real vampires wanting to suck my blood. I was trying to avoid the vampires and I had to get home. I had some other big reason I needed to get home for, but cannot recall. In the dream, the home I had to get to was the home of my youth, and in the dream I was a teen late for curfew and afraid of getting into trouble, and also afraid of worrying my parents. There were some men that were more than willing to give me a ride home, but you know the types, that ride would have come with a cost. I didn't have a good feeling about these guys since it really felt like they were too eager to get me alone into their cars. I didn't know what to do, brave the vampires or take a chance with sleazy men, and if I took a chance with a sleazy guy, then which one might be the least sleazy?

Last night's dream was the worst. It was the worst nightmare I've ever had. It made me sick. It started out innocent enough. I dreamed Dave and I were in Bountiful and walking down the old-fashioned main street marveling at how it had changed. In the dream there were now kiosks and booths, like the marketplace of many of the world's largest cities. There was a street vendor selling diapers for a great bargain and Dave and I were looking at them wondering if the bargain was worth it, checking the diapers out to see if they were good diapers or bad diapers. I heard a noise outside the dream and realized I was sleeping. I "woke up" and was back in the nursery in the bed I'm sleeping in these days (yes, I still sleep with the babies since they are not BOTH sleeping through the night - makes it easier for breastfeeding). I was in bed and had dozed off while nursing William. William was asleep so I was going to put him back in his crib and get Ronan out of his crib and nurse him. Just then, my whole body started to tingle and I couldn't move. The tingling sensation was like the way the spinal block felt just before and after my c-section. I tried to get up but couldn't. I tried to talk but couldn't. I looked at Ronan and saw a dark shadow hover over his crib, then Ronan was levitated, first by his feet, then his whole body was lifted and moved back and forth in his crib. I tried to scream, I thought I was screaming at the top of my lungs. I screamed and screamed but nothing happened. Ronan was still being moved by this dark entity and I realized I was making no noise. I mustered up every ounce of strength I had and forced out a yell. Once sound escaped my mouth I was released from the paralysis, the tingling sensation dissipated, and I opened my eyes. I didn't realize until that moment that my eyes were really closed and that it was all in my mind. I shouted for Dave and he came running. He found me sobbing and terrified. It was 4am. Neither of us could really sleep the rest of the night.

Easter passing

I'm not talking about the holiday. I'm talking about James Easter. He was someone I knew way back in my other life, my Utah life.

James died yesterday. I won't get into details since they don't matter. He leaves behind 2 sons, many loving family members, and many friends who are hurting right now.

To be honest, I didn't know him well and haven't been in touch with him for about 20 years. Still, I'm saddened about his passing. I'm sad that many of my old friends are sad. I learned about this yesterday when I saw my friend Travis Clark's status on Facebook. He asked for a moment of silence for James. I didn't really know what happened until I chatted with my friend Anna, my best friend of 26 years.

Anna's terribly sad about this. She had gotten back in touch with James recently and they were becoming better friends. She feels especially terrible because she heard from James earlier this week, he wanted to see her but she didn't have the ability to see him.

How does one know when these moments could be the last?

This sucks

Remember that stupid job with the TSA? The one they waited for 5 years to offer me, then offered it to me when I was at the end of my pregnancy, then forced me to accept it and show up for work against doctor's orders? Remember that one?

Well, I'm supposed to start work now that my "maternity leave" is over. I have to show up for work now. They sent me a letter saying I had to do it or not only would I not receive any more workers compensation, but I would no longer be eligible for a schedule award.

A schedule award is the money paid when you are permanently injured and have reached maximum medical improvement. Well, I am permanently injured and reached maximum medical improvement years ago. I am entitled to that schedule award. I suffer the pain to prove it.

Still, I am forced to return to a job that pays very little. In fact, it pays so little that I will actually be paying about $200+ a month for the privilege of working there. I will be working with a lot of people that gave me so much grief when I got injured, and harassed me when I had to work light duty after the injury. Even when I was light duty, they never respected my restrictions and often forced me to work beyond my restrictions, thus making my injury worse. I wonder if my pain wouldn't be so bad today had things gone better with that job years ago in the early days of healing. Now I go back to that job, once again working "light duty."

I don't know what else to do. Not returning to work may cost us greatly, much more than the $200 it will cost me for gas and other expenses related to working there. But then, going to work there will cost me emotionally and spiritually, which in turn will affect my health.

Further, it means putting my two little ones in day care. I've researched it and reasonable child care for 2 infants in this area costs around $3,000 a month, just about what I'd be making pre-tax from the TSA. We'll have to cut into Dave's salary to pay for daycare and for my transportation to and from work, not to mention food expenses while I'm there unless I pack lunches. It also means that Dave will have to take the night shift with the babies since I'll have to be to work by 7am, which also cuts out 4 of their 5-6 breast feedings per day since they usually each get breastfed around 4am, 6am, 8am, and 10am.

The TSA won't likely be happy, either, since I'll have to take a 30 minute break every 2 hours to pump and they'll have to provide me a private room for doing so, a room that is not a bathroom, and refrigeration for my milk. This is California law. I need to pump every 2 hours to get adequate milk for my little guys.

This is just a disaster all around, but I have to do it and have to show willing. They are fully taking advantage of my personal situation in their favor.

I'm so filled with disgust, sadness, anger, and hatred right now, and that is making me sick.