Posts Tagged ‘finances’

This morning, when the pain was a little less of a shock and the cold shiveriness had passed, I was better able to assess the situation.  The night had not been good — there was no comfortable position to lie in, and so sleep came in fits and starts — but the situation seemed better… and worse.

On the plus side, I wasn’t as limited in the positions I could hold my foot in.  I could lie with my legs outstretched and my foot falling forward naturally, and  rest my leg to one side without too much pain.  I could adjust my hips or even turn in bed without gasping from the shock of it.  But where I could put weight on the foot last night and hobble forward a few paces, that was now impossible.  There was a pain running up my shin that I hadn’t registered before.  And the bruising was coming out, which always makes things look downright alarming.

My mother watched me crawl — and gasp — my way to the loo and asked, shouldn’t we maybe have that looked at…?  Maybe it was broken?  Mmmmm…  she might be right

I rang the insurance company to find out what they covered and where we stood.  Now that it’s not an emergency, the lady explained, they preferred that we see a doctor before going to hospital.  Yes,  the doctor my mum had recommended did participate in their plan.  Yes, they would cover all the scans and tests he might feel were necessary.  There would be a $40 copay — I knew that already and, even though that’s a significant sum to us at the moment, we could handle it.  And, she continued, there was a deductible we had to cover before the insurance began covering the costs.  It was…  the lady on the phone paused, looking through the numbers on her screen…  It was $2,000 — my heart skipped a beat — but… she looked at the numbers again…  M’s company paid the first thousand.

Ok.  Ohhhh-kaaay…  Just at the moment, having to pay almost any part of that deductible would be difficult, but that little gem about M’s company might save the day.  I looked at my ankle and began to tally: x-ray… MRI…  What might the doctor order?  How much do these things cost?  I don’t have a clue — it might well all come in under a thousand or we could just as easily blow right past it.  I really don’t know.  But — oh! — that swelling just did not look good!

My mum rang the doctor to check if they had appointments available.  The earliest was not for two days and, phone still to her ear, she raised her eyebrows to ask…  Did I want to take it?  I paused for a moment…  wiggled my toes and winced.   Yes. “Yes,” I said, looking back up to her.  “Make the appointment.”

The ankle is painful but stable, my mum is here so I can rest (thank goodness for her!), and the two-day delay still allows us 48 hours to watch things and decide if the appointment is necessary.


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We had both known this trip would be difficult.  We knew it the whole time, and we thought we’d prepared for it.  But, really, there is no preparation — like so many things in life, there is only the getting through it.  And now that he is home, we are going through it.

The night before he flew back to the US — and the first night of the trip that his son didn’t stay in the same house — he couldn’t sleep for panic.  His panics come to him when something in his life is terribly wrong, his mind’s inadequate way of coping with the overwhelming.  And leaving his kids again — all over again — is overwhelming.

The night after he arrived back, he didn’t sleep either.  I woke to find him staring up at the ceiling in the dark, and saw glistening lines running from the corners of his eyes down to his ears.

“Are you alright?”

“No.”  His voice wavered.

“I know.”

“It’s just…” He stopped to steady his breath and then let it all out in a rush.  “It’s so hard to leave them.”  I shut my eyes hard, instinctively trying to block out his words, because I knew… I knew, but I just didn’t want it to be so hard for him.  And  I had nothing useful to offer, so I gave him the only words that came to me…

“I know.”

We carried on talking in the dark, awkwardly and to no purpose, and eventually I faded back to sleep.  When I woke again at 5am, he was still staring at the ceiling.  I tried again to say something useful, but I suspect I managed nothing more than to mumble half-slurred, half-slumbered nonsense before succumbing to unconsciousness and leaving him alone, again, with the overwhelming.

The next day, I sat down with a cup of tea to peruse leisurely the local newspapers he’d brought back for me.  I wanted to read news of the recent agricultural show, check out the pictures of kids going back to school, and sympathise with the locals’ frustration at incoming Londoners.  But instead, I found myself skipping past all that and going straight to the back of the paper, to scan the estate agents’ ads and then the jobs pages with a sense urgency that made my stomach suddenly flip-flop.  I was hoping to find something miraculous, some wild change from the situation we’d left 18 months ago, but I found exactly what I’d known would be there: houses that were half the size at twice the price, and jobs with salaries so low that my heart just sank at the sight of them.  No miracles.  And no idea how to make those conflicting numbers add up.

Suddenly, the panic rose up inside me too — up from my guts and into my chest —  and I had to push the paper away hastily.  How am I going to make this work?  How am I going to fix this? I stared at the table, at the spot where the paper had been.  My heart raced and I ran one hand up through my hair.  He needs me and I have no idea what to do.  What am I going to do?  How am I going to fix this?!? How am I going to fix this?!? How? How…? HowamIhowamIhowamIgoingtofixthis?

We thought we had prepared for M’s trip home.  We’d talked about it, talked through it.   We’d remembered the battles he’d fought when he got back last year, and tried to learn from them.  But the truth is that all the preparation in the world is inadequate to the reality.   And… time had passed and those battlefields had fallen quiet… the casualties buried in their shallow graves, and the ground above them going to seed and turning into peaceful meadows.

We had been fooled by the wildflowers.

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It feels like I haven’t seen my husband in weeks — it’s not true, but I haven’t seen much of him in a long time.  His work has been… crazy.  He had all of three days off in January, and February has followed course, which is exhausting for him — and, by extension, for me.  And you’d think the upside of that would be that we’d be banking some big paycheques but…  no.

The thing is, at the moment (at the moment? for months!), there’s just no predictability from day to day what his hours are going to be and, thus, no predictability what his weekly paycheque will be.  One day can be a bumpercrop 12 hours and the next day can be a barren two.  It’s literally that up and down, and we have no idea from day to the next how it will go.  Whenever I hear the truck pull into the driveway, I instinctively shoot an anxious glance at the clock — is it late enough?  Did he get enough hours today?  Everything is depending on what time that truck comes home.

And you might think there is some plus-side to those days when he only has to work a couple of hours — I mean, he gets downtime, right?  A day off,  doesn’t he? — but… no.  He stays at the shop waiting to see if a call comes in: there, but not paid.  And the whole time, I think he’s out there working and all is well, until he comes home (what time? Oh it’s 5 — thank goodness! All is well!) and tells me, no, it was only three hours today…  And my heart sinks.

But when he does get the hours — when the weather cooperates and sends frigid temperatures and ice and misery that has people running to the phones — he’s gone all hours, working to the point of utter collapse.  And then getting another call at 11pm, just as we are settling down to our end-of-the-day cuppa  — could he?, they ask — and he looks at me and shrugs.  It’s money…  it’s all money, and we have to take what blessings come however they come, so he sighs and drags himself off the couch and changes into his work clothes and heads out again.  And I go up to bed alone.

So when the hours are light, I am just terrified, but when they are long, we don’t see each other for days on end, and he is exhausted, and I am lonely and taking care of the kids on my own all the day and night.  And even when the hours are bang-smack on normal — when he comes home and answers my perpetual question with a smile and “eight!” — I worry that eight hours today will not be enough if the rest of the week doesn’t match.  Every day, we start each day as a complete unknown and it’s been this way for months.  And it’s incredibly stressful — incredibly stressful.

Just lately, everything’s been swirling about inside me — too much, too much — and I have felt so overwhelmed.  It seems we’ve had one health crisis after another since the new year, and each one knocks us out for nearly a week or more, and pushes the stress levels up higher.  And  E1 has just gone into a new phase of  “No!” that is stretching my patience past its limits.  And though I appreciate my mum’s help enormously  and she appreciates spending time with the girls, we have — just by necessity — ended up seeing each other nearly every day, and that is really too much for either of us.  And then there is the trying to stay in the red.  And those crazy hours.  And it’s time for me to tackle our bloody taxes again, and there’s almost nothing on earth that gets me more panicky and overwrought than trying to work out taxes.  And all this stress rouses my old friend Failure from his slumber — he’s really never far away — and he comes out cackling with fingers pointed and condemnations flying, to taunt me and poke at me and slap me and…  and…  what can I say to deflect it?  It’s all true.

I feel  so strung out, so tired, and this week it’s all just gotten on top of me.  I can’t stop crying.  I miss having friends nearby that I’ve known for years — the people you need round you when you’re feeling overwhelmed.  And though it sounds odd to say, I miss my privacy — just the simple pleasure of going where I go and doing things the way I do them without observation.   And, oh I miss my husband, I really just miss my husband — it feels like I haven’t seen him in weeks.

In the post yesterday, there was a tax bill from the county that I wasn’t expecting — it was startlingly huge and I didn’t know what was, didn’t even know what it was for. Fortunately, it turned out to be an error, but too late — I was over the edge, blindsided by a such a surprise from some entity I didn’t even know existed.  It ripped the last bit of bravado from me, and left me slumped on the floor and crying, hardly able to get control over myself for the rest of the day.

But this week was turning out to be different from the rest.  The hours started rolling in, like we’d never seen before.  M was on call over the weekend and the calls just kept coming — he racked up three days’ worth of normal hours before the week had really even begun.  And every day after followed suit — by Tuesday, he was already well over forty hours, and I was astonished to realise we were on track for a bumper paycheque that would start to make up for the difficulty of late.  And boy, do we need it!  The car insurance is due next month, and there’ll be another one of those panic-inducing gas bills…   Oh, yes, I’ve been watching those hours clock up with a growing feeling of excitement.  And poor M has been looking forward to nothing more than dragging his weary body into bed at the end of each day.

When I spoke to M last night before he headed off to night school — did I mention he fits night school in twice a week as well? — he could hear in my voice all the raw aftermath of that tax bill panic.  “Sounds like it would be a good idea for me to stay home with you tomorrow.” he said gently, “What do you think?”

NO!!!!”  I panicked — had he done something?  Had he taken a day off?!?!?  We need him to keep going  and rack up as much overtime as possible before the end of the week.  We were on a roll and we need that money!

“Oh…”  He had been hoping for a different answer, I could tell, and so I panicked afresh.

“What??? WHAT?!?”

“Well, work’s slowed down, so they had a look at who had the most hours this week,”  Oh, I see. “…and that was me, so they told me they didn’t have anything for me tomorrow, so that the other guys can get their full hours.”  Yes…  yes…  that made sense.  And it was only right — if the situation were reversed, I know I’d be grateful.

And so we had a day together today — and it was really wonderful, it really was.  A quiet day together as a family — nothing particularly to do and no where to go — like we haven’t had in…  well, months really.  It was exactly what I needed, a balm for my anxiety that did no end of good.  A quiet family day, a day with my husband, on a… Thursday.

And it will still be a better-than-normal paycheque, and for that I am very grateful.  But it won’t be that bumpercrop now. 


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An envelope arrived today from the insurance company and I knew immediately that it would be the paperwork for E2’s trip to the Emergency Room. Every time we’ve got one of these envelopes before, it’s always been bad news — thousands of dollars worth of bad — and so my hand nearly shook as I began to open this one. I quickly scanned past line after line of itemised costs and focused on the big number at the bottom…

Just over $3000.  My heart stopped.  $3000 in one night!

And then I looked over to the box marked “Amount You Owe Provider”. It said $25. I closed my eyes with relief and lent my head back against the wall, and thanked God in his heaven that my kids are covered by the state’s CHIP programme (the only policy that I could find in the entire marketplace that they qualified for). To owe so little for a bill so high is really quite extraordinary here in the US.  Even most “good” policies here would require me to pay a percentage of that amount and the most common split I’ve seen is 80/20. That would put our portion of E2’s impromptu night in hospital at $600 and — with a gas bill that was higher than that last month and M’s hours ever fluctuating — even that reduced amount would have been a crippling bill for us to pay.  And if, God forbid, we’d been uninsured…

This is why I believe, wholly and completely, that the US healthcare system is fatally flawed and needs to be overhauled entirely.  I have heard the arguments for the status quo — argued with passion, most often, by people who have never been in a position of being trapped by their (un)insurance.   I understand the concept of a person neatly choosing the coverage they need, of deciding how much deductible and max-out-of-pocket they want to budget for.  But the reality is simply not that neat.  Most people can’t choose the coverage they want, because their healthcare options are dictated by their employer.  And buying the policy that suits your pocketbook best simply doesn’t work once you have a pre-existing condition — and we will all have one eventually — and so you can no longer pick and choose freely in the marketplace.  And even when you can, the cost of buying that coverage outright is completely prohibitive for most people on average wages.

Buying healthcare coverage is completely unlike any other purchase a person usually makes in their entire lives.  Nothing other than healthcare is so fundamentally compelling — truly life and death — and yet has such devastating potential to create skyrocketing and utterly unmanageable costs literally overnight.  Healthcare provision is quite simply in class by itself and, as such, it has to be treated differently.  To leave to the marketplace as if it were any other ordinary commodity is…  well, is to create an unacceptable situation like the one we’ve got at the moment.

And it’s unacceptable because of this horrifiying thought:  if, when that on-call doctor told me to take E2 to the Emergency Room… if I’d had to think about what 20% of that trip was likely to cost, then I might not have been hesitating solely on account of the snow and my mistaken belief that things weren’t yet that bad.  I might well have been weighing up the doctor’s advice — and my daughter’s well-being — against my wallet.  And if — as so easily could have happened to us — we’d been completely uninsured, I think it’s quite likely that I would have followed my own flawed judgment and waited to see how the night went, and thus brought on all the unthinkable consequences that could have created.

It was not us that night, but there are 47 million others.

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M got an emergency call-out yesterday and had to spend 5 hours of his Sunday dragging unwieldy supplies and heavy equipment up the three flights of stairs to the customer’s front door. He had a dolly to take it all from the truck to the bottom the stairs but, from that point on, it was all him, going up each tread backwards and hoisting his gear up one step at a time. He came home absolutely drenched in sweat, completely knackered, and in an unsettled mood.

I hate it when he’s in these kinds of moods — the air around him goes dark and stagnant He’s best left alone but it can be difficult to do when the love of your life — who also happens to be everyone’s only breadwinner — comes home from work looking like the sky is about to fall. I did my best but, eventually, I could stand it no longer and prodded: what was the matter? “It’s the same as it always is,” he said, then added, “I’ve told you all this this before!” He began to growl a bit. “I’m too old for this. I’m not far off fifty and these other guys [that he works with] are in their 20s. Their bodies can take it but mine can’t. Things ache and it’s just not going to last!” Yes, he has said this before, and I know it’s true. He’s an older guy doing a young man’s job. When the young men reach his age, they are supposed to have a wealth of experience that either ensures their jobs despite their increasing limitations or helps them to move onto less physical roles. But he retrained into this field when he was made redundant only 6 years ago (and discovering, sadly too late into his training, that he didn’t much care for the work), which means he doesn’t have the benefit of all that experience behind him and so has to do the work as if he were 20 years younger. He struggles with it — physically and mentally — and I know that very well.

It’s not easy being the non-breadwinner under any circumstances, but particularly not under these. When you depend on another person’s income, there’s a real feeling of helplessness that can be incredibly unnerving, in the same way that some people find being a passenger in a car unbearable because they feel out of control if they’re not driving. The non-breadwinner is a financial passenger, entirely reliant on another person’s career achievements… or failures. When M has a good day — or a string of them — and is happy in his work, I can push aside that lingering uncomfortableness that being financially dependent gives me. I bask in his contented glow and tell myself everything is fine. But when he has a bad day — or a string of them — and his mood turns dark, I feel my own panic rise. I handle problems by doing things, working towards solutions — even if I can’t actually fix the problem, the doing something will alone help assuage my fears — but in this situation, there’s nothing the non-breadwinner can do. My only choice is to watch it all unfold and hope it turns out well. And the watching is all the more painful because the way M handles these sorts of problems is the polar opposite to me: he doesn’t act — he resigns himself to the ‘inevitable’, a self-fulfilling prophesy in the making if ever I saw one. And my panic goes sky-high.

So I spent tonight trying to think how I was going to fix this. M’s work doesn’t suit him. The work he did before won’t pay enough to support us all. I will have to go back to work, and perhaps he should stay home with the girls. It makes sense — of the two of us, I have always been (by mutual agreement) the one more likely to go further, I have the better job prospects, I am the more… the more…. I don’t know, but whatever it is, I am it. I sat on the bed in E2’s darkened room, trying to feed her down to sleep, and feeling the pressure rise. I need to get M out of this job, I need to get our family out of a dead-end… But I don’t know what to do. I haven’t worked in 3 years and, despite my ‘better prospects’, this will be a formidable barrier. And, though I am not afraid of hard work by any stretch of the imagination, I dread the thought of going back to kind of work I used to do, which I found so uninspiring that I wanted to push pencils into my eyes all day.

As I went over it again and again in my mind, I realised that I hate that I feel like it is down to me to solve these problems. The truth is, I don’t want the burden of that much responsibility. For a moment, I really envied my mum, married to a man who is incredibly focused and driven, a man who solves problems the way George slayed dragons — I doubt that she has ever once felt that she had to step in and take over. But envy doesn’t solve things, action does. As much as the burden of it wearies me, it’s best to just get on with it.

When at last I got E2 down to sleep and went back into the living room, I found M with his head in one hand. I put my arms around him. “I’m sorry,” I whispered, “that you’re in a job that you struggle with like this. We chose badly.”

“It is what it is.” He sounded dejected. “I’ll just have to keep going …for as long as I can.”

“We could find you something else, something better suited. And I’ll go back to work as soon as the girls are in school. Or,…” I paused, not really wanting to say it out loud, “or maybe sooner if need be.” I spotted the paper out of the corner of my eye — last night’s lottery results would be in it. “Hey, maybe we’ve won the lottery! Wouldn’t that change everything?” I said brightly.

“People like me aren’t meant to win the lottery. It will never happen.” He buys a ticket every week, but honestly believes he’s fated never to win. And there’s a part of me that believes I will never win the lottery either, because I’ve been given a plethora of talents and opportunities in lieu of that one colossal stroke of luck.

“Nor people like me,” I replied.

“No,” he agreed. And then added, “You were supposed to make something of yourself.”

The accusation of it touched a nerve, and I pulled away from him, and looked at his face for a moment. Then I turned and walked into the kitchen, and made myself a cup of tea. I don’t need him to push the heavy burden of responsibility onto me like that. I’m there already .

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I was writing a love-letter to Trader Joe’s the other day when I suddenly realised I should share it here as well.

This is why I love Trader Joe’s

  • First and foremost, the sheer number of products they sell that don’t contain un-necessary ingredients, especially soy, which causes me so much pain. Shopping at Trader Joe’s is a truly heady experience simply because of the abundance of foods which can go in my trolley and not back on the shelf.
  • Patrick, the manager, of whom I have heard real praise from his employees, and who wears a mad pair of sunglasses and a crazy straw hat, and is the apple of my daughter’s eye.
  • Their gorgeous, heavy Honey-and-Oat Bread, to which my mother rushes to the moment we set foot in the store in order to grab as many loaves as she can .
  • Their Organic Alphabet pasta and Multicoloured Pasta, which contain durum wheat semolina, spinach, and tomato, and not much else — and are E1’s absolute favourites. Coloured pasta! Coloured pasta pleeeeeeeease!
  • The free coffee and free food samples, every single day.
  • Their Dorset Coastal Cheddar, which tastes as true and English as it is, comes from the very county I think of as home, and takes me straight back there from the first lusciously sharp bite.
  • Their prices, which are so reasonable that they shock me each and every time I go and which knock the socks off their competition — I simply don’t know how they do it.
  • ‘Just Mango Slices,’ which have become essential to managing my day. What made me buy a package the first time is that it contains exactly what it says on the label: nothing but dried mango, no preservatives of any kind. What made me go back and buy eight packages the second time is the realisation that it is delicious but really quite difficult to eat — it can take E2 a good 10 minutes to slowly chomp her way through a single piece. And what does Mummy do whilst she is working away so hard at her mango? Mummy sits back with a nice cup of tea and savours the peace and quiet.
  • Rachel, who was a breath of fresh air the last time we were there, singing as she stocked the freezer section and just as friendly as anything when she was behind the till.
  • Their fabulous Apple Pie, the one with the cinnamon-y sugary crust, and no soy.
  • Their Lemon Curd — real lemon curd, zingy and sweet, and made in England by a manufacturer whose distinctive glass jar I recognised right away. This is the real stuff!
  • Their Organic Corn Chips, which contain only organic corn, organic sunflower oil, and organic salt — just what is needed and absolutely nothing unnecessary.
  • Their shampoos and conditioners, with an ingredient list that actually reads like a herbalist’s organic dream but with a price that’s cheap-as-chips.
  • Their Veggie and Flaxseed Tortilla Chips — they take tortilla chips and add in the goodness of flaxseed and the deliciousness of tomato, beet root, spinach, and carrots. Still guilty but yet, so much better!
  • That they don’t slap the dreaded “Made in a facility that also processes…” warning (which almost always makes that food forever off-limits to E2) on each and every package just to cover their backsides. It’s on only the packages it needs to be on, and I am so very grateful for that.
  • Their pesto — I had been hunting high and low for proper pesto and finally found some in the specialty imported section of my local supermarket — a very tiny jar with a very big price tag. I had been eeking out small rations of it… until I got to Trader Joe’s and found their pesto, in a good-sized jar and at a very good price. I allow myself lashings of the stuff now!
  • Their bananas, priced by the banana — so useful when your daughter wants to eat one as you shop. You just produce the empty skin at the till and they still know exactly how much to charge.
  • Their Triple Ginger Cookies, which M adores and eats as easily as breathing.
  • Paula, who is always so warm and welcoming, always remembers my daughter (and is adored for it in return), and who is a true asset to the shop.
  • Organic tomatoes, organic bananas, organic avocados, organic broccoli, organic raisins… at prices normal people can afford!
  • Their ‘100% Fruit’ fruit leathers, with contain only the fruit and nothing else, not even preservatives! Portable, wholesome, guilt-free kiddie snacks.
  • Mike F, who came rushing up to me 10 minutes after telling me they were out of organic raisins, with two bags of them and said, “I went looking and found the last two bags for you!”
  • Their deep-fried pea pods. I tried them because they sounded so weird. I bought them because they are so very very more-ish!
  • Their Cinnamon and Sugar Pita Chips — kind of like sopapillas, but not at all… but baked instead of fried… Delicious!
  • Their bathrooms, which simply have to be seen to be believed.  In fact, the unique decor of the whole store, which never fails to bring a smile to my face.
  • Get this: 1lb of pasta from Italy, made out of whole wheat flour, whole grain spelt (delicious!), and with flaxseed, with eight grams of protein and six grams of fibre and 200mg of Omega-3 in every serving… and it costs less than $1!

Have I convinced you? If you’ve never been a Trader Joe’s, go. Go now. Discovering Trader Joe’s has been a lifeline to me and I want to see their wonderful business — with its unusual product lines, wholesome ingredients, and very reasonable prices — go from strength to strength!

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We have had the loan of my sister’s car since we arrived — she started the lease when she was living out in the country, but now that she lives in a city, she can get by quite well without it and resents having to pay to park it, so she was happy enough to let us have the use of it for awhile. She very graciously gave us the first two months as a gift, and said that if we wanted to keep it longer than that, we need only give her the money to cover her payment and insurance — a very fair deal indeed. She joked that we could keep the car as long as we let her keep our cat, and I had half a mind to point out that there are cheaper ways to get yourself a cat (…why, some people even give them away), but I realised there was no point in messing up such a good deal, so I kept my gob shut!

But, good deal or no, the car goes back next weekend. As M points out, it is time (though she hasn’t said so to us, we know she found it was harder to get around without the car than she anticipated) and, the real nub of it is, we can’t afford to keep it. Several weeks of living on base-pay has driven that point right home to us. By the time we take out the rent and utilities, his child-maintenance (just slightly less), our frugal food-budget, the cable/phone/broadband package (my one real luxury), and the monthly payment for my newly acquired medical bills, the amount that is left gives us only a double-digit figure each to cover the month’s miscellaneous spending, including petrol, prescriptions, and those dreaded copays. There is simply no room for a car payment — it has got to go.

We were hoping that M would have gotten a work-van by now — they had initially said he would — but that has not happened and looks unlikely for awhile. So, he will have to take our car to work, where it will sit in a lot all day while he goes out in one of the other guy’s vans, and I will be car-less at home. More to the point, I will be dependent on my mother again. Though the obvious answer is for me to drive him to work, it becomes a practical impossibility when you factor in two sleeping toddlers, a wife who has been up three times in the night, and a 5.30am departure. M will, I know, do everything in his power to get lift into work whenever possible, but we’re both realistic enough to realise that that will be an occasional treat at best. The real answer is get M some sort of cheap run-around just to get him to work and back. Nothing fancy, but it will cost several thousand nonetheless — more expense — and take a little while to get sorted.

So, this coming weekend, my mother and the girls and I will pack up in two cars and drive half-a-day to my sister’s flat. It will be nice to see her, her new place, her city, and have a brief and joyful reunion with the cat. I am looking forward to it very much. And then, it will be back into my mother’s car, on the passenger side, to be driven home — out of control and dependent on her, an uncomfortable position I will have to get used to all over again.

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