March 17, 2008


Late last week, Beth reminded me that we needed to enroll Owen in my health insurance plan. I figured out who to talk to, sent an email or two and was asked to provide Owen's birth date to get the process started. As an aside, I was told that I had 31 days from Owen's birth date to enroll him. For those of you trying to remember when Owen was born or counting days on a calendar, I'll save you the trouble. I spent half the weekend counting days on the calendar as if a few days or, maybe, a week would spontaneously disappear. When I sent that email, we were about 34 days out. Shit.

I spent the weekend sending emails to benefits managers and human resources people with the hope that someone would check in and send back some at least marginally hopeful message informing us that there may be some way around this. I got some traction. But the bottom line - we have an uninsured newborn. That scare the shit out of me.

On Saturday, Mia and I went to a local bookstore. Our mission? Find more Backyardigans books. (On a side note - this is the first time I've been in a bookstore in about a month since I launched a mission of my own to avoid buying new books while reading some of the thousands of unread books that exist, feeling unloved, in my basement.) Once we found and bought the books Mia was looking for, we left and headed to the car. Behind us we both heard random, demented yelling. We turned and saw a crazy lady shouting at herself. This is not unusual. The bookstore is located somewhat close to a facility that gets regular visits from some of Virginia's finest homeless residents. This woman was shouting at herself while pretending to smoke an unlit cigarette butt, scribbling on what looked like an old day planner she'd removed from a garbage bag of what seemed to be all her earthly belongings.

This got me thinking. How far are any of us from that?

Money is fantastic in that it can buy cars, homes, books, music, fancy cell phones and other really cool stuff. But it also allows us to purchase safety nets - education, 401Ks, health and life insurance, medical spending accounts. Take those safety nets away and we all become vulnerable to the things that life throws at us. Or, as an author wrote in a book I read over the weekend, "sometimes you get remote-control screwed just for nothing at all, just because that's the way the world spins, and sometimes it's because you fucked up in the smallest of ways." Each small bump in the road becomes more and more catastrophic.

I'm not trying to bum or freak anyone out. It's just, well, that like everyone I worry about bad things happening and sometimes it seems that they can happen a little bit more easily than any of us would like to believe.

And you...what's your biggest safety net-related fear?

Posted by Chris at March 17, 2008 6:26 AM

Actually, I have a pretty decent safety net because I have always been the type to freak out about money. I grew up without much money, and a mother who bounced checks and had to avoid calls from bill collectors, and so I have a set "number" in my head that I NEED in my check book at all times so I don't panic too much. And the thing is, it's an ABSURD number. It really is. But it also means that I never bounce checks, there's always something there should something unexpected occur. Oddly enough, my best friend is the EXACT same way about money - we're both nuts because of our weird childhoods.

Insurance, I don't worry about too much anyway (though we're all insured), because it seems lately that no matter what plan I'm on, or what the little options are, they never cover squat anyway. I just need to know I've got my "number" in the bank.

Posted by: sarah at March 17, 2008 7:14 AM

My biggest safety net related fear is that I have an education, a degree, and I work to care for those no one else can, and the president administration has effed things so bad...I might soon be out of a job.

On top of all this and I'm pretty liberal as far as my politics go, but there is money taken out of my check given to the families of people in my charge, who buy things I can only dream of affording. Thus all my free time being devoted to nursing school and a 12th career change with my 35th birthday mere weeks away.

Not angry, just putting that out there. The country needs change in a bad way and if anybody has any spare change, could they possibly throw it my way? Eating ramen noodles all the time is getting really, really old.

I wish you well on this Monday-est of mornings.

Posted by: JJ at March 17, 2008 7:52 AM

That I'm not going to make rent, not have an apartment, become homeless, have to quit school, move back to Michigan, live with my parents, and work in a pizza parlor.

How can they only give you 31 days to get a baby insurance? Don't they think there are other things you need to worry about when having a baby, let alone making some arbitrary tell us you have a baby date? Then again, I don't know how insurance works. Maybe this is perfectly logical.

Posted by: caleal at March 17, 2008 7:52 AM

Well, my husband is a police officer. He also works a security job on the side. Not only does he work two very dangerous jobs, potentially leaving me a widow and my children fatherless, he also makes the bulk of our income. So, if he's badly injured or worse, we're out of luck. Because he doesn't get alot of paid leave, either. No money--at least, not enough to live on. I worry every day about our finances, about the fact that we live mostly paycheck to paycheck. About the fact that my kids will likely want to play sports ($$) or attend camp ($$) or play an instrument ($$).

Posted by: Alissa at March 17, 2008 8:07 AM

Hey! Thanks for taking up residence in my brain. I know I've shared my financial woes here and there on the internets, so you know that this is now a constant fear of ours. Health insurance for The BFF is our biggest concern right now, primarily because without it, I will lose her and she will lose herself and neither of us is prepared for that to happen EVER. We've faced a lot of decisions lately, none of which we feel old and/or responsible enough to make. We were talking about how much space humans take up and how little we actually need -- land is the only resource we truly HAVE and we're burning through it at a rapid pace. And I mentioned that this near-poverty we have found ourselves in has given me a whole new outlook on life. Before, I was not usually one to choose money in certain scenarios (like the ones you propose here every so often) but now, I will almost always choose money because we need it SO badly. We don't need a lot but enough to sort out the problem areas and enough to buy groceries and things like that. It's all so messed up.

So...sorry to be a bummer right back at you :D

Posted by: Sparkle Pants at March 17, 2008 8:27 AM

I just completed an application for life insurance. I had a lapse in coverage from my old job to my new one, and so I've decided to go 3rd party on that from now on. If I died today, my family might lose the house. The thought makes my stomach turn.

How far am I from homeless madness? Probably one strike of lightening. However, at this point, if I had my family I'd never let myself lose it. My job is to hold my shit together as long as they are alive. That, I can do.

Posted by: Brad at March 17, 2008 8:37 AM

Safety net fear.

The Dems taking more of my money

Posted by: william at March 17, 2008 8:47 AM

Ooooh, i can relate. Boy howdy, I can relate. This is the perfect entry for me right now, as you have expressed so clearly the current state of my life & fears. I have recently taken a leap of faith in quitting my job (though not leaving for another 6 weeks), giving up my awesome apartment, and everything else I've worked so hard for to move down to DC and be with the one I love.

I am confident I can find a job of some sort once I am down there. And I was ready to move on from my job anyway - more than ready, in fact. But that doesn't change the fact that I am about to become voluntarily jobless for the first time, well, ever.

As they say, though, jump - and the net will appear.

It will appear, right? .....right??

Posted by: Caitlin at March 17, 2008 8:49 AM

M biggest fear came to life a few years ago in the form of having my identity stolen while stationed in the UK. The fine fellows who stole it were using it to finance a kiddy porn ring. My name. My money. Involved in that. This affected an astonishingly large number of people in the UK and the aftermath has been various levels of devastating in one way or another for everyone involved. For me personally, though, the silver lining is that I know with startling clarity how much of an illusion is any concept of a safety net. I suppose my biggest fear at this point is that a false accusation will rear it's ugly head again and I'll find myself reliving a nightmare, while people whose fears have been dutifully exploited by politicians and lawyers jump to totally inaccurate conclusions.

Posted by: You can call me, 'Sir' at March 17, 2008 8:50 AM

My biggest fear would be to not be able to take care of the kids.

But do you think Owen will get insured? Or are you out of luck on this one? I hope it turns out OK for you guys!

Posted by: Nadine at March 17, 2008 8:57 AM

God, I live in fear that either the mister or I -- or both -- will lose our jobs, because we don't really even HAVE a safety net. (I know.) We would be so, so screwed.

Posted by: Fraulein N at March 17, 2008 9:01 AM

My biggest safety net fear- the mortgage industry will implode thereby wrecking the economy and forcing the fed to drop interest rates like hot potatoes in an effort to keep the dollar worth something, and finally waking up on a Monday morning to find out that a leading sub-prime mortgage company like, say, Bear Stearns, has sold itself for $2 per share and the Fed is going to have to cover the $30 billion in high risk loans the company so wisely sold to millions of unsuspecting, and uninformed average Americans who will probably lose their homes and th foreclosure rate will skyrocket some more. And then the Fed will have to also cut rates again to keep the dollar from becoming totally worthless. Oh wait! Didn't that JUST happen?! Crap.

I guess my biggest safety net related fear is centered around the health of the US Economy. What do we do when that falls apart?

Posted by: chatty cricket at March 17, 2008 9:08 AM

I worry about money and being sure we can take care of the bills, etc before going for anything "special".

With that said, my mother drove me insane growing up with her constant non stop worrying about money and being poor and "out on the street". I just never want to be like that. I was really poor for most of my 20s and it sucks which is part of the reasons I work so we will not be in that place (esp. if heaven forbid something happened to my husband and I was not working...)

My mom and dad divorced and despite the fact that he continues to support her she has been a freak about this as she was a housewife her WHOLE life with no real job skills so much so that she struggles with holding jobs for any length of time...

I never wanted to hear those worried voices she must have heard on and on (and still does...)

Posted by: Christina at March 17, 2008 9:39 AM

My biggest fear is that we will be homeless again.

Posted by: Katie at March 17, 2008 9:57 AM

It's my health insurance for sure. You see the wonderful Bankruptcy Court that handled things for Hubby's old company made this stupid decision. 18 months after the employee or retiree dies their spouse loses their medical insurance. Wonderful! You see I have a preexisting condition and it will not only be difficult but expensive to get insurance for myself!

Posted by: Maribeth at March 17, 2008 10:09 AM

It's always in the back of my mind.... always.

Posted by: Holly at March 17, 2008 10:16 AM

I don't think this is a safety-net fear, but my biggest fear is growing old... alone.

Posted by: GreenCanary at March 17, 2008 10:29 AM

Being in the insurance industry, I have safety nets for my safety nets. My biggest fear is that my money would fall into the wrong hands should something happen to me. My deatbeat ex-husband disappeared before Mila was born but I would not put it past him to re-appear for a payday. All of my policies and my will stipulate that he gets nothing and that under no circumstances should she go to him or be separated from Jason (her rightful father that raised her) and Summer, but I still have that fear.

Posted by: Mymilabean at March 17, 2008 10:35 AM

My biggest safety net fear came to be about a month and a half ago (42 days ago...but who's counting?!). Tom, my husband, was laid off due to downsizing. We're struggling to make it through and it's working alright so far. But, it is very stressful.

Luckily, we had saved money and invested in ways that are helping us now. I'm so grateful for that!

Posted by: Arwen at March 17, 2008 10:36 AM

My biggest fear would be losing my job.

Posted by: linda at March 17, 2008 10:49 AM

Recession and retirement.

Posted by: Gwen at March 17, 2008 11:05 AM

I don't know that I really fear much anymore. I've been jobless and practically homeless, I've gone crazy, been an alcholic, watched the one I was to marry die, and I'm still here. And I'm happy today. Lots of scary things have happened and will continue to happen. To all of us. I don't want to live in fear. I did that for so long, and all it did was make me sick in the head. I try so hard to stay away from the fear.

Posted by: k8 at March 17, 2008 11:25 AM

My biggest fear is who would care for my special needs child, who is four now, if I were to die young. Or middle aged, as I'm not actually young anymore. A single parent can barely make a single income provide for now, the future is just a dream.

Posted by: OS at March 17, 2008 12:12 PM

Strangely enough I'm afraid because things are going too well. I know that sound funny, but as a grain farmer we've had some really tough years for... oh... about the last 20 (since the 70's). Grain prices were extremely low and fuel, land, equipment, and input costs were high - we were barely getting by. Suddenly, the past year, things have flip-flopped to the point we almost feel guilty. We're having record high grain prices and yes, the rest of the costs are high but we don't mind paying them when we have income to do it with! But it is hard to feel happy because we're doing well when everything else around us financially is going to hell in a handbasket. People are losing their homes, when we are making enough money to finally feel comfortable that we may NOT lose our home. Our real estate loans just got refinanced at lower interest rates, saving us money. I feel guilty for feeling happy about our situation!

I guess I'm just fearful it will all go away too soon and we'll be back where we were before.

Posted by: sue at March 17, 2008 12:16 PM

I live in fear of the IRS. Untill you've got certified mail from the IRS you'll never know that fear.

Hopefully this fear will be paid off in 23 months and I can once again sleep more soundly and afford a little bit more life.

Posted by: Michele at March 17, 2008 12:30 PM

I did a year as a single mother with no insurance, a baby and an asthmatic. Here's how I did it.

I called their pediatrician. I explained to situation. He told me that I could bring the kids in whenever, for whatever, and pay cash per visit, and since he didn't have to dance with the insurance companies, he'd just charge me what the visit actually cost, which ended up being around $40.

Not too shabby.

I paid cash for the shots, too, which were around $15 a piece. I could have gone to the health department and gotten the shots for $6 a piece, but I sprung for the Fancy Doctors Shots.

I really wasn't all that bad. I feel for you, though. Wrap him in bubble wrap to avoid any major injuries and you should be fine. :)

Posted by: Mr Lady at March 17, 2008 12:49 PM

I worry about job losses/income losses for our family. A health crisis for Little Dude or one of us...

I just had one of the big "tech fears" become reality last week when my computer did the big **poof** and lo and behold - it no longer believes it held my files (baby pictures, video - everything since our son was born, not to mention my school/work files, resume and a lot of other things I just can't retrieve and will have to work on rebuilding).

No one died, but it does make me feel like I lost a part of my life - part of my safety net.

Posted by: RC at March 17, 2008 1:39 PM

I'm afraid of getting cancer because even though we pay $500 each month for health insurance, they don't cover cancer. We'll be screwed, I'll die and my family will get eaten by wolves.

That really freaks me out.

Posted by: Rengirl at March 17, 2008 2:19 PM

I'm terrified that my degree will end up being useless, or that I'll never graduate at all. I'm petrified of my depression and that some days it comes so close to being completely crippling, and I worry about my ability to lead a normal life.

Posted by: Heather at March 17, 2008 3:44 PM

i've already lived my biggest safety net-related fear; am still living it right now, actually, just in smaller parts.

i don't want to depress everybody with the myriad details, but i will say this: there is no gratitude like the one you come to know only after you have lost everything.

be thankful, kids. our country's an incredible fucking mess, but it can always be worse.

we could spend 4 more years under a republican administration, for starters.

Posted by: jessica at March 17, 2008 6:53 PM

One of my biggest safety net fears is fear itself. Especially after what I went through in my first pregnancy -- INSANE WITH FEAR OF EVERYTHING.... It came back to a lesser degree in my second pregnancy and threatened my ability to mother the monkey....

Posted by: Haley-O at March 17, 2008 9:26 PM

We also missed our window when my son was born. Partially it was my fault, because after 2 months I decided not to return to work and our health insurance was through my work.

So we all had a period of about 3 or 4 months before open enrollment where none of us were insured. And it was scary as shit.

Luckily, nothing bad happened. Our pediatrician's office has a policy where, if you aren't insured, they will work with you. The state will pay for necessary vaccinations and, if you paid the total (reduced) balance, our office would give 20% off the bill. It was do-able for a short time.

Posted by: moo at March 17, 2008 10:47 PM

Retirement scares the crap out of me. Every time we get a jump on it, we have to use our savings for something. Someday, and soon, we've got to get it right.

Posted by: Mandy Lou at March 17, 2008 10:50 PM

The US healthcare system sucks. I refused to go to the doctor at all whilst I was living there because I was terrified of how much it would cost... I don't get why there is a time limit to enroll your child on your plan. Why? Gah!

Posted by: E :) at March 17, 2008 11:21 PM

My biggest fear in general is fear itself - I know firsthand how debilitating it can be in so many areas. I hate it, and yet, there's no getting away from it completely, is there. The trick is somehow finding a way to make it work FOR you, I guess.
I haven't been around for a while, but I wanted to wish you congratulations on your new arrival. I checked out a couple of the photos, he's SO cute! And it looks like his sister is taking to her big sister status like a pro. Adorable. :)

Posted by: Freakazojd at March 18, 2008 3:52 AM

Losing my job for an extended period of time which could mean losing our house. Although we have two incomes, I'm the main breadwinner in our family of five. If my job goes, so does our relatively comfortable way of life and possibly our home.

I've lost my job twice in the last three years (I'm in the technology industry AND live in MI, not a good combination these days). Both times I've been incredibly lucky, finding a job quickly (within days). However, I'm working as a contractor and my contract ends in June. Scary shit.

Posted by: Carolyn at March 18, 2008 12:09 PM

We have no safety net, and live paycheck to paycheck. I'm always a month behind in something. My husband is a schoolteacher, and doesn't get paid in the summer. (All of those who read this and think...Ooh teacher's complain too much, they only work 10 months a year, bite me).

I drive reeeeeeal sloooooow over the speed bumps. Can't take any chances.

Posted by: Candy at March 18, 2008 1:59 PM

Providing for my children.

Posted by: Amber at March 18, 2008 8:21 PM

Not finding a new job at all to pay for anything when I move and being sent back to where I came from because I can't find one.

Posted by: Poppy at March 18, 2008 9:40 PM

I live in constant fear of losing my health insurance. Well, I wouldn't say that it's something that I'm always thinking about, but it is definitely something that I keep on my mind. My one silver lining in the whole "me not getting into grad school" thing was, "Oh, sweet! Now I don't have to worry about health insurance!" How sad is that?

Posted by: Hope at March 19, 2008 8:30 PM

hey, can you tell I'm getting caught up on my commenting? I saw this post the other day and didn't have a chance to comment.

a) I gave up buying books for Lent. Not buying books is killing me, so more power to you for cutting back. Yes, I too have PLENTY of unread books. It doesn't matter. Although I have made a dent in the pile since Lent started.

b) oh my yes I worry. We've finally managed to build up a decent safety net, but what if I lost my job? Which is connected to the stock market, and have you seen what that market has been doing lately? No one wants advice about stocks -- they just want to pretend they don't even have any investments. I don't know exactly how long our net would last, and I my stupid diabetes means that I really, really need health insurance and that it could be difficult if I had to get new health insurance. Um, so yeah, I may have a little anxiety :)

Posted by: bad penguin at March 19, 2008 9:27 PM