Friday, October 6, 2017

87 Reasons to Be Okay

Rain is finally falling here. It feels like it has been weeks of dust and dry creek beds, an unsettling atmosphere in a place usually so lush. Don't get me wrong, the lawns are still green and the moss hasn't sloughed off the river stones, but it feels like a dust storm running the lawn mower or driving on a dirt road. Things be dry, friends.

The dryness is why many leaves on the trees are still green. That, and the added string of unseasonably warm weather (pheasant hunting in a long-sleeved tee shirt?!) makes it feel like a confused, dry, August. But today there is rain and I’m checking in after a morning of working on design and illustration clients. I have a story to encourage some of you out there.

This morning after farm chores (the regular AM rounds plus cleaning up the mews for Aya Cash) I worked on a logo for a Norwegian homestead, illustrations for a family story picture book, and packed up some soap orders. Sales have been thin but I assume everyone is doing what I am: looking towards winter. People are considering gift-giving season, heating costs, and other winter preps that affect your household budgets. I wish you all the luck to meet them and meet snowfall with a heavy purse, large woodpile, and full larder! That said, here's the story:

I had some bittersweet luck yesterday. I had a dentist appointment to repair a filling, nothing major. All the old metal fillings from my teenage years are decaying and being replaced one at a time, as I can afford it. Teeth are a big deal to me. I see too many rural people let them go out here and it is something I refuse to give up on. Someday I want to get them realigned, straight, and white but right now I am thrilled to just have a full working set without dental insurance.

After topping off Taylor with some coolant I drove to my beloved Vermont dentist. Soon as I was set into the chair and seen I was told we'd need to take an X-ray. Odd, but nothing too concerning. I tallied up the X-ray cost on top of filling replacement and moved some sales around in my head. If I sold 3 logos or 4 illustrations I would still be on track by end of the weekend. Bad news, said the Doc. I had an abscess. We'd need to deal with it right now, right here.

To their credit they drilled, treated, plugged and repaired the tooth over the next hour. I am so grateful for their good care. But when we were done I was informed all that Novocaine and nitrous was keeping me comfortable during an emergency root canal.

The doc talked to the receptionist at billing and explained this was unplanned. Thank goodness this small town doctor let me make a down payment and work out a plan during the next month to cover it. I reorganized the tally in my head and let out a sigh. The bill is always the worst part of a root canal. This is my third in a few years.

All this is something I feel is important to share. When I was working a 9 to 5 it was health insurance that kept me in a job I disliked above all else. Here in America it's what keeps a lot of people from pursing other careers or making choices for happiness. Anytime I even flirted with my friends or family about (what I knew was coming) leaving that job it was health insurance that they warned me about. They shared horror stories of people who lost home and marriage over medical bills. You can't leave a job with god insurance. You just can't.

You know, if I had children or a spouse I had vowed to love and protect I wouldn't have quit. I couldn't. Or if I had any sort of known medical issue it also would have a very different story. I would still find a way to farm but the quitting, the 6 years of working as a writer/farmer/designer, the time spent here hiking, hunting, running and riding - that would all be a distant dream. I was lucky to be single, healthy, and flexible with time and sacrifice of comfort to make the leap. 

What gave me courage to finally quit and pursue this farm was hearing from other local writers who made it work. Some were part of the local Chamber of Commerce and on those healthcare plans. Others had government assistance through medicaid/CHIP/Social Security. (I have never been on any sort of government assistance save for one unemployment check I cashed in Idaho.) Most full time writers I knew were on a working spouses’ healthcare plan. Others had private insurance (these were all very successful writers). This was before the ACA made insurance pools more affordable in NY. I tried to afford private care and couldn't make the payments. Not strange from many creatives out in the world of freelance, nor from many farmers. You want an independent life? No one is going to make it easy on you.

So I just went without. I used services through Planned Parenthood or Urgent Care here in my town when I needed medical help/check ups. But I figured it out, mostly thanks to small town doctors like my dentist. People who are willing to work with clients. I can say that over and over again, people in the medical field here in rural Veryork saw what I was doing and worked with me. This wasn't the case in small cities like Saratoga or Glens Falls, but in the sticks doctors work with uninsured farmers and workers to make things happen.

And that was the case for me. I now have a whole new set of bills but what is the point in focusing on the setbacks? Here’s the great news and what I am raising my mug of coffee to this morning: my skull is no longer packed with what could lead to a brain failing infection. That’s worth falling behind. That’s easier to sleep with than the haunting pain behind your eyes and jaw creeping towards your brain stem. So I am damn grateful I got care I needed and made it work without dental insurance. It's this farm's story and the story of countless others in rural communities caring for each other.

I’m encouraged by yesterday. I’m encouraged by the soap I am mailing to a librarian in Missouri and the artwork I am preparing to ship to Wales. These small sales add up. They make it possible to stay here. I’ve got almost 8 years into this farm and that’s 8 years of proof that I can make it work. And if my single, scrappy, uninsured self can do it I hope some of you realize you can too. If you have youth and health on your side - good for you. If you have the stubbornness to pursue a dream regardless of any hindrance - you are my hero. 

Winter will come and snow will once again cover this farm. When that first snowfall happens I will not be looking out an office window worrying about my commute home, already in the dark of the time change. I will be here. I will be designing, drawing, tending animals, eating from my frugal larder, and figuring out another month as I have for the last 87 on this piece of land. I’m still behind on the September mortgage but I’ll catch up. I have 87 times before. That’s a hell of a track record for an art major in the woods.

Now, back to work.

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