Monthly Archives: March 2017

The Puzzle Prince and the Magic Box

A Cautiously Optimistic Tale of Victory Over Health Insurance Bureaucracy…Maybe

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Once upon a time, there was a widowed mother who lived with her boy in a small hovel near a grand village. Her son—a prince under a puzzling curse—could not speak.*

One day, his widowed mother decides to ask the Blue-Insurance Faerie if, maybe, just maybe, the puzzle prince qualifies for a magic box that will talk for him.

The Blue Insurance Faerie—we’ll call this entity ‘BIF’ for short—is all for it.

“Just have your Fairy God-Doctor write a referral.” Says BIF. (August 2016)

After contacting her son’s Fairy God-Doctor, a referral is written for a speech evaluation. (Sept 6, 2016)

You see, even though everyone in the kingdom agrees that her son cannot speak, someone with a magic decree in speech therapy has to write a scroll in the arcane tongue of long-dead medical professionals so BIF will be able to open a magical case.

The Fairy God-Doctor assures the widowed mother and her son, the puzzle prince, that all is in hand. But she warns them,

“This paper is only good for sixty days. Be sure to get the pumpkin back to the castle before the deadline at midnight!”

The widowed mother, who is trying to keep the puzzle prince from climbing the walls, absentmindedly nods her thanks.

A wizard is summoned from The Free Bed of Mary. (Mary is accommodating that way.)

The wizard examines the prince.

“Tell me the way to your home, my child!” The kindly wizard asks.

“Kerride! Baaaall On! Piper!” Says the puzzle prince.

“Where is the place of your living, my child?” Asks the Wizard, this time poking at a magic box to show some options for answers.

The prince types his reply into the box:

“Car Ride. Balloons. Paper.” Says the magic box.

“Well, at least he knows what he wants.” Says the wizard.

The referral is granted. The kingdom rejoices.

“But wait!” Says the Speech Wizard. “Now you must pass through the dangerous authorization process. There be dragons in them thar hills!”

Or, to be precise, there are elves and worker drones to negotiate with.

“These elves don’t make cookies! They make red tape!” The Speech Wizard warns. “And sometimes, they make trouble!”

“We’ll cross that troll bridge when we come to it.” Says the widowed mother.

Red Tape Elves (2)
I couldn’t stop laughing. Red tape has never been so funny! Artwork by Rob O’Neil

 

Once the Speech Wizard makes the recommendation, BIF leaps into action. And by this, I mean, the blue insurance fairy writes a spell to summon the third-party insurance providers who evaluate claims for durable medical equipment. These industrious elves live in a crooked tree which is hidden in the Wood in the far North.**

BIF asks the WoodNorth elves to authorize a magic box for the puzzle prince.

The WoodNorth elf is happy to help.

“I will send a fax spell to the magic box makers and beseech their aid!” The WoodNorth elf says.

The WoodNorth elf holds a scroll of ancient words up to a branch of the tree, waves a wand, and shouts:

*FACSILIMUS TOTALIS!* (September–something–2016)

Sadly, the makers of the talking box—we’ll call them “Print-Me Promise”—have a shield around their hive and the spell is repelled.

Weeks pass.

The WoodNorth elves are happily certain that the magic fax was received. So they leave the puzzle prince’s case to molder.

The Print-Me-Promise hive, which incorporates many worker drones to make equipment intended to survive being thrown by giants having a tantrum, has no clue a spell is expiring outside its fortress.

The prince is left to rot by the widowed mother who is trying to keep him from breaking into the neighboring castles or melting down their hovel by setting the microwave on fire.

Time passes. Nothing happens. The WoodNorth elves get curious…they use a magic nut to contact the Print-Me-Promise drones.

“So…what is the status on the fax we sent?” Asks the WoodNorth elf-in-charge.

“What fax?” The drones reply. “We didn’t get any fax. The fax queue shows nothing in our log.”

“Sigh,” says the WoodNorth Elf. “Let down your barriers and we’ll try again.”

“Buzz, buzz.” Says the drone…which the elf translates as, “Go ahead, make my day.”

Meanwhile. The magic paper that the Fairy God-Doctor wrote at the beginning of the tale dies a quiet death and no one notices.

“Ack. Argh. Gurgle.” Says the magic paper.

With me so far? Excellent, it’s about to get worse

Before long, the Print-Me-Promise drones read the magic paper, realize that the deadline has expired, and notify the widowed mother that they will request a resubmission from the Blue Fairy God-Doctor…or maybe the elves…the widowed isn’t sure. She is busy prying a screw driver away from the prince who has disassembled his desktop computer monitor—a sacrifice to the gods of curiosity.

Hive
“Buzz, Buzz, Buzz.” Not translated, but I’m sure you get the gist.  Artwork by Rob O’Neil

“Someone is to blame but it isn’t the Print-Me-Promise drones, that’s for sure.” Said the hive representative. “We’ll ask for another magic paper. Don’t you worry.” (October 5, 2016)

“Sigh.” Says the widowed mother.

“Kerride.” Mumble-shouts the prince.

“Zapp, Pow…Kersquitch!” Says the microwave, before dying dramatic death.

A second magic request is sent by the Blue Insurance Fairy to the drones at Print-Me Promise. (Apparently the elves are bypassed entirely this time.) (11-9-2016)

The snows begin to fall. Much revels overtake the kingdom. A turkey avoids the slaughter because everyone in the house prefers chicken for the Giving of Thanks.

The elves and the hive are quiet.

The widowed mother becomes nervous as the time of lights approaches. If the magic box isn’t approved before the year’s end…she may have to pay a price to the Blue Insurance Fairy—and the out-of-pocket deductible is $1,500 gold coins.

In alternate messages with the Elves and the Drones, the widowed mother is told:

“It’s the fault of the elves…they didn’t get the request to us before the first paper expired.”

“It’s the fault of the drones. We sent them a second referral.” Say the elves.

“Just fix it.” Yells the impatient, widowed mother.

“Bacon, Bacon, Bacon!” Yells the puzzle prince, who grows an inch-a-day when he eats the deliciously meaty ambrosia.

(Strangely, ‘bacon’ is one of the few words the puzzle prince enunciates perfectly. Go figure.)

As the tree-of-green is placed in their hovel and blue lights are strewn upon it, the industrious elves and the equally frantic worker drones are swishing magic pieces of paper back and forth trying to appease the deadline ogre in the Blue-Insurance Fairy’s dungeon.

Finally, the ogre living in BIF’s basement roars:

“Enough! Just give the blasted prince a box and leave me in peace!”

Just before the bells of the new year ring, a magic box is promised.

“Your wish has been granted.” Says the WoodNorth elf.

“We have a binding contract!” Say the drones. “A magic box is on its way.” (December 28, 2016.)

“We’ll call when the magic box comes in.” Says the wizard from the Free Bed of Mary.

Puzzle Prince and Blue Fairy
In reality, the prince looms over the widowed mother, but we had to keep him in frame, so he’s kneeling in this picture. Artwork by Rob O’Neil

As the snows melt to reveal a strangely dirt-encrusted January, in the grand village, the happy puzzle prince pushes a few buttons:

“Car ride. Car ride. Car ride.” Says the magic box.

“Sigh.” Says the widowed mother, who grabs her coat and keys.

Their blue coach backs out of the driveway and travels to many magical places each time the magic box asks nicely.

The prince and his widowed mother and the magic box live happily ever after….

Or do they?***

 

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:

*And, apparently, his mother can’t type. I spelled it ‘speek’ the first time.

**Names of agencies have been cleverly changed to protect against lawsuit.

***To Be Frustratingly Continued…

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Passé, Blasé, Just Plain Manqué!

Aging ain’t pretty and, sometimes, it gets downright ugly. You are forced to evaluate yourself for flaws and failures. Blogs are no different from people in that respect.

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Cake on Fire CLip art kid
Flaming Cake courtesy of Photobucket.com (wherein the word ‘courtesy’ means ‘stolen.’)

Facebook’s insistence that everyone in the world wish you a Happy Birthday resulted in people I haven’t spoken with in years contacting me last week when I became a quinquagenarian.*

In one exchange, an old friend asks me how I’ve been doing and I oh-so-subtly direct him to the wonders of my blog. His response?

“…Blogs are so passé…”**

*Ouch*

I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I put my heart and soul into what I write. This off-hand dismissal of my craft resulted in the following poetic interlude—performed in the key of é.

Critique Not-so Enchanté

My writing is passé,

Or so you say!

Perhaps you are no devoteé?

Or maybe you are just a protégé without caché?

I may sometimes, How do you say?, write a hit out of the park!

(Parquet?)

Sometimes it’s a swing-and-a-miss—or manqué.***

My writing may even skirt the edge of cliché!

But always, I churn the brain frappé

To scoop out a little grey cell pâté.

A luscious, literary canapé!

No hard-boiled reporter am I, producing the latest exposé!

But I do not deserve to be roasted a lá flambé!

Mayhap you will reconsider your communiqué?

But as for me, I am très désolé.

So there you have it. A damning condemnation that not only am I unoriginal, practically staring down the barrel of obsolescence, but so is my writing medium. (Not well done!)

Turning half-a-decade makes a person stop and think! Where exactly am I headed? Have I missed my chance to reinvent myself when I haven’t even invented myself yet in the first place?

Actual Birthday Cake
Nothing snarky here, just showing you my actual birthday cake baked by my mom.

 

Have I’ve officially reached a plateau that says: “Nothing new, innovative, or fresh expected. Move along!!?”

Perhaps it is fatalism of creativity? Maybe I suffer ennui? But I will steal from a kindred spirit—a voice who calls from the realm of the dead. I will lick the pen of a poet and echo  Stéphane Mallarme :

Je me mire et me vois ange! et je meurs, et j’aime —Que la vitre soit l’art, soit la mysticité— A renaître, portant mon rêve en diadème, Au ciel antérieur où fleurit la Beauté.

(Translation)

I can see my reflection like that of an angel! And I feel that I am dying, and, through the medium Of art or of mystical experience, I want to be reborn, Wearing my dream like a diadem, in some better land Where beauty flourishes.)

                                                                                                      Stéphane Mallarmé

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:

*L is the new XL (I’m talking Roman numerals, people, not size!)

**My immediate response? “Oh yeah? Well…your face is passé!”

***I noticed the odd appearance of accented ‘é’ words and cleverly sensed a theme. When I saw Manqué on a list of words ending in é, I had to use it. And then, there is the neato twist: where the definition for manqué conveniently defines how it feels to turn 50!

Man·qué (mäNGˈkā/) adjective:

having failed to become what one might have been; unfulfilled.

 

___________________________🎂🎂🎂🎂🎂___________________________

You’ve read this far bonus:

For those of you who missed it before, here’s the CARROT CAKE RECIPE for the cake my mom makes.

The Dungeon, The Escapee, and Occidental Fudge

Just after posting my celebratory hurrah about our South Haven Adventures last week, I get home and decide to compound my success by being a ‘good parent.’*

“C’mon son. Let’s go for a walk.” I say.

I’m thinking of a brisk stroll, fresh air, and then getting back to the house to tackle some work. It is a good game plan.**

As I have mentioned before, my son is a runner. He would explore a lion’s den given half a chance. Like Austin Powers, his middle name is “Danger.” Unfortunately, this evening is no exception. As we walk, he keeps pointing out buildings he would like to ‘visit’ and even writes house numbers down on his papers when I don’t seem to pick up on his subtle signals when he tries to drag me to the front door.

The night is turning colder when I spot the Grand Villa in the distance. This is a local restaurant which goes by the nickname “The Dungeon” because of its subterranean locale. If I had seen their website beforehand, I might have taken heed of the warning they post in their tagline:

“THE DUNGEON IS WAITING FOR YOU”

Teeth chattering, I haul my child away from the housing complex he is lunging toward—a nondescript giant block of apartments in what once was a large family home. Seeing as my son is now 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighs as much as an overindulged Great Dane, this takes some effort.

I lure him in with the promise of chocolate milk.

Twenty minutes later, warm again and well quaffed, we gather our things to go. Then I consider the nearly mile-long walk back to the house…in the cold…and decide the bathroom should be our first stop. I send my son into the men’s room and wait for a few seconds…before deciding I’d better make sure myself and pop into the ladies.

I swear I peed in less than a minute and was back out to wait for my son. A MINUTE.  That’s all it took.  My clever, devious, Machiavellian boy was gone.

You can pretty much predict the rest. After a frantic and futile search of the area, I’m on the phone with 911. While talking with them, I see a police car pull up alongside the road. I hail them while I’m on the phone with the operator.***

Now I’m babbling at two different sets of people—neither of whom can understand me—when someone calls out:

“We’ve found him!”

Another police officer escorts my happy, oblivious-to-the-chaos-he-causes boy to my weeping embrace.

My son is returned safe and sound and, though he had broken into a home, no one is hurt. A few papers are stolen and have to be retrieved. He’d even had time to scribble calendars on the back as a memento to the family he invaded. I hope they frame them.

In those interminable minutes he is out of my grasp, I imagine enough scenarios to make my heart stop a thousand times. I am honestly surprised it doesn’t kill me.

Once home, my child goes to bed with no complaints. I think on some level he recognizes mommy has had it. I turn off my phone and tune out the world and spend the evening overwrought and shaking.

The next day, I find the energy to call my mom.

“Hey, mom…Little Man is okay, but I have to tell you something that happened last night. Understand, I can’t take any comments about what might have happened. I still feel so emotionally raw I can barely breathe.”

My mom knows about loss. I had a sister—Robin. She died of crib death before I was even born. As a result, mom has had a super-charged paranoia about any dangers we faced as kids and I think this has multiplied exponentially for her grandchildren.

I re-live the night before as factually as I can without breaking down. She lets me vent. It is what I need—a shoulder to cry on without judgment. It is phone call catharsis at its best. Mom says she’ll check in on me later, but she has something to do first. I ring off feeling a shade lighter than before.

My mom stops by that afternoon, carrying a cooler. I unpack it while she tells me a story of her own. When I get to the table with a warm bundle wrapped in a towel, she is drawing me a map as she talks:

“When I was a little girl, my father took me to the ice cream shop at the Occidental Hotel in Muskegon. It’s torn down now, but it was located between Clay and Webster Street downtown—it’s in the same area the Frauenthal Theater and the culinary school are now.”

I pull up my computer to help in the search for yesteryear landmarks. We have a doozy of a time since mom—who has a much better sense of direction than me—apparently can’t reorient her mind to the north-on-top directionality Google maps insists on presenting.

Map to Occidental

“Anyway, they had a famous hot fudge sauce that I absolutely loved. We didn’t go out very often so it was a big treat to go there. So I made this for you!”

As mom is saying this, she’s unwrapping the towel to reveal a small Corningware casserole dish wrapped in plastic wrap with a band of duct tape for extra insurance. (She’s not messing around with spills!)

“After you told me about your adventure, I thought you could use a treat.” Mom says.

She makes me sit down with a big bowl of ice cream and a dollop of the chocolaty, silken sauce melting over the white caps of vanilla-y goodness.

She then tells me more about our connections to the famed hotel with the equally famous sauce.

“Do you remember the lamp your father brought back when they sold off the property and its belongings?” She asks.

I would have been eight in 1975, and home furnishings weren’t a high priority in my experience, so I shake my head and take a bite. I swallow her memories with each taste.

“It was a heavy iron lamp and we put it in your room with the flowered Crosscill bedspread and curtains—you remember those?”

I had loved that frilly bedroom set up until I left for the Army. It was gone when I got back home four years later and I truly mourned its loss. I nod and lick the spoon. No words are necessary when you have hot fudge. Mom continues to wax nostalgic about the past:

“I was nineteen in 1959. I remember going to a Valentine’s dance there once–sponsored by the Elks, I think. A boyfriend, Jack Boles, took me to a ball at the hotel when we were dating. Do you remember the beautiful dress you borrowed for school that was stolen?”

This I distinctly remember. It was my first experience with theft. I borrowed it for a theater skit for a character in the show. It was gorgeous red dress of some kind of stiff but silky material. I have never quite forgiven myself for losing that dress.

“It was a play, Mom. We were performing at the elementary school. The dress disappeared from the prop and costume boxes before we finished the shows.” I interject. I’m apologetic—it’s a script we’ve enacted whenever we rehash the event.

“It had a square bodice and the style was so grown up. The sheer overlay matched the underskirt perfectly. Do you remember the fabric?” Mom holds her hands out as if measuring the width of a belled skirt.

“It had a swirly pattern—nothing distinct, like paisley, but more like the swirls you see when oil floats on water.” I say.

[A hunt online produced similar styles but nothing is exactly like what she had:]

Now it’s her turn to nod.

Yes! I wore it when I was in the beauty contest at the ball—you’ve seen that picture, right?”

It is a small, black-n-white snapshot of three women in ball gowns. Mom was the first runner-up. In the photo, she stands to the left of two other women—all dressed up and carrying bouquets of now, long-dead flowers. It was a night of beautiful memories.

Mary Moeller - Beauty Contest3
Left to right: Mary (Mom) Benson, Joan Wachovia, and Sharon (last name unknown)

 

The fudge sauce is slowly disappearing as we reminisce. We look online trying to find a photo of the ice cream parlor that existed before The Occidental Hotel was imploded in 1975 to make way for a parking lot. But all we can find are details of the implosion. The article is an epitaph for a leveled landmark torn down in pursuit of a mall that would later close of its own fiscal demise.

The ice cream is gone and I scoop up the remains of the cooling, lava-like gooeyness to store in the fridge.

“Be sure to hide it from the boy or he’ll eat it all!” Mom warns before giving me a hug goodbye.

It’s after she’s gone and I’m cleaning up that I realize what she’s done. It is what all mothers do—try to make it better. When you skin your knee, she offers a kiss. It is a little sugar to take away the bitterness that life sometimes hands you. I may be an adult, but I am not immune to the sway of childhood remedies or memories—be they mine or my mother’s. The sweetness cannot stop the pain, but it can make it better. And when those remembrances come with chocolate sauce—it surely does.

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:

*Being a Good Parent—a laudable goal that, when I try to do it on purpose, results in immediate failure.

**Life is out to get me most of the time and rarely needs a good reason. Still, I thought, in light of my good intentions, the universe was being a real shit not to reward me.

***No matter how many times I have called 911, I do not improve with experience. I am just as hysterical and useless each and every time. I owe sincere apologies to the people who man those phones…and probably a fruit basket.

 

———–You read this far bonus—————–

I just had to include this photo. It is the entire line up of contestants from that long ago Valentine’s beauty pageant.

Mary Moeller - Beauty Contest

Scaling The Asylum Walls, Masonic Temple of Doom and Other Autistic Adventures…

They say you can never go home again. What they fail to tell you is, really, you can never go back to any place you’ve ever been…and sometimes, you’re lucky not to get a restraining order enforcing it.

Continue reading Scaling The Asylum Walls, Masonic Temple of Doom and Other Autistic Adventures…