That’ll Do Vermont

photo by David Hamilton

Those of you who have lived in Vermont or spend significant time here will understand the title. It may be said with a roll of the eyes, with a sigh and a nod, or with a pointing finger while you look around frantically for someone to share it with. It is borne of the energy it takes to deal with all the fecking beautiful moments. Seriously Vermont? AGAIN? It’s actually why we have mud and stick season because we’d all just explode if we didn’t get some rest.

And then there’s the Social Security Office

A couple weeks ago, I decided it was time to apply for Disability. Lucky for me, IBC is one of the diseases that Soc. Sec. considers worthy. Luck is perception. So of course since the last time I went on to the SS site I have changed my phone number which means I have to wait for a secret code to arrive in the mail. Said code arrived and on Friday I sat down to work.

First page, typical deets, name, ssn, place of birth, what are you applying for… Second page similar, then, bottom of the page, this:

  • (pretend this dot is a checkbox) This disability will be the cause of my death.
  • (same) This disability will NOT be the cause of my death

Ouch. That seems a little strong. So, I go with positivity (I hear it cures cancer) and check the second. Then I think… will they not give me disability then? And, who knows, it may well be so (a very long way off kids). So I check the second. Then this pops up:

Why? What are they going to ask? Will I be in trouble?
It’s the government after all .

So, it’s to 9 weeks older Mentor Mo I go. Me: So I’m filling out the SS and it asks if I am going to die from this disability. Did you say yes? Answer (in true Mo straightforward manner): Yeah, that one got me. I think I said yes b/c it may be in 20 years (see kids?) but something related to this is gonna get me eventually.

I finish the application, download and print all my medical records, and dutifully call the SS office. After the requisite 15 minutes of muzak and how much they care about my call I am connected with a woman. Me: “Hi, so I just filled out the disability application and I checked the box that says this disability will be the cause of my death (pretty easy to say to a stranger, really, it was). Woman: “Okay, let’s get some info from you (the usual deets to prove I am me). Okay Mary, so what we are going to do is expedite this for you. Usually these claims go to Boston but we are going to keep it here in Vermont so we can take care of it more quickly. You can bring your medical records in and you don’t have to wait in line. Just give them to the attendant. Make sure you write TERI on the envelope. Me: So are you Teri? Woman: Oh no, that’s a code to expedite. My name is Lisa. Me: Oh, I just wanted to thank you Lisa. Lisa: You’re very welcome. (Me in my mind: well she was nice.)

An hour later I enter the new fangled Social Security offices on Lakeside Drive – truly an upgrade from Pearl St. where you felt like a middle easterner in the back customs room at JFK (not that I know how that feels, being a privileged white woman, but I have spent a lot of time in that room as there is a very bad Mary Hamilton floating around the US who I apparently look more and more like as I age so the interviews get longer and longer with agents gathering around the computer monitor to discuss whether my eyebrows and nose match the wanted photos, which they, of course, refuse to let me see). Sorry, back to the story: the room has the requisite multiple rows of seats facing the monitor showing the next number being served. Said seats are filled, all eyes on the monitor. I walk in front of them waiting for the “Hey, get in line!” and approach the attendant fellow. Me: “Hi, I just spoke with someone about..” Him: big smile, “You must be Mary? Let me have that envelope and I’ll take it back to Lisa to make sure we have everything we need.”

Are you fucking kidding me? That’ll do Vermont.

“Bullying My Body”

I recently had coffee with my friend Mario who was diagnosed with an aggressive breast cancer a couple years ago while her son and I were still at Vermont Commons School together; he a beloved student with an impish grin and a penchant for misbehaving; ie. nicking food I was planning on serving at a school event and scarpering (can you tell I’m watching a lot of British TV?), me with a penchant for kids with impish grins and scarpering (I also love dogs that refuse to come when called, I relish independence at my own inconvenience I guess).

As we settled into our coffee and tea Mario talked about the immediate sea change she experienced toward her breasts and her body when she received her diagnosis. She said she had spent her whole life bullying her breasts, too big, too dangly. No wonder they had sprouted cancer. I had felt the same change.

If there were anything I wish I could share with women young and old and have them REALLY absorb it, it is just that. Stop bullying your body. Cherish your breasts, big, small, pointing this way and that, droopy, inverted nippled, perky but too tiny, left bigger than right, right smaller than left and vice versa. Cherish your belly that did or didn’t hold your babies (yeah, I know the uterus holds the babies, sheesh), stretch marks, moles, muffin top, or abs of steel. Thank your legs, cellulite, jodhpurs, cankles, dimpled knees. Love your jiggly upper arms, your oxter (remember that word? Well done!) bra overflow. It’s all YOU, and is also so not YOU. Binary thinking (remember that lesson? Well done!). It’s magic and is one of the greatest gifts this breast cancer has given me. I may not be perfectly in love with my body, but man, I am SO MUCH CLOSER than I have ever been.

Breaking News!

Gene test passed!

Many people have now heard of the BRCA gene tests 1 and 2. The name BRCA is derived from the very complex etiology, BReast CAncer. The scientists were burning the midnight oil on naming that one! Angelina Jolie (among gajillions of lesser known woman with breasts) had pre-emptive double mastectomies due to having the BRCA gene. Having this gene means you have a 50% chance of developing breast cancer, as do your children, especially daughters though sons also have an increased risk of certain cancers. AND, then they (both sons and daughters) pass it down to their children… The whole world can feel like a fucking time bomb. BUT not in my case! I can tell you I was NOT looking forward to telling Maggz she now had a 50% chance of getting breast cancer in those gorgeous breasts of hers. Now she just has the the second greatest risk factor: having those gorgeous breasts at all.

Anyhoo, now they test for 67 different genes that cause cancer. And I scored a ZERO, ie. I got an A+. I was going to say 100% but I thought that might confuse some of you. My genetic testing counselor summed it up “So, we don’t know why you have cancer.” Yeah, the world is mysterious like that.

And finally, Fertility.

Not my own biological, but that kind of fertility that is wrought of love, pain, fear, community; the roughing up of life’s soil, the turning over of loam to find earthworms (and grubs) doing their thing in the dark, the digging in together and seeing what we can create. Thank you to every member of my Co-Parenting Community. Because of you (and the purring cat Gypsy) the coral in my breast is reconfiguring, is talking to my other cells and realizing maybe it would like to be a member of this welcoming and non-competitive group where everyone shares their cookies and milk. Maybe it can dream of coral and not actually BE coral (binary thinking but you knew that).

Coral Dreaming

My mother’s day present from Will.

2 thoughts on “That’ll Do Vermont

  1. This post brought tears to my eyes, especially the part about loving your bod… as I have struggled mightily my whole life with this, and every time I see a photo from days gone by, I marvel at how cute I was and remember hating the photo (my portion of it, anyway) at the time. This is a great reminder!!! And yes, aren’t Vermonters working at some of these offices just so nice?! I’ve had many positive exchanges and favors (forgot to send in sales tax on time, a time or two..) I’m always grateful I’m speaking to a real person who lives right here and is to help! Thanks for sharing these experiences, keeping gratitude and humor at the forefront and just being your awesome self! Love you!!!! Please add me to your chore list or any other list of ways to be useful to you and your family.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. 10:30pm, wishing I had something (ANYTHING!) in the house that resembled dessert, and in pops your latest, beautiful missive on all things important important and meaningful. MUCH better than dessert, especially with stories of kind bureaucrats, appreciated cellulite, and zero genetic markers for cancer (never mind the reality). It’s therapy for all of us – thank you!! xoxoxox

    Liked by 1 person

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