Anger Management 101

I’m practicing anger management as I deal with my insurance company.

I’m not sure whether it’s working, but I’m trying.

After August’s hurricane Irene storms, I noticed four damp spots on the ceiling in our master bedroom.

Since several “storm chasing” contractors canvassed our neighborhood after the storm and left literature on my door, I called one of them to inspect our roof.

Fernando, the insurance claim specialist, climbed up on the roof, took at least 20 pictures of our roof damage, then came down and showed them to me. Clearly our roof was hail damaged.

I called our State Farm Insurance agent to explain the problem. He sent an adjuster to look at the roof. I called Fernando and asked him to be here to make sure he stayed in the loop.

The adjuster went into the bedroom, glanced quickly at the water spots, left the room, went outside, and climbed on the roof. A few minutes later he came down and said since I filed a claim for wind damage and there wasn’t evidence of significant wind damage, they couldn’t help us.

Wind damage? I never said we had wind damage. I said we had hail damage.

No, he insisted, “You filed a claim under a wind damage cat code.”

What’s a cat code?

Oh, it’s a catastrophe code.

I’ve never heard of such a thing so I surely didn’t file a claim under a certain cat code.

Still he persisted and said since the wind damage only caused a few spots on the ceiling, that wouldn’t even meet our five percent deductible so State Farm couldn’t help me.

Wait a minute. We don’t have a five percent deductible. That would be ludicrous. Who can shell out five percent of the value of their home as a deductible? You better check your records because I’m sure we have a one percent deductible.

Well, it doesn’t matter anyway because it still wouldn’t be worth having the insurance company pay to repair a few wet spots, he said.

What about the hail damage on the roof?

Oh, I didn’t check the hail damage on the roof, he said, because that’s a different cat code and you filed a claim under a wind damage cat code.

I did not file a claim under a wind damage cat code. I told you that the water spots alerted me to the hail damage on the roof and I wanted you to inspect the hail damage.

Nope, can’t look at the hail damage because it’s the wrong cat code.

Let me just say I have had this exact conversation now with at least 10 different State Farm representatives. They all have exceptional phone skills and seem to be decent note takers because they keep saying, “Let me add that to the log Mrs. Turner,” and “Oh, let me check the log for that.” “Wow, Mrs. Turner this is a very long, detailed log.”

Ah yeah, it’s because I’ve talked to Jeff, Barbara, Ronnie, Greg, Loretta, Heather, Kate, and some new lady today I wanted to strangle because the first thing she said was, “I’m just going to put some notes down about this, okay?”

I get it!

State Farm representatives know how to take notes, review notes, and take more notes, and throw out cat code lingo, but does anyone know how to actually respond to a claim and let me fix my roof?

This is where the anger management comes in. The Mayo Clinic offers tips on managing anger and I decided to see how well I managed my anger directed at State Farm.


1. Take a time out.

Okay, I took several because this fiasco is now moving into the fourth or fifth week. I’ve had lunches with friends, even went on a little trip for a time out. It was even called “Time Out for Women.” Still the problem persists.

2. Once you’re calm, express your anger.

Check that off the list too. I called my local agent back and explained about the multiple phone calls, the long notes in my file, the misunderstanding about the cat code. Then she condescendingly said, “I hate to ask but have you talked to your husband about this? I mean are you both on the same page on this? Maybe your husband gave the wrong cat code.” Enough with the cat codes already! I didn’t even know cat codes existed until your adjuster told me I filed the wrong one, which I didn’t because I never once uttered the words “wind damage” or “cat code.”

3. Get some exercise.

Check that one too. It’s not helping my anger. It helps while I’m exercising but what about when the phone rings again and yet another agent says, “Let me check your record here…and take a few notes.” Talk about getting exercise. Talking to State Farm gets me plenty exercised.

4. Think before you speak.

Last week when I was sent back to my local agent, I calmly outlined the problem for the umpteenth time and she said, “Oh well, it looks like you already filed a claim on your roof for wind damage and it was denied. That’s what the notes say.” Take a deep breath. Be nice and think before I speak. Check. I did that. She referred me to the national call center. Now that’s always a helpful thing, right?

5. Identify possible solutions.

Okay, the solution is simple. Forget the wind damage cat code already. Let’s start over. What is the cat code for hail damage? Let’s just clean the slate here and I’ll live with the inaccurate wind damage claim and lose my “no-claims filed discount” and we’ll start over. Great idea. Let me just take a few notes to add to your file…

6. Stick with “I” statements that describe the problem.

Clearly I mastered this one. It’s all in the notes.

7. Don’t hold a grudge.

Still working on that one.

8. Use humor to release tension.

Okay, I’ve been singing this song all afternoon: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AFJu8DCH_b0

Believe me, I’m praying for all those helpful note taking and note reviewing agents I really am.

9. Practice Relaxation Techniques.

I went to yoga last week does that count? I just can’t seal in all that namaste peacefulness and draw it up every time I get referred to someone new and start reviewing all those stinking notes.

10. Know when to seek help.

I confess I’m stumped on this one. Where do I go for help? Clearly no one within the entire company wants to deal with my piddling roof problem especially when there are still people with flooded basements and bigger storm related problems. If I get referred to one more person and I have to reiterate my story one more time and wait for yet another friendly agent to check my notes, I’m going to need more help than a few anger management tips. In honor of Halloween, I might end up in the Funny Farm. You know, like in the late song from the sixties “where life is beautiful all the time and I’ll be happy to see those nice young men in their clean white coats? They’re coming to take me away he he ho ho to the Funny Farm?”

And to think it all started with a few spots on the ceiling and a call to my insurance company.


Back Door Friends

Yesterday I celebrated my 50-something birthday.

(I stopped counting after 50 because they’re piling up too fast.)

While I was in the shower, Nikki burst out into the hallway barking uncontrollably.

Someone is in my house, I thought, beginning to panic.

Then I heard a chorus of friends singing “Happy Birthday.”

Tracey, Erin, and Trina were serenading me on my birthday while I was still in my birthday suit.

Surely they would not come upstairs into the bathroom and continue this singing. Would they?

I quickly got out of the shower and wrapped up in a towel because with some people, you never know.

I walked out to the hallway and there they were standing at the foot of the stairs singing.

I’m not sure who was more shocked — me in my birthday suit when I heard them singing

or them when they saw me standing in front of them in a towel trying to cover my birthday suit.

Thankfully these singers are my “back door” friends,

the kind that can drop in anytime

and enter through the ugly part of my house,

and talk to me while I fold my underwear or lounge around in my pajamas without any make-up.

My “back door” friends are like family.

But, I never expected them to become “bathroom door” friends by singing to me in the shower.

Their plan was to drop off a smoothie for my breakfast and a birthday cake.

They rang the doorbell but I didn’t hear it because I was in the shower.

They saw my car in the garage and figured I must still be on my morning walk.

I guess they didn’t notice the rain…

So they punched in my very secret garage code

and came in the house to leave my birthday surprises.

Then they heard the shower running and Nikki barking wildly.

So they decided to serenade me.

What a way to start the day.

Planning to decorate the cake with candy, they asked my daughters which ones were my favorites.

Sara said, “I don’t think she’s ever met a treat she didn’t like.”


“But I think she loves the ends of licorice.”

Annie said, “Mom usually tries to eat healthy so I don’t really know.”

Hmm? Healthy candy.

They added chocolate cranberries to count as a healthy fruit.

This was their creation:

The fun didn’t end there.

Before my birthday I told them about a story one of the students in my writing class wrote

about being stuck in DC traffic for 12 hours last winter during an ice storm.

Yes, 12 hours.

He detailed the entire long, miserable commute.

All I could think about the entire next week was how I needed to get a better emergency kit for my car.

You can’t live in Washington D.C.which has the worst traffic in the nation,

and not be ready for to sit in traffic for hours.

His experience haunted me.

I told Trina about my student’s terrible ice storm plight

and my fears of having that happen to me, so she rallied a group of my friends

and they assembled an emergency car kit for me.

Yes, your eyes are seeing a port-a-potty

Other than the essential port-a-potty and toilet paper, the kit included essentials

like a bottle of wine to share with other stressed out commuters,

a compass, socks, a sewing kit for all that mending I might be carrying around

until I have a few spare minutes in the car,

chocolate — lots of it —

Sudoko and mind puzzles,Christmas cards to address, a notebook and pen,

markers and a drawing pad, a hangman game, Silly Puddy, toe warmers, and a rain jacket,

even a tube of cinnamon lip balm with a note that said, “if you’re really hungry, you can eat this.”

Nothing but the best from my friends

I love the quote that most of us don’t need therapists as much as we need friends to be silly with.

Oh how I love my silly friends, and the silly things they do.

But I think it might be time to change my garage code…


My Empty Nest

My empty nest.

No more back-to-school-nights, field hockey tournaments, spirit packs, and games.

No church youth meetings.

No sweaty girls lounging on the couch and eating snacks after field hockey practice.

No black bits of turf field ground into the carpet.

No jerseys, UnderArmour, and uniforms drying all over the house.

No team dinners.

No Bachelorette!

No waiting up on weekends for kids to come home.

No Homecoming float to build.

No Homecoming banner to carry in the parade.

Very little laundry.

No junk food.

No Annie singing in the shower.

No Sara watching Law & Order.

Fewer dirty dishes.


Clean bedrooms and bathrooms.

No school lunches to make.

No Friday night and Saturday night parties at our house.

No teenage angst and energy.

But, it’s all okay.


The empty nest life is not all bad.

I’m returning to other things in life that bring me joy

like writing, teaching, and spending time with my husband.

(A wonderful marriage helps immensely.)

I used to feel completely immersed

in all the details of my girls’ lives —

where they went, who they went with, when they would be home.

It was my job to teach, protect, and actively try to shape their lives for good.

Now they live 2,000 miles away.

They do their own laundry, make their own meals (or eat in the cafeteria).

And, I miss them every day.

I miss their physical presence in my daily world.

I even miss their dramas.

I miss their hugs the most.

But it is surprisingly, refreshingly okay.

Some days are too quiet, and their phone calls come just in time.

But, overall, living in this empty nest is more natural than I imagined.

There are moments and days when I ache for them to be closer.

But it is right for them to be where they are, doing what they’re doing,

which means it’s right for me to be without them…

for now.

I remind myself everyday that I’m still a mother.

I just have a different job description now.

And, it’s really, truly, wonderfully okay.

Memoir, Uncategorized


I consider myself a savvy suburban woman when I walk on the wooded trails behind my house.

I’ve taken self-defense classes and know about looking people in the eyes, holding my head high, and not listening to my ipod when I’m alone.

I know about people being trampled by deer, and women being assaulted.

So my danger antenna is up, in a healthy sort of cautionary way, not a paranoid pansy way.

Until I see a mouse.

I can't believe I'm posting this picture!

Then I freeze.

My courage is sapped.

Suddenly, I am my mother, a self-described “blithering idiot” when it comes to mice.

Cheerfully walking along, appreciating the cooler weather on the shaded path, I watch for squirrels that hop from limb to limb and shimmy up trees. They don’t bother me, but a mouse? They drive me crazy.

My mouse fear is my mother’s fault.

She taught me the only way to react to a mouse is to jump on the kitchen table and shout obscenities.

With no kitchen table in sight, I picked up my pace and sped past the little varmint as fast as I could, hoping it wouldn’t follow me.  Then all I could think about for the rest of the walk was that mouse.

Forget about the fall leaves, the sunshine after days of rain and cloudy skies.

I was afraid the frisky thing would dart out in front of me any minute.

And then I remembered Mom saying, “Where there’s one, there’s a whole family waiting to come out.”

Thank you for that Mother.

I imagined a whole nest of them scurrying around in the woods waiting for me to approach so they could run madly around me and send me into a frenzy that would land me in St. Elizabeth’s mental hospital.

Martha Stewart has gone too far.

Thanks again, Mom.

She’s the one who said she had a room reserved at the state mental because she knew she’d need it someday.

My mom  is a brave woman except when it comes to mice.  Well, and driving on the freeways… and driving at night … and flying… and using her cell phone… and…

Okay, never mind about her being brave.  I’ll say she has gumption, and courage and no one would dare take advantage of her.

But when a mouse pops its miserable little head in front of her with its wiry, snappy tale, she snaps and unravels right before your eyes.

She screams, grabs a broom, and jumps on the kitchen table to scream.

“You dirty rotten little beast! I can’t stand you.  Get out of my house.”

(I won’t write the other names she calls them because I don’t want WordPress to yank my blog…)

One day, she opened a kitchen drawer and saw a mouse scampering among her clean dish towels.

She jumped on the table, screamed and swore, and reached for the telephone to call my Dad to come home from work and save her. He wasn’t there, and she couldn’t find my brothers, so she called my brother’s friend to come and save her.  He is still her favorite friend of all my brother’s friends.

My own history with mice is not much better.

Many years ago, I left my apartment building to go to work, and walked out to my car in the parking lot.

I put the key in the door to unlock it and saw a mouse run across the dashboard, to the seat, and then disappear.

As I’d been taught, I screamed.

I thought somebody was playing an evil trick on me so I yelled at the bushes and said, “If you’re in there playing a trick on me  It’s not funny.  Come out and get the mouse out of my car now!”

Yes, I felt foolish.

I still feel foolish just admitting it.

Of course no one emerged from the bushes.

I asked one of the custodians from the building to help me.

Guess what he said?

“I’m afraid of mice!  Let me see if I can get someone else to help us.”

A team of custodians followed me to my car.  They fumigated it with a poison.

I, of course, took the metro for several days.

Finally, after the memory faded and the toxic smell evaporated, I drove to work again.

Months later, I was driving a friend home from a party and felt a hard thump on my gas pedal foot.

I looked down and discovered a dead, calcified mouse sitting on my foot.

I stopped the car in the middle of the road (thank goodness it was late and there were no other cars around!), and I jumped out screaming.

My friend removed the mouse from the car and all I could think for weeks was that I needed to sell the car.

I could not drive a mouse-infested car even if the mouse was dead.

I managed to keep the car, but obviously never lost my fear of mice.

I have my not-so-brave mother to blame for all of this ridiculousness.

Oh, and one detail I may have omitted about the mouse I saw on the trail that I worried might bring it’s family and dance around me and send me into a frenzy…

It was dead.