The Dabble

-food with a side of life-

Common Ground With Cheese Noodles

First, I was pleasantly surprised about the support and comments from yesterday’s post. I was hesitant to divulge that rant that I wrote a few months back. From the remarks I received, I know that I am in good company about debt and education issues. I do believe something will give, things will become better and all that jazz but no joke, will be when I’m of retirement age (I’ll be the one in the box because I had to close my retirement account to pay for my wisdom teeth removal in ’10).

Today is not that time for improvement: I found out yesterday that the wisdom teeth procedure will cost us beyond anything we can pay…even though the quote was much lower a few weeks ago. I have been talking about that more than I actually ever intended but it represents something bigger, something relevant for people struggling, common ground and a chance to share. Please do share-you aren’t alone.

I have not been sleeping well. I dream (it seems) throughout the early morning until I wake up for the day and feel exhausted. I slept on the couch this morning and that seemed to help. Who knew a couch would be better than a mattress? These dreams of the past resonated/resembled the time that I spent at my first post-college job and I would like to talk about that…maybe that will help clear it from my subconscious.

Cheese Noodles
Cheese Noodles

There’s a woman at a psychiatric hospital. (There were only 9 beds in this “hospital” a few years ago, not so much a hospital that you might have in mind as an office for social workers and support staff.) She was not a patient, even though she could’ve used the service (our insurance as employees wouldn’t have covered it). She spells her name with a lowercase ‘d’ because when she was young, she was diagnosed with ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder) which as an adult I would call, in her case, being a bitch. (I think ODD is real and am not making comment about the disorder, just her-I come from a psych background and value the science.) This was one of the people that “ran” the “hospital.”

Our relationship, as coworkers, started on a good note and ended with an outburst of fury (from her) in front of my officemates and a brash 2 week notice from me on a bright yellow sheet of paper…which happened by accident but made me smile when my supervisor gave it to her. I think I have another seemingly innocent supervisor to thank for her outburst- she was obviously misled about the situation by this guy, whom I thought was a friendly acquaintance.

I sat there stunned…I didn’t deserve that and she made quite a few more enemies that day- my friends had my back. Word got round to human resources (the daughter of the head was a friend of mine), complaints were filed (making it one of dozens about this woman) and I was told that I could come back any time I wanted and that they knew how valuable I personally was to the agency. I was one of the more consistent and legitimately high hour billers…I was damn good at being an advocate too.

I worked for this hospital as a school-based case manager with adolescents, the other option was a home-based case manager but I’m just going to let the secret out that regardless of your title, your position was going to overlap into the other every day. Also not stated outright was that if you wanted to perform your job as it should be done, you were on-call 24/7…in my case paid around $11/hour with no overtime, utilizing my degree that put me deep into debt. I could barely pay my half of the bills.

A child’s success needs to encompass the whole of their life (it does take a village) so it was always understood that I would need to address any issues in the home with the family, as well as, at the school. It didn’t help that there was a 3 month waiting list for a home-based case manager (who often ended up, in my case, not taking their job seriously and causing more work for me).

Funny story, one of my client’s told me that their home-based case manager took them to her house to have the client clean….big no no. Another funny story, one of the case managers (there were over 120 when I came in) went to a cemetery and started signing corpses up for Medicaid and billing the hours so they could golf or something during the work day. Ok, so they weren’t funny and one of them was fired.

Over 90% of the hospital’s clients were on Medicaid. I found that if a client’s parent/parents had to pay that the hospital wasn’t compensated nearly the amount owed and would allow continued service for some time, all the while asking that when case managers signed the clients into service that they put into place a sliding fee scale for the family so that the normal $100/hour service was lowered. Can you see how at $11/hour-not being salary-using my 5 year degree with $75,000 in student loan debt might upset me? There’s more to that that I don’t want to get into right now.

So there are others agencies in the community, therapists, doctors, medication management specialists, counselors, principals, teachers, if they got off the 3 month home-based case manager waiting list-the other case manager, moms, dads, siblings, stepparents, grandparents, friends, resource room aids, bus drivers, judges, probation officers, police and on and on to work with and communicate to in order to be on the same page. That’s not considering the time spent in the classroom to correct/help the client’s behavior and academic goals, after school help, seemingly endless paperwork and daily fee slips that took me over an hour to do because documentation in the proper manner is needed in order for Medicaid to show us the money. Keep in mind that the field of social work is not really close to the field of education -different rules, needs, etc.

It was eye-opening and disheartening to find out that adults, very often, could be immature and don’t have helping children/adolescents in their best interest or high priority, many different agendas were involved (still are), even though they are willingly in that career field.

There was such a high turnover rate at the hospital and an increasingly angry crowd of case managers upset about the treatment at some of the schools and the hospital. Imagine the largest and youngest population given cell phones, travel reimbursement (to an extent) and the ability to come and go as we pleased into the community to perform our jobs while everyone else stayed within the hospital (you know, doing their job). Then imagine the older population bitching about this. Tell me how you think we were treated. Impressions were made that case managers were a dime a dozen, even though I imagine we were bringing in most of the non-profit’s money. All of this contributed to the agency attempting to hire more and more case managers, all the while doing nothing about the growing unrest.

The woman I spoke of earlier wasn’t even the worst of the characters I encountered. I don’t think I’m emotionally ready to say a little something about that guy. That woman was only one of the characters in my brief career as a case manager (social worker, not nurse) that made my life hell. Even a few years later, I have nightmares about several incidents that occurred.

I need cheese and noodles; those make me feel better. I don’t usually put myself on the “emotional eater” platform but today is an off day. This recipe comes from Paula Deen. I only added leftover roasted turkey and changed a few amounts, not necessary but helpful when cleaning out the refrigerator. I placed this yummy goodness on top of mashed potatoes and ate away the pain (kidding). I’m of healthy weight and working out so don’t worry your pretty head about me.

Cheese Noodles
Cheese Noodles

Cheese Noodles from Paula Deen, adapted by me slightly
Serves 4

1 cup cottage cheese
1 cup sour cream
½ onion, diced
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
¾ tsp garlic salt
12 oz. fine egg noodles, cooked
1 cup Parmesan, grated
½ lb. roast turkey or chicken, shredded-optional

Cook the noodles according to their directions.

Preheat the oven to 350. Mix together the cottage cheese, sour cream, onion, Worcestershire and garlic salt. Add the cooked noodles and place in a greased casserole dish. Sprinkle the top with Parmesan and bake for 45 minutes. Serve over mashed potatoes, if you wish. (I wished.)

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