Someone Going To Emergency

As a freelancer, one of the most stressful parts of the job is the lack of a safety net. When life happens, there is no one else in the office to take on a little more work to keep projects flowing through the pipeline. Support requests are delayed. Deadlines are impacted.

This weekend, the biggest unexpected incident in our little family happened.

Olivia, our oldest who is three, had been coughing at bedtime for a couple of days. Her allergist had suggested that she may have asthma a few weeks before, but we weren’t really sure what the symptoms looked liked in Olivia. We gave her medicine on Wednesday evening. Thursday, she progressively had a more difficult time breathing, requiring higher doses at lower intervals.

Finally, near 10 p.m. Thursday, she woke herself up coughing. We gave her the dose we had increased to and it didn’t work. Labored breathing, wheezing, coughing. We spoke to the on-call doctor at her pediatric allergist’s office. Time to move.

As a kid, I went to the ER a few times. In every case, we waited in the waiting room for sometime. I went to the military clinic, so there was not an urgent care option (at least back then), so the emergency room was the after-hour solution. It was always a wait. A long, long wait.

When you take a child into an ER complaining of difficulty breathing, let’s just say things are different:

Desk Person: “Hi, what can we do you for today?”
Me: “My daughter is having difficulty breathing. The on-call doc at her allergist told us to come to the ER.”
Triage Nurse (overhearing us, comes over from her station): “When did this begin? What medications has she been administered?”
Me: “This immediate set of issues began about 24 hours ago. She had been responding to albuterol via neb, but we’ve had to increase the dose to X and decrease the interval throughout the day to Y.”
Triage Nurse (listening to her chest): “She’s tight.” (To another person) “Take her back.”
Desk Person (handing me a pencil and a scrap of paper): “Her name and date of birth.”

And that was it. We were in a room.

Early into her hospital stay.

Early into her hospital stay.

Again, as a child in a military emergency room, I didn’t have a high set of expectations in terms of user experience for the ER. This experience has taught me that if you need to bring a child to the ER or hospital and there is a children’s hospital within a reasonable distance, go there. One of the pros of purchasing our house where we did is that you can see the children’s hospital from our upstairs landing.

As soon as they gave her a quick assessment and hooked her up to an oxygen monitor, her RN opened up a package of bubble solution and started playing with Olivia, blowing bubbles throughout the exam room. You could see the uncertainty in Olivia’s face wash away.

They began treating her and, while her oxygen levels were always okay, it took quite a bit to get her breathing under control. As we went longer into the night, the doctor prepared me that they would admit her if the next attempt didn’t get her back to where they wanted to see her.

Olivia did well, in the beginning, partly because I failed to bring any toys or books with us, so she got to play on “Daddy’s Exus” (known to us as a Nexus).

It was hard to see Olivia there. As her treatments in the ER had to intensify, so did the monitoring. With the levels of medication they were giving her, there was a concern about her heart rate increasing too much, so she was on an EKG and an automatically-monitored blood pressure unit. Her oxygen levels were still being monitored and something else that I can’t recall now.

Poor thing was exhausted.

Poor thing was exhausted.

The hardest part, though, was when she finally fell asleep around 4:30 a.m. She was on her breathing mask, all of the various monitoring tools were wired to her. Granted, I’d been up since 6 a.m. the previous morning, trying to stay awake in her darken room. I was tasked with ensuring the mask stayed on her face if she moved. It was hard to be alone watching your child try to sleep like that.

Finally, around 6:30 a.m., the call was made to admit her. It took a few more hours to actually get her over to a room, but by the time they did, she was actually doing okay and didn’t require the constant mask or the monitoring.

The hospital experience, after that, was actually enjoyable. She was still in too bad of shape to go home, but she was past the worst of it. They let us explore the hospital and we found one of the playrooms open to patients and siblings.

Dell 3rd Floor Playroom

The rest of the day progressed fine with slow, continual improvement. The call was made for one more night of observation since night time is the worst and she was showing displaying precursors to her last attack.

In the end, she improved and was released early afternoon on Saturday. In that time, I slept about six hours total, but she was happy, could breathe normally on a level of medication we could administer at home, and we were without the worry earlier in the week when this was an unknown, new thing for us.

Now, that Sunday night rolled around, I went back into a normal mode. Processed more e-mails that were skipped, checked out the project lists, todo lists, calendar and whatnot. Since I’m with the kiddos during the week, weekends are important times for my work schedule and this one was shot. I don’t care, though. Olivia is far, far, more important than anyone’s website or business, my own included.

The pro of being a freelancer in this situation is there was zero question on if I was taking the day off. The con, though, is next week won’t have any down time.

In the end, I can’t complain to have the work and and I can only celebrate having Olivia home.

Return of the Kraft

A little primer about me. Some time has passed since I’ve given tender loving care to the website and a number of readers have recently signed up to receive my daily (er, rather, daily-when-I-write-something) e-mail.

This blog is about a stay-at-home dad of two three girls who also runs a web development shop.

On the stay-at-home day side of the coin, there are challenges raising a family, tough decisions that have to be made all while going against the societal grain of the dad being at home. In the short time I’ve done this, I’ve seen a whole gambit: the folks who go overboard telling me how great it is that a dad is taking this role in his daughters’ lives, to being asked when I was going to get a job again, to trying to interact with all of the moms at the playground (preview: sometimes, it feels like a middle school dance), and so on.

On the web development side, I’ve built websites, in some form, since 1996. Currently, I focus on WordPress as a development platform and almost exclusively with the Genesis theme framework. I write here about the challenges of starting/running my small business, web development ideas, cool new things online and generally about the craft.

The intersection of the two lies in the balance. Seemingly, everyone needs a website. There is enough work to keep me busy 60 hours a week, but the primary responsibility is to the 168 hours a week job of bringing up the kiddos all while maintaining a healthy emotional and spiritual life, sanity and living a fulfilling marriage.

As you read these pages, ideally, the joy of both will be easy to see. Being a stay-at-home parent doesn’t have to remove you from the “adult” world and working for yourself doesn’t have to consume your being (my default).

As always, drop me a line anytime.

Making Ends Meet

As my extended social network learns that I’m staying at home with the girls, I’ve been increasingly asked for advice on how to make it work financially.

There is no one-size fits all approach to this issue or else, I believe, more people would stay at home with their kids. The easy answer would be to have a spouse that makes plenty of money, but our society isn’t setup like that anymore for most people.

We had a nice financial setup before having kids. We both worked non-profit jobs, so we weren’t filthy rich, but we (looking back on it) had few expenses. When Olivia was born, Vanessa was making a few thousand more than I was making and Vanessa was going to stay at home. Instantly we took a 50%+ paycut. Read More

Logos and More

I’ve been working on advancing my freelancing to the next level lately. I’ve received work, so far, through word of mouth and each project is a negotiation. Becoming a freelancer was not my intention; just to pick up a few side projects here and there. As I’ve started putting myself forward as being available for projects, I’ve received more response than I expected despite the lack of marketing effort.

Building the Business photocredit: Rebuild Lakeshore

My personal dream, professionally, is to someday have a strong enough income off of this site and freelancing to be the sole (necessary) income. Since the vast majority of my work could be done anywhere with an Internet connection, the idea of being able to take extended trips to visit family or friends without always having to close up shop or take vacation days is very appealing. Read More

FIC Ethics

As a field agent with the Knights of Columbus, I work with members access their fraternal benefits with us. The most valuable of these benefits is our insurance portfolio–various forms of life insurance, retirement annuities and long-term care insurance. Advising members on these issues require a great deal of training–both initially and continuing–and it requires members put a great deal of trust in that knowledge.

In the insurance industry, one way that agents try to quickly show the depth of their knowledge is through advanced designations. Basically, a set of coursework designed to help an agent advance in his knowledge of the field. I’m currently enrolled in a program that, when finished, would result in a “Fraternal Insurance Counselor” designation.

This initial program has an ethics requirement, which exams separately.

Overall, ethics is common sense when looking at work through Christian lens. Don’t lie. Don’t say a product is something it really isn’t designed to be. Make sure members know what they’re looking at, with all of the pros and cons outlined. Don’t try to replace someone’s insurance to help your numbers. (There are a few times where replacing life insurance makes sense, but it isn’t the norm). Don’t trash-talk your competition. It’s fair game to discuss the difference in ratings between companies, to explain what it means that the Knights of Columbus are certified by IMSA, but be clean in your discussion.
Sadly, there is a reason this course must be taken and why it is tested separately from the rest of the material.
Insurance agents, generally speaking, have sometimes not played fairly. The general public knows little about how life insurance works, what different types of policies do what exactly, what policies have what guarantees, and so forth. Some folks have purchased a variable universal life policy without realizing their death benefits are not guaranteed.* When they get a letter in the mail saying their $100,000 policy for $30 a month that they purchased 20 years ago either needs to be funded at $150 a month for the same benefit or for $30 a month, their benefit would be greatly reduced, without ever realizing that could happen, it’s a bad day for the insurance industry.
That’s why I like working with the Knights of Columbus. First of all, we don’t sell VUL policies. There are people and situations where those policies make sense, but, in my opinion, life insurance is to provide death benefits to families. It’s there to take worry away. VUL/UL policies can’t take all of the worry away because of the nature of the policy. The real reason I like working for the Knights is that, even if we did offer policies like that, we would be crystal clear on how they work.
Ethic courses shouldn’t be needed. No one should think it is right to do anything that would violate the simplest ethical standard — the Golden Rule.
* One disclaimer: Each company and each type of policy have different times of riders (subcontracts that “ride” on with the primary insurance contract). There are riders that can guarantee VUL benefits for certain time periods if certain conditions are met, almost always for an additional fee. Generally speaking, a vanilla VUL policy would not guarantee death benefits since the policy is tied to the market.

Designations Galore

I’m slowly becoming more settled into my new position with the Knights of Columbus. I do a number of things for my councils–assist with recruitment, integrate new members into council life (although, ideally, the council itself wouldn’t need me for this), assist members with financial planning and helping them with the various options to implement those plans.

The programming side of my position is something I could do with my eyes closed. Nothing really new, not much of a learning curve. Slightly different implementation of the same basic principles I’ve been working for sometime now. The financial side of my position, while I’m comfortable overall, requires a great deal of training, continuing education and frankly, experience in order to perform at the level I expect out of myself.

One thing that is different than the training and continuing education that I immersed myself in when working at the UCC is that everything has letters. What I mean is that many of the training programs carry “designations” that are post-nominal notions. For example, the Knights of Columbus is a fraternal benefits society which has joined with the hundreds of other “fraternals” in an association that created a couple of these designations. Currently, I’m studying material for the FIC, fraternal insurance counselor, designation. The FIC requires a number of courses and is a prereq for the FICF, fraternal insurance counselor fellow, which has a few more courses dealing with more advanced topics.

The letters go on and on. There is the CLU, CFP, ChFC, CASL, CSA, LUTCF, CLF, CAP, MSFS (like it looks, this is a Master of Science degree in Financial Services) and probably many more. I think it a bit of a carrot and stick situation; encourages folks to continue their education if they get to show it off on paper in addition to in action.

Starting FIC Basic (the first of three courses). I’ll keep you up to date.