San Gimignano

San Gimignano
Beautiful city of San Gimignano, where we spent last Sunday afternoon.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Keeping it Real Here!

I don't want friends and family to think that we are on one long vacation in Italy here.  That is why I always try to blog about real life here in Italy.  Yesterday life got a little bit too real for me.  Here is a disclaimer to say that the following blog may be a little "TMI" (too much information) for some people and that those under 50 may not find this blog interesting at all and will certainly not find it anywhere as humorous as those over 50 will, but I want to KEEP IT REAL here and yesterday was definitely real. So here goes......

Getting our prescription drugs filled has always been a real challenge when we lived in Japan, England and now Italy.  It has been more of a challenge here in Italy because the mail is not as reliable.  Most of the time we have my Dad, Melissa or a friend to pick up our filled prescriptions and mail them to us. With health insurance the way it is now that is always a challenge because insurance sometimes won't fill some prescriptions but every 30 days or until a certain time and when you throw in 7-10 days mailing time, well, we have a problem.  PEEHIP (our insurance) made the stupid decision NOT to have a mail order option so brick and mortar pharmacy is our only option at this time.

Over a week ago I asked Melissa to call our pharmacy that shall remain unnamed here to re fill my Prempro.  If you don't know what this is I need to explain here.  It is an HRT (hormone replacement therapy).  I started taking a low dose about 6 months ago so I wouldn't accidentally kill someone who said something to irritate me at the wrong time ( all you middle aged menopausal women know exactly what I mean!).  If you are female and not there yet you will be someday, trust me.  After menopause it's amazing how irritating some things and people can be :-)   So Melissa called our pharmacy on a Monday, asked them to fill my prescription and mail it to me.  They said they would.  End of story.

I knew I was going to run out on Friday but I thought, well the Prempro would be here on Monday or Tuesday (hopefully!).  So on Monday I decided I better called unnamed pharmacy to ensure they DID mail it out to me.  I get on Skype to make the phone call ....having to wait until 4 pm my time until they opened at 9 a.m. THEIR time.  Skype cut me off 3X.  Remember I'm off my meds here.  Steve finally calls for me on his Skype account and gets through.  I can tell from his end of the conversation it's not going well.  Let's just say they did not fill OR mail my Prempro.  Fortunately, I don't think they could hear what I said from the other side of the room.  I am not happy with the drugstore!

So there I am, off this medication for 3 days now which medically I'm not supposed to just quit taking.  My pharmacy has NOT sent it to me.  What do I do now?  I call my good friend that I always call in a bind that I will let remain anonymous here who calls my Dr.'s nurse.  We attempt to get a prescription emailed to me (can't do this, it's not allowed),  It's the end of the day on Monday, I'm without meds another day.

Tuesday morning I wake up with an email with all my Dr's contact information and head to the base clinic to try to get my prescription filled.  The nice pharmacist there is very, very helpful but cannot fill the prescription without a copy of it from Alabama (we are 7 hours ahead of Alabama).  PLUS they don't carry what I take, I would need to take 2 different types of meds.  Remember I am off of my Prempro for 5 days now and my patience on a scale of 1-10 is about a 1.  She finally suggests I try the Italian pharmacy since they are more relaxed about dispensing drugs and might can help me.  If this doesn't work we agree I will come back on Wed. and ask for an appointment and a new prescription (which I will have to pay for an file on my insurance myself). Did I mention I am NOT happy with the Alabama drugstore!  Soooooooo.......

I have to wait for 3 hours because the Italian pharmacies close from 1-4 pm every day.  Hey, it's Italy!  At 4 pm I manage to find the Italian pharmacy on my own, park, get out of the car with everything I need....hand written what I'm taking (from the base pharmacist), my empty blister pack of Prempro, my email from my Alabama Dr.'s nurse, etc.  I am praying someone speaks some English!   I go up to the door and it won't open even though I can see people inside.  So I am turning around looking puzzled and then the man sitting in the car watching me with his own puzzled look just points toward another door (that is standing WIDE OPEN) and I look at the door, look at him ......and give him the thumbs up.  I walk through the front door :-).

There are two pharmacists on duty. Fortunately I get the woman pharmacist who appears to be mid 30's or so.  I ask if she speaks English and she says "a little".  I slowly and simply begin to explain what the problem is and ask if I can get this and give her the empty Prempro package.  She takes it and begins to look in the computer seeing if they have it.  She's looking puzzled, calls the other pharmacist over, they are talking in Italian, looking at the package, looking at what the base pharmacy wrote down and I am thinking.....if I can't get this today I'm going to go berserk.  I can see the headlines now.  Small American woman goes crazy in Italian pharmacy.  She finally begins to explain that she can get it in a smaller dosage but in Italy they don't carry that exact dosage.  I tell her "Well, something is better than nothing" and I tell her that I need to get back on it before I choke someone.....and I make a motion like I'm doing that.  She smiles big and nods her head.  I hope the humor came across and she didn't think I was a danger to anyone LOL

At the end of the day, she gave me a blister pack of Prempro, not at my exact dosage and it cost me 25 Euro which I happily, happily paid with a big smile on my face.  I could tell she was amused. I told her "Grazia" several times and she smiled big and nodded her head.  After paying and gathering up my things I headed for the door (that I came in by).  It would not open for me.  So I am standing there trying to get out.   My nice lady pharmacist comes out from behind the counter, directs me to the OTHER door with a smile on her face and I tell her......"Grazia, Grazia"!  I guarantee you that whole place laughed once I was gone and my pharmacist will tell friends about the crazy American lady that so desperately needed her hormones she couldn't even find her way out the door!

PS I took the first dose as soon as I got in the car.
PSS And now I am headed out this morning to shop with friends at some Italian thrift stores.

Don't say I didn't warn you that this was probably too much information for some of you LOL  Keeping it real here!

Monday, April 16, 2012


If you know what the acronyms in my title mean you have either been in the military, have worked with the military or been somehow affiliated with the govt. in some way :-)   I took my title from the children's book "Lions, Tigers and Bears, Oh My!"  After 2 weeks we are somewhat settled in to our house, have working appliances delivered, internet is hooked up and working (after two weeks without it), we have our 8 channels of AFN TV ( I can hear you military/govt folks laughing from here!) and generally have survived the move intact.  

Since we have been through several international moves we knew what to expect and what to anticipate might be a problem.  Our first international move to Japan in 1999 was a HUGE learning curve!  We quickly learned then that the Government and the military love acronyms :-)  A move is not a "move", it is a PCS.  Your furniture, clothes, kitchen supplies,...well, that is your HHG (household goods).  The 1,000 lb. shipment they send early because you will need it BEFORE your HHG gets there (but it never arrives early) is called Unaccompanied Baggage. I can't remember the acronym right now for that.

One of my funniest stories and very true is a conversation that took place during one of the numerous phone calls with DC when I first got hired in '99 to go to Japan.  They were sending me volumes of paperwork to complete, a great deal of which I didn't understand, we were trying to get ready to make an international move, our friends and family thought we had lost our minds and I was still working my job at Winfield Elementary between wondering whether we HAD lost our minds.   During this particular phone call the detailer in DC (who was working with me on my paperwork) in preparation to go to Japan was barking question to me, taking down my answers, etc.  In the midst of all of this he announced we would be leaving from CONUS.  I had already asked soooooo many questions in the past few weeks I didn't want to interrupt him and tell him I did NOT know where CONUS was located.  So when I got off the phone I wrote my future new friend in Japan (the librarian who was my contact there) and told her I did not know where CONUS was and we were supposed to leave from there!  She immediately emailed me back and I could tell was highly amused at my question. She told me that CONUS was the acronym for "Continental United States".  We were leaving from the United States!!  Well, why didn't they just SAY SO!!  :-)

We have been dealing lately with TQSA, TLA, OHA, HHG, UTEP and lots of other fun acronyms I won't even go in to.  All offices on base are usually marked with acronyms and referred to with these acronyms.  This week we are working on LQA and COLA, getting that set up for the year.  Anyone familiar with DFAS? :-)  Even if you don't you do know the IRS don't you?

Just thought of another funny story from my "didn't know a thing about working for the U.S Govt overseas" days.  During the afore mentioned numerous phone calls before we went to Japan, the detailer one day was once again barking questions at me and one day he barked out "social?".....and I thought "well, I like people as well as the the next person but I'm going out every weekend to parties and what does this have to do with me working in Japan??"   Actually he wanted my social security #  LOL

I am headed to the Esselunga, which is a nice upscale Italian grocery store. I will post some pictures and a report of that experience in the near future.   I have only been twice and it's like an adult field trip every time I go!  Although this time may not be as much fun.  After two months of eating lots of pasta, cheese, salami, gelato and all the Italian food I wanted to (see TQSA above)...I have been on an old-fashioned American diet the last week or so.  It will be hard to go in an Italian grocery store with their delicious cheeses, breads and treats and not walk out with all the things I really want to eat.  I'm sticking with the diet for the next two weeks though.  Summer is coming and I've got to get back in my summer clothes.  Also we have visitors coming in two weeks and I know we'll be eating like the Italians during their visit!!