A Letter to Julia

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Chapter 11

Mary Starts a Flower Business

I didn’t see much to be happy about starting 2007, but Mary was enthusiastic.She continued to have lots of energy; she had lost weight and is back close to what she weighed in high school.I think she looked very nice in her clothes, but Helen was afraid she was starting to look too slender, but Mary was very pleased she could fit into some of her old clothes she saved. I was pretty upset that Mary had quit working on her business, but Mary wasn’t.Mary was convinced that she knew just the right job for her; one where she could stay home and make lots of money.Mary was going to start a flower shop in our basement!

Mary had done her research and found out that Maple Valley had only one flower shop where as similar sized regions had several.There was a new grocery store going into a brand new shopping center and Mary approached the owner about supplying flowers for them.All grocery stores had started having floral sections so it seemed natural for this new one to have one also.The owner was specializing in high quality and harder to find fruits and vegetables and Mary’s idea of providing better quality flowers than the regular grocery store would provide fit right in.The major grocery store chains have contracts with the growers, but they save money by taking the seconds from the fields. Independent flower shops buy from the wholesale companies that have the premium flowers from the fields.Mary located a wholesaler in Kent, Washington, about 30 minutes from our house.She found a sales person there she could work with.

July 2011: We are hoping to hear from Mary’s lawyer H. Lee Thompson about the lawsuit.Waiting is awful, especially since the flower shop is not making any money much beyond expenses and Mary and Joe’s home is in limbo.The roof is leaking.I don’t know how much longer we can put on temporary patches.The roof is starting to look like an old patched pair of jeans: more patches than jean.The house is still without a good source of heat, and Julia is out-growing the makeshift bed stuffed into their single bedroom.

Mary was so enthusiastic about starting her own flower business that she convinced me.Helen and I always tried to support our children in everything that they tried.Once Mary had made the decision to commute into Seattle for high school we fully supported her.I felt this was the same.Besides, Mary had gotten a business license, researched the market, and found a supplier, and she was full of energy.It did make sense as now she could work from home again and only need to drive locally.On January 1, 2007 Prancing Bee Designs was open for business.

Mary’s cabin was too small to run her business out of so we converted a room in our basement into a flower shop that we had intended some day to be a home theatre.It wasn’t a shop in the sense that people would come there to order flowers, but a working space so Mary could store and arrange flowers there.We located an old display cooler for free and moved it in.I built a working table for Mary, custom made for her height out of a door panel and two by fours.I put in overhead lighting and tapped into a water pipe so she could fill vases.Now all Mary needed was orders.

Mary started to make up arrangements to put in the up-scale grocery store.Chain stores also have cut flowers in their store to purchase, but Mary concentrated on arrangements.Mary also put out advertisements for weddings and custom arrangements.All this necessitated trips to the wholesale house for flowers.Most of the time it was Helen or I who drove Mary there; Helen mostly as I was working full time still.The first time I went there I was overwhelmed at the size of the walk-in cooler that held the flowers, and the variety of flowers that were in there. It was enormous and suitably cold.A few minutes in the flower cooler and I was ready for warmer climates.

Janet, Mary’s wholesale sales person, was extremely helpful in getting Mary to know what flowers would last the longest and which ones would look nice, but be more economical to purchase and sell. Mary had a natural talent for flower arranging and soon was selling flowers at the grocery store.Mary also started to get orders for custom arrangements, corsages and weddings.Mary also learned a major drawback to selling perishable items.All arrangements that didn’t sell in a timely manner had to thrown out.Mary needed to sell enough arrangements to make up for those losses and still make money.The main problem was that she was just starting out and hadn’t developed the sales yet.She needed funds she could draw on to see her through the starting up phase, but of course neither Mary nor Joe had them.Helen and I were her “bankers of last resort”.

August 21, 2011:H. Lee Thompson has recommended that Mary hire the forensic economist Don Frankenfeld to compute her monetary losses.Lee has used Don before in other lawsuits and Lee feels he has gravitas with the defendants.I’m leaning towards hiring a local forensic economist that we can meet with personally.One issue is what Mary’s earning capacity will be in the future.A local forensic economist can at least interview Mary. I have already made by own calculations based on Mary’s yearly income before she started Magalhaes Services, her income after losing her business, and what she owes Helen and me.I have used Mary’s expected life expectancy and expected years of working among other information.My rough estimate is over a million dollars.

The business settled into a pattern.Mary would buy flowers which we would pay for.Mary would sell the flowers and Helen and I would let Mary keep the money so she could pay her bills.We could manage this on my salary if we cut down on our own spending.We were hopeful that Mary could make a go of this new business and both Helen and I got to know the owners of the upscale grocery store.The upscale store was a family enterprise with the husband and wife working together to run it.The location was a little hard to get to as customers had to drive through another parking lot and around the back of the lot to reach the store.There was some regulation that prevented a driveway being put directly into their parking lot, and I worried that this might hurt their sales.

Mary’s daughter Julia was six now and going to school.She caught the school bus almost right in front of our house so we could check to see if Mary and Julia were making the bus on time.We started to notice that Julia was not always dressed properly for the weather and on February 2, 2006 Helen noted in her calendar that Mary wasn’t taking care of Julia.Consequently, Helen had to take over more and more of the daily care for Julia.Helen had to see that she was properly dressed and washed, and ready for school.Mary was busy, busy, busy with the flowers and her sewing and looking for bargains on the Net to repaint and sell.Mary was also working in her garden late into the night and going to the local thrift store at all hours.We were struggling to keep up with her.

August 2011:Lee is continuing to be insistent that Mary retain Don Frankenfeld and she has to pay around $750 up front!This means Helen and I have to somehow scrape the money together if we want to move forward.We can’t even contact Don Frankenfeld since he is actually retained by Lee.I’m getting good at cutting down on our home expenses.I can buy a #10 can of tomato sauce at Costco that can make a two week supply of dinners for Helen and I.One week is spaghetti (heavy on the spaghetti) and the next week is Spanish rice (heavy on the rice).This works well as by the end of the week we are sick of the same thing for dinner and eat less!

Helen was worried enough to talk to Mary about her work performance and brought her to tears.Mary was earnest in her desire to make the flower business a success and promised to concentrate on that instead of her other pursuits.Unfortunately she was soon overtaken by her other desires.On March 3 the business license for Magalhaes Services expired.This event went unnoticed a as that business was over months ago.

Helen had been diligently sorting out Mary’s finances and our basement was covered with piles of bills and correspondence.Helen had finally tabulated the extent of Mary’s debt and gave me the bad news.Helen knew that Mary was not earning anywhere close to the salary she made form Magalhaes Services and could not get out of debt anytime soon.Mary had all sorts of bills that hadn’t been paid including doctor and dentist bills.Mary could not get out of debt and their cabin would not be secure on a proper foundation unless they had help.The only place Mary could get help was from us.The last refinance on our home hardly put Helen and I in financial trouble, but the sum we needed to now increase our mortgage for was a different story.We would need enough money to pay off all her debts, which included back payments on her share of the mortgage, stabilize her cabin on the new basement, and build as much of the house as possible.

October 2011:All at once things are starting to move fast with the lawsuit.Settlement conferences are being tentatively scheduled for November 1-3 in federal court in Minneapolis.

I wasn’t worried about our ability as a family to complete the basement, but working was getting harder for me as I was turning 62 in July.I could still work a full day on construction, but then needed to rest in the evening.No more 16 hour work days for me anymore.What worried me most was the taking on of additional debt.The saying being between a rock and a hard place is so used it has lost it meaning.However, that is exactly how Helen and I felt.If we didn’t help Mary out of her financial mess they would surely lose their house and since it was just up on cribbing the house would have no sale value.They would lose all their equity they had built up and we would lose the $50,000 or so dollars from our first attempt to help Mary.On the other hand we would be putting ourselves in financial danger.After a lot of discussion and soul searching in May of 2007 we decided to look for a lender for an additional mortgage.

October 8, 2011: I’ve been emailing “Jean” regularly, but Mary has not been up to doing it.With the possibility of meeting Jean in Minneapolis Mary has finally contacted her.This is a big step for Mary and I hope it will help her heal from the traumas of Mirapex.Here is her email to Jean: “This is Mary.... I sure know how you feel. I can’t put it into words, but I know exactly how it feels to be in your head. My head was an extremely crazy place to be when I was coming off of Mirapex. I still struggle, but not anywhere near how it was at the beginning. It is amazing that I survived the withdrawal, realization of what happened etc. I had one episode when I took off on a really cold night and walked really far and lay in the snow on the side of the road. Fun times! I am so glad that you are ok. I was really sad when I saw your e-mail. I know so much those dark thoughts. It is hard for me to talk about Mirapex but wanted you to know I am thinking about you all the time and can hardly wait to meet you. Do you want to try and stay in the same hotel?”

October 10, 2011:Helen is booking five plane tickets for the settlement conference that will now start the first of November.Mary and Joe, their daughter Julia and Helen and I will be going.Helen and I have compiled everything needed for the lawsuit and I have been in close contact with Lee.It is pretty certain that I will be going into the conference with Mary and Joe.I really want Helen with me for comfort and support. Besides, Helen has experienced most of Mary’s behavior first hand. We thought about driving, but we cannot close the flower shop for long enough to drive and Joe also has limited vacation to use.Helen and I are using air miles we had saved up from the building expenses for our home on the lake and from what we spent on Mary and Joe’s building. We had hoped to use them for travel when I retired, but Mirapex has ended this dream, at least for now.Mary and Joe’s conference is scheduled for November 2 from 8:30 to 10 in the morning.

October 27, 2011: We just received a severe blow from Lee this morning.The defendants cannot meet the third day schedule for the conferences.The conferences are now only two days long and Mary’s case had been deselected for a conference.We are stunned!

October 28, 2011: After a horrible night for all of us, Mary has informed Lee that we will still be coming as planned and that we will sit in the courthouse waiting for a chance to be heard. .We would lose the tickets anyway and we hope to get a hearing if we show up. Jean is still scheduled for a conference as is another man I’m in contact with.

I was already concerned about Mary’s erratic behavior, but she still seemed capable.After all, Mary had started this new flower business all on her own, but now Mary was sometimes depressed.With this new twist of sudden depression I became more concerned.I begin to research all the medications Mary was on.Thank heaven for the Net.Most all of the drugs Mary was on could actually cause depression in rare cases.Even the ones to fight depression were capable of that.There wasn’t much information about Mirapex on the Net, just the standard warnings, but I did find a few references to compulsive gambling.Mary wasn’t gambling, but she was busy, busy, busy all the time.Also I found that the drug Ranitidine Mary was taking for chronic heart burn could increase the side effects of Mirapex.

I tried to talk to Mary about this but she resisted and insisted that everything was fine.I wanted to accompany her to the doctor to discuss her medications, but she would not allow it.Helen normally checked to see if Julia was getting on the bus.Helen could just stick her head out the door of our house to see if Mary and Julia were at the school bus stop. In early May I was home working on a car project in the driveway.I had always fixed our own cars, doing body work and painting them when necessary.Helen was gone into town to visit Amy and I was the designated Mary watcher.I kept checking my watch, but Mary and Julia were not heading down the street towards our house.It was only less than ten minutes from the arrival of the bus.I was in my dirty work clothes and I did not want to have to drive Mary and Julia to the bus.

Finally out of exasperation I put down my tools and started down the street.With five minutes to bus time I found Mary trying to fit a dress she was sewing on Julia.The material was pinned around Julia, but nothing was sewn yet. Julia’s little arms were sticking out of unfinished sleeve holes. I was stunned.I asked Mary what she was doing, working hard to not scare Julia in the process.Mary answered that she was sewing a new dress for Julia to wear to school and that she could finish it in plenty of time to catch the bus.I really didn’t know what to say.I talked Mary out of finishing the dress.She put Julia in something else and we drove Julia to school.On the way back I wondered why Mary didn’t realize that there was something strange about her behavior.

After more badgering Mary finally consented to have me accompany her to her Lupus doctor.We went together a week or two later and I discussed her strange behavior with the doctor. The doctor didn’t know about the possible reaction between Ranitidine and Mirapex.She looked it up in her drug references on the computer and found out I was right.We discussed Mary’s strange behavior, but she had no idea that could be caused by Mirapex.She surmised her problems were caused by the combination of the two drugs.Mary almost begged her to let her stay on Mirapex.I wasn’t sure what to do either as Mary did not want to go back to chronic tiredness and nausea.Mary decided it was OK to decrease the Mirapex from 5 mg/day to 4.5 mg/day.This was a decrease of only 10%.She also changed her heart burn medicine to Famotidine.Later, Mary’s husband Joe told me that Mary was really angry with me for going with her to the doctor that day.

October 31, 2011: It’s ten in the morning and we have just gone through security at the airport in Seattle and I’m struggling to put my shoes back on while helping Julia with hers. I’m pretty stressed over this whole trip, but I’m trying not to show it.We are spending money we do not have on the hotel and food.Can it get any worse?

October 31, 2011:It’s 4 PM.We landed safely and are in the Mall of America looking at the sites and also looking for cheap food.This will be a good trip for losing weight though we have to feed Julia.We are trying to keep everything as normal as possible for her sake.We plan to go to the courthouse in the morning.Lee will try to get us a hearing if possible.

Along with being enthusiastic about her various pursuits Mary was now going through bouts of depression.She realized that she wasn’t earning enough money to pay her bills and that her flower business wasn’t working out.In June, Mary made the first of several visits to the local emergency room when she was overwhelmed by depression.Sometimes Helen took her and sometimes I did.Mary would see a doctor who would take the time to talk to her and determined if she was in danger of harming herself.Once they determined that she wasn’t, she was released with a recommendation to find a doctor to help her with her depression.

We acted on this and Mary, on the recommendation of a close friend, started seeing a psychiatrist in Issaquah in July of 2007.Mary had been taking antidepressants for helping with the Lupus-caused joint pain and with the Fibromyalgia muscle pain.Mary began to visit him on a regular basis and those sessions seemed to help.Helen had to add another doctor we had to pay for and drive Mary to.

November1, 2011: We just finished lunch in the Federal Courthouse in Minneapolis.Things are rapidly going downhill.We arrived at the courthouse at around eight in the morning.We met Jean and her family on the light rail train traveling to Minneapolis.It was beneficial to all of our families to finally meet Jean as we all have shared similar terrible experiences due to Mirapex. Jean was traveling in a wheelchair due to Mirapex-caused compulsive behavior.Jean had a scheduled conference the next day in the morning.

We were sitting in the large entryway on the main floor when we met a young man (I’ll call “John”) who was one of the Mirapex victims waiting to go to his conference with Lee.He had gambled away hundreds of thousands of dollars in a short time once on Mirapex. Mary had gone to find Lee and on the upper floor and she met another man (I’ll call “Mark”) I had been emailing with, also there for a conference.

We waited for Mary to come back and we were there when John came out of his conference and was leaving the courthouse.He was close to tears and very dejected.The defendants had only offered John a few thousands dollars and he turned them down.The defendants were putting forward a litany of “boiler plate” objections: Mirapex had not been shown to cause compulsive behaviors; Mirapex came with adequate warnings, etc., etc. We tried to comfort him as best we could.John left, but we got his email so we could remain in contact.

It is clear that the defendants never intended to put forward even a remotely reasonable offer to John, but only wanted to make him spend money he didn’t have to fly to his settlement conference only for the purposes of “beating up on him”.Nice people!

Before noon Mary came back downstairs with Lee.We introduced ourselves. After lunch, Lee wanted us to wait upstairs on the upper floor right outside the judge’s chambers where the conferences were being held.If time allowed we might get in.I’m not very hopeful.Judge Noel would be holding the conferences for all of Lee’s Mirapex clients.

November 1, 2011:It’s in the afternoon and I’ve been talking with Mark, the Mirapex victim I’ve been emailing with.He is waiting for his conference to start, but from what he’s learned from other plaintiffs he feels there isn’t much chance of getting a settlement.He excessively shopped while on Mirapex and lost his marriage because of it.He had taken a tremendous financial hit.

During this new crisis with Mary we continued to look for financing on our home.This wasn’t easy as we would not qualify for a loan under most circumstances.Fortunately or unfortunately the banking crisis was month’s away and sub-prime loans were becoming more and more available.Lenders were conspiring with realtors, who were conspiring with appraisers, who were conspiring with inspectors to make these loans go through.We found a lender and amazingly qualified for a sub-prime loan and low initial payments.We were now desperate as Mary and Joe’s financial crisis was getting worse.Fall was coming and winter would stop our building.I did not want them living in the cabin on cribbing through another winter.On my birthday, July 31, 2007 the loan went through.Now we had the money to get going on their home.

On September 8 we stopped the foreclosure on their cabin and paid up all the penalties and back payments. I took vacation and Joe and I worked hard on their home with help from Helen.Helen had lots of experience from building our other houses and she was a great help.The forms of the basement walls were made out of foam blocks that stayed in place once the walls were poured.They were not hard to put together.The hardest part was cutting and wiring the iron rebar in place inside the forms.It didn’t take us long to get started once we had money to continue.On September 28th, using another family work party and some extra paid help, we poured the walls with only one glitch.The foam forms had to be carefully poured or else they could split from too much sudden pressure.In spite of hiring an expert in this type of pour to supervise, the forms broke open in a corner.Panic started as the concrete gushed out onto the ground.Soon, however, we had a patch secure in place and the concrete shoveled back into the wall. We continued to finish with the pour.

After we got the loan it became apparent that if we used our loan money to help Mary and Joe with their future home payments and other expenses it would be gone with no lasting investment to show for it, and they would still be in financial difficulty.I did a lot of research on the Net and figured out that they could save their home by going through bankruptcy and keep most of the equity they had in it.They could also cancel out most of the debt that we hadn’t paid off with our loans.It seemed a way out, where all the hard work we put into their home could be saved.The downside was the embarrassment and the temporary blot on their credit record.I discussed this with Mary and Joe, but naturally they were reluctant to take that step.They did agree to talk with a bankruptcy lawyer.

Things had been going downhill with Mary’s flower business which Helen and I were virtually supporting so Mary could have some income.The upscale grocery store was failing, due to a lack of customers for the more expensive product, the poor location of the store, and the lack of easy access.The owners finally called it quits in early September and with the store closing also went Mary’s flower business.Things were not all bad.The owner of the only flower shop in Maple Valley had seen Mary’s work at the grocery store and offered her part time work at her shop.We were pretty excited as Mary would be actually making a salary again and we would not have to support her flower business.Mary started there in September, just after the grocery store closed.

Our hard work continued as we had to build the center bearing wall on which the new floor joists would rest.The joists ran from the top of the new basement walls along the old joists holding up the floor of the cabin onto the new basement bearing wall.This construction was not easy as we had to work our way around the existing cabin.Our son Adam helped with this part of the construction when Joe had to work.In October the cabin was ready to be supported on the new center wall and joists.This entailed pulling out the steel beams holding up the house and hoping the house wouldn’t squash us like bugs.We drove out some of the four by four cribbing to slightly lower the beams.The longest beams had to be cut in smaller pieces as the new basement walls blocked removing them.Once the beams were on the ground we ran ropes under them and carried them out of the basement and up to the street.We eventually sold them for scrap.

November 1, 2011: We got our chance at a settlement conference at 5:30 PM.Mark was coming out as we were going in.He shook his head as we passed him in the hallway.Lee came out and escorted me, Mary and Joe into a separate conference room where we could talk privately for a few minutes.While on our way in Judge Noel came rushing out looking for Mark.He wanted him to consider one final offer from the defendants.Later I learned that Mark had turned down the Judge and walked out since he was disgusted with the way he had been treated by the defendants and was sure they would not deal in good faith.

Once in the private room Lee described the procedure for the conference and we had a chance for the first time to see Don Frankenfeld’s economic analysis.Judge Noel was anxious to get started because he had another engagement that evening so we could only glance at the report.I don’t think that Lee had seen it either.We all were shocked to see a total of 2.3 million dollar total economic damage.

Lee escorted us into the conference room and sat us down at a long table.Lee, me, and Mary and Joe were seated on one side facing on the other side six lawyers representing the defendants.Judge Noel sat at one end of the table.We were introduced to the other lawyers.Lee described the case and Mary was then allowed to make an opening statement.I had already seen Mary’s statement so I carefully studied the faces of the other lawyers for their reactions.

They were a line up of living clichés. One man looked like a bulldog.He was overweight with sagging jowls.Another man had small eyes and the narrow face of a weasel.I couldn’t believe it.There was one woman among them.I recognized her from earlier coming out of chambers into the hallway to get “drinks” for all the other lawyers.

After Mary gave her statement the other lawyers had a chance to make a statement.One of the lawyers had been picked to deal with Mary’s case.His only and main point was from Mary’s doctor’s notes from the visit I forced Mary into making where we discussed her compulsive behavior.At that time Mary clearly did not realize how destructive her behavior had become since she “begged” her doctor to keep her on Mirapex and only decreased her dosage by 10%.I reminded their lawyer that I was in the room with Mary and that I had already had written an affidavit to that effect. An affidavit where I detailed what happened at that visit he was referring to and how Mary did not realize that Mirapex was damaging her.

A small discussion between their lawyers ensued where they tried to find out where my name appeared in the doctor’s notes.I could see why Mark had walked out.None of those six lawyers were serious about settling this lawsuit.They hadn’t even closely read the doctor’s notes.This was clearly a “beating up” session with them doing the beating.

The meeting broke up and we retired to separate rooms where Judge Noel shuttled between the defendants and us bringing offers and counteroffers.Mary and Joe had to decide what initial offer to make, but Frankenfeld’s total economic losses had thrown us for a loop.Mary quickly came up with $475, 000.We thought this was a reasonable number compared to Frankenfeld’s $2.3 million.That amount would help clean up the mess Mirapex made in our lives, so we put forward this number in good faith.

Judge Noel took this offer over to the defendant’s lawyers.He quickly came back with a counter offer of only a few thousand dollars.We were stunned.None of us can remember what our next offer was, but they didn’t budge in their next offer.Judge Noel looked exasperated.

If Mary knew Mirapex was damaging her at the time of our joint doctor visit, then her lawsuit would have been filed past the allowed time of three years for filing.But, in addition to my affidavit from our joint doctor visit we also had the notes from Dr. Shaw, Mary’s psychiatrist.Those notes clearly showed Mary hadn’t begun to realize that Mirapex was damaging her until late fall of 2008.His notes are the only written record of what Mary thought during the time she was taking Mirapex and the legal issue is when the person taking the drug realized damage was being done; not when other people did.Judge Noel asked us if we thought they could get the case dismissed on the statute of limitations.I quickly answered no and the settlement conference was over.

On October 26, 2007, almost two years from the time the cabin was first placed on the cribbing, we could stand under the now secure cabin.It was finally earthquake safe and I could rest easier.There was lots of work to do before the basement floor could be poured, but that would come later in the spring of the next year.Now we could enjoy Christmas.

I had a research project scheduled for the coming winter.I was going to study the character of snow flakes and to do that I had to live at Skykomish and work up at Steven’s Pass.I would be looking at snowflakes under a high power stereo microscope.The microscope made it possible to see the crystals in 3-D.It was easy to get lost in the beauty of the crystals.Most people are only familiar with the six sided star-like snow crystals seen on Christmas cards, but most snow crystals are three dimensional and amazingly complicated. Looking at these crystals was a way to forget all my problems for a few minutes.

Helen and the children had always come with me on research field projects, but now the kids were older and some with families of their own.They could no longer come.It would have been the ideal time for Helen and me to strike out on our own, but Mary needed continual help.So I moved up to a small home on my own.All my children got to visit and Helen did stay overnight occasionally.That was nice.I was up at the pass when I learned that, after delaying as long as they could, Mary and Joe filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy.I was relieved.

November 2, 2011:We are at the Mall of America trying to have some fun in the midst of a dismal trip.The settlement conference was a joke! Earlier we met up with Jean and her family.They had gone through the same disappointing meeting.The defendants had made us spend money on conferences they knew were only for “beating up” on us.Jean had come in a wheel chair.

November 3, 2011:Our plane has just landed in Seattle.Mirapex had pushed us down to our emotional and financial limit.Now the defendant’s lawyers were continuing to “kick” us when we are down.I do not know people like them.No one I know is like that.I do not know how those lawyers and the people that set the legal policy can go home at night and kiss their loved ones, or hold their heads up high at family dinners, or go to church.I don’t know people like that at all.

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