Part-Time Dilemma

I’ve been away from full-time employment for nearly a year now. A big jumble of health and economic factors have made it somewhat difficult to become a working woman again. I haven’t found the perfect job, and I haven’t really been able to make the mediocre ones happen either. My unemployment has done pretty terrible things to my family budget and credit score. I miss the self-esteem boost from a job well done, from my interactions with coworkers, and just GETTING OUT OF THE HOUSE. I’ve been working on my medical coding certification, and know my good job is just around the corner. But what do I do in the meantime?

Last week, a friend on Twitter gave me a lead on a paid summer internship with a local company. The work isn’t in my field, but it would bring in some money, get me out of the house, and I’d get the experience of working with a web-based company. I quickly exchanged a few emails, and had an interview set up within a few hours. The interview went well. I knew I didn’t want to do it full-time, but they were happy to work with the very specific hours I requested.

Over the week since my interview, I’ve talked myself into, and out of, taking the position if offered to me. I made the PRO/CON list, I started putting out feelers for childcare, I pulled some of my more professional clothes out of a box. This morning I got the offer, and I’m about 90% sure I’m going to take it. Part of me is afraid that I’ll use it as an excuse to slack on my studies. It’ll mean figuring out childcare for the times that my husband is away…and missing out on the limited time when my husband is in town. It will force me to be a lot more disciplined with my time (which I admittedly need.) But it will also mean that I have a little more free money. I can pick away at some debt, make purchases without monumental guilt, and take some of the financial burden off my husband. But even he is hesitant of me accepting the position. I feel conflicted.

I obviously need to pray about it…but what would you do?

Another Moving Fiasco: Part 4


Today is moving delivery day. Or it was supposed to be.

Earlier this month, we decided to have the movers bring our stuff, despite the contract issues and having no idea how we’d pay the balance. I asked how quickly it could get there…Rob said cross-country transit usually takes 3-5 days (which to me is reasonable.) I told him we’d have the money on payday (Jan 16th), and he said they’d plan on delivering it the week of the 18th.
I talked to Rob last Monday, the 18th. He said our stuff would be there by Thursday, Friday at the latest. He promised to call by Thursday to give our firm delivery time. I called back and talked to a receptionist about acceptable forms of payment. She said certified bank check was fine, but they took credit cards and money orders as well. My dad agreed to lend us the money, found a bank branch open on the MLK holiday, and got the certified check ready for us.
Thursday came and went. Delivery didn’t happen. No call from Rob.
I called Friday morning. Rob said he’d get in touch with the dispatcher and call me back within 30 minutes. He didn’t call me back. After a few more calls near closing time, the receptionist finally let me talk to him. Rob called the truck driver. The truck was in Texas, would be dropping a shipment in Colorado on Sunday, and would deliver our stuff in Utah “first thing Monday morning.”
Sunday night around 9:00 PM, the driver Alex called us. He said that he would be delivering between 11 am and 2 pm, and to have payment in postal money order ready. (HUH?) I told him that the moving company advised us that certified check was acceptable…he said that I’d have to take it up with the moving company.
I called Moving 1 right when they opened this morning. Rob discussed methods of payment, and he said that Moving 1 has NEVER accepted a certified bank check for delivery. I advised that I called last week to verify, and was given incorrect information. Rob said, “If the driver gets to your house, and you try to pay in certified check, he’ll just turn around and drive away.” I looked at our contract, and sure enough…only acceptable payment on delivery was postal money order.
At that point it was 7 am, and we had about 4 hours to figure out payment before the delivery window. My dad (who is wheelchair-bound, btw) was preparing to leave on a business trip. We explained the situation, and we knew the only way we could fix the payment was to have him physically come to the bank to cash the check. Taylor drove up from Spanish Fork, and my dad drove down from Lehi, and they met at a Provo branch to cash the check. Taylor took the cash to the post office, got the money orders, and hurried back home to be there for the movers at 11.
Our 11 am to 2 pm window passed. No movers. We called the Moving company – they had no clue. We called the truck driver – no answer. As we were stewing over what to do next, the truck driver called. He said that his truck broke down “een esalta laka seety.” (in Salt Lake City) If he could get the truck fixed, he’d be there by 6 pm. If not, he’d come “first thing in the morning Tuesday.”
At 6:15, the driver called. He can’t come to “The Espanish Fork” tonight. He will come at 8 am tomorrow. We shall see.
At this point…I’m at a loss for words.
***
As for the dispute with the BBB, the moving company representative did respond to my complaint. It was written by Donna, the claims adjuster, poor grammar and all:
“First we would like to apologize for the inconvenience the customer may have sufferred during her move. However, we do not increase any shipment size or cost unless the customer has more items. Which means that even if we were mistaking in the estimation of shipment size, but the items list were the same, we would not have charged her more. We find it a little rude that the customer is only listing the increase in charges but not listing any of the adjustments that Rob the “rude” manager has authorized.

“Rob has authorized a charge for 750 at the same rate initially quoted to the customer which resulted in a discount of $378.00 discount. The customer shipment size was estimated by other companies the same 560 cu.ft. just like we have because of the list of items the customer provided. She also sent us copies of estimates she received which were for more than 500 cubic feet only. so to say we were the only ones is just wrong.

Furthermore, if the customer wasn’t just looking for bottom line price when comparing quotes she would have been able to pay more attention to details. We are very sorry the customer is not completely happy but trust our above explanation sheds some light over the REAL move details.”

I am composing my rebuttal as we speak…

It is true that when I sent my complaint to the BBB, Moving 1 had made no price concessions other than giving us “free” storage (while we came up with the the extra $$$ they overcharged us). After the complaint was submitted, I finally made some headway with Rob (see THIS post). I’m not sure what Donna was talking about when she mentioned the other estimates I submitted for comparison. (the ones submitted were for a 2 bedroom apartment, and for 760 cubic feet…nothing lower than the 560 CF we got from Moving 1.) The quote I am primarily concerned about is the one they “matched” from Bravo Movers…the 760 CF quote for $1820. The quote that would have saved us much of this hassle, had we dropped Moving 1 when we had the chance.

I am now working with a company called www.moverescue.com. Not sure if anything can be done at this point, but I’m not giving up yet.

Making Money with Blogging?


I’m curious to know… how many of you readers have made any money off of your blogs and websites? I just signed up with MomsMakeMoneyBlogging.com and hope to find great success. I’ve been blogging since 2002, and after investing so much blood, sweat, and tears (with a fair dose of TMI), I’m ready for a little payback 🙂 Have you had any payback? Did you consider yourself a sell-out? Want to join the journey with me? Click below for more info:

Moms! Earn Money With Your Blog

Tender Mercies and Monetary Miracles

Life is Strange. But I must follow that up by saying, “Life is Beautiful.” I know I’m not the first one in the history of the world to say those words, but the past 7 months have been as unpredictable as being blindfolded on a rollercoaster.


When I started an exciting job at a fairly prestigious university last January, I had no idea how short lived the position would be. After 6 months, I was out of work. I didn’t qualify for unemployment in neither Georgia, nor Utah. We’d been barely getting by as a dual income family, drowning in our student loan debt despite two paychecks. We have gone from money in our savings account and some open credit on our American Express, to paying cash only and living paycheck to paycheck like never before. In October, my husband bumped up to 3rd year First Officer pay, which now gives him slightly more income than a full-time fast food restaurant worker. Seriously.


In late June, Rosie and I drove cross-country from Georgia to Utah. We filled up our car with clothes and few other things to make Grandpa’s house in Spanish Fork feel like a home. We have been so fortunate to have a cozy place to live (despite all the complaining I do about its proximity to the SLC airport). Rosie’s surrounded by many children her age, and I’ve made some great friends in the neighborhood. I never knew I could adore a laptop and an unsecured WiFi connection so deeply. We haven’t had much, but it honestly hasn’t been so bad.

At times when I’ve felt my life was lean on blessings….

Something would happen to remind me of how incredibly blessed I am.

I discovered this quote through my bloggy friend Janessa by Elder Scott:

“Father in Heaven knew that you would face challenges and be required to make some decisions that would be beyond your own ability to decide correctly. In His plan of happiness, He included a provision for you to receive help with such challenges and decisions during your mortal life. That assistance will come to you through the Holy Ghost as spiritual guidance. It is a power, beyond your own capability, that a loving Heavenly Father wants you to use consistently for your peace and happiness.”

Amazing counsel, don’t you think?

December was particularly trying, yet amazing, for our family. As a challenge would come up, such as my back injury and being drastically overcharged by our moving company , someone would shovel the snow in our driveway, bring us dinner, slip an envelope with cash into our door jamb, or offer to fill up my gas tank. We had more medical expenses in one month than we’d encountered in the rest of 2009, but we have excellent insurance and manageable copays. On an emotionally overwhelming day, I confided in an acquaintance how exhausted and hopeless I was feeling about my situation. A few days later, a “Secret Santa” had been set up for our family…giving Rosie a bounteous pile of gifts under the tree, and cash we needed to pay our car payment. My eyes still tear up about it as I think about it.

I’ve tried to give personal thank you’s to all those who have helped out my family…but I know several anonymous TMI’s (Tender Mercy Instigators…I just made that up) have blessed our lives. To you, I say Thank You, Thank You, Thank You.

Healthcare Rant: When Quality Care Goes Wrong

As I’ve been dealing with many difficult health issues this past year, the U.S. healthcare reform debate has fallen below the Nicole radar. It surprises me that I’ve avoided it, as my career is in healthcare administration. I know it’s an important time in my field, but seven months of unemployment have kept me out of the trenches. Despite a very concerted effort, I have not been able to find work in my field. Although I have skills that would be portable to many other fields, I don’t want to give up what I love. I believe that quality care should be available to all people, regardless of their ability to pay. While it’s true that many healthcare organizations offer charitable care to the needy, it seems like many people in need fall through the cracks.

I am currently insured through my husband’s employer on a plan with Cigna. The plan provides excellent benefits at a low cost for in-network providers. I am extremely lucky to have $5-10 copays, and very reasonable coinsurance. Unfortunately, the Cigna network has been fairly limited in both the Atlanta and Wasatch Front areas. In Atlanta, I couldn’t use Emory facilities in network (while working for Emory, and promoting their Campaign Emory fundraising). In Utah, 90% of Intermountain Healthcare facilities are out-of-network for Cigna. This is frustrating to me, as I’m a previous 4.5-year employee of Intermountain. I believe in their Mission, Vision, and Values, and want to support them with my healthcare dollar.

My previous positions with Intermountain were as an assistant to a medical director at LDS Hospital, and as a Patient Service Rep in Accounts Receivable Management. I have also worked for City of Hope Cancer Center, Prime Healthcare Services, and University of Michigan Medical Center. I have experience in customer service, billing, coding, transcription, Joint Commission an AOA accreditation, physician credentialing, training, research, and have processed countless financial assistance applications. I have participated in executive-level hospital management meetings. Although I am not an expert by any means, I can confidently say that I am qualified to have an educated opinion on what works in healthcare, and when healthcare goes wrong.

Case in point: My daughter Rosie has been sick for a few weeks with kidney problems. My otherwise lively child has been mopey and lethargic, and complains of pain daily. On Christmas night, Rosie was very sick and begged me to take her to the hospital. We left our family holiday party an drove to the IHC Provo Instacare (which is in-network with Cigna). I advised the Instacare registrar that I had submitted a financial assistance application to the Lake Park and Creek Plaza billing offices a few weeks prior, and was unable to pay a copay. The Instacare flat out refused to see her without a copay…so I ran out to the car, grabbed a Christmas card, and paid her copay with the Christmas cash I got from my grandma. And what happened then? They took her blood, scanned over the results, and told us to go across the parking lot to the Utah Valley Regional Center Emergency Room immediately (which we later found out was out-of-network).

The ER registrar was a little nicer, especially when I brought along the copy of my recently-completed financial assistance application. We sat in the ER waiting room for over an hour, and spent a few more hours in the ER room 9 (which had a broken recliner, and no other chair available). After 4 hours, they said her urinalysis showed that she had inflammatory cystitis. If the Instacare would have taken 5 extra minutes to take her urine, she could have gotten on antibiotics and saved us a 4-hour ER visit and copay.

When we arrived at Instacare, it was a few minutes before they were closing at 9 pm. They happily took us back to the room, but pushed us back out the door in 5 minutes.My question is: “If they were going to send her to the ER, why did they take my gift money to pay a copay for a “visit” that didn’t really end up being a VISIT?” Luckily these visits happened before the end of the year, because we’d already met our deductible. Had this happened a week later, we would have been slammed with deductible fees.

A few days later, Rosie had another ER visit. Her symptoms had worsened, she had a high fever, and I drove her back to the UVRMC ER (still not knowing it was out-of-network). The doctor wasn’t sure why she was in so much pain and guessed that she had kidney stones or appendicitis. He ordered an abdominal CT scan to see if the problem was GI or urinary. After 3 more hours of sitting on room 9’s broken recliner, we found out that her scan was fine. Rosie got a pain pill, some “orange pee” pills, and a stronger antibiotic. Since then, we’ve been following up with a non-IHC pediatric urologist and she’s doing much better.

I was going to just sweep this experience under the carpet, but then earlier this week I received several IHC financial assistance rejection letters. Besides the recent hospital visits, I had some outstanding bills from all of my sleep apnea visits. Apparently we are slightly over the National Income Poverty Guidelines (remember my husband is a struggling regional airline pilot?) Despite our unmanageable debt from student loans and my 7 months of unemployment, we do not qualify. When I called the billing offices to get more information, I was told that our income was slightly too high, and our balances were not high enough for them to make an exception. Gee thanks.

I know I’m not the only person to have an experience like this. After going through it personally, it has really lit my fire to get back into a position where I can help avoid situations like this. I’m going to keep working on my medical coding certification, which I’ve been working on from home to keep myself busy while looking for work. It’s time to make my voice heard. I’ve been in both hospital management, and also at the receiving end of a “charity” denial. I hereby recommit my effort to apply for all the positions I am qualified for. I need to be a part of my field again.

Another Moving Fiasco: Part 3

Phew! I finally made some headway in MovingGate 2009-2010. It took bombarding Moving 1 with voice mails and emails for a few days before Rob would actually accept a call from me (I was really getting sick of the receptionist whispering to him that I was on the phone, thinking she’d placed the call on hold). After reviewing the emailed quotes I’d sent from other moving companies, (and sternly warning him with some legal mumbo-jumbo suggested from my buddy in law school,) Rob finally agreed to removed the $2/CF surcharge on the “extra” 190 CF. That brought down the price $360. Not terribly significant, but he said it was the best he could offer outside of court. Since I didn’t want to wait for my belongings through a lengthy multi-state court process, I accepted the arrangement. It’s still $1075 more than the binding estimate, but I don’t think I could have been any more successful without paying for a lawyer. I never heard back from Gephardt, but if he does contact me, I’ll see if he has any additional tips for me. I’ve reported the company to the BBB and American Moving and Storage Association. In the words of Mr. T: “I pity the fool who uses Moving 1!”One other bright spot: We negotiated with Taylor’s company to give us additional reimbursement towards our moving costs. They’ll cover the $450 in packing supplies. With the “discount” from Moving 1 and extra money from the airline, we are scheduled to have our stuff arrive in Spanish Fork sometime between January 16-22. We’ll have to do some mad pawning, Ebaying, and KSL.com selling to get enough cash this week (since the reimbursement will take a while). I’ve got a ton of Rosie’s baby clothes (newborn to 4T) if you’re interested….


JJXHCFEB6XZS

Another Moving Fiasco : Part 2


Ah, the continuing moving saga of the Bullock family. Part one of the Atlanta moving fiasco is here.

I was hoping that after two weeks I’d have more good news to report on the move, but we’re still in a stalemate. We’d hoped to have the issue resolved quickly, and to have our belongings delivered by Christmas or New Years’. I’ve talked to several receptionists, two reservation specialists and two managers, and have gotten the most information out of the manager Rob (but on only one occasion). When I call to ask for Rob, I am typically put on hold for 10-25 minutes before I’m told “He’s already left for the day,” or “He has taken the day off,” or “He’s meeting with a vendor in the warehouse and can’t talk for at least an hour.” All excuses are given with a promise to have him call me back immediately, but as of today, I have not had ONE email or phone call returned. I have messaged Erica the reservation specialist a few times, and she is no longer returning my emails or voice mails.

Currently, our items are sitting in their regional warehouse in Arkansas. We have gotten the moving company to agree to not charge us storage fees until we are able to pay enough to start transit (which we will do as soon as they give us an agreeable total price). But at the rate Moving 1 has been going, who knows if it will happen anytime soon?!?

I don’t know what else I can do. I just emailed Get Gephardt for help.

Just in Time…

Just as I was leaving for the Imogen Heap concert on Thursday night, I encountered an automotive obstacle. My car, which had been showing no symptoms of illness, wouldn’t start. The battery seemed fine, as the radio and lights worked, but the engine wouldn’t turn over. Since I was at my parents’ house, they let me borrow their Civic for the night. My dad and Taylor did some diagnostics, and guessed the battery charge was low and hooked it up to charger overnight.

In the morning, the car still wouldn’t start, so I picked up some jumper cables. Still no luck. We called up AAA to see if they had any ideas, and they had a repair shop on the line to listen to the squealing ignition noise. The car was towed off, and the repair shop had a diagnosis shortly thereafter. Timing belt and water pump. Luckily the timing belt was a non-invasive type, and the break didn’t damage the engine. Hopefully it will be done this afternoon.

I’m grateful that the repair wasn’t as bad as it could have been. I’m grateful I had my dad and husband there to help diagnose the problem. I’m grateful for AAA. I’m grateful that Taylor gets paid his “big check” on Monday (every other paycheck has his perdiem pay) I’m grateful that the repair shop is also fixing my AC adapter. But mostly, I’m grateful this didn’t happen while on my way to California for Thanksgiving in 9 days. Heaven knows how bad it would be to get stuck needing repairs along the more desolate sections of I-15.

Enough bills to make you ill

I have a secret confession. In the past year I have acquired an unhealthy anxiety about opening my mail. As a teen, I LOVED to check the mail. I retained a healthy bunch of pen pals when I moved from Oregon, and I received real, live letters fairly often. Now it seems that all I get are bills I can’t pay…mixed in with a couple baby/wedding announcements. When I arrived in Utah this summer, I wasn’t handling stress in a healthy way. I coped by avoidance. I didn’t turn in my postal change of address form for almost a month. I stuffed the pile of bills I brought from Georgia on a shelf on my closet, not to be viewed for weeks. I went as long as 10 days between the 30 second walks to the mailbox. I made myself believe that if I didn’t open the mailbox, the bills wouldn’t exist. Email is no problem, it’s just the snail mail that gets me.

In counseling to overcome my period of depression, I made goals for each week. At first they started out really small; Be out of bed by 11:00 am, make one phone call per day, walk outside for 10 minutes, call a friend to make a social arrangement to get out of the house. It was dealing with the bills that caused the anxiety. Between 8 student loans, credit cards, insurance statements, several bank accounts, and tying up loose ends in Georgia…I had a LOT of letters to open. I made arrangements with most of my creditors, explaining my current unemployment, and most were easy to work with. But even once a loan was put into forbearance, the creditors have continued to send out letters frequently (sometimes 2-3 per week).

I decided to tackle the dreaded pile tonight. Junk mail, statements, bills, magazines, receipts…I was determined to open every single envelope (some still unopened from July!) I opened over 200 envelopes. In two hours, I had made 33 piles on the floor. My next quest is to actually LOOK at the mail, figure out what payments are due, and file them in an orderly way. I’ve NEVER gone this long without organizing my paperwork…and I couldn’t take it anymore!

Goals:
I will leave no letter unopened for more than a week
I will do a thorough filing and/or scanning of receipts and bills monthly
I will be organized enough to send out Christmas cards this year (email me your address if you want one, and I’ll reply with mine)

Airplane/Economy Metaphor

Taylor just forwarded this link to me:

WASHINGTON (CNN) – Even though he was almost a member of the new Obama administration, New Hampshire Republican Judd Gregg Sunday slammed President Obama’s approach to handling the country’s fiscal outlook.

“The practical implications of this is bankruptcy for the United States,” Gregg said of the Obama’s administration’s recently released budget blueprint. “There’s no other way around it. If we maintain the proposals that are in this budget over the ten-year period that this budget covers, this country will go bankrupt. People will not buy our debt, our dollar will become devalued. It is a very severe situation.”

Gregg, known as one of the keenest fiscal minds on Capitol Hill, also told CNN Chief National Correspondent John King that he thought it was “almost unconscionable” for the White House to continue with its planned course on fiscal matters with unprecedented actual and projected budget deficits in the coming years.

“It is as if you were flying an airplane and the gas light came on and it said ‘you 15 minutes of gas left’ and the pilot said ‘we’re not going to worry about that, we’re going to fly for another two hours.’ Well, the plane crashes and our country will crash and we’ll pass on to our kids a country that’s not affordable.”

Thoughts?