Life Lessons

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Cultural Fit (in the workplace) – Published August 5, 2017

In the past 6 months a few individuals within our circle of professional relationships have suddenly been let go from their jobs for this reason…”you are not a cultural fit.” At the time of hire the culture of the organization was not defined. Although the individuals excelled at their jobs and shared the same corporate vision and passion for the mission of the company, specific reasons for not “fitting in” to the company culture were not provided by the direct report or HR.

Concerned about what appears to be a new employment policy direction for corporate America, I recently skimmed the surface, doing some online research. Discovered this “practice” is far more prevalent than I had imagined, leaving me with the following unanswered questions.

  1. When did “cultural fit” first become a corporate hiring/firing practice and is this term being used today as it originally may have been intended?
  2. Could this “catchall” phrase be a mask to avoid compliance to the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Laws (EEO), which prohibits discriminating in hiring, firing or pay based on a person’s race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, genetic information, including sexual harassment? (Resource HERE)
  3. Our country is experiencing a political polar divide between liberals and conservatives. Is it possible “cultural fit” includes filtering based on political allegiance?

It will take committed time to peel away the layers surrounding “cultural fit” in order to see the bigger picture and perhaps the vulnerability and risk to BOTH employees and corporations. For this reason, I’m taking time off from blogging to pursue this assignment and will return September 19, 2017.

I am grateful for the incredible response to my blog, Modify, since it began April 22, 2017. Thank you for your support, replying with comments and being an awesome audience to the articles shared. The blog WILL continue September 19, 2017. While I’m working on “Cultural Fit… In The Workplace”, I encourage you to share your feedback with me:

  • Have you (or someone you know) been fired or not hired because of cultural fit? Was cultural fit clearly defined through either the hiring or firing process? Can you share the experience with me?
  • Share your comments, if any, about how I might improve Modify and/or topics to consider for publication when I return mid-September, which fall within the Modify menu categories.

Thank you!! You can share your stories/feedback through email by clicking HERE.

Gratefully,

Debra

 

 

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This image cannot be reproduced or shared without written artist consent. Artwork by Jessica Kardish

What Would You Do? – Published August 1, 2017

It’s been a week since I had an uncomfortable experience at our local supermarket. It’s still bothering me.

Last week, picking up a few quick items at our local grocery store, I stepped into the shortest line. There was a young mom with her child, about 3 years old, checking out. Next in line was a mature woman, probably around late 70’s and I was in line behind her.

It didn’t take long to notice the mature woman rolling her eyes, taping her hands on the counter, deep breathing with long sighs. At this point my eyes went past her to the young mom and it was then I noticed she was using coupons for her grocery purchase. It was obvious this mom was aware of the elderly woman’s behavior and appeared uncomfortable.

One would think the elderly woman may have been late for an appointment or feeling rushed for someplace she wished to be? After the young mom left with the child, the woman took plenty of time to engage in conversation with the cashier, no longer in a hurry to get checked. She began questioning why a grocery store would carry clothing and if there were any significant sales of such. She laughed and continued to press the cashier, who simply said, “People do purchase clothes here.” He then ignored any further condescending questions.

This experience is still bothering me because I didn’t say ANYTHING! Should I have said something? People have the right to be who they are BUT when it affects others, which her attitude appeared to affect the young mom and her behavior affected me, then I believe silence only condones, representing approval.

I have allowed this experience to be a source of agitation. Using the Internet as a resource, searched what to do when people are rude? Came across this informative article titled, “5 Polite Ways to Disarm Rude People”, Psychology Today, which explains the difference between rudeness and bullying. Since I was a bystander to the incident and the young mom chose to ignore the woman, it was best not to say anything and let it go. And, the woman’s conversation with the cashier was with him and not with me. Therefore, it was best that I remain silent and follow the response of the cashier…ignore her. If the woman’s actions were towards me, directly, then I could choose how to respond. As indicated in the hyperlinked article, always consider the circumstance.

When is a response necessary? When the behavior becomes bullying, a response is appropriate. The image on this blog, shared with permission, is by an amazing 16-year- old artist, Jessica. The artist rendition powerfully illustrates the results of bullying through facial expression and words, which create the image itself. Depression, sorrow, pain, hurt, alone, hell, rejection, anxiety, broken, represent but a few from the image, the harsh reality of bullying when intervention is necessary. Although we often perceive bullying to only afflict school age children it also occurs among adults, in all age groups. I personally have observed such behavior by grown men and women, especially on sport fields as well as the workplace.

Whether witnessing rudeness and bullying in public, on any sports field, in the workplace, or wherever such behavior takes place, be prepared in how you might respond. This blog post as well as “5 Polite Ways to Disarm Rude People”, provides food for thought in order to make wise decisions; not respond, when to approach a person(s) directly and when to seek and speak to those in authority. So, what would you do?

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 The Bible, New Living Translation

 

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A Renter’s Tug-of-War – Published July 15, 2017

Whether you are renting a summer vacation home, looking to rent an apartment/home, or a college student excited about dorm life, this blog provides wise suggestions to protect yourself.

It wasn’t that long ago our son was excited about heading off to college with his two good friends. The three young men were accepted to the same university and shared a large dorm room that first year. Of course, being excited parents, all met to help the boys move in. We noticed the room by far was not perfect. Existing carpet damage, stains, tile issues in the bathroom, damaged desk drawer, some marked walls – were all visible. Overall, it was dorm room standard. Although the boys went through the check- in process with the Resident Assistant (RA), only two broken data ports were noted. Fast forward to the end of the year, and after a good walk-through with the RA, we received a bill totaling $258 for dorm room damages that were pre-existing. Fortunately we had a copy of the signed Room Condition Form (RCF), but it took 17 emails to get the unwarranted charges removed.

Throughout college living and apartment renting, the concern over pre-existing damages and security deposit reimbursement continues to be a struggle regardless of location. The following is a suggested checklist before moving in and out of any rental. It is quite easy today to take precautions when cell phones are camera ready and mobile phone journal apps (I use Day One) easily voice record and date summaries and lists. Being diligent and taking these extra steps to verify pertinent information can save you money, time, and frustration.

  1. CREATE an email folder labeled RENT (or whatever you want to call it).
  2. ALWAYS request a walk-through before moving into any rental, including dorm rooms.
  3. ASK before renting, what is expected at the time of move out (carpet cleaning, professional cleaners, etc), in writing, and ask about the walk- through process at that time. You don’t want to discover before moving out that you are expected to paint the space, clean the carpets and have professional cleaners.
  4. BE DILIGENT to note any existing damage or imperfections throughout, including bathrooms and kitchens.
  5. REVIEW the document to be sure any and all pre-existing issues are noted and take photos of all flaws and damages. Email these photos to yourself and save in your email designated folder. FYI…emails are dated which validates about the time photos were taken. Cell cameras do not date photos, that I am aware of, other than organized and stored by date in iPhoto.
  6. SAVE a paper copy of the signed document, in a place you will remember, that verifies the existing condition of the space.
  7. PHOTO the document with your cell phone, email it to yourself, and save in email RENT folder.
  8. REPORT immediately by email (so you have written record) any other flaws or damage you notice after moving in. Save in RENT folder.
  9. ALWAYS before moving out, request a walk-through. (We, and others we know, have experienced being declined by designated managers saying it wasn’t necessary. Then, surprise, we don’t get the security deposit refunded.)
  10. REQUEST the walk-through document, signed, before handing over the keys.
  11. TAKE PHOTOS of the living space BEFORE you leave. This is important!! Even through you have a clear walk- through report; you could still get hit with charges. Then it’s your word against theirs. Photos are also a great way to cover yourself if, because of timing, you are out of the living space and the walk-through never happens.

A quick Internet search brings up many possible reasons why college students are assessed extra dorm fees and people feel security deposits are not returned, which seems to happen most often in large apartment complexes managed by corporate property management firms. Knowing about the walk-through process before moving in and out, having signed documentation about the living space condition with photos all filed for easy access, can be a proactive way to protect yourself. Enjoy your summer vacation away, apartment/home rental or dorm room experience with peace of mind. A tug of war between renters’ word and theirs might be someone else’s struggle, but it won’t be yours!

 

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Processed with MOLDIV

Hidden Danger – Published July 11, 2017

This past Saturday at 7AM, going through the garage to retrieve the morning paper, the activity of bears in our neighborhood was the only need for caution on my mind. A few minutes later I became aware of a far more serious hidden danger that took me by surprise.

The door leading to the mudroom didn’t even have a chance to close when my garage door DROPPED and the lift system bracket arm was sliding towards the operation box!! Our home just turned 3 years old so I couldn’t imagine that the lift system already had issues. Thankfully, instead of calling the garage door company (contact info label on the door), I called the authorized dealer for LiftMaster, One Clear Choice Garage Doors. They were awesome and had someone to our home by 9AM.

This is the problem and the hidden danger that was explained to me. A number of garage door companies (contracting with new homebuilders) are installing a less expensive bracket arm that cannot adequately accommodate the weight of 2 car garage doors. And, instead of firmly installed lift arms, using a steel bracket securely bolted down the center of the door, the lightweight arms are directly bolted to pressed wood. To make matters worse, our previous bracket arm had 4 bolt slots but only 2 shallow bolts were used. Every time our garage door opened and closed the vibration loosened the bolts until Saturday, when the arm popped off and the door gave way.

Almost always, I drive my car into garage while the door is still going up. And, often times I scoot into the garage while the door is opening or closing. Imagine, how this situation may not have ended well if the door fell while I (on anyone else) was driving into the garage or walking in or out in the direct path of a lift arm fail!!

Whether you have a fairly new home or an older one, check to be sure the bracket arm is adequate for the weight of your garage door and securely fastened. The photo on this blog shows before and after pictures. You can clearly see there are only two shallow and loose bolt holes when the incident took place. We contacted our builder and received an immediate response with assurance they would contact the garage door company who installed our door.

I’m sharing this story because of the hidden danger that could impact your life, forever. A failed bracket arm could be fatal to you, your children, pets and guests visiting your home. If you are not sure about the safety of your door, call your local garage door service company. After reliving what could have been, and although fixed, I’ll schedule garage door maintenance every few years and I’ll wait until the door is completely up or down before walking or driving in/out of the garage. You might consider doing the same. This hidden danger is completely avoidable now that I know, what I know, and you do as well. Be safe!!

 

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Medical Mayhem! – Published June 20, 2017

In 2004 I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease after struggling with digestive system issues that began when I was 13 years old. At 42 years old my weight had plummeted to103 lbs standing at 5’4.75”. Many thought I was hiding an eating disorder, before and after diagnosis. Already feeling physically and emotional horrible, having to carry any label was an unnecessary burden. This disease is very real and the symptoms, varied and inconsistent, making it hard to diagnose. At the time the Gluten Free diet was discussed with me, I was positive for 17 out of 19 symptoms. Slowly through the year that followed, symptoms began to disappear and my weight changed from 103 lbs to 115 lbs.

In 2004 anything gluten-free (GF) was hard to find. GF breads tasted like cardboard. Pasta noodles dissolved as they were cooking. GF options have certainly come a long way since then! In fact, being GF has become trendy. This is both good news and not so good news for those with Celiac Disease or gluten sensitivity. Good news… food companies have an incentive to produce best tasting GF products to compete and meet demand. Not good news… because trendy GF means Celiac Disease patients can easily be grouped with the trending masses. Often I’ve been told, including occasionally at restaurants, it’s just a little gluten, pick out the croutons in a salad, or miniscule amounts of gluten in a vitamin capsule is OK. But, it really is not OK if the gluten triggers a medical condition. The cost of contamination, especially in young children, can have serious medical repercussions. Those who have the autoimmune disease or gluten sensitivity, any gluten (even the smallest amount) can trigger horrific symptoms that can last for days. Symptoms can include stomach pain and swelling, headaches, itchy rashes, inner mouth sores, depression, chronic fatigue and diarrhea, to name a few. So, although I am thrilled amazing breads, pastas and other GF products are available today, it’s important that I take responsibility to be sure that what I am eating is truly free of gluten. A few years ago when I first moved from California, I had a local Chiropractor encourage me to purchase Fish Oil being promoted and sold by the practice. Knowing I had Celiac Disease, this individual assured me that it was gluten free. A month later, feeling poorly with a steady increase of all symptoms, I pulled the bottle and read the finest of print. First ingredient in the Fish Oil…WHEAT! Lesson – always do my own thorough checking.

Suggestions for any medical mayhem…

  1. If your symptoms are chronic, your not feeling heard, and your not getting better, always get a second opinion.
  2. Use web resources to know what questions to ask your physician BUT not to self-diagnose.
  3. Don’t swap dietary restrictions for unhealthy alternatives. Example, gluten free diets loaded with sugar and fat to make up for the gluten free difference, doesn’t end well.
  4. Stay informed! Once diagnosed, whether it’s Celiac Disease or any other medical condition, ask your physician about conferences and resources and stay current.
    • After being diagnosed, I attended a number of conferences by Dr. Peter Green. Outstanding resource! LINK 
  5. Balanced living means giving yourself permission to have solo downtime, especially when struggling with a chronic medical condition that can leave you easily fatigued.

Medical mayhem resulting from any medical diagnosis is almost always a result of not feeling in control of body changes and symptoms, not being heard, and overwhelmed by having to make sudden lifestyle changes. Be confidant and ask those questions that are on your mind, do online research to know additional questions to ask (BUT not for self – diagnosis), and seek qualified resources that offer professional guidance, conferences and support groups to help you through. You can do it!!

My Favorite Celiac Disease Resources

Celiac Disease (Revised and Updated Edition): A Hidden Epidemic Hardcover – January 26, 2010 by Peter H.R., M.D. Green (Author), Rory Jones  (Author)

Celiac Disease Center, Columbia University Website

 

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When Life Feels Like an Inferno – Published June 3, 2017

On Wednesday, May 31st, while driving with friends, we noticed a narrow stream of light grey smoke coming from a vehicle near the center divide of the highway. Within seconds it became an inferno. We were traveling not too far behind, just two lanes over. Cars slowed and some stopped. First thought…whoever is in that truck hopefully made it out. Second thought…how do we get off this road? Third thought…what if the vehicle explodes? We will be impacted. At that moment realized no one had any control of what could happen next. The best we could do is to stay positive and work our SUV towards the furthest right lane to exit the freeway. The truck was carrying diesel fuel and oil. Liquid was pouring on the asphalt, spreading to the other lanes. Cars were cooperating with each other to encourage a steady flow of movement towards the nearest exit, as emergency vehicles were notified and had yet to arrive.

This experience has been consistent with life lessons I’ve had throughout the year about loosening the grip on control because often in life we really don’t have any. This is especially true in circumstances, which is well beyond any personal responsibility however direct impact and repercussions are deeply felt. This blog is about “control” and accepting our lack of and moving forward in spite of it. Any unexpected and shocking news become “infernos” in our life when the initial auto-response is…”I can’t believe this is happening” and there is uncertainty about the end result. Here are my 3 simple take-a-ways, which I hope you find helpful as well.

  • Be calm is something I have had to learn over the years, which will always be a work in progress. Calm opens the mind and heart and leads to options. It enables mental flexibility that leaves room for God’s wisdom to step in, bringing a feeling of AWE as if personally protected by God. Staying calm also challenges the mind to see past the obvious to consider what lies below the surface, which is especially true in relationships. Panic, the opposite of calm, is like a closed and locked door where the rigidness that comes with this emotion is paralyzing, leading to twisted truths and false conclusions.
  • Be focused on what needs to be done and move forward with your conviction. Proverbs 4:25 “Let your eyes look directly ahead and let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you.” To remain focused, be cautious of any temptation to opinion surf or seek consensus. Once your focus is set, protect it and follow it. This is where HOPE is found and solutions are visible…looking forward. Any and all distractions, including emotional ones, keep us running but most likely not getting anywhere.
  • Be kind to yourself, being patient as you work through the predicament, establish boundaries with others to receive the space you need to process and be kind to others who may also be working through the same situation or could be providing needed help or are innocent bystanders. Regardless of circumstances, when we seek the best for others as well as ourselves, we receive good results and generous blessings. But, the antithesis to “be kind” doesn’t end well for anyone.

Is the past forgotten? No. When past difficulties provide positive lessons and inspiration for the future, they should be remembered and shared. Difficult circumstances are encouraging if we can freely move forward with confidence, strength and a solid life lesson in our pocket. But when past reflections prompt bitterness, a need for justice, angst and fear, even best efforts with these chains will lead to discouragement, depression, and failure. It’s not healthy to bury a past laced with negative emotions. If this is the case, it is important to get professional counseling because healing is the only way to prevent repressed buildup that locks in negative emotions stifling joyful living.

It’s a miracle the accident on Wednesday, May 31st, had no fatalities. The driver is hospitalized with leg burns after a brave construction worker pulled him away from the burning truck. Cars slowly and carefully exited the freeway, our SUV included, just as emergency vehicle sirens were heard approaching the scene. And then, multiple explosions took place. Traffic was horrific for the remainder of the day, but horns didn’t blow. Instead, throughout, there was an atmosphere of calm, focus and kindness that will be remembered always. It’s not a matter of “if” and more a matter of “when” unexpected life infernos take place. It’s best to be prepared…Be Calm, Be Focused, and Be Kind. Set realistic expectations because progress is more important than perfection!

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Serenity Prayer, Reinhold Niebuhr

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Must Have “Unexpected” Plan – Published May 30, 2017

Creating a checklist of pertinent information for our adult son, should anything suddenly happen to my husband and/or me, has been on my TO DO list for some time. Yesterday I was motivated to complete this task after reading about a friend’s adult (18 years old+) child who suddenly became gravely ill and could no longer make medical or life decisions. A court release for temporary conservatorship was necessary in order for the parents to make decisions on her behalf. “Because of HIPAA and confidentiality laws, it locks you out of being able to take care of things that you need to for a loved one.” WOW! This triggered two questions; is our 24 year old son prepared to make decisions for us and are we prepared to make decisions for him, if needed?

Well, we have our ducks “somewhat” in order, which is not good enough. Our son is not aware of everything he will need to do in an emergency or where to locate our government documentation and other information. He does nothave an Advance Medical Directive. If my husband and I want to be involved in his best care, since he doesn’t yet have a married significant other, he will need his own directive. Here is a HIPAA Release and Authorization form LINK. Each state may differ in Medical/Healthcare Directives. You can internet search “your state name” Healthcare Directive – AARP for the pdf. Everplans, website suggested below, has a wealth of information about these directives and a form search by state, LINK. Kaiser Permanente has the directive available on their website for the state in which you live. This Kaiser LINK is the one for California, as an example. Where to keep Advance Medical Directives is another great resource, LINK. All of this information is not a substitute for professional legal guidance. Until our son is married, it’s also wise that we have a complete list of his internet, financial and credit accounts including logins/passwords, should the unexpected happen. You might consider the same for single adults in your family.

You may be organized with all this information and have shared with those who are appointed with power of attorney, executorship, and administration. If not, attached Must Have _Unexpected_ Plan is a general list to help you get started. Suggest all information be kept organized in a binder, stored in a secured place. The attached checklist can be the binder Table of Contents. Check off what has been accomplished. Add to the list, where needed. Government offices for your state and county will need to be identified to customize your listing. My husband and I do have important documents along with recorded information, hardcopy and memory stick, in a protected location. After compiling the attached list, however, realize there is much more work to be done!!

If you enjoy online resources, I found Everplans to be a well thought-out and organized website. You might want to check it out (LINK). Click on Resources & Guides (LINK) for a comprehensive category listing without requiring a login account. Whether you use the attached listing Must Have _Unexpected_ Plan, Everplans, or other resource, let your family or trusted and appointed person(s) know.

Taking inventory to plan for the unexpected is difficult and time consuming. These discussions are hard but necessary. Dealing with loss is stressful enough and anything to make the process easier offers peace of mind and benefits everyone!

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Be Prepared! Protect Yourself From Being Hit Twice!! – Published May 23, 2017

No one wants to be in a car accident and we don’t get a “heads up” before one actually happens. The best way to protect yourself is to know what to do and hopefully you are fortunate enough to make it out of the car. Not all insurance companies have best business practices. It is, therefore, especially important that steps are followed and your rights known so you are not misguided, which could cost you thousands of $$$ out of your own pocket.

Friday, Feb 27, 2015 was the day we received a call from our adult son that he was in a car accident. Another vehicle went through a red light. If timing had been slightly different by seconds, he would have had a direct T-bone hit to his vehicle and may not have been able to get out of his car or make a phone call. His first accident, shaken up and needing guidance, he asked, “What do I do??”

Internet search “auto accident checklist” for access to guidelines provided by your car insurance company. We have Amica and you can click this LINK to view their checklist. Keep the checklist along with a working pen and small note pad in the glove compartment at all times. Cell phones are camera ready and you do want to take pictures before any vehicle is moved. Especially for young first time drivers, review guidelines and steps at the time your teenagers get their driver’s license. Being naive can easily be taken advantage.

In higher crime areas police may not come out for car accident calls, especially if there are no apparent injuries. In this case, it is best to still file a police report at the closest police station.

Call your insurance company while at the scene of the accident. They will want to know the other party name, address, drivers license number, car license plate number, insurance carrier and your report of what happened. This is critical. If you don’t have the means to write down information, take a picture with your cell phone of all pertinent info that can easily be sent by email to your insurance company. Ideally, both insurance companies work together to determine accident liability and to confirm coverage for the insured. If a vehicle is “totaled” and cannot be driven, it will be towed to the nearest collision lot or vehicle body shop. This is where the insurance company who confirms liability will send a claims adjuster to review and assess damage to determine if repairable or totaled and should be done within a few days.

Our experience was quite different than what is described above and if it happened to us, it could happen to you. Here is a quick summary:

  • We had to facilitate and manage communications between insurance companies, proactively expediting as neither insurance company was taking a lead for resolution.
  • Although the other party’s insurance company finally assumed liability on March 12th, they didn’t send a claims adjuster to the collision lot until March 23, writing a settlement letter to us the same day.
  • In the meantime, during this waiting period since the accident on February 27th, the insurance company requested our son REMOVE the car from the collision lot. WARNING – NEVER do this. Once you move the car before the responsible insurance company inspects damage, you have just tampered with evidence, taken ownership, and may have assumed all financial responsibility. This pressure we experienced does not reflect BEST BUSINESS PRACTICES. We were grateful that the owner of the collision lot offered wise counsel.
  • When the settlement was finally offered March 23rd, the other party’s insurance company claimed we were responsible for salvage retention and the collision lot fees of $50 per day because we refused to move the vehicle to another location. Exact wording… “Your son abandoned the vehicle at the body shop and made no attempt to move it to a storage free location. For this reason you are liable to pay the salvage retention fee of $1,000 and all fees incurred on the lot since the vehicle was towed there on February 27th.”  WOW!! And, WRONG!! Once the insurance company assumed liability (March 12th) the vehicle became theirs. And, they are the ones who allowed the car to sit on the lot by delaying claims adjuster inspection until March 23rd .
  • The other party’s insurance company refused to budge on their settlement or lack of. On the evening of March 25th, online, we submitted a complaint to the California Department of Insurance, California Insurance Commissioner as well as the State of California Department of Justice, Attorney General’s Office. Thankfully, we keep meticulous notes including date and time of every phone conversation and emails saved. By 9:30 AM on March 26th, we received a phone call that there was a misunderstanding and the other party’s insurance company offered a full settlement,  including responsibility for the $1,000 salvage fees and $50 per day lot fees that they would settle directly with the collision lot.

What is the message of this life lesson to you?

  • Keep in the glove compartment, your insurance company’s auto accident checklist along with a pen and notepad ready for writing down information.
  • The telephone number of your insurance agent should also be in your cell phone directory and consider a pic of an accident checklist in your photo file, just in case you can’t get to your glove compartment.
  • If you don’t feel that your insurance company is working on your behalf, complain. You pay good $$$ for insurance and you deserve their full attention and assistance, even if the other party is at fault. We changed our insurance company after this accident.
  • Keep copious notes. Date and time every phone conversation and keep an “accident” file of all emails.
  • NEVER remove a vehicle from any lot after an accident until liability has been determined, a claims adjuster has written the report, (which you have received and reviewed), a settlement has been agreed to, and car removal clearance given as well as vehicle ownership at this point, concluded.
  • All of the above should be reviewed with first time drivers.
  • If you are feeling stuck, file a complaint with your state Department of Insurance, Insurance Commissioner’s Office as well as the state’s Attorney General. The online complaint feature is simple. The turnaround is quick!!

It’s difficult to plan for circumstances that we hope will never happen. Being prepared, however, is your best protection from being hit twice;  impact of the collision and the financial shock if you’re not reimbursed for damages incurred.

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Patient Beware! – Published May 10, 2017

There will come a time, if this hasn’t happened already, when you or a loved one will be in the hospital either unexpectedly or for a scheduled procedure. The following shares important information you might want to know that could save you thousands of dollars. This blog will use my grandmother as an example of the challenges we faced during a stressful time, specifically dealing with Medicare coverage. Some of the information, however, could also apply to private healthcare insurance. Best to be informed, know the facts and be prepared to ask wise questions of your healthcare provider/insurance company.  What is scary…not knowing what you don’t know.

January 2015 my grandmother who was quite active, physically strong and mentally sharp at 99 years old, was found non-responsive at her home. She was diagnosed with a severe stroke shortly after being admitted to the ER. In a coma, doctors revealed to the family she could pass anytime within 2 weeks. We were quite surprised to receive a call the following morning from the hospital saying her discharge is being prepared for that day, either to the family or to a skilled nursing home if a bed is available. It was quickly determined a bed was not available. We were not equipped or qualified to handle the care my grandmother required if sent home. Three days of phone calls, fact-finding, and speaking with an independent patient advocate gave us the information we needed so my grandmother could remain in the hospital for her final days.

  • Everyone has the right to 24 hours notice before they are discharged from the hospital.[1]
  • Patients must be admitted as an inpatient (not under outpatient observation) and stay 3 hospital days, before qualifying for certain Medicare benefits such as skilled nursing homes for rehab and other needed care. A patient may be responsible for the entire incurred cost of a skilled nursing home if this requirement is not met.
  • A new law in effect August of 2016[2] requires that hospital/care facilities must notify patients of observation status if not inpatient admittance. Prior to this date, those assumed inpatient (receiving same care) after discharge discover their stay was classified as outpatient/observation status, incurring financial responsibility for needed skilled nursing or rehab facilities!![3] Ouch!!!
  • Under what condition is a patient put “under observation”? Observation services are hospital outpatient services that a physician orders to allow for monitoring, testing and/or medical evaluation. This occurs when a person initially arrives at a hospital and a diagnosis cannot be readily determined because of medical uncertainty or after the completion of an outpatient scheduled procedure. Outpatient observation days do not apply towards the 3-day inpatient minimum Medicare requires before being eligible for skilled nursing coverage.[4]

My grandmother was eventually given a room.  But, we later discovered she was admitted under observation and not inpatient. This didn’t make sense because she was already diagnosed and her prognosis determined. What is there to observe? When we shared this “observation concern” and brought up patient rights of 24 hours notice before being released, we were told this law didn’t apply because she wasn’t admitted as inpatient. It appeared there was a rush to discharge her within 24 hours to avoid inpatient status and for the family to assume the coverage for a skilled nursing facility. “Medicare generally pays hospitals flat rates based on the type of medical problem being treated. If the hospital spends less money on your care than Medicare pays, it makes money, and vice versa.” Challenging Hospital Discharge Decisions by CANHR. The full article is noted under footnote (1.)

After unsuccessfully speaking with many levels of hospital patient care; I connected with an independent patient advocacy group suggesting I contact skilled nursing facilities on my own. Often when patients or their families are told beds are not available, there is a vacancy or one coming available the next day. The very first call made to a skilled nursing home (a few miles from the hospital), a bed was indeed available. Ideally, it is best to visit nursing homes to check the quality of care and the cleanliness of the facility you want. Nursing homes cannot be reserved in advance of hospital discharge. So, when the time comes for a skilled nursing facility, immediately make calls to the ones you prefer and speak to their Administrator. Be the coordinator between nursing home and Hospital Patient Care Coordinator.

My grandmother never made it to a skilled nursing home. The hospital eventually did admit her as inpatient. After days of continuous struggle not to move her to another location, she passed away on day 9. Medicare and supplemental insurance covered all costs. We are grateful that she had family by her side throughout and my mom and I were holding her as her last breath with us became her first breath in Heaven.

Know your patient rights. Even if you don’t qualify for Medicare now, be informed of the facts to protect the elderly in your family who depend on wise guidance and care. The Medicare PDF document Are You In A Hospital Inpatient or Outpatient? (footnote 4) is an outstanding summary resource. Identify well-rated rehab facilities and skilled nursing homes before you need them. Although some of the footnote resources cover California, many of these laws could be the same in all states. Be proactive and find out about patient rights in your state. Seek to know what you may not know and make life simple.

[1] Challenging Hospital Discharge Decisions by CANHR 

[2] New Medicare Law To Notify Nursing Home Coverage NY TIMES … 

[3] Are You In The Hospital Or Not? AARP 

[4] Are You In A Hospital Inpatient or Outpatient? Revised May 2014

Recommend Book: Get What’s Yours for Medicare by Philip Moeller (Excellent book!) When You’re In The Hospital But Not Really – pages 67-68 Understanding Your Emergency And Expedited Rights – page 165

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Thriving Relationships – Published May 2, 2017

Relationship struggles can direct us towards healing and transformation when our hearts are open to honest self-assessment.

It has been almost 20 years since my family life became so fragmented that I didn’t think our marriage would survive. At that time, truly, I believed myself to be the best wife and mother: leading, encouraging, and selflessly providing love and support. After a year of prayer, a group marriage program and inner reflection, I began to acknowledge I wasn’t considering the needs of my husband or son (6 years old).

Boundaries keep relationships healthy. I didn’t have any. If there was an opportunity to work or help outside the home, I took it. If there was an opportunity for my son to “experience” something new, I arranged it. My life focused on meeting everyone’s needs and expectations except considering those that mattered most – my husband, son, and often my own. Operating at full speed my goal was to fulfill far too many commitments, perhaps to impress others with all that was being juggled to achieve a feeling of success and importance through busyness. I was actively involved in five church ministries, school fundraiser, women’s bible study outside church, while undergoing a home remodel. Our son participated in all seasonal sports. He also joined golf, karate (3 times a week year round), Boy Scouts, weekly church children’s program and school activities. Simply not enough hours in a day to do it all. I believed we had to be fully engaged to live up to a culturally expected active family life (fallacy!), especially if our “well-rounded” 6-year-old had a chance of getting into a good college. (Really!???) And, it was eating away at our marriage and family life together. When my husband shared his feelings that we do not have the “thriving” marriage or family life he expected, I was shocked, not aware of any issues or problems. The choice came down to divorce or we proactively discuss our family needs, agree on priorities and establish boundaries. It was a long year but eventually the steps we took paved the way for +20 awesome years together and hopefully many, many, more to enjoy.

It was during this struggling time my neighbor shared the following principle, which, is one that continues to direct our priorities today:

Person in Christ; Partner to my Spouse; Parent to my Child; Public Servant (all else)

This principle led to family meetings at predetermined times, so that we could be prepared and well rested. Honestly communicating needs and expectations became the primary goal and the following questions (answer to prayer!) facilitated our time together. And, yes, we most definitely included our 6-year-old son.

  1. What I love about you…
  2. What bother’s me most…
  3. If I can suggest a change, this is what it would be…(best to limit one suggestion per meeting)

Discussing these questions with each other took place three times per year for about two years, graduating to New Year’s Eve annual reviews. Responses were recorded and reviewed at each subsequent meeting to celebrate progress.

The result of proactively taking control saved our marriage with a drastically reduced weekly schedule! Our son chose three activities and admitted that all else on his calendar he never really enjoyed. (He is now a 3rd year medical student and doing just fine!!) I narrowed my commitments and exchanged my focus for quality time with my husband and son. Together, we launched Sunday family golf at the course where we played. Healthy balance was beginning to feel great!

Our wedding vows were renewed Summer of 2000. The picture on this blog reflects that precious day celebrating with family and friends. Proverbs 3:5-6 became my scripture verse – Trust in the Lord with all your heart; lean not on your own understanding, in all ways acknowledge HIM and he will make your paths straight. He did. The Lord made our paths straight and we said, “I DO” again.

There will always be life struggles. Prioritizing needs and consulting with each other while holding steadfast to faith has been our saving grace. I do believe our habits today are our children’s habits tomorrow. Growing up our son was fortunate to experience this process and to understand the importance of boundaries. Someday, he could implement similar meetings with his own family. Any relationship that is struggling can benefit by this life lesson. Begin with an honest assessment of yourself. Then, initiate open communications with positive expectations for the simple life you need and thriving relationships you desire!

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Appliance Beware – Published April 29, 2017

At one time most all serial numbers were typically etched in metal. You may have noticed, especially on appliances, this is no longer the case. Serial numbers are inked stamped or printed on labels. PROBLEM!!

We moved into our newly built home May 2014. I didn’t pay attention to “labels” on our major appliances. The one used most frequently is the microwave convection oven with an awesome speed cook feature. This unit is cleaned often because we use it often. Within the first 2 years we had to place a few service calls. On the 3rd service call a 3rd party company was assigned to our home. He looked at our unit and said, “Can’t fix your appliance. The serial number on your label is no longer legible. You will have to purchase a new unit.” WHAT???

It took a week of phone calls to the manufacturer for a resolution. Seriously, we are not the ones responsible for switching from a metal etched serial number to a cheap label! It did not matter that we had extended warranty or operation manuals with the serial number. The number MUST be on the unit, on the label, as delivered when installed. Finally, we were issued a new label with the same serial number, which, apparently they never do.

Solution: At the time of any big-ticket item purchase, locate the serial number. If it is printed on a label, cover it with clear DUCK tape to ensure the serial number is protected and always legible. You might first call the manufacturer to make sure it is OK to cover the serial number with clear tape to protect print clarity and legibility long term. NEVER pull off the tape, because if you do, the serial label will be removed and you’ll be shopping for a replacement, in this case an appliance.

Safeguarding your appliance serial number is for your protection. If you purchase used or refurbished appliances be sure to check that the serial and model number on the product are intact and legitimate before purchasing. This article by Fox News 2014 explains…http://kdvr.com/2014/11/10/used-appliance-alert-missing-model-and-serial-numbers-could-be-big-problem/.

Make your life simple and take product serial numbers seriously!!