Life Lessons

Planning For A Healthy New Year? READ those labels! – Published November 28, 2017

Approaching the New Year in just 6 weeks, this is the time many set healthy habit goals to prepare for the coming year. Often this includes exercise either at the gym, home or outdoors and better eating habits along with purchasing vitamins and supplements. Before you head out to fill your cabinet with bottles of tablets and packets, here are some facts you should know.

“Dietary Supplements can be beneficial to your health — but taking supplements can also involve health risks. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not have the authority to review dietary supplement products for safety and effectiveness before they are marketed.” Food and Drug Administration

Vitamins and supplements can pose a danger and be toxic. PLEASE refer to your physician or a licensed certified nutritionist before taking any vitamins and supplements. The reason your friends, family members, coworkers and acquaintances might be taking certain supplements should not be your reason. If someone is trying to convince you to take or buy a supplement pack and discourages you from talking with your physician or nutritionist, this is a great reason to say NO, THANK YOU. Especially, be very careful taking supplement products that promote weight loss or are used to build muscle. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal, New Evidence for Critics of Weight-Loss and Sport Supplements warns about liver damage and states…

“Dietary supplements make lots of claims and consumers often believe them: The booming U.S. industry has grown from $9 billion in sales in 2007 to $15 billion this year, according to Euromonitor International, a market research firm. But a new study gives ammunition to critics of the supplements and their potential health risks. The study found two banned stimulants and two previously unknown and little-studied substances in six weight-loss and sports supplementssold in the U.S. The researchers defined “banned” as “ingredients for which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had taken enforcement action to remove from dietary supplements prior to August 2016 (when the samples were purchased).”

Often, the vitamins you are already getting through food may be providing the essential vitamins you need. “But the combination of whole foods, supplements, and fortified foods raises safety concerns with experts. Eating fortified foods while also taking supplements can cause a person’s diet to exceed safe upper levels and potentially lead to a toxic buildup.” Webmd Only a physician and/or licensed certified nutritionist, often through the results of blood tests, can accurately discern what vitamins and minerals you might be lacking. Also, some supplements already contain vitamins other than the primary name listed on the label. It is very important you read the ingredient labels and small print before adding to your daily intake, to avoid duplicity. Here are a few examples.

I was taking ZINC as a supplement tablet. Then I started taking Ocuvite for eye health. I realized after reading the ingredient label, Ocuvite already has 40 mg of Zinc. I was exceeding Zinc daily recommendations and didn’t realize this for a few weeks. WebMD indicates the side effects of Zinc here.

Another situation came up where an individual I know began taking an IRON AID daily tablet. Within a week symptoms of delirium, rash, stomach issues suddenly came about. After reviewing all medications including supplements, discovered the IRON AID included 400 mcg of Folic Acid, which is not good when already taking a daily Folic Acid supplement of 1000 mcg. Toxic level of Folic Acid is noted at 1200 mcg daily and this individual was consuming 1400 mcg daily. Once taken off Folic Acid all symptoms disappeared within a week. Click here about Folic Acid and its side effects.

Below is a listing of common vitamins and toxic side effects possible (taken from the noted hyperlinked “article here” resources) when exceeding the recommended maximum amounts. New findings also suggest that the body doesn’t always flush out the excess of water-soluble vitamins. Therefore, even water-soluble vitamins pose a toxic risk when exceeding recommended amounts. In addition to these risks, taking vitamins/supplements may interfere with prescription medicine including over-the-counter blood thinners.

Almost 60,000 instances of vitamin toxicity are reported annually to US poison control centers. According to National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data, in 2003–2006 33% of the United States population aged 1 year and older took a multivitamin supplement in a given month.  In a 2009 survey, 56% of US consumers said they take vitamins or supplements, with 44% saying they take them daily.   Vitamin Toxicity, December 21, 2016

Vitamin A – “Acute symptoms drowsiness – irritability, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, increased brain pressure. Chronic – blurry vision & changes, swelling and pain of bones, poor appetite, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, sensitivity to sunlight, dry rough skin, itchy peeling skin, cracked finger nails, cracked skin around mouth, mouth ulcers, yellow skin, hair loss, respiratory infection, confusion.” Article here.

Vitamin B Family

B1 – “Blue colored lips, chest pain, feeling short of breath; black, bloody, or tarry stools, or coughing up blood or vomit that looks like coffee grounds, nausea, tight feeling in your throat, sweating, feeling warm, mild rash or itching, feeling restless, or tenderness or a hard lump where a thiamine injection was given.” Article here.

B2 – “Sun-induced eye damage, itching or numbing sensations, and orange-tinted urine.” Article here.

B6 – “Nerve damage, decreased sensation to touch, temperature, and vibration, loss of balance or coordination, numbness in your feet or around your mouth, clumsiness in your hands, or feeling tired, nausea, headache, drowsiness, mild numbness or tinkling.” Article here. 

B12 – “Restenosis (reoccurrence of narrowing of a blood vessel) after stent placement, high blood pressure, acne, rash, itchy or burning skin, pink or red skin discoloration, facial flushing, urine discoloration, numbness, nausea, difficulty swallowing, diarrhea, increase in blood volume and red blood cells, low potassium levels, gout flare-up.”    Article here.

Vitamin C – “Diarrhea nausea vomiting heartburn abdominal bloating and cramps headache insomnia kidney stones.” Article here.

Vitamin D – “Buildup of calcium in your blood (hypercalcemia), which can cause poor appetite, nausea and vomiting. Weakness, frequent urination and kidney problems also may occur.” Article here.

Vitamin E – “If you have a condition such as heart disease or diabetes, do not take doses of 400 IU/day or more. Some research suggests that high doses might increase the chance of death and possibly cause other serious side effects. The higher the dose, the greater the risk of serious side effects. There is some concern that vitamin E might increase the chance of having a serious stroke called hemorrhagic stroke, which is bleeding into the brain. Some research shows that taking vitamin E in doses of 300-800 IU each day might increase the chance of this kind of stroke by 22%. However, in contrast, vitamin E might decrease the chance of having a less severe stroke called an ischemic stroke.” Article here.

Iron – “Symptoms of an iron overdose include nausea, diarrhea, black stools, vomiting blood, a metallic taste in your mouth, stomach pain, fever and headache, which sometimes but not always occur within an hour of taking too many iron supplements. If you don’t get treatment, more severe overdose symptoms may include dizziness, chills, drowsiness, and pale or flushed skin, fast or weak pulse and low blood pressure.” Article here. 

Folic Acid – “Less serious side effects include digestive problems, nausea, loss of appetite, bloating, gas, a bitter or unpleasant taste in the mouth, sleep disturbances, depression, excessive excitement, irritability and a zinc deficiency. More severe signs include psychotic behavior, numbness or tingling, mouth pain, weakness, trouble concentrating, confusion, fatigue and even seizures. An allergic reaction to folic acid may cause wheezing, swelling of the face and throat or a skin rash.” Article here.

Magnesium – “Doses less than 350 mg daily are safe for most adults. When taken in very large amounts, magnesium is POSSIBLY UNSAFE. Large doses might cause too much magnesium to build up in the body, causing serious side effects including an irregular heartbeat, low blood pressure, confusion, slowed breathing, coma, and death.” Article here. 

Do older and inactive individuals require less vitamins? Well, this is not actually the case. As we grow older we tend to consume less calories, which means less food and therefore less vitamins from the foods we eat. This would indicate vitamin supplements may be needed. This article explains…Nutrition Over 70; A guide to Senior Dietary Needs. Published findings and talking with friends and family, however, ARE NOT to replace conversations about vitamins and supplements with a physician or their referral to a licensed and certified nutritionist.

There are no health risks when the body absorbs vitamins through a balanced diet of whole and natural foods. There is, however, a greater risk of toxicity from vitamins through dietary supplements and fortified foods. Best way to plan for the New Year…make an appointment with your General Practitioner, if you haven’t already. Discuss your physical fitness goals and review your everyday eating habits along with vitamin and supplement needs. AND, READ THOSE LABELS! Just because a bottle labels a certain vitamin doesn’t mean it doesn’t also contain other vitamins. Duplicity of vitamins can be toxic!

Additional Resources

What are the Most Toxic Vitamins? by LAURA KENNY

 

Color Your Communications! – Published October 31, 2017

A number of years ago I began managing my mother’s medical care. When I moved out-of-state in 2014, online communications with medical staff was an easy solution for healthcare management. Processing and managing prescriptions and vitamin supplements – far more challenging.  This published post shares a simple idea for managing prescriptions if you live miles away or in another state, yet continue to maintain responsibility for assisting parents, extended family members, or friends.

Whenever possible, the first suggestion is to participate in prescription mail order. This allows the patient (in many cases) to get a 90 day supply of ongoing prescriptions compared to a 30 day supply. Less ordering simplifies prescription management. Second, have a plan in place to monitor prescriptions running low as the care receiver may not always tell you prior to a dwindled down supply. This could include calendaring when to reorder and/or asking if the prescription/vitamin supplement is running low. Problems come into play when elderly vision is poor (even with glasses), which makes reading small print on glossy labels very difficult. If the care receiver has been diagnosed with low vision impairment, reading prescription and supplement labels is impossible. Often times my mom would call and request a refill but couldn’t read the name of the medication on the bottle. Asking for a reorder of the “large white pills” doesn’t suffice when most all the pills are white and size is subjective. This dilemma has led to color coding prescription and vitamin supplement bottles with stickers, using different shapes to accomodate many bottles.

Instructions for Color Coding

  1. Inventory prescriptions and supplements to determine quantity of bottles that require color coding.
  2. Purchase stickers, making sure the colors are distinguishable for the care receiver. Example – using both light pink and standard pink might be difficult to discern. Purchase different shape stickers, such as dots and stars, if working with many bottles. Although not shown in the blog photo, all prescriptions could be stars and the supplements could have color dots or vice-versa.
  3. It’s CRITICAL to place the color stickers on the BOTTOM of bottles because most bottle caps are universal. A serious problem could ensue if the wrong color coded cap got on prescription bottle.
  4. Create a color coded chart and be sure one copy is at the home of the care receiver. Keep a hard copy at your home for quick reference and distribute to others who might need this information, perhaps emailing as an attachment for recipients to save as a computer copy. This hyperlinked PDF, Prescriptions and Vitamins w.RX# – color coded,is an example of such a chart. Place the chart so it is visible in the care receivers home, serving a dual purpose to provide vital information in the event paramedics are called, for their quick emergency care response.

Refill Solution 

When medication or supplements are running low the care receiver simply calls you (texts or emails) and requests, “reorder the orange label” or “reorder the blue star”. When refill bottles arrive, if the care receiver is not able or you don’t reside locally to place color stickers on the bottles, have someone you trust do this for you. When visiting the care receiver it is always a good idea to check all medications and supplements to be sure the color stickers align with the color chart.

Managing healthcare for aging parents, family members, or friends has its challenges, especially when living at a distance. Workable and safe solutions can make life easier on everyone. Color your communications and see how this effective and efficient solution modifies your ability to be a dependable and trusting caregiver to those you love.

Resources

Amazon.com color stickers available:

 

 

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Patient Beware Update – Published October 23, 2017

This article is an update to the published blog, Patient Beware, posted on May 11, 2017 explaining the Medicare issues that arise when a patient is admitted to the hospital “under observation”.

“While under observation, patients can be liable for substantial hospital bills, and Medicare will not pay for subsequent nursing home care unless a person has spent three consecutive days in the hospital as an inpatient.” New Medicare Law to Notify Patients of Loophole in Nursing Home Coverage

A new law came into affect this past March 2017, which requires WRITTEN notice by hospitals to patients admitted under observation for more than 24 hours.Medicare Outpatient Observation Notice (MOON)

“The new notice drafted by Medicare officials must be provided after the patient has received observation care for 24 hours and no later than 36 hours. Although there’s a space for patients or their representatives to sign it “to show you received and understand this notice,” the instructions for providers say signing is optional. By law, hospitals now must tell Medicare patients when care is ‘observation’ only – March 9, 2017.

The hyperlinked article above does a great job explaining the law and patient rights.

At the time a patient is admitted to a room, the patient and family member advocates have a right to know status; inpatient or observation and why. As noted above, written notice is legally required if the patient receives observation services beyond 24 hours.

A recent experience prompted this post writing because of confusion around whom to ask about admittance status and the appropriate words to use when asking. This is a true story. Patient identity is being protected.

After this law had been in affect for 5 months, an individual was hospitalized and admitted to the ER for chest pains in August 2017. Given a thorough check along with a number of tests, the ER doctor determined this person should be admitted. After assigned a room, a family member spoke with the attending nurse and asked, “Is admittance inpatient or under observation?” The nurse replied, inpatient. The question was asked again, to be certain, and the attending nurse this time replied, “I assure you, this patient has been admitted and given this room as an inpatient and not under observation.”

The following day the patient was discharged and the Patient Care Coordinator (PCC) requested papers to be signed. These papers noted, “admitted under observation”, and the patient could be liable for additional fees for medical exams, tests, x-rays, medications, etc., that may not be covered under Medicare because of observation status. The PCC could not disclose the $$$ amount of additional fees, if any, and stated that patient services received would be reviewed and fees determined by the hospital’s accounting department. Here is the problem. The attending nurse assured patient and family the prior day about inpatient status. Now patient and family member are preparing for discharge under observation and without knowledge of costs incurred. Unsettling for sure!

The family member questioned the PCC about this misunderstanding; however, the coordinator makes it clear that admittance according to hospital records was not “inpatient”. The PCC asks, “Did the nurse use the word patient or inpatient, because only the word inpatient refers to hospital admittance. Just saying patient refers to observation status.” When a family member is in the hospital with angst running high and nerves frayed, have we really come to that point of having to wordsmith conversations with hospital staff?? It appears so!

The PCC then states to the family member that the attending nurse was not the right person to ask about admittance status. The family member should have spoken with the doctor or the PCC and not nursing staff. Below are my two responses to this statement:

  1. If someone on staff assures you of admittance status, especially the attending nurse, what reason would you have to seek an answer from anyone else?
  2. It IS the responsibility of hospital management to advise/train employees to discern questions they can answer and questions that must be referred to appropriate hospital staff. This is NOT the responsibility of the patient and/or their family members.

Even though a law is in affect regarding required communication protocol when patients are admitted to the hospital, this doesn’t mean it will be followed. Patient and family members, therefore, need to be vigilant.

What you need to know

New Medicare Law to Notify Patients of Loophole in Nursing Home Coverage discusses the legal requirement that patients be given verbal notification about their observation status followed by written notice using the Medicare form MOON if the patient is receiving such services exceeding 24 hours. MOON requires all hospitals (as of March 8, 2017) to also explain WHY the patient is receiving care under observation and not as inpatient, along with charges Medicare may not cover once the patient is discharged. The form is available in English – CMS-10611 MOON_v508 and SPANISH – CMS-10611 MOON Spanish_LARGEPRINTv508 . Also see MOON-FAQs, an informative document for review.

Anytime you (or a family member) are sent to the ER and referred to a hospital room, ask the hospital doctor or PCC about admittance status. Any other hospital staff may not be authorized or able to provide accurate information.

If you/family member are being held under observation, also ask those authorized; length of anticipated hospital stay, specifically why observation and not inpatient and additional costs, if any, that Medicare (or medical insurance) won’t cover. Even through the Moon Form is not required until observation status exceeds 24 hours, the patient has the right to know this information verbally at the time a hospital room is assigned.

“When patients are too sick to go home but not sick enough to be admitted, observation care gives doctors time to figure out what’s wrong. It is considered an outpatient service, like a doctor’s visit. Unless their care falls under a new Medicare bundled-payment category, observation patients pay a share of the cost of each test, treatment or other services.” By law, hospitals now must tell Medicare patients when care is ‘observation’ only– March 9, 2017. 

If already diagnosed at the ER, it would appear observation is not necessary. So, why wouldn’t the patient be admitted as an inpatient? Typically, only a doctor can explain this and request inpatient status for the patient. Speak to your doctor, especially if diagnosed at the ER with an anticipated stay greater than 24 hours. It appears patients most vulnerable to HUGE out of pocket expenses are those admitted under observation who require nursing rehab care when discharged. If you are hospitalized, suggest having a family member or trusted friend with you when asking these questions and signing any paperwork.

How did it end for the patient whose story is shared above? Discharged by the 24 hour mark. Did not require nursing home, rehab or assisted living services. The family member signed the discharge papers noting next to the signature, that the patient and family member were assured inpatient admittance, therefore, additional fees or charges, if any, resulting from observation status are not to be the patient’s responsibility. Thankfully, no additional fees were invoiced to the patient.

We don’t know what we don’t know until we experience it first hand or through the experience of others. The purpose of this blog is to SHARE information, especially on important issues that can negatively impact someone’s life. Be prepared and know about patient’s rights whether coverage is through Medicare or individual health care plans. What you learn now will save you time and money later, especially when spending quality patient time with family is your top priority. Let’s all be informed and share these posts with those you know – Patient Beware and Patient Beware Update.

Resources

  1. Medicare Outpatient Observation Notice (MOON)
  2. New Medicare Law to Notify Patients of Loophole in Nursing Home Coverage
  3. New Medicare Law To Notify Nursing Home Coverage NY TIMES …
  4. Are You In The Hospital Or Not? AARP 

 

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#3 Cultural Fit – Discovering Your Cultural Fit – Published October 3, 2017

Whether you are currently employed or a candidate job searching, it’s easy to fall into the trap of “just wanting a job and one that pays well”, as the primary goal. Making sure that the company cultural fit is a match for you, however, can be critical for your long-term career aspirations and success.

Today, companies look for skill and experience as well as how employees and candidates fit their company culture. When hiring, Cultural Fit Interview Questions by Workable.com, provides an excellent summary PDF for employers to understand cultural match. And, as this article notes, “Candidates also have a say in whether they’ll fit well with your company.” For this reason, applicants should understand the cultural fit that best meets their needs in order to thrive. Therefore, Cultural Fit Interview Questions is an effective tool for candidates, too. In addition, a list of questions are noted below for job seekers, whether currently employed and feel as if you are swimming in static waters or for those unemployed and actively interviewing; workforce veteran or college grad. After working through the lists, job seekers will hopefully come away with a good grasp about corporate culture, style and fit.

Once you have concluded the personality of the company and how they “roll”, make a decision if the company is a match for you and stick with it. Not every item on your list will be checked, so know where you are willing to make compromises. Make sure you are comfortable with your future team and your direct report is excited to have you on-board. Anything less is a red flag!

How should you respond if a job is offered and you are filled with uncertainty and you notice red flags? Bring up your concerns. How much of your concern is angst and how many apprehensions are valid, which hopefully can be worked through? Having said this, I know someone who had a number of concerns joining a company based on a level of discomfort and red flags. After discussing these concerns with a few employees, this individual was assured worries were unfounded. But, the executive director’s excitement did not appear to be authentic. The job lasted 29 days. Like a marriage, people show their best before the “ceremony” and any quirks become magnified after the honeymoon is over. Every situation is different and I share this story because the last thing anyone wants… a job that requires constantly having to look over the shoulder sensing that “something” is just not right! This then becomes a working environment not conducive to success, blocking the ability for anyone to thrive; the employee, team, department and company.

If you are employed and suddenly terminated without explanation and specifics, other than being told “not a cultural fit”, there can be an overwhelming feeling of injustice and mistreatment leading to suspicion of unlawful termination. At this point there might not be an opportunity to filter through work emails and forward accolades to your personal email. You could be immediately cutoff from the company server if working from home or escorted out of the office by security. It’s in the best interest of every employee to FORWARD emails to a personal account and SAVE all positive correspondence and performance reviews. Journaling direct report meetings and conversations is a good idea, as well. To pursue legal steps you may need all relevant documentation to prove unlawful termination.

How to identify corporate personal bias? Suspicion happens most often when the culture of a company is not documented and executive leadership can’t explain why someone is not a cultural fit, either passed up for hire or an employee is terminated suddenly. “It is an incredibly vague term and it’s a vague term often based on gut instinct,” says Wharton management professor Katherine Klein, Vice Dean of the Wharton Social Impact Initiative. “The biggest problem is that while we invoke cultural fit as a reason to hire someone, it is far more common to use it to not hire someone.  People can’t tell you what aspect of the culture they are worried about.” Is Cultural Fit a Qualification for Hiring or a Disguise for Bias? 

An employee wrongfully terminated can independently seek legal counsel or file a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. This would especially be necessary if you believe termination may come under any one of the federal protected classes.

Employers can and should use cultural fit as an effective means of bridging diversity with the values and beliefs needed to successfully achieve corporate vision. As an employee, the steps you take to determine cultural fit in an organization is equally your responsibility as it is the company hiring. This all becomes tricky when companies loosely wave this term around without having a documented description of “corporate culture” defined along with its connection to strategic business goals. Hopefully, by properly understanding the term cultural fit, employers and employees can reduce the risk of personal bias and discriminatory masking. Be proactive as a corporation and define your corporate culture! As a potential or existing employee, know your cultural fit!

Discover Your Cultural Fit – Questions

Describe your ideal job. What qualities do you need to flourish?

Describe the ideal company for you.  

  • Industry/field
  • Large, medium, small?
  • Start up company?
  • Company ramping up growth?
  • Well-established and structured company?
  • Specific company names? (Although these companies may not be hiring, you can use the names noted to gauge similar companies.)

Describe your successful working habits?

  • Alone and focused
  • Team player and interactive
  • Structured
  • Entrepreneurial spirit

Describe your ideal working environment?

  • Location (big city, suburban campus, or, work remotely from home)
  • Quiet and subdued
  • Busy, interactive, and not quiet
  • Offices and/or cubicles
  • Open concept with desks
  • Work remotely from home, always or part time

How does the working environment feel to you?

  • Upbeat, energetic, loud
  • Serious and quite
  • Stressful
  • People interacting or primarily working alone?
  • Open or closed office doors?
  • Do you feel like your input would be valued and respected?

Prepare For The Interview

  • Be prepared. Know in advance how you might be interviewed. Internet search and find articles describing current interview trends. Below are two articles about interviews where the term “cultural fit” is used.

Three Ways to Know if An Employee Is A Cultural Fit? By Jeff Pruitt, Chairman and CEO, Tallwave, published INC.com, How To Hire The Best,

Cultural Fit Interview Questions by Workable.com

Interview Questions To Ask The Interviewee

Describe the ideal candidate for this job?

  • Education
  • Skill
  • Experience
  • Personality
  • Works independently or part of a team?

Describe the culture of your organization?

  • Describe an employee(s) who you feel is a great cultural fit and why you feel this way?
  • If a candidate or employee is not a cultural fit, what three traits would bring you to this conclusion?

What traits or working habits do you feel would not be a good cultural fit for this position?

  • If this question cannot be answered directly and adequately in the interview process, and you notice a wide gap differential when comparing yourself and the current employees of the firm, this may not be the company for you.

“The only way that culture in the workplace is effective is if there are sets of values that help the company achieve its strategy,” Barsade notes. “When there is thoughtfulness around what the values are and you tie that to hiring, then you have best hiring practices.” Is Cultural Fit a Qualification for Hiring or a Disguise for Bias? Knowledge@Wharton, Management

Are performance reviews conducted, and if so, how often?

  • Is cultural fit a part of the job interview?

Is it possible for this job to move into other promotable positions? Or, are you looking to fill this position as a steady long-term role?

  • Is this position replacing someone who resigned or one who has been promoted?

Resources

Cultural Fit Interview Questions by Workable.com
Is Cultural Fit a Qualification for Hiring or a Disguise for Bias? Knowledge@Wharton, Management, July 16, 2015
Three Ways to Know if An Employee Is A Cultural Fit? By Jeff Pruitt, Chairman and CEO, Tallwave, published INC.com, How To Hire The Best, August 12, 2016
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission –  Filing a Complaint
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission – Protected Classes 

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#2 Cultural Fit, The Rise of Cultural Fit and the Decline of Performance Reviews – How to protect against personal bias? – Published September 26, 2017 

Conducting research to write this post, I feel it is ironic that the rise of “cultural fit” appears to move at a similar rate to the decline of job performance reviews. This trend could make it easier to hire and terminate “at will”  based on personal bias.

At one time performance reviews were the norm, and, perhaps in some companies this method of employee evaluation still exists. An article in HBR, November 2016 issue, Let’s Not Kill Performance Evaluations Yetnotes that by the end of 2015, 30 Fortune 500 companies eliminated performance reviews. Below is a quote from this article, which defines performance and the benefit of evaluations.

“Performance is the value of employees’ contributions to the organization over time. And that value needs to be assessed in some way. Decisions about pay and promotions have to be made. As researchers pointed out in a recent debate in Industrial and Organizational Psychology, “Performance is always rated in some manner.” If you don’t have formal evaluations, the ratings will be hidden in a black box.”

Job evaluations provide employees and corporate leaders the opportunity to gauge achievements based on mutually agreed to expectations. Sometimes performance is easy to measure and other times it can be more difficult when tangible results are not as obvious. Cultural fit is one of those intangible results that could be hard to measure and more subjective rather than objective. Clearly defining “organizational culture” and communicating this verbally and in writing leads to the effective use of the term, cultural fit, and how it supports corporate vision. Only then can employee reviews effectively include discussions about homogenizing with “fit” along with suggested modifications, if any. One would think including cultural fit as part of an employee evaluation is time well spent considering the costly investment of hiring, training, pay and benefits.

“Once the company culture has been defined, ideally every action, strategy, decision and communication should support the cultural beliefs, including all HR mechanisms from recruitment and hiring processes to performance review systems.” How Important Is Culture Fit For Employee Retention

When culture isn’t clearly defined, termination (or not being hired) could be perceived as a decision based on personal bias which may include non-compliance with the Federal protected classes. And, it’s possible one might conclude the decision was based on having different political opinions or lacking common (recreational) interests.

“And I’ve observed this.  Some executives I’ve dealt with over the past few years have used the phrase “not a cultural fit” in exactly this negative, let’s-maintain-the-status-quo way; to mean “that person is too black/female/old/young/non-degreed/linear/non-linear”…in other words, “that person is not enough like me.” Is Cultural Fit Just a new Way To Discriminate

We are experiencing a political polar divide today, which may be impacting working environment morale, affecting people functioning in close proximity sharing different viewpoints. It appears for this reason political views, personal and religious convictions might be on an invisible checklist for determining cultural fit. These reasons are not justifiable to measure a candidate’s potential or current employee(s) ability to succeed. Cultural fit should include performance, team member contribution, thriving as a team player, shares corporate vision, well qualified in skill, experience and communications. And, it is indeed possible to hire based on such qualifcations, without bias, reflecting richness of diversity.  In the article, How Important Is Culture Fit For Employee Retention, the author, a former Navy Seal, writes…

“That’s not to say that all SEALs are cut from the same mold. We have an extremely high level of diversity. Which brings me to an important point. Culture fit doesn’t mean that an organization is recruiting the same kind of people with the same backgrounds and experiences. Or at least they shouldn’t be.”

Here are possible considerations to safeguard against personal bias.

  • Clearly communicate company culture during the interview process as well as in employee handbooks, corporate mission statement and anytime the strategy of the company and its goals are shared. Identifying “culture” should include diversity of thought, perception, and experiences.

“Inclusive leaders understand that personal and organizational biases narrow their field of vision and preclude them from making objective decisions. They exert considerable effort to identify their own biases and learn ways to prevent them from influencing talent decisions. They also seek to implement policies, processes, and structures to prevent organizational biases from stifling diversity and inclusion. Without such measures, inclusive leaders understand that their natural inclination could lead them toward self-cloning, and that operating in today’s business environment requires a different approach.” 6 Characteristics of Inclusive Leaders

  • Schedule outcome focused performance evaluations. Include company culture in the review and note “fit” expectations to the business strategic model the company is pursuing for its success. The focus of the review to be on business skills, performance to goals, and style of communication/engagement with staff and customers (if applicable), which aligns with the description of corporate culture and fit. A signed copy to be kept by both manager and employee.

Keep performance review standards simple and consistent throughout the company. Managers and employees might avoid complicated reviews.

If your company practices informal “coaching” rather than management style reviews, keep record of discussions and suggestions that support performance and cultural fit – employee and manager.

“The future of the workplace depends on how successful these companies become at building out new systems that incorporate frequent feedback, open communication, and coaching.” Why The Annual Performance Review Is Going Extinct 

“High turnover or lengthy open positions? Could there be a “bias” hiring the best when hiring managers perceiving “best” as a threat to their own corporate status?”  3 Unconscious Biases That Affect Whether You Get Hired

Short term employment and sudden termination is costly to corporations. Consider the expense for employee search, interviews and hiring process, training, pay and benefits. Now imagine the cost of resulting lawsuits if sudden termination is not backed by documented performance and “cultural fit” is not defined and/or termination is linked to the protected classes? Can companies then become vulnerable to litigation? “Well, sometimes it’s whatever a hiring manager wants it to mean. And that can be a big issue, leading to poor hiring decisions fraught with bias or even legal liability.” Hiring For Company Culture, Here’s What You Should Know,

Just because litigation resulting from “cultural fit” may not have happened, doesn’t mean it won’t. Imagine the increase to corporate bottom lines if employee turnover and the risk of lawsuits could be avoided? If you are a C-Level Exec reading this post, do you know the $$$ your company spent on employee turnover in the past year, two years, 5 years? How does your HR Department view “cultural fit” and what is their active role to standardize hiring and termination throughout all subcultures in the company?

One would think having a diverse corporate culture best represents the customer/consumer/client audience being served. A diverse workforce can anticipate and strategize how best to meet needs and purchasing habits of ALL people, across the spectrum. So, why limit success through the narrow “cloning” lens that could accompany “cultural fit” misuse?

“Curiosity and openness are hallmarks of inclusive leaders, who hunger for other perspectives to minimize their blind spots and improve their decision-making.” WSJ Article, 6 Characteristics of Inclusive Leaders

Bring performance evaluations back or identify effective “coaching” processes and its documentation. Include cultural fit in the employee review AFTER your firm has defined culture, which is understood throughout the organization; hiring process, employee handbook, communications where corporate vision and strategy is discussed. Hire and maintain a workplace representing a wide audience of views and styles to cover all blind spots. Protect against personal bias. Create a healthy work environment, which role models the effective use of cultural fit in a dynamic way because diversity and success work in tandem.

Resources

Is Cultural Fit Just a new Way To Discriminate, FORBES, by Erika Anderson, March 17, 2015
Let’s Not Kill Performance Evaluations Yet, HBR, by Lori Goler, Janelle Gale, Adam Grant , Nov. 2016
6 Characteristics of Inclusive Leaders WJS, by Bernadette Dillon, director, and Juliet Bourke, partner, Human Capital Consulting, Deloitte Australia, May 4, 2016
How Important Is Culture Fit For Employee Retention By Brent Gleeson, March 29, 2017
Why The Annual Performance Review Is Going Extinct by Kris Duggan is CEO and Cofounder of BetterWorks, October 20, 2015UL 6, 2017
Hiring for Cultural Fit? Here’s What You Should Know, Nick Misener July 6, 2017,
3 Unconscious Biases That Affect Whether You Get Hired , Shana Lebowitz July 17, 2015

“Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home. So close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual persons; the neighborhood they live in; the school or college they attend; the factory, farm, or office where they work. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere.”  Eleanor Roosevelt Former First Land and U.S. Delegate to the United Nations

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#1 Cultural Fit – Definition, Origin, Intention, and Misuse – Published September 19, 2017

Since my last posting on August 5th, I have been researching this catchall phrase after knowing several individuals dismissed from their jobs for not being a “cultural fit”. In order to share a summary of pertinent details, this topic will be covered in a three part blog, noted below. This posting covers Cultural Fit – Definition, Origin, Intention and Misuse. The other topics will follow weekly, September 26th and October 3rd, respectively.

  1. Cultural Fit – Definition, Origin, Intention, and Misuse
  2. The Rise of Cultural Fit and Decline of Performance Reviews – How to protect against personal bias?
  3. Discovering Your Cultural Fit

The goal of this trilogy is to inspire QUESTIONS employers could be asking in order to determine how “cultural fit” is being used in their organization today and changes to implement, based on any misuse of this term. Hopefully this writing will also reveal toxic “sub-cultures” within the organization when hiring practices are not aligned with corporate standards. Employees and job candidates, after reading this 3 part series, can be equipped to ask the right questions to determine their own culture match, too.  If a company is hiring based on cultural fit, we can suppose they very well can fire “at will” lacking in cultural fit, without notice or explanation.

Cultural Fit – It’s History, Intention, and Misuse Today

Definition: Cultural Fit – How it should be defined and practiced

Blending within a harmonized working environment for optimum productivity and performance results.

Understanding and expressing corporate identity, mission, vision and strategy with “how we roll“, sharing similar business core values and communication styles at the pace/rhythm set by corporate leaders, directors and managers – consistent at all levels of the organization.

Origin/History

First there had to be an identification of “corporate culture” before there could be the term “cultural fit”. The first recorded study of Organizational Culture was in 1961 by Burns and Stalker, identifying with a dependable constant system of shared beliefs that could bring positive results. Through the years, 1961 through 1992, many leading names in this field joined the discussion, which included behavioral studies of individual personalities, shared beliefs, and performance, along with conducting research to measure effectiveness of grouping in the workplace. All of this led to the corporate culture movement. Resource: On the Origin and Evolution of Corporate Culture by Eric Van den Steen, pages 7-8.

This is an excellent study that digs deep into the origin of corporate culture and probabilities (or not) of cultural fit correlating to increased performance.

“After this partial validation, I draw one important new insight from the model. I show in particular that there will be a correlation between cultural strength and performance, even when the homogeneity of beliefs has no direct impact on performance. This casts some doubt on the culture-based literature that cites such correlations as proofs that culture is valuable and then goes on to explain why it is valuable. While my analysis does not imply that homogeneity is not valuable, it suggests that care must be taken when interpreting such correlations.” Page 19

Intention

The history of organizational culture is complicated and includes psychological and behavioral studies and analysis. The intention of cultural fit, however, is quite simple…bringing skilled employees together with similar working personalities and styles in order to create a thriving working environment that will increase productivity and performance aligned with corporate vision and strategy.

This idea began in the 1980’s and caught on with gusto in early 2000. Simple examples of “culture fit” that align with corporate strategy could be hiring extroverts for fast pace growth or seeking introverts to align with company strategy for study, analysis, then growth. Another example might be to employ those who are risk takers or perhaps, looking to hire deep thinkers whose decision making is the result of study, discussion, and consensus.

Misuse

Cultural fit is a catchall phrase commonly referred to today. I can’t help but wonder how many use this term and do not know anything about its history, intended use, or studies conducted, which reveal its overall effectiveness or ineffectiveness. The following are some of the ways cultural fit is being misused today.

  1. Hiring managers and HR not able to define/articulate their own corporate culture yet hire and fire by the term, cultural fit.
    • Corporate culture description is not noted in the company’s mission statement, corporate vision, websites, and employee handbook or discussed during the interview process.
  2. Cultural fit becomes a filter for personal shared interests, political, and religious persuasion. This term can be used as 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.
  3. Firing employees for not being a “cultural fit” with no specific reason(s) or comparison to corporate culture. Vague responses are given … “a number of general areas, not one specific area.” Yet, the employee meets all MBO’s, aligns with corporate vision and strategy and thrives with co-workers.
    • This is when suspicion surfaces, based on (2) above.

How do you know if this term is being misused at your workplace? The following are some red flags.

  1. Confusing “Cultural Fit” with expected submission to authoritative “control” leadership.
  2. High employee turnover within some divisions, groups within departments.
  3. Unexpected and sudden employee termination(s).
  4. Referred candidates (outstanding skills and reputation) are quickly eliminated from the interview process, “not a cultural fit.”
  5. Unrealistic lengthy openings of job recs.
  6. No annual or bi-annual employee performance reviews therefore cultural fit becomes the norm for employment and job performance is not considered.
  7. Low workplace morale.
  8. Unwillingness of staff/employees to speak up due to fear of open and honest communication that may not “clone” executive team views.
  9. Interview focuses heavily on personal topics rather than corporate mission, vision and candidate’s business experience.

Corporate culture could be a good thing when it is used in tandem with job performance and it is clearly defined, understood and shared through all levels of the organization. Cultural fit becomes negative when used as a mask; a toxic working environment, compliance to federal discriminatory classes, and blocks hiring those with diverse business skills and experiences who don’t clone with a specific manager or department head.

As a corporate leader, do you know how your hiring Directors and Managers are using the term, “cultural fit”? How is the HR department establishing a standard for the proper use of this catchall phrase? Are red flags being ignored? If “cultural fit” is misused, although most states allow “at-will employment”, could your company still be vulnerable to costly lawsuits?

As an employee are you experiencing red flags? Is workplace morale low? Do you feel your ability to thrive is stunted when your “voice” is forced into silence because of fear? Are you aware of the process for reporting discriminatory practices and do you feel comfortable doing so without the fear of termination?

If you are a job candidate, take the conversation about cultural fit seriously. Ask during the interview, “Specifically, what are looking for to hire one candidate over another? If the answer is “cultural fit”, follow up with this question…”Can you describe your corporate culture and the ideal fit?” If this question is not adequately answered, do you feel it’s the right company for you? What is the risk you assume if offered the job and you accept?

Asking questions is a great place to start for companies to protect themselves and employees and candidates to protect their future. What is your plan, to protect your company as an employer or to protect yourself as an employee? It’s time we all consider cultural fit and its intended use.

Resources

On the Origin and Evolution of Corporate Culture by Eric Van den Steen, April 7, 2003
Guess Who Doesn’t Fit In At Work?  New York Times, Lauren A. Rivera, May 30, 2015
Culture Fit in the Workplace: What It Is and Why It’s Important by Dr. Kerry Schofield , published 2017
Hiring for Cultural Fit? Here’s What to Look For– Business News Daily, By Shannon Gausepohl,  Feb 27, 2017
The End Of Culture Fit Forbes, by 
Recruiting for Cultural Fit by Katie Bouton, July 17, 2015
Is Cultural Fit Just A New Way to Discriminate? By Erika Andersen, March 17, 2015
What is Organizational Culture – the results of a survey totaling 300 responses on the varied perceptions of “culture” – HBR, Michael D. Watkins, May 15, 2013
Is Rejecting A Candidate Because They Are Not a Culture Fit Really Just Thinley Veiled Discrimination? Quora, Gayle Lakkmann McDowell, April 3, 2014

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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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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!!

Healthy and Confident…Eating with Celiac Disease – Published June 22, 2017

Grateful for all the support received on Tuesday’s posting, Medical Mayhem. The popularity of the article led to this writing, how to eat Gluten-Free (GF). If you are in pain and bloated after eating, I find ice cubes or popsicles help the discomfort along with taking Gas-X. Chamomile tea soothes once the pain begins to subside. Some people experience intense pain leading to an ER visit. Gluten reactions differ so best to have a conversation about symptom management with your physician.

Dining Out & Travel

I’ve received numerous responses about challenges dining at restaurants. Strongly feel that the “gluten-free trend” has hurt more than helped those who suffer from Celiac Disease and gluten sensitivity. We have become confused with a trending population on the receiving end of eye rolling and TV satire humor, too!! How can you rise above this response when dining out?

Gluten-Free restaurant cards are available. Attached is one I have had for many years, PDF document Celiac Disease Medical Alert Cards that prints on business card stock. Mentioning “food allergy” for some reason triggers a higher level of seriousness with restaurants rather than saying “gluten-free”. When ordering you can state to the waiter “Gluten-Free for medical reasons” and hand the waiter this card, or, simply say, “Gluten-Free Food Allergy”. DO CHECK when your meal or that of your GF child is brought to the table. This past Saturday while dining out, after clearly indicating Gluten-Free for medical reasons, my salmon dinner was served with orzo on the plate!! Orzo (often used alone or in rice pilaf) is gluten/wheat pasta not rice.

GF bread is not always available at deli counters or restaurants. Sometimes I’ll bring my own bread in a plastic baggie. FYI…a Deli will put everything on a plate for you to assemble your own sandwich.

Below is a listing of online resources (hyperlinked), which includes another option for GF cards and information available in many languages to use when traveling. I have found Europe to be far more GF accommodating than the USA. The European symbol for gluten-free is known as the cross grain symbol, shown on the blog photo.

Gluten-Free at Home

What about cooking and baking at home? Being GF offers a great opportunity to cut back on carbs. At one time my diet was carb focused, but it isn’t now and I have become accustomed to this lifestyle. Below, however, is a listing of my favorite cereal, crackers and breads. Most listed are available at major grocery chains, Target, and Wal-Mart.

Breads

  • Glutino (usually in grocery store freezer)
  • B-Free Wheat & Gluten-Free (non-GMO)
  • Chebe (awesome pizza crust)
  • Canyon Bakehouse Gluten-Free Breads (awesome rye and cinnamon raisin!!)
  • Barilla Gluten-Free Pasta (BEST!!!)

Baking Breads, Cakes, and Cookies

Flour – Pamela’s All-Purpose Gluten Free Flour or Cup-4-Cup. (Already contains Xanthium gum – binding agent).

Any of your favorite baking recipes can be followed. Consider using ½ to 1 cup less flour and check the consistency of the batter or dough before adding the remaining flour, as needed. Also suggest adding one teaspoon of baking powder to the recipe to lighten the density of gluten-free breads and cakes. Practice recipes until you are happy with the result. Baking at different altitudes makes a difference so I always feel the need to tweak the amount of flour at high altitude.

Pillsbury and Betty Crocker offer great cake mixes. Check my blog Flavor Your Summer, using extracts and flavorings to add a twist of exciting flavor to your cake and cookie mixes.

Bread machine with a GF setting makes amazing bread! The machine I use at home is Zojirushi BB-PAC20.

FYI…anything pickled (including pickles!) contains gluten. Imitation crab also contains gluten and is found almost always in sushi at grocery stores and restaurants. Ditto with soy sauce. Be careful. Sometimes foods we would never consider to have gluten…DO! When purchasing vitamins (including fish oil!) check for the GF certified label. You can be mindful of meeting daily vitamin requirements through the foods you eat.

Eating Gluten-Free for Celiac Disease or gluten sensitivity is far easier now than ever before. It is important, because of GF popularity, to take the lead and distinguish yourself from the trending masses by making meal prep requests clear to your restaurant waiter when dining out or host when eating at someone’s home. Consider using available GF instruction cards if you feel comfortable doing so, and check the meal when it’s served. Look for the certified GF label when grocery shopping or use a phone app to scan bar codes for GF status and GF accommodating restaurants. Gluten – Free Living is an excellent resource for current Celiac Disease news and gluten-free eating. The world isn’t over if you have a Celiac Disease diagnosis! A simple internet search brings up numerous sites about this autoimmune disease. A new world of many opportunities is yours to explore for healthy eating and confident living!

 

 

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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!!