05 November 2015


This morning I stopped and got coffee at my 2nd favorite stand near my work.  It's located downtown and across the street from the YMCA so you sometimes see characters that you don't normally see. The baristas are always super nice, like one would expect, but they sometimes have some sketchy customers so they are aware of their surroundings.

While I was waiting for my drink, I noticed a guy approach the car waiting on the other side of the stand.  It was a cute, little, just post-college age girl who looked like she was heading to work.  (I have very active imagination, in case you haven't noticed)

He was a typical Bellingham appearing guy, which means nothing to those of you who have never been here but picture a snowboarder in your mind.  That's what he looked like, so not sketchy but definitely free-spirited.

It's odd that someone would approach a car in a drive-through so I just kind of surreptitiously paid attention.  It felt a little flirty, actually.  She answered him, smiling, then got out of her car and walked behind it.  This made me a little nervous but there were plenty of people around, in case my intuition was wrong and he was a serial killer.  (Ted Bundy lived in Bellingham for a while, so you never know, right?)

Soon, she returned to her car and the barista asked her if everything was okay.  She kind of giggled then answered that he just tapped her car bumper and wanted to let her know.  She was completely unconcerned about it but I noticed that she got her information out of her purse.

The barista gave me the credit card slip to sign and commented on it.  I said that it felt like a meet-cute type of situation.  She giggled and said "Maybe so, we'll watch and see."  I mean, it is a little drastic and risky but also kind of clever.  I peeked around the corner when I left and his car was a nice one, so it didn't seem like someone trying to scam insurance money.

Now I'm imagining that they've exchanged information and maybe they'll need to meet somewhere for something insurance or repair related.  Then they'll have a great meet-cute story to tell everyone.

03 November 2015

A Little Summer Adventure

Yeah,  this is one of those thinking that I clicked "Publish" things.  In August.

Out of the clear blue sky, Kevin invited me to go to Winthrop for the weekend.  He had talked about going there since we bought the big truck but all of a sudden he decided "Let's go!"  Which is how it should be, I think.  Otherwise there is always a reason to not go, because there is just never a "perfect" time.  He said that because we didn't get to do much of anything fun lately, this was a good opportunity.

It took four tries to find a hotel, because short notice and August.  I will advise to not trust the online booking systems because the sites said every place was booked but after a few calls, I found a room in a nice hotel down by the river.  This prompted a few Chris Farley references for days.

This is another example of how we shouldn't be in charge of our own lives because it's as if half of Eastern Washington is on fire right now, including a resort lake nearby where we were staying. But more on that later.

I had to hustle on Friday to get all my errands and chores done on Friday.  By the time Friday night came around, I was absolutely ready to go relax. This is the first time we've done a trip just for just us and just for relaxation since about 2000.  Everything we do seems to be activity related and done in large groups. Neither of us are big on just relaxing so this was going to be interesting.  We're not used to being at our own devices.

Saturday morning Kevin woke me up a little early so we could leave before traffic was stupid.  He took the puppy to get coffee and treats while I got ready and packed.  Then we avoided eye contact with the puppy, who knows it's the weekend and was feeling betrayed that we were leaving.

Winthrop is about three hours away, over a northern pass that is just a two lane highway.  It's a primitive pass that closes every winter due to snow and slides.  There is no cell service for almost two hours. Picture the lost highway that you would see in horror films.

That being said, it's quite beautiful.  Lots of mountain ranges, boulders, trees.  We stopped a few times to take pictures and walk around.  Three hours isn't a long trip and it was nice to just take our time.  Also, did I mention no cell service?  In this case, it was a relief.

We stopped in Newhalem, which is a housing development/camp owned by Seattle City Light.  It looks right at the mountain faces and is the last stop before going over the pass.  As we pulled in, we noticed smoke on the mountain.  Again, half of Eastern Washington is on fire right now.  We both worried that we would now have fires on our side of the mountains. We saw a homemade sign on the side of the road that said "We have seen the fires, no need to call to report." so we kept going. Because we make good choices.

We got into Winthrop at lunch time and the place was a complete zoo.  It's Old Western styled town on one long street.  We ate lunch then went to find our hotel.  It turns out that we could have walked to it from the restaurant, so that was nice. In fact, it's all quite walkable in Winthrop.

I can't believe that I didn't take any pictures but there is a good reason. More on that in a bit.  Here is the link to help you envision where we stayed:  Hotel Rio Vista.   It's right on the river and each room has a balcony/deck.  We actually sat by the river for a little while and chatted about returning to see it in the winter when the river is really ripping and/or in the summer again and going rafting.

We walked around town, including a museum that was set up like a little town.  It is a very cool way to look at artifacts.  Actual livery, blacksmithing, doctor office, etc.  It was a mining town and they had the equipment used to dig, haul and otherwise mine.  Kevin was equally horrified and impressed at the primitive machinery. He was definitely thankful of the new equipment he runs every day.

We had ice cream before dinner, because: adults! and played miniature golf.  I was totally beating Kevin until he shot a hole-in-one.We visited a bookstore and a gift shop and just took our time.  This never happens in our lives, we rarely just relax.

Then we went back to the hotel and took a nap.  And the power went out.  Like the mature adults we are, we ignored it for a little while.  There weren't any sirens or reverse 911 calls so we didn't panic.We were on vacation, we were napping.  We were being boneheads.

Finally, we went to the front desk to see what was happening. They had no idea about anything.  No idea what happened, no idea when it would return, "last time it was weeks" and suggested that if we wanted something to eat, we should go to the grocery store NOW.

Enter manic crazy person into the hotel lobby. "I used to volunteer for the Red Cross in L.A. so if you need food or batteries, just knock on my door. I'm in room number-whatever."   Then she proceeded to tell us that money in small denominations is the MOST IMPORTANT ITEM in your emergency kit.  We slowly backed out the door.

We walked back into town and it was a ghost town.  Where there were people and cars a few hours ago, there was nothing.  We went back to the ice cream shop. (the only place still open) where the hilarious young son is gesturing behind his mother, the owner, to us to get out of town. They agreed that it could be days before power was restored and because we were only three hours away, to go home. 

So, we went back to the hotel and loaded the truck.  We had to get something to eat because Kevin has to eat every three hours or so or bad things happen.  I always have snack with me but remember, we had ice cream before we had our dinner and now it's 7:00 and no dinner.  We needed real food.

The grocery store was busy, with cars in the turn lanes waiting to get gas.  Kevin parked in an adjoining parking lot and went into the store by himself.   I figured this would be quicker.  About ten minutes later, he returned with an incredulous look on his face.  "Armageddon?"  I asked.

"You don't even KNOW!" he says.  "It was chaos.  It was like a movie. The shelves were empty and people were freaking out.  This is all I could get."  He hands me a bag that contains doughnuts, chips, and two bottles of water.  Jeez.  Now it's an authentic road trip from our teen years, full of junk food and poor choices.

Out of town we head.  This pass can be ugly in the daylight and Kevin wasn't excited about doing it in the dark.  "You look for deer and I'm going to, maybe, speed. A little."  Again, this place is remote so we were the only car on the road for miles.

We passed a DNR crew on the way when we were quite a bit from out of town so we assumed that something was going on with the nearby fires.  Seeing them made us glad that we left town when we did.  We reached almost the top of the pass when Kevin says "Is that someone walking?"  It was way dark by then.  Easily nine o'clock.

We were in the middle of nowhere. No houses, no rest stops, no campgrounds, nothing.  We were still at least an hour from the nearest town, which isn't really a town at all.  It's the Seattle City Light property that surrounds the dams that I mentioned earlier.  There are houses, but no stores or hotels or anything helpful if you're stranded.

As we got closer, we saw that it was a man and a little girl walking alongside  the road.  What.the.WHAT?  Kevin wondered "What do we do?" and all I said was "Kevin, she's a little girl."   We are in the middle of nowhere and I would have rather risk being killed than leaving that little girl to the elements and animals.

Kevin turned the truck around and pulled up ahead of them.  The little girl actually started jumping and skipping in excitement.  I thought I was going to burst into tears.  Kevin said it just broke his heart to see her.  She was probably around seven or eight and Kevin said the man was older than he, maybe a grandpa.

At the same time that Kevin jogged up to them another vehicle approached them.  They asked if everything was alright and did they need a ride.   The grandpa said that they had broken down so they were walking.  The other car was a SUV so Kevin suggested that they would be more comfortable with them.  (instead of squeezing in the extended cab of our truck for an hour)  They went, gratefully, with the people in the SUV.

The grandpa shook Kevin's hand and thanked him profusely for stopping.  He said that other cars had passed and not stopped. What is wrong with humanity?  A LITTLE GIRL, for eff sakes.  We couldn't understand why they weren't walking back toward the nearest town.  Maybe he became confused, we just don't know.

So, off we are again on the quest to get home.  We had talked about getting something to eat when we reached civilization, which is actually my old hometown.  But being rattled by the grandpa and girl, all we could think of was we wanted to get home again so we didn't stop.

We got home, so very tired, at nearly midnight.  We had a bowl of cereal and went to bed.  In our safe house, with electricity and no fires nearby. The next morning the news reported that the fires had damaged the electrical wires in the area, causing outages.  I phoned later in the afternoon and they had power again.  We still felt confident in our decision because regardless of the power, we had no food.  And we didn't pay a hotel fee to be camping.

The hotel gave us 50% credit so now we have to return.  We can't decide if we want to go in the winter or the summer.  I think we'll just not go when that half of the state is not on fire.

If You Don't Want to be Called a Pinhead, Don't Be A Pinhead

We went to family dinner on Friday night and we took our big Dodge truck.  Kevin is always careful where he parks it.  He wants to keep it nice and it takes up an entire parking space because of it's size.  Often, we park a little further away just so we're not inconveniencing anyone by not allowing enough space around to park.

This time was no exception.  We parked at the end of the lot, so curb on one side and parking spaces on the other.  When we came out, there was a little white car parked right next us.  I laughed at first because anyone who is ever careful parking their car is aware of the phenomenon of having another car (usually a junker) park right next to them when you make the effort to park far away in order to keep your nice car nice.

Kevin was all "Are you KIDDING me?" and got a little more vocal with his displeasure as we neared the car. It turns out that the car is parked squarely on the white line dividing our spaces; as if playing a game that required perfectly aligning the drivers side tires on the line.  There were open spaces next to them and there was no way on earth that the driver got out of the car and thought it was okay.  In fact, it's my guess that their door at the very least touched the running board of the truck in order for them to get out.

So, now sarcasm is at a high.  I mentioned to Kevin the above thought.  "They got out and thought it's okay, I'm parked like a douche but it doesn't matter." While Kevin is saying "What kind of a pinhead thinks that's okay."

After a moment, Kevin looked behind us and kind of nods his head.  I glance but it wasn't anyone I knew and not thinking just started getting into the truck.  Then I hear a woman's voice "Oh, I guess I did park a little close, didn't I?"

"Yeah, Yeah, you did do that." is all I said then closed the door.  Kevin said something along the line of "Yeah, you could have done better" or something like that.  Then he got in the truck.   We waited a mili-second  then we were all "OMG, can you believe that just happened!?!?"

Kevin said "I feel a little bad that they heard me call them a pinhead."  I replied "If you act like a pinhead, then you can expect to hear that about yourself."  Know that Kevin is the most diplomatic guy.  He can usually smooth over awkward situations, calm people down, or discuss uncomfortable topics in an Oprah like manner.  He probably wouldn't have said anything if he'd known that someone was within hearing range.  So, it was awkward yet funny.  Where Kevin was remorseful, I was still indignant.

Kevin decided to wait for her to pull out of the space because, again, she parked too close.  Of course she did the whole take fifteen minutes to put on her seatbelt, reapply lipstick, organize her purse, adjust her mirror, put her driving gloves on thing that just makes me stabby.  Then, again, because tight parking, she takes about five attempts to get backed out and leave.

I thought Kevin was going to get out of the truck and demand her keys and license. Any remorse he felt vanished.

Hard Drive is Full, Please Clear Some Memory

So, the work thing.  My brain is so, so tired.  The partner left behind a bit of a mess, and while I knew  intellectually that this was going to be, I was overwhelmed.  It's learning a whole new system and fixing problems that I don't know how to fix.  I must be doing okay because the biller and my boss seem pleased. 

Two things about the partner: she is skilled at making something more complicated than it needs to be and she doesn't know how to ask for help.  Thus the current mess.

I had a stack of paper about half a ream high that needed something called Codes and Units.  Units are easy, four units make up an hour but they had to be written on each paper.  Codes seem complicated and overwhelming until, kind of like algebra, it just clicks. 

There are Speech Therapists and they have one set of codes.  They helped make their own list before I took over.  Then, there are Occupational and Physical Therapists and their codes weren't in place.  Their codes are much more complicated and they couldn't help make the list because they came from workplaces where they didn't have to worry about this. (much bigger organizations than ours)  However, they both provided telephone numbers/email for women who could.  In 24 hours, we had a good list of codes and that stack went away.

Two other things to know: these codes had to be in place on October 1st.  I took over on the 17th.  Super fun.  The initial system the partner made up was a little slip of pink paper with the codes printed on it for one set of therapists only.  The therapist circled the code then turned them in each time they had a session.  Then partner wrote them on the forms. So much room for error and what a pain for the therapist to keep these little slips of paper.  These little slips of paper that I couldn't find anywhere.  They already had a form called a Home Visit Form that they complete after each visit so these stupid little slips make no sense whatsoever.

Now, because the biller helped me, there is one sheet of paper that the therapists complete at the end of the day that does all of the above and simply goes to the biller.  I no longer have to look at it.  This is the prime example of making something much more difficult than it had to be.  The therapists are relieved not to have those slips, they have master lists, and they don't have to make copies of anything.  Before they ended their days also making copies for the partner to go with the little pink slips. 

I am literally making this job up as I go.  There is one set of instructions that are written down in nearly an essay style. To make it more entertaining, there are judgey statements like "You should be able to figure this out without asking."  Oh, I forgot to mention this: no one else knows how to do this job.  The boss has NO IDEA, which is a specific kind of ridiculous.  I can ask the 2nd in charge and she can give me a little direction but the system has changed since she did the job.  I am relying on the biller, who is nice but talks like I know all the things.  I have to constantly remind her that I don't know anything and that nothing is written down.  Despite this, we are getting along just fine.

Now, this coming week I have to learn the website databases.  There are mainly three of them, so, so, so! overwhelming. One main database that leads to every insurance company ever, each insurance companies websites, plus the billers website database.    I literally had to just ignore that part until I finished the above because I couldn't even contemplate it without abject panic. Breathing in a paper bag, rocking under my desk while eating my hair panic.

I was feeling pretty good about this plan until I got an email from the biller at the end of the day on Friday that has a list of kids denied insurance payments.  Now I have to go back and trace where the wheels fall off and hope I can fix it.  Because, if not, the center doesn't get paid.  Fun!  the only relief is that with this particular set of problems, it's not my fault.  It's the partners but I have to fix it while not knowing what I'm doing.  Luckily, some of it is as simple as making a copy of their insurance information and giving it to the biller.  The other part is those intimidating websites. 

So, I may start drinking again.  Oh, and I go on vacation on the 18th so I have a deadline to get this mess cleaned up.  I really, really, really want to punch the partner.  I'm focusing on winning though.  I want to be able to say "I fixed this".  I have to use my OCD powers for good. 

Oh! and then I overhear the boss offer to compensate the partner for any time she has spent answering questions via email/phone.  Wait, WHAT?  this is how codependent their relationship was and the perfect example of how we ended up in this mess.
All this being said, I still love my job.  I love my coworkers, they really are the best. They're really mellow, kind without being smarmy, and there's no drama.  They're really good at saying "I don't understand" or "I don't agree so let's talk more about it."  It's like the dream team.  
The one glitch in the system is the boss has actually said that she doesn't want to be the boss.  However, after talking to the Board President about that topic, I/we have permission to kind of force her to relinquish some stuff so that she is relegated to just doing her job, which isn't intended to be within the four walls of the center.   Then  the program manager, the resource coordinator and I are running the joint.  How crazy is that?  In two weeks, I went from being the afternoon low-level person to being an administrator.  It's terrifying.
I am doing what I did at my old job plus now the insurance billing.  It is also similar to the school (billing insurance instead of billing DSHS) but without the H/R component BUT that is becoming partially my responsibility as well.  Remember when I said I didn't want to do this again?  I'm totally doing it again. 
I believe the difference in this situation is that the staff is really supportive and everyone has a good set of boundaries. Plus this wonderful school schedule thing; all the major holidays off and an upcoming nearly two weeks off at the end of the year.  Did I mention I'm going on vacation in two weeks, for two weeks?  (Did y'all just tell me to shut up? It feels like you did. :)  It's okay, I totally would to)

Also, I am forcing myself to keep boundaries unlike either of my previous jobs, which is growth.  I leave on time, I leave everything at the office, I concentrate on not thinking about work while I'm home, even though that's nearly impossible right now.  I'm working about 32 hours a week, 8:30-3:00ish.  Longer if necessary but then comp time to follow. I make a point of coming home and watching Greys Anatomy or Bones with the puppy, just to decompress. Although this implies that I have any brainpower left over at the end of the day.  Because wow, is my hard drive full.  I can't process any more information.
I do have to have the awkward conversation about compensation though.  My job just tripled so it feels like I should be compensated more.  I haven't quite figured out how to approach this.  Right now, I'm thinking that I have to figure out with my new partners what my new title should be.  Once we decide that,  then I think it organically opens the compensation conversation door.  I was kind of hoping I wouldn't have to but clearly, it is on me. The other tack is now I should have vacation pay and I have a vacation soon. I've never had to negotiate a salary before so this is new territory for me.

And while this is whiny, I am very grateful.  I still can't believe that I finally got my dream job.  I just have to do a brain scan and discard any unnecessary information.  Goodbye my twenties, glad to erase you.