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Challenges never cease

Yesterday, I was looking forward to making the trip 2 1/2 hours south to go pick up my daughter who I haven’t seen in far too long. We miss each other terribly but its been nearly impossible to get up the money to get there as far behind as everything had fallen. Well, the thrill of having my daughter back has been taken away from me yet again as I have been in the hospital since Wednesday with a very sudden onset of right lower lobe pneumonia. I have been unresponsive to most of the breathing treatments, antibiotics and steroids that they have been pumping me with. I was in such respiratory distress yesterday that the doctor strongly suggested intubating me for 48 hours and waking me up after 2 days of ICU treatment. Of course I fought it tooth and nail. He diagnosed me with COPD. My blood pressure upon arrival was stroke level 236/120. My blood sugar is running in the 200’s so I’m shooting insulin three times a day. I’m an unholy trifecta of health problems right now. I had been praying for healing but certainly did not have to go through all this to achieve it. I think I was hoping for more of a miracle than missed child, missed work, missed home. I just hope to God my daughter understands that my being away is not by choice, that I want us together but that I am still financially destitute and severely ill. I still, after all the treatment, cannot get out of bed without taking ten minutes to catch my breath. I don’t know how long I will be in hospital, but I need to start responding NOW to treatment.

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Oregon City and Newtown

This past Tuesday, someone very close to me sent me the following text:

“No idea what’s going on but Clackamas Town Center is literally surrounded by police w/medical and fire on hand en masse.”  4:02 PM PST Dec 11

He was right there, trying to get through the chaos, texting me as it happened:

“Units still arriving, all agencies, well over 100.” 4:03 PM PST Dec 11

I’m pacing at this point, wondering what the hell is happening.  He’s in Oregon City, I’m 3500 miles away in Florida and helpless to do anything to follow my first instinct to get him out of there (not that he’d have needed my help, that’s just the way I am).  Dreading what I’d see, I turned on the news…

http://www.oregonlive.com/milwaukie/index.ssf/2012/12/masked_gunman_unleasheas_fusil.html

http://www.oregonlive.com/clackamascounty/index.ssf/2012/12/live_updates_on_clackamas_town.html

http://www.koinlocal6.com/content/breaking/story/Suspected-gunman-among-3-killed-in-Clackamas-Town/b56vE1pNmEWgkRmcWwejkw.cspx

This was hitting way too close to home as someone I love was THERE.

Then Friday… Newtown, CT… I could not believe what I was hearing as I was listening to the reports coming in on NPR.  As the count rose of all the children senselessly taken from this quiet community at a place where they are supposed to be safe, all I could think of was my daughter.  She was at school here and at that moment all I wanted to do was hold her, protect her, from anything and everything.  But that’s impossible.

We are coming into a time where people are becoming so desperate that they are more and more often resorting to more violent means of crying out for help, for getting their points across.  Only two emotions can remain after such attacks in our own communities: Anger and Fear.  The anger will only progress into rage and more calculated killings.  The fear can only drive innocent people away from public places, into their homes afraid to go out in public anymore.  No place is immune from someone snapping and opening fire.  Temples, churches, schools, malls… I think if we really come together as communities and pay attention to what is happening around us, pay attention to the signs that others are giving, we may be able to prevent some future attacks from occurring.  If we can catch warning signs earlier that someone is hurting, perhaps we can direct them to help, or get help to them.  I don’t know – I don’t think anyone does.  There is no one solution to the growing problem and definitely no easy one.  I do think however we can all start by caring a little more, reaching out, pulling together.  We are our brothers’ keepers.

An Open Letter To Debt Collectors

Prior to writing this post, I had already chastised myself knowing I would end up using at least once the most over-used phrase of the past few years:  “In this economy…”  It simply has to be said because the situation has affected nearly everyone in every social class in America.  I did however resign myself to only using it once to spare the reader the groans and eye-rolling the phrase garners from even me.  You see, I too am a debt collector.

Unfortunately, just because I work in the field does not mean I am immune to the phone calls day and night, often far in excess of the number of calls allowed by the FDCPA for consumer collections.  As a commercial debt collector, I too have been hit hard by the fallout of failing businesses across the country, layoffs, bankruptcies – these all affect my net income.  Most commercial debt collectors do their work on a commission basis.  When a debtor doesn’t get paid by their customers, a client doesn’t get paid, therefore the collector can’t get paid.  This puts the collector in a situation of less money coming in which of course means less money available to go out to their own bills.  These economic failings we have been enduring for the past several years have had a ripple effect all the way out to the edges of the American picture.

This brings me to the heart of this post: What I want to tell every bill collector out there who continues to ring my phone from 8:00 in the morning until 9:00 at night sometimes with only minutes between phone calls.  First realize that no, I am not going to answer your call.  Calling me from a number that identifies you as one of my creditors or a collector only to turn around, block your number and redial me as an unidentified caller does not work.  I still know who you are and what you want.  The simple fact of the matter is the more you call, the less likely you are to get even a call back from me.  I don’t want to talk to someone who just keeps harassing me.  Your bill will be paid using any means that does not require I speak to your under-educated and typically rude representative and it will get paid as soon as I have the money to do so.   I know who I owe and I know what I owe.  I know when the bill was due.  Your repeated phone calls (as well as texts, e-mails and form letters) will NOT make my paycheck get into my bank any faster.  You’ve heard it before, you’ll hear again:  You’ll get paid when I get paid.

How bad are the calls?  Out of approximately 30 calls a day, one or two may be personal.  Those personal calls often get missed because your collection departments call so many times a day that I am pushed to the point of having to turn off my phone.  If I leave it on, the battery is dead inside of two hours due to the sheer volume of phone calls from collectors.

Collectors:  Do you think I want to be in this situation?  Do you think I am simply not paying you because I don’t want to?  Or can you for just a moment stop and ask yourselves what might be going on that is causing this situation?  I am a single mother with no support system who has taken a 35% pay cut this year, down from an income that I was just barely scraping by on last year.  I have had to make major sacrifices just to keep a roof.  It is hard for me right now.  Much more so than you ever cared to ask.  When it comes down to putting gas in the car to get to work and being able to feed my child today, those needs are going to come well before your medical billings from 2009 when I broke my leg.  That certainly was not something I planned to do or asked for.  When the water bill gets raised from $16 a month to $45 a month for the same usage without any warning or reason, it’s going to take someone on a very limited income a bit longer to find a way to pay it.

The auto lender that is also a part of the problem will start calling the day before the payment is due then continue relentlessly even after it has been paid, likely due to one of their databases not being updated with another.  Regardless, you of all people DO get paid every month.  It may not always be on time, but you get your money.  Don’t start calling me until I am 30 days past due.  By then I would expect you to start to worry.  Just back off a bit.  Please.  Believe me when I say that my car is my lifeline.  If there is a problem that will put my payment past 30 days, I will call you and ask for an extension or other help.  Your hounding me does not help either of us – and that goes for all of you.

A couple years ago, I received a letter from a person I had been collecting from on my own job.  I’d worked with him over a year and because I would work with him, he did end up paying off his debt in full.  It just took a little longer than anyone would have liked it to, including the customer.  In his letter, he mentioned a documentary he watched that portrayed bill collectors as people who stop at nothing to get the money in, going as far as to make threats on the debtors, corner them into making promises they could not keep then holding that against them, and pushing some people to the point of suicide with the unending demands that could not be met due to a wide variety of personal situations.  His letter was full of accolades giving examples of how I had changed her perception of the “typical” debt collector, how appreciative he was of my willingness to work with him and not harass him while still working the account.  Even slow progress is progress after all and more often than not working with a debtor will get an account paid more fully than would happen if they are beaten into just ignoring the calls.

Collectors:  If you were on the other end of the phone, who would you be more likely to work with – the person who rings your phone at all hours 3, 5, 7 times a day and won’t work with you – or the person who lets you breathe long enough to find a way out of the predicament, the one who offers you solutions over threats, support over arrogance?  Take some advice from these examples.  Back off – just a bit.

Be a part of the solution – NOT the PROBLEM!