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Posts Tagged ‘couchsurfing’

Under (Health) Insured

I have tried getting health insurance so many times, I have stopped trying. Rejected for a biopsied mole here, an Upper GI test there, these tests are on my permanent record like something I accidentally wrote in pen instead of pencil and I can’t find the Wite-Out. And even though I’m trying to redeem myself, waiting “x” number of years for “y” issue on my record to disappear so that “z” insurance companies don’t question my “past history” health responses and hold them against me, a game I cannot win, it’s like they only look at the flaws, not the progress I’ve made: less tests the last few years, mainly because they’re too darn expensive without insurance. So the cycle continues… I get the tests taken, paying cash out-of-pocket should I be so lucky to have spare cash, knowing full well my chances of getting approved by a health insurance provider have probably just decreased… again… But at least I got that mole checked.

I know health is supposed to be our #1 priority; that’s what others tell us, “good health is everything” and “if you don’t have your health, you have nothing.” Though the sentiment may be free, why can’t the execution be more affordable? “Nothing” is expensive.

Some people become alarmed when they learn I don’t have health insurance, “What if something happens?” Good question. I want to tell them I’m not avoiding it on purpose. Others think it’s nice that I don’t have to pay a few hundred dollars a month for it, saying they rarely use theirs. But isn’t there comfort in knowing it’s there if you need it? Plus, all the “cash patient” expenses–the doctor’s visits, the tests, the medications–add up. Fast. And there’s always that unpredictable “What if something happens?” looming in the background like a vulture waiting to attack.

Since Sunday, I have had a throbbing ear ache, throat pain, and fever that I hope is a sinus infection, not the start of another two-month flu-turned-cold-turned-bronchitis like I had just a few months ago. I have no time for that. None of us do.

For an uninsured person, the question is always: Do I wait it out – or spend hard-earned money to go to the doctor? A non-clinic doctor ranges in price from $200-400 in L.A. (believe me, I’ve called around), plus they don’t have any available appointments for 4-8 weeks. Never mind. Urgent care is about $100 and the hours are more flexible. The CVS Minute Clinic (which I love) is $80, though the last time I went to one, what they prescribed did not work and I had to end up finding another (more expensive) doctor, anyway, paying two doctors for the price of one. Of course, there are the free clinics, though if time is money, I should be working instead of waiting for an appointment all day.

I have been waiting it out, taking allergy medications, hoping my sinus/cold symptoms would disappear without my needing to pay to see a doctor. Nine times out of ten, said doctors say it’s allergies, anyway, then point me to the appointment desk, where I can pay on my way out, hoping my debit card isn’t declined. (I don’t use credit cards, but that’s another post.)

Yesterday, a friend told me about a Health Truck (think Food Truck with Band-Aids instead of tacos) that goes around L.A., from TV studio lot to TV studio lot. Supposedly, if you don’t have insurance and work on such a lot, a doctor or nurse (I’m not quite sure) on the truck will see you for only $25, which sounded like the answer to my waiting game. The truck happened to be at my lot yesterday. I did a walk-by and I must admit: I was afraid to go in. I imagined the inside looking like a dilapidated motor home, bloody bandages on the floor like an L.A. emergency room I was once in.

I walked into my work and thanked my co-worker for the idea, but said I couldn’t do it. He nearly pushed me back out the door.

The nurse and doctor I saw were probably the nicest, most knowledgeable ones I’ve ever seen. They confirmed my suspicions: a sinus infection. At least I’ll take the right medications now instead of guessing between cold and sinus pills. They asked why I didn’t have health insurance, even though they knew the answer as several other patients had the same response as I did.

I can’t wait for the day I don’t have to worry about being rejected by health insurance providers as though I am waiting for college acceptance letters. That, or the day when no matter what job I take, it comes with insurance, no questions asked, and no wrong answers if they do ask.

In the meantime, I am grateful to Health Trucks like the one I went to yesterday.

Do you have health insurance? Through work or on your own? If not, what kind of clinics or doctors do you go to?

Thanks for reading!

And feel free to “Like” this post if you can relate to it.

Ah, student loans…

This is a chart up at my couch-host-of-the-week’s apartment.

Do you see the bottom left-hand corner, “ST LOAN”?

I cannot wait for the day when we can all cross student loans off our lists… for good!

Are you still paying back your loans? Or have you deferred or defaulted on them?

Money Monday: A dollar short…

We’ve all struggled with finances at some point, either in the past or currently. Last week, I spoke to a friend who’s between jobs (unemployed) and hit one of her lowest points: trying to buy a soda and pack of gum at the 99-cent store with her debit card (the only money she had). The card was declined. She was mortified. The woman behind her said to add the two items to her tab. My friend was so ecstatic, she hugged her.

Have you been in a situation like this – the giving or receiving end?

It reminded me of my being stranded in a parking garage a few months ago, because it was cash-only and I had no cash. So I sat there, counting out all the change from the bottom of my purse as a long line of cars honked and yelled at me. I reached 60-some cents when I realized that was all I had. The garage attendant let me go. Like my friend, I was grateful.

How about you?

Money Monday: My new – $.01 – phone charger!

One thing I’ve become a pro at all these couch-surfing months is saving money. So when my phone charger literally started on fire a week-and-a-half ago as I plugged it into my couch host’s (CH’s) power strip – causing it to blow fuses in a third of my couch host’s house, which took a few days to get fixed (and is a whole other story!) – I brought it to Verizon and assumed they would give me a new one. After all, with past Verizon phones, when the charger would stop working (like with my old LG, for instance), they often handed me a new one for no charge.

Here’s a picture of the burnt charger:

This time, Verizon was once again very nice about it when they handed me a brand new charger… until they said it’s $29.99.


I calmly explained how my charger had been ON FIRE and blew out all these fuses in a house that’s not even mine (thank goodness for my very nice and understanding couch host, btw!), and I doubted it was the CH’s power strip that caused it… They apologized, saying they had to charge me for the charger. I apologized and handed it back, saying I would get it somewhere cheaper.

I knew Amazon was the place.

There, I found my charger for A PENNY!

Sure, I had to wait a few days for it to arrive, but it was kind of a nice cleanse not having a phone for almost two weeks. For the occasional calls and to contact friends, I used a landline or emailed them. It was fascinating making plans with someone and having to rely on actually showing up on time – them and myself, since I did not have a way to reach them once the plans were set. A great test in accountability, I think.

So far, the charger works! Though I am avoiding plugging it into power strips…

What kind of experiences have you had where someone wanted to charge you a lot — but you found a better deal?

Valentine’s Day: Love your neighbor…

On this day of love, I just want to share a quick story about a homeless man.

This past Sunday at church, a homeless man came in. I am used to seeing a couple wander in and out every Sunday and like that most of the parishioners do not flinch and make room for them in their pews.

However, this past Sunday, a few parishioners were not as welcoming toward such a man. Ironically, it was while the priest was talking about how lepers used to be shunned from mass, only able to watch it through a slit in a wall at the back of the church, and how that only made the lepers feel more isolated versus part of the community. He said that, instead, we need to welcome them, not make them squint from the back.

All the while, at the exact same time, I was standing in the back of the church and watched as the homeless man, a few steps from me, tried to listen to the priest, talking and laughing to himself in between, and I saw a few parishioners blatantly move across the room to get away from him. I was sickened. I knew these people as helping out the community in other ways, yet what was different now?

A few minutes later, the homeless man left. Perhaps he saw that he was not welcomed? It was heartbreaking. I wanted to go apologize for the people’s behavior.

As someone who has volunteered with homeless people for nearly twenty years, perhaps I was not fearful of the man as I assume these parishioners were. Maybe he was there for the same reasons the rest of us were, or maybe he just wanted a place to go. Either way, he wasn’t going to cause any of us harm. And weren’t the parishioners listening to the priest’s homily? Especially on a day that it was about not ostracizing lepers?

In essence, that could have been me. Census-wise, I would be considered homeless – with no permanent address – for two years and nearly three months now. No, I certainly do not look the same as the man who came in, and I had probably taken a shower more recently than he had, but neither of us have a permanent roof over our heads; I just disguise my lack-of-residence more. If my couch-surfing has taught me anything, it has reaffirmed building community with people, talking to each other face-to-face – just like we should do with true homeless people who do not have the luxury of staying on their friends’ couches.

So love your neighbor. Stand still next to a homeless person at church, don’t run away. Outside of mass, talk to them. Often, I do not (and can not) give them money, but I do smile, give them whatever food I happen to have on me, or speak to them instead of looking away. It’s too easy to do that. The least we can do is acknowledge them, reaffirm their existence. After all, homelessness can happen to any of us.

I love my church. But I certainly did not love the ignorant behavior I saw inside.

You can listen to the priest’s homily here, just click on “homily” on the top right side of the page.

“Get well” tips from the cats

I really hope this flu is almost gone! I love that the cats I’m sitting are doing everything I’m supposed to be doing!

Lots of rest:


And drinking plenty of fluids:

What kinds of things do your pets do?

Please don’t shake my hand… if you’re sick

Did you know that more germs are spread from shaking hands than kissing? (Check out: and!) Scientists say this is because our hands have contact with much more bacteria than our mouths.

That said, I am probably one of the most germ-conscientious people I know. In fact, I once took years off from shaking people’s hands. Ever since I started again, the last few years, I have gotten a very bad flu every six months or so (including the swine flu in 2009). I’m not implying that all these flus were from infected hands, but it’s just interesting.

Sunday, my current flu-with-bronchitis-mixed-in-just-for-fun turned three weeks old. I am ninety-nine percent sure I got it after a handshake-gone-awry. I touched my eye a moment later, then heard the handshaker let out one of the worst coughs I’ve heard in a long time. I was about to go wash my hands and eye, yet the guy insisted he was not sick. The line for the bathroom was very long, so I believed him. Silly me. Why couldn’t he have just kissed me instead?

More and more often in the last few months, I will be at an event and meet someone new and they’ll shake my hand, followed up by a few coughs and a variation of the line, “I’m trying to get over this cold.” Um, then you shouldn’t have shaken my hand or the other 101 in the room. I also think a lot of people mistake having a cold for allergies; but when in doubt, keep your hands to yourself. 🙂

When I’m sick and someone tries to shake my hand, I tell them I have a cold/flu/what have you and ninety-nine percent of the time, they thank me for letting them know and quickly retreat their arm (as well as take a few steps back). (Once in a great while, someone will say they need some sick days at work and beg me to shake their hand, but even then I refuse!)

If someone still wants to shake my sick hand, so to speak, like the nurse at the CVS Minute Clinic* last week, so be it. (She immediately washed her hands afterward.)

So I’m asking each of you for a favor. If you’re sick, don’t shake people’s hands (not even at church during the Peace be with You). You may feel rude for not doing so, but take it from me – it’s better than getting your friend sick. (And don’t forget about karma!)

Aside from taking medicines and trying to be patient (since there is no real cure for the flu, just things to alleviate the symptoms), I’ve been drinking a TON of homemade garlic or ginger tea. (Luckily, I am still cat-sitting, so don’t have to fear getting a couch host sick. Hopefully, the cats will be fine!)

What kinds of potions – drinks/foods – do you make when you’re sick?

Here’s more reading on why handshakes should stop: and

*By the way, this was my second time visiting the CVS Minute Clinic and I cannot say enough positive things about the experience (aside from the fact that I was there for the above). The nurse was friendly, knowledgeable, no lines to wait in, etc.

Money Monday: You & Debt

Welcome to Money Mondays!

I once saw a homeless man holding a sign that read: “Spare debt?” So clever — and apropos these days, I think.

We all know how much debt I have (you remember my Money, Money, Money post)… Do you have debt, too? (Don’t worry — you don’t have to tell me how much!)

What kinds of things are you doing to whittle it down? Or are you ignoring it?

New Year’s (Week’s) Resolutions – Week One

Last Sunday, I posted several of my New Year’s Resolutions – which are actually New Week’s Resolutions as I find that week-to-week is more manageable. (See my original post for more.)

Here’s Jan. 1-7th with my results in bold.


-Blog every day. – Missed two days, blogged twice in one day, so now one day behind.

-Work on a piece of writing (book, short story, essay, script) every day. Missed FIVE days. Ugh… Need to get out of this lack-of-writing funk! NO EXCUSES!! (Which is an excellent book, btw! Which I apparently need to reread!!)

-Continue to not text. (After three+ months of practice already, I am becoming an expert at this. Plus, I still won’t have a working phone until February, so…) Yep!

-See people in the flesh more (versus email or phone calls). Yep!

-Reconsolidate all dozen or so of my student loans at a lower interest rate. In progress. (Takes more than a week to do!)

-Continue to make student loan payments each month like I did for most of 2011. Yep! (Unfortunately!) See my former Money, Money, Money blog post for more.

-Pay off remaining debts to friends. In progress…

-Go to storage at least four times a month to get rid of more things I will never use & have happily lived without for over two years now! Nope. 🙁 (Will have to go twice another week.)

-Volunteer at least once a week. Nope. (Still choosing a new venue.)

-Go to church every week. (This is a Repeat Resolution from 2011. I was pretty good in 2011, but then lapsed a bit.) Yep!

-Get closer to being able to attain an apartment/housing of my own again. However, until the student loan debt mentioned above gets lower, this is not likely anytime soon. (See my Money, Money, Money entry for more details on this.) (Also, I cannot imagine a non-couch-surfing life anymore!) Ditto! (Stagnant for now.)

-Get at least one piece published by the end of the month. (Or get notification of publication by the end of the month. Knock on wood!) Still have a few weeks for this!

-Do my TSL column twice a month. In progress. First one of the year comes out mid-month! (I’ll post it when it does.)

-I think I am a pretty optimistic person almost all of the time… But when tempted not to be, to remember to focus on the positive in every situation/person/etc. instead of the negative. Yep!


How about you? How are your New Year’s Resolutions coming?

Happiness… or money?

Which would you choose? (Hypothetically, you can’t have both!)