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Running in place

I suppose I should be grateful not to be losing ground, and even to be able to run, but I so want to move forward.

I'm relieved we haven't gone further into debt since our job losses -- well, not since the fall, anyway -- but the inability to make progress frets me daily, even hourly. I need movement, not just running in place.

My new consulting gig is going well, I think; at any rate, they haven't seemed particularly shocked by my ignorance, nor dismayed by my slowness. I believe my performance may be better than adequate, but I'm not feeling like it yet. Fingers crossed.

Fingers crossed, too, for Spouse, who's had two phone interviews and one in-person interview with an employer about an hour away. All went well (the recruiter's verdict: "It's your to lose"), but now we're waiting for a decision. The company allows -- even encourages -- telecommuting, so the actual commute wouldn't be daily, lessening its impact. On the other hand, Spous…
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Random Subset of Reasons Why Job Hunting Is Like Dating, and Therefore A Super Shitty Part of Adulthood
Reason #1: I hate hate hate it. Seriously, why don't I just uncap my marker here and write "JUDGE ME YOU TOTAL STRANGER" across my forehead?

Reason #9: Interview/date clothes. They are a lie, a lie that you wear, and also overpay for, and then worry about snagging/ripping/staining or otherwise knocking them off their pedestal of interview-and-date-worthiness. A pox on them.

Reason #11: Unbearable self-consciousness. As an alpha-introvert, barely bearable self-consciousness is my default state when in a room with any stranger, so why not turn that up to 11?

Reason #12: They will make nice, and chatter about where they like to lunch and the latest project they're working on, and tell you how interesting your story is, and you'll think, hey, maybe this isn't so bad/could actually work. They'll smile and promise to get back to you before next Wednesday. And…

Rikki Tikki Tavi, or, COBRA is no more -- whoops, hang on, not dead yet

Spouse's former company will cease to exist next month, and with it our COBRA. (No company = no plan = no self-funded part of plan.)

Have I mentioned that medical insurance is insane, y'all? I have? Was I the first? Because, y'all. It's insane.

Since this counts as an eligible life-event, we can sign up for coverage under the ACA. We technically have 60 days from the date of the life-event, but who wants to be uninsured for that length of time?  And who wants to continue to pay against a deductible that's not going to be applicable in 30-90 days?

Because insurance is a Big Freaking Adult Deal with a Big Freaking Adult Price Tag, I am Freaking the Adult Out. Seriously. Woke up before 3 a.m. Saturday and decided I had to at least start the research; spent seven hours online, creating and populating an Excel workbook to compare up to five plans. Took a break for a sandwich and a shower at about 10 a.m. and then spent another four hours refining the spreadsheet and loo…

Where did January go?

I could've sworn I left it right here....

It was a bit of a blur, between interviews and getting a new contract (yay! paycheck for a year!), trying to gather tax information (why did I schedule tax appointment for February 1?), and several new bills and obligations (boo...hiss... sigh).
The contract is with a large employer in our city, and is located close to home -- I could take the bus if necessary.  The work is... a stretch. I'm having to use long-abandoned skills, and learn new ones, and while the client seems satisfied at two weeks in, I have moments and sometimes days of abject terror, wondering if I'll ever navigate my way through and get up to speed. This is only my second contract, and a major client of my agency, so I really feel pressure to not just do good, timely work, but to impress, maybe to wow. 
Spouse maintains I'm my own worst enemy, none of it is beyond me, etc., etc. I have noted, however, that Spouse does not suffer from measured, balanced estima…

COBRA Pachinko Pinball Twister

Yeesh, what a freakin' mess.

Our paid-for time on COBRA ends this month, so we need insurance in place for January. Can I add my voice to the chorus exclaiming that insurance is insane in this country, that we pay more for less compared to the rest of the civilized world, that an absurd percentage of our medical dollars go to finessing the question of whether we need/deserve treatment, that in short the whole system sucks and the most cost-effective insurance pool is the largest and therefore can we just have everyone in a single pool, people, please?

Oh, I can? Oh, good. I'm sure it will make all the damn difference.

Aside from the cost -- although, again, ohmygods the cost -- there's just the question of what-the-hell-to-do.  It's exceedingly difficult to make a financial decision for the entire year ahead when you have no real regular income and no idea what your actual income might be.

So here are the parameters defining our position. I think.

1. Any plan will cost …

What the What, PNC?

I check Mint obsessively. It's actually been a bright spot these last dark months, to see our retirement accounts steadily making small gains even when we couldn't contribute.

Then there was yesterday, when I woke to find they'd dropped 2% overnight. I checked the news, wondering what had happened: nothing. I checked the accounts -- Vanguard, no significant change. Fidelity, TransAmerica, Principal Financial, National Financial: no significant change.

PNC Retirement Directions: 7% loss overnight. Wrong Direction, PNC.

What the hell happened? I have no idea, because I can't find how to view history on PNC's website. Transactions yes, values/performance no. Master of Google Fu, one-time technical professional, one-time research professional, financial yellow belt (okay, not so impressive, that last one) -- can't find it.

Maybe Mint wasn't updating? I don't recall seeing the Red Dot of Dubious Value for this account, so it seems unlikely.

Seriously, PNC, w…

And so it begins...

Ummm... Testing? Testing? Hello, is this thing on?

I'm not sure still whether to begin this or, having begun it, whether to continue. Sometimes it seems like a dreadful idea to invite people into my world: what about the loss of privacy? shoot, what if no one accepts the invitation? Both are terrible. But sometimes it seems like it would be helpful to share what we're trying to get through, trying to accomplish, trying to get to.  So. Hence, a blog. Yessir.

"We" is me, plus Spouse, plus Caterwaul, our feline penance. (I kid. Mostly.) The to we're trying to accomplish, to achieve, is Retirement, of the Exceedingly Comfortable variety. We have a vision: a college town several states away from where we are now, chock-a-block with theaters and restaurants and other tasty cultural tidbits; a house -- a dream-ish house -- with a view, room for a dog and guests, space to host and cook and work and veg; and enough money to fund these, plus (because we're greedy) enou…