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Endurance and Healing

Most nights, lately, I’ve been sleeping. I’ve been sleeping far more than usual. Now that my radiation treatments are done, I’m feeling the full effects of my body’s efforts to heal. I find I can do one thing a day, and that’s about it, before my energy dissipates. A full night of sleep, beginning at around 8:00 in the evening, and a mid-afternoon nap are the norm these days.

Tonight is not the norm.

I stayed up and watched a movie, Limitless, which was disturbing to me. Loads of violence. Of course, the movie also deals with addiction to a substance, in this case a mysterious pill that provides powers of mental clarity far beyond the average individual’s ability to think and reason. The drug, in the movie, was unknown, illegal, and highly sought after. The problem? It was instantaneously addicting and, once addicted, to stop taking the drug resulted in certain death. This created an insane demand for the remaining limited supply of pills. Thus the violence. Thus the disturbia.

I’ve tossed and turned all night. I’ve slept only fitfully and my sleep has been fraught with images from the movie. I know that just as dawn creeps up over the horizon, just as my neighbor with the fake boobs and hair weave gets up to let her noisy, yippy, little dogs out for a bathroom break while she lights up her morning smoke, just as this small little rural berg begins to hum with the activity of a new day and my youngest is waking from her slumber, my body will finally give in to some much needed shut-eye. I’m glad I have no appointments and no work obligations.

On the upside, this is the first sleepless night in forever that I haven’t been up worrying about finances. In the month since I last struggled to sleep through the night, some really wonderful things happened. I record them here, as a statement of personal gratitude and celebration and because it is something to do besides the ineffective tossing and turning, trying to block the violent images of that movie from my psyche. Also, if there happened to be a worried, frightened soul out there wondering how they are possibly going to make it, maybe this post will provide some encouragement to just keep on plugging, because, as they say, “This too shall pass.”

Most recently, I’ve been whining about the way my tenants left my old house. Thanks to a very helpful and kind group of friends, we were able to get rid of most of the salvageable stuff, to bag up the garbage and contain the bags to the garage until the time I could actually afford to rent a dumpster to dump it all into. While I was over there on one of my many trips to clean up or monitor the place, I dug out some plants from the yard. The place is completely overgrown with plants, and I figure, since I put thousands into that yard, I should take a few of my favorites with me. I have no yard in my new digs, but I do have loads of decking and driveway space that begs to be adorned with tastefully arranged containers of plants. I don’t believe the plants I dug up and carted over, using The Hesitant Boyfriend’s truck, will even be missed. Further, they really brightened up the new place. I think only two plants didn’t make it. The rest seem to be doing fine. As long as I can have a bit of nature and beauty around me, I can find the strength to keep on pushing forward.

In the last month, my bankruptcy discharge letter arrived, thus freeing me from a mountain of debt that I struggled for the last five years to pay on, all the while cutting back on groceries and other much needed things for the kids. I can now begin to rebuild my credit and hack away at the student loan debt (not discharged) and the medical bills which were incurred after I filed.

The Evil Ex and I will have a hearing in a couple of weeks to address the child support he doesn’t want to pay to help with our daughter’s medical expenses. I seriously do not think I will have any luck there, but requesting a hearing, delayed the reduction of child support (a loss of $200 of income each month). While this reduction may be retroactive, I think I’ll be okay, for a couple of reasons. The first is that I’ve diligently worked to eliminate any unnecessary expenses from our budget. I’ve easily shaved more than the two hundred I will be losing and that’s a great thing. At the same time, The Hesitant Boyfriend got some steady work. Though it was frighteningly tight for a while there when I had to help him with his bills before he got paid, he is getting paid these days and the extra he is bringing in really helps.

We aren’t out of the woods entirely financially, yet. I have a further reduction in child support coming because The Good Ex gets to begin paying our daughter directly instead of paying me. Let’s hope he actually does this, because insurance to keep her driving is astronomical. She needs to drive in order to work, so I can’t exactly drop her from the insurance policy. Further, my student loan payments start back up again next month; another expense.

A few months ago, I was also whining about the fact that my rather large tax return was taken by the BK court. To make this money up for myself, I was able to land some part time summer work which will allow me to start up a small emergency savings, which, in spite of everything I hope to be able to add to each month. This is a much different place than I was in even six weeks ago. Nothing destroys the spirit quite like ongoing financial struggle. Now that things are more hopeful for me in this area, I am sleeping better and my spirits are improving as a result.

Bankruptcy can be embarrassing and stressful. Many people don’t talk openly about it, but the folks who shared their stories have given me hope. Every single one of them told me things will get better. Things are already getting better.

On a whim, I decided to go car shopping. I drive an older SUV and I definitely need to look at getting something more fuel efficient. I haven’t been car shopping in almost a decade and I didn’t do a great job of it then, so I had no idea what to expect. I wasn’t seriously expecting to find a car and actually purchase it, but going through the process would give me a bit of a starting point. After all, I wanted to know exactly what I’d be up against in terms of interest rates, expected down payment, and monthly payments.

A cute little 2001 VW New Beetle with 50,000 miles caught my eye, so I arranged for a test drive. It’s definitely a fun car to drive and it had a moonroof. I fell in love right away. I’m a horrible negotiator and I knew I probably wasn’t going to buy this car, or even be approved for the financing, so I didn’t really haggle much on price. We got into the process right away. I told them what I wanted my monthly payment to be and so on. If you’ve ever purchased a car from a dealer, you know how this goes. You look. You drive. You talk. You fill out paperwork, then you wait. When they finally came out to me to tell me “what they could do” they gave me an offer that included cash out of pocket that was impossible, a monthly payment that was twice the amount I told them I was comfortable with, and an interest rate of 29%. I laughed when they handed it to me. Then they offered me another deal on a 2010 Ford Focus that was $5,000 more than the Beetle I wanted to buy. Now, this is where I do not understand car sales. They were able to offer me a better out of pocket, much lower monthly payment, and a lower interest rate on the Focus. How can they do that on the more expensive car where their risk is greater? I don’t get it. In the end, the interest rate was still 17.5%, and the car was the most uncomfortable thing I’ve ever driven next to an old Ford Taurus I once had. I haven’t made a car payment in almost four years, and while I’d consider payments to rebuild my credit, I’m certainly not going to do this for an interest rate of 17% on a car I don’t even like. Obviously, I shook hands, thanked them for their time, and consideration and went on my way. I got the information I needed anyway.

I went home, did a quick Internet search on repairing credit after bankruptcy and on buying a used car after bankruptcy. It turns out that while purchasing a used car is a common way to rebuild one’s credit, the interests rates on the deal will be really high. One source suggested finding a car you like with a payment you can handle. Accept the rotten interest rate and make every payment on time for a year. After a year, refinance the vehicle for a lower interest rate. That sounds like a possible plan, eventually, though I’m in no hurry to rush right out and begin making payments. I want to get through these next few months first, get some money socked away in savings, and then see.

Another source suggested this plan for rebuilding credit after filing Chapter 7. Obtain a credit card with a limit of $300. Use it to buy stuff like gas or things you need anyway. Take the money you would normally spend on those items and use it to pay off the credit card in full every month. Do this for six months, then get a credit card or two with higher limits of about $1,000. Spend very little on these cards and pay them all off every month. This source emphasized staying within budget and not carrying a balance on any of the cards. After a year, your credit will have improved enough to be able to negotiate a better interest rate on a car.

This second plan sounded much safer to me. I’ve spent the last five years living on a cash only basis with no credit cards. I’m loathe to go out and rack up debt, except for the very express purpose of paying it off monthly, so I can rebuild my credit scores. It just so happened that a credit card offer came in the mail. No annual fees and no interest rate until next year. I applied and was approved. I just made the first payment to pay the entire balance, and it’s two weeks before the due date. It just feels good to be able to do that and not worry.

The first part of this year was horrible for me and many people I know. In tough times, I’ve always been fairly resilient and I try to stay hopeful. The last several months, however, have been some of the most difficult I’ve faced. We all know that nothing is permanent, even bad times. I was beginning to wonder. If you are beginning to worry and wondering if things will ever get better let me encourage you to just keep plodding. Survive today. Before you know it, a month or two has passed and things might look much better. It might be a long time before things improve, you might have to make some sacrifices and do things differently. You might just have to endure. Just don’t give up.

There are better days ahead.

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Moving On

Somewhere I heard that most of what we worry about never comes to pass. Where today’s meeting was concerned, that statement was only partly true. The trustee did, indeed, require me to turn over my tax return. Since it is a size able sum and since turning it over now means I have nothing to pay my state tax bill with, this doesn’t exactly give me the “clean start” everybody who promotes bankruptcy (read those who make money off bankruptcies) says I will have. In addition, the out of pocket medical bills just showed up in the mailbox today. Woo. Hoo. Juggling all these bills with so few resources just becomes a domino effect of holding bills to pay other bills and so on. So, instead of being able to catch up, I will have to keep playing this crazy financial catch up game for a while longer. The Hesitant Boyfriend really needs to get some steady work.

Needless to say, when I left my meeting today, which lasted all of 15 minutes, and wherein no relevant questions germane to my situation were raised, I was angry. After all, every one of my creditors has already made a fortune on my debt and the astronomical interest I paid on that debt over the last 10 years. As for the mortgage company, they already got their bailout. Why can’t I get mine? Yes, I was definitely angry. I feel my attorney should have communicated with me far better than he did. The things that impacted me, which should not have, were amateur oversights and could have been prevented had he been a bit more communicative of the process. After all, I’ve never done this before, so I didn’t know.

Anyway, I’m sufficiently over it. In two months my debt will be discharged. I can begin rebuilding my credit and turning my net worth from a negative number to a positive number. It does feel good to finally be done with that episode of my life even though it didn’t go the way I’d hoped.

I’m now ready to let this go and move on.

Chapter 7: The Bad News Is…

Today, when the sun comes up and business resumes, I will be attending my Meeting of Creditors, a requirement before having my debts fully discharged in Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Prior to this, I spent nearly 5 years on a debt repayment program, trying to pay off credit card debt that was mostly The Evil Ex Husband’s. Never mind how that unfair trick occurred. I ended up struggling desperately to pay those bills, while trying to support my family, keep our home, and avoid bankruptcy court. A year ago, I met with my bankruptcy attorney and now, today, after an agonizing amount of paperwork, I have my meeting of creditors.

I am going into this meeting fearing the worst. This year, instead of owing more taxes, I am getting a healthy sum of it back. My attorney just informed me late Saturday afternoon, that the Trustee will take that tax return. In addition, my attorney informed me that because there was a few thousand dollars in my account on the day my petition was filed, (I had just gotten paid) I am likely going to be owing another $3,000. This is devastating news for me. I’m not a little angry about this. I’m depressed and I’m furious.

Bankruptcy is intended to discharge debt. Instead, in my case it is creating debt. I have $400 to pay bills and feed my family for the rest of the month. With two teenagers, one pre-teen and a gas bill for an old SUV that reaches hundreds every month, I cannot make it to the end of the month. I also have medical bills now, that I did not have when I filed due to having a small illness called cancer. I cannot discharge those debts. Further, even if all my debt is discharged it will not remove the huge student loan I will probably pay until I die.

I have definitely arrived at my lowest point since leaving The Evil Ex. I’m not sure how I’m going to make it. The fact is, I’m going to have to not pay some bills this month and this will put me even further behind for next month. Instead of providing me with a clean slate, this bankruptcy is adding more to the crushing load I already carry.

I’m praying that there will be some truly Divine Intervention this morning at this meeting. This beleaguered single mom needs a reprieve, not another bill to pay. I don’t have any rich relatives I can call on. Well, at least none who would deign to assist me right now. My only hope is that the God whose resurrection we celebrated yesterday will somehow perform a miracle on my behalf. I could really use it.

Please, God, make it possible, somehow, that I can keep that tax return and not have to owe money. I just can’t take another financial blow.

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