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Hardship

He wanted to meet up this weekend. It sounded like a good idea over the phone. The problem is it was a meet up. The problem is he lives 150 miles away. The problem is, while the designated meet up point was lovely, it required 40 minutes of drive time and gas expense for me. With three and a half weeks left in this month and, now, $200 left to feed my family of four, I just can’t spend money on that kind of thing.

And how does one explain this without coming off as some sort of destitute woman looking to find someone to financially bail her out, or worse some sort of trailer trash? No offense intended to those who are destitute and live in trailers. I’ve been there. I really have. What I’m talking about is an attitude that oozes “needy” or “rescue me” or “life’s unfair” or even worse, “why bother?”

So, I zipped an email to him stating a partial truth. Due to my daughter’s stage production in a nearby town, she would be needing the car. I would not be able to make it. I said all the right things about how I still wanted to meet up, and I left everything in his court.

Silence.

Not like this is any big surprise. People go silent all the time. After all, he doesn’t know me. I’m merely a few profile pictures, some well-chosen words and a voice over the phone to him. That’s easily forgettable.

Not like I care. I really don’t.

I’m far more worried about how I’m going to feed my kids this month. There isn’t a food kitchen in town that will accept me due to my income, which is pretty decent for the area I live in…if I weren’t dealing with the financial fallout from a horrible marriage and the resulting bankruptcy and car repairs.

I have friends, though, and these friends know how to cook on a pittance. They are helping me with recipes that cost virtually nothing, but which will sustain us. I can hardly wait until this month is over and I can celebrate the fact that we survived. I’m looking forward to being able to post about how we made it through what seemed like impossible odds without over drawing the bank accounts.

You watch. You wait. I’ll win.

After all, everyone experiences hardship, right? So, the real issue is how we deal with it. Do we cave under pressure or do we conquer?

I fully intend to conquer. Caving, while tempting, is just no fun. Kicking a challenge? That pretty much rocks. Living to tell about it? Even better.

Stay tuned.

It’s Raining Again

Life turns on a dime. One moment, you are sailing along enjoying everything, even though everything might not be perfect. You’re thinking to yourself that, even though things may have been rough, they are now looking up a bit. You worked a little extra, got a little money set aside for Christmas; something that hasn’t happened in years. Then one wonderful day, as you finally, just barely, allow yourself to begin to believe that there might be hope for a brighter financial future for you and your family, you get an email. Read the rest of this entry

Pain

Tonight, I lie awake.  The moon, this late in August is almost full, the second full moon we will have this month; a blue moon, they say.  The light floods the deck outside my bedroom, illuminating everything in a beautiful blue glow that can only be seen and appreciated in the wee hours, on nights like these, but only if you are one of the fortunate ones who cannot sleep.  I have my own beautiful, exquisite dreamland right outside the slider leading to my deck.  As the moonlight streams down onto my personal paradise, as I gaze from my bed out onto the deck, I think, “If I felt better, I would go out there and enjoy that beauty.”  Instead, I remain in bed and I wince with each movement.  Tonight, my back is killing me.  I can’t get comfortable.  I’m in pain.

image

If there isn’t emotional pain going on, then someone, somewhere is hurting physically.  It is the way of this life.  While it is true that we learn and grow and deepen during our times of suffering (if we are paying attention), I’m not sure that I like this particular aspect of suffering that I am enduring. When I was younger, I could do anything or nearly anything with no consequences.  I mean, really, almost anything.  Today, I attempted the “almost anything.”  I moved a tree from the tree store into the back of my vehicle. I then moved the tree from the back of my vehicle to the driveway of my place.  I then attempted to move this tree, with only a little help from one of my children, from the driveway clear around the house to the back deck.  The tree?  A Japanese Maple, as tall as I am and a little bit wider. This did a number on my back. Years ago, I could have done all this activity with no consequences, but these days, I pay for every bit of effort I expend.  My currency is pain and sleeplessness.

This year has been filled with pain for me.  Six days into it, I was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer.  I have four children, three of them at home, the oldest is not yet fully launched.  What horrible timing.  Pain. I have had more financial struggles this year than I’ve had in a good, long while.  Another car blew an engine.  That’s a deductible I couldn’t afford to spend the family grocery money on. And in the professional work realm, I encountered a year that I would put up there with my top three worst years in the world of work ever.  Add to this, uncovered medical expenses which I am still paying off, and a boyfriend who suddenly decides to take off without giving me notice. I mean, I thought we were working on forever, and it turns out that he was only working on him and his kids and I was the stepping stone. Pain. Pain. Pain.

And with it, regret.

But tonight…I’m in a different kind of pain and it isn’t emotional.

Physically, my body is killing me.  It is punishing me for the work I expended today to create some additional beauty in my world.  Beauty that was worth the pain I am experiencing now, because if I’d known I was going to feel this way afterward, I would have still moved that tree single-handedly onto my back deck.  It is so worth it to me.  And, as I lie here in physical pain, pain that Vicodin was created for, I think this:  My body hurts, but my psyche does not.  While my body screams in agony and I cannot get comfortable, if I am honest I have to say, that, in spite of my recent experience of being abandoned faster than most people cash in on a lottery winning, I am doing okay.

And okay is okay.

I’m not happy about the fact that my love life is nonexistent, and likely to be so for a very long time.  (Actually, if I can’t have the Gone Boyfriend, I’m okay with this.  I just don’t want to go to the effort.) I’m not happy about the fact that I’m likely to attend all of my children’s monumental events in life…alone…while their other parents attend these very same events happily married with a second or third spouse.  Yeah, what kind of loser must I be?  Pain.

In spite of all of this, here is what I know: I am okay with me.  I haven’t settled.  I haven’t compromised.  I am the one I have to wake up to each  morning, and, for the most part, I am content with who I am and what choices I’ve made.  Sure, I’d love to rewind life several decades and make some different choices, but those different choices would eliminate certain people from my life that I simply find I cannot do without.  So, I’m okay with the choices that I would re-do, under other conditions.  I’m okay with where I am right now.  I don’t like a lot of my current reality, but I’m okay with most of it.

I’m good with the the fact that I’m able to provide for my children, that we are surviving and thriving in an economy where many are struggling.

I’m so grateful for all the people in my life who’ve given me hugs, emotionally and otherwise in my most painful moments and who, in spite of my drama, still care to call themselves my friend.

I’m grateful for a career, that while stressful and imperfect, enables me to provide for my family without having to depend on someone else…and to do so…reasonably well…and which allows me to make a difference in the lives of very important people who will someday make decisions that affect us all.

I’m grateful for a Japanese Maple…or two…on my back deck that will provide me with some beauty and a peaceful respite for some years to come. If I can just enjoy the beauty of a tree and a moonlit night, I think I just might always be content.

I’m in pain, but I’m content with my lot.  I’m good with this.

Home should be a refuge from the pain.  I, thankfully, have this refuge in my life.

I can’t complain…but…you know I will…just because….it makes a great story!

Life Superior

“Mom, my graduation from my fellowship is Saturday, August 24th. Can you come? Dad can’t make it, and really would like someone here for me. Plus there are many key political figures I want you meet. Can you please come?”

How does one say no to child who asks, no begs, for you to remain present and involved in their adult lives. This isn’t because the apron strings haven’t been cut. No, this is my firstborn, the independent one who has chosen to do life her way since she was born. She drives herself to achieve impossibilities, she still fights sleep, she’s been tapped to lead a prominent campaign for a candidate of her political party, and she’s intentionally choosing to sit out a term of college to gain this experience. This is not a needy, clingy child who is having a tough time leaving the nest. This is strong, intelligent, independent woman we are dealing with here. So, when she asks, especially when  she asks in this particular way, a caring parent pays attention. Even if she is not yet 22 years old. I was very close to having to tell my daughter no this time.

Why would I do such a thing?

The problem is a financial one more than anything.

More than once, this month, I’ve regretted the fact that I allowed the insurance company to pull The Gone BF’s payment out of my account. Sadly, he was attentive enough to our finances to wait until the payments had cleared before he decided to head out. More than once, over the last few weeks, I’ve wondered why I let this relationship go on an why I didn’t do something earlier about it. The fact that he is now gone, brings a different kind of sadness. It is a sadness that comes from realizing the truth when you worked so hard to ignore it. It’s a sadness that comes from realizing you had to work at ignoring the truth, that he just never was that into me, in spite of his helpfulness and wonderful words. He’s gone. I’ve no doubt he is glad to be gone. He hasn’t contacted me in well over a week. I don’t expect to hear or see from him again. I do wish I hadn’t been such a fool, but other than that my life is greatly improved since he left. But I am annoyed with myself for having paid his insurance bill.

I also wish my daughter, for all her competence, had informed me earlier. I would have planned this month so differently. Traditionally, the end of summer, with it’s back school registrations and expenses, is tight. This year is no exception. Even though I am past my bankruptcy, and I am doing all I can to improve my credit, I still don’t like using the credit cards. I have one with a small limit that I use and pay off every month, but it didn’t have enough on it to cover the expenses for this trip. On a whim, exactly a week ago, I applied for a credit card with a $1, 000 limit. Okay, in my past life, that’s a low limit, almost an insult. In my current financial recovery life, it’s an indicator that my life is improving. If you read through the credit repair literature, most suggest that it takes about a year to be approved for a credit card with that kind of limit. I was approved and it has been just over two months since I received my discharge letter. This was great news. Now to hope that I received the card in seven days rather than the ten of the 7-10 business days it takes to receive the card.

Waiting. As time drew near and my mailbox remained empty, I made up a Plan B. The Good Ex is usually great about giving me cash if I write him a post dated check. I hate doing this, but this was an exception and for a good reason. So, the stress was off as far as whether or not I was going, because The Good Ex was very good about it and payday is very near.

I have to say though, that in a situation like this that involves unplanned expenses four days before payday, having a credit card helps. What also helps is that this summer, I worked five extra weeks. What I spend this weekend will be paid off in a week. I will get to see my daughter and support her. But having that credit card would mean I’d have a cushion. It would mean some extra in case something happened. It would NOT mean a spending spree, it would mean I could enjoy the trip without worry.

Yesterday afternoon, as I was firming up our plans, I texted my oldest, “If that card is in the mail today, my life will be superior.”

I am pleased to report that my life is indeed superior.

Humorous…Or Not

The beginning of love is always fun, exhilarating, scintillating, exciting, happy.  The end of it, if analyzed, is bound to be many things.  Sometimes volatile, dangerous, and painful.  In my case, this ending is interesting, if not completely humorous. How can I possibly refer to the end of a relationship that was (or so  I thought) the love of my life, certain to go the distance, as…humorous?  I mean, after all, I am devastated.  I really am.  I would never have considered living with a man if I wasn’t 100% certain this was the real deal. We really had so much going for us in so many ways. I can’t even begin to explain or list the ways this relationship seemed so right.  And yet, apparently, it wasn’t.  I have yet to learn all the lessons from this.  Much of what has transpired and will yet transpire will teach me important lessons only after the throbbing pain of loss has subsided and I can try to look at what happened with a bit less emotion. I get that.  But right now, I’m riding an emotional roller coaster that rivals anything Disney or Six Flags could come up with.

So, in spite of the pain, how can I view this as humorous?  Well, having two very stiff drinks helps.

The truth is, I am crushed.  I am hurt.  I am in all sorts of pain.  (So much for that “calm before the storm.”)  I’ve cried a lot today.  He does not know this.  I will continue to brush back the tears, to sob silently behind closed doors (read in the shower), until he is finally gone from my residence and, sadly, from my life.

Since there is now no “faking it” in our relationship (I never did, but I know he did…if not in the bedroom, then certainly elsewhere), we’ve had some very interesting conversations.  He is one who likes to dodge issues; pretend like things are fine when, in fact, they are not.  I, on the other hand, prefer to know the truth straight up.   So, as people do, we had yet another conversation about the details of unwinding this thing.  Mind you, we aren’t storming around tense and antagonist.  We woke up this morning had coffee together, and began talking about the “unwind” like an old married couple might discuss the return on their mutual fund or the sale of some property or the latest developments with the grandchildren.  Since the Non-Boyfriend (NBF), is not exactly one to be direct and honest about his feelings, and since I for some idiot reason felt I needed to know where he stood (this is critical, because I have absolutely no clue how he feels about me and how he feels about “us” in general and haven’t for a very, very long time). So…I started out asking questions and got some good information.

He admits to being such a neat freak that he makes Felix Unger look like a slob.  He admits that this is not healthy, has created problems for us, but he’s at a loss as to know what to do.  (Read:  He’s unhappy with me because my teenager doesn’t leave his room Better-Homes-And-Gardens perfect every day. )  Here’s what my son’s room looks like…normally.

This is my 17-year-old son’s disastrous room

And the downstairs guest bathroom that he complains that my older daughter leaves a disaster (Yes, this is normally how it looks, not cleaned up for the picture.) :

This is the downstairs bathroom that is, apparently, always a mess. Hmmm, no one has been in to clean it. Is this messy?

And here is the kids’ bathroom, another source of contention for him:

Again, I did not clean up for these pictures and they haven’t been photo-shopped. Is this a messy bathroom?

He says he just cannot deal with the mess anymore and he is tired of cleaning up after everyone.

Whoa!  Screeeeeech!

Let’s make it very clear, folks.  This man is NOT paying rent.  He is NOT contributing to the bills.  He only pays for anything when asked and NEVER volunteers. And he DOES NOT clean up after anyone.  Lately, even though he’s making more, he doesn’t even pay when asked. He comes and goes as he pleases and he is tired of cleaning up after everyone?  (I was careful to point out to him that he had done absolutely nothing to clean or contribute to this place, without being directly asked, for the last two months.  He agreed with me.)

I responded to his above statement, by reminding him of the fact that he pays nothing to live here and, lately, he contributes nothing, and he comes and goes as he pleases.  I told him, if I were in that place, I would consider it my rent to do whatever I could around the house to keep the landlord (read: me) happy.

I pressed him further about his perspective.  Here’s how the conversation went:

Me:  So, how long have you known that this relationship was a dead end and you weren’t willing to go to the next level? (Read: how long have you known you wouldn’t every marry me?) Has it been, what?  January?  December?

Him:  Oh not quite that long.

Yeah, end of conversation.

I have only two words for him at this point:  GET OUT!

Actually, that’s not true, I have four words for him:  GET THE FUCK OUT!

Instead, what I said was this:

“Well, then.  You could have at least have been a gentleman and gotten out once you were sure, instead of taking advantage of me.  I’d like you to work on finding a place where you can stay immediately.”

He mumbled something about working on it and named the 10th as a deadline.

I followed up with, “Well, since I just paid your rent, your utilities and your car insurance, and since you have absolutely no ability or motivation to pay me back, you will make sure this house is spotless.  You can start with the floors downstairs and making dinner tonight.”

I’m changing the locks on the afternoon of the 10th, maybe even before. (He does not know this.)  He cleaned the floors and made dinner tonight.

He can’t leave my life soon enough right now.  (And, yes, obviously, he is not telling me the entire truth about where he is with things, which is really the reason we are breaking up; he simply cannot be honest, not with himself or with other people.)

This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

~ William Shakespeare

I find it humorous how relationships can turn on a dime.

I find it humorous, how, when a relationship end, the emotions can turn on a dime.

I have one week…just one more week.

 

 

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.

Trashed House~My Payment For Trying To Do A Good Deed

I wonder, is it my payment for doing a good deed or is it just that somewhere along the line, maybe when I was a kid, (I was a really bratty kid and lied a lot to my parents) I earned up some really bad karma. Or maybe, it is that bad things, sometimes really bad things, happen to good people. I don’t know. My right wing fundamentalist evangelical Christian friends might say it is because I’m being punished by God for not attending church every week, tithing, and being a faithful servant. Well, as for not attending church, tithing and being faithful they’d be completely accurate. I’m just not sure that’s how God rolls though. I mean, think about it, when Jesus walked the earth he hung with some of the lowest of the low according to society and the religious elite of the day. Rahab, a harlot, was used to save some godly peeps and, well, I kinda think God tends to look past the mess in our lives right into our very inner being and that is where he deals with us on an individual basis. I think the outer stuff, the yuck that I am dealing with now, is just life. It is also the result of me being a naive person, when I should not have been. It is also the result of me simply making some very foolish choices. Hindsight is always 20/20.

But about the next bad thing that has happened in my life. The thing that makes me wonder what kind of evil karma I built up throughout my life only to have it be dumped out on me this year has to do with the rental. I’ve only alluded to it. Here’s most of the story.

Last year, I made the decision to go through bankruptcy (actually a smart decision given all the details which I will not disclose here). In the process, I decided to surrender my home. This was also a smart financial decision when you run the numbers, again, something I won’t bore you with here. This was not a case of me being angry at the bank for whatever reason. I just wanted to make a fresh start financially and the home was more financial and physical burden than I was going to be able to deal with. However, the entire process has ended up taking far longer than expected (over a year and counting). I knew it would take some time and I was not able to stay in the house and risk a move during the middle of the school year. I have three school age kids and my own career would not have been able to accommodate such a transition at such a time. I was getting legal heat from the Evil Ex and needed to make sure my daughter was enrolled in a good school and that she was doing well and liked it. I decided to move to a nearby town and in September we found a place to rent and settled it. And that, was going to be that…or so I thought.

I was approached by a friend….(you can see this coming, can’t you?)…who mentioned that her son and two friends were looking for a place to rent temporarily and would I be interested. Well, no, not really. I mean, I really had no desire to be a landlord or make the place a rental; I just wanted out. But this was a friend I have known and worked with for 14 years. Her kids and my kids grew up together, went to school together and our kids are now graduating together. This woman has impeccable character and is a top notch quality person. Her son is also. The friends came highly recommended. So, I did a bit of research, wrote up a rental agreement, we all signed it, they paid their move in money and I moved out. I left the place in pretty decent shape. It wasn’t perfect. I had some stuff in the garage still to move out, but the place was, for all intents and purposes, a clean and homey dwelling. The friends of the friend’s son turned out to be disastrous.

Things started being a problem almost right away. I’d drive by the place and see that it wasn’t being maintained, then the rent began to come in partial payments. Two months in and I was working on evicting them. Fortunately, they ended up getting out within the 30 days after being served the rental termination notice. Then I got another renter in, who was actually, at first, responsible and timely in her payments. She got some roommates to help share the rent and utility expenses and all was golden. That lasted about two months and things began falling apart. There were violations of the rental agreement, which I followed up and she attempted (though not satisfactorily) to remedy and I gave her a 30-day notice of termination of the rental agreement (we have a month-to-month). Rent was not paid completely last month and rent didn’t appear at all on the first. I went by to collect on the first, no response. I went by the next day. The house looks deserted, but the door is wide open. No answer when I ring the bell. I try contacting my tenant with no response. I drive by the house the next day, the door is closed, otherwise there is still no sign of life. The dog does not bark when I go to the door. This goes on for a week and I’m beginning to think they’ve abandoned the house. Finally, I get in touch with the tenant, over a week after the missed payment and the termination notice. She confirms that she received the notice. She also confirms that they have indeed abandoned the place, with the intent to come back for her stuff by the end of the month; the others have already gotten all their things out. In a phone conversation, I express my concern about the security of the home if no one is living there. She agrees that she will get her stuff moved out within the week and move the rest of her stuff to the garage. I gave her till the end of the month to get her stuff out of the garage. In exchange I get the possession of my home and I won’t go after her for the late rent. Her week to move her stuff ended yesterday. Today, after my radiation treatment, I went over to the house to check things out.

This is the scene that greeted me when I drove up to the home:

I just had a really bad feeling about this. I immediately texted my tenant asking about all the stuff and she actually texted back saying she’d had a garage sale and this was the leftovers. On the mattress, there is a sign that reads, “Free. Please take.”

This is what the living room looked like when I entered:

Those are the window blinds that were in great condition when I moved out…now all broken and scattered on the floor. The big black stain in the middle of the carpet was not there when I moved out. You can’t see it well from here, but there is also smoke damage on the fireplace brick. Nice. Here’s the other side of the living room:

It gets better, before we head back to the bedrooms, let’s check out the kitchen.

The back slider was left open. Check out the grass in the back yard. We left them a lawn mower. It sure looks like they made good use of it. Here are views of each side of the kitchen:

2They left the kitchen sink.

And some food for any guests that might stop by:

I just can’t fathom how people can operate like this. They were in violation of their rental agreement for trash being left around. I gave her the appropriate amount of time according to state law to correct the problem. An attempt was made, but it was nowhere near satisfactory. Look what they left behind in terms of trash:


The thing that really irks me about this is that for the entire time I was renting this house to both sets of tenants, I paid for the garbage service which included a recycling bin and a yard debris container. What kind of mentality is it that thinks that it is okay to live in squalor like this let alone leave it for someone else to pick up? But let’s just do a quick tour of the rest of the home. My skin is beginning to crawl and I’m glancing around for the rubber gloves and sanitizer.

Part of the rental agreement stipulated no smoking in the house or garage. Apparently, the rules don’t apply to these folks.

Those aren’t just carpet stains you see in that picture with the pillow in the corner. That is dog poop on the carpet.

Of course, no rental trashing by tenants is complete without some damage to the walls. This hole is about a foot long from top to bottom.

That wasn’t the only hole either, but it was definitely the largest one. In all there were three holes in walls, and a wall had been repainted a hideous purple-blue color. The wall was previously white. Other damage to the home included damage to lighting fixtures:

Broken glass on the floor:

The toilet looked a lot like the kitchen sink:
I guess they had a crappy experience living in my home. Here’s the genius work in the master bathroom:
I’m not sure you can make them out. The writing reads, “I am beautiful. I am a leader. I am an amazing mother and friend.” I’m thinking that explains a lot. She must have run out of Prozac.
Last but not least, the garage is the coup de grace:
These mattresses are as high as I am tall.
Yes, folks, this was the disaster that I walked into today after getting my tenants out. When I moved out all the lighting fixtures had just been replaced. Now they are all damaged and missing light bulbs. I had just had someone put new screens on every window a couple of years earlier, and only one window has a screen left. There are stains on every carpet, holes in walls and the yard alone will take weeks to clean up. There is damage to doors, the air vent grate has been kicked in and there is rotting food everywhere.
Upon returning home, and while uploading the photos, I did a quick Google search on landlord’s rights when tenants trash a house. Turns out, in most states, this is not a police matter, it is considered the risk one takes when renting. It becomes a civil matter. In my case, I know these people are unemployed and even if I did go to court and win (which I would), I wouldn’t see any of that money ever. I’d spend more than I’d be awarded just to get it back. Here’s another kicker: I have to do this clean out myself as I have absolutely no financial resources to pay someone to clean it up. The Hesitant Boyfriend’s long stretch of unemployment and even longer stretch till he gets paid for the work he started last month is straining my monthly budget beyond belief and it was already strained before I picked up the tab on his car payment and insurance this month. (Which he promptly decided to increase the cost of by getting into a fender bender with a Cadillac.) Add to this the fact that the 18 y.o., just got her license and her cost to be insured inflated my insurance bill to over $400 a month.
Yes, I am the poster child for the club “Smart Women Who Basically Make Idiot Choices In Every Aspect Of Their Lives”. Or maybe Some Divine Being mistook me for the Morton Salt Girl who is comfortable with the idea that when it rains it pours.
Which leads me back to the thought about karma vs. punishment vs. it’s just life. This all happens to be just great timing. The tenants are out of the house, but the house is completely trashed. Just making the house secure and sanitary so it isn’t a public health hazard is going to take some doing. I’m halfway through my radiation treatments and my energy is in limited supply as it is. Just as all this crap is hitting the proverbial fan of my life, The Hesitant Boyfriend and I ran headlong into a deal-breaker, that I just can’t get past. I’ve told him he needs to move out and get his Hesitant Stuff sorted out, because sorting it out in anger on me or my children is just not how I roll. All of this is just very, very, very unfortunate.
This afternoon as I looked upon the devastation that is my life right now, I turned to my son and said, “I am truly at the lowest point I’ve ever been in my life. It is worse, even, than when I had to call in help to clean out after the Evil Ex.” And yet I had no tears to cry. I could do nothing, but make sure the doors were closed and locked, all the electrical items unplugged, and walk back to my car and get in and drive away and try not to gag in the process. My brief search on Google helped me realize that while tenants can trash houses, and unhappy people who are unhappy tenants often do trash houses, my situation could have been so much worse. While this clean out is bad and I’m going to have to figure out a way to get it done quickly and on the cheap, it is basically a matter of dumping and cleaning. At least, I hope that is how it works out.
As I am up late documenting this damage and pondering the irony of this all, I strangely aware that while none of this is fun for me, I’m not exactly in a panic about any of it. It is kind of like I’m playing a game of Monopoly and I pulled the “Go Directly To Jail. Do Not Pass Go. Do Not Collect $200” card. I’m stuck in the Monopoly Jail of life right now, not able to move forward or improve my situation because I simply keep drawing the bad cards. It’s a season. It’s not forever. (I sooo have to tell myself that right now because there is that teeny voice that sometimes squeaks, “What if this NEVER changes?” or, worse, “What if things just keep getting worse?”)
In a nutshell, it can all be summed up in the following conversation I had today with my oncology nurse:
Nurse: So…how are things going? How are you handling the treatments?
Me: Great. This is the least of my worries in life.
Yes, she looked at me like I’m crazy. Maybe I am…just a little.

The Evil Ex Saga Continues

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Never, ever ask yourself the question, “How much worse can things get?” If you do, you are tempting fate, and you are likely to discover the answer to your query. I must have asked this question. This year has been nothing, if not a direct answer to that very inquiry. I’m ready to be done with all this (insert expletive here).

I mentioned last month that The Evil Ex, had requested a review of the child support he barely pays. The Hesitant Boyfriend, picked up the ticket for the certified letter from the District Attorney’s office yesterday and failed to mention it to me. He texted me this morning and mentioned it. I was mildly annoyed that he’d done this, knowing as he did, how the whole situation has created such angst for me. I had him take a picture of it and message it to me, I then emailed the picture to myself and printed it off. I spent my lunch time dashing to the post office, praying for good news the entire way, only to find that I was losing over $200 each month in child support. Welcome to the genius of our current child support system which seems to somehow punish the decent people who pay into the tax system while rewarding those who do not. Never mind that I am a single mother with four children I am still responsible for, while he has a second and third income–I make more money than he does. Never mind that I am now responsible 100% for ALL the medical expenses and I don’t even have an order anymore requiring him to pay half of all the uncovered medical expenses. Yeah, it pretty much bites.

I could request a hearing, but I think the income he stated is accurate. I don’t think the DA will consider other issues. Like the changes in our out of pocket medical expenses. The stress and likely cost of getting an attorney involved will be more expensive than just adjusting my lifestyle and moving on. The less I have to do with this man, the better it is for me.

On a good note, I feel completely free to be vindictive and inflexible when it comes to planning the summer schedule. My answer will be no, plain and simple, unless it works for me.

Sigh. Words cannot express how much I detest this man and all he says he stands for. I have to move through that, but I am just not there right now.

On a better note, I do have three weeks of work lined up this summer that will help me get caught up on bills and, hopefully, stack some aside in a savings. On an even better note, The Hesitant Boyfriend, has been getting anywhere from two to four days of work a week subbing for the school district. This means a couple of things. First, half of that will go to his Evil Ex. That’s a good thing. He has been unemployed and unable to pay anything for so long that quite a bill has accumulated. So, please, State, take your half and leave him alone. The second good thing is that he can now begin paying some of his own bills and pay me back for some of what I’ve had to put out to support him this year. That should make next month do-able even though I’ll lose the child support.

If he HESITATES with any of that, I’m kicking straight to the proverbial curb. And then I go get a second job. And a housekeeper.

What I really need is a sugar daddy; good-looking, intelligent, wealthy, and willing to share the wealth. Right now, I have everything but the wealth. I’m really not looking to trade in The Hesitant Boyfriend, but money matters. It especially matters when you don’t have enough of it. The lack of it can create real strain in a home. I just don’t want that.

Now that I’ve said all that, let me finish by saying after being really disappointed and unhappy about this financial turn of events, I’ve already begun thinking of things I can do to cut costs and increase income without a whole lot of upheaval. It’s going to be okay…isn’t it?

Surviving Difficulty in 20 Not-So-Easy Steps

Yes, I’ve bemoaned my pitiful luck this month here on several occasions.

No, this is not going to be another down-in-the-mouth, woe-is-me bitch session.

I’m actually going to be positive for a change and since I have only small change, I guess that’s a good thing.

I’ve bemoaned my financial fate of late and poured out my misery as to how deplorable and desperate I really am…economically…right now.

I’d like to make the following observations of the data of my financial life this month:

1. I began the month by ending last month in the negative numbers…oh…about $300. (This is NOT normal for me…at least not since those first few months after leaving The Evil Ex.)

2.  At the end of last month, in addition to the negative bank balance, I had to post-date two checks to my mechanic one for last month and one for May for the water pump that broke.

3. I am still trying to pay off utility bills for the rental unit (aka, my old house that I am walking away from).

4. I started my month with about $200 to pay over a thousand dollars worth of bills.  (That was after I paid some of the other bills first.  I don’t just have a $1,000 overhead.)

5. I was looking forward to a $3300 tax return, the first in 5 years, which would have been a nice windfall, allowing me to get caught up and all and I was required to turn this over to the bankruptcy court trustee.  Thanks to Ms. Trustee, I was allowed to keep the money I received from my partial rent payment I recieved.

6. I put everything possible up for sale on Craigslist.

7. I did have to write one post-dated check to The Good Ex for a hundred bucks to get through this week after the cat started oozing mysterious pus last Friday night. (Please, do not tell me I should have let the poor cat die.)

8. I sold nearly everything I put up on sale, except the stupid juicer, and paid all but two bills, small ones, which I will double pay tomorrow because it is payday in exactly 10 minutes.  At midnight that paycheck will dump in and I can start over for another month. The bills were the water and garbage and I’m writing the checks now for double the amounts.

9. I just checked my bank balances.  I have exactly $7.49. 83 cents of that is my savings.

10.  I have no credit cards.

11.  I have 83 cents in savings.

12. I am NOT overdrawn, in spite of this nightmare of a month.

13. Someone just called about a coffee table I had advertised on Craigslist.  20 minutes after answering that call, I now have $27.49 to my name.

14. I still have a $200 post-dated check that my mechanic will cash on the first and a $100 check that The Good Ex will cash tomorrow coming out of tomorrow’s paycheck, but…

15. I’m not overdrawn!!!!!!!!

This, in and of itself, is a huge step forward for me financially. It is small, but very definite, progress.

16.  I have not had an unexpected car repair this month…and I won’t because the car is parked and I’m not going anywhere tonight.  If it breaks down tomorrow that will come out of next month’s pay.  Let’s hope it does not break down.

17.  I had to pay $150 to an attorney last week on top of having to pay bills, put gas in two large gas-sucking vehicles, and feed a family of five, two of whom are teenagers.

18.  I got all my paper work in to the District Attorney’s office in response to The Evil Ex’s request to review the child support order. I feel better now.

19. I made a decision about what to do about the tenants in my house. I’m terminating the agreement, because I can.  The money and the stress are not worth it.  I feel even better now.

20.  I paid my bills, didn’t go into the red again, and I survived this month.

April 2012 was, by far, the most financially stressful month I’ve had in four years and I made it.

I can, for the first time all month, breathe deep, relax…and feel very, very good about being very, very strong.  Lesser people would’ve slit their wrists or swung from rafters if they faced my difficulties. (They do this because they have life insurance.  I do not have life insurance because I cannot afford it…yet.)

Someone Shot My Cat

This evening when I got home, The Hesitant Boyfriend noticed that a patch of hair was worn off my black cat. The location of the patch was on the meaty part of the back thigh. It looked, at first, like maybe a tick or flea was bothering the cat and he’d dug away hair to get at the pest. Upon closer scrutiny, we discovered a perfectly round puncture wound that was oozing bloody puss. And by oozing, I mean, this ooze was of volcanic proportions. THB thought someone might have shot our cat with a BB gun or a .22. We tried to clean the wound, but our cat fought his way out of that one and ran off.

I figured that cats are pretty good at fending for themselves, so we turned our attention to some episodes of West Wing a friend let us borrow. I couldn’t get THB’s comment out of my mind, though. What if something was lodged in the cat? It seemed infected. What if it didn’t heal on its own, but got worse? And who would shoot someone’s cat? Further, since he’s an inside cat, how and when was he out? I also didn’t exactly relish the idea of that ooze ending up all over the furniture and the house.

I searched the house for my cat. He’s a beautiful black shorthair. Exactly the kind represented on the Halloween decor each October. In fact, I make certain he’s safe inside during the fall months especially. Of the four cats, he is my own. I picked him out when he was a kitten after going to pick up another kitten my daughter reserved a few weeks earlier. He was pure black, so adorable, and I fell in love. Somehow this cat knows I love him, because as the most standoffish cat in our bunch cats, he is a cuddly creature only when he is with me.

I was worried that he might really be hurt, so we ended up taking him in to the emergency vet clinic not far from our place. Mind you, between the two of us, THB and I have less than $150 to buy gas and groceries for the next week. It’s not the norm for us, but with the Bankruptcy Trustee taking my tax return and, my car’s hot water pump and extra medical expenses coming due, we are ultra tight this month. Had I not sold some things, we would not even have this much.

I knew we were in trouble when we walked in the place at 11:30 pm and the sign said payment due at the time of service. And then we discovered they no longer take checks. I’m now wondering if I can just use my debit card and let it overdraw. The minimum cost to walk in the door is $105. I’m just sick. It is going to cost even more than this for sure. The last thing I needed was another financial blow and here it is.

Well, this is going to be interesting.

And, yes, I am worried about my cat.

Later…

The tech just came in and informed us that the cat is not the victim of a gun shot wound but of bites from other cats that have become infected or abcessed. Well, that’s the good news. Now, how about the financial devastation this is about to wreak on my life?

Even later….

We have been here nearly two hours. I am beginning to wonder if I will ever see my cat again. This place has never been this slow. THB mumbles,”We shaved too much hair off your cat so we are letting it grow back before you can go.” He’s delirious. He’s not a night owl at all. I’m tired, too, and might even be able to sleep if I were anywhere near a bed. I’d just like my cat and the bill, please. Well, I’d really just like the cat. You can keep the bill.

Much, Much, MUCH Later…

$159.00 later, I have my half shaved cat back, with the diagnosis of abscess of the left thigh.

That was our last amount of money until payday (I don’t even have a credit card to fall back on). How I’m going to get by with $20 for food and gas for the next week, I have no idea. I just need some sort of financial reprieve or windfall and soon.

At least the cat will will not need further care. It is a small comfort to know that none of the neighbors actually shot my cat.

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