Sunday, February 27, 2011

Going Under

I haven't had much to say lately.  Things have been so stressful here.   But now I really need to vent.  I'm just going to be completely honest, which is probably going to be a real downer- so if you don't want to read it, now is the time to bolt.

The financial situation here is going from bad to worse.  I hate talking about this kind of stuff- it's beyond embarrassing- but I can't stand not having someone to talk to about it any longer.  I worry that you'll judge us, or worse- that people will think I'm hitting them up for a hand-out (of course you guys, my blog friends know that's not what I'm doing.  I just need to talk.  But I fear we have relatives IRL who will definitely misconstrue any honest talk about our circumstances as an effort to get into their wallets, although we've never asked them for help). 

But, considering the fact that we are just a stone's throw from bankruptcy, I might as well talk about it.  It will be a matter of public record soon enough, anyway.  The little job Darrell took (to repair some fire damage to a house) is barely covering our house and car payments.  None of the bigger jobs he's tried to land have materialized.  We are constantly trying to rob Peter to pay Paul around here.  I feel like I'm going to crack. 

Darrell and I struggled when we were first starting out, so being "poor" is nothing new, but God has blessed us so much over the years that I became a little spoiled, I guess.  I mean, we still had worries sometimes, like everyone else- we certainly weren't millionaires.  You can't go through 10 kids, two adoptions, and start your own business, without having moments of struggle.  But, for the most part, we've spent the last 10 years (at least) having whatever we needed (and wanted).  We took our blessings for granted.  I foolishly assumed God would continue to take care of us in the manner to which I've grown accustomed.  What an idiot.

Now, I don't know how to keep all these plates spinning in the air.  If I go to the grocery store, the bills won't get paid.  If I try to pay one bill, there are five more overdue ones in the next day's mail.  When business started to slow down, we had to start dipping into our savings (thank God we had it) and we spent months using credit cards for groceries, etc., hoping/thinking things would pick up again and we'd be able to pay them off.  During that time, I didn't cut corners as much as I could have.  Should have.  I honestly, truly thought the setback was short-term, as we've experienced in the past.  Darrell had several job possibilities which sounded promising, and I counted those as chickens about to hatch.  They didn't.  It used to be that there would always be another job to come along before things got too bad.  I feel so stupid now.  I think I confused Faith with Denial.  I wanted to believe God would restore our income, so I did believe.  And I called that faith.  I didn't want to think too carefully about what could happen if it were all taken away, so I didn't.

I told you some of this already, so you know business didn't pick up.  Things suck.  Now, the savings is gone.  The credit cards are maxed and because of that, we have bills that are higher than they were when we actually had money- ha!  Funny!  Actually, it's not.  The minimum payments on our credit cards are now so high, that there's no way to pay any of them.  We are SO in debt, I'd be embarrassed to even tell you how much. 

I've applied over and over for night jobs and never get a call back.  I have to start the cycle again- going around to all the same places, reapplying for the same crap jobs I've already been passed over for.  Darrell has given up hopes of continuing his own company and is applying for jobs with other construction companies.  If he gets hired somewhere, we'll still have money issues, because no construction company is going to pay him what he could make on his own, or enough to support a family this large.

Our marriage is taking a major hit.  Not like we're getting divorced, or anything.  We can't afford a divorce!  Bwaahaha.  No...  It's not quite that bad- we're sticking together, but things suck.  We fight every day.  We rarely spend time together, just the two of us, and I don't think either one of us even cares, which bothers me more than the fact that we don't spend time together.  It's almost like we live at opposite ends of the house and the kids go back and forth to visit- lol.  Any reference by either one of us to money is a guaranteed fight.  Is this getting too honest?  I can't help it.  I don't care anymore.  My life sucks.  I know there are plenty of people with lives far worse than mine, but right now?  I don't care.  And don't think I'm dissing the hub behind his back.  I wouldn't say anything here that I haven't already said to his face and I'm sure he would say something pretty similar. 

Alex and Mike are now both working for Darrell for free (they've refused to take any wages for weeks now), and Alex has moved back home to help us.  His hopes of going back to college are on hold.  Again.  I'm so ashamed. 

...Tucker just now walked into the room and caught me crying.  He asked, "Is it the finances again, Mama?"  I feel like the biggest loser on Earth.  My babies shouldn't have to feel this stress along with us, but they do.  He suggested we pray together about it.  He grabbed my hand and prayed the sweetest prayer for God to help us and also bring peace to his mom and dad.  Peace really would be great right now, but truthfully?  I'd rather have the cash.  While, I am deeply grateful for the sweet, caring hearts God has given my kids, I hate that they feel it's their jobs to comfort me, or help us out of this mess.  Again, it makes me feel like a loser. 

I'm scared.  I don't know if my faith is just shakier than it's ever been, or if circumstances really are worse than they've ever been, but I'm really scared.  I'm struggling a lot with what we should do next.  I've always felt, from the Christian standpoint, that we should try to avoid bankruptcy.  I want to pay what we owe.  It's the right thing to do.  I want to have faith and wait for God to bring relief.  But...  There's this hateful little voice in my head saying, "Why should God help you?  He blessed you for years, and what do you have to show for it?  What have you done to deserve a rescue?"  I can't stand that mean little voice, which, coincidentally, sounds amazingly like my own on one of my extra-b*tchy days.  But, she's right.  I don't deserve a miracle.  I'm still begging for one, though. 

I don't think I've ever felt lonlier or more afraid in my life.

I mentioned earlier that we have family members who will be quick to question our motives for talking about this, although- again- we do not ask anyone to help us with our problems.  Those same people will also be quick to judge us for the mess we've gotten ourselves into, mainly for choosing to have such a large family.  We've heard quite a bit of criticism over the years for having all these kids- especially after we started adopting (that's when people finally seemed to realized that we weren't just a couple of rednecks unable to unravel the mysteries of birth control- we were doing this on purpose...  Gasp!).  I can't tell you how hurtful it is to be thrilled to share such joyful news with people who supposedly love you, and be chastised instead of being wished well or congratulated.  So...  we've learned that we do not have the support of our whole family when it comes to our family size.  I know there are several who will be rushing to yelp out the "I told you so's," followed by a round or two of "you brought this on yourself," or "this is what I knew would happen all along."   To those people I will simply say this:

I do not regret a single child we've had.  Nor will I ever believe we were wrong to adopt.  Being a mother to these beautiful kids is what I sincerely believe was my God-given calling.  And I'm proud to have followed that calling.  Can you say the same?  Can you honestly say you believe with all your heart you have followed the path God chose for your life?  I'm proud of my kids.  They are great, compassionate, caring, loving people.  My babies are not the source of our financial problems.  The economy, coupled with a few impulsive, irresponsible, or just plain stupid decisions on our parts, have gotten us into this mess.  God was faithful to increase our income for each and every child we've had.  He allowed us to pay for two International adoptions with money we had on hand- never having to do fundraisers or turn to family for help.  Yes, we could have taken that same money and put it into college funds for the kids we already had.  But, my point is- if God thought we were making such a big mistake to add another child to the family, why would He have laid it upon our hearts and blessed us with the extra income to make it happen?  I wouldn't go back and do it any differently.  I'd never wish away Brianna or Sam.  They are exactly where they are supposed to be and I will never believe for a second that they were not meant to be in our family.  My children have blessed our lives so much more than an overflowing bank account ever could have.

So, dear family members, if you have something crappy to say, please be assured that we already feel depressed and hopeless enough right now about our current situation without the added stress of unsupportive family members with their "I told you so's."  This would be an excellent time to remember the old saying, "If you don't have something nice to say, say nothing at all." 

And lastly, to my precious friends...  If you were kind enough to stick around and read this whole thing, please don't think you have to come up with something clever or profoundly helpful to say.  I don't expect that.  I appreciate the fact that you've allowed me to whine and cry on your shoulder.  The best thing you could do for me is to remember us in your prayers.  I didn't proofread any of this- I just wrote it as it came, so forgive me for the messy post.  Thanks for listening, guys.

Friday, February 18, 2011

JOH Banned in RMI

I'm passing along the following information, as it was posted on the RMI Yahoo group, just in case anyone who is in process with JOH (Journeys of the Heart- the agency we used) is reading this and has not yet been informed (apparently, JOH has yet to personally contact all RMI families with this information).  Please keep in mind that I have no idea what is going on, and cannot answer any questions.  If you already read this on the RMI board, then you know as much as I do.  I can only advise you to get your JOH coordinator on the phone ASAP.

(I inserted the link to LSSMN's website below, but their coordinator's contact info can also be found on the RMI list) 

My thoughts are with the families whose adoptions may now be in limbo.  I remember that horrible place all too well.  I pray that all will work out for the best...

"This message is from the RMI Central Adoption Authority:

The RMI Adoption program continues at full stride and is very healthy. However, Journeys of the Heart Adoption agency of Hillsboro, Oregon (JOH) has been banned while the CAA investigates various issues regarding JOH. Currently the Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota adoption agency (LSSMN) is approved, and has been approved for processing adoptions from the RMI.

The CAA will process to completion the 12 JOH dossiers that are in the Republic of the Marshall Islands now, but will not accept any more dossiers from JOH. Contrary to what was claimed on various authoritative websites, the Adoptions Act of 2002 (P.L. 2002-64) never named JOH as the only agency allowed to do adoptions in the RMI. The Adoptions Act of 2002 allows any state-licensed agency to approach the CAA. However, the CAA first conducts a due diligence investigation of the agency before accepting dossiers from them. LSSMN has passed that due diligence process and the CAA is accepting dossiers from them. The CAA may add more agencies, but in a very careful manner, to avoid unethical agencies from adopting from the RMI.

Again, let me stress that the Central Adoption Authority in the Republic of the Marshall Islands is strong and healthy and continues to operate."

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Oh, to be young and in love...

My mom...  She's something else.  She's in her early 70's, but could pass for late 50's.  She's a tiny, cute little thing (a size 2 or 4).  She's really pretty.  She's very independent.  Sharp as a tack.  Works hard.  Exercises.  Line dances.  Eats like a horse (more than me, at times, which I will never think is fair)!  She loves to go out with friends and have fun.

Anyway, she has a new-ish boyfriend (since last spring, I think, so not that new).  He's younger than she is.  He has an earring.  He goes to concerts like Pink Floyd and Foreigner

And?  He gave her a promise ring as an early Valentine's Day gift.  A PROMISE RING, you guys!  I asked her what exactly is the promise that's being made.  She said she didn't know, she guesses it just means that they are agreeing to only see each other and no one else.  But they were already doing that.

I told her that back in my day, when the youngsters would give and accept promise rings, it meant that a bigger commitment was coming in the future, like an engagement.  You know, like, as soon as your boyfriend finishes high school and gets a full-time job at Price Cutter, or something, so that he can support a family.  But I don't know what it means when old people give or receive them.  Do you?

I told her that the next step after a promise ring is to meet each other's parents.  I don't know how they're going to manage that part.

I think the whole thing is very sweet, but I worry about her... you know?  I don't want her to get in over her head and get hurt.  I may have to ground her.  Especially if she thinks she'll be going to concerts like Pink Floyd.  I know what kinds of shenanigans go on at those things.   I was young once, too.

Other Stuff:
There is a pox on our house.  Everyone here has something.  Some have colds, some are puking.  I'm crying in a corner.  Sammy puked a couple times yesterday, and he gives no warning that it's coming.  So a lot of bedding and stuff had to be washed in a hurry.  Just. So. Yucky.  I never understand how so much barf can spew from teeny, tiny kids.  He's sleeping peacefully next to me right now, snoring and talking a little bit.  Precious little lambie.  I hope he feels better today.

There was no school yesterday or today, so we're all together (again) in the house today.  With our snot, coughs, vomit and whatnot.  Happy, fun, good times. 

More Stuff:
Last night, Darrell and I had "the talk" about the cat...  about whether or not it's time to consider putting Mama Kitty down.  Darrell saw her almost get hit outside because she was sitting in the middle of the street and didn't hear or see the car coming until the very last minute.  He feels putting her down may be the humane thing to do.  I don't know.  My feeling is that the vet should help us make that determination.  I want her to go in for a checkup and then we'll see.  Evan is offering to put her down himself for 20 dollars.  Nice guy, that one.  All heart.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Some good news, for once...

I don't think I've blogged this yet, but Evan had some medical tests done recently (he's fine now) and the bills had started rolling in.

In addition to all the regular office fees for the many doctor's visits that we've already paid, we had the costs from his two procedures:

  • The surgery center cost $704.00. We were anticipating that and put it on a credit card (so it's paid, but not).
  • Then the surgeon's bill came... Seven-flipping-hundred dollars.
  • Next, we got the anesthesia bill, which was an additional four hundred and fifty-freakin-five dollars
I've done the math for you, so that's a total of $1859.00.  We got another bill for his second test, which was $135, so now we're up to $1994.00 (Evan was born in 1994.  Funny)

(You're keeping in mind that Darrell hasn't had much work, and we currently have no health insurance, right? Good. Because that's an important part of understanding this story.  Self-employed people have to buy private insurance, which is unholy-expensive.  It's one of the first things that has to go when it's time to start cutting the budget.)

Anyway, I was about to have a heart attack.  Ev's tests took all of 15 minutes each. He was in recovery trying to wake up longer than it took them to do the first test. The second test was basically like an x-ray.  Who knew the costs of two short tests would be almost two grand? I didn't.

I kept putting off calling these places to make payment arrangements because I was...  I don't know...  paralyzed with fear, I guess.  I was worrying they wouldn't be willing to set us up on a payment plan and would expect the balances in full.  So I let a month go by without calling.

Then... We got the big bill. The surgery center (which I thought we already "paid") sent us a bill saying we still owed an additional $2,112.00. I was completely blindsided and thought it must be some kind of mistake.  It had to be.  I was ready to run away from home, or at least buy a box of Calgon and pretend I'd run away, but obviously, I couldn't afford a box of Calgon.  Do they even still make Calgon?

That bill would put our total owed at $4106.00.  We don't have it.  There's just no way.  I knew I couldn't put off calling them all any longer.  Time to bite the bullet. I started with the biggest one first, and explained to the lady on the phone that we were led to believe we had paid the total cost of the procedure on that day so I feel the additional charge is a mistake, and my husband's out of work, and we have no insurance, etc., etc.  I was trying to make it clear that paying the bill in full is not an option, while still retaining a shred of dignity and not sounding too desperate (which, you know, I was).

She said, "I see here in the notes that we called your husband the day before (the test) to let him know that $704.00 would be due the day of the procedure. He was offered a self-pay discount if he would pay the amount in full. Apparently you all didn't want to do that?"


I said that, YES, we did want to do that, and thought we had. She kept trying to explain to me how and why we really did owe that much; how we must have misheard, or misunderstood, but we definitely did owe $2112.00. I finally gave up, accepted what she was saying- that we must have misunderstood, and asked her what we could work out as far as a monthly payment. My stomach was in knots.  I was silently crying, and may have even peed in my pants a tiny bit, getting ready for her to hit me with more bad news. She said I'd have to call another number for that. She didn't take care of payment installments in her office. Ooooh.kay.

So, I called the other number and gave the girl the same story all over again. She pulled up our information and said, "Um... Can i put you on hold for a minute? There are some conflicting notes here in your file.  I need to check something first before I can agree to a payment amount."  Okay.  And crap.

After being on hold for a few minutes, and really starting to sweat about how much they'll want us to pay each month to get this whopper paid off, she gets back on the line and says, "Would it be alright if I just call you back, hon? I'm gonna need to make some calls to figure this out." Okay. And crap.  I feel stupid to tell you I was too scared to ask her what the problem was.  I was literally sick to my stomach and didn't even think to ask her what she needed to "figure out."  So I just said "okay" and hung up to wait, like a big 'ol dufus.

My mind was racing.  I had myself so worked up, I honestly could have barfed.  I was thinking she'd call back and say something about how we actually owe three thousand dollars, instead of just two, or at the very least, she'd tell me monthly payments can't be arranged for this account.

I called the other two doctors offices while waiting for her to call me back. The surgeon's office ($700.00) discounted their bill down to $455.00 (yay!), and were willing to let me make monthly payments. The anesthesiologist ($455.00) wouldn't discount if we couldn't pay in full, but did say we could make payments, so... still good.  The smallest bill for $135 isn't all that scary.  We'll divide that one in half and be done with it.

Finally, the surgery center called back and the lady said that she was so sorry (ohcrapohcrapohcrap!), but... (insert drum roll)...

We do NOT owe $2112.00. It was charged to our account by mistake.  The $704 paid with credit the day of the test was the total amount due!  Turns out, I was right from the very beginning (In yo' FACE!)!

I guess I've gotten so accustomed to expecting financial disasters in this last year, that it didn't even occur to me I might get good news.  I let someone convince me I was wrong, when I knew I must have been right.  I put myself through all that worry and peed my pants for nothing.  So, to make a long story a little longer...  The amount which seemed so scary to me before ($1994.00), now feels like a blessing after going through all that worry.  God works in mysterious ways.

We now owe "only" $1749.00 (Darrell was born in 1749. Funny.), all of which can be paid off a little each month.  YAY!!!!

The lady from the surgery center asked me, "Would you like me to send you an updated statement, showing a zero balance?"

"Uh... (DUH) Yeeeesssss?  Please?!"  I'm going to frame that sucker.

Friday, February 4, 2011

2011 Blizzard

This is a pic of my friend Lanie's car.  I didn't bother to take any pictures myself, but the view from our house is pretty much the same.  We got hammered with snow and ice, as I'm sure many of you did.  I never heard what the total accumulation was, but it was supposed to be somewhere around 18 inches.  It's at least knee-deep. This is the most snow our area has seen since 1912, I think (or something like that.  Is that right, Lanie?).

School's been out all week, so that means no homeschool either.  There's no way to make the kids concentrate when they have Evan here at home and know their friends are all out of school.

So, we've had a lazy week.  I keep reading the statuses of Facebook friends, talking about how much they're getting done at home while being housebound.  Not me.  Way to make me feel like a big loser, guys!  We haven't done much of anything other than just hang out.  Kind of nice, really.  It always surprises me, though, when I notice how much louder our household is when Evan is home.  You wouldn't think that one 17 year old would make that much more noise.  And he doesn't.  But he's an instigator.  He stirs the others in a Lord of Flies kind of frenzy.

We're supposed to drive to KC tomorrow for our grandson's first birthday party, but I don't know if it's going to happen.  It's snowing again as I write this.  I sent Evan to the store earlier (just up the street) and he was sliding all over the place (I thought the main roads were pretty clear by now, or I wouldn't have sent him).  I'll be so disappointed if I don't get to see my grand baby, but it's better to be safe.  We just had a major accident in our area this week, when a carload of people slid off the road into an icy river.  At least 3 have died. 

If we get to go, I'll try to take lots of pictures.  I'd like to get some of Sam and Keagan (my grandson) together.  They're both so cute!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Chinese New Year myspace graphic comments

This is the year of the rabbit. 

If you were born in 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987 or 1999, you were born in the year of the rabbit.  The Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco website says:
"People born in the Year of the Rabbit are articulate, talented, and ambitious. They are virtuous, reserved, and have excellent taste. Rabbit people are admired, trusted, and are often financially lucky. They are fond of gossip but are tactful and generally kind. Rabbit people seldom lose their temper. They are clever at business and being conscientious, never back out of a contract. They would make good gamblers for they have the uncanny gift of choosing the right thing. However, they seldom gamble, as they are conservative and wise. They are most compatible with those born in the years of the Sheep, Pig, and Dog."

I'm personally not a believer in all the zodiac crap but I was born in the year of the horse.  How fitting.  If there would have been years of the jack*$s, manatee, or wildebeest, those would have fit me well, also.  You can click the link above to see which year you are.

Here at home, the lanterns and decorations were hung yesterday and we're all ready for a yummy Chinese dinner tonight! The kids are eager to get their *red envelopes, which I put up somewhere "safe" so I wouldn't misplace them, and now I can't find them (typical), so Brianna graciously volunteered to color some white envelopes with a red crayon.  I thought we could just leave them white, but I was informed that that just wouldn't be the same.  Haha!  She and Olivia are going to decorate them with some Chinese stickers to make them "special." **How much would you like to bet that the packet of fancy red and gold ones I bought will suddenly appear right after they do all that work to make their own?  Oh well...  Their homemade ones will be better, anyway.  Maybe, decorating their own envelopes will become a new tradition.

(*Traditionally, red envelopes containing a little money are given to children to symbolize the wish for a prosperous year.  I'd like a red envelope, or two a dozen, myself.)

(**I knew this would happen!  I found the red envelopes almost as soon as I finished typing this.  But the girls' were already done, so we're sticking with theirs.) myspace graphic comments

Happy Chinese New Year, Everyone!