Friday, September 26, 2014

Our 3 F's - a long overdue update

Hi everyone! This is looooooong overdue, and I'm sorry about that! I got out of the habit of writing here in the craziness of trying to move and everything, and then just kept putting it off for one reason or another. The biggest reason of course, was that almost all of my writing time was taken up on paying gigs! Hooray! But I know a lot of you truly care and would like an update so here I am - finally!

Family

Our little family is doing well. The littlest is starting potty training, and continuously surprises us with her knowledge of colors, animals, and words. Our oldest started 2nd grade, and besides some weird 8 year old behavioral stage, is doing great. My husband and I kind of got in the habit of being grumpy with all the stress, but things are getting better and better. I love you, honey!

Freelance writing

This is actually going about as well as I could ask for as a newbie. I have a manageable bit of steady work each week, and then when I get side gigs or sell on ConstantContent.com (only happened twice though...), I can make a little extra. I think I'm finally getting a little better at the research and writing part, so I can do them in about two-thirds of the time that I used to. For steady income, I make $40-$70  a week depending on word counts and any extras. That $200 extra per month the last few months has gone a long way towards bridging the gap between paydays. I've also discovered I really like writing, and am starting to think a little bit beyond the short term. What do I want to accomplish with this? Do I want to try to make some kind of career out of it, or just keep it for emergency living money? Maybe even write creatively a bit? Heck, while I'm feeling optimistic, maybe I could write a best seller someday!

Finances

Oh boy, where to start? Honestly, it's still a roller coaster, but at least it's not
My husband got a stipend for the first couple of months as a manager that enabled us to move, and that was awesome, but of course that is gone now. As his store does better, he will start earning bonuses which could potentially be significant, although that is still quite a ways away I think. Just knowing it will happen eventually makes any momentary hardships a lot easier to handle, though.

Rent & bills
Our rent is pretty darn expensive, but we just ran out of time and choices and will have to pay this for the duration of our lease. As renewal approaches, will will probably revisit this, and decide whether we should move again. I HATE moving.....we've moved 4 times in two years...but if it would be better for us long term to have cheaper housing, we just may end up doing it again. I hope we can keep our oldest in the same school though, I feel like that is really important.

We have more bills too, with our new place, since water and gas are not included. So far they haven't been too high, so we are going to try to keep the that way, but those on top of rent seems like an insane amount of money leaving our bank account each month.

We have not yet been able to pay off any debts, so we still have all of those, but I'm hopeful that will change as our financial situation finally stabilizes.

Food Issues
For now, we have been able to go grocery shopping for a healthy amount and selection of food every week. Obviously, it could still be better, but not having to stretch $20 for four people any more has been down right amazing. One week we went grocery shopping for everything we needed, and then the next day found a farmer's market and were able to spend another $40 on some of the most amazing produce I have ever tasted. Where we used to live had very little farming due to the climate and didn't have any farmer's markets. I had no idea what I was missing! The bounty that $40 bought at that little stand was about twice what you could get for the price even at Wal-mart, and tasted ten times better. Seriously.

Savings
We still have none to speak of really, but again, we are trying to change that as things improve. The money we do save goes straight to rent and bills, but at least they are getting paid. There always seems to be something in the way of saving money, but after we pay bills this month, we are going to make it a much higher priority.

Other stuff
Yes, there are still lots of things we don't have. We still need a vacuum cleaner, we still need dressers, we will need winter clothes and shoes as the weather cools down. It's still a juggling act, but over all things are so much better. Going without those things is a lot easier, because at least we have all our necessities. And - I have faith that we will get them in the future. I have lots and lots of hope lately, and with it comes faith that everything will be okay. I have faith that we WILL be able to get a vacuum and dressers and whatever else at some point. That is really the biggest change: I have hope for the future. I feel like I know things will keep improving. I feel like it's ok to dream about starting my side business, even though it makes me a little scared, because it could actually happen someday! Am I ready for that?? 
So, I guess in closing, things are a lot better, with the potential to be great, and someday maybe even awesome! We're just gonna keep on keepin' on, and hope for the best.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Forced Hiatus

Please excuse the formatting or misspellings, I'm doing this on my phone. Once again I haven't been around much, but not by choice, and I wanted to at least give a heads up.
I don't have a laptop anymore (working on it), and my experience with doing freelance writing on my phone made me want to tear my hair out. The library, as usual,  would be problematic (to put it nicely) with a toddler, so I'm limited to times when my husband is home. I don't get to see him much lately anyways, so I Will always chose to come home over staying to tend my blog. I know y'all understand.
Things have been rough lately. We still have to move, but we still have to pay our normal bills, and so we have gotten nowhere. We haven't even bought packing tape yet because it was almost $4, and that seems ridiculous after what we have left to live on, so we haven't even started packing yet. We have been unsuccessful in saving anything for a deposit yet, so I'm not sure how this is all going to work out.
I just keep reminding myself that things will be better soon. Soon.
However it really just feels like when you NEED everything to go smoothly is when it starts going the exact opposite.
My toaster broke this morning. My vacuum barely sucks anymore and smells like burning plastic, but we need clean floors to get our deposit. My baby's sick. We don't know how we our going to get gas money for the rest of the week. My husband's debit card got stolen and over drew our account $300. It remains in the negative while they investigate.
But we just got to hang on a little longer! Hopefully 3 months from now, everything will be better. It's my mantra. We are on the cusp of a drastic improvement in our lives, and we just have to hang on. Now matter how miserable things feel right now, it WILL get better. We are just trying to focus on that right now.
When I have the means again I certainly will have several things to share. As always I'm trying to see everything as a learning experience and will share in the hopes of helping others.
Thanks for being patient, hopefully I'll be back for good before too long.


Thursday, June 12, 2014

PSA: Blood clots



So, I ended up in the ER the other night because I thought I had a blood clot in my leg. Turns out it wasn't, thankfully, but even though we will have yet another medical bill debt, I'm still glad I went. There's nothing like calmly contemplating the fact that if it really is a blood clot, a piece could break off and you could die on the way to the hospital, and texting your husband that you made it there so he knows that didn't happen, right??

Blood clots are nothing to mess around with. Seriously.

There is some family history with blood clots (DVT and PE), but even if you don't have any, you should always get certain symptoms checked out. These of course depend on the location of a suspected blood clot, but here's a good general info page to go check out:

Signs and Symptoms of Blood Clots

Now here's the symptoms I had, and even knowing what it was this time, if it happens again I would be equally concerned.

We went fishing in the even, and as soon as I got home, the back of my calf directly below my knee started hurting every time I walked, like it was swollen or full of fluid. There was one particular area so tender that when my husband barely touch it, I almost hollered. Within 30 minutes, I didn't want to walk around on my leg at all, and the area was even more tender. I had one thumb-print sized red mark, but no other visual signs of anything wrong. To the best of my knowledge, I had not bumped it or bruised it, or hit it or anything I could think of. However, after the fact, I did remember that I had crossed my legs at church earlier that day. Hmmmm.

I took a flashlight into the dark bathroom to see if I could see anything. You know, like when you're a kid, and you use it to shine through your fingers. I was looking at my veins etc. and when I got to the tender spot, there was an enormous...dark.....opaque....areaOMGIhaveabloodclot!

Of course we all know now that it was just a bruise, so yes it was bleeding under the skin, and yes it did make a clot to stop it, but it is NOT the same thing as a Blood Clot, the kind that can kill you. I didn't know that at the time, of course, and it really had me concerned.

Apparently, somehow, I just spontaneously burst a vein and it started bleeding in my leg. I do kind of have flimsy veins, I can't tell you how many "blow-outs" I've had due to IV's and blood draws. The last few days after my last surgery, they were having to replace them about every two hours, and I ended up getting a PIC line instead because they ran out of room.

Now the hospital didn't put in an IV, they didn't draw any blood tests or anything, so I hope it's a random, albeit odd, benign event. They only did an ultrasound to make sure there wasn't a clot. No sign of one. That's the good news! The really good news.

The bad news is, we still haven't been able to pay my husband's ER bill from months ago, so even though I know our circumstances will be improving soon, I'm still worried about it. There's just so much we need to pay for, it's hard for me to see how we will ever pay it off. Sigh.

But hey, in the scheme of things, it really was worth it. I will wait until I'm practically on death's door for just about anything else, but it's stuff like that, that really scares me.

Moral of the story: If you even THINK you MIGHT have a blood clot, it is worth it to get it checked out.
Any of you ever been to the ER for something that turned out to be nothing? Tell me please, so I don't feel so ridiculous.


Thursday, June 5, 2014

...Could this be the end?


Of eating moldy bread because there's nothing left?
Of making my daughter wear diapers a bit too long because we don't have enough to last until payday, and crying because I gave her diaper rash?
Of looking covetously at the stuff people set out on the curb on trash day, because I can't even afford another trash can, much less those really nice looking chairs you threw out?
Could this be the end living off of the discounted bread at the grocery store, despite blood sugar issues?
Could this be the end of making sure our lives are in danger before going to the doctor because we can't afford the bill for anything less?

I'm afraid to hope.

My husband got the job!!!....but it doesn't seem real yet. We still don't know how we are going to pay our phone bill, electric bill, and personal loan we used to get through rent week. I don't know how we are going to afford to move. I can probably get boxes free, but after looking at craigslist, deposits + first month's rent + moving truck + gasoline, is going to be impossible until he's made more money for awhile.

Guys, what if this is the end of needing food stamps? I have never NOT been on food stamps...
What if we really COULD pay our debts, and start savings accounts for our children, have an emergency fund, and maybe even have some left over to get a reliable car, or go visit family, or even just a clothes dresser??

I was so excited when I found out, but I'm afraid!! Why?? I SHOULD be excited, happy, relieved. And I am it's just that I'm afraid too, afraid to believe and trust and hope, and be disappointed again. I'm afraid it's not real. I'm afraid something will happen to ruin it. I'm afraid of being between a rock and a hard place - making too much money for assistance, but not enough to survive. I'm afraid of money increasing, but things not really improving because there are just so many places that money needs to go. I'm afraid that being poor for so long will mean we have issues that will screw up being financially stable.

He will make $34,000/yr salary, with the potential for bonuses if his store starts doing well. It's about 10k a year more than we make now. It seems like a huge amount to me at this moment, but logically and comparatively, I know it's not a whole lot.

Mostly I just can't seem to wrap my head around things changing for the better. I've identified as "poor" for so long, it's like a part of my identity. I know that sounds silly.

I think perhaps I'm in shock - heh. I knew he could get it based on his abilities and merits, I just didn't believe that we would be blessed with that kind of good luck.

And now, suddenly, there could be a time in the near future where I can afford to buy all of the groceries I need for my family for a week. It brings me to tears.




Sunday, June 1, 2014

My love trove.



My husband and I have been so stressed out about this interview coming up, it's really quite sad. We've talked about the good parts; more money, bigger house, reliable vehicles, a college fund for our kids. We've talked about the bad; moving again, being in an urban area, living farther from the water/nature, more traffic, longer hours. We've talked about the in-betweens, and the what-ifs and the maybes. It has been constantly on our minds, in our thoughts and our conversations.

Honestly, it's exhausting.

We've let our selves become so concerned about this, that it's damaging our health, our sleep, and our relationship. Stupid, stupid, stupid! So strangely, a day and half before the interview, the light bulb went on.

We don't need this.

We don't need this job. We need food, and shelter, and clothes, etc. and yes to some extent we need money, but we don't need this job.

We struggle, but we somehow always eat. Sometimes we aren't as presentable as we like (lack of interview clothes is a concern), but at least we have clothes. We think we need more room, but at least we have a house with running water, electricity, and heat in the first place. We think we need to pay debts, and bills, and to save money, but we don't need those things to survive, or even to be happy.

If he doesn't get this promotion right now, or even if he never gets it, we don't lose anything. We will keep going as we always have, making due and doing our best to be happy. Only when the pressure for more money enters the equation, do we weaken at the seams.

Honey, I'm happy, here, right now, with you. With what we have. Sure I'd like more, I'd like things to be easier, but there is so much more to happiness than that. I can die happy without us ever making more money. I cannot make more money and die happy without you and our kids. Y'all are my treasure, my riches, and my wealth. With you, and God, I have everything I need.

I don't care if you get this promotion. I don't care if you get the next one. I don't care if we never make any more money, or if we do.

All I care about is that you are with me through it all.





Saturday, May 31, 2014

This is a vent, nothing constructive.

We've been struggling lately. Not just with money, but it seems also with a the little bits of life that pile up and pile on. Though it's finally spring outside, this is one of the seasons of our lives that isn't pleasant, and we just have to make it through.

Money is a problem. Money is - always- a problem. Juggling bills, borrowing money for groceries, calling every week for payment arrangements, everything. It's like having a chronic illness. Sometimes you feel ok about it, you cope fine, because it just is. Some days you can barely face getting out of bed, and just want to ignore the situation completely. But either way, it never goes away, and there doesn't seem to be any relief coming soon.

Our kids are misbehaving constantly, especially our toddler, and we cannot help but wonder where we went wrong. Especially me. So much of my self worth is tied to believing I'm a good mom and a good parent, and I just don't feel like that lately. I'm not sure which came first (chicken or egg?). I don't know if my opinion of myself lowered, and then my kid's behavior reinforced it, or if my opinion of my parenting abilities is a direct result of having to leave places because of meltdowns and the neighbors knocking to see if I'm abusing my child because she's screaming her head off...Whichever, it doesn't really matter. All I know is it's so draining and disheartening. Everyday is a battlefield, and as a result I'm cranky, emotional, and sensitive.

My husband has his interview on Tuesday. That's a praise. However, he is terribly stressed out with issues at work, and stressing about the interview, and is cranky, irritable, and sensitive as well. If we don't tread ever so carefully, we mix like oil and water when he is home.
My husband is my best friend. Not really being able to talk to him lately is horribly isolating and lonely, and yet I'm too weak to keep from going off like fireworks when I get upset. I feel so lonely sometimes that I can barely take it, and I tend completely shut down or take that and the other day to day stresses out on him.
For the first time ever, I did not sleep in our bed with my husband the other night because I was so mad/irritated/unhappy. It's my fault and was my choice, and I regret it wholeheartedly. Then we pretty much spent two days not talking or hugging. It just really hurts to think that our bonds are weakening due to all the strain heaped on us from every side. I don't have any other friends or family for support here, and though I attend church, opening up to a stranger is uncomfortable at best. I have faith that we will recover from this, because we love each other enough to keep trying, but it's still hard to go through.

I have so much I want to accomplish in my life, and even with this blog, and I can't seem to find the energy for any of it. Yes, I realize I'm very likely depressed, there just doesn't feel like a whole lot I can do about it right now except to keep on going. Keep on striving.

I know a lot of people have way more serious things going on. Life threatening illnesses, losing family, divorce, really extreme poverty. My issues are so tiny in comparison, I know that, and I promise I'll return to the bright side as soon as possible.

I don't really know how to finish this post except to say, thanks for letting me vent. Thank you all for listening, and for your patience and support.













Thursday, May 29, 2014

Back soon.

I'm sorry guys, I know I haven't been around much lately. It's been a hard couple of weeks. Everything that is supposed to be good is bad, and everything bad is worse. I don't know how I can lift anyone else up when I am feeling this low. I will update soon, thanks for being patient.


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Finally...an update!

Man, it's been a crazy week. Ish? It's been way too long since I made a post, but we had a serious GI illness epidemic, followed by our internet services being off for a few days for being past due. I'm not sure which was worse!!

I'm kidding. The stomach flu was WAY worse! (shudder)

I'm sorry to keep anyone waiting who has become accustomed to my updates, all I could really do was check my email on my phone when I had some G's. my toddler has officially gotten to that age when going to the library is nothing but frustration. It's impossible to get anything resembling work done, because even when she's not throwing a temper tantrum, she still talks at the top of her lungs and tries to wreck everything.  I really hate feeling like we're disturbing other library patrons, and there's really no question that she is. I wish I could just get her a shirt to wear for explanation; "WARNING: I'M TWO". Moms everywhere would understand. Still, I feel bad.

But I promise I haven't been idle, and I've got some posts coming up. A real, solid update is in order, plus a food post or two.

So, what have you guys been up to all this time?  Got any ideas for posts you'd like to see?


Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Good News That Almost Crashed The Car

I know, it sounds like it must be something huge, right? Like winning the lottery or something? Well, it's not, but I'm still pretty happy. Not Power-ball or PCH Winner happy, but still happy.

Yesterday it was awesome weather, and I had an awesome time with my awesome husband. I also got a truly awesome sunburn, and was miserable last night, but it was so worth it!

One of the crowning highlights of my amazing day, was that I sold my first ever Constant-Content article! Ya'll just don't know how huge that is to me! I was so excited when I saw the email that a made this horrible noise that my husband hates. You know, the one where you make a squeaky, squeal-ly inhale of breath, usually when something bad is about to happen, like a car crash? It's like a big, inward, wordless "OH NOOO!!".

Ya, that one.

Only happy!

My husband hates that noise.
So anyways, we were driving down the road and I was checking my email on my phone, and I saw the email and made that noise. My husband swerved wildly to avoid the huge accident that must be incoming, yelled at me a moment, and when we were parked safely at the ATM, he gave me a smile, a congratulations, and a kiss.

He says I'm only allowed to make that noise when something bad is about to happen, not when it's something good, because it immediately puts him emergency mode. I honestly don't know if I can help it though, it's like my default excited/amazed noise. I made it when I caught my first bass. I made it when he bought me my rock tumbler. I made it when he told me he might get his own store soon. What's a girl to do?

 I only had two articles on there, so that's pretty good right? And if strangers will buy my writing, that means I'm not completely inept, right? And there's a good chance that this freelance writing thing will actually pay out? They take a huge chunk of the cost though, 40%, but even so you end up with a fairly decent price per word compared to other places.

Monday, May 5, 2014

My Fortune Cookie Says:

"You're financial outlook is great at this time."

Man, I hope that's true!

We recently found out that my husband's company is opening a new store about two hours south of us. I guess he is one of two choices for being the store manager! I'm afraid to even hope honestly. It would be the change that we've been waiting for so long. Guaranteed $35k/yr, plus monthly bonuses (in the thousands) based on how the store does. That is certainly more comfortable than where we are now. Plus, they will pay for our moving costs IF he gets it. It's in a bigger city outside the metro area, which has it's downsides, but hopefully several advantages too, like public transportation and grocery store competitors and a much shorter commute for my husband.

I can't even imagine it. Or at least I try not to so that I'm not heartbroken if it doesn't happen. Of course, he will at some point get a store I think, I'm just afraid that if it takes a lot longer then a) my husband will lose some satisfaction and drive at work and b) our hole will get ever deeper. Better late than never, but realistically with all our debts, bills, and neglected medical issues, we would have to be at that income level for quite awhile before we even broke even every month.

I'm getting ahead of myself, I know. I'm afraid to be too expectant, too excited, or even too doubtful. I guess I will just hope everything turns out for the best, whatever path that might take.

We could use some prayers though, if you feel like it. :)

Those of you who have risen above poverty, would you mind telling us what the turning point was for your family? Was it more gradual, or a sudden step up like this would be? I would love to know!


Sunday, April 27, 2014

If you feel like donating....

To my family, I will accept it with a glad and thankful heart and use it in some way to improve the lives of those in my family.

However, I know there are some who find their way here, and have been affected by the dishonesty of people in the past and are really hesitant to donate to and suspicious of an individual instead of an organization (story for another time, I am one of those people). I don't blame you. You can never know if the person you donate to is really going to use your money for something acceptable, or if they are going to go buy fast food, booze, or drugs. Or generally waste it in some other way.

That risk that those of you have taken in donating to my family's situation - I am more appreciative of that than just the money itself. That can be a really hard thing to do. That's why I always try to include in my posts what the money was used for.

For the rest - there is no need to feel guilty. We will be okay, one way or another. In reality the few donations I receive will have less to do with whether we are ultimately successful or not, than the work I can get or the promotion my husband might receive. To those who donate, thank you for making our journey a little easier. To those who don't, I have something else to ask. Make a donation to someone else, please.

After church next Sunday, they will be having a drive for Compassion International, where you pay a certain amount each month and it goes to a specific child in need somewhere in the world. I already know how much it costs, and I'm trying desperately to see where I can find the money. It costs $38 a month. That objectively seems like such a small amount, but the nature of our situation makes it an amount I'm not sure I can consistently afford. I don't want to make a commitment to some poor child and then have to cancel in a couple months as we ride our financial roller coaster...I don't know if that would be worse. With medical issues and trying to pay back debts on top of sometimes not even being able to pay all our necessities...I just don't know. I feel terrible guilt that I am wavering over this, when my heart says to do it! because it will make a difference in his or her life.

You know, no matter how bad my situation has seemed at times, the difference between us and people in poverty in third world countries, is at least we have some place to turn to for help. I am ever thankful for charities and churches, and even if our government doesn't do everything right, at least we have programs in the first place when many countries in the world don't. So many truly poor people have no where to turn, except perhaps a missionary or charity organization if they are lucky.

So if you want to help, but you don't want to give money to me, I am so okay with that. Please consider doing something like this. ANY poverty relief campaign really, but I know that CI has really great transparency and is trustworthy. Those organizations that help people in under-developed countries are able to make a bigger impact on individuals for less money than here in the U.S., but by all means donate to whichever one you think is best.

Alternatively, a donation to the American Cancer Society or one of the many breast cancer foundations would be great since both of my aunts are suffering through that at the moment, and I am aching at my inability to help. If simply spreading the word so other people can help is all I can do right now, then that's what I'll do.

If someone would be willing to make a donation in my name, I would be so grateful. You should consider that a donation to my family as well, because that is where I would spend the money if I had the extra to give.

I never wanted this blog to turn into internet panhandling, so I'm sorry if I lose readers over this. The only way it would benefit me though, is to make my heart happier. You'd really be helping someone else a lot though, and without worrying about what it was spent on. So, please mull over donating to one of these:

Thursday, April 24, 2014

How to use up: Instant pudding mix

Yay, my second post in this series! But of course, you have to get through a little back story first. I'm sorry it's a little long! You can skip down to the list if you want, it's kind of depressing anyways.

There was a time about a year and a half ago, that we had bare cupboards and nothing but a half dead stalk of celery in the refrigerator (before I found out how awesome it could be!). This was after the main wire to the power pole in our trailer house became loose enough to spark, melting the wire, the casing, and blowing the big industrial fuses. The lack of power of course shut off everything, and the un-professionals that first came to look at it somehow wired it back without the ground, so we temporarily had power before everything went dark again. However, because of the way they wired it, it somehow sent surges throughout the entire house, blowing up multiple light bulbs, a power strip, both of our window a/c units, our microwave, and the refrigerator.  Not only did we have to suffer through a couple 90-degree nights and 100+ days without a/c, but of course all the food we had in the refrigerator and freezer went bad.

It was the middle of summer in the south, and my youngest was only a few months old. It took several days for them to get a professional out to fix it. On our second or third day, after we had all slept miserably for a couple nights, my husband took us to a hotel. Thank God. Baby still didn't sleep well in an unfamiliar place, but at least we had cool air and the use of a nice big pool.

Coming home after the repair wasn't awesome though. We had to again deal with the high temperatures and spoiled food. The cost of replacing our a/c units  and other devices (we couldn't NOT, it was too hot), coupled with the cost of emergency food and the cost of a hotel, left our bank in the negative and our bills overdue. Because of that one incident (and lack of savings of course!), it took us at least a month to catch up on everything. In the meantime, we had very little to eat and were surviving on charity from my mom and local organizations. At the very end, when almost all the charity food was gone, and it was still several days until my husband got paid again, I came upon our salvation.

I was digging in the cabinets looking for something to feed us, when among the spices and seasonings, I saw two tall unstable towers of flavored gelatin and instant pudding mix! It seriously rescued us, and sustained us for two days. I didn't have much milk, but I had enough to make one box of pudding, and of course plenty of water. My oldest thought it was an awesome summertime treat to eat pudding and jello for two days. I thought - well I'm sure you can imagine what I thought - but at least we were eating.

This story alone makes me realize how far we've come in a year. Hallelujah. I sincerely hope to see as much progress a year from now.

However, the point is flavored gelatin and instant pudding mix are two very, very common things to receive in a charity food box. When you don't have milk for the pudding, it gets put away until you do have milk, but then it's either forgotten about in the back of the cabinet, or your hardship goes on long enough that you have to ration every drop of milk for awhile. When you are finally ready or able to make it, you discover you have waaaay more than you thought you did. Prepared pudding has a lot of dessert uses itself, but really you can only eat so much! Luckily there are a few other uses for the mix by itself too.

How To Use Up Instant Pudding Mix!



Baked goods are really where you can use up large quantities of prepared pudding or mix. Luckily cake mix is another one of those common charity box units. It all depends on what you have on hand of course, and sometimes that isn't much, but I hope this helps anyways.

For Prepared:
Make layer cakes, and use for filling and/or frosting.
Make tortes by layering cake or cookie chunks, fresh fruit, pudding, and whipped topping.
Use as no-bake pie filling
Make frozen pudding pops, yum!
Use vanilla or caramel pudding for dip for fruit like bananas, apples, and strawberries.

Dry Mix:
Mixed into whipped topping to make a lighter frosting, or then frozen for "ice cream".
Mixed into the mix/batter of almost any baked dessert for extra moisture and softness (any cake, cookies, muffins, banana bread etc.) Depending on the flavor you use, it can also add another dimension of taste! Lemon pudding mix in white cake mix is scrumptious!
Use as a thickener for smoothie or protein shakes. (Let it sit a few minutes or it will be grainy).
Mixed in for flavoring in hot chocolate and coffee, even iced coffee. (But let sit a minute like above.)
Mix into plain yogurt to make it taste better than gross.
Mix into canned pumpkin to be eaten as is, or in a recipe.
Mix with a tiny bit of Miracle Whip, or just by itself as dressing for fruit salad. It mixes delightfully with the fruit juice to make a dressing and ads flavor.

Do you have any other uses to add? Does anyone know of any recipes that aren't desserts that use pudding mix? Also, let me know if you have an idea for what you would like to see next in the series!


Just a sad ramble.

I'm not feeling too positive this week, but it actually has nothing to do with finances.

I found out my aunt, who was like a second mother to me, has an aggressive and rare form of cancer. This all after my uncle just recovered from several years of cancer treatment himself, and my other aunt was diagnosed last year and has already been through chemo.

So, understandably she is low about it, and I'm low about it, because even though I try to be positive about everything, things like this make you question if you're ever going to see someone you love again. She lives very far away, and of course I don't have the funds to send her for tests, or gasoline for 9 weeks of daily chemotherapy and radiation, or even to go see her and introduce her to her second niece for the first time, and maybe the last time.

Her insurance company is giving her the run around on paying for tests and procedures, and so in the meantime her doctors have decided not to do a double mastectomy, but at great risk of the cancer reoccurring. Apparently that is a very real concern for her kind of cancer, but because she can't afford the genetic tests out of pocket to determine whether she for sure needs a double mastectomy, so they won't pay for that either without the test results. Ugh.

My other aunt who has already been through a rough time with chemo and radiation, is feeling very weak and is still facing the costs of more medical care and the possibility of re-occurrence.

I'm not the one facing this or fighting it, and I cannot imagine how much strength it must take for either one of them to face the day, but it's really gotten to me this past week. I'm weepy and sad and mad, and just don't have the gumption to do anything. Please forgive me for not posting much. I'm sure that once a little time has passed I will feel like it again. For now I am just concentrating on some freelance writing, and dabbling in my draft posts every now and then. Just thought I'd let y'all know why I haven't been around much this week.

On a side note, thank you so much to the person who donated $25 last week. It went towards our electricity bill, which is enormous. Luckily with the weather warm up it has been cut in half, so we will catch up soon. My family deeply appreciates your generosity, thanks for taking a chance on us.


Monday, April 14, 2014

How to use up: Celery

   I have been thinking lately of ways to make my blog more useful for people in situations like mine. Following our story is good and all, because if it has a happy ending it will be a kind of template of one way to get out of poverty. But, first, we are not assured of a happy ending, are we? None of us are. Second, barring a lottery win or major promotion for my husband, I don't see any drastic changes in income coming in the next year or two at least. So with all that in mind, I want to try to help people in the small ways I can. Since so much revolves around food when you're poor, I've decided to do some food-related posts. I have a couple of ideas, three of which are:


  • Ways to use up large quantities of super cheap foods - When you shop on a tight budget, you end up buying mostly sale items because you can get more food for the same small amount of money. Sometimes that creates a problem though, because what are you going to do with eight cans of green beans?? You could eat them as is of course, which my toddler prefers, but...ew. I'm going to do celery today, and give you three magical tips to make it more amazing than you thought it could be!
  • What you can make with just the food from a food bank or pantry - If you're depending on just charity food to survive, you're in pretty bad shape. My plan is to give some meal ideas that maybe people haven't thought of, because monotony and tastelessness just contributes to the depressive state low income families are in.
  • As many ways as I can think of/find to eat rice and beans - They are a tight income's saving grace just because you get so much volume for little money. However, it can swiftly become preferable to go a little hungry in order to avoid choking down some more gloopy beans and dry rice....Yes, I have had to work on my cooking skills, too.
So, if any of you dears has any suggestions for foods for any of these categories, or other food related topics you think would help, please leave a comment or send me a message!

Without further adieu, 

How to use up celery, and make it awesome! 


Before we get to the ideas, I think it is so super important to give you my celery tips. Hardly anyone thinks of celery as delicious, and certainly not easy to eat (all those dang strings! Ugh!). If you all already know these tips, then I am happy for you, but if you don't (like I didn't previously) this will change how you think of celery. I guarantee it!

Tip #1: Cut the end off and tightly wrap in foil before you refrigerate it
I've heard this tip several times in my life, and never bothered. It really does make a difference in how long it keeps before wilting or molding!

Tip #2: Soak it in ice water for 15 minutes before using raw
I actually stole this from Buffalo Wild Wings when my in-laws took us out for dinner once. I could not figure out for the life of me, how their celery was so crunchy and delicious. I noticed it was really cold, and when there was a little water left in the bottom of the veggie boat, I had an aha! moment. I knew I had to try it at home. I like celery in soups and tuna salad, but as poor as we have been before, sometimes my celery still died a mushy, wilty death in the bottom of my refrigerator. Soaking the celery in ice water gives it such a satisfying snap and juiciness - yes! - that it becomes a star in whatever dish you use it raw in, instead of just an afterthought. As good as it is though, you still have to get rid of those horrible little strings.

Tip #3: Peel it. With a peeler.
I don't know why I never thought of this before, honestly. I've just always taken my knife cut the end off, and tried to pull down the strings to the very end of the stalk. This sort of works, but inevitably when you chop it up, you find yourself with the knife, peeling strings down again every few cuts. If you use a peeler on the stalk before you chop it, all the strings come off together in neat little strips. Don't peel too deep because you don't want to lose too much, but feel free to completely remove those thick, tough, darker green veins. Occasionally I will find out I missed a string or two, but they aren't nearly as bothersome when you've removed 99% of them.

Now that you have soaked your celery in ice water and peeled it, take a bite! If you don't go, 'man, that's pretty good celery' then I'll be shocked. You might even decide to have a snack of it right then, like I did. Go ahead, you've got a lot to use up remember?

For raw celery: (the way I like it best)
juices and fruit smoothies (seriously!)
tuna/chicken/egg/seafood salad
any green salad
as a snack dipped in salad dressing, peanut butter, cream cheese, hummus, or any other dip or spread
a celery salad with any other veggies and a vinaigrette
diced in homemade salsa

Celery leaf pesto: (yummy on pasta & toast)
1/8 cup pine nuts (or any other nut, especially walnuts, can't afford pine nuts!)
½ large clove of garlic, peeled
¼ cup of fresh flat leaf parsley
½ cup tender celery leaves
1/8 tsp salt
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1/8 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (riiight...I use the dry shakeable stuff in the green can...)
zest of ½ lemon
juice of ½ lemon (if you don't have a lemon, 1/2 tsp lemon juice works fine for both)

My famous bleu cheese salad:
This is basically the BWW side, in a salad. I serve it with a recipe I came up with, Hot Wing Poutine! My seven year old DEVOURS this salad.
4 stalks celery, chilled and peeled, in thin slices
2 large carrots, chilled, peeled, diced or julienned
1 green onion, chopped
1/4 c bleu cheese salad dressing (or any other cream dressing really)

For cooked celery:
celery soup
in any soup or stew (add near the end)
vegetable stock
diced or pureed in spaghetti sauce for sweetness without sugar
mirepoix or holy trinity- savory dish starter (can freeze it for use later)
in lo mein, chow mein, or any other stir-fry (the high heat gives it really good flavor)
stuffing (not just for thanksgiving - there's often a box in our food from the food pantry)
roasted with other root vegetables
braised in beef broth


Do you know of any other ways to use up celery? Did any of this sound good enough to make you go buy some? Let me know! :)

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Humbled

In addition to my weekly progress report, I also just wanted to take a minute to give thanks.

I didn't realize really that I was exposing myself on the world's biggest stage (the internet) when I submitted my story to Huffington Post. I'm a very emotional person, and it's really hard to "not care" about some of the comments on there. However, on the flip side, I was so humbled and appreciative for the people that commented in my defense and in the defense of people in similar situations. You know, it's said that it takes seven positive comments to erase the personal effects of one negative one. That's why I always try to be careful with my words. But I've decided to ignore the "haters" completely, and just focus on the wonderful support of everyone - my readers, and even those strangers who commented, who still seem to possess the lost traits of empathy & sympathy.

I would also like to thank the person who donated $20 to my family. That it really going above & beyond for someone you don't know, and I really appreciate it. You're an angel.

I am thankful to the people who took a chance on me and decided to offer me work. I promise I will do the best I can for you (even if I may be a little slow at it).

I want to thank my readers too, even if you never comment. I celebrated 1,00 views only a short time ago, and now I'm at five times that! Thank you for your silent understanding and support. I hope you all take my blog in the spirit it is meant: if you're struggling, you're not alone and maybe you can find something in my journey to help you. And if you're not, hopefully you find something here to foster understanding in yourself of those who are. Simply understanding another's plight could go a long way to making the world a better place for  us all.

Poverty Climb: Weekly Progress #12

Man, what a week it has been, Actually I think it's been like 10 days since I posted anything, so I apologize for that, but I do have several posts coming (as soon as I have the time to write them!). Until then, here's my progress report.

*Finally got to the doctor. I have one permanent prescription, one refillable prescription for antibiotics, coupons for probiotics (I didn't even know doctors really recommend those, thought that was borderline herbal medicine), and one prescription to take when I'm having symptoms. Like an idiot, I thought I could wait to get them filled until we had more money. But OF COURSE last night I started having symptoms again. I woke up at 3:30 am miserable, and sat up in the recliner until about 5:30 when I fell back to sleep. So that means I'm going to have to drain the savings account to get them...The most expensive things are the anti-spasmodic and the probiotics. Ugh. But honestly, I know it's worth it to feel better. Over the last five years since my original surgery, I have spent WAY too much time sick on the couch.

*I finished one freelance assignment, and one freelance writing assignment. I already got paid for one, and get paid for the other on Sunday. Just that little bit of extra money, along with a donation I received, really, really helped when it came to the end of the pay period when we needed diapers and soy milk for the little one, and the copay for myself. I actually bought two packages, one for daytime and one for night, because diapers were on sale this week! It makes quite a difference in her comfort to have a bigger size for nighttime, she sleeps better.

*I got approved for a Constantcontent.com account, which if that works out, might provide some steady income too. Now I have to think of something to write about! Hmmm.

*Fun! I love my husband, and I love my family, and I love spending time with them. I'm glad that we have the opportunity to spend time together without spending any money. We went to the river and fished both days. Got skunked, but being outside was wonderful and refreshing and my toddler got to run herself out. Almost. She is literally inexhaustible. Literally.

* Got my resume' mostly done. I need to make a few changes still, but it's coming along.

Getting my health issues addressed and making a little extra money has filled me with tons of hope. Maybe I can make enough money as a freelance writer to help our family, maybe we can get out of this financial slump, maybe we can have better lives! It's so much better to feel hope than hopelessness. It also kind of makes a person nervous though, you know, because I somewhat expect disappointment based on how things have gone in the past. But no matter what, at least I still have my family, and in that respect, I'm as rich as I could ever want to be.

I hope everyone else is having a good & productive week!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Sick Today

I have lots to write about today, and some freelance stuff too, but I'm afraid I'm not feeling well.

I'm putting off going to urgent care if I can because I have an appointment tomorrow afternoon, and because it will be horribly expensive of course. If I knew it was serious, I would of course go. However, I hate to incur the cost to tell me it's gas or even worse, "we don't know". With no options for child care, I'd have to call my husband from work. So I'm just going to curl up on the couch with the little one and watch tv. Be back soon!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Well, that was interesting.

I'll be honest, I had no idea what I was in for when they accepted my post...

Almost 400 comments.

Personal emails about our circumstances and my writing.

1 job offer!

Linked in my (real name!) facebook feed this morning by people I know.


However, the two things I found truly surprising were 1) the amount of judgmental assumptions and 2) the number of people who knew from first hand experience how ridiculous those were, and defended me and all other low income people. I did not post it on there myself, so I didn't have an account to reply, but there were several times I was watching comments going by, shouting "YES!! Thank you for saying that!"

Several assumptions were made by people who obviously never bothered to read my blog, which is ok, but who also seemed to have an extreme prejudice against people who need help. Some of those assumptions were:

We live in too big of a house, and pay too much in rent/mortgage.
We have too many cars, and we have car payments because we want "new cars".
We don't utilize public transportation.

-No. I live in a tiny 2 bedroom apartment in a "low rent" area. In order to pay less than an outrageous amount in rent each month, we have to live farther away from my husband's work. This requires a vehicle of our own, because there is no public transportation where I'm at. Our only option if we can't drive is a taxi! It was because of this that we bought another vehicle. I cannot take my husband to work AND get my daughter to school on time and get to appointments etc. Both our vehicles are about 15 years old, and were bought off craigslist. Which we were only able to do after our tax return.

We make $50,000 a year. (HA!)
We are reproducing like crazy.
SNAP is enough to cover food costs for a month for 4 people.
My husband makes plenty of money to cover necessities, I just go to the food bank so I can have an IPhone/big screen tv/designer clothes because it's no questions asked.

Also, no. To me, $50,000 a year would mean we had finally made it, we were no longer "poor". We live in an area where the economy is just starting to recover, and ANY job over minimum wage is a "good job".  We do have smart phones, but mine is 4 years old, water damaged, and slow. My husband's original one died, and he needed one for work. We bought a cheapie at walmart. We have an old, regular sized tv. Anyone who read my blog knows any "designer" clothes I have came from the $2/bag special at the thrift store. Also, they forget that SNAP means SUPPLEMENTAL Nutrition Assistance Program. A $32/month supplement to "not enough to buy food" really doesn't help much.

But anyways, I know the people here, who read and comment and empathize with my struggle - who have been there at one time or another - don't really expect or need me to justify and explain everything. So why do I?

My hope in blogging about my family's journey is to raise awareness about poverty, yes, but also to raise awareness that people need to be more sensitive and empathetic to each other. It's because it is my hope that somehow, in some sentence I write, I can open up the eyes of those judgmental people to help them understand that not everything is black and white. Not everyone is taking advantage. And just because you are doing fine or made it out of a broken system, doesn't mean everyone else is or does. The system is still broken, you just happen to be on the right side of it. It is not easy to be poor. It is even harder to be poor and judged for every tiny little aspect of one's life that really has little affect on the overall picture of poverty.

No wonder people are afraid to admit they're struggling. Once they do, they instantaneously have all kinds of bad traits attributed to them. No wonder I'm terrified someone might find out my real name. Because then I would feel the shame they want me to feel for simply being different. This is prejudice.

This is a terrible thing we've done to people in this country. The only way to succeed in this country shouldn't be on the backs of other people, we should also be able to succeed by supporting each other.

Monday, March 31, 2014

I'm on Huffington Post!!

Holy macaroni!

I have a post on HuffingtonPost.com

I don't have a sign in or anything, so I don't know how to reply to comments/criticisms, but I find that most of the commentators are answering them for me anyways.

I wish it were a more cheerful one, but it is relevant to what I'm doing writing this blog anyways, and it's very rarely cheerful.

But! This is so great for so many reasons! Now I can say "I'm a freelance writer" without lying (even though it wasn't for pay). It also means I have something to put in my portfolio/resume' as I try to go out and get a few paying jobs.

I was tipped off to this by a reader here, and I just want to say, thanks a million. You gave me a spring board.

I know I don't have a lot of readers, but I appreciate all of you I do have, and I deeply appreciate the comments I've received as help. I can only hope this whole thing is helping someone besides me as well.

Heaven is....

I'm scrambling eggs at the stove. My mind is occupied with the ten thousand things I feel like I have to do today, from washing the mountain of dirty dishes, to re-potting a cactus.

My daughter is eating her cereal at the table (because eggs, ewwww).  The TV is on in the background and the house is full of sounds of our morning rush.

"Mommy, if you have a bless-full life, do you live longer on earth?"

After clarifying what she means, I explain that we all get a certain number of years here on earth, but that most people live to be somewhere between eighty and one hundred.

"Do they celebrate birthdays in heaven?"

I explain that no one has birthdays there, but I'm sure there are lots of parties; everyone is happy.

"So in heaven everyone is happy, and everything is free and nothing costs money."

I don't even remember how I responded. I stirred the eggs with a heavy heart.

To my daughter, heaven is a place where mom and dad don't say,

"No you can't have that, we don't have the money".

"No, we can't go, we don't have enough money for all of us."

"No, you can't go to your friend's birthday party, we can't afford the gas money."

It was a simple thing, but it hit me really hard for some reason. Heaven should mean more than that. Maybe that's my fault.

But I would really like to be able to say yes to her more.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Poverty Climb: Weekly Progress #11

Going to be short and sweet this week, I feel like I have 10 things going on at once!

But heeeyyy, for once that's a good thing!

*Besides doing weekly or bi-weekly posts to my blog, I have been perusing the freelance writing job boards every day. I still have yet to jump on a job, even the few I actually think I could do, because I'm working on a resume'. Oh, you want my resume' attached? Here's my old one from 3 years ago, and it's completely irrelevant.  Most of them still want one attached when you apply, so I've been trying to think of how to spin spotty job history and no real experience, so that they don't immediately send my application to the trash bin. There aren't many options for that of course, but I want to have all my ducks in a row so at the very least my lack of "professionalism" doesn't count against me.

*Went to the food pantry this week. Not only did I get some groceries on a skimpy week, but it actually gave me an idea for a post I'm going to present to The Huffington Post, who are doing a series on the working poor. Cross your fingers for me!!

*Got an offer for a freelance type job on the side. It's not writing, but it is something well within my capabilities, and it's money, so that's what counts. Since the person I was babysitting for moved away this week, I'm once again looking for short term things I can do from home for a few extra bucks. I only hope my performance lives up to expectations. You know who you are. Thank you!

*I have a specialist appointment Thursday. I've been needing this for awhile due to some on going health problems. I'm as excited about getting my antibiotics refilled, as I was about the potluck at church today. The co-pay might be a problem, but I have resolved that even if I have to ask my in-laws for money, I'm going. I really hope I don't, of course! But this is super duper important for my continued health, so I have to find a way. I have a recurring biliary infection, that get's worse the longer I let it reoccur. After having several mysterious fevers and odd pains in the last few months, I know it's high time to fix it.

*Fun! I had so much fun on my husband's days off this week. We all did. And that is sooo rare these days. But we had some slightly nicer weather (well, it was above freezing at least), so we sacrificed some of our gasoline and drove to a beach. I packed our lunches, and some snacks and drinks, so all it cost us really was gas money. It was beautiful, and amazing and fun. We played in the sand and looked at rocks, and my toddler just basically ran in circles and threw rocks for 45 minutes. It was really, really nice. Despite the never-ending winter, it is pretty awesome to live in a place that has some things close by to do on the cheap. Coming from a place with no water, and no trees, and not much to do, it is a wonderful change.

* We spent $4 on new (to us) clothes. There is a tiny thrift store 2 blocks from me that had a clothing sale, $2/bag. To be honest, they didn't have a whole lot of good quality clothes in our sizes, but I think we all got one or two items. The reason it took two bags instead of one, is I got a big, bulky green sweater. I love it. Of course I'll probably have to put it away for next year soon, but hey, it'll be good to have it then too.

I think that's everything that can be considered progress this week, but it really helps me to see where things are improving. Because of rent, we were pretty much back to broke the day we got paid, and that never feels good. Listing out all the positive changes each week at least assures me we are not stagnating like we used to be. Any progress is better than none!

Hoping you all have a happy and productive week, and thanks for reading. :)


Monday, March 24, 2014

Poverty Climb: Weekly Progress #10

After last week's misery , this week things are looking a little better. Why? We still don't have enough money for all our bills coming up, still need dental work, still need dr. appointments, etc. It is simply better because I allowed myself a bit of a break. I took about an hour and a half each day while my little one was sleeping, and did whatever I wanted. It was glorious. But of course, now I have lots to catch up on! There was a tiny bit of progress, so I'll document that here.

*I found a sample business plan for my exact business idea and downloaded it to my computer. Now I have almost a word for word guide of what it needs to look like. The business plan is essential for getting any kind of funding at all, whether it be a loan or a grant or an investor.

*Speaking of grants. I've been digging around to see what I can find on  grants. gov . It is a terribly slow process though; first because they have tons of grants, and second because each grant has very specific guidelines you have to meet. My impression is that I will not be able to get any grants through this site, because almost all are for some type of research. I have yet to find any that say "just a be a poor, white, woman with a business idea". Bummer.

*However! There are a few people who give loans with those criteria, and while the idea of a multi-thousand dollar loan is huge and scary (What if I fail? How will I pay them back? I'll be poor forever!!), it is something I've decided to consider. No risk, no reward. It just means that I have to at least be relatively certain I can turn a profit to make payments.

*And that comes down to research! Where I used to live before, it would almost be guaranteed because of the climate. However, now that we live in the frozen white north with a very short warm season, I'm hoping that  "location, location, location" can make up for that lack. While I live in a small town (~1400), it is pretty centrally located in a string of other towns along a highway, and has the added benefit of having some tourism, and sportsman draw in the summertime (big fishing river 2 blocks away).  While it seems logical to me, I haven't spent a summer here yet, so I don't know for sure. After this summer, I'll have more of an idea. As much as I want to get started RIGHT NOW, realistically (and all hinging on a loan or grant), it's probably going to be at least 1 more year before I can give it a shot.

*Everyone keeps asking me if I'm "still looking for a job". I had quit looking for awhile simply because I was doing so much babysitting, but that has dried up for now, so I will be looking again. My husband is dreading me finding one, because that means that he will be "working" 7 days a week, instead of being pampered on his days off. (Isn't that what stay at home moms do??) I've told him to make absolutely certain him getting 2 days off is worth not having any extra money before I quit looking. In the meantime, yes I am still trying to get set up with some freelance writing (no one wants a newbie!).

*Spring cleaning! We've had almost a whole week of sunshine and temps above freezing. Most of the snow and ice is gone, and I can see the dirt and a hint of green in the grass. Even though it is cold today and tomorrow, and we are due some more snow (probably the small amount needed to break the season record), it IS spring. And that means with all the sun coming in the windows, I can see exactly how icky my house is. Working on it!

*New shoes! Thanks to a fantastic Kmart special (one pair was $2.99!), I have 3 pairs of new spring shoes. 2 are just for normal activities, and 1 is for walking. Which is great because we have a trail by our house, and we've already been twice, but my snow boots gave me blisters. It is an AMAZING feeling to be able to throw away my old holey tennis shoes, even if I just have foam shoes to replace them. They are whole, they are light, and dare I say, a little bit cute too.

I think that's all for now, so thanks for reading!

Monday, March 17, 2014

My Week In A Poem

Bear with me while I attempt a poem, I am no great wordsmith, that's for sure. Just felt like a bit of self expression.

Also, it' sounds worse than it is...right??



Last night I couldn't sleep
because my tooth hurt so bad.
Can't go to the dentist yet,
there's no co-pay to be had.

I've been sick every few days
going on about six weeks now.
I need to see a doctor or two,
but I just don't see how.

I've been feeling sick and low,
so the house is dirty, I confess.
My husband  is always cranky now,
he hates coming home to the mess.

I made soup from old leftovers,
well seasoned to disguise the taste.
I wish I didn't have to feed my family that,
but we can't afford to waste.

I trimmed the mold off the bread
I was using to make my lunch.
I would love to go to Subway,
but even five dollars a meal is too much.

My stomach hurts today,
and I wonder from which thing I ate.
I regret prolonging the food,
as I get to the bathroom, late.

The baby naps and I cry alone,
struggling under all the demand.
This is not how I though it would be;
but life is so rarely what we planned.

We have some food and some nice things.
We have a roof, clothes, and a car.
When life feels too punishing,
I try to remember where my blessings are.

I have my family, my life, and my marriage,
everything worth staying alive.
But daily I sit and think to my self,
I don't just want to live,
                                     -I want to thrive.

Poverty Climb: Weekly Progress #9

Well I'll be honest, this is one of those backsliding weeks, where you look around and wonder what the heck happened.

Somehow, my husband messed up paying for his phone. He transferred the money out of savings, but then didn't fill in our bank register properly, so when the phone payment came out later than expected, it over-drafted us at the bank. So when his paycheck came in, we were already -$100. The $200+ left over was pretty much enough for gasoline, groceries, laundry money, his prescriptions, and his lunch a few days when I didn't have anything for him. We had $4 left yesterday.

 I tried to buy me and my kiddos a drink at the store and some pineapple juice for a recipe ($6), and all my cards were denied, and I had no cash, except my very precious laundry quarters. We left without everything, because after being denied for such a small purchase, I just wanted to get out of there. It was so embarrassing. You know that feeling.

The good news is,

* I will get some babysitting money tomorrow ($20). I will miss my husband, because he is surprisingly off, but we need the money too bad.

*I love my bed. I had forgotten what it was like to not hurt while IN bed, much less when you get up.

*I've been looking into making a business plan, finding out licensing info, and possibly getting a grant to start my business. I have made very little progress, so I'm not sure it counts, but hopefully it will count big time later.

*I've been researching doing the whole freelance writing thing. I have run into some roadblocks (the biggest being my doubt that I can do it), but I'm trying to work through those. I'm making a separate website for freelance writing as recommended, and also working on a sample piece to submit as an application to a company who has you write interviews in a "first person dramatic narrative."....I'm not ashamed to admit I had to google what exactly it was they wanted. Wish me luck!

*Did I mention I love having a real mattress? Still not sleeping great due to some health issues, but at least I can be comfortable while I lie awake in the middle of the night.

*The ice and snow melted. Ok, we had nothing to do with that, but it finally feels a bit like spring. We welcome the mood lift from it, and will hopefully use it to be productive.

I have a feeling the next couple of weeks are going to be even more of a struggle, every bill we have is due this week except rent. Which is due the week after. Ugh. But hopefully we can keep making some kind of progress. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Debt Collectors Are Just The Worst!

I always try to be nice, and judge people fairly, but my interaction with a debt collector today made me think that she took that job because she likes being nosy and judgmental. It left me feeling mad, sad, and just bad. (Hey, I'm a poet...) I just knew there had to be more in my past that would come back to bite us as we are trying to get on our feet.

After talking to several people about it, and reading similar stories on the internet, it seems like debt collectors are a perfect example of what is wrong with people's attitudes towards the poor, and makes it hard to not assume that a certain type of person is attracted to those positions. In less than 10  minutes time, she made me feel ungrateful, lazy, guilty, scummy, unworthy of respect, and just in general, not good enough. Here is a tiny excerpt from our long, horrible conversation:



Debt Collector: We need to make arrangements to pay these debts off.
Me: Yes I understand that, I'm perfectly willing, but I can't afford very muc- (rudely interrupted)
Debt Collector: Well how much CAN you afford?
Me: I can probably manage $10 a week.
Debt Collector: That is unacceptable! I have people on retirement, on a fixed income, who can pay $35 a week.
Me: That may be true, but I have a household of four and my husband is the only one working -
Debt Collector: Well are you even looking for a job to help pay the bills?
Me: Yes, I'm looking, I'm also doing other things in the meantime (she called while I was babysitting), but we've only had one car until recently and I have to find a way to get childcare-
Debt Collector: These are your debts to be paid! You owe this money for services rendered to you, and it is your responsibility to pay them.
Me: I understand that, I just told you that I would like to try and do that-
Debt Collector: (talking over me) That is unacceptable. By law I have to inform you that this is an attempt to collect a debt and any info (blah blah blah)
*click* 
Me:  Seriously??

She hung up on me! I called back immediately and got an answering machine. The message I left was basically that I had attempted to make a payment arrangement on my debts and that she refused it an hung up on me. I said I wanted that on record, although I understand that probably counts for absolutely nothing.

It doesn't matter to her that I have been trying to pay off all my debts.
It doesn't matter to her that that is all I can afford.
It doesn't matter to her that there have been expenses and challenges and circumstances that have kept me from being able to afford more.
It doesn't matter to her that these are medical bills from an injury/illness that was not under my control, and that it kept me ill and from working for a looooong time.
It doesn't matter to her that sometimes you can't just go out and "take any job you can find" and make things work.
It doesn't matter to her that I'm babysitting for cash, because I should have "a real job".
It doesn't matter to her that there are some things more important than money when you have a family, and you have to balance the two.

But these things don't matter to her, and they don't matter to anyone who judges low-income families. But, gosh darn it, it should freaking matter. I sincerely hope her, and anyone like her, never has to suffer any of these things, but I also wish everyone would do the human thing and care.

Dear Debt Collector;

I care. I care about my debt, I know that it is mine, and I know I have a responsibility to pay it back. I care about paying it back.
I also care about you, and no matter how upset you made me, I did not make you feel subhuman even though your words hinted at an attitude that is exactly that.
I hope you are really not that judgmental, because if you are, then you are exactly what is wrong with this world.

Despite that fact, I will STILL try to pay back my debt, but I'm going over your head.

Sincerely,
Trisha

Maybe she actually hates it. Maybe it really sucks to go home after a long day of work, where everyone hates you and is angry at you, but you have to pay your own bills. Maybe she's just angry because her situation was at one time desperate enough to even take a job like this. I think I prefer having sympathy for her, rather than just strongly disliking her.


Also, for anyone who is in the same situation, this is an enlightening read. This is copied and pasted from a Yahoo! question.

Can debt collection agencies refuse to set up a payment plan with you if you are trying to settle a debt?

 

I've been a bill collector for the past two years, most of that time spent in an agency that collects for hospitals. 

To answer your question: 

YES, a collection agency can refuse a payment plan. They can also take legal action (if the original creditor allows it) against you EVEN IF YOU ARE MAKING REGULAR PAYMENTS. When an account reaches the collection stage, the balance is due in full. :( 

In most circumstances, the hospital (like any other creditor) has offered their "idea" of a payment arrangement prior to her account reaching collections; Several letters and phone calls should have been made to the patient asking for some sort of repayment. If it has gone to collections, there is NO obligation the collector OR the agency to accept a minimal payment plan. 

Collectors often push debtors to take out large loans because they want an immediate commission. Don't read too much into that, it's the first thing they are motivated by: Immediate payment. 

First, talk to the insurance company. A great deal of claims are paid incorrectly and the insured is actually due more coverage than originally given. Go over every inch of her policy, and ask for the medical records to substantiate her care. Sometimes, insurance companies deny based on incorrect coding, so make sure that the line items match up to the care she received. 

If you cannot find anything to dispute in the bill or with the insurance company, your next step is actually back to the hospital. A client/creditor can pull the account from collections at any time, and they stand to make more money in the long run by collecting the bill themselves than by letting the collection agency handle it. Try to convince them that she will make arrangements directly with them, offer to sign an agreement. Getting the account out of collections as soon as possible is your goal! 

If your sister finds a way to get a loan, try it with the hospital FIRST, as the collection agency will only discount the bare minimum. Another route when dealing with the hospital would be to have your sister write a letter, explaining that she is grateful for the care she was given and include why she cannot pay. Address this letter to the Board of Directors and ask if her account can be written off to charity care. Most non-for-profit hospitals MUST give away a certain amount of free health care services each fiscal year in order to maintain their non-for-profit status. Include her recent bank statements, check stubs, utilities and rent, all of her life expenses so that the hospital can see that she has no means to pay. 

Lastly, make sure that the collection agency is not breaking the law!!! Look up the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). These laws were made to protect consumers from being exploited, abused, and otherwise treated unfairly when having their bill resolved through a 3rd party. Document the name of each collector, time and date of call. Make sure that she is not being called more than once in a day, that they are not calling her place of business if she has already expressed to them that she is not allowed personal calls during work. There are also stipulations against a collection agency TELLING THE CONSUMER THAT THEY WILL TAKE ACTIONS THAT THEY HAVE NO AUTHORIZATION TO TAKE! Often, collectors will scare debtors into thinking that they will go through legal action, when in fact, the original creditor has given no such permission. Make sure that they are not giving you empty threats. 

Report any violations to the Federal Trade Commission or your State's Attorney General. That will SURELY get rid of a bill collector :) 

Sometimes, getting a bill resolved just falls under speaking with a collector who is an honest and decent person, which is very hard to find in that market. I do my job well; I service the company that I work for, but I never forget that I am there to help someone in need.  (Why couldn't I get a debt collector like this??)

Another thing I found out, is that there is a statute of limitations on debt, meaning that they can't sue you on a debt over a certain age (varies by state).  Pretty much any threat they make is empty. BUT! If they get you to make a payment on it, the statute of limitations starts over, and it is legally collectible/sue-able.  Now my debt is relatively small (no longer in the tens of thousands range), and I intend to pay it, but for someone stuck in a situation where they absolutely can't afford to, to make any kind of payment on it after the statute of limitations has passed would make things much worse for them. 

Yes, totally punishing honesty and keeping people trapped in the cycle of poverty. Way to go, bill collectors.

Ok, rant over for today. I know that was long, so thanks if you stuck with me all the way until the end. I at least hope the information helped someone, since the ranting was pretty much for my own benefit. :)

 

 

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