Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Remember When Wednesdays: The Debt Story Part I

The light at the intersection was red. Thankfully. Laura's words had pierced my soul and I was hoping, praying that she hadn't noticed. When she spoke it was as if God Himself had spoken; I realized He'd been trying to speak to me for a long time, but it was the first time I'd actually listened.
"The light's green," Laura said. It  brought me out of my haze and we continued chatting as I tried to ignore the lightning bolt that had just shot through my heart.
Everything was normal when we arrived back at the house. Our husband's were playing in the yard with the kids and we started on dinner.
Later, when Officer Hottie and I had a minute alone, he asked how the trip to Target went.
"Um...Laura said something that really hit me."
"Oh yeah?" he replied. "What was that?"
"Well, you know how she's really into homebirth but she had Kaleb at the hospital? I asked her why and she said their insurance hadn't covered home birth. She said they had a conviction from the Lord to never go into debt, and that the conviction He gave them was stronger than their own personal ideals, so they decided that instead of putting his birth on credit they would go to the hospital."
I could see the twinge across his face as the words "conviction from the Lord" slapped him as hard as they'd slapped me. I could see his shoulders slump a bit as he deflated. Laura and her husband, Julian, came out of our guest bedroom then (which was really just our son's room with an extra mattress thrown in) so I knew the conversation would have to be finished later.
A few days later I waved to Julian and Laura and their kids as they left to go back home and I nearly forgot about how God had spoken through her. When we went to put our son's room back together we found a pile of their clothing and pillows. I laughed as I packed it up to take the the UPS store. Laura said she'd send us money but I laughed her off. "Pshhh. Shut it."
The day after sending the package I sat down to balance our checkbook. After having friends here for a week I was happy to see we had some money left over. Sweet. Maybe we could go out for dinner one more time before payday? I do love to eat out.
The next morning I awoke in a panic. My heart was racing and it was like God was again talking to me..."Did you pay the credit card bill?"
Oh my goodness. Oh my goodness. I forgot to pay the bill. I forgot...I forgot...
Officer Hottie was already at work so I ran out to the computer to check our ledger balance...sure enough...I hadn't paid the bill. My heart sank. The minimum payment was $250 and we only had $100 left in our checking account.
Wait? Where did all that extra money go? What happened to all that overtime?
I frantically looked through the list of transactions; they screamed to me as I passed each one.
The Old Spaghetti Factory. You didn't have enough money to eat here!
The Children's Museum. Why would you even go here if you don't have money?
The Woodland Park Zoo. You paid more for GAS than for admission. And the lions were sleeping!
Trader Joe's. Really? REALLY? Chocolate covered ORGANIC pretzels? Really?
I could feel the tears building up as each transaction left me feeling more panicked and angry. How did we do this to ourselves? Where were we going to find the money to pay our bill? We'd never not paid a bill before...the weight of responsibility and failure was heavy on me as I reached for the phone to call Officer Hottie.
Through tears I explained that we'd spent our money and had no way to pay our credit card bill. Or to tithe. All that money that we'd blown through that we were going to give to our church. I felt as if we'd not only let ourselves down and been completely irresponsible but that we were also letting down God; that we had misused His blessings and cheated on Him. OH was calm and practical, promising to call the Credit company and see what we could work out.
"How did we do this? How did we get here? How could we let this happen?"
I thought back to a few months earlier when I'd overpaid our internet bill by $30 and it took our account negative. Why hadn't that forced us to look at our finances? Or two years before when OH started with the police department and his first paycheck was $700; I remembered the terror of the realization that we had no moeny and barring a miracle we wouldn't be able to make our mortgage payment. Why hadn't we allowed that to put a freeze on our spending? I thought about when he transferred to his new city and got a pay raise of over $300 and the first thing we did was buy a new car and get into a car payment. What else could we have used that $300 for? Certainly we had bills we were obligated to; how did we forget that?
My heart was heavy and burdened as I mulled over the mess we had made for ourselves.
Oh God, what are we going to do?
Little voices lifted me from my fog of self-despair. I had to turn on Mom mode and go. Change the diapers, get out the cereal, get them dressed, take a shower, go to the park ... the day moved on, each hour taking us closer to the dreaded payment deadline. I tried not to think about it, to shove it away as had been my practice for years but it was different this time. I knew things had to change, I just didn't know how we could change them, and that frustrated me almost more than not being able to pay our bills did.
The next day I woke up with an uneasy feeling in my stomach. A knot. A pit. Butterflies. I'm not sure what to call it. I hated waking up and feeling dread. It was going to be a hard day. I got the kids ready for church and while they were eating sat down at the computer to check my email. Someone had responded to our ad on Craigslist for our bedroom set. The weight, the dread, lifted slightly.
As I packed the kiddos into the car I begged the Lord to have the people buy the set. If we sold it, I knew we could pay our bill - we would make it another month.
I sat through worship and when the pastor got up to give the weekly announcements I was hardly paying attention as I was sitting next to Mom and there's always something important for us to talk about. I heard the pastor saying something about financial classes and immediately grabbed the bulletin from my mom's  hands. Sure enough there, was going to be a financial class offered for women. An answer. Hope. Help. The weight lifted a little bit more.
That afternoon a couple came over to look at our bedroom set. Officer Hottie was working and had given me explicit instructions on how to load the gun and answer the door. Having a gun on my person made me more nervous than strangers coming to our house. He's such a cop sometimes. When they arrived I saw they were an elderly couple and quickly tossed the gun on top of our fridge; it was making my pants fall down anyway. They walked into our house, took a quick look at the set, and gave me $350 in cash. I wanted to hug them, to cry, to jump up and down. I wish they knew how they saved me that day. I briefly thought of the $1700 we'd spent on this set that I just HAD to have when we first got married and the measly $350 I now held in my hands but the remorse was temporary as the burden of not being able to pay our bill that month lifted completely.
I carefully tucked the money into my purse to take to the bank the following morning. I was ecstatic that our bill would be paid on time. However, in the back of my mind I was already wondering how we would pay next month's bill and praying that the financial class would hold some answers for us.

To be continued...

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Other Woman

There is another woman in my husband's life.
She demands his love and affection. 
She will settle for nothing less than his undivided love and attention.
She climbs into our bed and hogs the sheets.
She thinks she is a princess and the world is her oyester.
She is just over three feet tall and has such a pitch to her voice when she doesn't get what she wants when she wants it, the paint could peel right off the walls.
I've seen it happen.

Little stinker. Flirting gets her everywhere.

This is GG, the million dollar blanket. I wish they came in King size. Best. Blanket. Ever. (Most people call them the little giraffe blanket because of the giraffe on the tag. I call it the million dollar blanket because it costs nearly that. My cousin bought it for her. God bless you Melissa.)

She often says something like, "My finger isn't hungry so I CAN'T eat dinner."
Oh? Ok then.

And then she smiles, because she knows she got him, hook line and sinker.

Oh how she adores her daddy.

He's pretty fond of her too. By pretty fond I mean over the moon in love.

I can't blame him.

Cinnamon and sugar crumbs. Because Daddy ran out and bought donut holes. It's what his little girl wanted.

I would like to take this opportunity to say that my husband has lost 42 pounds and now has a jawline, which I find to be highly, highly attractive and sexy. Just sayin'.

I think she tolerates him. Just kidding. She eats this stuff up.

Oh, another one? Ok, if you must.

I think I'm framing this one.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Remember When Wednesdays

Growing up, I was bossy. Really really bossy. Even still my brothers and sisters will let me boss them around, it's just that now my husband gets after me when I try to boss too much. But they didn't have my husband's protection when we were growing up and so I bossed and bossed and bossed a little more.

I made my brothers dress up in princess clothes. I made my sisters wash the dishes. I made lists of chores for them to carry out. I even tried to tell my parents what to do. My mom says that one time I came storming into the house and exclaimed, "MOTHER! Do you know how close the children are to the road?"
To which she replied that she was the mother and I could stop worrying.
To which I replied, "Then act like it."
I'm pretty sure I got a swat for that one. Thankfully I don't remember.

My whole point in pointing out how bossy I was, is that I am much less bossy now. Sort of.

There is this really great book I found, quite by accident, that I just had to buy my sisters for their birthday a few years ago.

It's about an older sister who is left in charge when her parent's go out. She bosses her little sisters and tells them to make dinner and not to wake up the baby. And then she falls into a pot and hilarity ensues when her little sisters refused to be bossed anymore.

One of my sisters laughed and laughed and said it was the best book ever that perfectly summed up their childhood with me. (Thank you Rach.)
The other sister blew me off and gave me a smirk and didn't thoroughly appreciate the novelty of the book. (Um...Boo. I'm talking about you.) I'm pretty sure that's because she always wanted to be the boss.

My kids still think I'm bossy. And my husband gets after me for bossing. And recently I had to apologize to my sister-in-law when I realized she asked about what time to be at a party and I laid out step-by-step exactly how they could arrive and be on time. She's gracious and laughed (thanks Tara). I would have told me to shut up.

On this Remember When Wednesday, I would like to remind you to love your older sister, because (as my therapist told me) she's just a little Mom trying to keep you on the straight and narrow.

At least, that's how I remember it.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

My Debt Free Workshop

I had a wonderful time at Camp Gilead. I got to stay in Cabin 0, which just so happens to the cabin I spent my first summer as a counselor in. It smells the same. I came home (after one night) and washed everything I took with me. I aired my hairbrush and mascara wand out on the porch. I saw an old friend, we worked together during the summer of '99, and she so very graciously included me in her little "group" that had come with her. (Thank you Faith!)
The theme for the retreat was "The Wisdom Behind the Apron" and the speakers were sharing about things they learned during transitional times of their lives.
The first speaker on Friday night was a gal named Hannah. She was pregnant and blonde and adorable and too young to have done much transitioning. Except that she became a widow at 23. Her husband was killed in Iraq, during his second tour of duty, when their son was six months old. Youch. Her story is incredible and her faith is inspiring! The Lord used it to speak directly to me as, I'm sure you remember, I have lived with a lot of fear as of late. She shared some great Bible verses, which were unfortunatley tossed into the recycle bin during Officer Hottie's Clean off the Kitchen Counter Frenzy of 2010. Oh well. I came away from that session with an immense feeling of peace and hope and the reiteration of the knowledge that Christ Jesus is stronger than death and my fears.
The second speakers were ok, although I wasn't as touched as I had been the night before. Sorry gals.
The third speaker on Saturday was a 70 year old great-grandma. She was hilarious. She talked about loving our husbands and forgiveness. She said sex and bitchy (in church!) without wincing or pausing and I fell in love with her.
As for my workshops...
I think they went well. The first one was really tough as it was in a teeny room and four of the gals were Russian and had someone interpretting for them. It was just confusing. Plus, one gal asked me a really challenging question about tithing, and not being a theology major, I was kind of at a loss for what to tell her. All in all though, I think people were able to understand my story, my heart and come away with some financial hope.
The second workshop went much better. The group was a little bit smaller and it was in a larger, no interpreter talking over me made for a higher comfort level.
I was able to share information about debt using lots of the ideas you gave me! Thank you, by the way. Your ideas were SUPER helpful. If I were more technology-savvy I would put the pages I shared with the gals on here so you could look over them...this is the best I can do. Click HERE for a reality check on debt and HERE for a sample budget if you seem to have a difficult time setting one up.
Thanks for your encouragement and prayers. It was a great time and I'm working on writing out our story so hopefully you will be inspired to see that if we could get out of $27,000 in debt in 14 months, anyone can!

Friday, May 14, 2010

I'm off!

After a brief hiatus I am simply writing to say that I am heading out for my women's retreat where I will get to share about our journey to debt freedom. I know that story will make for a good post ... but it really is long and like most difficult things we go through in life, now that the journey is over I can only look back and remember the triumphs. Thankfully. Because if I only ever remembered the difficult stuff I sure wouldn't be willing to try many things that took any sort of effort.

I am nervous because I'll be speaking to a group of women (please don't fall asleep on me!) but I am so excited because I feel that if we could work our way out of a mound of debt, and go from not being able to make our minimum credit card payment, to being completely debt free (minus the mortgage) and able to pay for our Hawaiin vacation and home remodel with cash in just a few short years, anyone can do it. Anyone. I just want the women to walk away with hope!

So if you think about it, say a little prayer for me. I'll update when I'm home!

Oh, and how cool is this? The theme of the retreat is "The Wisdom Behind the Apron" and literally last week a friend (thank you dear Kathleen!) gave me a vintage apron since I've been spending so much time in the kitchen. I love it. And now I get to speak to the ladies wearing a super hot little apron that makes me feel all domestic goddess and such. Very very cool.

Yes, I'm wearing flip flops. I love flip flops. And I really love Locals flip flops. My fond affections for them will one day get it's own post.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Mother's Day

A few weeks ago my oldest son came up to me with a pad of paper and a pen. He proceeded to ask me a series of questions and dilgently wrote down my answers.

His questions were:
*What is your favorite cookie?
*What is your favorite chocolate?
*What is your favorite kind of cake?
*What kind of frosting do you want?
*What is your favorite dinner?
*What is your favorite mint?
*What is your favorite dessert?
*What is your favorite color? (Mom, how do you spell streamers?)
*What kind of gift do you want?
*Would you like to go to any special places?

I'm pretty sure I'll be the most spoiled mom on Mother's Day.


 Officer Hottie is working on Mother's Day.

But seriously, how sweet is this kid?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Remember When Wednesdays

I just reached 30 followers. On Remember When Wednesday no less. I have a hard time believing that there are 30 people in this world who care to read what I write, but thank you. When I started blogging I got giddy over 3, one of which was my husband who doesn't actually read this blog, so I don't think he really counts. However, as more people have found my blog, made comments and invited me into their (online) lives, I've been very blessed. So thanks for following.

I've been having a bit of writers block the last little bit. I thought having something to focus on to write about, like Remember When Wednesday, would force my creative juices to keep flowing but creativity seems to be a little elusive so I hope you'll bear with me as I struggle through this!

This morning Momma Fargo posted a link to Momma's Pixie Dreams. Their 16 month old daughter was just diagnosed with cancer. That shook me up. I hate cancer; I wish there were a stronger word to describe how much I hate it. Resent, abhor, repulse...none really seem to describe how much I really truly feel about cancer.

When I was 15 my best friend died from cancer. I hated it when they said he had it, I hated it when they said it had returned after they thought it went away, and I really hated it the night he was so doped up on medication he could hardly remember me and the following morning when he died. I hated what it did to his family, I hated how it ripped a hole in the world, I hated how life goes on no matter who dies. I hated drinking guava mango juice because it had been his favorite, I hated not knowing what to say to his parents, I hated feeling empty and helpless. I hated when his family took a long vacation after he passed, I hated that I didn't like his other best friend so I couldn't talk to him, I hated going to the zoo because we'd gone there for his birthday once and the whole place reminded me of him. I hated being a teenager and instead of enjoying being 15 I was dealing with real life, I hated that I was so messed up I had to miss school and go to work with my mom.

15 years later the only thing I don't hate is that his sister is one of my dearest friends and his parents are still a part of my life. I love that they all love my husband. I love that his sister's son is just a few months older than my youngest so we spend a lot of time together. I love that we have each other and we can remember together. I love that our husbands are both police officers so we understand each other on a level we never thought we would. I love that we go to the same church so we can pray together and focus on what is most important. I love that she laughs and has joy and that time, Love and the Lord have erased many of her hurts and her own hate. I love that losing her brother has made her a stronger mother and wife, more fierce than she would have been. I love that she is tender toward those who are going through their own loss and that she remains vulnerable to those around her.

All that hate I dealt with ... and now all this love.

On this Remember When Wednesday I want to remember that love and hope are stronger than hate. That God is stronger than cancer. That there will be a time when all pain will be erased; although the journey and the way it ends may not be the way we want, the result can always be Healing and Hope, especially for these little ones.

I will remember to pray for Momma Pixie's little Monkey and for all those who are struggling.

I hope you will too.

Love this family.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Have you ever???

Have you ever been convinced that the conversation you just had with your husband will be the last time you ever hear his voice? Or that the last time he says "I love you" will be the last time you hear him say it to you? Have you ever been convinced that you will never see your husband alive again?

I'm sure that as police wives we all go through times of doubt and anxiety. I go through that on occasion, but usually only after something happens. I feel nervous about letting him go to work, I get worried when he doesn't call or text me, I cry and pray a lot. But it is often a reaction to an event that has already taken place.

Last week, my dad called Officer Hottie to tell him how much he loved him and how thankful he was that he was part of our family. It was very sweet. When OH and I were first engaged he and my dad didn't have the best relationship. My dad always liked him just fine, but as most young men, OH has his own way and idea of doing things and it didn't gel well with what my dad's plan was. That was long ago and any hurts or stresses from that period of time has long passed, but it still feels good to know that my love genuinly loves my husband.

When OH called to tell me my dad had called him he was very sweet. He said how nice it was of my dad to call and how he was glad they had a good relationship. And before he hung up he said he loved me so much, which he always says. When we hung up, I looked around my house, the home we've made together, and our four beautiful children and I started to cry. I just knew that was it. In a few seconds my mind was there. You know what I mean; how would I tell the kids, how would I sleep alone, who was going to notify me, who were going to be the pallbearers, how much music would they allow at the service, which pictures should we find, etc. On and on. Then I started to beg. I begged and begged and pleaded with God to protect him, to not leave me alone. I can't raise four children on my own. We're in the middle of remodeling. I can't finish that. Who will keep my feet warm at night? No one understands me like he does, no one puts up with me like he does, no one smells as good as he does ... our kids like him more than me. Then slowly I started asking for strength and help. For courage. For peace. And for sanity.

When OH called me later, hearing his voice was such relief. What he hadn't told me earlier was that a few minutes after my dad called him he was dispatched to a fairly scary call. He also had been convinced that he was being sent into certain death. It was really just the timing of everything - a seemingly random phone call from his father in law, and then getting dispatched to this particular call. He said he started driving and thought, "Ok Lord. This must be it." So he called me. He said he had wanted me to know that he and my dad really did love each other and that he loved me the most. I, of course, started crying again. I hadn't told him when he called the first time that it terrified me; that for a moment (a long long moment) I thought that just maybe my dad knew what the future held. What he hadn't said was that he felt the same way.

It was an interesting dynamic; both of us being convinced we would never see each other again. Him trying to keep his head on straight so he could do his job effectively, me trying to keep it together so my children didn't see me falling apart for no reason. When he came home that night we couldn't seem to get enough of each other.

I know death is inevitable. I know it's going to happen; one of us has to go first. I don't know if it will be today, or in a year, or in 80 years. I don't know if it will be a gunshot, a car accident, or cancer. I just don't know. And I'm thankful for that. After those few hours when I thought I knew, I realized I don't want to see it coming. I don't want to be waiting for it. I won't sit at home in fear of what I have no control over. Trust me, I've considered it. Every time I get in the car, every time he goes to work, every time he works on our house or climbs up on the roof, every time we leave our children to go on a date or a vacation, every time one of our children is gone from our family for some reason, every time my son gets on the school bus I wonder if that time will be the last time. I've got to stop. After our second son was born I went through a time of not even wanting to leave our house. The "what if's" got the best of me. It was short lived, thankfully but I realized I'm a fearful person, and fear gets me nowhere. Fear paralyzes me. It stops my life, it makes me incapable of enjoying the very life (lives) I'm afraid of losing.

I'm glad my dad doesn't see the future and I'm even more glad that he loves my husband. I'm glad my husband's first thought when he thinks he is headed to death's door is to call me and make sure I know he loves me. Mostly, I'm thankful for Peace. I am thankful for the Knowledge that death isn't the end. I am thankful for Hope.

I am thankful for one more chance to hold my husband's hand and to look into his eyes and to hear his voice.

I will let Thanks be more powerful than Fear.